Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 16 Review: Send in the Clowns

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I'm a fan of creepy clown stories, but I hate flashing lights. They give me a headache.

Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 16 started out with both, and I was sure I was going to hate this story.

Then it turned into a highly emotional story of parents grieving the loss of their daughter and not being able to get closure because her body was never recovered and I loved it.

A Mysterious Masked Man - Law & Order: SVU

But in the third act, it took a bunch of crazy turns, and I hated it again. All in all, "Send in the Clowns" was a story that couldn't decide what it wanted to be and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

There's no denying that the story of Haley's disappearance and probable murder was entertaining. It certainly kept my attention!

Chris' absolute faith that his daughter was still alive made me suspicious of him. I was sure we were in for some sort of dark tale about a father who killed his daughter, though I couldn't figure out how the blood got into Vinnie's apartment if that was the case.

She's my little girl, okay? She's out there somewhere! She's cold! She's alone!

Haley's Dad

Chris seemed like he had to be in on it, though, because he was just too sure that his daughter was out there. It seemed like a coded message.

Plus it was mentioned over and over that he was a garbage man, and the trash that could have contained Haley's body disappeared because of a last-minute change in the garbage pickup schedule. Chris could easily have taken that shift to get rid of the remains.

In any case, I was surprised and confused that he seemed to have accepted that Haley was dead by the time he testified. 

A Distraught Father - Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 16

Chris' grief was both deep and genuine, and once I was convinced he wasn't involved in Haley's disappearance, I was fascinated by this father who both loved his daughter and lived in a completely different world from her.  

Chris was easily one of the most well-defined guest characters in recent years. He was a blue-collar worker who loved his daughter fiercely even though she was embarrassed by him and he knew she was too big for the kind of life he could offer her. 

He was also hotheaded and believed in settling problems with his fists, especially where Haley was concerned, which turned out to be a near-fatal flaw.

Related: Law & Order: SVU Review: Great Expectations

Kudos to Will Sasso for turning Chris into a living, breathing person! I'm usually not nearly as taken by the guest characters of the week as I was this time.

Your top suspect is a butcher who likes to dress up as a clown?


I had a feeling Vinnie was innocent, though I wasn't sure what had happened given the physical evidence in his apartment, and Carisi and Fin's interrogation was just hard enough to make me uncomfortable.

I kept wanting to jump into my TV and tell this guy to ask for a lawyer and then shut up. It looked like he was getting browbeaten into a confession, and I was relieved when I heard he'd finally lawyered up.

Haley's Dad: She didn't even have a boyfriend. She was at that in between age, you know, she had crushes but music was her first love. Beethoven was her first language. She was winning international competitions at six, she was a Clive Turner finalist at ten... she was gonna be somebody, not like my wife and I who spent our whole lives in a small town.
Stone: What was your relationship with her like?
Haley's Dad: We butted heads sometimes. She teased me about my fingernails being dirty and me being a garbage man, but I loved her. My wife and I loved her from the bottom of our hearts.
Stone: Thank you. Your witness.
Defense attorney: No questions for this witness. No disrespect, but there's no body.

I wasn't sure that Vinnie's lawyer was any good, though. Instead of cross-examining anyone, he seemed to want to focus his whole defense on the idea that there wasn't a body.

In the end, of course, he turned out to be right, but I thought that was a weak defense.

Stone had physical evidence that Haley had been in Vinnie's car and apartment and that something had happened to her in the apartment.

There was also security footage showing Vinnie dumping what looked like a body in the middle of the night and the fact that the trash was removed before SVU could investigate, which Stone could have argued showed premeditation.

The lack of a body didn't prove much of anything.

Okay, look, she is sixteen years old. Best case scenario, she met a guy and lost track of time. Worst case scenario... let's not go there.


Then, of course, James Turner disappeared, SVU found out he and Haley had a sexual relationship, and she was found alive in bed with him.

Those twists were crazy but were par for the course with SVU, and I found it believable.

There are far too many stories of young girls "in love" with their teachers, both in real life and on television, and that aspect of the story might have been interesting.

But did we need the twist of Haley turning out to have been the product of a similar affair James had with her mother? 

That was all pretty gross. It also was a little bit too out there to be believable.

An Emotional Case - Law & Order: SVU  Season 19 Episode 16

It was highly dramatic, but it was more soap opera type drama with people punching each other and yelling and revealing shocking secrets than anything I particularly need or want from SVU.

Related: Law & Order: SVU Review: Chasing Demons

I did like the reveal that Stone's sister is in a sanitarium. It reminded me of a similar reveal about Geiger's wife in Chicago Hope back in the 1990s, and I hope this storyline will be of equally high quality.

A Surprise Party - Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 16

Fin's birthday didn't seem to have much to do with anything, and it looked like that scene was cut in mostly to juxtapose the clown candle with Vinnie's mask. But I was thrilled to see Ken and Alejandro again!

I hope this means there's going to be a story involving Fin's family soon, or at least a Fin-centered story. Fin has been in the background far too often during Season 19.

What did you think of "Send In the Clowns"?

Were the twists at the end shocking or annoying?

Were you surprised Haley was alive?

Did you enjoy being invited to Fin's surprise party?

Weigh in below and don't forget that if you missed anything, you can always watch Law & Order: SVU online to catch up!

Send in the Clowns Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (27 Votes)

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 19 Episode 16 Quotes

Okay, look, she is sixteen years old. Best case scenario, she met a guy and lost track of time. Worst case scenario... let's not go there.


Well, we can't have that! What are you, 15?
Haley Sixteen. Sweet Sixteen.

Haley Oh! You're scaring me. Clown Mask Guy