Having to choose between your job and your sense of personal safety.
Law & Order: SVU is always at its best when tackling large-scale social issues related to rape and sexual assault, and Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 11 was no exception.
After all the Sheila Porter drama that has overshadowed much of this season, it was especially refreshing to see a more traditional SVU story where Benson's personal problems bookended the case instead of being the main focus.
I thought in some ways, "Flight Risk" took on too much, but this was a thoroughly entertaining hour that touched on a lot of issues without being overwhelming or glossing over anything.
Alexis: This is crazy. Those trips to Bangalore, I was with her. We went for my grandmother's 99th birthday. Three weeks later she died. We went back for the funeral. Why isn't anyone reporting that?
Rollins: Because terrorists make better news.
I wasn't sure that the sideline about terrorism and the way Muslims are perceived was going to work. Television is saturated with stories about people assuming Muslims are terrorists, and it's hard to do this kind of story justice, especially when it's just an aside and not the main focus.
In many cases, those kinds of stories end up being sound bites about prejudice and racial profiling that add nothing new to the dialogue and just irritate viewers.
But I thought SVU pulled it off. The anti-Muslim sentiment was obvious enough for characters to comment on it but subtle enough to illustrate the idea that Tara's experiences were influenced both by sexism and by prejudice against Arabs.
It felt very realistic, and I wondered how much the intersection of these two identities influenced Tara's decisions.
Dodds: The woman had options. When she saw she was assigned with Carter, she could have turned around, decided not to fly.
Benson: Optimum Air knew Carter raped her and they put her in the cockpit with her.
Did Tara have a choice when she realized she was assigned to work with her rapist?
Chief Dodds certainly thought so, while SVU argued that she was responding to the trauma of the rape and Tara herself said if she walked away that was the end of her career.
Tara's argument didn't make much sense, not that people are always rational in these circumstances. After all, trying to divert the plane's course and almost causing a fatal crash ended her career anyway, and if she'd managed to land at JFK, she'd have been disciplined.
Nevertheless, I thought that "Flight Risk" did a decent job of showing the nuances of these kinds of situations.
Nobody was forcing Tara or any of the other women subjected to harassment to stay with Optimum Air, but when walking away means losing your job, your livelihood, and possibly your entire career, is it a choice?
Chief Dodds warned Benson that she was invited the wrath of the federal government if she pursued this case, but I didn't see any evidence of that happening unless his plan to remove her from SVU is being ordered as retaliation for her refusal to step down.
It's a he said she said only he's a hero and she's a crazy woman who took a plane hostage.Barba
It seemed more likely that Carter or other higher-ups in Optimum Air would sue the police to try to interfere with them uncovering the truth. Dodds' fears here seemed to be a loose end that was never tied up, and I wonder if it will play out in future episodes.
Barba: Logan carter raped two women, sexually harassed God knows how many. Optimum knew and they did nothing.
Benson: So what are you saying? Putting away one rapist pilot isn't enough?
Barba: No, it's not. The whole culture has to change.
When Carter was found guilty with 10 minutes to spare, I knew the case wasn't over, but I wasn't convinced by Barba's broad gesture.
I agreed with Barba that the culture that allowed all this to happen needed to change, but I didn't think it was within his power to change that.
The cover-up seemed more like grounds for a civil suit than a criminal matter.
Also, while I'm not a lawyer, it seems to me that larceny refers to physical property, not intangibles like self-esteem. Otherwise, the legal system would very quickly get clogged up with ex-lovers and aggrieved family members accusing one another of stealing their dignity and sense of self-worth.
If Barba wanted to file criminal charges, obstruction of justice seemed like a more logical choice. In addition, it was mentioned several times that the company extorted Tara, which certainly is a crime if true.
In any event, I wasn't impressed with Barba's argument. I was especially dismayed by his closing. While he was denigrating female jurors to make a point, I thought it was far too easy to believe that he was serious, which could have backfired spectacularly.
The biggest question of the night was what that memo was in Fin's hand!
I love little cliffhangers like these. They make me hungry to find out what the story is.
I'm not sure what Fin did was kosher, but I'll let that slide because I'm so curious.
Benson: Thank you for coming forward.
Woman: What this company is doing, the way it treats women pilots, is despicable. But what you're doing... it's about damn time.
Optimum Air was brought down by an internal memo stating that women were not fit to be pilots and thus should be pushed out of such positions, so I can't help wondering if Dodds wrote a similar memo.
It would make sense. Rollins has referred to the boys' club atmosphere in police work more than once, and Benson has had a number of serious emotional problems over the past few years.
Plus I'm not sure Dodds ever stopped blaming Benson for the death of his son even though they seem to get along better now than they used to.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think that memo was about Benson's state of mind, Dodds' opinions on women in SVU, or something else entirely?
And what did you think of "Flight Risk"?
Weigh in below and don't forget you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything!
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.