The Best Courtroom Scene In Law & Order: SVU Season 12

Over the years, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" has given audiences some unforgettable closing arguments, defendant tantrums, and even a few heartbreaking verdicts. While the trial element of the series has typically been where the beloved ADAs of "SVU" get to shine, every now and then, the detectives find themselves in the spotlight. Such is the case for the best courtroom scene in Season 12, which sees Christopher Meloni's Detective Elliot Stabler have a memorable mid-trial display.

The always-serious Stabler might be Meloni's best-known role, but anyone who's seen the actor as Gene in "Wet Hot American Summer" or Nick Sax (and Goose the Toad) in "Happy!" knows the "Law & Order: Organized Crime" star has some serious comedic chops. In this particular episode, viewers actually get to see them on full display. This scene is in stark contrast to the no-nonsense, alternately volatile, and brooding detective's usual M.O. that it takes what might have been a confused, tonal anomaly for the series' later-mid seasons and reconfigures it as an episode fully in-keeping with the show's partial focus on its central protagonists' development. 

Viewers so rarely get to see Stabler loosen up that when he does so in this Season 12 courtroom scene, it's both a refreshing reminder of Christopher Meloni's abilities and a delightful and revelatory change of pace for his character. More than that, it adds a depth to Stabler's skill set that audiences will later see in "Organized Crime."

Season 12's Wet sees Meloni flex his (comedic) muscles

Well before we get to Stabler's courtroom blip, Season 12, Episode 5 (titled "Wet"), gave us a handful of atypically comedic moments, including Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson insisting she's "not the one who stabbed the captain with a pickle." It also contains some brilliant performances from guest stars David Krumholtz ("The Deuce") and Zach Grenier ("The Good Wife") in his first appearance as the deadpan, gardening-obsessed Judge Miranski. Nevertheless, it's Meloni's performance in court that makes the episode a highlight.

In it, Krumholtz's Dr. Vincent Prochik, a scientist, toxic mushroom expert, and environmentalist, is on trial for murdering soda company executive Lindsay Elding (Lucy Owen). Prochik supposedly poisoned Lindsay (whom he reviles for trying to privatize water in Bolivia) by putting deadly mushrooms on her salad at a fundraiser. The young doctor is trying to take the fall (both for the cause and for his girlfriend), but when Stabler realizes mid-allocution that he isn't guilty, and the ADA and judge refuse to call a recess, he begins undressing and rambling incoherently: 

"I didn't order that pizza," he began, adding, "all I want to do is get to The Garden to water ski ... your honor, Al and Mike and Todd, we're gonna go water-skiing at The Garden ...I didn't order that pizza, I don't even like anchovies." It's an intentionally confusing little outburst for the otherwise somber detective, but for good reason and to great effect.

Stabler tapped a hidden skill in that episode

Initially, viewers are meant to assume that Stabler, like Benson earlier on in the episode, was exposed to neurotoxic mushrooms and was tripping in the middle of a trial. In the very next scene, however, we learn that he was merely acting. Before "Wet," the vast majority of Stabler's success as a detective depended on his ability to intimidate (or charm), his dogged determination, his fierce sense of justice, and/or his "cop instincts." His courtroom antics in the Season 12 episode, however, revealed the seasoned detective has another trick up his sleeve: he's actually (like the man who portrays him) a damn decent actor. 

It's a skill audiences only get to see him use in a few episodes of "Law & Order: SVU," but upon which he relies heavily in his undercover work on "Organized Crime," a show many "SVU" fans have come to love even more than its parent series. Clearly, audiences are eating up this more subtly skilled yet far more jacked Stabler. Just four months after the new series debuted, it was already one of the five most-watched scripted series on television (via Men's Health). 

Season 12 was Christopher Meloni's last on "SVU," and it's littered with memorable Stabler spotlights, but few stand out as much as his uncharacteristic courtroom shenanigans in the (maybe intentionally) bafflingly titled "Wet."