Thursday, August 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Trial & Error' - Josh Finds the Evidence that Will Win Lavinia's Case in 'A Change in the Team' & 'New Case, Old Murder'

NBC's Trial & Error - Episodes 2.05 "A Change in the Team" and 2.06 "New Case, Old Murder"

After Dwayne testifies on the prosecution's behalf and dismantles the timeline, Lavinia pressures Josh to fire him. Dwayne redeems himself when he stumbles on a big break in the case leading to a shocking confession. Josh agonizes over whether or not Lavinia may have done it. Unable to try Lavinia again for Edgar's murder, Josh takes a big swing by trying to open an old case.

In a surprising turn of events, Trial & Error decides to reveal the major answers to its season-long mysteries at the halfway point of the season. That's shocking. Lavinia's case comes to its conclusion with Josh being able to point to Amanda's confession in her suicide note as enough to exonerate Lavinia. And then, Josh gets the confirmation that Lavinia really did kill her husband and staged Amanda's death as a suicide in order to get away with it. As such, these episodes see a fantastic turn in Kristin Chenoweth's performance where she is really enjoying herself as this killer who has been able to get away with multiple murders. That brings a whole new energy to the show. It also proves that the show is changing up its formula this season. The first half of the season was all about that ambiguity of if Lavinia did this crime and if Josh could represent her in court. And now, the answers to those questions are revealed. Josh is able to figure out that his client is guilty based on the testimony given by the handwriting expert from earlier. Meanwhile, everyone else accepts that Lavinia is guilty after she's caught making a Jinx-style confession while wearing a hot mic. That's so ridiculous while also being a great spoof of that infamous moment with Robert Durst. Lavinia is so pleased with herself that she has gotten away with murder. She says it in the clearest terms imaginable. As such, there's no doubt that she's guilty. And yet, the show is still extending the story by showing that it's ultimately about the prosecutors not wanting to file charges and convict the most beloved woman in town. Carol Anne lost this case once. She can't bear the public embarrassment a second time - especially as she's running for District Attorney. And so, that leaves Josh in such a precarious situation where he is basically turning on his own client and thus becomes the latest target of her ire.

All of this is completely ridiculous too. "A Change in the Team" starts with Dwayne taking the stand in order to testify for the prosecution. He continues to work as both lead investigator for Josh and an officer for the East Peck police department. That has always presented itself as a conflict of interest. And yet, no one really cares about that. They are fine with it as long as it continues to be beneficial to them. For Josh, it affords him access to some of the evidence that the prosecution and police are trying to keep from him. For Carol Anne, she takes pride in being able to put a person on the stand who says that Lavinia is completely guilty of killing Edgar. Dwayne may be pressured into saying that. But it's enough to fuel much of the story. Lavinia is absolutely in the right to want Dwayne fired from her legal team. Of course, she makes a big spectacle out of it as well. She faints in the middle of the courtroom because she gets so worked up. That's what she wants people to remember not the damning testimony against her. She is very crafty in that way. As such, she's presenting a compelling argument to Josh while also ensuring that her release is imminent. Of course, it's sad and tragic to see Dwayne get fired by Josh. He is incredibly depressed in the aftermath as well. He sees Josh as his closest friend. And now, he figures that Josh doesn't want anything to do with him. Josh is eager to work with Dwayne on the next case. He still wants to be friends. He appreciates everything that he has done for him. And in the end, all it takes is Dwayne coming forward with new evidence that produces a new lead for Josh to follow up on.

Dwayne is able to prove that Amanda's alibi was a lie. She wasn't working at the bar during the gala. She was confronting Edgar because she falsely believed that she was pregnant. Sure, that leads to an amusing visual where Dwayne throws up whenever he sees someone else do it - which he has to do multiple times with this video. But it also forces the team to confront her into telling the truth. It's an absolutely hilarious moment when Dwayne proves that he's a shoot first, ask questions later type of officer. That moment takes everyone by complete surprise. Sure, it allows them entry into Amanda's apartment. They wouldn't have gotten in if Dwayne didn't just immediately shoot the door open. But that's also a running joke throughout that entire scene. They quickly discover that Amanda has seemingly committed suicide. Josh finds the note that will exonerate Lavinia. Meanwhile, Anne is too busy laughing uncontrollably while Dwayne is freaking out that he just killed someone and will have to report it. It's also crazy that Dwayne is an officer when the only way he knows how to remove bullets from his gun is to fire them. That leads to him once again destroying a crime scene. But again, everyone just assumes that this is a suicide. Plus, plenty of crazy things have happened in East Peck. All of this even leads to Lavinia being found not guilty by the judge for murder. That's completely ridiculous. It just means that moving forward she can't be tried again for killing her husband because of the double jeopardy rule. In actuality, the charges against her would have been dropped instead of a verdict needing to be rendered. That occurs mostly for the plot. But it's still a lot of fun seeing the team celebrate their second major victory only for Josh to immediately become sick the moment he realizes he allowed a murderer to walk free.

