American Crime Story – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dream Team”

FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dream Team”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by D.V. DeVincentis

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Run of His Life” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “100% Not Guilty” – click here
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After last episode’s finale, O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) is in the custody of the LAPD following his run with Al Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) in the infamous white Bronco, and Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) talking his old now suicidal friend down over the phone.
This episode begins with Robert and his children, as they go out for food on Father’s Day. What a day to be having in the midst of the looming trial. Here, we see Robert and his family given a table all due to his new found fame. The kids love it, of course. However, Robert’s not too keen on the eyes of others on him, nor his he happy his ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) tells the kids “Uncle Juice” is guilty of the crime of which he’s accused. “In this family being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous,” Robert explains to his children: “Fame is fleeting, its hollow.” What an ironic line, as we see nowadays where some of his children have ended up; as hollow celebrities, famous for nothing.

We watch the media spin a picture of O.J. from normal to shadowy, dark, signifying the “falling of an idol“. Meanwhile, Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is going ahead as planned, not concerned with media, rumours, or anything else. She gives a live press conference, as the Juice watches on in his jail cell and new county outfit. Things at her office seem lax, happy even. Nobody there is prepared with hindsight as we are, they don’t realize the road ahead is paved with good intentions, but it’s hard, rough road all the way.
Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) isn’t doing as well as Clark. He is frustrated and angry. Now we get a meeting between him and F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), as Shapiro gains what insight he can from the older of the two. They both watch coverage on the television, including a Larry King interview with Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), which takes potshots at Shapiro in particular and casts a dark gloom over the trial. Bailey’s suggestion? “Hire him.”
At the office, Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) has lunch with Marcia, as they discuss a few things together. Garcetti makes reference to the trial of Rodney King, something he certainly does not want to relive. I love all these real people being portrayed onscreen. We cut back to Dershowitz and a couple of his team meeting with Shapiro, who still has Bailey at his side as his aide and of course Kardashian. Everything isn’t exactly smooth with Dershowitz around, but he certainly gets things done. He refers to O.J. as similar to a Greek god in almost mythic stature, being a big name in sports and all. One of Dershowitz’s team brings up DNA evidence, and how it may come into play with this trial; as in they’ll try to keep any DNA out of the prosecution’s arsenal, hopefully casting doubt on the chain of evidence, et cetera. “No quarter,” says Dershowitz – everything is up to be attacked. In the Clark camp there is also lots of planning, shaping of strategy and so on. When it came to this case there certainly was an intense meeting of the minds re: lawyers.

Speaking of which, we find Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) with his wife Dale (Keesha Sharp). She instills a bit of fire in him, saying that while he doesn’t want to be involved in a big loss, which Johnnie says will happen, he’ll hate it even worse if someone else gets O.J. off. Johnnie knows this himself and now the seed is planted in his mind.
Cut over to Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) who sees the magazine cover with a “blacker” O.J. on it. Things are in upheaval. Everyone knows it’s “racially insensitive“, but more than that Johnnie is worried about the overall culture of the LAPD, as having an agenda when it comes to black people, males specifically. On the other side of that, Shapiro’s team starts to dig dirt on Dt. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale), who apparently hates black people.
Shapiro tells a journalist about the “systematic railroading” that Simpson is experiencing due to racist Fuhrman. He also hints at a conspiracy possibly; planted evidence and so on. This is a smart move on Shapiro’s part, but at the same time doesn’t that give up a bit of their strategy? If it doesn’t go on record as a quote directly from him, I suppose not. We’ll see how this media angle plays out.
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In jail, O.J. has a meeting with Bailey, Kardashian and Shapiro. On his part, O.J. has “dirt on his elbows” and isn’t really accustomed to the treatment he’s receiving, including the obvious infrequent showers. The team wants to get Johnnie, but Simpson has a problem: “You wanna make this a black thing. Well Im not blackIm O.J!”
Switch over to Johnnie. He receives a call from someone who’s obviously not O.J. and it really pisses him off, as the person on the other line laughs and says he’s guilty. Watching the journey of Cochran to where he’ll end up in the middle of the trial is a lot of fun, very intriguing. Also, there’s Kato Kaelin (Billy Magnussen) who finds himself caught in between celebrity’s double edges: women love him, men hate him.
Then there’s Darden. He ends up at the Clark team headquarters to give Marcia a heads up on the developing Fuhrman situation. To see Darden gravitating towards Clark, away from Cochran, it is sort of amazing. Because so many expect all black people to have just sided with Simpson, only that is terribly untrue, which should be obvious. But I love watching Darden and Cochran falling on opposite sides of the spectrum in the whole racial angle of the case. Well Marcia, she wants Darden on the case to really hammer the nail in Simpson’s coffin once the trial gets to a crucial point.
Kardashian and Jenner argue over the murder of Nicole. Kris is upset at her ex-husband for standing by O.J. especially when the evidence supposedly points to a different story. Although, that is something people can and will certainly debate. I’m still unsure, all these years later. It’s enjoyable to see it all play out dramatically. The writing in this series has been top notch so far.

The 9-11 tape is leaked of O.J. beating the hell out of his wife. Everyone on the face of American soil hears it, from the Clark team to people in the streets, in parking lots; everywhere. Marcia doesn’t want her case compromised, as witnesses and all sorts of people are on television, in the news. It is quickly turning into far more of a debacle than she’d ever anticipated.
In Shapiro’s office, he and Bailey sit together talking. The New Yorker piece concerning Fuhrman and the racism is out, which Bailey loves (those of you who know the case you’ll already know F. Lee is possibly the reason O.J. eventually got acquitted). There is lots of fallout. Marcia and the others are worried, seeing as how Shapiro and team are “trying to take down the LAPD“, making an entire other thing out of Simpson’s case.
Kardashian is reading The New Yorker’s article to Juice in prison. Simpson seems to be coming around to the entire race angle, but only after some prying from the two Roberts. And in an excellent transition, we’re back with Cochran in his office. He receives another call – will it truly be the one now? Next, we see Shapiro and Cochran meeting. Robert advises “I will remain lead counsel” and that looks to sit well initially Johnnie; for now. But Cochran also demands: “I need to believe him.”

The first of two final scenes from “The Dream Team” see Johnnie embrace O.J. in the small room where they meet. It’s emotional for Simpson. He tells the lawyer – “I loved Nicole more than you can possibly imagine.” The tears and the sobbing, it all rings true. At least the way Gooding acts it, anyways. Truly, though, it looks as if he is innocent. Johnnie assures that if O.J. doesn’t have all the strength required for their path, then “you can have some of mine.” He promises Juice a hung jury, and that he’ll get to go home.
The very last scene, Marcia sits outside her house smoking and sees a headline concerning Cochran, The Dream Team, and essentially the hard work ahead of her in this case. Nice little quiet ending, which begins to pit the two massive teams of lawyers against one another, ready to do battle.

Next episode is “100% Not Guilty” and I’m excited to see what happens next. Lots of fun writing, amazing performances. Can’t wait to see more new characters brought in and watch the ones already around develop.

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