E: This week, the writers mucked with the narrative structure of the episode, with mostly positive results. It was intellectually fascinating, it was dramatic – but after several weeks off, after that kiss, I know I’m not the only one dying for more personal story than we got here. Maybe it’s that I don’t like change. Or that the jury included too many characters I didn’t care about. I guess I have to grudgingly respect a show for making me wait for the juicy personal interactions, though. And it’s probably a very smart thing to take the heat off Will and Alicia, least the world be consumed in a whirling cataclysm of their hotness. (Sorry, sorry.) But no misleading, intriguing promo for next week? Cruel! How long must we wait for any sort of new episodes? Grrrrr.
Doubt is the name of the episode, all right. We open in a jury room, with lots of overlapping dialogue of a gender balanced group of twelve whose names we never know, stabbing about in the dark looking for the closest approximation to truth they can find. They practically explode into the room, angry and frustrated and oddly – is it odd? it seems odd in retrospect – quite comfortable with each other. They’re pretty cynical about Saint Alicia’s presence on the bench, in a case where a woman is accused of a sexually fuel crime. We flash back and forth between the trial and the jury room, and of course, have moments involving the lawyers of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner. And we flicker back and forth in time – it’s pretty sophisticated, actually. Everyone is plagued by doubt – the jury is locked 6 to 6.
The case is this: Bianca Price, a lovely, impassive college student, stands accused of killing her sorority sister after a drug fueled threesome. Oh, charming. (I’m sure this episode is inspired by the junior year abroad murder of Meredith Kercher, allegedly by Angel Faced Killer Amanda Knox. ) There are pictures of the defendant covered with blood, standing next to the murder weapon, a gun Bianca’s mother gave her for protection. Note to mothers everywhere; do not send your kids to college with fire arms!
The women on the jury believe Price is guilty; the men don’t. (This seems true on the bench as well; Alicia is atypically distant, while Will puts his hands on her shoulders, and Cary looks deeply into her eyes to affirm his belief in her innocence.) This leads to a lot of accusations of sexism; men don’t believe a pretty girl could do wrong, women are quicker to suspect her. The men, on the other hand, don’t like the pretty boy cop, James Carpinello’s Detective Burton, the one who has the hots for Kalinda. (Who was the woman who walked in and threw him off his testimony, they wonder. Hee.) The guys don’t trust a man with stubble, hair product and an earring. The women think it’s outrageous to hold it against him that he looks like the hot guy from a 90s boy band. (Fine. They didn’t say that. I did. True, though, and that’s why the men are dismissing him. Well, that and the fact that Will pulls a dirty trick to try to make the jury think Burton planted evidence, a dubious tactic which will come back to bite him later.)
Back at the office, Diane tells Will she’s having an interview with Mother Jones. How’s the Price trial going, she wants to know? More women on the jury than I’d like, is the reply. (Heh. ) And I’m interviewing new ballistics experts because the people we got this case from had a lousy one. A ballistics expert, Diane inquires? Yes, Diane, it’s your mustachioed Marlboro Man. Now, breathe. She can’t concentrate on her interview (“choice? What was I going to say about that?”) till she flirts with Gary Cole’s Kurt McVeigh a little; they trade Sarah Palin barbs, and she sashays back into her office too jazzed to wipe the satisfied smirk off her face. Oh, Diane. I hope the reporter is blind. Or way more interested in politics than in personal politics.
McVeigh has arrived to tell Will he’s reviewed the evidence and won’t take the case. He believes – but we don’t hear why – that the forensics points to Bianca’s guilt. Oh. That’s ucky. I really don’t want to believe that. Kalinda figures out that the bloody crime scene photo must be still shots from a cell phone video, and sets off to get the full tape. When Will asks her to cross-examine Bianca (since it looks like they’ll have to put her on the stand) Alicia asks for Cary to do it instead. They’ve bonded, she says. Will seems unmoved. “Fifteen years of doing this, and I still don’t know who’s guilty,” he says. “Everyone’s a mystery from the outside.” Alicia agrees. And – perfect segue – “we still haven’t had that dinner,” he says. “I know,” says Alicia. “Are you worried about Peter?” “I’m worried about everything.” “I’m not,” says Will. Hmm. Really? Is that a good attitude or a bad one?
