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Why Stabler Kidnapped His Own Brother on Law & Order: Organized Crime

Detective Stabler and his older brother abducted their younger sibling and kept him locked in room. Find out why.  

By Ethan Sacks

Ever since Detective Elliot Stabler’s (Christopher Meloni) younger brother resurfaced into his family’s lives earlier in Season 4 of Law & Order: Organized Crime, it became increasingly clear that Joe. Jr. (Michael Trotter) was harboring a dangerous secret.

Why did Detective Stabler kidnap his brother, Joe. Jr.? 

Stabler and his colleagues at the NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau had already linked Joe, who's been struggling with heroin addiction, to a notorious arms and drug dealer, Julian Emery (Thomas Payne), a criminal mastermind known as Redcoat who's behind the murder of one of their own detectives.

That revelation motivated Detective Stabler and his other brother, Randall (Dean Norris) to try one last, desperate gambit to save their youngest sibling in Season 4, Episode 12 — kidnapping him.

“Are you trying to get me killed,” Joe Jr. asked after being forced off the road, subdued by his brothers, having a covering placed over his head, and eventually being locked up at Stabler’s apartment in a forced intervention.

“We’re trying to get you clean,” answered Detective Stabler.

How to Watch

Watch Law & Order: Organized Crime Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC and next day on Peacock.

RELATED: Law & Order: Organized Crime Is Moving To Peacock for Season 5 — Everything To Know

But can they also succeed in getting their brother out from under the thumb of his dangerous boss?

Joseph Stabler Jr and Abdul Azim Ghani on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

Why was Joe Stabler, Jr. dishonorably discharged from the Army?

Joe Stabler’s ties to Emery, aka Redcoat, go back four years and halfway around the world.

Season 4, Episode 12, titled “Goodnight,” opened with a flashback to a bar on an Army base in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2020, where the younger Stabler served in the military, and where he was already hooked on heroin. After making a drug buy during a game of pool with a fellow soldier, Joe was drawn into a fight when he saw a local warlord pull a knife on a stranger, who turned out to be Emery. Caught with the knife he had disarmed from the warlord, Joe was imprisoned and ultimately dishonorably discharged.

RELATED: Stabler’s Brother Gives Cryptic Warning That the Family’s in Danger on Organized Crime

Emery visited Joe Jr. in prison with an offer of employment. “I think you need me as much as I need you,” said the smooth-talking British criminal, offering some heroin to seal the deal.

That proved an irresistible offer to Joe Jr. 

Joseph Stabler Jr. on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

Joe's behavior due to his addiction has caused a rift in the family ever since viewers were introduced to Stabler's brothers earlier in Season 4. Discovering traces of heroin on foil in the bathroom garbage of his home after a family reunion, Stabler joined Randall to break into their younger brother’s hotel room in a failed attempt at an intervention. Detective work by the OCCB traced the source of the heroin used by Joe Jr. first to a region in Afghanistan where he served, then to a militia of ex-Marines working out of a Staten Island honey farm, and ultimately to Redcoat himself.

RELATED: All About Organized Crime’s Ill-Fated Detective, Samir Bashir, Played by Abubakr Ali

Fast-forwarding to the present, the OCCB and the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau are working together to take down Emery and stop a shipment of weapons stolen from a Soviet stockpile that’s bound for New York. Exactly where and when it would arrive, though, remained a mystery. As did the nature of Joe Jr.’s involvement, considering he'd been tracked on Emery’s private jet traveling across Europe.  

“Do we know how deep he’s in with Emery," Sergeant Ayanna Bell (Danielle Mone Truitt) asked Stabler.

“No, I’m just hoping he didn’t know anything about Sam,” he replied, referencing their slain comrade, 
Detective Samir Bashir.

Det Elliot Stabler on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

Stabler was finally able to get some relief when it came to that worry. 

During an interrogation of militia member Tyler (Jonathan Holtzman), the ex-Marine confessed that he witnessed Bashir’s murder in the wine warehouse. The triggerman was not Joe, but Emery’s head of security, a mercenary named Tobias (Nikolai Nikolaeff).

Joe Jr. may have turned out to be innocent of that crime, but he remained very much in danger.

So, Stabler and Randall launched their own personal operation — to save their brother from himself.

RELATED: A Detective Was Killed on Organized Crime — And Stabler Buried the Body

How did Stabler's kidnapping of his brother go down?

As Joe drove his Porsche away from the airfield where he meets Redcoat, he was intercepted by a pair of SUVs driven by masked attackers. Trying to make his escape on foot, Joe was tackled to the ground and handcuffed, his head covered by a sack. The kidnappers were soon revealed to be Joe’s older brothers.

