‘Law & Order: SVU’ Recap 16×12: Amaro Deals with Daddy Dearest

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 16

Armand Assante as Ernesto Amaro, Danny Pino as Detective Nick Amaro. (Michael Parmelee/NBC)

Imagine you’re at work and one of your family members strolls right in, and making it worse, this is a family member that you’re none too happy to see. Maybe you haven’t seen this person in years. Maybe you have a very good reason for not having seen this person in years.

This scenario seems to happen a lot lately on SVU — Olivia’s brother, Rollins’ sister and now Amaro’s dad.

This continued parade of unwelcome relatives first begs the question, what’s up with security in this place?! Who lets these people in? Maybe there should be someone stopping them in the [presumed] downstairs area of that precinct. You know, that unseen part serviced by the elevator. Maybe there should be a sign on that lower level that reads something like, “All visitors must be announced. Especially [crazy, unwanted, scheming] family members.” This might eliminate a lot of problems before they even start, if you know what I mean.

But since there’s clearly no such sign or security of this type presently in place, things get off to an immediately uncomfortable start for Amaro when his father, Nicolas, just strolls right into the 16th precinct. Reluctantly, Nick Junior agrees to have lunch with Nick Senior during which the elder divulges that he’s in town to marry his decades younger girlfriend, and the kicker is – he wants his son to attend the wedding.

When Nick discusses the situation with Olivia she suggests that he let go of some of his anger toward his father. Like a little boy lashing out, he point blank asks Liv if she’s forgiven her father or William Lewis. (Once again, Liv gets slammed for trying to help one of her charges with his/her issues. Seems like she’s learning more about motherhood from her squad than anyone really thought possible.) Boy, when it comes to the relationship between Nick and Olivia, it’s one step forward and two steps back, right?

Nick’s excitement at seeing his young daughter Zara is short-lived when he realizes that she’s come to town with his sister, Sonya, who, along with his mother, are {strangely} ok with the whole wedding thing.  Nick doesn’t want Zara to go to the pre-wedding party with Sonya but relents only after Sonya promises not to drink too much and to keep an eye on the child.

At the party, of course Sonya promptly orders a mojito as Nick Senior watches his stunning young fiancé dirty dance with a hot dude with dimples.

Cut to Amaro, working the night away at his desk when he gets a call from tiny Zara, hiding out under a table while glass breaks and various party items fly about the room, as she says, “Daddy! Come quick! They’re fighting!”

When Nick rushes to the scene, he finds Zara unharmed but he does see his father’s bride-to-be, Gabriella, being wheeled toward an ambulance on a gurney. Only after she utters out loud that Nicolas Senior hurt her does she realize that the police officer she’s speaking to is Nicholas’ son.  At this point, Nick tells her something in Spanish just before she’s carted away.

As cops haul Nicolas out in handcuffs, he tries to get his police officer son to exert some company pull and get him released, but young Nick tells his pop to just do what the cops say.

At the hospital, Sergeant Benson, after commanding Nick to go home, talks with the arresting officers who say that the EMT overheard Gabriella tell Nick that his father hit her, but now Gabriella has changed her story. The officers contend that she changed her story after Nick spoke to her in Spanish, believing that Nick told Gabriella change the details of her assault to protect his father.

When confronted about what happened, Gabriella tries to spin quite the tale, saying that her dancing partner, Javier, got fresh, but she pushed him away and went to the bathroom downstairs in the club. He followed her, touched her and Nicolas came in and pulled Javier away. She claims that she sustained her injuries when she hit her head against a wall by accident.

Fin and Carisi bring Javier in and he says he just danced with Gabriella and didn’t follow her anywhere. In fact, he says he quickly moved onto to Sonya, who, he implies, did more than just some dirty dancing.

Next, the pair take a crack at Gabriella’s father who claims he saw Nicolas come up from the downstairs area and rub ice on his knuckles. That’s when he went to check on his daughter and found her bruised and bloodied, after which he confronted Nicolas and all hell broke out.

At this point, we find Detective Amaro once again in that tiny, disturbingly white, room with Lieutenant Tucker from Internal Affairs. The always tightly wound Tucker says that he’s getting tired of these meetings with Amaro, to which Amaro, not even giving Tucker the satisfaction of looking at him, defends his actions. When Tucker sides with Amaro on this one, Amaro, rightfully so, loses his steely gaze and actually looks Tucker in the eye with genuine surprise.

Back in interrogation, Fin and Carisi grill Nicolas, who sticks to his story, that he was defending his fiancé. (Carisi actually uses the word ‘twerking’ and he doesn’t giggle. He’s growing up, that one.)

When Benson takes what info she has to Barba, he makes an uncomfortably truthful remark about no matter how successful Cubans are all it takes is a brawl to ultimately bring some inaccurate stereotypes about the nationality right back to the forefront of society.

Down at the yellowed-walled prison, Nick tries to get Nick Senior, now outfitted in the requisite orange jumpsuit, to take a plea, but Senior’s temper is on full display as he tries to say that Junior is just like him. The comparison is too much for Nick, who rightfully storms out.

