'It Was Personal': After Law And Order: Organized Crime's Meaningful Callback To SVU, One Star Addressed That Connection With Stabler

 Tamara Tunie as ME Melinda Warner in Law & Order: Organized Crime 4x02.
Tamara Tunie as ME Melinda Warner in Law & Order: Organized Crime 4x02.

Spoilers ahead for Episode 2 of Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4, called "Deliver Us From Evil."

The task force ended up on a quite literally explosive new case in Law & Order: Organized Crime's newest episode, as what initially seemed like a hate crime was actually an assassination. Stabler – as is his wont – went rogue to investigate the case before he had the proof for Bell to claim the case for their unit, and his digging led him to the morgue, where he reunited with none other than longtime SVU actress Tamara Tunie as Medical Examiner Melinda Warner. The actress spoke with CinemaBlend about the powerful moment between Stabler and Warner that called back to their SVU dynamic as she worked with Christopher Meloni once more.

"Deliver Us From Evil" marked Melinda Warner's first appearance (but hopefully not last) in the 2024 TV schedule, and she did the former Special Victims detective a favor by taking a closer look at what was left of a murder victim. For longtime SVU fans, the sequence initially might have felt straight out of that show, but Stabler's flashback to Kathy's death prompting him to hug Warner was definitely Organized Crime territory. It was a scene unlike any other for these two, which is saying something considering both actors are on the list of Law & Order stars who appeared in the most episodes.

Given that Warner and Stabler didn't have these emotional and vulnerable exchanges on a weekly basis back in their mutual SVU days, I asked Tamara Tunie about the experience playing a different side of the characters' relationship. She shared:

Oh, it was great, because as much as they were professional colleagues, they had their moments where Stabler got on Warner's nerves. She was just like, 'Ugh. All of this brooding manhood, blah, blah.' So it was really nice to have a moment where they connected on the level of their humanity. Knowing what Stabler has been through with the loss of his wife, et cetera, et cetera, it was lovely to kind of push the professionalism and the work inside and have a real connection, a real human-to-human connection, a real friend-to-friend connection.

Tamara Tunie as ME Melinda Warner in Law & Order: Organized Crime 4x02
Tamara Tunie as ME Melinda Warner in Law & Order: Organized Crime 4x02

They already had some of their banter back early in their scene together, but their conversation took a serious turn after Stabler started flashing back to the explosion that resulted in his wife's death. He hugged a very confused Warner, and thanked her for reaching out after Kathy was killed, even though he hadn't responded at the time. Tunie continued:

It absolutely took Warner by surprise. She's like, 'Whoa, what's happening? What's going on?' Because she's so used to gruff Stabler. It was really fun. Really, really meaningful. When I say 'fun,' it was just great to do something different. It was really good.

Organized Crime Elliot Stabler is a very different character from SVU Elliot Stabler, after what he went through between leaving Special Victims and returning to New York for the newest Law & Order spinoff. This seemed to be the first reunion between the detective and the medical examiner since he came back to NYC, so it's no wonder that Warner wouldn't have known what to expect from him.

Christopher Meloni in Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4x02
Christopher Meloni in Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 4x02

Just imagine if she'd crossed paths with Stabler when he was at peak messiness in Organized Crime Season 1! I noted to Tamara Tunie during our interview that even though viewers hadn't previously known that Warner reached out, the reveal felt very in-character for the ME. The actress replied:

Absolutely, absolutely. That was something that she just needed to do, whether she got a response or not. It was just something that she needed to do.

Of course, the scene started out on a lighter note, with Warner informing Stabler that he owed her more than a margarita for this favor she was doing him. As a longtime SVU fan myself, I couldn't help but wonder they would talk about over margaritas at this point. Tamara Tunie shared her thoughts:

Oh, wow. What would they talk about? Probably work. I mean, that's what everybody talks about. [laughs] Even when they're not at work, everybody talks about work, right?

Considering that Elliot has probably spent more time working undercover than with his own family and friends over the past four seasons, I think it's safe to say that he usually has work on his mind! Alas, "Deliver Us From Evil" did not involve Stabler and Warner chatting over drinks. Tamara Tunie shared what her reaction had been when she read the Organized Crime script that brought her back to the Law & Order world:

Well, I was surprised, because we hadn't seen Warner in such a long time, and it was her first appearance on Organized Crime. So it was a pleasant surprise. I love the writing and her purpose, if you will. Her purpose for being in that episode, you know, because it wasn't just professional. It was personal, too.

Warner has personal connections to leads on both Organized Crime and SVU thanks to Stabler and Benson, and I for one am hoping to see Tamara Tunie appear again in one or both of the shows this year. This is after all the milestone 25th season of SVU, and Warner hasn't appeared on her longtime show since the 500th episode back in 2021. (You can revisit that episode streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription.) Plus, OC has a Breaking Bad vet as showrunner this season.

Keep tuning in to NBC on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET for new episodes of Law & Order: Organized Crime. The case from this week seems poised to last for at least one more episode, and it's safe to say that OC has more ground to cover with the affair between Jet and Reyes. Whether Bell will stop being spread thin in Season 4 remains to be seen!

You can also experience a whole night of franchise action on Thursday nights, with Law & Order starting the evening at 8 p.m. ET before Law & Order: SVU picks up at 9 p.m. ET, all on NBC.