Stabler and Randall kept Joe locked up in a room in Stabler’s home, where he went through severe withdrawal symptoms. Randall brought in a professional medic for help to treat the side effects.

Joseph Stabler Jr on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

In a moment of lucidity, Joe had a heart-to-heart talk with his brothers, reiterating that he had nothing to do with the murder of Detective Bashir.

“I brought Sam into the OCCB, he was chasing down that heroin because I asked him to,” Stabler informed his younger brother. “Do you know why I asked him to? Because I was worried about you.”

“I never asked you to get involved,” cried Joe.

"You gave me no choice,” answered his big brother. “What was I supposed to do? Just stand by while you flushed your life down the toilet?

"I love you.”

RELATED: Stabler Had an Explosive Intervention with His Brother About Drugs on Organized Crime

Though Joe Jr. struggled with withdrawal symptoms, that tough love seemed to be slowly working.

Meanwhile, in a daring heist in a Bronx server farm, Kyle Vargas (Tate Ellington) was able to copy Emery’s encrypted database while Detective Bobby Reyes (Rick Gonzalez) took on one armed guard, and Detective Jet Slootmaekers (Ainsley Seiger) and Bell were drawn into a shootout with others. After a too-close-for-comfort escape, the team absconded with what may be their best clue to date on Emery’s schemes. If Vargas and Jet could crack the encryption, that is. 

Back at Stabler’s apartment, Joe Jr. seemed to be turning a corner. Just when his brothers let down their guard, however, Joe made his escape. Stabler returned to the apartment after getting a celebratory pizza to find Randall with a bloodied nose and disappointment written all over his face.

It initially seemed that their efforts were all for nothing as Joe Jr. was next seen boarding Emery’s private jet again, being grilled by his boss and Tobias about his whereabouts over the last few days. Joe answered that he locked himself in a room to get clean.

Det Bobby Reyes on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

Stabler’s brother Joe wants to help the OCCB take down Redcoat

The plot thickened when Joe Jr. met Stabler on a rooftop and told him that he went back to Emery as a ruse, so “you got a guy on the inside.” Feeling remorseful, he said he wanted to do the right thing and help take the Redcoat ring down. Stabler tried to talk him out of it, knowing the danger involved.

“What am I, 10,” asked Joe Jr.

“Yeah, in my mind... yeah you are,” answered Stabler.

RELATED: Stabler Learns a Devastating Secret About How His Father Died on Law & Order: Organized Crime

Stabler agreed to let him help, since this was the OCCB's best chance at busting Redcoat, stopping that weapons shipment, and getting justice for Bashir.

The OCCB team surveilled Joe Jr. as he met Tobias to find a new warehouse to hold the shipment when it arrives. Stabler’s worries seemed to be proven true almost immediately, as Tobias pulled a gun on Joe.

Stabler was prepared to storm the warehouse to rescue his brother, but he was called off by Reyes, who was listening to what was happening in the warehouse through high-tech surveillance equipment.

Det. Elliot Stabler and Sergeant Ayanna Bell on Law and Order Organized Crime Episode 412

“Relax, we’re on the same team,” Joe Jr. told Tobias.

“Are we? You’re a junky, a liar, a traitor,” Tobias responded. “Two out of three still makes you a liability.”

But when Tobias patted Joe down in search of a wire, he couldn't find one. 

“I was doing my job,” Tobias said, right before getting punched in the face by Joe Jr. 

“You try that again and you won’t live to regret it,” Joe Jr. warned.

“I think he’s got this,” said Reyes, impressed as he listened in from a rooftop across the street.

Stabler stood down, returning to his surveillance vehicle. 

RELATED: Donald Cragen Just Made a Shocking Return to Law & Order — With a Stabler Warning 

When Stabler later returned home, he found his son Eli, who after weeks of being unable to reach his dad, announced that he's moving back to New York with his girlfriend. The news didn't go over well, as it seemingly meant Eli (Nicky Torchia) was dropping out of school. But before Stabler could interrogate his son further, the detective was called back to the office. 

Back at the OCCB, the team finally broke the encryption on the server, and what they found, set up an explosive finale to come.

“It looks like Emery’s holding an online auction," Vargas said of the two-ton haul of stolen weapons headed to New York.

"Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, and aircraft missiles, and there are already multiple buyers," Jet said.

"Holy hell," Bell remarked.

The stakes of stopping Emery just got higher.

To find out what happens, tune into the Law & Order: Organized Crime finale next Thursday, May 16 at 10/9c p.m. on NBC, or stream it the next day on Peacock