FX’s American Crime Story
Season 1, Episode 8: “A Jury in Jail”
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by Joe Robert Cole
* For a review of the previous episode, “Conspiracy Theories” – click here
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Manna From Heaven” – click here
Only a couple more episodes left, as O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr), Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), and the rest of the various figures hurtle towards the trial’s finish.
This episode begins with the jury being chewed out for tardiness. The trial went from two months to eight months. Everyone in the jury’s a little pissed.
But wait, let’s skip back 8 months earlier. Everyone is happy to be on jury duty, away from home and on a sort-of-vacation. At least until they start to discover the rules of their jury duty for the trial of the century, or “The Superbowl” as one of them puts it. Not so fun anymore when the pool is “off limits” and when you can’t even skim a Reader’s Digest without it being approved.
Well Cochran and Bob Shapiro (John Travolta) are back together, laughing, toasting champagne. As Marcia and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) still aren’t too steady. And Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) is losing his god damn mind over the ill-fitting glove.
Over at the hotel with the jury, everyone’s arguing over what to watch. “What is a Seinfeld?” one of the women quips after Martin gets vetoed. Amazing to see the Martin versus Seinfeld showdown, more of the subtle racial angles within the writing of American Crime Story brings out.
Then we switch over to O.J. playing poker for Skittles in an interrogation room with a couple buddies, including Kardashian. What’s amazing is that O.J. is in the process of retelling a portion a Seinfeld episode, saying: “I‘m tellin‘ you they gotta give that Kramer his own show.” Never have we more evidently seen, directly in the writing and editing, an instance of where the perceived whiteness of Simpson comes out. Nicely written sequence all over.
What this episode gets into big time is how nobody, even just a little over 20 years ago, understood DNA. It frustrates Marcia, while providing fodder for jokes in Simpson’s camp. But when Clark has an expert break it down in layman’s terms, the jury, the defense, everybody in the court understands how damning this testimony is for O.J. Even Kardashian sees it, the look on his face almost ghostly. 1 in about 170-million; hard for Rob to get past.
Later, he and Simpson sit alone together talking of “the numbers” involved in the DNA found at the scene. Rob has a problem with Nicole’s blood being everywhere, disguising it as concerns of the jury. The faith of Kardashian is shaking in his old friend.
Simpson: “And this is them asking?”
Kardashian: “Yeah. This is them asking.”
More problems now; in the jury. One of the jurors was previously arrested for kidnapping, which Judge Lance Ito (Kenneth Choi). He plays it off saying “you know how ladies can get“, not worrying about Marcia’s presence in the room. Even with Cochran dancing his best dance, Ito dismisses the juror. At least now Marcia doesn’t have to put with even more sexism. For the moment.
In the jury room, some of the other black jurors worry about being dismissed because they’re black. So within all the racial things happening during the trial, within the jury itself, there is even a division between some of the black people who see things differently. So many perspectives, it’s mind boggling at times.
So on goes court with a new juror in place. The defense bring up questions about missing blood belonging to O.J. and there becomes a doubt; in the minds of the jurors, those looking on. It gives Simpson confidence, Rob pause, and Marcia a look of terror. All of a sudden their explanation on the DNA becomes near redundant. Even wilder is the fact the expert, when off the stand, shakes the hands of everyone – the prosecution, except Marcia who refuses, and then the defense. Uh oh. That ain’t good.
Back in her office, Marcia loses it and tosses the place a bit. All that pressure has got to be getting to her. Wouldn’t be human if she brushed it off without any worry.
More juror worries. A woman on the jury accused her husband of abuse, but lied about it.
F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) outright drops some highly sexist shit in front of Marcia, already bringing more of that nonsense on her. But again, a black juror is dismissed. Hmm. Even Judge Ito recognizes there’s some ridiculous racial foolishness happening behind the scenes. And this is what American Crime Story brings out beautifully, the things we know about after the fact but couldn’t see during the original trial. So many racial games, from jury to prosecution to defense.
Marcia and Johnnie have a head-to-head outside. She proves time and time again how tough her mettle is, despite any of the sexist bullshit she has to suffer.
Marcia: “Toughen up, Cochran. This is the smoker‘s lounge. Daycare‘s on the first floor.”
The problem jurors are being sussed out on the defense side. Meanwhile, the prosecution has their own ideas. And some of both sides clash. So now with Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” we’re getting the battle of the races amongst the jurors, the prosecution and defense going back and forth. Amazing little sequence, even before Queen kicks in. We see how what was on the surface of the trial was truly only scratching it, barely. All the games behind the scenes made things much more volatile. Even some of the jurors are upset about racial treatment, the divide in the room: “They treat us like we‘re second class,” one woman yells at the judge in his quarters.
Ultimately, Ito has to step in and stop all the madness after accusations against jurors and all kinds of things. He’s experiencing his own skewering in the media, from jurors to people on television.
Now we’re back to the beginning of the episode. The jurors’ guards are switched up, the environment in the lunch room is vastly different, everybody speculating on the mindset of others. A real mess. Then they refuse to come into court, which throws Ito into a furor threatening to have them all arrested. When they do come in, many of the jurors are dressed entirely in black. So Ito suspends testimony and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” plays loud, proud with jurors smiling proud.
Dominick Dunne: “It just gets curiouser and curiouser”
Cochran and Co. are all worried about what’s happening in the courtroom. Worst of all, Simpson is losing his mind. He wants on the stand, and definitely doesn’t want a mistrial. Bailey thinks it’s a good idea because “people love him“, Johnnie seems open to it, yet of course Shapiro resists at first. Bob is worried about Marcia cross-examining O.J. and so Cochran decides they’ll do a “rehearsal” for their client.
Over with the jury, one of the women goes absolutely nuts and tries to flee before the deputies catch her. She’s almost gone absolutely mental.
More alone time with Clark and Cochran. He brings her a coffee, the way she likes it apparently. Greasy, Johnnie; real greasy.
So the defense rustles up a Marcia lookalike. They have her press him with Clark-like questions he’ll encounter on the stand. Everyone watches O.J. do his thing, charming, joking a bit. Kardashian looks almost filled with fear. Bailey and Cochran aren’t sure of what to make of it. Shapiro’s not happy at all. It’s a whole new ballgame if they intend on putting him up there with the real Marcia.
Most of all, Kardashian’s taking things incredibly hard. He believes they might “get him off“, but it is clear he doesn’t believe fully in his friend’s guilt. His ex-wife Kris Jenner (Selma Blair) urges him to just get up and go. Kardashian admits, unfortunately, that would essentially convict Simpson if it happened, and it would all makers things worse for their family. An emotional scene. Schwimmer is awesome in the role, loving his performance.
But the finale is the most damning. Someone gets a call – it’s about Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale). And it is not good.
The next episode, penultimate season finisher “Manna From Heaven”, promises to be a whopper. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. Dig this series so much, it is all around 5-stars.