Law and Order SVU season 20 premiere: Peter Stone highlights

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "Man Up" Episode 2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Philip Winchester as Peter Stone, Peter Scanavino as Dominick "Sonny" Carisi -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/NBC)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "Man Up" Episode 2001 -- Pictured: (l-r) Philip Winchester as Peter Stone, Peter Scanavino as Dominick "Sonny" Carisi -- (Photo by: Barbara Nitke/NBC) /

What happened to Peter Stone in the Law & Order: SVU premiere? Find the highlights in our Philip Winchester-centric SVU season 20, episodes 1 and 2 recap.

Peter Stone is dishing out Chicago Justice on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and we’re keeping track of what happens next for his character.

Thursday’s SVU season 20 premiere was composed of two episodes, “Man Up” and “Man Down,” that put Peter (Philip Winchester) back in the courtroom while he continued to deal with the loss of his sister in the previous season’s finale.

If you missed any of Philip Winchester’s latest episode, or you’re a Chicago Justice fan who wants to know what Peter got up to, we’re breaking down the installment for you with the highlights for his character.

So what happened to Peter Stone in this week’s SVU premiere?

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As one could expect, Peter was still having a difficult time dealing with Pamela’s death, especially since he saw her gunned down. He was exhibiting the classic signs of someone not over it—insomnia, drinking, and the random woman in his bed.

Especially considering how Chicago Justice showed that he has incredible discipline, this was Peter Stone on full tilt.

But he got himself together well enough to go to work. And when he got caught up on the case of 15-year-old Sam Conway, Peter’s brain broke (for not the first time since he joined this show).

"Peter: The older brother is the perpetrator?"

At least, that was the team’s working theory. They suspected Sam’s 17-year-old brother Brian, while Sam’s father Jack Conway (Dylan Walsh, who had previously guest starred on Chicago Justice) offered up the explanation that his son was gay and met an unidentified person on their hunting trip.

Stone wasn’t buying it, and headed off to Family Court to get an emergency protective order as Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) tried to appeal to Sam’s mother Molly—the only person who didn’t seem to be on board with the story.

Based on what Molly told Benson, Benson had Jack Conway arrested for Sam’s rape. Which then created a bit of Peter Stone trivia, because Philip Winchester fans will remember that on Chicago Justice, Stone prosecuted Dylan Walsh’s character, too.

So to see Stone in the interrogation room with Jack was kind of amusing. Oh, and Kurt Fuller from Psych was playing the defense attorney while Stone was unimpressed with Jack’s monologue on hunting.

How did he build a case? With his anger at his sister’s death seeping into his judgment, he went to trial even though Sam refused to testify against his father, and even over Benson’s skepticism.

"Peter: The war you can’t win is the only one worth fighting."

The courtroom portion of the SVU season 20 opener hit a snag when Peter tried to call Molly to the witness stand, being his best (and only) witness. When the judge found out that Sam wasn’t going to testify himself, he barred Molly from testifying either. So without his witness, and with reasonable doubt against his DNA evidence, where did he go next?

Apparently, to the bar. Dominick Carisi (Peter Scanavino) found Peter brooding, but also with his wheels turning. Because Peter Stone’s wheels are always turning. Even when he’s drinking long enough to run up an expensive bar tab.

"Carisi: How long has he been here?"

Peter walked back into court and called Molly to the stand anyway, under the reasoning that she was now an unindicted co-conspirator. Good to see SVU season 20 hasn’t tempered Peter’s wit at all.

Predictably, the defense hammered her credibility and then called Sam to rebut her testimony. Yet Peter was ready for that, too, pointing out that Sam couldn’t remember details of the story that he was claiming to be true. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get Sam to break—and with Sam’s denials, he couldn’t get a conviction.

That wasn’t going to help Peter’s already screwed-up self-image. Nor was getting yelled at on the phone by District Attorney Jack McCoy.

"Peter: The D.A. just asked the same thing. Not as politely."

In its second hour, SVU pivoted the narrative as Sam became a school shooter. He escaped from the school and Carisi tracked him to a nearby baseball field, where he was preparing to kill himself. Carisi talked him down so Peter’s victim was about to be his next defendant.

When Jack showed up at the precinct to see his son, Peter was there to greet him with another of his ice-cold stares. And to hold back the other man after he hit his son. Guess where he went after that?

Yep, back to the bar, and this time it was Benson who got to find him—with help from his new assistant, Carmen, who goes “way back” with Olivia and who he called “the best assistant I’ve ever had.”

Full of self-loathing, he told Benson he “raped [Sam] all over again” by cross-examining him, even though she insisted that he was doing his job. Seriously, SVU was going incredibly dark with Peter this week.

New psychologist Lisa Abernathy (Sandrine Holt) told Peter that Sam was not clinically insane, just from a house with “a very traditional view of masculinity” and “on the verge of a collapse.” So what would Peter do with that information, especially when he returned to find the Conways waiting in his office, telling him Sam would plead guilty?

Definitely not shake Jack Conway’s hand, that’s for sure.

"Peter: This isn’t over. Not by a long shot."

He marched himself down to the juvenile facility where Sam was being held, deciding to talk with him personally. This is one of those scenes where you realize how good Philip Winchester is, since he can cut to the humanity of a moment so easily.

Impulsively, Sam started telling him about the two students he’d shot, and how he didn’t want to go to school that day. But another incident with his father happened that morning. His statements made Peter believe he could still convict Jack after all—by holding him responsible for the school shooting, because Jack was the one “creating the environment.”

Unfortunately, Benson couldn’t get Molly or Brian to come forward for another trial. She thought the only option was to put Sam back on the stand, which Peter was reticent to do given how the first time had turned out. He had to put all of his frustration and self-hatred aside, and get the job done.

Stone sat down with Jack and his attorney, detailing his case for criminally negligent homicide. The final 15 minutes of SVU season 20’s premiere featured that second trial, and gave audiences that moment we’d all been waiting for: Peter Stone vs. Jack Conway in open court.

There were some fireworks, but not enough, so SVU had Peter call Sam as a rebuttal witness and gave the premiere its emotional crescendo. Because, of course, Chicago Justice fans will recall that the specter of his own father was one of Peter Stone’s first challenges.

This time, Sam confronted his father in the courtroom, angrily demanding to know if he was a man now. And Peter followed that up with a closing statement his father would have been proud of.

"Peter: The problem is, John wasn’t preaching strength. He was preaching power over others. And that’s not being a man; that’s being a criminal."

And on his second attempt (third if you want to count that Chicago Justice episode), Peter Stone got his conviction. Did he celebrate at the bar? Hopefully not, but we won’t know, because that’s the last we saw of him in what was a very thorny and uncomfortable episode.

Next. Who plays Lisa Abernathy on SVU?. dark

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs Thursdays at 10/9 on NBC. For more show coverage, follow the Dick Wolf category at One Chicago Center.