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Merritt Rook

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Merritt Rook
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what evidence does Miss Novak have against me? A doctored photograph and a phone card that I bought and gave away as an act of charity. That's it. Now, I don't blame Detectives Benson and Stabler for arresting me, or Miss Novak for putting me on trial. They're just following orders, like a sheep following a shepherd. But we're all in danger of being sheep, blindly following the herd, never questioning authority. It was the great American poet, Wendell Berry, who said it best when he was describing the perils of bowing at the altar of conformity: "Your mind will be punched in a card and put away in a little drawer. And when they want you to buy something, they will call you. When they want you to die for profit, they will let you know. So, friends, each day, do something that won't compute." Miss Novak will stand up here and tell you I am guilty; you must convict me. Don't be a sheep. Think for yourselves. Find the inner courage to act. Find me not guilty. Thank you.
~ Rook's closing argument to the jury

Merritt Rook is the main antagonist of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Authority" (which is also the show's 200th episode).

He was portrayed by the late Robin Williams, who also played Seymour "Sy" Parrish in One Hour Photo, Rainbow Randolph in Death to Smoochy, and Walter Finch in Insomnia.


A long-time advocate of the proverbial little guy, Merritt Rook began his anti-authoritarian ways at the age of 13, when he burned down a house in his native Hartford that was being used as a hideout for some local hoodlums and which he claimed had been the site of a rape. When later questioned about this incident, he claimed that he had no choice but to burn the house down, as the boys were shielded by their family's money and influence. He himself was arrested for trespassing, burglary, and arson, but these charges were later expunged from his record.

For a long time after that, Rook lived a respectable life as a mild-mannered sound engineer, where he was, by all accounts, a valued employee. At the high point of his life, he got a steady job with Aerodax Labs, married a singer named Juliet, and had a child on the way. There were some signs of his anti-authoritarian leanings (he refused to eat at chain restaurants and only bought locally-grown, organic foods), but he was generally happy and sociable.

And then things went wrong. During the birth of his child, Juliet experienced complications, and Rook was told to let an obstetrician, Dr. Francis Slifkin, take charge of the delivery. Slifkin assured Rook that everything would be fine, but Juliet suffered a placental abruption, and she and the baby both bled out right in front of Merritt and died as a result. Rook did not take this well, and was summarily removed from the hospital after threatening to kill Dr. Slifkin.

When the police failed to punish the doctor, Rook took matters into his own hands. Using various sound-engineering equipment, he made harassing and threatening phone calls to Slifkin's house, posing as "Officer Milgram." He told Slifkin that he had gathered information proving that Slifkin had been drunk during Juliet's delivery, and that the doctor would lose his license and go to jail. After weeks of this torment, Slifkin committed suicide.

Perhaps having found some peace, Rook started to return to his usual congenial self, and even reached the point where he asked a co-worker out on a date, taking her to a jazz club where a friend of his was performing. However, during the date, the friend started playing a song that he'd written with Juliet. Unable to bear this reminder of his beloved wife, Rook ran out of the club. He then decided that the only way he would ever find peace would be to spread a message of anti-authoritarianism to the world.

Shortly after, he took up the persona of Officer Milgram again and made a phone call to a HappiBurger, telling the manager that one of the employees had been stealing and convincing the manager to call her in and strip-search her. This brought him to the attention of the Special Victims Unit, who managed to gather enough evidence to charge him, despite his using sound engineering equipment to create the false appearance of a trip to Margaretville as an alibi.

In court, Rook served as his own defense attorney, using the trial as a platform to spread his anti-authoritarian views. During his cross-examination of TARU technician Ruben Morales, he drew attention to the fact that the TARU computers relied upon algorithms to enhance the video footage that seemed to link Rook to the phone call, meaning there was a possibility that the algorithm had, through enhancement, made someone else look like Rook. When he cross-examined Detective Elliot Stabler, he questioned whether Stabler had any fingerprints or other physical evidence linking him to the crime, to which Stabler answered that Rook was only identified as the culprit through the enhanced video footage.

Rook's real coup came when Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak brought up the arson he had committed years earlier, and he used this as an opportunity to expound upon the failures of authority to ensure justice. Much to Novak's horror, the jury found Rook not guilty. As a result, Rook gained a considerable following among the city's various non-conformists and, accompanied by a sheep that he named "Elliot" (much to Stabler's annoyance), he held a rally celebrating anti-authoritarianism at Bryant Park. However, unbeknownst to him, the police had learned about Slifkin's suicide and, during a subsequent rally at Grand Central Station, Detective Olivia Benson attempted to arrest him. However, Rook told her he had a bomb and was prepared to detonate it unless she followed him out of the station.

He took Benson off to a recording studio where he used to work, and tied her to a chair in a recording booth, claiming he'd rigged the door to the booth so it would explode if anyone opened it. When Stabler arrived to rescue his partner, Rook told him he'd attached electrodes to Benson and that he'd torture Benson by pushing a button to deliver shocks unless Stabler pushed the button himself. Stabler refused, despite hearing Benson scream as Rook shocked her; it was then Stabler admitted that it was not in his mind to abuse his own power to hurt others. Sufficiently convinced that Stabler was not a sheep prone to bowing before authority, Rook surrendered to him and confessed that the screams were actually pre-recorded, and that Benson was never shocked; it was all a test to see if Stabler was a sheep bowing to authority.

However, as the detectives led Rook out of the studio, he activated an ultrasonic trigger that he'd strapped to his leg, triggering an explosion. In the subsequent confusion, Rook fled and was assumed to have dived into the East River, an act which, due to his being handcuffed, probably killed him.


Oh, every cop abuses his authority!
~ To Stabler
You have no idea what I've suffered!
~ To Stabler
I put my faith in a little god in a white coat and he killed my wife and son.
~ To Stabler
Push the button!
~ Ordering Stabler to push the button
Then you, Elliot Stabler, are a human being. Congratulations. You are not a sheep like I was. You're a man. Thank you.
~ To Stabler, after he refuses to press the button because too many people have died already

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