With the elevator becoming 2014’s most potent symbol of domestic violence, thanks to the fight between Jay Z and Solange and Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancée, it was only matter a time before Law And Order: SVU finally put the elevator on trial. The show has long been known for ripping its stories from the headlines, then arranging those headlines in the sort of collage one might make in prison therapy sessions, and tonight’s episode is no different. Titled “American Disgrace,” it draws from both of the aforementioned incidents, then combines them into the tale of a famed basketball star who’s accused of raping one of his employees. But more importantly, it’s also the tale of elevators, and how their security footage complicates a case that could otherwise be closed with just a few threats from Ice-T. Also, Donald Sterling is in there.
“I loved the idea of just a silent black and white scene, then sound goes out. You kinda wanna know what’s going on,” showrunner Warren Leight told The Huffington Post of his inspiration for the episode, which will “show just how ambiguous scandals can be when there’s no audio and only raw camera footage.” In the preview clip, the basketball star is seen grabbing the arm of his clearly uncomfortable publicist, provoking her to begin hitting and screaming at him. As she’s dragged off, she yells, “He knows what he did!”
Throughout this cryptic sequence of events, the ambiguity of the security cam footage confuses and beguiles the viewer, who begins to wonder whether there’s something the man did to the woman—something he knows he did—that could have made her react so violently to his touch. Indeed, it’s all an intriguing mystery, much like that similarly ambiguous footage of Ray Rice punching his girlfriend. And there’s only one conclusion: The elevator has a lot to answer for.
Possibly standing in the way of the scene where Ice-T grills the elevator until it finally breaks down, forcing him to take the stairs, the episode will also incorporate Donald Sterling’s racist rants, through a character played by Stacy Keach. Presumably this will all wrap with a police lineup of elevators and tape recorders, where Keach identifies the contraption whose raw capture of things that actually happened makes it guilty of ambiguity. And we will all be the safer for it.