A Christopher Meloni-less Law & Order: SVU kicked off its 13th season last night in typically sensational fashion, going straight for the ripped-from-the-headlines jugular with a DSK-inspired episode.

The episode, dubbed "Scorched Earth," swaps Dominque Strauss-Kahn for an Italian diplomat, played by steely-eyed guest star Franco Nero, who allegedly rapes a Sudanese hotel maid who may or may not be in it for the money. The episode covers all the big points: DSK/Nero's insistence of innocence, the maid's allegedly sketchy past, and some scandalous surprise testimony from a last-minute source (ok, so that last part may have been exaggerated for TV, BUT). Showrunner Warren Leight said this episode was a beast to write: "In this case, I don’t believe we ripped from the headlines. I believe the actual story ripped us off...We had to do rewrites. Everything we had in our initial draft had to be changed." Right.

Oh, and let's see: viewers were introduced to new castmember Kelli Gish (Danny Pino comes next week), ADA Alex Cabot (Stephanie March) is back, and Olivia Benson sported a fantastic new blowout. As for fans who waited up to catch a brief glimpse of Eliot Stabler, who's been off the force since shooting a teenage girl in last season's finale, tough bananas. "I feel like that's cheap—they should have brought them back for one episode so they could have a decent farewell," one longtime fan told us. "Dick Wolf is such a cheap bastard. Could it have killed them to do a five minute scene?"

Here's the heartwrenching scene that lays it down bare: