Law & Order SVU: Burned
Now to the story: A woman, Valerie (Michael Michele), accuses her soon-to-be ex-husband of raping her. But it all seems fishy because she and her husband, Miles (Blair Underwood), are going through a nasty, nasty divorce. Their daughter, Tessa (Tiffany Evans), is in the middle of it.
The first half of the episode is a back-and-forth, second guessing whether or not Miles actually raped his wife, and bickering between Benson and Stabler. Then things get real interesting. It becomes a contest of which parent can sink to the lowest level. Valerie insists that Miles raped her, even though he swears he only grabbed her and shook her. We don't know the truth until the very end, when Olivia learns that Valerie was sleeping with a man from her divorce lawyer's law firm and that was who she had sex with on the day she claims Miles raped her. But things have gotten out of control at that point. Valerie's lie has sent Miles to jail, but he got out on bail and immediately doused her with gasoline and lit her on fire.
This was a great episode because no one was truly innocent, except the daughter caught in the middle of her parents' divorce. Miles was guilty of making life hell for his family while he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. His wife, Valerie, made their divorce hell for him in retaliation. But she took it way too far and pushed him over the edge. She was still lying about her husband raping her even as she was dying in the Burn Unit. Of course, the whole fiasco made Stabler sign the divorce papers. And the two detectives ended up agreeing to give each other a break because both of their lives have changed since they were first partnered together.
Did anybody notice who directed this episode? It was Eriq la Salle, formerly Dr. Benton of ER.