Back in the jury room, we hear one of the women say “I don’t want to marry him, I just believe him.” The him in question is Bianca’s so-called boyfriend Josh, with whom she and murder victim Heather had the threesome. This leads to some true hilarity: should I use the real words, your honor? Not in my courtroom you won’t, David Paymer’s Judge Richard Cuesta sniffs indignantly; “you say “fluff” and Judy, delicate flower that she is, will record it correctly. Won’t you, Judy?” Judy will. Hee. Josh – loathsome and patronizing along the lines of the guy Elle Woods follows to Harvard Law – claims to have been approached by Heather to give Bianca her first three-way. Want to fluff us and try Tiger Woods’ favorite Zolpidim? (Thanks – I’d be doing a good job avoiding the gory details of that nastiness until now.) “Fluff yeah I do!” Paymer is dryly brilliant here – “You’ll have to use your words,” he says to the inarticulate witness, as if Josh were a toddler (which, mentally? yes) . “Oh, the joy my life is” Josh, Heather and Bianca fluff; then everyone gets dressed, Josh goes downstairs, and runs back up when he hears the gun shot. Alicia crosses; Bianca is considered your girlfriend because you had two dates, she says. Which really means you had sex twice. Could she really have been so attached to you that she’d kill someone to keep your attention exclusively on her? She brings up the nasty side effects of zolpidim, which has its main use as a sleep drug; hallucinations and memory loss, and implies (without much effect on the jury) that Josh’s memory of the incident is faulty.
Kalinda is having more success on the cell phone video. She finds the girl who took into, and gets her to admit she hasn’t shown it because the murder was basically captured in the midst of a rather sad attempt at sexting. Turns out it’s not so easy to undress yourself with one hand while holding your phone in the other. Anyway, we find out from the video that Josh went upstairs before the gun shot (though just barely) and suddenly had a jacket on once the sexter got up the stairs herself. And he’s talking to some guy who might be a coach. So Kalinda takes herself off to the gym and gets the staff to show her the man’s locker. Wait, you’re not the police? You’re not a lawyer? Then who are you? “I’m Kalinda.” Oh yes you are, baby! Gosh, she’s so awesome. She gets the guy to open up the locker despite having no real reason to do so other than her overwhelming coolness and intimidation factor. And the locker is full of wallets and laptops.
Kalinda shows off her finds back at the office. “What’s going on,” she asks Alicia. “Why doesn’t he look at you anymore?” Alicia denies it. Good luck with that, honey – and better luck with the new ballistics expert, who is a walking disaster of clumsiness. He can’t even figure out how to get his own laser pointer working on the stand. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel bad for everyone. The prosecution expert, on the other hand, is young and handsome rather than middle-aged, bald and sweaty. He’s also clear, concise and precise. The jury is baffled. And they wonder why there isn’t more physical evidence. Why no dna? Why only gunshot residue? Could that have been transferred from the defendant touching the victim? Someone thinks she saw that on CSI once.
Diane drops by the court so she can accidentally run into one Mr. Kurt McVeigh. He asks her to dinner at his hotel. Despite her reservations (we see her watching that hilarious clip of Palin yelling about how we need a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor leading the country – because clearly knowing the laws of our country would be bad, bad thing) she goes. They flirt. They like each other, but this is a disaster. He’s silent, and she talks nervously. You don’t have to talk like that, he says. You’re out of luck, because this is the way I talk, she replies. Your silence is selfish – you make everyone else carry the conversation. He kisses her. She’s utterly smitten, but she knows it’s a disaster. She tries to get him to reverse his pro-life stance as if only an idiot would hold it (which, come on, you’re kidding yourself if you think he’s only pretending to be conservative to pique your attention, just because you like him and don’t want him to really be conservative). Then she gives a grand exit – she tells him that no matter how much she wants to stay, “three generations of Democratic ancestors are screaming in protest.” That many, he says? She slinks back and kisses him. That was not a very convincing no, Diane.
