It's not that "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is formulaic. It's that...uh...when a show's been on for this long, certain patterns start to emerge? Fine: It's formulaic. But that doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. Here are the most basic facts you need to know about last night's episode.
Crime: Piano student Sarah ("Medium" star Sofia Vassilieva) has her apartment invaded by a gun-wielding intruder (Cedric Sanders) who demands a beer, refuses her offer of money, and rapes her.
Headline This Was Ripped From: Nothing specific, though since the victim is white and the perpetrator is black, the issue of cross-racial misidentification comes up.
Who On the SVU Team Is Taking It Personally? Benson (Mariska Hargitay), who takes the lead on Sarah's case, though she passes up several leading remarks from Sarah about the impossibility of Benson's experiencing true empathy for Sarah's situation unless Benson had been raped herself (when, in fact, Benson has been sexually assaulted). Benson also clashes with a crisis counsellor at the hospital who seems to be urging Sarah not to file charges.
Egregious Breach of Procedure: Not so much egregious as contentious: Amaro (Danny Pino) testifies that he saw the perp's gun in his hand when Amaro was apprehending him, but Benson can't confirm it on the stand. Also, Sarah lies in her initial report about the last time she'd had sex before her assault: Though she claims it was two weeks earlier, with her boyfriend, she'd more recently picked up a guy at a neighborhood bar and brought him home, but she can't present him to testify because she never learned his name. However, it's his semen that's discovered on her sheets — not her boyfriend's, nor that of the defendant, Michael Wedmore (Sanders). As a result of Sarah's lie in the report, the prosecution loses the right to conceal her identity behind rape shield laws.
Verdict: Wedmore is found not guilty of either criminal possession of a weapon, or of rape.
Revelations about the Continuing Characters' Personal Lives That We Should Remember Going Forward: These days, when Benson looks around the squad room at the passionate, fresh-faced rookie cops, she has one thought: "I'm so tired."