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ith NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims

ith NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in its seventh season, you might think Mariska Hargitay doesn't have any new tricks up her sleeve—that the actor is content to rest on her laurels. After all, she's racked up her third consecutive Emmy nod, a pair of SAG Award nominations, and a Golden Globe. But such conclusions are misguided: Anyone who watched this season's standout episode, "911," knows that Hargitay is still more than capable of adding fresh dimension to her character while knocking a heavy story line out of the park. The episode featured Hargitay's Olivia Benson on the other end of a 911 call with a little girl in peril. During the tense hour, Hargitay segued easily from determined ferocity to gentle coaxing. Benson has always been a passionate character, but this episode allowed the actor to show that dedication in a way we'd never quite witnessed before. The dramatic heft of the story line rested on Hargitay's shoulders, and she more than rose to the occasion.

—Sarah Kuhn

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