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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Trial & Error delivers a misguided dismissal while wondering if it will receive one itself

Illustration for article titled Trial & Error delivers a misguided dismissal while wondering if it will receive one itself
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When is a cliffhanger not a cliffhanger? When there’s barely enough time to take a breath between the end of one episode and the beginning of the next episode. It’s a problem that’s to be expected when you’re binge-watching a series on a streaming service, but when you’re forced to deal with it because a broadcast network is burning through episodes of a series two at a time just to get the season over and done with… Well, that’s just goddamned annoying.


Not that anyone here is suggesting that NBC is doing such a thing with Trial & Error, mind you. But, hey, if the condom fits…

When last we saw our favorite Peckers, Josh’s case had gone to shit as a result of Dwayne accidentally stumbling upon the rum hole—or hooch tube, if you prefer—in Lavinia’s pool house, thereby dramatically changing up the timeline and making it completely plausible that she would’ve had time to kill her husband. Indeed, it’s so plausible that when an obviously disconcerted Dwayne is forced by Carol Anne to take the stand, he ends up blurting out, “She killed him bad!” Whether he’s Josh’s buddy or not, it’s clear that there’s no way Josh can continue to have Dwayne on his team any longer, so he fires him, resulting in an emotional breakdown by Dwayne and a brief fit of depression by Josh, who immediately feels guilty about it. Still, Josh has no choice but to push through his guilt and continue moving forward on the case, which he does by trying to figure out if there’s anyone not named “Lavinia” who could possibly be responsible for Edgar’s death.

For a hot minute, it looked as though Josh had a solid lead, courtesy of a woman coming forth with a claim of seeing a man with “alabaster hair” getting into a scuffle with Edgar immediately prior to his death. Unfortunately, the woman turns out to be a diehard M-Town fan who’d wanted to secure 15 minutes of fame by making it onto the show’s second season. Oh, well, at least it made it feel a little more worthwhile to have the podcast as a subplot. (Plus, it added a bit more heft to the recurring joke about Josh never having gotten around to listening to the first season.)

Thankfully, the spectacular failure of Josh’s latest effort to clear Lavinia is soon forgotten, thanks to Dwayne’s dedication to the case—which, it must be said, is far more profound than Josh’s dedication to Dwayne—and a revelation from a thumb drive that Dwayne’s brought to the office. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Edgar’s assistant, Amanda, and I was right, although it now turns out that everyone’s seen the last of her, what with her being dead and all. Yes, not only has she committed suicide, but she’s left a suicide note in which she’s confessed to having killed Edgar, thereby clearing Lavinia.

Yeah, I didn’t buy it, either. Then again, I’m not from East Peck…or named Josh. But how can you argue against a plot twist that’s reached in a manner that allows Dwayne to say, “I’m a shoot-doors-first, open-doors-later kind of guy”? And I can’t possibly be the only one who jumped when he cleared the chamber of his gun right next to Amanda’s head. But despite the victory dancing by the team, which was decidedly hysterical across the board, the thrill soon turns to agony for Josh when he recognizes a distinctive letter from Lavinia’s handwriting in the note ostensibly penned by Amanda. As Lavinia herself proudly admits to Josh, the combination of her cunning and his naiveté made it easy for her to secure her freedom.


While it’s not as if Trial & Error really needed a shot in the arm to reinvigorate the proceedings, this revelation certainly serves as one, giving us a chance to see Josh getting downright pissed off about having been lied to, which is clearly not his normal emotional state, as evidenced by the profound bout of diarrhea he battles throughout the second episode. It also allows us to see an even crazier side of Lavinia than we’ve seen up to this point, which is really saying something, but the moment she lets off an arrow that goes straight into Dwayne’s chest… Come on: That’s some crazy shit! Maybe not as crazy as the look in Anne’s eyes before she ventures off to make her citizens’ arrests, I grant you, but pretty damned crazy nonetheless.

Also crazy: the whole visual gag with Carol Anne’s pregnancy feet, although I’d guess there are plenty of moms out there who find it pretty damned hysterical. I will say that, unlike the other characters on the series, there seems to be a very distinct “let’s just throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” vibe to most everything that’s going on with Carol Anne. Maybe it’s the result of wanting to include the pregnancy while also wanting to make sure there’s more to Carole Anne than just female stereotypes, hence the election storyline and the introduction of Atticus Ditto, Jr. as well as the back story with Jesse Ray Beaumont.


On that note, we’ll see what next week brings, but here’s hoping that Michael Hitchcock finally gets more of an opportunity to strut his stuff—and his haircut—as Jesse Ray, since he’s been woefully underutilized thus far. One thing’s for sure, though: if you’re a fan of Trial & Error, then you absolutely, positively need to watch, because its fate—whether it’s on NBC or elsewhere—lies in the balance.

Stray observations:

  • If Dwayne’s remark about having been told that there’d be no math wasn’t an intentional homage to Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, I’m going to be really bummed out, because that’s sure as hell where my mind went.
  • Lavinia’s reference to the existence of actual witch hunts was arguably the least surprising revelation we’ve gotten about East Peck or any of its surrounding areas.
  • It wasn’t until after I looked back at my notes that it occurred to me that Lavinia was the one that spray-painted “Die Lawyer” on the window of Josh’s office. Now that’s a dissatisfied client!
  • “Your right hand fingered me in court!” Well, I think it’s confirmed: Standards & Practices only half-listens to these episodes when they’re screening them. Clearly, they just figure that if they hear an occasional bleep, they’re good to go. (See also: Lavinia wearing the bartender like a hat.)
  • “Officer very down!”
  • It was an unexpected treat to see the return of the slapping glove.
  • “I told you no walk-ins!”
  • The whole segment with Dr. Shinewell would’ve been great no matter what, but it was an added bonus that he was played by Adam Campbell, a.k.a. the man who won Jayma Mays’ heart in real life.
  • Nice callback to Anne’s unfortunate tendency toward inappropriate laughter, which we learned about in season one.
  • “Hookup board! Hookup board!” “Baby board! Baby board!” Yeah, I know, they’re just unabashed clones of “Murder board! Murder board!” Ask me if I care.
  • “Forget it, Josh: it’s M-Town.”
  • Soy beans, boobies, and testicles!
  • Your mileage may vary on this, but for me, the single biggest laugh of the week came from Josh singing, “One for you, one for you, everyone’s been kissed…”
  • I guess Andy Daly wasn’t available to make it to the set, but it was awesome that they still managed to get him to record an audio bit for the show.
  • And with that, I’m off to see if Doc Hollywood is as good as I remember…

You may remember me from such features as Random Roles, or my oral histories of Battle of the Network Stars and Airplane!