Josh always sees the best in people. He didn't want to become emotionally attached to his next client after he formed such a close bound with Larry last season. This town has changed him as a person. He is now being accepted as a citizen of East Peck. The town cheers him on for defending their most famous and beloved citizen. He even gets an award and the combination to the city from the mayor. Of course, that only serves as further proof of just how ridiculous this city can be. They don't have a key because it kept going missing while the lock is simply one digit long. Plus, the mayor is still in a coma. He won with the slogan: "he'll take it sitting down." That's completely outrageous while also being the reality of this town. These are all the things that Josh wanted. He is only able to celebrate for a moment. Then, it dawns on him that Lavinia is a murderer because the handwriting of the suicide note matches that of the thank you note that he gets from her. As such, he is haunted by everything she could possibly do next. It makes him violently sick. He doesn't know how to talk about it with anyone else. Dwayne and Anne are too interested in building a hook-up board detailing all of the evidence that Josh and Nina probably had sex. Of course, they didn't. They were going to because it was Nina's last night in town. The case was finished and there was no reason why she should continue looking into this story. And yet, the show easily explains why she's sticking around. Her producer says it may be beneficial to remain in East Peck because of the likelihood of a retrial thanks to the audio they got of Lavinia confessing. Sure, that doesn't make any sense when it's pointed out to everyone that the double jeopardy rule now applies to this situation. But it's also just convenient and ensures that Josh will continue acting awkwardly around women - especially when confronted about the hookup and baby boards currently in his office.

All of this mostly just fuels a change in the story to ensure that Josh can actually get Lavinia arrested for murder. In the M-Town audio, she says she has done it again. That could just be her referring to killing Edgar and Amanda. It doesn't have to be any more than that. And yet, the show has also revealed that Lavinia's life has been filled with tragedy and death. Her father committed suicide. Her mother died from cancer. Her beloved houseboy was run over on the driveway. And her brother was killed. That last death led to the conviction of Jesse Ray Beaumont for murder. Now, he has been an important character so far in that he says that there is a conspiracy working against him. Sure, most of the time he just seems like a crazy nut job who wants to just spin tall tales in order to distract everyone from the merits and facts of his case. He talks so much that people just forget what the original point was. That's his skillset. And yet, Josh believes that Jesse Ray is innocent in this case and that Lavinia actually killed her brother. He has no proof of that. It's just a lead he is willing to follow up even though it turns Lavinia against him. Sure, she is much more open now about being a killer. She is much more dangerous too. Now, she is more than comfortable being seen shooting arrows at the various people on the team. Dwayne actually gets struck while one just barely misses Josh. Things are only going to get more intense moving forward. Josh has successfully reopened this case. Of course, the show also contorts itself to once again feature Josh and Carol Anne facing off against each other. She sees this as her being able to win the case that almost destroyed her career the first time around. She sees it as the ticket to her election as District Attorney. But again, only time will tell if Josh can build an adequate case defending Jesse Ray and against Lavinia. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Change in the Team" was written by Patrick Kang & Michael Levin and directed by Jeffrey Blitz.
  • "New Case, Old Murder" was written by Melanie Boysaw & Nora Nolan and directed by Jeffrey Blitz.
  • There is a brief misdirection where it seems like Josh has found a new witness who was in the pool house and saw a man attack Edgar. She is able to confirm that it wasn't Lavinia. And yet, it's also clear that she's just after her 15 minutes of fame and repeats the same testimony that was present during the first season of M-Town. That proves that Josh doesn't always do a great job at fact checking his claims before putting people on the stand.
  • After Dwayne is fired, Anne is very much worried about her job. And yet, she states her concerns to Josh and Dwayne as if she is a part of a large staff. She is the only other employee in this business. She needs to hear a speech from Josh. But she also laments getting Josh in the holiday gift exchange while also not knowing who Josh received even though it should be really clear to her.
  • Lavinia starts becoming really forthcoming with information after everyone becomes aware that she's a killer. She just goes into detail about how she killed Edgar and then Amanda. She also knows that they can't use any of that information against her. Of course, she outlines it to the documentary crew which could be damaging if their presence was ever ultimately important to the outcome of these stories.
  • Jayma Mays' real-life husband Adam Campbell plays the veterinary/OB-GYN who takes pet confidentiality more seriously than his human patients. It's still such a ridiculous joke that this is the only place in town where woman can get pregnancy care. It offers some bitting commentary about the failings of the health care system. But it's also just a solid joke even though most of this scene is just confirming that Amanda thought she was pregnant.
  • The Jesse Ray case is only reopened in the first place because of the lack of DNA testing on the sperm collected at the crime. Moreover, that evidence has been stolen from the police files. As such, it's very suspicious. And yet, it also means a return visit from Thom Hinkle, who was likely the cause of the substance being present at the crime scene. But that's still enough to give Josh the win he needs to reopen the case.