A search of Josh’s room turns up the jacket he put on in the crime scene – and more wallets and laptops that Josh has helped filch from around campus. Gross. And the jacket has gunshot residue on it. And the victim’s blood. But somehow, Detective Burton – who fixates on Kalinda like a dog in heat – thinks Josh hid it because he was afraid of having the thefts discovered. What? (Honestly, if he was really wondering about that, would he still be stealing stuff while he was the witness in a murder case? Class A idiot.) The police are convinced this is irrelevant. What? This guy is a moron.
Cary attempts to calm Bianca down. No one from school visits her, she says. I can’t imagine spending 45 years in prison. Would you visit me? Yes, he says. This is sweet. Is it true? People really are a mystery from the outside. Does he really believe in her, with his Peace Corps idealism, or is he just guy playing a hot young girl? This isn’t a side of Cary we get to see often, which is interesting. Even his tone of voice is different.
Similarly hard to read; Will’s call to Alicia, where he tells her that Kalinda’s evidence hasn’t panned out (I still don’t understand that) and that they’ll need to put Bianca on the stand. The late night discussion soon meanders to their personal quandary. “We’re in a weird place, ” Will acknowledges. “I don’t like being in a weird place.” “Neither do I.” “When I look at you, during the day, I want to know what you’re thinking.” Will, we all want to know what she’s thinking. That’s such a part of Alicia’s appeal as a character, don’t you think? “Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m thinking,” she replies wearily, warmly. And then she brings up their mysterious past. If things had happened between them at Georgetown, rather than with her and Peter, it would have lasted a week. He disagrees. “It’s romantic because it didn’t happen,” she says, and is overheard by Grace, who is skulking in the laundry room. Which, huh? If it was the bathroom, that’d make sense. Who hangs out in the laundry room in the middle of the night? Fancy a snuggle with a clothes dryer? I don’t get it. Anyhow, the conversation fits most of the negative thinking about Will; he’s a player, he’s only in it for the hunt. I’m not sure that’s fair; it might be, yes, but we have to admit as well that she’s looking for reasons she can’t be with him. She does not want to finish breaking her family – and she doesn’t want it to be her fault.
I have no idea how Grace will take this. I think she’s more likely to confront Alicia than Zach would have been, and I’d be so interested to hear that conversation. And what she overheard wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the commercials lead me to fear. I just hope she doesn’t tell Zach, who’d tell poison tweeting Becca and possibly even Peter. Yuck. Either way, it was a brilliant conversation brilliantly acted, and the twist of Grace eavesdropping adds enormous tension.
Suddenly we’re back out at McVeigh’s lab. Somehow, the introduction of the jacket has allowed him to figure out what happened. Which was that Heather was helping lowlife Josh rob his own girlfriend’s room. (Which, huh? Wouldn’t he have more opportunity to do it himself? Or maybe he didn’t want to count on their three date relationship as giving him continued access?) AND while she was feeling around in a drawer for something to steal, she set off the hair-trigger of Bianca’s gun and shot herself in the stomach. The gun ricochets out and lands on the jacket, though of course its later moved by Josh; somehow, Kurt can tell this from the spatter pattern. Yes! I don’t know, maybe this make me an atypical woman, but I don’t tend to assume pretty young girls kill people. Unless they’re like Becca, I suppose.
