Mariska Hargitay Finally Confirms The Law And Order: SVU Rumor That We Suspected All Along

One of TV's most "shipped" duos, Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" characters, detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson, have never actualized their palpable chemistry over the course of 12 on-screen years. Even when Stabler separated from his wife, per TV Insider, the two never got to share their true feelings before Meloni departed the show in Season 12, only to return 10 years later for his own spinoff series, "Law & Order: Organized Crime."

However, having had several crossover appearances since on "SVU," Meloni did nothing to stymie the tide of shipping hope of a rekindling when he tweeted a selfie of him and Hargitay adorably rubbing noses together on-set in late August 2021. When the two actors appeared on the "Today" show in September 2021 to promote Season 23 and Season 2 of their respective series, the hosts once again addressed the Bensler dating rumors — to which Hargitay gave a somewhat deflating answer at the time. "We're still finding our way, but it's complex and real, but what I love about it most is that it's earned," Hargitay said. "This relationship is truly earned and not a lot of people have a 23-year relationship on film."

But as "Today"'s Craig Melvin pointed out, Elliot did tell Olivia "I love you" at the end of the first season of "Organized Crime" ... so there must be truth to the rumors, right?

Mariska Hargitay just restored Law and Order shippers' faith

Proof that keeping the faith does pay off in love, Mariska Hargitay confirmed her character Olivia Benson on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" is indeed in love with Christopher Meloni's Elliot Stabler. Speaking on "The Drew Barrymore Show" on January 18, Hargitay addressed the long-term fan gossip surrounding the two, as well as the significance of Elliot's wife's tragic death on the show. "He is free, and I think he's got eyes for me," Hargitay confessed. "But Olivia Benson is hurt! I mean, he left me in a lurch for 10 years. She's frightened."

Continuing to spill the love beans (finally!), Hargitay revealed, "The energy's there. Olivia's been in love with him for many a year." Can you say, "Needle drop?" With the potential constantly there for many series crossovers to come — given that Meloni's "Law and Order" spin-off, "Law and Order: Organized Crime" — is also on NBC, Hargitay has certainly restored fans' fervor for Bensler (and, just perhaps, for romance in general). 

She warned that the buildup toward a full-speed relationship might be a gradual one, however, telling host Drew Barrymore, "I think that we are slowly finding our way back to it, but I want to give him the amount of time he needs to grieve Kathy Stabler."

Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni's onscreen chemistry makes the pairing work

While fans have finally got their wish of Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler being together on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," a lot of credit has to go to Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni for bringing their relationship to life. The actors have been on the show since its inception and have undeniable chemistry, which makes playing their characters a breeze. "It was an instant, instantaneous connection that is inexplicable, that has only grown," Hargitay told Today of her partnership with Meloni on the show. "I look at it as a gift, but the second we met it was like *exploding sound*."

Hargitay added that there's "so much ease" and "trust" with her and Meloni that their relationship on and off the show "has truly stood the test of time." That said, the two have never dated in real life, to the dismay of many fans. Hargitay has been married to actor Peter Hermann since 2004 and they share three children together, while Meloni has been married to Sherman Williams, a production designer, since 1995. The two share two adult children together.

Mariska Hargitay was sad about Christopher Meloni's departure

Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler may have gotten their happy ending together, but it wasn't always the case. As fans all know too well, Meloni left "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" in 2011 over breakdowns with contract negotiations. His departure, of course, left Mariska Hargitay as the only original cast member remaining on the series, and she was sad about seeing her longtime friend leave. 

Hargitay spoke about Meloni's departure to E! News in January 2020, saying it's been "hard" to see cast members leave the show throughout the years. "I didn't want them to go," she said. "It's life. One door closes and another one opens. People come into our lives and then they leave their lives. You feel all of that and it's a lot to feel and you keep on going. You keep on going."

Luckily for Hargitay, showrunners of "SVU" offered Meloni a return to the show in 2021 — an offer he couldn't refuse. "Things in my personal life fell into place, which made it correct and right for me to say yes to the offer," he told Variety. "The buildup of anticipation and expectation leading up to it was the most unnerving part." Meanwhile, Hargitay said their reunion onscreen has "been a joy," because of how much they went through on the show previously. She shared, "We ... dug so deep and had a very full relationship."