"Scorched Earth"
SVU, Episode 13.01
Production number: 13003
First aired: 21 September 2011
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Benson & Cabot Scorched Earth
Written By
David Matthews

Directed By
Michael Slovis

Detective Benson investigates when a hotel maid accuses a powerful Italian diplomat of rape.


The detectives of the Special Victims Unit are called to the scene when a hotel maid reports being assaulted by Italian diplomat Robert Distasio. Bureau Chief Mike Cutter and ADA Alexandra Cabot prosecute the high-profile case, which quickly grows more complicated as the maid's credibility is publicly questioned. Detective Amanda Rollins joins the Manhattan SVU from Atlanta, while Benson struggles to cope with the fall-out from the shooting in the precinct.


The detectives investigates the sexual assault of a hotel maid named Miriam by Roberto Distasio, a well-known, wealthy and influential Italian diplomat. Detective Amanda Rollins joins SVU along with returned ADA Alex Cabot (who has returned from the Congo) and the new Bureau Chief, Mike Cutter.

Miriam's injuries and the DNA evidence that was found in the hotel suite seem to indicate that Distasio is guilty, but the squad encounters many problems with the case and once Distasio is indicted, the case falls apart when the defense team digs into Miriam's past in Sudan and discovers inconsistencies in her story.

With Miriam's credibility in question, Cabot continues to prosecute the case, but the jury cannot decide on the issue of the rape and only returns with a minor conviction. Meanwhile, Olivia has a hard time dealing with Elliot's absence after the shooting last season. In the end, Elliot resigns from SVU which visibly upsets Olivia.


Main Cast

Recurring Cast

Guest Cast



Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

–John Munch about politicians.

Background information and notes

  • Kelli Giddish joins the cast as Detective Amanda Rollins and her first lines show a notable Southern accent.
  • Linus Roache joins the cast as the recurring role of Bureau Chief Michael Cutter. Cutter was previously a principal cast member of the original Law & Order series.
  • Starting with this episode Tamara Tunie is moved from the main cast to a guest starring role once again.
  • This is the first time Stephanie March has appeared in a season opener since season 4's opener, Chameleon.
  • Rollins mentions that she studied the murder of Angela Brown from Mercy.
  • This episode was inspired by the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case; at one point Cabot actually refers to Distasio as "another DSK".
  • Cragen mentions that Elliot has been involved in six different shootings, including when he killed Detective Brad Kendall ("Risk"), killed an unnamed Snakehead ("Debt"), shot at Ray Schenkel ("Demons"), killed Christopher Rawlings ("Raw"), shot at Owen Cassidy ("Sugar"), and killed Jenna Fox ("Smoked").

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Arraignment Court
Part 11
Tuesday, June 28

Sutton Place Townhouse
16 Sutton Square
Wednesday, June 29

Pre-Trial Hearing
Part 42
Monday, August 8

4 5 6

Superior Court
Part 42
Tuesday, August 9

Superior Court
Part 42
Thursday, August 11

Superior Court Summation
Part 42
Thursday, August 11

Previous episode:
"Scorched Earth"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 13
Next episode:
"Personal Fouls"
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