With Mark Fuhrman off the stand and Marcia Clark’s hair situation repaired, the seventh episode of The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story moved away from race and fashion a bit, and toward bloody gloves and unrequited office crushes. It was, to put it mildly, not a very good night for Christopher Darden. Or Marcia Clark, for that matter. And it was shaping up to be a rough go of it for Robert Shapiro too, until Travolta rose from the ashes like a tan phoenix at the end.
But we’ll get to that.
1) We’ve seen the prosecution’s overconfidence blow up in its face a few times, but knowing what we know and seeing where this was headed, watching Christopher Darden push all episode long to have O.J. try on the gloves was painful. As was hearing the line, “The gloves are our conviction.” I let out an audible “Oh no” when I heard that.
2) The primary implication here is that Cochran suckered Darden into the glove move, both in the moment with the little judo sidebar theatrics and as a result of the psychological warfare Cochran has been waging throughout the trial. The show has depicted their relationship up as a kind of little brother/big brother thing, and in that sense, Darden wanted the glove to be his big “I can do what you do” moment, even though they probably didn’t need it. The prosecution has been getting hit from all sides over the last few episodes, so you can see where the motivation for a potential slam-dunk moment came from, but talk about your all-time backfires.
On the other side of the court, the glove thing went over a little better. So well, in fact, that it mended fences between Cochran and Shapiro, at least momentarily. Evidence of this fence-mending can be seen in this GIF of the low-five they did under desk where Johnnie went for the shake and Shapiro went with the non-verbal “Nah, gimme some skin, my man. Real cool, daddio.” So weird. I love it. I choose to believe John Travolta does this all the time in real life, too.
3) The other implication, however, is that Darden had O.J. try on the glove over Marcia Clark’s explicit, repeated objections because he was so out-of-sorts after his failed boozy pass at her that he was either trying to impress her with a big dramatic moment or rebel against her for spurning his advances. This is really quite something.
The series has been playing up a potential office crush for a while now, with the late-night office dancing and a few little Jim-Pam stolen glances and such, but last night they had Darden straight up go for it in an extremely awkward moment outside Marcia’s hotel room. All of which brings up an important question: Did Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden really get this flirty with each other, or even hook up, or are the producers playing fast and loose with the love lives of two real people in a series about two other real people getting murdered? And the answer is… uh, maybe!
Vanity Fair dug into things a bit, noting that Clark said she and Darden were “closer than lovers,” and pulling this passage from Darden’s memoir…
Still, why not have a relationship with Marcia? She was attractive and I was impressed by her intelligence and toughness, intrigued by her vulnerability. We were working together as many as 15 or 16 hours a day, watching each other’s backs in court and commiserating over the media and other things that no one else understood.
… so, yeah. Maybe!
4) When you try to sleep with your coworker and get shot down and then lose the biggest trial in the world because you had a wild idea about a glove.
5) Up and down week for Johnnie, too. On one hand, his former wife and mistress went on a tabloid news program to tell the world he once led a double life with two families and was accused of domestic assault, causing his new wife to become furious that all of it became public due to his need for the spotlight, and resulting in him screaming the f-word into the heavens with such force that it appeared he was trying to shake rain from the clouds.
On the other hand, when the press tried to push the issue with him he was all, “This is misdirection and a travesty and a dereliction of your duty as journalists!” or whatever, and all the reporters were like “Yeah, true” as though they hadn’t spent dozens of breathless hours discussing Marcia Clark’s hair and wardrobe. Teflon, baby.
6) Another great moment for Sarah Paulson: When she was at the bar with Darden and his friends tearing the “The police framed O.J.” theory to shreds using a combination of logic and empty shot glasses. It’s so easy to toss out a conspiracy theory like that (see also, Colombian Necktie), but when you line up all the work and circumstances required to make it true, it really does sound ridiculous.
The scene also raises an interesting point: If she’s that good at ripping apart Cochran’s what-ifs while half-tipsy, should… should she have tried to recreate that level of inebriation at trial? She could have borrowed that Solo cup F. Lee Bailey was chugging from before flinging the N-word around last week. I’m just spitballing here.
7) Last week I complained that the series’ shift toward trial strategy had pushed John Travolta to the side. Luckily, it appears the television gods — Ryan Murphy and FX’s John Landgraf — heard me, because this was a big episode for Travolta. From his bickering with Johnnie and O.J. to his idea about the gloves (which he came to after wandering around the court during a recess and trying the replica gloves on himself, which you are apparently allowed to do?), to his pronunciation of the word “absolutely” when he was more or less accusing Robert Kardashian of helping O.J. get rid of the murder weapon. Just magical.
But the best Travolta moment of the episode, by a mile, was the strut he did when he was walking into court with that police pin on. May all of us have this kind of confidence entering a room just once in our lives.
8) Also a big week for David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, if only for his big doubt-riddled monologue to Al Cowlings. (Welcome back, A.C.!) Oh, Bobby. Oh, sweet, innocent Bobby. Oh, sweet, innocent, doe-eyed little fawn Bobby, prancing around the forest. You are just now — now — starting to have doubts about O.J.’s innocence? Oh my. If you look closely at his face during this speech, you can see his entire world starting to crumble, like a child who just figured out that there’s no way Santa can make it to all those houses in one night. I mean, he referred to The Juice as “O.J.” The man is hurting.
9) I wrote this up last night after the episode ended, but yes, Frogmen was a real NBC pilot starring O.J. Simpson. It was a kind of A-Team ripoff about beach bum former Navy SEALs solving crimes, and O.J. played a character named “Bullfrog” and it had one of the best taglines ever…
The show never saw the light of day because O.J. was arrested before it had a chance to air, which really makes me wish they had cast someone else, because it sounded kind of amazing.
10) Now that Robert Kardashian is deeply troubled and no longer calling O.J. “Juice” something like seven or eight times per episode, I think my favorite bit of recurring dialogue is O.J.’s use of football metaphors. “It’s the third quarter,” “Put me in, coach,” and so on. The best was still the one when he made Johnnie lead counsel a few weeks ago and yammered on and on about who was the quarterback and who was the running back and how the offense might need to focus on the ground game. I hope they throw the real history of the trial to the side and let him take the stand at some point just so he can convict a whole alibi out of football speak. Go big, I say.