IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A serial killer took the life of one of Elliot Stabler’s friends on ‘Law & Order: OC’

On "Law & Order: Organized Crime," a serial killer has emerged and set his sights on a friend from Detective Elliot Stabler's past.
/ Source: TODAY

Things continue to go from bad to worse for Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni) on “Law & Order: Organized Crime” — with the exception of a voicemail that may be a sign of better things to come for the detective in one aspect of his life.

Stabler has been juggling mother Bernadette “Bernie” Stabler (Ellen Burstyn)’s declining health, a family dinner gone horribly wrong, being suspended from work and, most recently, realizing a serial killer is behind the murder of one of his friends.

The fifth episode of Season Four, “Missing Persons,” which aired Feb. 22 on NBC, kicks off with the return of Rita Lasku (Izabela Vidovic), whom fans will remember as a former trafficking victim previously saved by Stabler in Season Two. While Stabler has saved many victims during his time in both Organized Crime and the Special Victims Unit, he formed a close bond with Rita, and the two connected over “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Rita eventually started referring to Stabler as Officer Monte Cristo, and with Stabler’s help escaped from the trafficking ring and found out her son was safely in the hands of Interpol in London waiting for her arrival.

Reed Diamond as Noah Cahill, Izabela Vidovic as Rita Lasku, Bernard Burlew as Frank in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Rita has returned to "Organized Crime" — two seasons after her first appearance.Scott Gries / NBC

In the Season Four premiere, Stabler listened to a few voicemails, including an automated one that said, “Call now before it’s too late,” which viewers since learned was absolute foreshadowing. Another message was from Rita, looking for her “Count of Monte Cristo” and asking him to call her back. Stabler then proceeded to call his former SVU partner, Capt. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), to let her know about Rita’s call since Benson and her squad also helped bust that trafficking ring in Season Two.

“I got a message from someone, an old case of ours. I don’t know — maybe I just wanted to hear your voice. Call me, bye,” he said, and also informed her of his return after an undercover assignment.

Episode Five kicks off with an older man, a councilman, getting handsy with Rita on a putting green at a swanky party. A suave man intervenes to save Rita from the councilman and offers her a tour of the huge home. Cut to Rita later sitting on a couch describing the “sweet” man to her friend, who asks if the guy is “a new regular.”

“They’re never sweet. They just pretend to be,” the friend says, adding, “Prince Charming doesn’t have to pay his princess.”

“Maybe he hasn’t met the right one yet,” Rita responds and explains everything she does is for the good of her son, Gabriel.

“The kind of men we meet — they’re looking for a party, not a partner, or their escape,” the friend says. “Don’t ever forget that.”

While at a nice hotel bar, Rita gets kicked out by management and exits through a door that puts her in an alley. A fancy sports car pulls up, and Rita greets the driver, whom she clearly knows, and asks how he found her. The male voice only answers that he’ll give her a ride. Subsequent scenes flash showing Rita dancing with the man in a nice home as the car also drives onto a beach at night. While dancing, Rita passes out, and ends up tied up in the trunk of that car on the beach. The driver picks up a terrified Rita from the trunk and carries her further along on the beach.

Back at home, Stabler is on the phone with one of his kids, who is taking care of Bernie. He also stares at his kitchen table, which is still covered with the remnants of the disastrous family dinner that ended in Stabler going toe-to-toe with his older brother in front of everyone before he went to save his team during a shootout at a witness’s house. The evening ended with Stabler injuring a kid, who had a gun, after tackling him as the gun fired. The shot ended up hitting Stabler’s sergeant, Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt), who was rushed to the hospital, where she remains in recovery, and Stabler got suspended pending an IAB investigation for assaulting a minor — despite preventing an already bad shooting from being much worse.

Meanwhile, Stabler’s other team members, Detectives Jet Slootmaekers (Ainsley Seiger), Samir Bashir (Abubakr Ali) and Bobby Reyes (Rick Gonzalez), respectively, undergo questioning as part of his IAB investigation.

Stabler, who is still at home, lets his ringing phone go to voicemail.

“Elliot, it’s me,” the voice on the machine begins. “I heard what happened. Actually, I’m going to wait for you to tell me what happened. Um, call me back — I’m here.” That voice belongs to Benson. Fans haven’t seen any noticeable communication between the two since Stabler left her that voicemail in Episode One. (Could we soon see these two share the screen again and be there for each other?!)

Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler, Michael Trotter as Joe Stabler Jr. in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
It seems there could be more going on with Joe Jr.'s "wine" business than he's letting on.Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Stabler then discovers what appears to be drugs, likely fentanyl, in his bathroom’s trash can. Clearly, his mind runs back through those in attendance at his family dinner, and after ruling out his youngest son, Eli, as a possible culprit, Stabler pays a visit to his younger brother, Joe Jr. (Michael Trotter), at work. Joe Jr. recently returned to his brother’s life and told him he works as a seller of fine wine. Joe is caught off guard by his brother’s unexpected visit and shows him around the office before mentioning he’s seeing a “new girl” he wants him to meet. When Stabler says they need to talk, Joe says it’s not a good time and Stabler leaves.

Stabler then visits Bell in the hospital, and on his way out, a woman, who is Rita’s concerned friend, Heidi, from earlier in the episode, approaches him in the parking garage and says Rita told her she should find him if anything ever happened to her.

Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Rita's friend Heidi sought out Stabler for his help after Rita went missing.Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Stabler starts investigating — despite his suspension — and ropes in the Organized Crime team’s newest member, a professor named Kyle Vargas who specializes in AI, to come to his home to help him piece together the clues he finds on Long Island, where Rita was last seen, to try to find her.

Stabler ends up at a nice house, which is the same one where the party was hosted at the beginning of the episode, and starts looking around at the nice cars parked out front until a man emerges from the party and sees Stabler and makes him go inside.

Inside, the aforementioned suave man who gave Rita a tour sits at a poker table, where Stabler informs the man and a woman also at the table, who turns out to be the town police chief, that he was the last one seen with Rita and that she is missing.

“I’m a concerned citizen looking for a friend,” Stabler tells them.

Jon Collin Barclay as Officer Logan, Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Stabler has a knack for ending up in places he doesn't belong.Scott Gries / NBC

The chief realizes Stabler is a cop and says they will play one hand of poker. If she wins, Stabler gets charged with trespassing. If Stabler wins, he gets to spend “a night in the drunk tank.”

“Give you some time to think about all of the lines you crossed tonight,” she says.

It’s clear Stabler wins as he spends the night in the tank, and the officer who escorts him out says they read up on him and learned of his suspension — and tells him to be grateful they aren’t pressing charges.

While at a local diner, Stabler learns of another missing girl, Christine, from a journalist. Stabler asks the journalist about the suave man, who is also a district attorney named Noah Cahill with “more money than a DA should” have, according to the journalist, who adds that with tourist season approaching, the power players of the town, like the chief and DA, could “bury” the news of two missing girls.

Stabler visits Christine’s family, and Christine’s younger sibling gives him a hidden flip phone from Christine’s room. Stabler works with Vargas to track down the one number the phone has previously called. When Stabler calls it, all he hears on the other line is eerie heavy breathing. He says he’s looking for Christine and will find her.

“Maybe you think you’ve gone too far, but you haven’t,” Stabler says. “You can stop this.”

Later, Stabler can’t sleep in his hotel room and sees a new video message on the flip phone. In the video, Rita is tied to a chair and blindfolded.

“Please, help me!” she shouts.

Stabler leaves but gets pulled over by the same cop who let him out of the tank and says the chief wants to see him. Stabler shows the chief that video and says, “Whoever has her met her at that party.” The chief thinks Stabler believes the district attorney has Rita.

“If it’s not him, he knows more than what he’s saying,” Stabler says.

The chief reminds Stabler this is her investigation and her town.

“You are not the only one who wants to find these girls,” she tells him.

When Stabler returns to his hotel room, he finds Jet, Bashir, Vargas and Reyes there to help him. They tell him they discovered Cahill has a history of domestic abuse: His last two wives filed charges that didn’t stick and there’s also a child services case. They also discovered Cahill likes muscle cars.

“Red’s his favorite color. Nothing gray or black, and nothing that fits the vehicle the doorman saw leaving the hotel,” Reyes says.

Tate Ellington as Dr. Vargas, Ainsley Seiger as Det. Jet Slootmaekers, Rick Gonzalez as Det. Bobby Reyes, Abubakr Ali as Officer Samir Bashir in "Law & Order: Organized Crime."
Vargas, Jet, Reyes and Bashir showed up at Stabler's hotel room to help him out amid his suspension.Virginia Sherwood / NBC

Jet realizes from the background of the video of Rita that she could be in an old bunker that was using during World War II. Vargas figures out there are four of the bunkers along the coastline, including one that’s 2 miles from the DA’s beach house. Stabler emphasizes the team cannot follow him since he’s suspended and already “in hot water,” so he heads to the beach alone.

Stabler finds one of the bunkers, and once he descends, he finds Christine tied up and blindfolded inside. He assures her she’s safe as someone approaches him dressed in all black, and the two begin fighting. The assailant escapes, and Stabler returns to Christine and assures her she’ll be OK. He also asks her where Rita is. Christine points to a pile of sand and a shovel in the corner of the bunker and then points up to the exit.

Stabler climbs the ladder and returns to the beach, where he sees a large pile of sand. He starts digging, but for Stabler — much like the automated message left on his answering machine said in the premiere — he’s “too late.” He shouts, “No!” repeatedly as he uncovers Rita and sees she is dead.

The next day at the scene, the chief tells Stabler she’s sorry about his friend. Bell calls Stabler and asks if he’s OK before telling him there are some things they need to discuss once he’s back home. Reyes then informs him that Rita was dead before the killer sent the video of Rita to the flip phone. Stabler tells Reyes and Bashir to just observe since this is currently the chief’s investigation, but Bell tells Stabler on the phone she’d see what she could do since Rita was once their case as well.

Stabler goes to visit Christine in the hospital and holds up a photo of Cahill. Christine says she knows him and that he hosted the parties. Christine adds she doesn’t know if the DA took her, as she never saw her abductor’s face. She explains she was grabbed from behind and ended up in the trunk of a car.

She tells Stabler she will never forget the sound of her abductor’s voice.

“Before he’d leave,” Christine explains, “he’d always say in this whispery voice: ‘Don’t wash away with the sea, sweetheart.’”

Reyes, who is still at the beach, calls Stabler to tell him the police found three more bodies in addition to Rita’s.

“We got ourselves a serial killer,” Reyes says.

“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.