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"Stranger"
SVU, Episode 10.11
Production number: 10011
First aired: 6 January 2009
  th of 476 produced in SVU  
th of 476 released in SVU
  th of 1229 released in all  
Stranger
Written By
Dawn DeNoon

Directed By
David Platt

Plot

A girl arrives at the Hallander apartment, where the door is answered by Mrs. Hallander. When the girl thinks Mrs. Hallander doesn't remember her, Mrs. Hallander's eldest daughter, Erica, comes to the door and sees the four-leaf clover tattoo on the girl's hand. She instantly recognizes the girl as her disappeared younger sister, Heather. The two quickly bring Heather inside and call the police. When Elliot and Olivia show up, the police officer on site says that Heather was kept in captivity for four years and held as a sex slave. The Hallander's middle daughter, Nikki, appears irritated and hostile towards Heather upon her return home. Because Nikki and Heather had a fight, which caused Heather to storm out of the apartment never to be seen again, Nikki thought her family blamed her for Heather's disappearance. After Heather showers three times, Olivia has the chance to talk to Heather. Heather laments that she was first chair clarinet at school, and was abducted just before the spring concert. Olivia convinces Heather to go to the hospital for a medical examination and give her statement about her years in captivity. She says she was held in a concrete room with a steel door that had a combination lock on it. The room itself had only a mattress, a clawfoot tub, and a lawn chair with the seat cut out over a bucket to use as a toilet.

When they leave the hospital, Elliot and Olivia get Heather to retrace her steps from the Hallander's apartment to where she was held captive. When Heather mistakes one of the streets, she becomes overwhelmed and the detectives decide to take her home. A reporter and photographer from the Ledger accost them outside of the Hallander's apartment building, leading to a scuffle between Elliot and the photographer. Despite Elliot breaking the camera, they manage to get a picture of Heather off of it, which becomes the front page of the morning paper. Erica storms into the precinct, upset about Heather being splashed all over the front page of the Ledger. She’s not happy with how the detectives are handling Heather’s case, calling them no worse than the missing persons detective who worked with the family when Heather first disappeared.

Mr. Hallander calls the precinct, saying that Heather's not feeling well enough for another ride-along, as Nikki slipped her a copy of the paper with her face on the front page. John is fed up with Nikki’s attitude and suggests they bring her in for a sit-down. He says that when Heather ran out of the apartment, the parents sent Nikki to bring her back, but Nikki never found Heather. John suggests that Nikki may have seen Heather being abducted, but never said anything, possibly because she was glad to see her sister leave. Forensics prove that Heather was sexually assaulted and that she has a vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight.

A call is placed to the precinct about a priest from St. Francis' Cathedral, who says he's seen Heather at mass the last four Sundays, accompanied by an older man. When Olivia asks Heather about it, Heather angrily denies it. Huang says that Heather's suffering from extreme Stockholm syndrome, that her captor's control over her is so complete, she feels compelled to protect him even after she's escaped from him. Olivia then receives a call from the Hallanders that Heather slit her wrists. Olivia meets with them at the hospital. The doctors quickly ask for Heather's blood type so they can transfuse. Mr. Hallander says he and his wife are both type A, so Heather should also be type A. Olivia sees Heather after she gets out of surgery and apologizes to her for how she acted last time they saw each other. Heather says she didn't try to kill herself because of Olivia. She says no one feels comfortable around her and Nikki hates her. Olivia assures her she's just having a hard time adjusting, and it's going to take some time and counseling.

Elliot talks to Heather’s doctor, who has to place her on a 72-hour hold so she doesn’t attempt suicide again. He then tells Elliot that because both of Heather’s parents have type A blood, Heather can only be type A, but she’s type B. At the precinct, John lays “Heather’s” picture over her picture from her missing persons flyer and shows that they have difference face shapes. The detectives speculate that the age difference and weight loss made it easier for the girl to pass herself off as Heather. They also examine the four-leaf clover tattoo and realize that “Heather’s” tattoo is a mirror image of the one in her missing persons flyer. Olivia returns to the hospital with Heather’s clarinet and asks her to put it together and play something for her. “Heather” declines, saying she wouldn’t remember how. Olivia then asks her about the tattoo and where she got it. “Heather” says she got it at a tattoo parlor, but Olivia immediately debunks her story, telling her how it really happened. She also mentions that when Heather disappeared, the missing persons detective took DNA from her toothbrush, so they can compare it with “Heather’s” DNA. “Heather” starts crying and admits the whole thing is a sham, that she was able to pass herself off as Heather after finding her online and seeing that they had the same hair. She says she did this because she needed a family and the Hallanders needed a daughter. She refuses to give her real name.

