Stabler's mouth may be his downfall.
On Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 1 Episode 2, he tipped off Richard right away that he was onto him and failed to stay undercover for more than a few seconds.
It did lead to the arrest of a doctor who was illegally giving COVID vaccines to super-rich people, but did it also lead to Stabler getting beaten up and almost killed at the end of the hour?
I don't know if it's PTSD-related or what, but I was surprised that Stabler didn't seem to be able to keep his mouth shut at all.
His time on Law & Order: SVU was a long time ago at this point, but I'm pretty sure he went undercover from time to time.
And it didn't seem like a good idea to get in Richard's face and inform him he was going to catch him sooner or later.
Stabler: Any idea why your father was on Coney Island last night?
Richard: No idea.
Stabler: Interesting. I got a feeling you were there too.
Richard: Extraordinary accusations require extraordinary evidence. Prove it.
Stabler: I will. My job is to catch scumbags. I got no doubt you jacked that truck last night. You know, those vaccines were meant for the elderly. Line workers. People who can't afford to have a private doctor show up at their house. Vaccine shot and a glass of Chardonnay. I know what you are.
It was a great, dramatic scene and one of the tensest thus far, but why ruffle Richard's feathers or give him notice that he needs to up his game?
Richard is one ruthless SOB, though!
The danger of making this series half from the bad guys' point of view is that viewers might empathize with them enough to start hoping they don't get caught, and Richard is definitely a love-to-hate character.
He's coldhearted enough to be able to pull off pretending he cares about his father's death and that he wasn't involved, and the cognitive dissonance he must need to call his misdeeds a creative and intellectually stimulating business!
Yet the cat-and-mouse games he's playing with Stabler and the rest of the Organized Crime division are compelling enough not to want them to end.
Viewers who were unsure about the format of Stabler chasing one baddie all season can relax somewhat now, too. Although Richard is the mastermind behind a ton of crimes, at least one of them was self-contained this time.
Solving the stolen COVID vaccines' case gave the series more of the procedural feel that viewers are used to, even though this series is not a procedural.
This seems more true-to-life than the way previous Law & Order series have handled organized crime stories. After all, it's a lot easier to catch the low-hanging fruit than the people giving orders in these kinds of cases.
This case was also topical and timely, allowing Dick Wolf to use the story to make a statement about a social issue, as is the trademark of many of his shows.
I liked how Stabler convinced the woman he was supposed to be using in his investigation to do the right thing and turn her doctor in so that vulnerable people didn't lose their opportunity to get the vaccine.
That whole set-up was weird, though. In the course of a few minutes, the woman went from hating him for wanting to use her to bust his doctor to hugging him because he told her he had just lost his wife.
And she wouldn't shake hands because of COVID risk but would hug a total stranger the day before getting her first dose of vaccine. That didn't make much sense.
Another issue that wasn't addressed was that Richard's party could have easily become a super-spreader event.
Everyone was wandering around maskless and standing close to one another and were getting vaccinated while talking to other people.
The science isn't clear yet on whether the vaccine completely stops transmission or merely turns people into asymptomatic carriers. But what is known is that it is not completely effective until two weeks after a person gets their second dose.
The people at the party were putting themselves at risk by socializing maskless and close to one another, but I guess since they're so well-off that they figured they could get an experimental treatment that the masses don't have access to if they were to get sick.
Anyway, the most interesting aspect of the party was Dana and Richie's conversation about Sinatra.
Although Richie is supposed to be an adult, he seemed more like a fifteen-year-old, and he clearly idolized Sinatra despite his grandfather's racism.
Dana is supposed to be protecting the family business, but she clearly has no use for racist, misogynistic murderers, and I'm curious as to how this will play out as Richard gets more deeply involved in mob activity.
Nevertheless, she did stop Richie from talking to an undercover cop, and I had to wonder if Richard knew that Washburn was law enforcement.
I also wonder if there's anything to Stabler's suspicion of Washburn or if he's having another PTSD reaction.
Adding Stabler's mental health issues to the mix was a good move.
PTSD is so often treated poorly on TV. Writers sometimes don't bother learning the facts and go with stereotypes, but not this time.
Benson: So what happened the other night?
Stabler: Happened where?
Benson: In the lobby of your building, when I walked past you and you looked like you were going to jump out of your skin. I thought you were going to unload your weapon on me.
Stabler: You startled me, that's all.
Benson: Look, Elliot, I don't want to push you and I'll back off if you want me to -
Stabler: I do. Back off.
Benson: You have PTSD.
Stabler: I've been on the job 35 years.
Benson: And your wife was murdered right in front of your eyes.
Stabler: Yeah I think I remember that.
Benson: Elliot, I'm a captain now, and my job is to take care of my people and make sure that they're good and they're solid and they're together enough to do the work.
Benson: Okay what?
Stabler: Okay, I'll take care of it.
It's an important issue to deal with, too, because so many cops have PTSD, which can contribute to suicide rates among cops and excessive use of force and other problems.
And if anyone can recognize PTSD, it's Benson, who has dealt with her own trauma responses for years. But are we ever going to find out what was in that letter Stabler wrote her?
In any case, Stabler's PTSD was so well done and realistic that at first, I wondered if those goons were really after him and Eli or if he was having a PTSD reaction!
Obviously, they were real since they beat him up. The question is whether this was retaliation for breaking up the pay-to-vaccinate-early scheme, a warning to back off, or both.
The other question that is still outstanding from Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 1 Episode 1: did Sinatra really text Stabler, or was it Richard?
Richard may have planned to kill his father and set Stabler up for the crime by having him be the one to find the body.
After all, Stabler was eager to learn who killed Kathy and took the bait, no questions asked.
Your turn, Law & Order: Organized Crime fanatics! Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and share your thoughts about Stabler's PTSD, the investigation into Richard's activities, or that cliffhanger!
Want to refresh your memory first? Just watch Law & Order: Organized Crime online right here on TV Fanatic.
Law & Order: Organized Crime airs on NBC on Thursdays at 10 PM EST/PST.