In "Missing Pieces," the writers of Law & Order: SVU resist telling the standard kidnapping story and present us with a case in which no crime has really taken place.
Granted Nate's parents filed a false police report and sent the detectives on a wild goose chase, but they are both innocent when it comes to the death of their young son. The story really played with our expectations of what a SVU episode is supposed to be, and I found the change quite refreshing.
The plot did feel Susan Smith/Casey Anthony-ish, but this episode turned out to be very different from those real life cases.
I was pleased that Amaro seemed to be the focal point of this investigation. I've enjoyed watching his character and was far from disappointed by his performance this week. I find Danny Pino to be so convincing in his role as both a dedicated detective and father.
He really provided a safe sanctuary for Nate's mother Ali to really open up about what happened to her son. He was equal parts understanding and tough as he reassured her that she was a good parent... while deftly picking up on her lies. Amaro seemed to genuinely care about this overwhelmed and grief-stricken individual; in the end, that caring helped the detectives get the truth about the supposed car theft/kidnapping.
He got much more information out of Ali than Benson was able to procure from Tim, her boyfriend. But I think that had more to do with Tim than Benson. She worked all the right angles and really showed her skills as an experienced detective.
Both Benson and Amaro played the part of the good cop, even when they discovered the baby died of natural causes. Amaro and Benson wanted to just let them go home, despite Finn and Rollins' suggestion that they should be charged with something for wasting all those police resources to find their supposedly missing child.
I don't blame Finn and Rollins for feeling that way because they had to trek all across upstate New York to track down the real story. They seem to be on the same page most of the time, and they have a really good partnership.
Except, where would that leave Munch? He hasn't been as visible this season, so maybe Rollins will take his place as Finn's partner.
Even though I was convinced that these two parents were guilty, the twist really made me feel sympathy for them. They both felt responsible for their child's death and punished themselves for it. And yet, they wouldn't turn on one another; they loved each other so much that they each tried to take the blame for a crime that didn't happen.
The real tragedy of the episode was pointed out by Amaro when he said, "Sometimes babies, they just die." Ali admitted that their lives weren't perfect, but she was happy. It was a heartbreaking end to their little family.