Dissension among the ranks! The Tuesday, February 23, episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story found O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in the hands of a team of lawyers who were being steered in a new direction by their latest addition, Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance). While they got to work on a defense, they started looking for a jury and so, too, did the prosecution. As it turned out, the defense team itself had plenty of drama to go around.
All Work and No Play Makes O.J. a Mad Boy
The episode opened on a club scene. O.J. was seen dancing and railing many, many lines of cocaine. His friends, including Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer), were seen around him, dancing with women, eating good food and having fun.
Then it became apparent that it was all just a flashback. O.J. stood up and flipped the only item in his cell that wasn’t nailed down as his real circumstances and ever-present temper came back to him.
His friends weren’t out having fun either, however. The next scene showed them all gathered in an office, preparing his defense. It pays to be friends with a bunch of lawyers!
Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) started the session off with a bang, saying, “First question: Who thinks O.J. did it?”
Johnnie jumped in from there, explaining that while it was mostly good news that the jury would be pulled from the downtown area — because that region was primarily made up of black people, and O.J. was a hero in the community — black women might pose a problem.
“They don’t like their men marrying white girls,” he said, referring to Nicole Brown, the ex-wife of O.J. who had been found murdered, prompting his arrest and subsequent murder charges.
Prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) showed up to court looking like she, too, was all work and no play, but Johnnie proved immediately that she had finally met her match. She wanted 100 hairs from O.J. for evidence, and he fought her so hard that a separate hearing was set up just to discuss the hair.
Absolutely, 100 Percent Not … Positive
After showing Marcia what he was made of, Johnnie went to visit O.J. in jail, telling him he had to stay strong if he wanted to change the minds of the jury and the public. To get him to be the man he knew he could be, Johnnie told O.J. how much he had inspired him when he was a football player who didn’t allow any obstacles to get in his way.
“You are O.J. Simpson, and you are an inspiration,” his lawyer told him.
“I am!” said O.J. “I’m an inspiration.”
When the plea hearing began, O.J. stood attentively, then pleaded, “Absolutely 100 percent not guilty.”
The lawyers gave him a thumbs-up, but later, at a secret dinner, Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) discussed Shapiro’s conviction that the case was “unwinnable.”
Once Lee asked about the money he was expecting for his defense, Shapiro switched gears again, saying, “I like this case for you!” and assuring him that no matter the outcome, being associated with the case would put Lee back in the limelight again.
Her Life’s an Open Book
Faye Resnick (Connie Britton) — friend to Nicole and Kris Jenner (Selma Blair), who had once been married to Kardashian — was seen in an office setting, talking about her deceased friend.
“Nicole was my everything, you know? She was my confidant, my spiritual sister,” Faye said, then claiming that after going to a psychic, she learned that Nicole “wanted” her to write a book, though not one that would be exploitative.
The publisher agreed that a book was a good idea, but warned Faye that the window to get the manuscript to print was only two weeks. She got to work rattling off things about Nicole right then and there, calling her a good mother who enjoyed clubbing, eating, Starbucks and … cocaine.
Obviously on a lot of coke herself, Faye continued to talk about Nicole at the editor’s insistence, discussing her friend’s breast implants and sexual proclivities rapidly.
The prosecution had their own version of a tell-all too; they’d been busy collecting information and evidence and had established a timeline, thanks to the work of Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown). It was no juicy book about Nicole, but it was something to work with while trying to solve her murder.
The family of Ron Goldman, the other person who was found dead at the crime scene, visited Marcia. His father sobbed and screamed in her office, proving to be an open book himself by expressing anger over not only his child’s violent death, but his representation in the media. Marcia grabbed his hand, promising to “get” the killer.
She’s a Triflin’ Friend Indeed
After her encounter with Ron’s family, Marcia was pulling for the death penalty because jurors selected for that type of trial would be even harsher. Her colleagues were quick to remind her that O.J. was an American legend and no one would ever vote for his execution. To put it in perspective, they said that even Charles Manson didn’t get the death penalty.
They moved on to discussing jury selection. Marcia brought up wanting a jury of black women, saying they’d be sympathetic to Nicole because they would be more likely to be familiar with patterns of domestic abuse.
While watching a focus group conducted by a jury selection expert, Marcia and her colleagues were confronted by the reality of how pervasive the idea was that a hero like O.J. couldn’t have killed anyone. The members of the focus group went so far as to turn on Marcia, calling her a shifty bitch.
The jury expert told her not to put black women on the jury. The experts hired by the defense, however, encouraged them to put black women on because their focus group found that they considered O.J. masculine, handsome and charming. Meanwhile, they had no sympathy for Nicole, calling her a gold digger.
Kardashian, who had been her friend, was horrified, insisting she wasn’t a gold digger. Back at the publishing house, Faye echoed his sentiments, claiming that Nicole had loved O.J.
Let the Games Begin!
At jury selection, the crowds were incredible, and more than 900 people were in the running to be named to the jury. The defense and prosecution were letting them go left and right. Johnnie wondered aloud whether too many potential jurors of color were being dismissed, and Shapiro offered to tell the press.
Johnnie shot that down, saying that the white Shapiro shouldn’t speak on the suspected racism. Shapiro shot back that he was lead attorney, so he would host the press conference. As he did that, Johnnie demonstrated his power by getting a shoe shine and letting reporters come to him.
After the suspected racism made the front page, Marcia brought Chris aboard the main prosecuting team after it was suggested to her that it would be beneficial to have a black lawyer on their side. (Ultimately, the jury ended up with a large amount of people of color, especially women.)
Then they had even bigger problems, believe it or not: Faye’s book came out, complicating the trial further. Jury selection was temporarily suspended, and prosecutors and defense attorneys got to work reading the book, which immediately become a New York Times bestseller and got Faye on-air with Larry King, where she claimed she “told Nicole’s story so women can break the chain of violence.”
The tensions between Shapiro and Johnnie continued to mount, prompting Lee to appear on Larry King to claim that the tensions didn’t exist at all, in spite of media reports to the contrary. Back in real life, Johnnie found a witness, while Shapiro did what everyone had suspected he would do and encouraged O.J. to plead guilty to manslaughter. Suddenly, everyone on the dream team was taking orders only from Johnnie.
Johnnie wasn’t the only one who wanted Shapiro off the case, either. Shapiro's wife was horrified that he would defend a man everyone thought was guilty. She was upset none of her friends would talk to her anymore because she was affiliated with O.J.’s defense. Shapiro’s time leading the dream team looked to be dwindling, especially after Kardashian stepped in and asked O.J. to make Johnnie lead attorney. He obliged.
Their confidence in the new leadership only lasted until they walked into the courtroom and saw Chris.
“Where did they get a black guy?!” whispered O.J.
Tell Us: Are you surprised by the effect Faye’s book had?
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs on FX Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST.
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