Don’t get too excited, Will warns everyone. We’ve already put a different ballistics expert on the stand with a different theory of the crime. The jury won’t believe us. (Got that in one, Will.) But it’s true, wails Cary. But does it sound true, Will wonders? There’s a brilliant bit in one of Madeleine L’Engle’s memoirs where she discusses that; an editor rejects a plot point in one of her books as sounding fake. But that really happened, she exclaimed, outraged – it’s true. But it doesn’t sound true, he counters, and it won’t be true for readers. It’s not a good story, Will goes on. Sex and revenge is a good story. Accident with no bad guy is not. I suppose this is all part and parcel of our crew having to play catch up with another firm’s case; they didn’t have long enough to figure out their defense beforehand, and now they’re faced with putting contrary (but actually correct) information into evidence which conflicts with their former suppositions. We have to go with the truth, Cary voices, letting his idealist flag fly. The truth is always better. Hmm. Alicia and Will aren’t exactly living on that plantation, are they?
So we get Kurt on the stand, and the prosecution takes a page out Will’s playbook. Did you initially refuse this case because you thought the defendant was guilty? Yes. Did you go to dinner with a partner at S,L &G in a hotel frequented by lawyers? Did she come to your room after dinner? Did you sleep with her? Yes, yes and yes. (Woah! What would your Democratic ancestors say about that, Diane?) Then how can we trust your change of heart? The judge won’t make the jury disregard it. Don’t like the taste of your own medicine, Will? Too bad.
Will chews Diane out for not warning him. Oh, Will, whatever. Would that have made it any better? Sure, it looks bad, and the timing is lousy, but would that really have helped? Diane calls him a hypocrite. “You and Alicia, ” he says. “There’s nothing going on with Alicia.” He has to say it a few times before it’s really convincing. Actually, what was unconvincing was the time he took before answering. That was one guilty face, Mister. And no, there isn’t any sex going on with Alicia, it’s true, but there’s something going on, and I somehow doubt he wants to fill Diane in on any of the emotional complexities of that situation.
The prosecution offers Bianca a reduced sentence (10 years) if she’ll plead to second degree manslaughter. But you didn’t do it, says Cary. You can’t admit to something you didn’t do! But I’ll probably be dead in 45 years, the mother doesn’t say – but clearly means. Cary holds her hand, and Bianca listens to him – but Mrs. Price goes nuts. You’ll go back to work if she gets convicted, the desperate mother tells Cary, but what about us? You don’t have the same stake in the process. The offer is only good before the jury comes back.
The jury is more and more frustrated by the feeling that they don’t have enough evidence to make a good decision – or more like, that they can’t trust anything that they have. What is the truth? They don’t feel like they know, and that (not unreasonably) pisses them off. We don’t so much have reasonable doubt, says the guy currently at the head of the table, as unreasonable ignorance.
Kalinda and Alicia meet in the hallway – a verdict seems immanent, and Bianca wants to see them. Oh dear. The jurors are cheering the fact that they’ve finally come to a unanimous verdict when Judge Cuesta comes in to release them from their duty. Bianca has agreed to the plea. (I know innocent people do this, but it sucks.) “I hope it doesn’t diminish your enthusiasm for the judicial system,” he says, because you’ll all be back here in a year. They look completely defeated. And they were so enthusiastic to begin with, right? One of the men tosses out their written votes.
The verdict? All the shreds of paper in the trash can say not guilty. Oh, God. That’s kind of devastating. That poor girl. She’s innocent, and she’s going to spend 10 years in jail because her mother can’t toss the dice. Well, to be fair, I don’t know if I could toss the dice, either. And the mom was right about Cary – it’s easy for him to say, stick it out, but he goes home at the end of the day, and it isn’t like that for Bianca and Mrs. Price. It stings that she admitted to something she had no part in, though. That she was, in the end, a victim two or three times over. I think it was brave of the Kings to switch up the formula, and to have our team lose despite actually having the truth on their side. And it was probably smart to put the brakes on the Will/Alicia storyline. The court case is leaving me pretty sad, though, for everyone involved.
Should you be in the same state, here’s something to perk you up – an absolutely delicious interview with Josh Charles to tide you over til the new episodes, rich with character and backstage details.