We first met Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) . It remains a hit, over 20 years later. And if there's one reason the show attracts millions of viewers per episode (per ), it's so fans can see Olivia and Elliot handle New York's most sensitive crimes while balancing their own complicated relationship.
For the most part, Olivia and Elliot manage to maintain a strong, multifaceted bond, which occasionally takes a hit if they disagree on the handling of a case. But their partnership really sustains a blow in season 12, after Elliot turns in his papers and quits the Special Victims Unit. Off-screen, and decided to leave the series when a deal couldn't be reached. It's a turning point for Olivia on screen, as she has to navigate work with a new partner without so much as a goodbye from Elliot.
10 long, Elliot-less years passed. Then, a spinoff, , was announced, which stars the long-lost character., at long last. In celebration, let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of "Bensler's" biggest moments.
One of Olivia and Elliot's most heartfelt moments comes in the first season, when the former becomes a target of one of the suspects they're investigating for murder. In "Stalked," Olivia is followed extensively by Richard White (Bruce Kirkpatrick), who has murdered the assistant district attorney who previously prosecuted him. Richard becomes obsessed with Olivia, sending flowers to her work and calling her in the middle of the night.
Elliot's protective instincts kick into high gear — he even drives hours out of his way to pick up Olivia at her apartment to take her to work. When he shows up at her home, the two exchange some affectionate banter and even share a cup of orange juice. When Olivia notes that she'd never go out of her way to pick up Elliot, he shuts her down, saying, "Yeah, you would."
On the way home from work that night, Elliot promises to sit outside Olivia's building until he sees her flash the lights in her apartment. The two begin to joke around again, with Olivia calling her partner a "stubborn son of a b**ch," to which he smiles, and says, "Yes, I am." This is one of the very first times we see the lengths Elliot will go to in order to protect Olivia, and also one of the first instances of flirtation between the pair.
We've seen Olivia and Elliot disagree a time or two, but one of their roughest ruptures comes in season six's "Doubt." The duo disagrees on a rape case: Olivia believes the victim, and Elliot believes the suspect, who denies all accusations against him. The tension between the partners in the episode is palpable, as both are filled with rage against the other for being so stubborn.
After the victim alleges that Elliot touched her inappropriately after he gave her a ride home, Olivia drops all their issues and comes to his defense, no questions asked. It is also revealed by the victim's attorney that Elliot's wife Kathy (Isabel Gillies) has just left him, filed for separation, and taken their kids to live with her mother.
Olivia is absolutely shocked by the news, and chases Elliot down the hallway in their office hoping to get a conversation out of him. He only admits what she already knows — that Kathy has left him — and walks away. They still disagree on the case, however, and we're never given an answer on what really happened — a typical Dick Wolf move. This is a classic example of Olivia putting her issues with Elliot aside in order to be there for him during one of the most difficult points in his life.
Elliot is absent for most of season six's "Quarry," as one of his children has appendicitis. The episode revolves around Olivia investigating a pedophile with a disturbingly large group of victims. As with many episodes, things take a turn, and Olivia changes her focus to a murder investigation with a complicated backstory. Michael Shannon () guest-stars in this episode, where he plays a victim who was once molested by his father. After being cleared for the murder of said father, he delivers an important monologue, where he says he's always been afraid to have children because of what's in his genes. This resonates hard with Olivia, who is the product of rape.
Elliot returns at the end of the episode, and his partner asks him about his children. Specifically, Olivia wonders if Elliot ever worried about what his kids would be like before they were born. "I still do," he says. Olivia gets upset, and says at least he knows what his genes are. "Half my genes are drunk," she admits, "and the other half are violent and cruel."
Elliot's response is simple: "Look how great you turned out," he says. "It's not all about the genes, Liv." It's an extremely tender moment between the two that few fans have forgotten.
If you ask a hardcore SVU fan to name one of the biggest Bensler episodes, they will say season seven's "Fault," nine times out of 10. The episode contains preventing them from carrying out their jobs properly. Tragically, this results in the death of a child.
