The mid-season return of "Law & Order: SVU" kicked off on NBC Wednesday, Jan. 8 (trailer above), and we picked out the 11 most recognizable off-screen guest stars that we can't seem to shake. From a stalkerific Fred Savage character, to a young and seemingly innocent Elle Fanning role, here's our rundown of the most hard-to-forget "SVU" faces of the past 15 seasons of the Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Chris Meloni)-turned-Nick Amaro (Danny Pino) drama.
1. Dean Cain ("Starved")
We loved Dean Cain as Clark Kent ("Lois and Clark"). We did not love Dean Cain as Dr. Mike Jergens. In a creepy because he got in our heads (and is still there) and we can't shake it-character sense, Cain plays a serial dater who is also a serial rapist. Olivia goes undercover to catch him in the act, he follows her home and gets arrested, but that's only the beginning. We then find out he's got a manipulated girlfriend at home who he inevitably marries so that she can't testify against him. Creepy, creepy, creepy.
2. Martin Short ("Pure")
The creepy train continues with Martin Short. The typically funny and jubilant actor ditched the laughs for a take on a serial rapist named Sebastian Ballentine who masquerades as a psychic and helps direct the SVU detectives to the body of a missing woman in his episode. Stabler is too smart for Short's version of a head case and digs deeper into his history. Come to find out he's actually a serial rapist and murderer from Canada (Henry Pavalar) who crossed the border, changed his name, and got even more overzealous with his nasty habits. Gross, Martin. Gross.
3. Cynthia Nixon ("Alternate")
One word: Emmy.
Cynthia Nixon won an Emmy for her performance in this episode, which happens to be one of our favorites from all 15 seasons. Why? Because she is a master at playing the parts of what felt like 16 different people. Well, really six, but one of them includes a guy, another includes a teenage girl, a therapist, and a normal, middle-aged woman. We use the term normal lightly because it turns out she masterminded her "multiple personalities" to get off with a lighter sentence for committing murder. Bang.
4. John Stamos ("Bang")
Uncle Jesse would never have fathered twentysomething children by almost as many women, but John Stamos's Ken Turner is a different story. Turner is an affluent businessman who thinks he's doing the women of New York City a service by filling their fertile loins with his offspring. The ladies get back at him, making it a little less gross, but still. Ew.
5. Lou Diamond Phillips ("Fault")
We want to barf when we watch this episode 1. Because Phillips plays Victor Paul Gitano (yes, they gave him three names, too), a recently-released sex offender who kidnaps two siblings after killing the rest of their family and 2. Because it gets extra emotional and sappy when Elliot and Olivia profess their weird, work-life love for each other, adding to the creeptasticness.
6. Pablo Schreiber ("American Tragedy," "Psycho/Therapist")
Ah, Pablo Schreiber. He's the reason we're writing this list. William Lewis is a haunting, maniacal psychopath who breaks into Benson's apartment, tortures her, kidnaps her and drags her to a house in the middle of nowhere, and almost kills her. In the Jan. 8 episode, Williams returned to defend himself and reopen a sore, gaping Benson wound.
7. Robin Williams ("Authority")
Ever seen "One Hour Photo?" It's perhaps Robin Williams creepiest role, but his spin on "SVU" character Merritt Rook takes a close second. Rook is a bespectacled audio engineer with a grudge against authority who gets his jollies by making prank phone calls and claims to the SVU squad. He also drove a doctor he held responsible for his wife's death to commit suicide. He is a creepy, bad man. Case closed.
8. Ian Somerhalder ("Dominance")
Before his pretty boy days of The CW's hit "The Vampire Diaries," Ian Somerhalder played Charlie Baker, the son of a building superintendent, whose penchant incest and crime left us with a serious sour taste in our mouths. His father is played by Frank Langella, who turns a blind eye to his dominant son's disgusting habits, and his younger, easily manipulated brother is played by Jason Ritter. The whole thing is eerie and gross and has stuck with us since we saw it for the first time a decade ago. It probably doesn't help get it out of our head when we watch it every time it's on, but it's just that good. And creepy.
Note: Sadly, we couldn't find a video for this and the next two.
9. Fred Savage ("Futility")
So much for the wholesomeness of "The Wonder Years." No matter how old Fred Savage gets, he's still going to be Kevin Arnold to us, so watching him play a manipulative serial rapist and stalker with a genius IQ gives us the epic heebie jeebies.
10. Michael Pitt ("Prodigy")
He may not be the one committing murders (of humans) in this episode, but Michael Pitt's character, Harry Baker, is an obviously troubled teenager who likes to bury the heads of animals in a cooler in Central Park. Gross, no? Benson and Stabler have him pegged for some murders because of his budding serial killer tendencies, and we're kind of surprised there was no follow-up to this chilling episode. We're also kind of glad.
11. Elle Fanning ("Cage")
The last and final creepster on our list goes to the little girl who almost burned down Detective Dani Beck's (Connie Nielsen) apartment. She's a head case, that's for sure, but it was easy to blame it on the crazy foster parents who were raising her and a slew of other kids. When said kids were bad, they were sentenced to sleep in a cage in a barn (hence the episode title "Caged").
Which "SVU" character is the creepiest on your list? Let us know in the comments.
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ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
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