No, the writers of FX’s “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story” did not have the audacity to complete exclude the all-star leads from this week’s episode.
They did, however, opt to devote considerable focus to a group of characters not heavily showcased in the previous seven episodes: the jury. The result is another engaging installment of one of television’s strongest active drama series.
Entitled “A Jury In Jail,” Tuesday’s episodes investigates the very real challenges that came with being a juror during the OJ Simpson trial.
In addition to being sequestered — and vigorously so — for an extended period of time, the jurors found themselves imprisoned by an extremely contentious circumstance.
The OJ Simpson murder trial was not simply a high-profile one; it was one that dealt directly with racial tensions. Not simply a talking point in the courtroom, race factored heavily into each side’s strategy. It specifically impacted jury selection.
A deliberate consequence of prosecution and defense strategy, the racial element compounded the already significant — and inevitable — stress facing the jurors. It heightened the already-daunting burden of being sequestered in a rigidly uncontrolled, uncomfortable environment.
Tuesday’s episode bounces around the chronology in order to showcase the very real tension that boiled at the jury’s hotel.
It also continues the ongoing timeline — that in which the prosecution was just dealt a crushing blow by the glove fitting and needs desperately to regain control of what once seemed like a slam dunk case.
“A Jury In Jail” airs Tuesday at 10PM ET. Here are nine things to expect:
Ross vs. Target:
You’ve surely encountered the “Chanel vs. Wal-Mart” meme. What about Ross Stores vs. Target? Tuesday’s “People v. OJ” views the department store debate through a racial looking glass.
OJ Loves “Seinfeld,” Cosmo Kramer
After showing the sequestered jurors debating whether to watch “Martin” or “Seinfeld” during their designated television time, Tuesday’s episode cuts to OJ referencing “The Face Painter” episode of “Seinfeld” while playing cards with Robert Kardashian and other friends.
Specifically, Simpson expresses glee over the storyline in which Kramer is forced to apologize to Barry the chimpanzee.
The two scenes make for an interesting juxtaposition. While there are some exceptions, juror preferences for “Martin” and “Seinfeld” are largely split along a racial line; the black jurors generally prefer “Martin,” while the white jury members generally prefer “Seinfeld.”
Given the racial tension surrounding the case and discourse concerning OJ Simpson’s socioeconomic positioning, there is relevance, therefore, in the fact that OJ is immediately shown confirming his love for “Seinfeld.”
One cannot explore the OJ jury without addressing the numerous dismissals that occurred throughout the case. Tuesday’s episode chronicles several of them with particular consideration for how they impacted strategy for the defense and prosecution.
One, similarly, cannot explore the OJ jury without addressing the infamous “jury revolt” that took place. Tuesday’s episode chronicles the tensions and internal struggles that ultimately fueled said revolt.
Shapiro, Man Of The Hour
Last week’s episode revealed Bob Shapiro as the mastermind behind the defense’s successful approach to the gloves. He opens this week’s episode in good standing with the entire Dream Team, including some who previously questioned his commitment to OJ’s case.
Tuesday’s episode features the introduction of DNA evidence, which the prosecution anticipates representing a nail in the proverbial coffin.
A message, however, is only as good as the messenger. In this case, the prosecution’s vulnerable criminology expert serves to make the entire DNA case vulnerable.
He struggles to communicate the findings in layman’s terms (though Marcia Clark works admirably to translate his message to a disengaged jury). He succumbs to defense attorney Barry Scheck’s powerful cross-examination. He then makes an egregious faux pas when stepping down from the stand.
The net result: the seemingly infallible DNA evidence becomes fallible.
Two Shades of Doubt
From a courtroom perspective, Team OJ does a great job of creating “reasonable doubt” during the DNA testimony.
For members of OJ’s friend circle — including legal team member Bob Kardashian — the testimony creates new doubt about his innocence.
While not presented in the most exciting, assured fashion, the DNA evidence is damning in its overall conclusion: statistically, it is almost impossible that OJ was not involved in the crime scene.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians
As Bob Kardashian wrestles with a burdensome emotional conflict — the increasing likelihood that OJ will be acquitted and his increasing suspicion that OJ is guilty — he seeks support from his ex-wife Kris. The Kardashian kids also make a brief appearance in the episode.
Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark may be bitter adversaries in the courtroom, but that does not mean they cannot civilly engage outside its walls.