Suspect Victor, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, has kidnapped a boy and girl. The entire SVU department spends the episode tracking them down, eventually locating them in a train station. Elliot gets eyes on the boy, and is within five yards of him ... when the suspect comes up behind Olivia, who is off to the side, and slits her throat. The look on Elliot's face is heart-breaking. Instead of running after the children, who are ushered out by the suspect, Elliot runs to Olivia, who is clenching her neck. Thankfully, her wound is not deep — but within a minute, the young boy is dead, after Victor cuts his throat just outside the station.
Elliot blames Olivia for not taking a shot in the station, but inevitably realizes the boy's death is on him. Things only get worse from there.
Fast-forward to the end of season seven's "Fault" and Elliot and Olivia have tracked Victor to a warehouse where he still has the girl captive. Elliot finds Victor, and, after a scuffle, ends up with a gun to his head. Olivia runs up on the pair and is now charged with pointing the gun at the kidnapper and Elliot, as her partner screams at her to shoot Victor. She still can't bring herself to do so, however, even though he looks her right in the eye and whispers, "It's alright." But she's unwilling to risk Elliot's life, and refuses to shoot. A sharpshooter eventually comes in from the side and takes out Victor. The tension is through the roof as both detectives are left in absolute shock by the day's events.
Later, they sit down together and have a heart-to-heart. Elliot says, "We both chose each other over the job. We can never let that happen again." He then notes, "You and this job are about the only things I've got any more. I don't wanna wreck that." Olivia is shocked by what her partner is saying, and inevitably goes to Captain Cragen (Dann Florek) and requests a new partner as the episode fades out. Thankfully, she returns as his partner two episodes later, after being unable to stay away from the SVU and Elliot.
Olivia is off working undercover for the FBI for most of the beginning of season eight, but she returns as Elliot's partner in "Choreographed." The pair investigates a murder in the middle of a bizarre love triangle, which actually ends up being a square. Bob Saget serves as the murderer in this episode, and almost takes a second victim when he accidentally infects his wife by planting a microchip in her.
Saget's murderer is actually able to help save his wife's life by donating a portion of his liver to her. Naturally, Olivia and Elliot are in the hospital when it all goes down. While exiting the surgery floor, the pair have a conversation about their blood types. They realize they're a match, as both of them have the A+ blood type.
Elliot brings the "awww" factor in a major way by telling his partner, "I'd give you a kidney." "Not if I gave you mine first," she says back. It's another moment that makes us realize how deep their love for one another goes.
In season eight's "Burned," we find Olivia and Elliot once again disagreeing on their interpretations of a case. Olivia believes the rape victim of the case, while Elliot sides with the accused. The latter ends up being correct, as we learn in the finale that their "victim" lied about being raped by her husband.
Elliot's wife Kathy shows up again and asks Olivia if she will convince him to sign their divorce papers. Kathy even admits that she thinks he prefers spending time with her over their family, which Olivia shuts down immediately. At the end of the episode, we see Elliot sign the divorce papers and drop them off.
Our favorite partners catch up at the end of the episode. Elliot tells Olivia he needs some "space to disagree" with her, lest their tension cost them their partnership. She agrees, and notes, "You're the longest relationship I've ever had with a man. Who else would put up with me?"
It's time to talk about episode — and hug. Season nine's "Paternity" is easily one of the toughest episodes to watch in all of history. It's an episode where the case doesn't matter, as all of its weight comes from a horrible car accident Olivia and Kathy get into.
Kathy and Elliot are now pregnant with their fifth child. Olivia offers to drive Kathy to her doctor's appointment, and, horrifically, the pair are hit by a drunk driver. After regaining consciousness, Olivia finds an unconscious Kathy next to her, her legs pinned underneath the dashboard. Even worse, Kathy starts to go into labor while trapped. With the assistance of medics and the fire department, Olivia hooks Kathy up to an IV and helps keep her alive before she's cut out of the wreck with the jaws of life. Once they're in the ambulance, Olivia helps to deliver Kathy's baby ... but the latter flatlines immediately afterward.
