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christopher meloni on the late late show

The Law & Order franchise got one of its biggest jolts in years recently when NBC announced that SVU vet Christopher Meloni would be returning as the hard-hitting Elliot Stabler, not for his former digs, but within a completely new spinoff series. It'll be the first time he'll reprise the role after vacating Law & Order: SVU in Season 12, and as one might have imagined, his former co-star Mariska Hargitay had something to say about it.

Having portrayed Detective-turned-Captain Olivia Benson ever since Law & Order: SVU started up back in 1999, Mariska Hargitay is as much the backbone of the NBC drama as franchise creator Dick Wolf. So fans were definitely looking for her response to Chris Meloni's return to the crime drama's world. Non-coincidentally tying things in with the actor's recent birthday, Hargitay shared the following message:

Mariska Hargitay's post racked up multiple hundreds of thousands of likes, and over 10,000 comments in less than 24 hours, so you know people are pumped about the potential for Olivia and Elliot to reunite in some way. And what better first step than for Christopher Meloni to post an adorbs reply to Hargitay's welcome-back message?

Since Instagram's top comments can be completely random, here's a shot of how Christopher Meloni responded to his former co-star, which no doubt got fans even more excited for what's to come.

Saddle. Up. In. Deed. Or should I say "in-steed." Does Stabler's return as the mane character mean we're all in on horsey jokes at this point, or what? Hee-Haw & Order: SVU, anyone? Anyone? (Incidentally, I do not want to see a rural comedy sketch show about horse sex crimes being investigated, regardless of if Meloni would be involved or not, even though he would definitely rock that role.)

Anyway, back to fully celebrating things that ARE happening, such as Chris Meloni's return to the world of network crime dramas after years of taking on quirkier roles in shows such as Syfy's bonkers comic book adaptation Happy, and reprising Wet Hot American Summer's Gene for Netflix's prequel and sequel shows. Not to mention his far more serious role in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.

Conversations about Christopher Meloni's return had started happening all over again more recently once the subject of Law & Order: SVU's fate came into question ahead of its historic renewal that will continue its reign as the longest-running TV drama. It didn't seem likely that anything as major as "a new Law & Order show" would happen in order to bring Meloni back, but we're all the happier for it. May the actor have

Because every set of two beloved characters interacting deserves a video compilation, here's one for Elliot and Olivia.

Law & Order: SVU is having to end this season early due to production shutdowns, but showrunner Warren Leight revealed what fans could have expected to see during those eps, which might factor into how next season starts off. For now, though, we're waiting just like everyone else to see how things will play out.

With only a few weeks left to go, Law & Order: SVU will close out Season 21 on Tuesday, April 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET.

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