"A Single Life"
SVU, Episode 1.02
Production number: E0903
First aired: 27 September 1999
  {{{nNthProducedInSeries}}}th of 476 produced in SVU  
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ASingleLife ep
Written By
Dawn DeNoon & Lisa Marie Petersen

Directed By
Lesli Linka Glatter

Benson and Stabler investigate the death of Gretchen Quinn, and uncover a long kept secret.


When the body of Gretchen Quinn is found wearing only a red slip after having gone through an upper-story window, Benson and Stabler soon find out that "Gretchen Quinn" has never existed.


On the way home from the grocery store, Olivia comes across a crime scene where a woman, Gretchen Quinn, has apparently jumped from a building and landed on her car, dressed in nothing but a red slip. Benson and Stabler go through her rolodex and are able to contact two men who were willing to talk about Gretchen. One being her psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Daniels, whom she had sexual relations with, though it is not known for how long. The second being an egotistic, philandering news anchor named Dallas Warner, who had a short-lived affair with Gretchen. Both men had alibis for the night of Gretchen Quinn's death.

Eventually, the detectives focus on any family she had because no one has claimed her body from the morgue, and room needs to be made. It's found out that Gretchen Quinn's real name is Susan Sidarsky. Dr. Mark Daniels finally admits his sexual relationship with Gretchen, which he previously denied, and also admits that she displayed classic signs of sexual abuse, such as being overly promiscuous. He regrets taking advantage of her trust as her psychiatrist. It is also learned that Susan escaped her family as soon as she could, changed her name and moved around a lot, so as to avoid her past.

Ellen Travis, Susan's sister, flies out from Colorado to sign for the body. After signing for the body she makes a hasty retreat and plans to leave after hitting Sak's Fifth Avenue. After Dr. Mark Daniel's revelation about Susan's sexual abuse, Olivia pleads with Ellen to stay "one more day in a lifetime" to try and protect her 10 year-old half sister, since she didn't protect Susan from their dad. Ellen had left for Colorado when Susan was only 9 years old and had no one to protect her from their father.

In the end, Ellen Travis confronts the dad, Robert Sidarsky, in an interrogation room. She doesn't care if he threatens to take away her trust fund. She tells her dad, Mr. Sidarsky, how she'll have her story told to a grand jury because of emotional abuse from the past sexual abuse she endured. She reads the obituary Susan wrote for herself to her father and breaks down, mourning for the death of her sister, who truly committed suicide over the horror of her past sexual abuse and the apathy it cast upon her life.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


Marge Cragen

Laurel Athletic Shoes, Inc.; Patterson High School; Quinn, Gretchen; Sidarsky, Susan


  • (When Elliot turns on the disposal after fixing it}
  • Dickie Stabler: (runs in) Mommy, Mommy have you seen the turtle? I left him in the sink.
  • (Elliot looks down at the smoothly grinding disposal)

  • Olivia Benson: "Biology of the Amazons" by Gretchen Quinn. [reading] "There's a tiny catfish feared more than the piranha. It's called a…”
  • Donald Cragen: Candiru.
  • Elliot Stabler: Say what?
  • Donald Cragen: This is beautiful. Tell him.
  • Olivia Benson: "It will swim right into a man's penis and lodge itself there by erecting sharp spines." Ow.
  • Elliot Stabler: "Erecting sharp spines." That's a fish with a sense of irony. (to Cragen) How'd you know that?
  • Donald Cragen: In the jungle they always taught us, "Don't hold your nose. Hold your stones."

  • John Munch: The whole thing's a pyramid scheme.
  • Brian Cassidy: What whole thing?
  • John Munch: Laptops. We've become a nation of "laptoppers", writing up orders on our laptops. More laptops. Whatever happened to pens?

