Pulitzer Prize-winning New York City columnist Jimmy "Mac" MacArthur blindsides Benson at the office with news that he's covering her and SVU for his latest piece, and the higher-ups granted him an all-access pass. Benson discovers exactly how much ground that covers when he shows up at the scene of a rape/hate crime in Central Park and later learns he obtained private numbers of the victim's family. Is someone in SVU talking with the press?
MacArthur's meddling costs SVU credibility during the interview with Heba, the Muslim victim, who claims two men raped her in Central Park. But security footage adds a wrinkle by revealing Heba walking toward the park - after the assault. Moreover, the ME confirms the inconsistency, noting carpet fibers underneath her nails. SVU follows up at Heba's home and she gets defensive, now certain that SVU doesn't trust her. With a sketchy story and no eyewitnesses, an already challenging case takes a beating when Barba drops MacArthur's story on the desk - the reporter's calling the whole thing a hoax.
After MacArthur denies Benson's request to retract his story - he firmly believes Heba is lying about the rape and the hate crime - she encourages SVU to continue the investigation as discreetly as possible. Fin and Amaro interview Elias Kemp, the rich, well-connected host of a benefit Heba attended before the assault. Kemp denies any interaction with Heba that night... yet his carpet appears to match the fibers found under Heba's nails. Before they can jump on the lead, news breaks from a protest. Reverend Curtis lambasts SVU and the NYPD, then butts heads with MacArthur on live TV. It's a real media circus.
SVU drags in Kemp and his co-worker Mike for questioning and both use the same story - Heba engaged in consensual sex. When Rollins volleys this back to Heba, she relents about the lie, but not the rape. Kemp is her brother's boss; she didn't want to bring shame to her family. That said, no jury would consider her testimony valid after MacArthur's column. Kemp's lawyers would destroy Heba on the stand... which reminds Barba, doesn't Kemp's father own MacArthur's newspaper? Benson confronts MacArthur, accusing him of shilling for Kemp and he again denies any wrongdoing - after all, he's "the people's" reporter.
The case goes to trial and, with MacArthur and Benson trading glances in the audience, the jury listens to a stirring and emotional depiction of the event from Heba. As expected, the defense challenges her credibility and the outcome appears bleak. During deliberation, Benson rails at MacArthur for losing his journalistic integrity and the next morning he prints his response: "How Jimmy Mac Got Played," an article detailing the Kemp family's role in covering up rape. This causes a mistrial, but Kemp jumps on a deal to keep a second trial off the table. Barba assures Benson it's better than nothing.
Later, MacArthur and Benson unwind at a pub where he reveals his final exposé - a piece on the corrupt Kemps. Maybe he lost his way earlier, but he assures her - Jimmy Mac always lands on his feet.
In Mariska Hargitay's directorial debut, an all-access reporter jeopardizes a high-profile hate crime.