FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 4: “100% Not Guilty”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dream Team” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Race Card” – click here
This episode starts with “Everybody Dance Now” playing, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr) lives a vastly different life than his present situation, partying, dancing, sniffing coke, his good friend Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) at his side.
But then we cut to the Juice flipping his meal tray over in jail, lamenting what once was, but clearly is no longer.
In the trenches, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) gets F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), and the whole team together. Although, he prefaces this by asking: “Who thinks O.J. did it?” Nobody is keen to say they do, so at least they’re on the same team. Johnnie brings his brand of law to the table, suggesting black males are on their side, but black women – they don’t like “their men marrying white women.” Either way, they want to get charging; head on.
Now we’re in court, as Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) brings up hair testing, to which Cochran slightly objects, challenging the prosecution on all fronts, at all times. Cochran manages to muddy things up by creating sub-hearings, this one on the subject of collecting O.J’s hair samples and how many will be given.
In his cell, Simpson receives Johnnie by himself. The Juice is obviously breaking down in prison. Johnnie reminds O.J. – “Remember who you are. These walls around you don‘t change that.” Cochran tells a story about his own career, how he hoped to “change things from the inside” and such. It’s definitely inspiring. Vance does an impressive job playing the larger-than-life character of Cochran. So here Johnnie gives up a story about how Juice was giving him strength, seeing him play football and playing hard. This gives O.J. at least a little bit of inner strength himself, the fires of which Johnnie stokes: “This, O.J. Simpson, is the run of your life.”
Now we’re introduced to the judge of the upcoming case: Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). His wife, Mrs. Ito (Carolyn Crotty) is a police officer. When signing a form, she hovers over the name of Fuhrman for a moment, unsure, unsteady. Ito and his wife have what seems to be a solid relationship, cheering one another on respectively. Here is another name, Judge Lance Ito, propelled to relative fame by this huge case.
In the courtroom, Ito arrives with everyone risen – Clark and her team on one side, The Dream Team on the other. The episode’s title comes directly from O.J. declaring his plea as “absolutely 100% not guilty.” However, at a restaurant on their own, Shapiro tells Bailey they need to keep Cochran under a watchful eye, as well as the fact he believes the case to be “unwinnable” and hopes to garner a deal because of Johnnie’s presence. A bit of friction here, though, as Bailey isn’t impressed with being pro bono.
In other news, Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) is trying to get a book deal in the works due to her relationship with Nicole Brown. She speaks highly of her deceased friend, but it’s obvious everyone is trying to get their 15 minutes out of the entire situation. She further goes on about Nicole’s breast implants, as well as other things which really don’t flatter Mrs. Brown-Simpson.
Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) is doing work alongside Detectives Van Atter (Michael McGrady) and Lange (Chris Bauer). In the meantime, Marcia meets with Kim (Jessica Blair Herman) and Fred Goldman (Joseph Siravo), the latter of which is especially upset about the treatment of Ronald Goldman, his own son – he’s simply been “a footnote” in the trial, a joke, as if he were asking to be killed. But Ronald was an honourable man according to Fred. The poor Goldmans are torn to pieces, obviously, which is not easy for Marcia to witness either. She tries to assure them: “We are gonna get him.” To which Fred replies: “You better.”
Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) wants to take out the death penalty. Except Marcia does not want that, she would rather take Simpson right to the end. O.J. simply is too famous, too loved: “We can‘t even execute Charlie Manson,” says Bill Hodgman (Christian Clemenson). When they start to check out focus groups, which prove to show us the racial divide, as well as the fact people think Marcia “seems like a bitch.” Lots of sexism towards Clark as the only female lawyer involved with the trial. She discusses this and other things with Darden later over drinks in the office. Christopher reminds Marcia that Johnnie is a showboater, but the real damn deal, so they should never underestimate his power.
On the other end, Kardashian is having trouble fitting in with his defense team. He doesn’t like that people see Nicole as a golddigger. His care for both parties in the relationship may prove to keep him down amongst The Dream Team.
Bailey and Cochran also have their own chat over drinks. Lee is not keen on settling, saying they ought not “settle like a pussy.” There are so many sides being played on The Dream Team right now, as everyone is angling in a different direction. Only now Bailey and Cochran may have aligned.
The lawyers all talk about how the trial is a spectacle, like a basketball game. Judge Ito kicks things off for the jury selection, which go regularly with questions about police, particularly the LAPD, whether or not prospective jurors have had encounters with police, good or bad, et cetera. The Dream Team feels things are headed towards a prejudice against black people. Furthermore, The Dream Team is starting to become divided slightly. Shapiro wants to do a press conference, which doesn’t sit well with the others, particularly Johnnie. But what Bob wants, Bob gets. The tension is mounting inside the defense already. Then Cochran has his own impromptu press conference while getting his shoes shined, because he is the real star of O.J’s legal team. The papers get printed with Johnnie on the front, no picture of Shapiro.
Gil now wants some flavour on their prosecution team; they need someone black, without him coming out and saying it. Marcia suggests Darden, stalling Gil in his tracks. That might be a good way to shake up Johnnie, as well as the others on the defense. But for now, Judge Ito has concerns – Faye Resnick’s book is out and may possibly damage the trial entirely. The teams set out to read the book, finding out what can affect their respective strategies. Simpson is not happy about the contents. All the while, Faye goes on Larry King Live, probably coked out, and pumps the television set full of bullshit.
Ito resumes jury selection. Although, Shapiro wants things suspended due to trial by media. Then there’s Bob talking for his whole team, no other opinions. But Johnnie jumps in to use his gift of gab, whereas Bob floundered in his own ego. The big conversation in Ito’s office concerns “playing the race card” and Johnnie states: “So be it.” The hateful relationship between Shapiro and Cochran has truly begun now.
Back to Larry King Live, Bailey is giving his own interview. He pretends to be on Shapiro’s side then gives up a load of soundbytes perfect for the media to use, taking Bob down in front of everyone. A clever, dastardly move.
The jury selection continues on with The Dream Team gladly accepting the jurors being presented. Over at the jail, Simpson receives good news from Kardashian and Cochran, as Shapiro shows up late; he has “possible options” to cut a deal. Nobody else is impressed at all. Clearly, Bob believes O.J. did it. This creates an incredibly awkward, viciously tense atmosphere. Bob gets completely passed over, as Kardashian starts to talk through the conversation they were having earlier. Now, Johnnie and the others are hoping to oust Shapiro for his foolish arrogance and egotism. At home, Bob’s wife wants him to quit, she doesn’t like what the case is doing to her life. And Bob makes it clear he wants to “put a lid on Johnnie Cochran” because he’s got issues with race himself.
Marcia offers the third chair position to Darden. He gladly, silently accepts.
Poor Juice is confused with everything going on, as Johnnie is in another league than him, or anyone else. Kardashian advises his good buddy that Johnnie ought to be lead on the case, but O.J. doesn’t enjoy conflict. Robert pushes hard to have the change made because it is going to affect Simpson’s life gravely.
At Shapiro’s office, Bob finds all the Simpson files gone. It is already quite clear, along with a New York Daily News front page, Shapiro is off The Dream Team. When Bob storms in on the meeting of the new reformed team, O.J. is on the phone with them and lets Shapiro know what the deal is: Johnnie’s on lead. In his own way, of course. Things start to move ahead with Bob merely riding in the sidecar.
In the courtroom it’s full steam ahead, as Johnnie takes the reins. But he is very surprised to see Darden sitting with Clark, also ready for war. The staredown begins and now the next episode will be spectacular after the trial falls into place.
Stay with me for the next episode, “The Race Card”, fellow fans.