  • Elliot Stabler [to Olivia about Dallas Warner]: You want me to bust him in the grill? I mean we're not getting anywhere in there.
  • Olivia Benson: It's not we. It's me.
  • Elliot Stabler: What's that mean?
  • Olivia Benson: That pompous jerk will never condescend to deal with a woman. You go in there.
  • Elliot Stabler: We good?
  • Olivia Benson: We're good.

  • Elliot Stabler: She musta had fun naming her computer files. This is "penis.quotes". You wanna read it, or should I?
  • Olivia Benson: Knock yourself out.
  • Elliot Stabler: (opens the folder and quickly closes it) No. That's yours.

  • Olivia Benson: Half of them admitted they couldn't tell their neighbors from the perp.
  • Elliot Stabler: Could you?
  • Olivia Benson: Could I what?
  • Elliot Stabler: Tell your neighbors apart.
  • Olivia Benson: Why? 'Cause I live here? What? I'm never home. I'm always with you.
  • Elliot Stabler: And people say the suburbs are anonymous.
  • Olivia Benson: Oh. Now, Queens is a suburb. Since when?
  • Elliot Stabler: Since we got a little space, some trees, grass to mow.
  • Olivia Benson: Yeah. I got a regular eight-by-ten of you out there mowing the lawn.
  • Elliot Stabler: Well. I do. Sometimes.
  • Olivia Benson: Admit it. Kathy does all the housework. 'Cause you're never there.
  • Elliot Stabler: Okay. I admit it. Kathy's the man of the house.
  • Olivia Benson: Exactly.
  • Elliot Stabler: Until Dickie's old enough ... You're lucky. You've got nothing to worry about. Definitely got no lawn to mow.
  • Olivia Benson: Yeah. I'm a regular monk.
  • Elliot Stabler: Monkette. (staring at her)

  • Olivia Benson [about the murder victim]: Anybody notify SVU?
  • Policeman #2: 'Cause she's not wearing panties, you mean?
  • Olivia Benson: Just cover her up!

  • Detective Mourad: Looks like maybe they did more than kiss.
  • Olivia Benson: Yeah, he read her a little Walt Whitman, they made hot passionate love, then right before he rolled over and fell asleep, he heaved her out the window…excuse me, through the window.

  • Donald Cragen: My wife was on an Orlando turnaround as a flight attendant, and I was home, scrubbing algae off the tiles around the swimming pool we never used. The one that got me into hot water with Internal Affairs, because "what's a cop doing with an in-ground pool," right? And then the phone rang, the call she always expected… always dreaded.

  • Detective Mourad [about the murder victim]: Plus, she wasn't exactly dressed in her refusal outfit.
  • Elliot Stabler: I didn't hear you say that.
  • Detective Mourad: You know, I didn't catch your shield. You with the political correctness squad, or what?

Background information and notes

  • In this episode we learn that Captain Donald Cragen's wife Marge, seen and referred to in the original Law & Order, died in a plane crash.
  • Captain Cragen talks about the events in the Law & Order season one episode "The Blue Wall", where he comes under suspicion for laundering drug money.
  • This is the first appearance of Elliot and Kathy's children. The children are Maureen, Kathleen, Elizabeth, and Dickie.
  • Detective Cassidy was testifying in the trial of Professor Ormond whose crime was first mentioned in "Payback" when Captain Cragen assigned him the case of someone molesting a dead woman's body.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Supreme Court
Trial Part 16
Tuesday, September 21

Office of Dr. Mark Daniels
911 East 72nd Street
Tuesday, September 21

The New York Ledger
705 West 44th Street
Tuesday, September 21

Il Posto Vecchio
99 West 54th Street
Tuesday, September 21

5 6 7

The Black Pearl
727 East 86th Street
Wednesday, September 22

Patterson High School
East Bergen, New Jersey
Wednesday, September 22

Laurel Athletic Shoes, Inc.
East Bergen, New Jersey
Thursday, September 23

Previous episode:
"A Single Life"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 1
Next episode:
"...Or Just Look Like One"
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