The penultimate episode to what has been a truly great season of television. PS, I really enjoy using the term 'penultimate.'
I haven't been to church in awhile and honestly had to Google what Manna was... And in this case, God provided a super-racist, horrible sub-human!
Cochran's team calls the writer behind the infamous tapes, who insists she does not want to help O.J. Simpson, which is telling. On the prosecution side, Marcia and Chris continue to argue. Marcia isn't worried about Fuhrman because they've got the evidence, Johnnie is just making up a story. Chris, like the audience, is frustrated. I wish we could make her watch her scene with the shot glasses a few weeks ago. That was so effective! Show the jurors that! Fuhrman might be racist and a liar but he's not magic!
Equally annoyed with how things are going - Shapiro starts out frustrated and just continues to spiral throughout the episode. First, he's not allowed to go to North Carolina to try to get the tapes. Cochran is totally out of his control, as Shapiro just sits on his couch while Johnnie goes on television and completely ignores his (Shapiro's) wishes. As he says later, he just wants to defend his client, not set a city on fire. By the end of the episode, Shapiro does something the guy at the beginning of the series never would have done: voluntarily sit out a press conference. While Johnnie stands in front of an enthralled media to express his outrage over Ito's decision, Shapiro is off to the side, seething.
The trip to North Carolina itself is almost a vacation. The lighting is less severe, there are birds chirping. Like the audience, Johnnie is enthralled by Bailey's performance, as his accent gets deeper, he finds some religion, and turns the brown-nosing up to eleven. But hey, he gets it done!
It's also in North Carolina we really get a taste of Fuhrman's words. The show starts off with just a few zooms in to the text as Cochran and Bailey are reading. Then we listen to bits of the tape in the lawyers' offices. Even after just a few sentences, Marcia has to shut it off. Like the crowd at the courtroom, it's not until we're in the courtroom that we get a big piece of what's really on the tapes. Some poor bastard has taken the time to put up the captions to Fuhrman's bile. And this is also the first time the (television) audience really takes in what he saying, aside from the occasional racial epithet and all that garbage about Ito's wife. It's highly effective and also provides the audience with a close-up of everyone's reactions to the tapes.
And oh the Ito wife stuff. If it wasn't real life, it wouldn't be believable. Between the sexism and the fame stuff, the first real moment of sympathy I have for Ito is regarding Fuhrman's unfair comments about his wife. He's just so dejected, up there with all his fancy hour glasses. And he seems to handle this well, if nothing else, bringing in another judge to sort out the next steps. Also, this offered a moment for a mistrial and the prosecution definitely should have taken it, right? Try it again. Minimize the Fuhrman stuff. Put together a story of their own, one that minimizes the role of the LAPD.
Afterwards, there's the showdown in the two elevators. Over in the prosecutor's, Darden is extremely pissed. A recent interview with Marcia Clark points out this is a little bit ridiculous - they always had to interview Fuhrman and get his testimony. He was there, he found a bunch of the evidence. But maybe they could have minimized the damage he caused, if nothing else. At GFY, Jessica points out Darden's probably the most sympathetic, interesting character in the show. And I think she's right. At the beginning of the series, he was a nice way to put the audience in a black neighborhood, see what that response is, and didn't have a big role on the case itself. But he's slowly becoming the voice of reason on the prosecution side, the anchor that helps us sympathize with Marcia instead of wanting to slap her (the media really is that important Marcia!). His anger and frustration are honest and palpable. And usually we sympathize with him. Sterling K. Brown is also great. In a sea of over-the-top performances, he's all clenched jaw and blazing eyes and intense quiet. It also helps that I mostly just want to give his character a hug in every scene.
Darden has two particularly great moments this episode, aside from the perfect line in the elevator (you wanted a black face but not a black voice). At one point, when Ito announces he will play the entire tapes for the court (but not the jury), Darden is pissed. He yells. He gets in Cochran's face. He is the personification of the audience's rage and frustration. Especially since we know the outcome. Marcia comes to his defense as we have come to expect from these two, defending him if he's in contempt and offering to take off her watch and jewelry. I haven't read Grisham in awhile so I don't really know what happened there, from a legal perspective, but it made very compelling television. Later, when Fuhrman comes back to court and everyone is giving him the look of disgust and the tension is thick, Darden just gets up and leaves. Good for him. And he and Marcia make up later, as ever: her insistence on Fuhrman, his gloves fiasco. Let's call it even. We both really fucked up!
Shapiro wants to win the case, Johnnie wants to create a movement. He makes a big show of listing all the things Fuhrman says on the tapes (and it is a serious, serious list). While the tapes are played in the courtroom, the camera pans over everyone's face. Everyone is appropriately disgusted, except Johnnie, who seems happy with this turn of events. There you go buddy, you got your movement.
Ito is very aware of the camera that is on him, literally as he keeps glancing over to it, but also figuratively. Larry King, even, is admitting he's screwed either way. Poor Ito. He understands it's no longer just about the trial, the defense has made sure of that, so he comes up with the best compromise he can. It might also be the worst thing he could do, given his options but whatever. It is what he went with. Also, the little sympathy I had for him, went out the window when I realized he faxed over his decision. Dude, at least have the guts to do it in person.
In our last moment in the courtroom of this episode, Fuhrman returns. His entrance is very different from the smooth one last time. Protesters jump on the car, spit at him. The music is this anti-music. Everyone glares at him (Bailey: It takes a man of a certain character to be hated by both sides). Darden leaves! The tension is palpable, especially from Marcia. And then Johnnie asks his first question and everyone leans forward. What's he gonna do?
Be a total jackass! Fifth Amendment to all of it. Those MF initials are applicable. But then it gets worse. Johnnie gives up his line of questioning as the Dream Team gets one last question together at the last minute: did you plant any evidence on this case? Fifth amendment! Mother fucker! This is basically the end of the trial, effectively. And Kardashian is not happy about it, while everyone else is ecstatic. Even O.J., as he's putting his prison gear and his chain back on, is positively gleeful. But not Kardashian.
At least we have some good news at the end: Marcia got primary custody! She hugs the folder containing the verdict. She knows this is probably her last victory for awhile.
Over at GFY, Jessica has it all, from references to Marla's demon possession on Days of Our Lives to the perfection of Sterling K. Brown to the face that Pasquale is way too good looking to be playing piece of shit Fuhrman. Also: everyone should get Emmy's (Emmies?).
In Vanity Fair's fact check: mostly true. Basically, you cannot make this shit up.