Tackling a current sports medical issue, "Spiraling Down" displayed the devastating affects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The episode, although a bit uneven and lacking in suspense, made good use of its guest star, Treat Williams, to bring to life the tragic downside of a sports career.
SVU has dedicated many episodes to exploring the issue of personal responsibility. A long list of defense attorneys has argued environmental and medical factors that seem to exonerate the defendants from any wrongdoing. While the detectives (and sometimes the juries) have been slightly swayed by these arguments, the show usually places most of the accountability on the individual and the choices he/she makes.
But this week, we and Benson could clearly sympathize and even excuse the behavior of former quarterback Jake Stanton. From the moment he appeared in the station, it was clear that he couldn't understand the severity of the situation and not because he was arrogant enough to think his behavior was excusable. Williams' Stanton was vulnerable, disoriented and heart-breaking
Benson took pity on Jake's wife, Georgia Stanton, especially when she saw just how broken the poor woman was. Georgia's despair was so real, displaying both frustrated anxiousness of someone trying to protect someone they really loved and that bitter edge of resentment. Stanton's dementia may seem apparent to his wife and the people closest to him, but the fact the disease can't be confirmed without an autopsy makes excusing his behavior very difficult.
Stanton's denial of his condition was also difficult to watch. Although frequently confused, the former football player tried to stumble his way through life, relying on his charm and reputation. The way Ellis tore into him during cross-examination was both excruciating and necessary. Without that painful exchange Stanton could have been convicted, but it also led to an agonizing realization. Confronted by by the reality of his condition and the ceaseless media circus, Stanton couldn't handle the pressure and took his own life. I could see the moment when the idea came to him and, although tragic, it wasn't a surprising move.
I liked that Benson thought of Ellis to help the Stantons. The two had interesting chemistry in "True Believers," and it was nice to see that continue, especially after we saw Benson describing the horrors of dating in New York City at the beginning of the episode. I don't know if they should be involved romantically (Benson's love life is pretty much a trainwreck), but it's good to know that she's got some friends now that Stabler is out of the picture.
Will Benson and Ellis continue their friendly exchange?
Also interesting this week was the introduction of Amaro's wife. She's been mentioned before, but Amaro is usually pretty tight-lipped about his home life, which seems to indicate some kind of tension between the two. When Vicki mentioned that her mother thought her dad was having an affair while deployed, Amaro immediately began to suspect his wife. He didn't wait long to investigate his suspicions, using a Skype conversation (nice product placement!) to not-so-subtly bring up Jason Harris.
His wife must be used to this kind of behavior because she quickly responds: " I think we're having a conversation. turns out you're interrogating me." The whole scene doesn't say much for their relationship. Prolonged separation can cause trust issues in marriages, but it seems like this kind of jealousy and mistrust isn't new to Amaro's marriage.
When we will get the full story on Amaro's marriage?