Christopher Meloni’s Elliot Stabler previously appeared on Law & Order: SVU for 12 seasons prior to his departure in 2011

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This post contains spoilers from Thursday's episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime

After a long decade apart, Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler are back together — and their connection is as strong as ever. 

During Thursday's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Organized Crime crossover event, the two detective characters, played by Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, appeared onscreen together again. (The actors previously costarred on Law & Order: SVU for 12 seasons before Meloni's departure in 2011 due to issues with contract negotiations). 

The episode began with Benson rushing through traffic in New York, only to arrive at a crime scene and find a familiar face being carried into an ambulance after a car bomb went off.

"Kathy?" she asked, recalling her former partner's wife. "Kathy!" 

Then, an even more familiar voice calls out from the distance. "Liv!" Stabler said as he rushed to watch his wife, played by Isabel Gillies, leave in the ambulance. 

"Elliot," Benson replied at a near whisper, reunited with Stabler at last. 

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT
Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay on Organized Crime
| Credit: Christopher Del Sordo/NBC

Soon, it's explained that Stabler was in town for a "conference," after having served as the NYPD's liaison in Rome, covering terrorism and organized crime for the past several years. His trip back to New York went south, however, when Kathy's rental car blew into flames and left her with burns, a concussion and a broken pelvis. 

At the hospital, Stabler's kids, Kathleen (Allison Siko) and Dickie (Jeffrey Scaperrotta) make brief appearances, shocked to see Benson again after all those years as they tend to their mom. 

Back at the precinct, Stabler, true to form, convinced Benson to let him interview a potential suspect, but things went awry when the right-wing activist suspect baited Stabler and the detective became dangerously close to confronting him physically.

In typical fashion, Benson stopped him and threw him out of the interview room. It's then clear that the suspect was a dead end, and the unit was back to square one in figuring out who set off the bomb. 

Law & Order SVU
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Once she was conscious, Kathy remarked on how Stabler and Benson hadn't talked for a full 10 years, and Stabler later sat Benson down to apologize for leaving the squad without so much as a goodbye a decade earlier. 

"Liv, I'm sorry," he said, as Benson replied, "Elliot, we don't have to do this."

"You want to do this now?" she continued. "You're sorry for leaving, or are you sorry for walking, for not giving me the courtesy of telling me?"

"Both," he said. "I think I thought if I talked to you about how…"

"You walked away?" she interrupted. "Because that's what you did Elliot. I had to find out from [former Captain] Cragen. You were the most, single most, important person in my life and you just disappeared." 

"I was afraid if I heard your voice, I wouldn't have been able to leave," he said. 

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

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After the emotional discussion, the team appeared to be making headway on the case, having located a new suspect via DNA. But it became more urgent when Kathy tragically succumbed to her injuries and the suspect was found murdered in his jail cell — indicating that the initial bombing had deep ties to organized crime.

As the episode crossed over from Special Victims Unit to Organized Crime, and the murder case went from Benson to Stabler's wheelhouse, another bombshell dropped. 

A copy of Stabler's Italian ID was found in the safe of a murdered drug dealer, further enmeshing him in his late wife's case and cementing that he was likely the intended victim of the car bomb. 

LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Following Kathy's funeral, Stabler met up with a mafia leader, Sinatra (Chazz Palminteri), who he suspected had ties to the crime. Stabler accused him of trying to take him out but mistakenly killing Kathy instead.

"You got it all wrong son," Sinatra replied. "I don't make mistakes. If I wanted you dead, you'd be  the one in the ground right now." 

LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME
Credit: Will Hart/NBC

As he became more and more involved, Stabler wanted to be officially in on the case, but the task force leader, Sgt. Ayanna Bell (Danielle Moné Truitt) had doubts about his storied past as an aggressive — albeit caring and passionate — NYPD detective. 

The story then turned to the mafia leader's son, Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott), who ended up being the adopted father of the aforementioned murdered drug dealer and an organized criminal in his own right, despite camouflaging his illegal activities behind legitimate businesses. 

As Stabler went to re-interview Wheatley's ex-wife, Angela (Tamara Taylor), the action was turned up once again when a series of people on motorcycles ambushed him and began shooting. Alas, they were able to get away before Stabler could stop them. 

Stabler, having been accepted into the task force, returned to the precinct but left again when he received a mysterious message on his phone, reading "I know who killed your wife." Not quite grown out of his old ways, he went to the specified location without telling a soul or calling for backup. 

There, he was shocked to discover that Sinatra was killed in a ferris wheel. Viewers can presume the murder was carried out by Richard Wheatley, who was shaping up to be the lead criminal mastermind. 

LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Stabler captured a picture of the dead mafia leader and rushed back to work, only to find Benson waiting for him in the lobby looking to talk. 

A clearly disturbed and desperate Stabler declined in order to get back to work on the case, leaving his storyline with Benson to be continued. 

Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET and Organized Crime at 10 p.m. ET, both on NBC.

This article was written independently by PEOPLE's editorial team and meets our editorial standards. NBC is a paid advertising partner with PEOPLE.