[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Law & Order: SVU Season 24 Episode 19, “Bend the Law.”]
When Joe Velasco (Octavio Pisano) was younger, he and a friend were involved in a double homicide; the now-detective had been unable to pull the trigger, but his friend could and covered for him with the cartel. Now, on Law & Order: SVU, Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) orders Velasco to bring Chilly (Joseph Castillo-Midyett) to justice.
Though Churlish (Jasmine Batchelor) goes with him, Velasco speaks with his old friend alone, and Chilly says he’s leaving what happened in the past … but that wasn’t the last time he killed someone. It’s a recording of that — it’s illegal to do so in Maine — that Velasco gives to Benson upon returning from his trip. He feels like he did the right thing but still feels pretty bad. Eventually, unburdening himself will feel good, the captain tells him. She’ll decide who to share the recording with after listening to it, she tells him before assuring him they’re good.
Pisano breaks down where that leaves Velasco.
Was any part of Velasco tempted to protect Chilly even after he recorded their conversation? He could not have told Churlish about the recording, could have deleted it…
Octavio Pisano: I think what happens is that within the conversation, he realizes that he hasn’t changed, that even though his friend has become a father and he’s changed his lifestyle, the way he feels about what they did in his mind is still justifiable, whereas Velasco is dealing with guilt and regret and he doesn’t think it’s right. He understands why it happens, but I think within that conversation, he realizes that they’re not the same, that Chilly’s still that Chilly back home. That pushes him to make the decision of giving the tape to Benson.
Benson tells Velasco they’re good at the end of the episode. Are they really?
I think in that last scene there was a little bit of an understanding that this was all to prove his loyalty. And as soon as Benson puts it in the drawer and Velasco asks her, “What are you going to do with the tape?” there’s an unspoken understanding that nothing might happen, that he might have been right, and that everyone deserves a second chance. But the fact that he did it proves his loyalty to Benson, which is, I think, what was necessary.
When Velasco and Benson had spoken initially about what happened, she said that he’d been living a performance, not a life. Can that change now?
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but that case, at least in Velasco’s mind, is still open. So I think it’s not settled yet.
So as long as it can keep coming up, he can’t really move forward the way he needs to?
Right. I think there’s some closure to be had on a personal level. The closure happened between Velasco and Benson. He proved his loyalty. But in terms of what’s going to happen with his friend and, just in general, his path and where he stands, I think it’s still undecided.
Velasco and Churlish seem to be warming up to each other now. Are they in a better place working together going forward, or are they likely to fall back into how they were before?
No, I think Velasco understands Churlish’s motivation, especially from how Muncy [Molly Burnett] and Churlish have been having conflicts, and Velasco tries to give her perspective on her. He may not have the same sentiments as Churlish, but he understands where she’s coming from.
He did say that Churlish was probably right and wouldn’t have been able to do what he did without her. But would he have eventually been able to because of that loyalty to Benson and the conversation he had with Chilly’s wife?
Maybe, but you know what? I think it goes back to [why it was a good thing Churlish was with Velasco instead of Muncy] … I think it was a good thing that [Churlish] was there because she held him accountable, whereas he knows that there was a lot of emotional things that came up because of his childhood and the relationship with Chilly. So just having Churlish there was an accountability for him.
What’s coming up for Velasco moving forward? Is it more so just working the cases of the week?
I think it’s finding his place now that the squad is — there’s a lot of change happening. Hopefully, that change becomes a little more settled, and it’s about solving all the issues and conflicts within the squad room before he focuses on everything outside.
Does he see SVU as his permanent home?
I think so. Like I said, I think there are a lot of changes happening, so he’s alert, and he’s paying attention, but based on the last couple of years of his life, anything can happen, and change is the only thing that’s inevitable.
Who do you think he would be right now if he hadn’t come to SVU?
I think he would still be dealing with an identity crisis. I think McGrath [Terry Serpico] pulling him out of his undercover job kind of helped him in a way that he wasn’t expecting because he was forced to find himself again as an individual, as Velasco.
Law & Order: SVU, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC