Picture this ten and a half years ago: A long-running procedural crime show (at this point, 10 seasons and counting) decided to push the limit and try something truly daring on television. No, it’s not a live episode, or the now-standard musical episode; they dared to be different. On this episode, they would rescue a monkey out of a basketball, and everyone would f*cking love it, and at least I would still be talking about it to this day. Friends, I am, of course, talking about the greatest hour of television anyone has ever seen. I’m talking about Season 10, episode seven of Law and Order: SVU, an episode called “Wildlife.”
So, what is it about this episode that makes it so great?
I mean, clearly you haven’t seen it if you have to ask, so you’re lucky I have some free time today (my psychic had an emergency pop up, so they canceled my standing 3 pm session) to break it down for you.
So, this episode came on the days of Benson and Stabler (because Stabler was still on the show, see) so for a lot of people, it’s notable because Benson pretended to be Stabler’s lady of the night. I was never about the Benson/Stabler “ship” as the kids call it, I watch SVU for the stupid crimes and to see competent people at work. Whoever called the Law and Order franchise competency porn is right up my alley.
Anyway, I digress. At its core, “Wildlife” is about an illicit animal smuggling ring (is there any other kind?) but let me back up. The episode teaser (you know, the scene before the credits) opens with a POV shot of someone being rushed to the hospital. They see Benson. She says “that’s my partner.” Oh s*it. Now you know it’s Stabler on the table. (Yes, this was pre-Stabler exit at the end of season 12.) DUN DUN. Cue credits.
Now we backtrack. We find out that there is a dead body. A lady, with a dead parakeet and some weird bite marks on her. Guess what? It turns out she’s twin. TWIST. Also, guess what? The twins came to New York City to make it big, only one of them was disfigured in a wreck or something, so there goes her modeling career. So, she decides to be her sister’s manager. None of this is really important, but I’m painting a picture with words for you. Anyway, it turns out that the dead sister was hanging out with a rapper called “Gots Money” played by Big Boi. Obviously, Stabler goes to Gots’ recording studio and confronts him. Gots says the dead lady is one of many women in his life (sexually), and honestly, he’s kind of successful in the show-world so that’s probably accurate.
Anyway, here’s where it gets really awesome. Gots compares himself to Scarface, and Stabler uses his detective skills to surmise that Scarface had a tiger, so he bet Gots also has a tiger (which may have been responsible for the bites on the victim.) So Stabler gets a warrant and obviously almost gets attacked by the tiger Gots keeps casually in his apartment. Rich people aren’t like you and me, friend (unless you have a tiger in a room in your home, too, then…well. You do you, I suppose.)
Now we’re cooking with gas.
So Gots get hauled into the station, and Ice-T’s character, Finn, confronts him because he used to work narcotics and Gots sings about being a drug dealer and such. Anyway, Gots admits it’s all a sham, and he’s really kind of a dork (not that drug dealers are cool, or anything.) This doesn’t matter, because his tiger’s saliva doesn’t match with the saliva on the victim, but he is helpful because he notes that the victim is the one who got him the tiger in the first place. Oh s*it. You’re starting to see where this is headed, right?!?!?!
So—Stabler, if you remember, was a total a*shole on the show and marched to the beat of his own deranged drummer. So basically, he has Gots bring him to the animal smuggler warehouse where he got his tiger, and introduce Stabler as a customs agent at JFK who is also corrupt and wants in on that sweet, sweet, animal smuggling money.
The animal smugglers don’t like people up in their s*it so they punch Stabler (but not before he’s able to get a sample of tiger hair to see if it matches the victim’s. I guess I missed the part where Warner, the morgue lady, said it was a tiger, but let’s just go with that.)
Guess what, if you think a volatile animal smuggler is ok with a guy bringing another guy over to his operation, you’d be wrong. So Gots gets eaten by a pack of hyenas at his apartment. Bye, Gots. The tiger in the warehouse also turns out to be a match for the tiger DNA on the dead body. Honestly, that doesn’t really matter anymore, because things are about to get more bananas.
Now Stabler is undercover and the smuggler decides to let him into his inner circle because Stabler is a white guy, and those kinds of things come easy for that type of person. He’s told not to talk to anyone, or like, be around anyone, but Benson comes over. Guess what? The smugglers come back too—and they catch Benson there, only she strips down to her bra and pretends to be a lady of the night that I mentioned earlier. This is clearly for people who want those two to hook up. I am not one of them. I am here for one half of Outkast getting eating by hyenas, and monkeys getting rescued from basketballs.
Anyway, the bad guys seem to accept this excuse at face value and tell Stabler to come with them, they have a job.
Guess what? It turns out they were really, really pissed at him for breaking the rules, so they shoot him and leave him for dead.
Don’t worry, Stabler lives. Now all of SVU is really mad at the animal smugglers, so they come into their warehouse (which moved, but that doesn’t matter. They have Detective Munch to help them! So of course they find out the new location) to break up their ring. S*it goes down. Cragen rescues the monkey from the basketball, and if you think this is all over, you’re not prepared for the last twist. Turns out one of the smugglers (played by Reg. E Cathey) is actually an undercover cop, and now he’s going to face the next phase of his assignment—go to jail, because that’s where the real animal smuggler players are. Oh. S*it.
So. Obviously this is the best hour of television, ever, and I will hear no dissenting opinions on this because whatever you think may be better, it doesn’t have someone getting eaten by a pack of hyenas in their home, a weird twin model/manager dynamic, or a monkey getting rescued from a basketball, so I rest my case. Unless you have an episode of Ghost Whisperer in mind, and in that case, I’m open to your argument, friend.
You can watch this episode on Hulu, or pick a random cable channel (if you haven’t cut the cord) and I all but guarantee you an SVU re-run will be on. Wait like 15 mins, and I’m sure this ep will come on because that’s how life works.
Header Image Source: NBC