Law & Order: OC Recap: So What Did Stabler's Letter to Benson Say?

In wine, there is truth. And in Albanian drugs, there are admissions of complicated feelings for longtime friends.

If you need proof, look no further than this week’s back-to-back Law & Order: Organized Crime, in which Stabler is dosed with an illicit substance and winds up at Benson’s door, out of his mind. Confessions are made! Embraces happen!

But let’s back up. The two-hour Organized Crime, part of a SVU crossover, is a rough time for Stabler. His first trial comes when he was tasked with burning down a crime scene — including two partially dismembered bodies — after Reggie and the Marcy Killers took out part of an Italian cartel. Then he is indirectly responsible for the killing of a bagel-shop owner who was beholden to Reggie’s uncle, Albi. Bell offered to pull him out, but he said no. Then he is nearly identified by a sketchy guy in a diner; only via a well-timed hit by the Italians did he manage to maintain his cover.

And we haven’t even gotten to the reappearance of Bernadette “Bernie” Stabler, Elliot’s mom, who gets picked up by the police after she slaps a little boy in the park, thinking he’s a recalcitrant young Elliot. When Stabler gets to the station to see what’s up, it’s clear that his momma is off her meds and having some memory problems. She doesn’t immediately remember that her daughter-in-law is dead. And then, when she does, she asks, “How was Olivia’s funeral?” Elliot, with tears in his eyes, chooses not to correct her and simply replies, “It was beautiful,” as they hug.

A trip back to Bernie’s place reveals that it’s a mess, and she’s semi-hoarding cats. She refuses to go to a facility that can help get her back on track, so Kathleen offers to bring her home. Eli thinks that’s a great idea, too, so Elliot puts away his “I can’t believe this is happening” face and says he’s on board.

Then there’s a whole thing where Stabler staves off an Albanian/Italian impasse by striding into the scene and brandishing a… is that a rocket launcher? He’s so successful that Reggie’s family invites him to celebrate and formally welcomes him into the inner circle, giving him a dedicated cell phone. One of the ladies on hand sprays something in her mouth, then eats Stabler’s face like it’s her damn job. He instantly starts to feel the effects of whatever drug is now swimming in his system, though he manages to make it out of the restaurant without blowing his cover or arousing too much suspicion.

He winds up at Liv’s place, where she wants to call the incident in and follow the protocol for dosed undercovers. But he has other things on his addled mind. “We never talked about what happened,” he says (haltingly and super weirdly, thanks to the funny business that’s going on in his body). She thinks he’s talking about her frustrations about the Navarro case, but he responds, “Not Navarro. Us.” OH OKAY NOW.

Liv tries to change the subject, but he blurts out, “I didn’t write the letter.” Well this is new information, isn’t it? He rambles on that Kathy penned the missive, thinking that putting thoughts down on paper would make conversation between her husband and his old partner easier after so much time apart. And because I assume some of you are here precisely for the drama, heat and good god get it together! that these two cannot help but generate, I shall now relate the rest of their conversation in full:

BENSON | “Then what we were to each other was never real, and that we got in the way of each other being who and where we needed to be?”
STABLER | “That was Kathy.”
BENSON | “And if there’s a man in my life, you hope he’s the kind, faithful, devoted man that I deserved.
STABLER | “Kathy.”
BENSON | “But in a parallel universe —”
STABLER | “‘It will always be you and I.’ I wrote that. I slipped it in there before sealing the envelope.” (Side note: !!!!!!!)

Then he kind of collapses into her — I guess you could call it a hug, though it’s more of a controlled fall — and one of his giant paws comes up alongside her face like a sleepy grizzly bear reaching for one more salmon right before it passes out for its long winter’s nap.

I have a bunch of thoughts. One, this scene feels a lot like the intervention bit last season in that it’s real emotion being expressed at the ABSOLUTE WORST TIME. Two, Kathy Stabler was a cagey little thing, wasn’t she? #Respect. And three, what on Donald Cragen’s green Earth made you think that this was a good idea, El?

The next morning, Stabler wakes up shirtless… on Bell’s couch, Liv having called Elliot’s commanding officer and handing her that whole mess. Even more #Respect for a single mom who is like, “I’m glad you’re unburdening yourself and also sweating all over my lounger, but it’s a school night so let’s get you on your way, hmm?”

Elsewhere in the episode:

* After the NYPD offered a paltry settlement for Ayanna’s nephew’s attack, she and Denise meet with Congressman Kilbride. Eventually, it becomes clear: He thinks Bell would make a good politician, and he wants to help make that happen.

* Stabler flirted with Albi’s wife Flutura and then discovered that Albi was gay, pretty much in that order. Albi got thisclose to killing Stabler in order to protect his secret, but at the last minute (and after some smooth talking on Elliot’s part), he pulled back.

* We learned that Nova, the Marcy Killer operative, is really a Narcotics undercover officer whose actual name is Carmen. But she resigned after a hit killed Penda, the woman with whom she’d fallen in love. Bell eventually managed to talk her into coming back, though.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode and that letter reveal? Sound off in the comments!