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What Happened to Stephanie March's A.D.A. Alex Cabot on Law & Order: SVU?

The prosecutor faced many thorny cases, faked at least three deaths (including her own), and switched careers.

By Megan Carpentier

When Law & Order: Special Victims Unit got its start, the arrests made by Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), and their colleagues in the Manhattan SVU were handled by any prosecutor in the District Attorney's office — which led to appearances by Law & Order's Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Abbie Carmichael (Angie Harmon).

How to Watch

Watch the Season 26 premiere of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Thursday, October 3 at 9/8c on NBC.

But in Season 2, the department got a dedicated A.D.A. liaison: Alexandra "Alex" Cabot (Stephanie March).

Cabot's introduction was pretty fraught, however... and her Season 5 departure, subsequent reappearances, and eventual career path were even more complicated.

RELATED: Look Back at Every District Attorney Who Took on Criminals on Law & Order: SVU

A.D.A. Alexandra Cabot in a scene from Law & Order: SVU Episode 616

When did Alex Cabot start as an A.D.A. on SVU?

Cabot's first appearance was in Season 2, Episode 1 ("Wrong Is Right").

She was appointed to review all the department's case files by NYPD Commissioner Lyle Morris (John Driver), who was running what was dubbed the Morris Commission — which, in Stabler's words, was "supposed to be cleaning the department of rogue cops."

It turned out that, in Season 1, Morris had assigned a forensic psychologist Dr. Audrey Jackson (Audra McDonald) to conduct psychiatric evaluations of all the SVU squad members and was attacking the unit publicly; Cabot was also to be the eyes and ears of Chief A.D.A. Charlie Phillips (Jeffrey DeMunn) for his political reasons and, she admitted, to further her own nascent political career.

She did not initially endear herself to Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) or the squad, though he agreed to trust her after she told him, "I intend to stand on your shoulders to reach a broader constituency. Why would I do anything to shorten my grasp?"

She revealed later in the episode that she was the niece of NYC judge Bill Harriman.

Alexandra Cabot on Law And Order Svu Episode 214

Why did Alex Cabot leave SVU?

After three years prosecuting cases with the SVU detectives, Cabot left the D.A.'s office in Season 5, Episode 4 ("Loss") — but not exactly on her own terms.

Cabot was prosecuting drug cartel member Rafael Zapata Gaviria (Jacinto Taras Riddick), who had raped and murdered an undercover New York police officer agent participating in a two-year Drug Enforcement Agency investigation. Zapata was served a search warrant and subsequently arrested with help from a single confidential informant: DEA agent Tim Donovan (Josh Hopkins), who not authorized to provide information to the NYPD.

In pre-trial motions, Zapata's lawyer challenged the legality of the confidential informant, whom the judge then demanded to speak with. Cabot's boss, D.A. Arthur Branch (Fred Thompson), told her to cut a deal to protect Donovan and the federal investigation.

But after Cabot offered the deal — which he rejected — Zapata tried to attack her. Then, the Department of Justice got a court order to prevent the judge from speaking to Donovan, scuttling the case.

In the interim, the feds had recorded two cartel members threatening Cabot and her mother, which Donovan played for her. Benson and Stabler offered to serve as her armed escorts until a better security detail could be established. But when they left the building to take Cabot home, they watched as Donovan was killed in a car bombing.

Cabot didn't want to drop the case, but Branch forced her hand. After judge dismissed the charges, federal marshals arrested Zapata on the spot for Donovan's murder; they'd already connected him to the car bomb. The squad later learned that he planned to flip on the cartel leader, Cesar Velez, which would allow for his extradition

After a conversation over drinks with the squad in which Cabot revealed she was utterly disillusioned with the system, she left with Benson and Stabler and was shot outside the bar in an apparent drive-by.

The squad was next seen mourning her death and learning that Zapata had been killed in prison. Benson and Stabler were ordered to meet up with one of the DEA agents that night... who showed up with an injured, but definitely alive, Cabot. She said she was being taken into protective custody until Velez was arrested "or otherwise dealt with," and reports of her death needed to stand until then.

RELATED: How Alex Cabot Faked Her Death on SVU 

Alexandra Cabot on Law And Order Svu Episode 504

When did Alex Cabot come back to SVU the first time?

Cabot first returned to SVU in Season 6, Episode 16 ("Ghost") because the contract killer hired by the cartel to kill her, Liam Connors (Brían F. O'Byrne), had been found.

Connors — a former Irish Republican Army hitman who started working for the cartels after the 1998 Good Friday agreement — had since murdered four people who were involved in a money laundering scheme for the Colombian cartels, and shot the 8-year-old boy son of his last two victims. Ballistics matched the gun used in Cabot's shooting (which was still believed to be a homicide).

