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'Law & Order: SVU' highlights the 'Jersey Breakdown' in newest episode

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Wednesday’s ‘SVU’ is one of those episodes that starts out on one track and swiftly moves into something much more involved and controversial.

The official synopsis reads, “The rape of an underage runaway leads the team to a sex trafficking ring that crosses state lines.”

While it’s not listed in that description, it’s already with been established that it’s neighboring state New Jersey that’s in the ‘SVU’ team’s crosshairs with the title of the episode being “Jersey Breakdown.”

This episode was shot back in early November, long before the recent allegations of corruption within the New Jersey legislature began appearing almost daily in the headlines. The controversy within that state involves current governor, Chris Christie, who was sworn in for a second term just yesterday, as he faces off with Democrats as they ramp up criticism of the Republican amid investigations of a bridge scandal that has led to other accusations of abuse of power.

While the governor is not mentioned directly in this episode, the timing is a bit ironic, a fact not lost on Executive Producer Warren Leight. “Everyone knows that we continually try to be topical, but we certainly can’t predict the future,” he told me on January 9th, ironically, the day the bridge scandal broke. “It’s sort of weird that we thought up this fictional story months ago and now something like it is playing out on a national stage.”

But Leight wanted to be very clear about the lack of similarities in these two events. “Our story is about sex trafficking and what’s actually happening right now in New Jersey has absolutely nothing to do with that. The main similarity really is that our piece is about New Jersey and things are now happening in real life there and they’re in the headlines. That’s really about it all you can draw a line to. These kinds of government issues could be happening in Arizona or New Mexico or a Midwestern state. It just so happens that New Jersey is New York’s neighbor so we worked them into the show to suit our storytelling purposes and now they're in the spotlight in real life.”

There was another reason for the involving the Garden State in this episode, Leight reveals, saying, “Truthfully, we wanted to cross state lines so that the feds would be involved. That way we could bring in Alana De La Garza.”

De La Garza is well-known to “Law & Order” fans for her stint as Assistant District Attorney Connie Rubirosa, a role she also played on the short-lived “Law & Order: LA,” a fact which is slyly referenced in tonight’s episode as she works with the ‘SVU’ detectives as part of a Federal Task Force.

While the detectives set about shutting down the illegal activities, it doesn’t help their workflow as there’s still tension within the squad room while Amaro and Benson deal with their current roles within the team's hierarchy; Amaro, dealing with the fall-out following his errant shooting of an unarmed minor, and Benson as she moves from co-worker to boss. Put simply, that squad room is a mess, which makes for great drama for these characters.

Whatever the case may be within the confines of the 16th precinct (pun intended), one thing that’s a given is that no matter what, the ‘SVU’ team will soldier on to insure justice for this, as well as all other victims, in whatever state necessary (again, pun intended!).

Tonight’s hashtag = #JerseyBreakdown

Shout out to first time ‘SVU’ writer Celine Robinson. Viewers can follow her on Twitter @svuceline

Teaser for next week’s ‘SVU’ post: A little about what’s in store for ‘Bensidy’ and EP Leight’s thoughts on whether William Lewis will be back.

“Law & Order: SVU” airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on NBC.

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