‘Law & Order: SVU’: Remember the Time a Future ‘NCIS’ Star Could’ve Been Benson’s Sister?

by Suzanne Halliburton

There’s a Law & Order: SVU episode, featuring a future NCIS star, that still resonates, a dozen years after it first premiered.

The SVU episode was called “Trophy.” And the name was in reference to the souvenirs a serial rapist and killer collected from his victims. They were a warped kind of trophy. So how did an NCIS star figure into this episode? Maria Bello, who seven years later joined the NCIS cast, portrayed the daughter of a rape victim. That sounds like standard SVU stuff. But here’s the twist. Bello’s Vivian Arliss had no idea that her mother ever was raped. Viv quickly did the math in her bed and figured out the rapist was her father. She couldn’t ask her mother because she was in the final throes of Alzheimer’s. There’s even more of a twist. We’ll get to that.

This Law & Order: SVU episode ran Nov. 3, 2010. No one knew it at the time, but it was Christopher Meloni’s final season to play Elliot Stabler on SVU. Plus, three former stars of ER, the classic 1990s-era medical drama, reunited for the episode. Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson), Bello and Alex Kingston, who played a defense attorney on SVU, all started together on season four of ER. Hargitay even invited Bello to her Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.

Maria Bello, the future NCIS star, joined Mariska Hargitay at her Walk of Fame star unveiling.

Bello’s character on SVU was somewhat like who she played on NCIS. For 73 episodes on the crime procedural, Bello’s Jack Sloane was a forensic psychologist and former NCIS special agent. She had huge trauma in her life. After all, she became pregnant after a rape when she was 19. And then in the early aughts, she was held hostage in Afghanistan. Leon Vance, who now is the NCIS director, helped rescue her. Conversely, on SVU, Bello played an addict who was trying to raise her young son and take care of her ailing mother.

Benson and Stabler were investigating a murder, which led them to a potential serial killer and rapist. They found a ring and traced it back to Viv’s mother. Benson also was born of rape. And during this episode, she became convinced that the same man who raped her mother, assaulted Viv’s mother as well. That would make them half-sisters. But Benson tested Viv’s DNA. It wasn’t a match.

There’s more. Someone bludgeoned the killer/rapist to death. He or she probably used a lamp or iron skillet. Benson went back to the office and found Calvin, Viv’s son, there. He gave Benson a letter from his mother. She transferred parental rights to Olivia. And Viv also was the prime suspect in the murder.

This is from Maria Bello’s final scene on NCIS. (CBS/2021)

Bello made another appearance on SVU. This episode was “Rescue.” Viv was spiraling as Olivia grew closer to Calvin, who still was living with her. Calvin’s father also was a junkie. It got complicated. Turns out, Sarah, Viv’s girlfriend, killed the rapist. But Viv’s ex killed Sarah. Viv terminated Olivia’s parental rights to Calvin, possibly as an act of revenge for Sarah’s death. But it ended OK. Viv went to rehab and Calvin began living with his paternal grandparents.

Bello joined NCIS in 2017. Her last appearance was in 2021. That’s when her time on the show ended in Afghanistan. She and Gibbs (Mark Harmon) kissed good bye. NCIS fans would love to have her back.

NCIS returns for its 20th season, Sept. 19. Law & Order: SVU kicks off season 24 on Sept. 22.