But when then-A.D.A. Casey Novak (Diane Neal) went to court, Connors was granted pre-trial release, so Novak ordered Benson and Stabler to arrest him for Cabot's murder.

That led to a showdown between Cragen and the DEA agent who had put Cabot in witness protection, Jack Hammond (Mitch Pileggi). He revealed to the captain that Cabot was alive and that Benson and Stabler had known... making their arrest of Connors for Cabot's murder a potential case of perjury.

Cragen and Hammond then visited Cabot in witness protection, and she was relieved to know who Connors was but agreed that no one could perjure themselves to charge him with her murder. Instead, she insisted they prosecute him for her attempted murder and that she would testify. (She also revealed that her mother had died while she was in witness protection and she'd been unable to attend the funeral.)

The night before the trial, she told Benson that she'd been living in Wisconsin and working at an insurance company, using the name Emily and telling people she was originally from Tulsa. She expressed concern that she wouldn't be a good witness against Connors and Benson slipped her his file.

Under cross examination by Connors' lawyer, she baited her assailant by calling him a coward and noting that he'd abandoned his family in Ireland, raped one of his murder victims, and that he was the sort of man who would shoot an 8-year-old. Connors lost his temper, stood up and yelled at her: "You think you’re safe? They know where you are! You should have stayed dead!"

Connors was convicted of all charges, but his threats in court forced the U.S. Marshalls to move and change her identity again. She didn't say goodbye.

Alexandra Cabot and Det. Elliot Stabler on Law And Order Svu Episode 1019

When did Alex Cabot leave witness protection in the Law & Order universe?

Cabot returned to the Manhattan prosecutor's office — though not as the liaison to the SVU — in 2006 as part of franchise creator Dick Wolf's show Conviction.

Her return to New York and the D.A.'s office a year after the events of "Ghost" were ultimately explained in SVU Season 10, Episode 15 ("Lead"): Cartel leader Velez had died in prison and Connors had been extradited to Ireland, allowing Cabot to leave witness protection sometime in late 2005 or early 2006.

She did not, however, get in touch with either Benson or Stabler before Season 10 of SVU, admitting to having ignored their calls without apologizing for doing so.

Alexandra Cabot on Law And Order Svu Episode 1107

When did Alex Cabot return to SVU the second time?

Cabot returned to working with the SVU detectives again in Season 10, Episode 15 ("Lead"), as a replacement for prosecutor Kim Greylek (Michaela McManus).

She appeared in Episodes 15 through 21 that season, and then returned to the D.A.'s office and the SVU's cases in Season 11, Episode 7 ("Hardwired") after an apparently unhappy period of training in Albany and working in the Manhattan Appeals Bureau.

She left her job in Season 11, Episode 16 ("Witness"), taking a leave of absence to become a prosecutor for a new task force International Criminal Court to prosecute sex crimes in areas of conflict. She was inspired by a witness in that episode — a woman who had been raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo by a man Cabot was prosecuted. She'd testified against him and received asylum for her safety, but opted to return to her home country to help other victims.

Cabot returned from her leave of absence and prosecuted seven more cases in Season 13. Her last episode as an A.D.A. was Season 13, Episode 21 ("Learning Curve").

Alexandra Cabot on Law And Order Svu Episode 1919

What happened to Alex Cabot after leaving the SVU?

Cabot's last appearance on the series — but not as an A.D.A. — came in Season 19, Episode 19 ("Sunk Cost Fallacy"), which aired in 2018.

Benson and then-detective Sonny Carisi (Peter Scanavino) were investigating the apparent abduction and murder of a woman and her daughter when they watched as their suspect picked up another woman and her children and brought them to a seemingly random parking lot. Waiting for them was Cabot.

Benson confronted her: "I thought you moved to Florida, like the rest of the retired A.D.A.s."

"Florida makes my hair frizzy," she replied.

Benson accused her of participating in the abduction of the girl in the case they were investigating.

"They were abused," Cabot said. "I do what I have to do."

In a later conversation with Benson and Carisi, she explained that, in a case she had "around five years ago," a husband had badly beaten his wife. She'd prosecuted him but, after he was acquitted because the wife "fell apart on the stand," the couple went home together, where the acquitted assailant shot and killed his beating victim. Cabot started "volunteering at a woman's shelter and it grew from there," having since helped hundreds of abused women disappear. ​

Unfortunately, the woman at the heart of both Cabot's rescue and Benson's case wasn't able to escape her abusive husband, who'd been charged with her and their daughter's murder despite the absence of a body. Instead, after his release and her attempt to get a divorce and custody of their daughter, she was killed in a hit-and-run while under Carisi's protection.

The abusive husband got custody of their daughter.

At the end of the episode, Cabot invited Benson to meet her and the two friends came to uncomfortable understanding: Benson could never take the law into her own hands, and Cabot was not going to stop helping abuse victims. They hugged one last time and parted ways... possibly forever.