Elliot relays the information to the Hallanders, who are furious at being deceived. Erica is convinced that the girl knows where Heather is, even if she got information on Heather from the Internet. The Hallanders have “Heather” arrested and charged with fraud and identity theft. At her arraignment, she pleads with the Hallanders not to do this to her, and still refuses to give her real name. Her bail is set at $20,000 and she has to finish her 72-hour hold in the Bellevue Prison Ward before she’s transferred to the tombs. After the judge moves to the next case, Erica tells the judge to put “Heather” under oath and tell the Hallanders where Heather is, despite Nikki saying that “Heather” doesn’t know anything. At the precinct, John shows Erica how “Heather” got all of her information, from the website Erica set up to find her sister. SVU takes over Heather’s case.

Olivia still believes “Heather” was abused and receives a tip about the tattoo parlor where she got the four-leaf clover. She was accompanied by a man who matches the description of the man who took her to St. Francis’ Cathedral. He paid for her tattoo with a credit card, which gives the detectives his name: Carl Vasko. When they track him down armed with an arrest warrant, he tries to make a run for it, but Fin manages to get him before he escapes. Olivia makes her way down to the basement of Vasko’s home and finds the room where “Heather” said she was kept, down to the lawn chair with the seat cut out over a bucket.

During the arrest, Vasko bloodied up his nose on Fin’s sleeve, which he passed onto Dr. Warner. She couldn’t get DNA results that fast, so she ran an individual specific auto-antibodies test against the semen on “Heather’s” dress, and got a match. The DNA also came back on “Heather” and matched a CODIS sample to a girl named Kristen Vucelik. Kristen had been abducted from Ohio six years ago, with her mother, Marcie, believing her ex-husband had taken her. Her ex-husband Carl Vucelik, who had changed his last name to Vasko when he abducted Kristen. Vucelik claims that Marcie filled Kristen’s head with lies about him, and says that Kristen would never say a word against him now. Olivia leaves Elliot to sucker a full confession out of him, and heads off to get Kristen out of jail.

Kristen has a very bleak outlook on her life once she gets out of jail, believing there to be no good in the world. She had dreamed of escaping that basement and finding a real family. She was also afraid the Hallanders would kill her if they found out she wasn’t their daughter. It had taken so long for her to gather the courage to escape, and she couldn’t turn Vucelik in, since the Hallanders already thought she was their daughter. Vucelik had also tricked Kristen into thinking her mother was dead, but Olivia reveals to her that Marcie’s still alive and is still looking for her. Marcie arrives in New York and the two are reunited when Kristen is released.

Vucelik is denied bail at arraignment, and Kristen and Marcie are prepared to go back to Ohio. However, Olivia gets a call from Marcie that Kristen went to see someone before they left for the airport and never came back. She and Elliot go back to the Hallanders and ask if they saw Kristen come by. Mrs. Hallander denies it, but Erica says she saw Kristen leave the apartment building with Nikki. Kristen told Mrs. Hallander that Nikki knew she wasn’t Heather, and that she’d better leave before the same thing happened to her that happened to the real Heather. Erica is shocked that Nikki killed Heather, and even more shocked that her mom found out about it afterwards and didn’t do anything because she couldn’t lose two daughters. Mrs. Hallander tells them where Nikki killed Heather, and they rush over there to find Nikki trying to pull Kristen up to the top of the roof of a building. Erica confronts Nikki about what happened to Heather, and Nikki admits that Heather caught her doing drugs, and she killed her to keep their parents from finding out. Nikki is about to jump off the roof but she’s coaxed down by her sister and then arrested. As she’s taken away, she says to Kristen, “The police gave up looking for Heather a long time ago. Why did you pick us?”

Cast

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

References

Quotes

Carl Vasko: Where's Kristen? I would like to see her.
Olivia Benson: And I would like to see you castrated with a rusty steak knife. Neither are going to happen, but we can both dream.
Elliot Stabler: You know something, I think you need a sick day. You're obviously on the rag.
Olivia Benson: Touch me again, and I will sue you for sexual harassment!


Background information and notes

  • This episode appears to based on the headlines of the Elisabeth Fritzl case, as well as the case of Frédéric Bourdin, who infamously impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a missing person.
  • Goof: It is stated multiple times that because Heather's parents are both blood type A, she must also be type A. However, if both parents are heterozygous, Heather could potentially be type O.
  • At the start of the episode, an elderly couple can be seen holding Wiimotes and a shot of the TV (slightly obscured) shows they are playing Wii Sports, one of the baseball training games to be exact.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3

Saint Francis Cathedral
525 West 110th Street
Monday, December 1

Arraignment
Part 34
Thursday, December 4

Residence of
Carl Vasko
607 West 101th Street
Thursday, December 4

4 5

Manhattan
Detention Complex
125 White Street
Thursday, December 4

679 West 49th Street
Wednesday, December 10


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"Smut"
"Stranger"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Season 10
Next episode:
"Hothouse"
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