Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7 Review: Counselor, It's Chinatown

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Is Carisi a cop or a DA?

That was beside the point on Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7, which was meant to shine a light on sex trafficking and how hard it is to prosecute the well-connected billionaires who engage in it.

But it was driving me nuts that Carisi participated in raids and stakeouts when he is no longer on the police force.

Undercover at the Game Table - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Carisi had some great scenes. 

His shock when the federal agents took over his case and took away his defendant was among the strongest Carisi scenes ever.

Related: Law & Order: SVU: 21 Times Olivia Benson Went the Extra Mile

And the bookends of him saving Mei-Mei's life and then getting her out of the sex trade were a nice touch.

But the unreality of him acting as both a cop and a district attorney was distracting.

A Stakeout - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Law & Order: SVU needs to pick one role or the other for him.

Carisi becoming the new ADA is full of dramatic potential, especially since his new boss is constantly in the way of progress.

So that's where he should stay, and SVU needs to hire another new detective to take his place on the cop side.

Thank you Mr. Dominique. I know what the Chinese proverbs say, but you save me twice now. You can rest.

Mei Mei

Now that that's out of the way, let's discuss the case of the hour.

Fin Goes Undercover - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

This was an unusual case for Law & Order: SVU. Most of the time, we meet a rape survivor just as she (or occasionally, he) is being victimized, and the rest of the hour is devoted to finding out the entire story.

This time, the story started with an undercover operation and the first arrest occurred within the first five minutes. 

It wouldn't have been much of a story if the case was straightforward.

That's why the detectives spent the rest of the hour trying to untangle a web that was so complicated that at times I lost track of who did what and who they were searching for now.

Out of the Van - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

It was as frustrating to watch as it was for the detectives who had to deal with it, and that was the point.

Sex trafficking rings are notoriously hard to bust, and people with infinite resources often can't be prosecuted. 

We arrest the johns, but leave the girls alone. If they want to talk, fine, but otherwise we just offer them immigration help and legal and medical assistance.


Hadid blamed the cops' inability to arrest the victims for her office's inability to prosecute the offenders, which was ridiculous.

The problem of people with billions of dollars getting away with ruining other people's lives won't be solved by punishing the victims. I don't know what it'll take to solve it, but that won't help anything.

Kat Asks Questions - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Anyway, Kat learned the hard way just how difficult a case like this could be.

A more seasoned cop might not have allowed Lili to go into the bathroom by herself, and Kat was devastated by her young charge's death.

Related: Get True Crime Files by ID via Prime Video Channels for Over 1,000 Real-life Mystery & Suspense Shows!

She's going to have to separate herself more from the work or Fin's prediction that she won't make it will come true.

Hopefully, with some mentoring, she'll be able to temper her passion for justice so that she doesn't burn out.

Making a Collar - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Anyone would have been devastated by a death like that, though. 

In a matter of minutes, Lili went from being all smiles and positive she was about to start a new life to being so terrified that she jumped to her death.

Kat must have gone over so many what-ifs in her head after Lili's death. It's a wonder she was able to continue with the job.

Rollins: Mei Mei said he was a Sunday regular. Let Mama-Son open shop and see if we can catch him.
Benson: It's worth a shot but is this guy really going to talk?
Fin: A piece of crap like that? He'll flip on her to save his own ass.

And Lili was the detectives' best bet for ever busting the sex trafficking ring, too.

Carisi and Park - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Every lead turned out to be a dead end. Nobody was willing to admit they even knew who the next person in the hierarchy was.

That was done purposefully so the cops couldn't get anywhere. But leave it to Benson to find a weak link.

How she found out about Mama-Son's daughter is anyone's guess, but she used that leverage to finally get some answers -- only for victory to be snatched out of SVU's hands once again.

The whole scenario in the courtroom was confusing.

Escorting a Survivor - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

Everyone seemed to think the Feds arresting Christina Chang meant she was getting off scot-free.

I wasn't sure how that followed, but Hadid's insistence that SVU forget everything Chang told them wasn't a good sign.

Hadid claimed not to have had any advance knowledge of this, either, which I don't believe for a second.

She's done shady stuff before and she wasn't enthusiastic about prosecuting this case. Plus she got the scoop about how this happened awfully quickly.

Sergeant Joe Park - Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7

In a way, Hadid got her wish to prosecute one of the victims.

Related: How Law & Order: SVU Has Evolved Over The Years

Christina Chang was both victim and offender.

I have helped hundreds, thousands of girls to escape. But in my zeal to help others go down the Golden Path, my own path has deviated, and for this I must atone.


Her own exploitation wasn't an excuse for what she did, but it made it understandable

It was sad that she was once powerless, desperate to escape a horrific situation and forced into sex work, only to do the same thing to a ton of other Chinese girls.

What did you think, SVU fanatics?

Did you enjoy the detectives' attempt to untangle this convoluted plot?

Does it bother you that Carisi seems to be both cop and DA?

And do you think Kat will toughen up enough to survive her first year at SVU?

Share your thoughts in the comments, and don't forget you can watch Law & Order: SVU online if you missed anything.

Law & Order: SVU's historic 21st season continues to air on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.


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Counselor, It's Chinatown Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.8 / 5.0 (12 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 X.

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Law & Order: SVU Season 21 Episode 7 Quotes

You save a life, you're responsible for that life.


We arrest the johns, but leave the girls alone. If they want to talk, fine, but otherwise we just offer them immigration help and legal and medical assistance.