Luckily, Kathy is resuscitated in the ambulance, and she and her new baby boy are going to be fine. Elliot arrives after being on a case far away, and finds Olivia still in the hospital. After checking on Kathy, he comes out and says goodbye to Olivia — but not before grabbing her and swinging her around for a hug that dropped jaws everywhere.
In season 10's "Wildlife," we see a more light-hearted Olivia and Elliot moment. Remember the episode where Elliot goes undercover to bust an exotic animal trading ring and ends up getting shot twice in the chest, then left to die in the street? Yup, that's the light-hearted episode we're talking about.
Despite all that (and the fact that we watch Elliot eat tiger), Olivia and her partner are literally caught with their pants down together in a scene we'll never forget. Olivia almost busts her partner's cover when she shows up at his undercover house to check up on him. Elliot's new bad guy bosses find out something's up, and barge into his home while he's in just his undies. They ask who he's with. Olivia, who has gone to hide in the master bathroom, luckily deploys some quick thinking and saves both of their lives.
She flushes the toilet, comes out with her shirt off, and wraps her arm around a half-naked Elliot, pretending to be a sex worker. Olivia then tells the animal smugglers it'll be "extra" for them to join or watch, before they escort her out of the house. Olivia rubbing up against Elliot with just her bra on is one of the most popular gifs to come out of the series, and is likely the closest we'll ever get to a proper Bensler hook-up.
. One of the worst cases of this is in season 11's "Perverted," when she is framed for the murder of a biker. All the evidence points toward Olivia, including her blood on the murder weapon. Her framer is Brady Harrison, an old rapist she helped put away, who was raped himself in prison. Harrison believes she had people assault him on the inside, and made it .
His scheme works, with Olivia ultimately being arrested by IAB investigator Ed Tucker (Robert John Burke). Her $250,000 bail is posted by, you guessed it, Elliot. Proving there's nothing he won't do for his partner, Elliot mortgages his home without telling his wife, just to get Olivia out of jail. He also leads the pursuit to put the guilty party away and helps prove Olivia's innocence. While the mention of Elliot putting up his house as collateral is brief, it means much more to the audience. Would you put your home up for collateral to get a friend out of jail without telling your spouse? It would probably have to be for a special someone.
in season 12's "Pursuit" where she aids a woman named Alicia Harding (Debra Messing) in trying to solve the disappearance of her sister 25 years ago. Longtime SVU EDA Sonya Paxton (Christine Lahti) takes center stage in the episode as well, as who aided on that cold case all those years ago. When Sonya gets too involved, she is murdered by the suspect they are tracking down. She dies in Olivia's arms, in one of the series' most emotional moments.
As Olivia is exiting the crime scene, Elliot finds her in a hallway. The pair speed walk toward one another and embrace — one of their very few and far between hugs. "I'm really glad you're back," Olivia says to him. "I should have come back sooner," he responds. For a duo that often fights their emotions for each other, they let it all out in this scene. Olivia is entirely vulnerable with one of the only men she truly trusts.
When Olivia and Elliot are tasked with finding the person who stabbed a man in the crotch in season 12's "Bombshell," they find themselves going undercover in a swingers club. Pretending to be a married couple, Olivia and Elliot get all dressed up and head to The Swing Set, where they meet all sorts of interesting individuals. One club member is Rose McGowan's Cassandra, who takes a major liking to Elliot.
Nothing juicy happens between the pair, but the fact that Elliot introduces Olivia as his wife is enough for fans to lose their minds. They walk around the club arm and arm for some time, before they're torn away by guests who are interested in their presence. It's an entirely innocent scene — despite what might be going on in the background — but for the fans, it's a rare glimpse of Elliot and Olivia together as a couple. We can only dream of more.