Full disclosure: I’m not a lawyer and never had much interest in studying the law. However, I have watched a lot of courtroom television in my life probably starting with Night Court as a kid with my mother (she had a huge crush on John Larroquette) through pretty much every Law & Order iteration as well as Matlock, Ali McBeal, Franklin and Bash, Suits, and The Good Wife.
And with that extensive and varied education under my belt, I’m pretty sure not a single one of those shows would’ve dared pull the shenanigans that were pulled with impunity tonight in the interest of “justice” for a drowned fraternity pledge.
Again, as has become the norm this season, we watch the episode’s death scene first. Freshmen pledges are woken in the middle of the night to be forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and then swim across a lake. In the morning one boy, Sam Whalen (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Lights Out), is found dead, floating under the beer can-strewn dock.
Our dear, but flawed, Dr. Bull is in court on a case worth a quarter of a million dollars to his client (because money matters a lot these days) and as the court adjourns for the day, the judge asks him for a favour.
Again, not a lawyer, but this seems really sketchy. At very least, it give the appearance of impropriety even if, as Judge Abernathy (Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Kevin Can Wait) says, his favour will in no way affect her judgment in the case. His little mime dance on the way out of the courtroom seems to indicate he thinks it will.
Anyhoo, off he goes to meet with the ADA she would like him to consult for as a favour to her. When it turns out to be her son… Well, yeah, I’m going to sound like a broken record by the end of this recap.
ADA Abernathy (Tyrone Brown, The Affair) is less than enthusiastic about having the “human lie detector” on board but he’s desperate for something to gain a grip on this case. Still, when Bull advises him to charge all fifteen frat brothers with manslaughter when he has no evidence at all, you’d think some modicum of his law training would’ve kicked in.
The conspiracy of silence holds tight even after Bull has Abernathy grant immunity to Sam’s roommate who then proceeds to perjure himself so well that Judge Hanlon, played by the amaze-balls Susan Blommaert (Mr. Kaplan from The Blacklist, SQUEE) is fully prepared to dismiss it all as a shameful and colossal waste of time and money.
But despite being the only one to recognize the poison in the tree of this case, she then grants Bull a favour for some reason, allowing Sam’s mother (Deirdre Lovejoy, The Wire) to take the stand, for the sole apparent purpose of shaming the ringleader into the open.
By the way, I’m really not buying that fifteen boys who can stonewall their parents and lawyers, hold the line on an agreed-upon story for WEEKS, AND completely ignore and move around a grieving mother on the street trying to get answers will suddenly give away their guilt and their alpha in a completely concerted (and hugely obvious) stare-down.
And speaking of things I’m not buying.
One, Sam mother is appropriately distraught by her son’s death but her words at her first meeting with Bull despite being well-delivered, are so not in keeping with a woman coming to grips with her son’s unexplained death.
Two, Bull managing to turn a manslaughter conviction into a two year prison sentence. I don’t care what sort of favour business he’s in, it’s a blatant miscarriage of justice. And again, Sam’s mom taking THAT in stride is pure insanity on the script-writer’s part. The roommate is going to do ten years for perjury and the ringleader gets two for telling the truth? Pfft.
Three, that any lawyer would let his client take the stand to confess to reckless endangerment, manslaughter, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice without some sort of plea deal in place.
Also, wasn’t Chunk a fairly well-known football player? Isn’t it a bit odd to send him to a frat house undercover with a fake name to suss out the legal team?
Finally, all the lying that is necessary to get through this case! When did trial science become such a con? And I feel like lying to an officer of the court is a thing. Like a bad thing. But yeah, #NotALawyer.
So let’s talk about the not-case-related stuff that happened here because Lord knows there was very little to appreciate about the case.
It goes without saying that I love love love Marissa and her role as the executive function of the T.A.C. Hive brain has always inspired and entertained me. Geneva Carr has been an absolute joy to watch, expressive and sincere and often the silent star of scenes where her reactions are, in turns, hilarious and endearing. And I certainly don’t begrudge the character a personal life. How can I when she positively sparkles when she’s describing the “irresponsible night out” that makes her (gasp!) late to work.
What IS problematic is Bull’s shock and dismay at this. Once again, this is NOT the team that sails the winning seas with their clear-sighted captain. This version of T.A.C. seems to capsize regularly because their captain is steering with his ego.
It finally dawned on me this episode that some of the distance between the T.A.C. members comes from the fact Bull deals with them as adversaries and employees rather than comrades and friends. Cable only ever addresses him as “Doctor Bull” now and I don’t think we’ve seen them kick back together since before the Florida case in the first season’s finale.
For me, problems continue to persist this season in the characters and stories. This episode, in particular, bothered me with multiple legal issues (and a medical one but I’m not even going to bother). It seems that if you’re writing about trial science, you should at least get the trial part right. The wedge between Bull and Marissa breaks up the core of the show in a fundamental way which just isn’t worth it to milk a little pity for the lonely, left-behind leader. Just my opinion, as always, but it’s bothersome to me to be so rant-y about a show I raved about last year.
BullÂ airs Tuesday night on CBS at 9pm ET/PT.
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