'The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story' Recap: Getting Defensive

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Warning: This recap for “The Dream Team” episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story contains spoilers.

As someone who rarely gets into legal trouble for which I am found innocent, I have a legal question for you: How many lawyers is enough? Most people will tell you that you should have at least one lawyer representing you in a trial, but still others might be more comfortable with two lawyers. Certain films and TV shows might portray upwards of three lawyers working to defend their client, and that’s three times as many lawyers as just having one lawyer. (I’ll check my math later.) So what’s to stop us from keeping the lawyer train rolling and just hiring, four, five, six, heck, a gross of lawyers? If I were to show up to my court date with upwards of seven thousand lawyers in tow, would that help or hurt my chances of being thrown into white collar prison again? A popular phrase is “quality over quantity” but a really good counterpoint would be “the more the merrier.” At least according to the legal strategies on display in “The Dream Team” episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, it would appear that the only way to get away with murder is to hire ALL THE LAWYERS.

The trial of O.J. Simpson was a lot of things to a lot of people, but one of its cutest aspects was how instructive it was to the layman about how the justice system works, and that its lawyers — not victims or potential killer — ended up being the stars of the show. “The Dream Team” delved wingtip-first into this subject by showing how exactly O.J. came to be represented by such a wild menagerie of powerful, expensive lawyers, and also it laid the groundwork for the controversial legal strategy that would eventually lead to his acquittal. Friends, this episode was riveting. Let’s talk about it!

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We began at Chin Chin, a restaurant in a Brentwood strip mall that people used to think was chic. Robert Kardashian was surrounded by four small children who were hungry for food and starving for something else…

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Yep, though the trial hadn’t even started, the Kardashian patriarch was already getting recognized by strangers and given the best tables at Chin Chin. And you better believe that Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob noticed.

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To his credit, Kardashian attempted to teach his kids that fame was “hollow” and “fleeting” and you could tell from their solemn reactions that they immediately accepted this truth and moved on from the subject forever.

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If we’re being real, Lil Kim here became the M.V.P. of Chin Chin when she just openly opined that O.J. was a murderer because no doy. And when her father looked astonished that she’d say such a thing, she just blamed Kris Jenner for telling her that. Man this show is great.

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Then Marcia Clark called a press conference to tell everyone that O.J. Simpson was going d-o-w-n DOWN for brutally murdering two people and that was a fact. Basically Marcia Clark ready to get WILD.

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Here’s Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey, the newest expensive lawyer to sign onto O.J.’s defense. I loved when Marcia Clark offered up a fun fact about him: Robert Shapiro had been Bailey’s lawyer in California’s longest-ever drunk driving trial. So if you were wondering if one of the major themes of this show (and of American society) is that there is a fraternal order of wealthy people who help each other avoid legal consequences for their crimes, then yes. In this case yes.

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I just liked Marcia’s outfit here. Also this was where they decided that the trial should be in downtown Los Angeles, and Gil Garcetti slightly fretted about the, uh, demographics of that area, but Marcia Clark was NOT fazed. Not in that outfit she wasn’t.

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Shapiro and Bailey caught an episode of Larry King Live in which legal scholar Alan Dershowitz blasted their case, so they decided the best way to shut him up was to hire him! His main contribution was he brought in a dude who was so much of an expert on DNA that he could successfully argue that DNA is easy to tamper with. So for those keeping track, including Robert Kardashian, there were now FOUR lawyers on O.J.’s defense team.

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Meanwhile Johnnie Cochran’s wife REALLY wanted him to be O.J.’s lawyer somehow, asserting that this was exactly the kind of racially charged spotlight under which Johnnie thrived. He half-heartedly waved off the idea, claiming that O.J. was gonna lose and he didn’t want to be part of it. But clearly his gears were turning.

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At this point Time’s infamous skin-darkened cover hit newsstands and discussions about systemic racism were becoming more charged and widespread. Even Christopher Darden picked up a copy of the Time and grimaced at how bad it was. (To be fair, we were shown a quick scene of the [white] graphic designers debating adding a “chiaroscuro” effect to Simpson’s mugshot and their intentions didn’t seem overtly racist. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t racist.)

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Another big discovery Robert Shapiro made was that Detective Mark Furhman, the one who’d discovered the bloody glove, among other pieces of evidence, was an actual piece of sh*t. He had a bad reputation among his colleagues for one, but the more pressing issue was that he’d once sued the LAPD for turning him into a racist with violent fantasies about harming black people. This was all Shapiro needed to know before bending the ear of a New Yorker journalist and declaring that the O.J. Simpson trial was all about race, and that the LAPD had framed him for racist reasons.

