There’s quite possibly no worse place to be informed of a dark secret about your parents than a large family gathering with your kids — and grandkids within earshot — but that’s exactly what happened to Elliot Stabler on “Law & Order: Organized Crime.”
Just as Stabler (Chris Meloni) is warming up to the return of his brothers, Randall (Dean Norris) and Joe Jr. (Michael Trotter), he learns some unsettling personal information from each of them during a family dinner he hosted at his New York City apartment.
Before the episode, titled “The Last Supper,” aired, TODAY.com shared an exclusive preview clip where we got a taste of the group gathering before things went south. Stabler’s kids and grandkids happily mingle with his mom, Bernadette “Bernie” Stabler (Ellen Burstyn). One of Stabler’s sons, Eli, also brings along his dazzling new girlfriend to meet the family. Stabler maintains his status as man of the house by taking the steaks back from Randall to grill himself, while also bonding with Randall over the popular presence of their younger “suck-up” brother.
Before everyone sits down to eat — and Randall spills a big secret about mom Bernie and late dad Joe Sr. (more on that later) — Stabler learns why his younger brother was dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Joe Jr. explains he took trinkets, which he later learned were “artifacts of cultural significance,” while he was with his platoon raiding houses and planned to sell them. He ended up being charged with stealing, and the Army said he could either do time in an Afghan prison or accept being dishonorably discharged. Stabler pivots and asks Joe about his new job of selling fine wine.
“I actually like selling wine — I’m really good at it,” Joe tells his brother.
When Stabler questions if enlisting in the Army was ever the right thing for his brother, Joe tells him the “truth.”
“Nope,” Joe says. “I only did it because of you.”
When Stabler asks him to elaborate, Joe references Stabler’s time as a Marine, saying, “It means you were so cool. You were such a badass over there. I wanted what you had. I guess I wanted to be you.”
“Is that why you didn’t call when you came back?” Stabler asks Joe, who responds with a yes.
“Let me tell you something,” Stabler explains. “Us Stablers tend to shut people out when we don’t know how to handle things.”
Both brothers agree to work on that.
As the gathering rolls on, Stabler continues checking in on his Organized Crime team, who is working to keep a witness and her family safe before she testifies against the drug distributing group Los Santos. Stabler was taken off the case due to his prior undercover involvement.
Eli notices his distracted father continues to step away during the dinner to make work calls, as he introduces his girlfriend, Becky, to Bernie.
“Hey, whatever he’s doing, I’m sure it’s very important,” Randall tells Eli. “Don’t let it bother you.”
“But it does bother me,” Eli responds. “I just want him to be present.”
Later, Stabler makes an effort to meet Becky and introduces himself to her. Then, he pulls his son aside and asks him why he’s spending time with his Uncle Randall and filling him in more on his life than his own father.
“You don’t listen,” Eli answers.
When Stabler asks what that means, Eli quizzes him about what his new major is and what position he plays on the soccer team.
Stabler fails to correctly answer both questions, and Eli tells him he quit the team two months ago.
“You’re always at work. Even tonight, you’re not really here,” Eli says.
Stabler acknowledges he has to check in with work, but as the conversation ends, Randall sneaks behind Stabler and confiscates his phone (a move that will later come back to get him).
Once everyone sits down at the table to eat, Randall tells an old story about once finding a 4-year-old Stabler dressed in some of their mother’s clothes with a face covered in makeup playing a ukulele.
“I was Susan Dey of ‘The Partridge Family’!” Stabler responds with a smile.
The lighthearted conversation takes a turn when Bernie interjects that she remembers something she wanted to say.
“I wanted to apologize,” she says.
When Randall asks for what, Bernie says, “You know, for what happened. The reason that you sent me the bus tickets.”
“We don’t need to do that now, Ma,” Randall responds.
Randall tries to dissuade her, and Bernie tells him not to treat her “like a child.”
“I can still smack you upside the head, you know, mister,” Bernie says.
As tensions rise at the table, viewers see things start going sideways at work for the OC team, as they come under fire while protecting the witness and her family.
Back at the uncomfortable Stabler family dinner, Bernie insists that she wants “everybody to know the truth,” including about Randall. A puzzled Stabler asks his mom what she’s talking about.
“I want the whole family to know what really happened,” a frustrated Bernie says.
Stabler’s oldest daughter signals to her husband to get their kids and go. As they and others stand, Bernie tells them no one is going anywhere so they can “know the truth.”
Bernie apologizes for throwing Randall out of the house. Stabler explains to his mom she didn’t throw Randall out, because as far as he has always understood, Randall left on his own accord.
Bernie disputes that, explaining she “kicked him out.”
Stabler asks Randall why he never told him this, to which Randall responds, “’Cause then I’d have to tell you why.”
And that "why" is a very big one.
Randall pokes Stabler to use his detective skills to solve the case and references “all the crap that was going on in that madhouse.” Stabler recalls their father drinking a lot and getting suspended from his job as a cop for misconduct.
“Somebody called the Internal Affairs and told them all the nastiness he was into,” Randall says, before revealing he was the one who made the call “and ratted Pop out.”
When Stabler asks why Randall did that, his brother reveals their dad was beating their mom “on a nightly basis.” Bernie starts crying as Randall continues, “He just did it where it wouldn’t show.”
“And you were too goddamn young and stupid to notice,” Randall says to Stabler. Bernie intervenes and says Stabler wasn’t stupid and that she “intervened” because he was too young to know.
Randall and Stabler start arguing after Randall accuses him of running off to his girlfriend’s house, football practice or the Marines. When Stabler says all Randall had to do was tell him, Randall says he would’ve taken their father’s side. Things really go off the rails as the home landline rings and one of Stabler’s daughters answers and tells him it’s work calling. His colleague tells him they couldn’t reach him by cell, and they needed to call him because the team is in danger. At this point, Randall pulls out his brother’s phone that he swiped earlier and taunts him to come and get it. The brothers tussle, and the skirmish ends with Randall on the floor and everyone at the table standing and staring at Stabler.
Stabler leaves and helps his team, who has been engaged with outside gunmen trying to get to the witness and her family tied to the Los Santos case. He ends up throwing the witness’s son down a flight of stairs after the son pulled out a gun that ended up shooting his boss, Sgt. Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt), and later gets suspended for it.
Stabler returns home and finds Randall. Much like many family members after a disagreement, neither apologizes verbally but it’s implied. Stabler and Randall agree they don’t buy their younger brother’s story about his discharge from the Army and real reason for returning to town.
“All this time you just let me think you were a selfish prick, huh?” Stabler says.
“We all have our cross to bear,” Randall answers, before mentioning the bus tickets Bernie brought up during dinner. He says he bought the tickets after going to their sisters’ place in Florida, as it was his way of “trying to save her” and Stabler.
“She never used them,” Randall says, and adds he plans to stick around and help with their mom.
Stabler then fills his brother in on how he got suspended from work, and they share a smile, joking, “Just like the old man did.”
Before Randall leaves, he tells Stabler not to do anything stupid “like the old man did, OK?”
“What does that mean?” Stabler asks.
“No one ever told you?” Randall responds.
“Told me what?” Stabler questions.
“That’s a saga for another night,” Randall answers.
“Law & Order: Organized Crime” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC after “Law & Order: SVU” at 9 p.m. and “Law & Order” at 8 p.m.