Olivia drops Noah off for his first day of preschool. It's a difficult goodbye, especially when Noah starts crying. When she arrives at work, Tucker is waiting for her with big news. One PP wants a lieutenant running SVU, not just a sergeant. And Benson's been doing such a great job, Tucker wants her to file the Lieutenant's exam. Olivia is skeptical but intrigued, and now has to pick her second whip. She makes an offer to Fin, but he's not interested in going for sergeant. So who will be Benson's second in command?
Across town, Dana Farhidi, a flighty, disorganized mother gets her son Owen ready for school. Owen, an outgoing eight-year-old boy, is so friendly he speaks to everyone on the walk to school - even a homeless man talking to himself. After school, his mom isn't there waiting for him like she promised; instead, a man named Carlos tells the dismissal supervisor Mr. Fahidi called to give him permission to pick Owen up. Carlos' story checks out, so Owen goes off with him. An hour later, an extremely late Dana finally makes it to the school, only to find her son has gone missing. Dana, who recently separated from her husband Sam, is hysterical about her son. She and Sam have been through a brutal custody battle, and to top it off she left her phone at her yoga class. When Carisi retrieves it, he finds a number of voicemails from Owen begging his mom to pick up or the man won't let him come home.
Amaro goes to Mr. Farhidi's restaurant to speak with him and gets an earful from the father who thinks he's being accused because he's Iranian and his ex-wife is white. He swears he didn't call the school or take his son, but he's livid with Dana for never being responsible. The one thing Dana is good for is identifying the kidnapper from the security footage - it's her babysitter Fabiana's boyfriend Javier who sometimes fixes stuff around the house. Fabiana gives the police Javier's address, and they raid the place but don't find Javier. Finally Dana receives another call from Javier in which he demands Sam bring him $37,000 in cash - no police. SVU preps Sam, who makes the drop, but Javier escapes. SVU chases after him, but when they arrest him, Javier claims Dana paid him to take Owen!
Olivia sits down with Owen, who says Javier was mad when his mom didn't pick up, and yelled, "She's supposed to answer!" Fin and Carisi talk to Dana, who admits she would talk to Fabiana about her divorce and Sam's money, which could explain how Javier knew Sam would have the ransom cash. Fabiana swears she had nothing to do with the kidnapping and, frankly, is tired of Dana calling Javier for every little thing she needs around the house. Meanwhile, Carisi checks up on that very specific ransom amount and learns that $37,000 is the exact amount of money Dana accused Sam of concealing during their divorce. Javier claims Dana told him the amount of money to demand from Sam - he didn't do anything wrong! He was hired by Dana, who paid him the first of two installments of $500, then texted him the school number, told him how to sign Owen out and made sure she'd be late.
The detectives bring Dana in and show her a series of deleted texts from her phone to Javier, detailing the scheme. She's flabbergasted - she never sent these texts, but she does misplace her phone all the time. So Benson and Carisi talk to Owen again and learn that when Dana is out, his dad comes by the house even though he's not supposed to. Sam sometimes goes through the emails on Dana's phone, which she's constantly leaving at home. SVU goes back to Javier, who's willing to tell them who really set this up if he gets a deal. It was Sam! He told Javier to say it was Dana and walked him through the whole thing. So which parent did this? Dana or Sam?
The detectives put a wire on Dana, who goes to Sam's restaurant to talk to him. She tells him the police are convinced she set this whole thing up and she wants him to fix this for her, but he refuses. His restaurant is going under and she's bleeding him with alimony - she has no idea how much things cost. Dana says they might not get their son back, but Sam says yes they will - he'll get custody and she won't go to jail. She may not have set the whole thing up, but it's her fault it came to this - if she had picked up her phone, the police would never have been involved. Sam just wanted to teach Dana a lesson. Half the time he goes to her apartment, Owen's there alone because she forgot to get a nanny. Suddenly Dana stops him and shows him the wire, prompting SVU to race in and take Sam away.
Back at the station, Dana goes to pick up Owen and Olivia asks her if she's even capable of taking care of him. Dana says she needs help and Sam's a great father - could Olivia talk to the DA? Dana shuts down - she doesn't know how to provide for him! Olivia explains she needs to get a job and figure things out - she's a parent and it's not about her anymore. But can Dana actually get her act together?