Bull’s Deal Risks Revealing Everyone’s “Dirty Little Secrets”

We often think of Bull’s T.A.C. team as a well-run machine, every role fulfilled by a member best suited for it, all of it clicking away merrily with Bull directing their energies towards cases and clients of integrity, or at least of interest.

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

But, ultimately, T.A.C. is a family and families are messy. Throw in a new player who doesn’t buy into their raison d’etre (like attorney J.P. Nunnelly) who holds a secret debt over our bold leader’s head and life becomes interesting.

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

This episode begins on with a strangely ominous scene of a man watching the clock on his phone while in the bath, expecting an explosion and then submerging himself in some sort of cross between baptism and suicide before heading to work where he checks an account that rights itself substantially suddenly.

Cut to Bull apartment shopping. Apparently, he’s not as into wall-climbing as the one visit we’ve made to his residence led us to believe. He describes a distinctly rustic and un-“New York” sort of idea to his real estate agent and then takes a call from J.P. (I love how the writers for the show are able to reference Thoreau in one breath and Batman in the next.)

The call serves as exposition for the explosion which happened close to the T.A.C. offices. There’s a loaded moment of mood music as J.P. and Bull share serious contemplation of the state of the world. J.P. also uses it to lure Bull out for dinner where she throws her client’s file into his lap.

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

HepTex is the world largest computer cloud service and J.P. is defending them against the F.B.I. who want access to the servers to find the people they believe bombed the hotel. J.P. wants to fight for the individual’s right to privacy while Bull advises her to tell her client to give the F.B.I. access for the greater good.

J.P. rejects his advice and reminds him he owes her three cases. “You don’t get to pick the cases” she points out and orders him to meet her at her office the next day to confer with the HepTech C.E.O., Garrett Tilden (Peter Jacobsen, The Americans).

The dynamic between Bull and J.P. is central to this episode. It’s about power and Bull enjoys yanking her chain, duct-taping his mouth shut before the meeting with Tilden and his right hand man, Harry Kemp (Luke Kirby, Rectify) who, it turns out, is also our mystery bathtub man.

Photo Credit: CBS

The meeting reveals that HepTex had already handed over the servers but, because they were encrypted, the government wasn’t going to be able to access the information without the key. Bull perks up a little at the absurdity that these men feel that going to trial with the government is great publicity in the light of the tragedy that just happened.

Tilden is upfront with Bull and states that he wants to go to trial and defend his clients’ right to privacy. J.P. stand with him and sends Bull back to T.A.C. to let the team know they have been hired. He is greeted by a less-than-enthusiastic response and this is where the episode starts to feel like a very different show from the rest of the season. In fact, from this point in, Bull seems like a very different character from the man we’ve gotten to know.

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

He’s still calm, composed, and articulate but he’s a little off-balance without the team’s support. The team voices their concerns but Bull, er, “bulldozes” them and sets them on their assignments. Then Cable refuses her assignment for the case and heads home for the day and he loses his cool and threatens to fire her. (Really?)

Photo Credit: CBS

Despite their misgivings, the team pulls out the stops to work the case. Danny shadows bathtub guy, um, Harry and discovers he has late night meetings in an ultra-secure suite of an organization called The Foresight Foundry. (I found the music pretty heavy-handed again here. Not sure what’s going on with the show’s scoring but, honestly, they could pull back.)

Photo Credit: Global TV Canada

Benny calls in a favour from a buddy at Homeland Security to get a hold of the HepTex servers. Chunk is Danny’s master of disguise and equipment as she heads out again to figure out what Kemp is up to. Marissa is the glue that holds it all together, even getting Cable to step back in to help with the decrypting.

Photo Credit: CBS

Voir dire strategy and the courtroom case is very wordy and again pits Bull against J.P. in debating worldview and jury approach. Her speeches start to border on preachy when discussing the constitution and it really demonstrates how out of touch she can be when she asks,”What’s more personal that the Constitution? The Bill of Rights?” Bull, rightly and referencing the episode title, points out everyone has secrets and nowadays those secrets are stored on servers like HepTex.

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

After a cozy end-of-day taxi ride with J.P., Bull finds Marissa back at the T.A.C. office and peppers her with a variety of flippant questions about the lateness of the hour before realizing she’s working on the decrypted server. And this is another instance of the departing from the norm. Any other case, Bull would be the first person informed that the database was accessible. He’s out of the loop here.

He also spends a lot of time in this episode apologizing. Once to J.P. about expressing himself too passionately and then, more importantly, to Cable.  This scene with Cable is probably the most powerful of the episode (followed closely behind by the exchange with Marissa while she’s working the server. TBH, they will always be T.A.C.’s “Mom and Dad” in my mind.)

Photo Credit: Dave Russell/CBS

Cable is so compelling in her musing about whether the world needs the permanence of information that the Internet affords (like the fact Dr. Jason Bull, renowned hater of lawyers, failed the Bar Exam in Texas… twice) that Bull even steals her speech to jump-start J.P.’s closing statement. The jury finds HepTex not guilty and Bull calls the team off of their investigation of the HepTex servers. Taking J.P. back to the offices to celebrate they find the whole team gathered around the computer screen. Once again, Dr. Bull has no idea what’s going down on his own turf.

Photo Credit: CBS

The reveal is sort of absurd, and tragic, in the grand scheme of things. Bathtub Harry was in deep debt due to an addiction to “extreme betting” and sold information from the HepTex server to the people who set the bomb to get back in the black. It, unfortunately, reminded me of the 2001 comedy Rat Race which seriously undercut the gravitas of the moment.

The episode closes on another Bull and J.P. moment where he realizes that she lives in his ideal house with his ideal dog, pond and all. When he mutters,”You have no idea how much trouble you’re in” in J.P.’s direction, we are left feeling that either he’s going to commit murder over New York City real estate (joking!) or, far more likely. he’s looking to pursue something long-term with her (in order to secure his dream home). Either way, J.P. is embodying some hurricane-level winds of change in this corner of the world.

Bull returns on Sept. 26th on CBS.

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One Comment

  1. Love this….your take is spot on. I’m really hoping the differences in the end of S1 were due to creating JP and not some great change in the canon of the show to come in S2 thanks to the new show runner.

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