'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' celebrates 300th episode with old case, old friends

Sarah D. Bunting
Yahoo! TV
Chris Orbach and Jerry Orbach on "Law & Order"

"Law & Order: SVU" airs its 300th episode this week, and the landmark hour will take the squad back to its very first case – and bring back an old friend, in more ways than one. Det. Ken Briscoe (Chris Orbach), who worked cases with the SVU team through the first season, returns to help investigate a kidnapping; Orbach, of course, is the son of the late Jerry Orbach, who so memorably played Det. Lennie Briscoe for 12 seasons on the original "Law & Order." (In the "SVU"-verse, Ken Briscoe is Lennie's nephew, not his son.)

Jerry, who passed away in 2004 from prostate cancer, became a household name thanks to the Briscoe role, and "Law & Order" fans still miss the character's wisecracks about everything from street-vendor coffee to his alimony payments to the age of his partners (when Det. Rey Curtis, played by Benjamin Bratt, was assigned to him, Briscoe famously grumped, "I've got ties older than him"). But Jerry also took memorable turns in Woody Allen's "Crimes & Misdemeanors" and '80s classic "Dirty Dancing."

A star of the musical theater, Jerry originated the role of El Gallo in the inexhaustible "The Fantasticks" – and son Chris has followed in his footsteps as an actor and musical performer. A grad of the High School of Performing Arts in New York City – a.k.a. "the 'Fame' school" – Chris is a well-respected voice-over guy who's worked for L'Oreal, Wrangler, and Kodak, among other ad campaigns. He's recorded two albums, "Safely Through the Night" and "Secession," and appears on the New York stage from time to time, most recently in a production of "Charlie Victor Romeo," a play based on airplane cockpit voice recordings (he's in costume in the photo below).

Chris has a couple of blogs as well, and while he doesn't update them often, he's pretty funny on the subject of musicians and how many gadgets they'll buy when they have some extra dough (he calls the "illness" "GAS – or Gear Acquisition Syndrome"), and how hard it is to book shows in New York City.

Chris hasn't stepped into Ken Briscoe's shoes in over a decade; he last appeared in the first-season episode "Contact," in which the squad hunts for a serial subway rapist. (He'd appeared in a handful of "Law & Order: Mothership" episodes starting in 1993, but not as Ken Briscoe.) No word on whether Ken will mention his uncle in the upcoming episode, but plenty has changed since Briscoe Jr. worked with the SVU team: Dets. Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) and Monique Jefferies (Michelle Hurd) have moved on; John Munch (Richard Belzer) is now a sergeant; and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) is on her eighteenth hairstyle. Chris will be joined by fellow guest stars Tom Sizemore ("Point Break"), Alex Karpovsky (HBO's "Girls"), and Mili Avital ("Stargate"), who appeared on that first episode of "SVU."

The 300th episode, "Manhattan Vigil," airs Wednesday at 9 PM. And if you're nostalgic for Lennie Briscoe, original-flavor "Law & Order" reruns air all over the dial and around the clock.

Update, October 24, noon ET: Sources (including Chris Orbach himself, who kindly tipped us via email) report that Ken Briscoe did not make the final cut of the episode. Executive producer Dick Wolf explained, "It was great having [Orbach] on set, but my latest cut does not have him in it. It has nothing to do [with anything] but the needs of a constantly shrinking format. People should not go on an obsessive search [for him].” Aw, too bad -- but you can still see him in reruns, or listen carefully for him on name-brand commercials.

Get a sneak peek at the 300th "SVU" right here: