Recaps

Everyone Has Something to Learn, Bull “Teacher’s Pet”

The position of trust that teachers are placed in as authority figures invites a special level of horror when they cross the line with their students. This week’s Bull episode shines a light on how a young, troubled teacher and her infatuated student mislead each other into hurting everyone who cares for them. In the process, some of the T.A.C. team members, including our usually infallible doctor, take a moment to assess their own assumptions about life.

Photo Credit: CBS

Our favorite recurring character, attorney Liberty Davis (Dena Tyler, “The Necklace”, “Bedside Manner”) brings the T.A.C. team the civil case of Mr. and Mrs. Henderson (Jordan Mahome, The Get Down; Latarsha Rose, Being Mary Jane) versus Susan Bryant (Willa Fitzgerald, Scream: the TV Series) their son’s high school English teacher and lover. Jordan (Jared Kemp, Luke Cage) is a varsity football player and straight-A student with a college scholarship and caring, involved parents. He begins a relationship with the married 24-year-old Mrs. Bryant when he is 17, the age of consent in New York, and continues seeing her even after their relationship is revealed and she loses her job and teaching license.

Photo Credit: CBS

By the time Bull is involved, Jordan and Mrs. Bryant have decided to move in together. Two weeks later, Jordan has dropped out of school (so that Mrs. Bryant can home-school him) and has cut off all communication with his parents unless they accept his relationship situation. They continue moving forward with the case, claiming “negligent infliction of severe emotional distress” but offer Mrs. Bryant the option of breaking off her relationship with their son in order to have the suit dropped. She rejects the offer, citing true love.

Photo Credit: CBS

With Jordan’s football background, Bull plays his magic Chunk card and brings his former-football-star-turn-fashionister to a meeting at the apartment where student and teacher has set up house. Bull and Chunk come away from the encounter with an understanding that Mrs. Bryant is firmly in control of the relationship, that the two believe that they are in love, and that there is definitely more to the situation that needs some deep-diving into. Also, they run into Mrs. Bryant’s lawyer, Wendy Anderson (Cindy Cheung, Blue Bloods), a hard-line women’s rights advocate with an eye on the publicity winning a case like this will bring her.

Photo Credit: CBS

As the team begins to dissect the different perspectives of the case, it’s revealed that Danny has recently started seeing Gabe (Huw Collins, Pretty Little Liars) a freelance photographer she hired for surveillance work and who is eight years her junior. Cognizant that the age gap between Jordan and Mrs. Bryant is only seven, Danny is visibly uncomfortable when Dr. Strand (Duvall O’Steen, Jessica Jones) a behavioral expert, takes the stand and gives a detailed explanation for women who “relate down” to younger, lower status partners in order to feel superior and adored. Confiding in Bull later that she’s having some doubts about the relationship after hearing Dr. Strand’s testimony, she feels reassured when he points out that the situations are quite different, that she and Gabe are actually consenting adults and that the status difference is really only slight since the admiration is a two-way street.

Photo Credit: CBS

Bull’s strategy in this case is straightforward from the get-go: paint Mrs. Bryant as a predator who breached her duty as Jordan’s teacher in order to prey upon him, mantis-like. Marissa points out that the law prefers terms like “outrageous conduct” and “lack of capacity” but concedes graciously that Bull’s giant mantis comparison is a “better visual.” The voir dire is probably the most surgical jury selection we’ve ever seen on the series to date. Since they are looking for jurors who respect structure and authority, they allow Wendy Anderson, their very structured and authoritative opponent to lead the selection process, helping them pull the most straight and narrow, rigid candidates possible.

Photo Credit: CBS

Cable, the queen of the deep dive, surfaces with Mrs. Bryant’s shopping profile which includes pre-natal vitamins. Running with the assumption that the baby daddy is Jordan, the team figures the case is slam-dunked when they find proof conception occurred before Jordan’s seventeenth birthday. However, in a landmark moment in the series, Dr. Jason Bull is blindsided at the courtroom reveal of the pregnancy when Mrs. Bryant states that the father is her husband, Jeffrey (Stephen O’Reilly, Limitless), not Jordan. This news leaves the T.A.C. team gobsmacked, Jeffrey shocked, and Jordan’s parents relieved. Bull admits he’s misplayed this case and will need to take a step back. Furthermore, he’s sensing they’ve also misread one of the jurors and needs the team to look into him again.

Photo Credit: CBS

Once they’ve established that the juror they’d pegged as a beacon of morality is actually a reaction-formation BDSM enthusiast, Bull knows that the jury isn’t a sure bet and a new strategy is needed. Recovering quickly, he realizes that Jordan and Mrs. Bryant are about to run now that they are not only under pressure from the Hendersons but also from Jeffrey Bryant who insists that he will sue for sole custody of the baby. He and Danny head them off at the pass… err, a New Jersey diner where they have the would-be runaways over the proverbial barrel since they have violated a federal act preventing the transport of minors over state lines with sexual intentions.

Photo Credit: CBS

Separating the lovers to different booths, Bull has a conversation with Mrs. Bryant and verbalizes the realization she has already begun to see herself – that, in her need to be adored, she is ruining Jordan’s life and future. I loved the metaphor of “balcony people”, those people who cheer and applaud you, who give love unconditionally. In Bull’s explanation, Jordan is Mrs. Bryant’s balcony person but by keeping him as such, she has stripped him of his supports and, eventually, she’ll need another worshipper and leave him without family, without prospects, and without opportunity. Finally, he gives her the name of a therapist and, having pointed out the elements of her childhood that have led her to this destructive pattern of behavior, he encourages her to make an appointment soon.

Photo Credit: CBS

Jordan reunites with his parents once Mrs. Bryant does the right thing and breaks things off with him. In the closing scene, Chunk and Bull take a walk down the courthouse steps and Chunk congratulates him on “winning the right way,” concluding the case in a way that seemed to put everyone on a good path moving forward. Bull takes the opportunity to push Chunk to articulate why he walked away from the NFL draft all those years ago and Chunk comes clean in a way that he was never able to with his biggest balcony person, his mother. When he turns it around on Bull, asking who Bull’s Number One Fan is/was, our tricky lead teases, “Isn’t it you?” and sweeps offscreen. Gotta give it to him, the man knows how to make an exit.

Bull airs Tuesday nights at 9pm PT/ET on CBS.

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