Television is so great. It takes us to worlds we never knew existed and drops us into situations we’ll never get to experience in real life. Of course, when Chunk asks Bull how seventy million people can watch a major video game final on the Internet, fill a stadium with screaming, costumed, over-caffeinated fans, have wider appeal than the World Series but have absolutely no other coverage in North America, a blue-haired fan girl accuses us of having our heads up our… er, butts.
The episode opens with Bull and Chunk taking in a historic and hugely controversial upset of Titanfall 2Â team finals where the seemingly unbeatable DV8, captained by the world’s #1 player, Jace Rundle (Omar Maskati, Better Call Saul), falls to challengers, Quadracon, a defeat Chunk likens to “the Patriots losing to Osh-Kosh High”.
Fast-forward three months later and Jace has been fired by team owner, Vin Gallico (Jayce Bartok, White Collar) who publicly accuses him of throwing the final which makes him a pariah in the league, unable to find a place on any other team. He files a defamation suit against Vin and the law firm he hires insists on bringing in Bull and the T.A.C. team despite the reservations of the lawyer handling the case, Abigail Walsh (Amy Rutberg, Daredevil).
As the team discusses the case, some interesting tidbits fall out of the banter. As they are representing Jace as the plaintiff in the case, they get to present first which is a nice change of pace according to Marissa (and I just gotta stop here and point out Geneva Carr’s incredible ability to make anything they dress her in look better than it deserves). Benny’s amazed that there could possibly be $20 million in esports for Jace to go after and she points out that it’s a multi-BILLION dollar industry. We also find out that Cable doesn’t play Titanfall 2, which shocks Danny. Enigmatically, Cable says that it’s just too addictive and won’t go into any more detail than that.
Bull has a heart-to-heart with the client over a game of (virtual) golf and they discuss the fatal final. Bull asks how he could lose if he didn’t throw the game and Jace blames it on being the worst day of his life. To Jace, the game and his team were the driving force of his life. Being blacklisted by the league on the lies of his former boss took it all away from him. The Bull diagnosis isn’t long in the offing. “For some people, winning is an addiction,” he tells the twenty-five-year-old,”it’s physiological, it’s in their blood. [And for others,] it’s psychological – it’s something they need.” Bull concludes, whatever is the case with Jace, him intentionally throwing the game is just not possible. And Jace lets him know that the mirror has gone both ways and he knows that Bull likes winning just as much as he does.
Jury selection is especially tricky this trip out. Having decided that the most favourable jury would be one made up of jurors who dislike their bosses, the proverbial wrench in this game is the “blind strikeÂ voir dire” wherein, to save time, counsels for both sides submit their list of strikes to the judge and the jury is thus created. There is a bit of a power struggle between Abigail and Bull on where the strikes should fall with Abigail vetoing his advice. Of course, Bull’s prediction holds true but he’s gracious in his victory when Jace would’ve ripped her for her caution.
Danny’s probes into the betting on the big final over a beer and a shuffleboard with an old F.B.I. contact, Rick Jarvis (Michael James Shaw, Roots) and discovers one of Jace’s team members bet a large amount against DV8 just before the match. Meanwhile, Chunk is meeting with each of the team members before they step up as character references and notes the deep connections the teammates still hold for each other despite Jace’s “excommunication” by Vin.
To tap into the “IKEA effect” – where people place a higher value on something they’ve put work into – Abigail has Jace instruct the jury (and judge) on how to create characters in and play Titanfall 2.Â The icy lawyer thaws a bit in this scene, showing a lighter, warmer side and Bull takes a breathtakingly personal risk by asking her out afterwards. Unfortunately, she’s frozen back over by that point and shuts him down, stating she doesn’t date “employees”.
Back at T.A.C. HQ, Chunk and Cable are introducing Benny to the joy of gaming… although he has an unfortunate tendency to block with his face. Cable’s mad skillz are evident and Chunk and Benny push her to explain why she quit playing. The big reveal: she was in a relationship with one of the game’s designers but he got so addicted to the game that she quit him and playing. After Benny walks away (having died again), her ex pops up on-screen and Chunk points out (nudge, nudge) that he would be a good resource to have on-board for the case.
When Yuna (Alexa Mansour, How To Get Away With Murder) perjures herself on the stand, setting the team back in terms of jury approval, Chunk schools Jace on trying to game the trial by asking Yuna to lie. It’s yet another example of how Chunk mentors others as easily as breathing. He’s basically a walking, talking, fashion-plate of a teaching metaphor. His lessons never fail to land and the clients always leave wiser for it.
It’s exhilarating to get hip-deep into some of Cable’s backstory finally. Reconnecting with Wes (David Rysdahl, Next Big Thing) after a year of being apart, she finds out he’s quit the game as well, claiming he only noticed her online when he was monitoring the game play in his role as developer. When she admits that she only reached out to him to ask him to look over Jace’s game play in the final, he’s genuinely happy to do her the favour. Later, after a slow moment of deliberation, she asks if he’d like to meet up with her again for a date, picking a day and time that coincides with the Titanfall 2 regional competition. When he actually shows, proving that he really does value her over his previous addiction, she doesn’t take much time to convince him that they can spend the evening doing something more interesting.
With their previous setback in the trial, Jace’s only chance is if T.A.C. can turn the pivotal jurors against the defendant, Jace’s ex-boss, Vin. Amusingly, it ends up hinging on his lucky rabbit’s foot keychain which flips the animal activist juror, Connie (Pennylynn White, Louie), to Jace’s side. Once that’s done, Vin makes an offer to settle out of court which Abigail wants to consider but Jace is unwillingly to accept (craves the win, y’know). And then the game-changer lands: Wes’ analysis of Jace’s game play in the finals reveals that he did not make deliberate errors, rather his errors appear to be the result of a neurological disorder.
With a diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson’s, Jace is guaranteed a win in court but it would mean the end of his gaming career once his illness is public knowledge. Seeking the best outcome for everyone, he and Bull approach Vin regarding his settlement offer. With a non-disclosure in place, Jace can reclaim his place on the team and Vin can save himself a costly loss at trial. Abigail doesn’t get an official win but scores a number of new, well-moneyed gamer clients which puts her in a sunny mood and apparently open to dinner plans with a cute, perceptive, jury specialist who is longer an employee of her firm. Looks like it’s a win all-round.
Bull airs Tuesday nights at 9pm PT/ET on CBS.
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