Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 20 Review: Did You Believe In Miracles?

Law & Order: SVU offers a bizarre case involving pedophilia and religion just when you think you’ve seen everything.

Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 20 felt like it was ripped from the headlines 20 years ago with a case that superficially resembled the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.

Like the Smart case, this one involved a pedophile who kidnapped a young teenager from a religious family. But in this case, the girl was completely on board with what was going on, making it hard to prosecute.

I didn’t think there’d ever be any justice for Beth and her family.

Benson: This level of manipulation, it has to have happened before. Has there been no case before? What about Nadine and Ava?
Rollins: Nadine’s willing to cooperate, but the father’s against it.
Benson: She’s probably afraid of losing custody. He certainly knows how to pick his victims.

As Benson pointed out, Nick chose his victims well. He’d also plotted the perfect kidnapping, getting the parents’ permission to take Beth upstate so that he could cast doubt on the claim that he’d taken the child against her will.

He also had sex with both parents so that he could get her mother to trust him and blackmail her father into silence. That didn’t work quite as well as he had hoped, but it still created problems within the family that he could exploit for his own purposes.

Beth wouldn’t testify because she believed she was in love with Luke and that he was the second coming of Christ, and her parents weren’t reliable witnesses thanks to their relationships with him.

Stabler Meets Noah - Law & Order: SVU  Season 23 Episode 20

And another victim couldn’t testify because of a messy divorce and custody situation.

It seemed like Nick had thought of everything and was going to get away with it, and worse, he was going to lure Beth into a life she only thought she wanted.

Her complete devotion to him and insistence that their relationship was God’s will was scary. She even believed that his impregnating her made her the second Virgin Mary.

It was chilling, especially combined with her mother’s denial that Luke was a bad guy until after he had betrayed the family in court.

Stabler Joins the Search - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 20

There’s no telling what horrors would have lay in store for Beth had the cops not interrupted her attempt to marry Luke.

The marriage wouldn’t have been valid. Beth was only 14, and New York recently outlawed marriages for people under 18, parental consent or not. But that wouldn’t have stopped her from running away with him.

Whatever life she would have led next would have been horrific, and she may never have woken up to how miserable she was. There’s no telling what he would have done to continue to control her and what kind of life her child would have had, either.

Thank goodness it didn’t get that far!

A Confused Victim - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 20

The cops’ plan to get the DNA test proving that Luke was the father of Beth’s baby could have backfired on the Lees.

We don’t know what happened when Beth’s parents told her that Luke was still in jail and would stay there for a long time.

Beth’s belief that God ordained her relationship with Luke and that the Devil would try to tear them apart wasn’t going to go away just because Luke was gone.  And her parents tricked her, so she might have double the reason to try to disown them.

Did anyone else find it creepy when Beth said she wanted to go home to her little brother and missed him so much?

Rescuing a Trafficked Child - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 20

Abused kids sometimes become abusers, and I was worried that Beth might do something to Elijah.

Thankfully, the episode didn’t go there. It was creepy enough without that.

Cop: They just let some guy take their 14-year-old for the week?
Rollins: Yeah.
Cop: Wouldn’t have happened in my house.

SVU kept the victim-blaming to a minimum, though there was something to be said for that other cop’s comments.

The parents showed poor judgment in letting their young teenager go upstate for a week with a man they barely knew. In addition, their fundamentalist Christian outlook made it easier for Luke to manipulate all of them.

Finding a Missing Child - Law & Order: SVU  Season 23 Episode 20

Mr. Lee believed that same-sex relationships were sinful, and Luke was able to use that belief to shame him into silence after initiating sex that Mr. Lee might not have fully consented to.

And Mrs. Lee was convinced that Luke was okay because he was well-respected in church. That, plus the affair he had with her, allowed him to manipulate her into taking her daughter to a remote cabin and impregnating her.

Luke also used a lot of religious references to convince Beth that what they were doing was God’s will. Beth probably led a sheltered life since her parents didn’t like “outside influences,” which made it easier to manipulate her.

That doesn’t mean that her parents didn’t have a right to their religious beliefs or raise their kids as they saw fit. However, their lifestyle did make all of them more vulnerable to manipulation.

Carisi's Victim Is Arrested - Law & Order: SVU Season 23 Episode 19

If there was a lesson for them to learn, it was not to trust strangers just because they go to the same church. Hopefully, the Lees learned that lesson and will be in a better position to protect their children and their grandchild now.

But no wonder Benson needed a hug from her son. She works with kids his age and younger who have been seriously hurt, and this case must have bothered her more than most because Noah is not that much younger than Beth.

Over to you, SVU fanatics. Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts about this strange case.

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Law & Order: SVU airs on NBC on Thursdays at 9 PM EST / PST.

Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. His debut young adult novel, Reinventing Hannah, is available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.

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