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I was good, wasn't I? You fell into my web.
~ Janis bragging about getting away with murder.

Janis Donovan is the main antagonist of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Alternate". She is a woman who fakes having Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) as part of a plan to murder her abusive parents.

She was portrayed by Cynthia Nixon, who also portrayed Laura Di Biasi in Law & Order and Kade Prurnell in Hannibal.


Early life

Janis and her sister, Cass Magnall, were physically and sexually abused as children by their father, Francis Donovan, while their mother, Molly, did nothing to protect them. As an adult, Janis became an expert on psychiatric disorders, particularly Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), as part of a long-term plan to kill her parents and get away with it by faking mental illness.

As an adult, she works as an entomologist for the Museum of Natural History. She lays the groundwork for her insanity defense by creating a series of identities, Petra, a tough Russian, Burt, a violent psychopath, Dory, a rebellious teenager, Tammy, an abused six-year-old girl, and Dr. Anna Mill, a psychiatrist who "treats" the others, to take on in front of different people according to need, and affecting a meek, submissive persona when being "herself". She also conspires with Cass to pass off the latter's infant daughter, April, as her own. Finally, she fools a psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Carlisle, into believing she suffers from DID.


As Dr. Mill, Janis goes to the Special Victims Unit and tells Detective Olivia Benson that her patient, "Janis", may be harming her daughter. When Benson and her partner, Detective Elliot Stabler, search Janis' apartment and talk to her doctor and coworkers, they believe that she is either insane or conning them, or both. During interrogation, Janis switches identities several times, and they all refuse to say where April is.

Cass shows up at the precinct and says that April is fine, and is her child, not Janis'; Cass had been in jail for six months, and Janis had been watching April for her until she got out. Cass also tells the detectives about their abuse history. Carlisle talks Benson and Sergeant John Munch into letting Janis go home with her sister, a decision that ends disastrously the next day when Janis's parents are found brutally murdered. Moments later, Janis, as Dory, breaks into Stabler's house and holds his wife Kathy hostage. Stabler persuades her to let Kathy go, and Benson arrests her as she blames Burt for killing her parents. The police later find pictures in the Donovans' house confirming the sisters' accounts of abuse.

Janis pleads insanity, and during the trial testifies that she had blacked out after Cass told her what their parents did to them. When Assistant District Attorney Casey Novak cross-examines her, Janis flies into a rage as "Burt" and attacks her. Janis is found not guilty by reason of insanity, and institutionalized.

Soon afterward, however, Benson and Stabler learn from Cass' former cellmate that Cass and Janis had conspired to kill their parents and fake the latter's mental illness, which is confirmed by Janis' Internet search history of information about DID. When Benson and Stabler confront Janis in her hospital room, she brags about her performance, knowing that double jeopardy prevents them from arresting her twice for the same crime, but is stunned when they arrest Cass as her accomplice, As Benson and Stabler take Cass into custody, Janis shouts after her sister that she, too, can beat the charges with an insanity defense.

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