Law and Order
"Return Of The Prodigal Son"
SVU, Episode 22.09
Production number: 22009
First aired (US): 1 April 2021
First aired (UK): 30 July 2021
First aired (CAN): 31 March 2021
First aired (AUS): 8 April 2021
  th of 502 produced in SVU  
th of 502 released in SVU
  th of 1271 released in all  
Written By
Warren Leight & Julie Martin

Directed By
Juan José Campanella


The Special Victims Unit rallies around former Detective Elliot Stabler to find a suspect who has been threatening his family.


Benson is driving through the streets while talking to Fin about how she received a notification of a case. She arrives to see paramedics bringing in a woman who she recognizes. Benson calls out to the woman who is revealed to be Kathy Stabler, but she is unconscious and unresponsive. As she gazes upon Kathy, a voice calls out to her, and Benson turns to see a familiar face: Elliot Stabler. Shocked to see her old partner, Benson walks up to him and he states someone tried to kill Kathy.

At the hospital, Elliot tells Benson that Kathy is undergoing surgery for her injuries. Before they can talk further, Dickie and Kathleen arrive and ask their father for an update while he tries to take them inside. The Stabler siblings are soon surprised to see Benson after ten years.

Much later, Stabler catches up with Tutuola and they discuss his recent developments. Stabler reveals that he rejoined the force after a few years and is working on new cases. He inquired on Benson and is told that she moved on having a couple of relationships and reveals she now has a son. Stabler is happy with the news.

At the hospital, Kathy has regained consciousness and expresses happiness to see Benson again, apologizing for making her miss the ceremony, but Benson is not bothered. After a little talk, Kathy remarked that it was good seeing Benson and Elliot together again. She soon inquired if they really had not spoke in a decade. Benson replies she did not even know that Stabler was back on the job until tonight and Kathy says she had always assumed her husband was lying about that.

When Kathy started to rest, Elliot was worried but Kathy assured him she was fine and told Benson on what she could remember.

After Kathy fell asleep, Elliot apologized to Olivia for leaving her 10 years earlier. After a brief conversation, however, Olivia was called back to the station.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast




Background Information and Notes

  • Stabler returned in this episode after a ten-season absence, following his departure after the twelfth season finished airing.
    • It also marked the return of the Stabler family, with Dickie, Kathleen and Kathy returning.
    • This marked the final appearance of Kathy Stabler.
    • Stabler is revealed to have rejoined the police force after it was stated that he put in his retirement papers in the season 13 premiere "Scorched Earth".
  • This episode was originally intended to be the season's seventh episode, but it was pushed back due to production of both the pilot episode of Law & Order: Organized Crime as well as this episode not being completed in time for the original airdate.
  • This episode started a two-part crossover event, which concluded with the Law & Order: Organized Crime episode "What Happens in Puglia".
  • Fin reveals Phoebe Baker was married before they got engaged.
  • In Australia, this episode aired before "The Only Way Out Is Through", most likely due to Law & Order: Organized Crime premiering the following week.
  • This is the only episode in the twenty-second season not to be ripped from the headlines.
Previous episode:
"The Only Way Out Is Through"
"Return Of The Prodigal Son"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 22
Next episode:
"Welcome to the Pedo Motel"
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