In a bar(!), Benson tells Tucker that Nick has no interest in helping his father, to which Tucker admits that he almost feels sorry for Amaro and the situation he’s in. When Tucker suggests the two stop talking about work and have a drink, Liv agrees and asks about the wine selection while Tucker suggests she indulge in some hard liquor, like bourbon. (At this point every fan is asking, ‘Who is this man and what has he done with the real Tucker?’ Is this guy going to rip his face off in the next episode and reveal he’s just a robotic replacement sent to coerce Liv into something? That seems slightly more believable than the real Tucker softening up and showing some actual empathy for his fellow brethren in blue, right?)

Back with Barba, Benson tells Amaro that he needs to testify against his father, saying that he can show that Senior’s behavior is part of a pattern. Now Nick, who told Olivia about his bouts with his father in confidence years ago, is now pissed at Liv for divulging their private conversations to Barba, to which she says she had to tell disclose as this is pertinent information for the case. (Remember those two steps back mentioned earlier? Make it about four.)

At what could qualify as one of the worst family dinners ever, Sonya says she still believes her father while Amaro’s mom says Gabriella must have done something to deserve it. (What’s wrong with these women!)

At trial, young Nick takes the stand and cautiously explains about his childhood and how he was beaten by his father. He admits to still having nightmares. The defense attorney brings up the fact that Nick was disciplined for assaulting a perp last year and says that maybe all of this is just some animosity that Nick has toward his father for leaving his mother. Nick seethes but keeps his emotions under control.

When Nick Senior testifies, he tries to charm the jurors and explain away his son’s hatred toward him as just plain old resentment. He adds that he ‘should have taught Nick how to be a man,’ while he continues to adamantly deny that he laid a hand on Gabriella. For reasons not quite clear, the jury believes him and they let him off.

After his acquittal, Nicolas swings by the squad room again (Again, this could have been avoided if there was ANY security in that precinct). In a one-on-one with his son, Nicolas says that he’s actually proud of Nick for standing up to everyone, admitting he put Nick in a horrible position. He utters that he had to do what he did, that he’s too old to go to prison, and that Gabriella has forgiven him, essentially acknowledging that he committed the crime he was accused of.  Nick, not even really shocked by the admission at this point, calls out Nicolas for continuing to lie over and over again, to which the elder Amaro tells his son not to take things out on Zara or Maria. Nick forcefully defends himself saying, “I’m not you.” Clearly not one to give up, Nicolas tells Nick that he can’t fix what’s going on, that he can’t change the past, that Nick has to do it himself. His parting words to Nick are that he’s willing to listen if Nick ever wants to talk, which gives you the idea that this guy is really never, ever going to fully go away.

Now, as promised let’s talk about bowling, “I’m a lover not a fighter,” the future for both Barba and Carisi, and bourbon.

Well, we’ve talked about the ‘Bourbon’ incident, although methinks there is more on that to come in the future as no scene in this show is purely for entertainment value. More often than not, those quick scenes end up leading to some sort of fall out.  Please feel free to share your speculation about this with all.

Carisi has friends, friends that invite him bowling. And he’s trying to get Amaro to join in as well. You have to give the guy credit for trying, at nearly every turn, to be likeable and accepted into the inner circle at the 16th.

“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” was just a good, funny, throw away line that seemed so appropriate for a Don Juan wannabe to say right to Ice T’s, I mean Fin’s, face.

As for Carisi and Barba’s futures, I can reveal that EP Warren Leight told me this: “We’re planting some nice things about Carisi’s personal life in some episodes right now that will pay off at some point, and as for Barba, well, we may get a glimpse into Barba’s backstory, soon.”

Finishing the assessment of this episode, let’s talk about guest actor Armand Assante. In an extremely difficult role, he was absolutely 100% believable as Amaro’s old man. If you watched closely, you couldn’t help but notice the similarity in many of Assante and Pino’s movements and mannerisms. This type of mimicry, for the sake of authenticity, can only be carried off successfully by someone who truly understands what goes into the craft of acting. These two men proved without a doubt that they do. Their skill level here is undeniable.

Pino, for his part, has been handed a quite a lot in his years on SVU. I asked him about this — signing up for a seemingly strictly procedural show and then repeatedly being asked to take center stage during  some very emotional episodes – and he didn’t hesitate for a second to say that he loves, and openly welcomes, the opportunity to take on this kind of challenge. Clearly, he excels at it.

As for her second turn in the director’s chair, it’s obvious that Mariska Hargitay has not only successfully learned out to use the camera to tell a story in an accurate fashion, she’s clearly expanded her knowledge past the point of merely ‘getting the shot.’ In this episode, she couldn’t hide behind intense action and heart-pounding suspense the way some directors on procedurals do, she had to create a sense of almost uncomfortable intimacy to satisfy the conceit of this particular storyline. Using a few more single shot close-ups than usual in an SVU episode and letting scenes breathe a little bit by allowing a shot to linger for just a bit, she pushed this piece to a new level for SVU. It was nice to see such a new approach in the visual aspect of the show. All of this is evidence that Ms. Hargitay’s personal cinematic style is developing and since she’s made it known that she’d like to direct more, it will be interesting, and fun, to watch that style evolve with each new effort.

It’s been said a lot this year, but for a show that’s so been on the air for so long, it’s great to see it look and feel so new every episode. Credit to all – writers, producers, actors and directors. Just keep pushing and we’ll go along for the ride every week.

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Recap 16×12: Amaro Deals with Daddy Dearest