In the last scene of the episode after a Mother's Day meal together, Benson and Noah happen to run into Stabler, who's buying flowers from a street vendor for his mom.
When Benson attempts to making introductions between Stabler and her son, Noah jumps in and says, "I know, Detective Stabler. Your old partner." (We have so many questions about how he knows this.)
"You can call me Elliot," Stabler responds and extends his hand for Noah to shake, before adding, "Nice to meet you."
Stabler tells Benson she looks "great" and wishes her a happy Mother's Day, which sends us into another dimension thinking about how Stabler always encouraged Benson to think about starting a family of her own back when they were partners over 10 years ago. In a Season One episode of "SVU," Benson says to Stabler, "Sometimes I just look at kids and I think, ‘Why? Why do it at all?'" And he responds, "Because you want to more than anything in the world: because you want to love them every day."
Who could forget Season Nine's intimate exchange between the two during "Inconceivable" — an episode where Benson and Stabler chase down missing fertilized embryos from a fertility clinic. "You know you'd make a great mom," Stabler says before Benson attempts to shut the conversation down. "Look, maybe you should start thinking about having kids, and any way you want to do it I'll support you." Later in the episode Benson confided in Stabler that she "looked into adoption" but was turned down because she was single and didn't have a large family support system.
Back in the present, Benson has to cut her Mother's Day plans with Noah short after getting a message on her phone about officer Jessie Santos and asks Stabler if he's worked with Santos. Stabler confirms he has, and the audience knows Santos is a member of the Brotherhood, which is a group of dirty cops within the NYPD that Stabler has been investigating as part of an undercover mission of sorts. Santos is currently in prison after Stabler sold him on the idea of giving information about the Brotherhood to the NYPD in order to get a lighter sentence.
Benson told Stabler she'd call him later to fill him in on the message about Santos, and the two went their separate ways, which kicked off the start of "Law & Order: Organized Crime" and Thursday night's crossover event with "SVU." Benson and one of her officers, Detective Joe Velasco (Octavio Pisano), both appeared in the "Organized Crime" episode to work with the team to find Santos' missing daughter, who has leukemia and also suffers from asthma, which is made worse by her chemo, so the officers especially needed to locate her to give her an inhaler before an asthma attack.
Fans were treated to an hour of Benson and Stabler partnered up again just like the old days, and there were many moments that highlighted just how in sync the two still are despite Stabler's previous 10-year absence.
One particularly moving conversation between the two happened during a car ride when Stabler filled Benson in on his take on Frank Donnelly (Denis Leary), whom he's been partnered up with and also investigating during his undercover stint with the Brotherhood. In a recent episode, Stabler helped get Donnelly's wife to the hospital after she went into labor, and Thursday night, viewers learned the couple gave the baby the middle name Elliot after Stabler's heroics, which is a detail he shared with a shocked Benson.
"That sounds like you guys are getting pretty close there," she responds.
Stabler assures her that he isn't fooled by Donnelly's real, crooked intentions.
"I just think the older I get I'm beginning to understand that people are complicated," he says before glancing over at Benson.
"Yeah, ain't that the truth," she replies.
You know what else is "complicated"? Benson and Stabler's relationship.
Hargitay told TODAY just that herself during an interview at a "Law & Order" press junket in February while talking about Benson and Stabler's intense bond over the course of their partnership.
“So, I think that spending that much time with somebody, but then knowing that it could never be — but the chemistry has been undeniable: It’s been a complicated, a complicated factor in their relationship. So I think that it’s the man that she was closest to, the man that understands her the most, the man that she understands the most, and a deeply complex relationship."
She also explained that "Elliot Stabler was the first person that really" protected Benson and "there was such a deep safety in that, knowing that these two people, each other’s safety was almost the most important thing."
Having each other's back and looking out for each other was a crucial theme later on in the episode, when Benson and Stabler storm into a building Santos' daughter is believed to be in. Mind you, they went against Stabler's boss's order to wait for backup, which clocked us right back to the 2000s and the early days of their partnership. You know their former boss, Capt. Don Cragen, felt a chill go down his spine when Benson said, "Let's go," and the two entered the building without reinforcements.
The way they entered the home pointing their guns up, looking around in sync also, again, blasted us right back into the past. (Is it obvious yet we live there?)
Protective Stabler (Protelliot) really came out later on after Benson found Santos' daughter and someone shot at them. Stabler dropped down and stood in front of Benson, shielding her from the suspected shooter as he fired back.
After cuffing the gunman and bringing Santos' daughter to safety, Benson drives Stabler back to his office.
"It's always good to work with you, Liv," Stabler says, before Benson replies asking him how his "search for the truth" is going in relation to his dad. In previous episodes, Stabler had been trying to figure out if a story about his dad, who was also a police officer, staged a shooting while he was on the job. He initially mentioned this dilemma earlier in the episode to Benson, who asked Stabler if he had evidence his father did stage the shooting, to which Stabler replied, "Not yet, but I know where to get it."
But before Stabler went to find that evidence, his conversation with Benson in the car was interrupted by Donnelly, who inquires about why the "indomitable Capt. Benson" is at their precinct.
"Oh, I'm just playing Uber driver for my old partner," she replies with a smile.
Donnelly thanks them both for finding Santos' daughter, and Benson responds, "I'm just glad that we could help out a fellow cop," before adding, "Well, I gotta tell you I'm a little jealous because Elliot here tells me that you're the second-best partner that he ever had."
"Really?" Donnelly says. "I have to work on changing his mind about that — see if I can't make myself No. 1."
As Donnelly walks away and Benson and Stabler lock eyes for over five seconds (but who's counting?), we can't help but feel rather unwell about that conversation with Donnelly, and we'd soon find out why.
Before that, Stabler returns to the place he grew up and cuts open a tree and extracts bullets. Viewers see through flashbacks that Stabler's father once showed him how to shoot a gun and fired his "first shot" at the time into the tree. Looks like Stabler listened to Benson and found his evidence in his search for the truth about his father.
Now back to Donnelly: The episode ends with Stabler's boss, Sgt. Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt), and their Organized Crime teammate Detective Jet Slootmaekers informing Stabler that Donnelly has been setting him up this whole time to take the fall with the bad guys.
With only one episode left until the "Organized Crime" season finale May 19, we can't help but fear for Stabler's safety — and our sanity if the season ends on a cliffhanger.
“Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime” air Thursday nights on NBC after “Law & Order” at 8 p.m. ET.