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I loved the part where O.J. objected to his being characterized as a black man when he is really just O.J. Simpson. It’s true that only in America could ethnicity have a more profound impact on casual biases than extreme wealth (our alleged favorite character trait). But let’s be real, if race was the subtext of this trial, then wealth was the TEXT. And nobody seemed very threatened or outraged by O.J.’s obvious advantages there.

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There was an weirdly sad and awkward moment when Johnnie Cochran was told that O.J. was on the phone and he seemed so excited, like he was about to receive the best call of his life. And it ended up being a prank call! I don’t know, just the sight of Johnnie Cochran getting prank called really bummed me out. He might be an outspoken defender of people who, uh, did it, but I didn’t need to see him get made a fool of. Poor Johnnie!

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Here was just the everyday reality Kato Kaelin now found himself in.

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He could barely take a sweaty shirtless jog anymore without getting flashed by passing bimbos! Unfortunately, he was not getting quite as much respect from himbos.

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Poor Kato! If anything, he is the real victim of this entire saga. This is Kato Kaelin’s opera and everyone else is just set dressing. Now run like the wind, you be-ponytailed flesh golem!

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Here’s when things started to get interesting between Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. And by interesting I mean the sexual tension began to SIZZLE, STEAM, AND BOIL.

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Basically he dropped in to say hi, and it came up in conversation that, huh, wouldn’t you know it, black people think O.J. is innocent. Marcia was obviously gobsmacked by this, but at least now she knew. Later she asked Darden to personally prosecute Malcolm Jamal-Warner for nearly driving O.J. to Mexico, but even later than that it became clear that she was going to need Darden by her side for even more important duties. Sexual duties, you ask? It’s only episode 3, pervs. Hold your horses! (Yes.)

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Then Robert Kardashian went to go see his kids and also complain to Kris Jenner that she’d been filling their minds with ludicrous ideas, like for example the idea that O.J. Simpson killed their good friend Nicole. And Kris Jenner was like, “But he did, dummy.” Their exchange made me (a) really like Kris Jenner, and (b) feel sad inside, because it brought up a disturbing aspect to this case that I can’t really get over. Except for Kris, everyone seems to actively misremember that Nicole was their FRIEND. Where is their undying loyalty toward HER? Beyond even her murder, they knew that O.J. had been beating her up. In fact, in this episode the news began airing actual 911 tapes from when O.J. had broken in and shouted at her, and she seemed confident he was going to beat her up again. It’s honestly maddening, and that’s why it feels good to have someone like Kris Jenner hold her ground here. You tell ‘em, lady!

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After the New Yorker article came out, everyone now knew what was happening: This case was about race and probably only race. Which was why Shapiro was finally able to get O.J. Simpson’s permission to hire Johnnie Cochran as another teammate (under the condition that Shapiro was still the lead attorney). Cochran was pretty much very down, but like Shapiro he wanted a face to face with O.J. so he could verify whether or not O.J. believed himself to be innocent or not.

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And genuine or not, O.J.’s wettest tears came flooding out. This was all Johnnie Cochran needed to see.

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Not only was he on the case, he was already angling to become O.J.’s best friend and confidante. The man works quickly!

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We ended with Marcia Clark tucking in her children (while trying not to wake them with the sounds of her crispy perm) and then retiring to the backyard for a smoke and the early edition. Right there on the front page it let her know what she was now dealing with: Johnnie Cochran was in the fight. And Marcia Clark reacted the best and most perfect way possible:

“MOTHERF***ER.”

But it was not bleeped, no not even a little! FX just straight-up aired the MF-bomb like it was HBO or something. But coming from Marcia Clark (and Sarah Paulson!) the word sounded like a chorus of angels crying golden tears in heaven. Man was it hilarious.

“The Dream Team” was a welcome return from the madness of the Bronco chase to the more reasoned and fascinating legal maneuvering this case became famous for. While I know this series will continue to be a painful but necessary examination of race in modern America, the simple logistics of how O.J.’s team assembled and how they came to develop their strategies remain captivating. I still don’t know the proper number of lawyers an accused killer should have (a thousand thousand?), but on this show lawyers = DRAMA, and I could watch it unfold all day.

What did YOU think of “The Dream Team”?

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX