Finally, the day has arrived: the trial of Larry Henderson is beginning at last, and as we’re assured in the opening moments of the proceedings – by which I mean the episode, not the legal proceedings – there hasn’t been a case of this magnitude in town since the East Peck Witch Trials of 1994…and I’d tell you to take a moment and let that date sink in, but it’s not as though this is the first time we’ve experienced just how far removed from modernity East Peck is. Heck, it’s not even the first time we experience it this episode: it’s only a few minutes later when Josh is forced to wait an exorbitant amount of time for the prosecution’s witness list because it’s been declared in some edict or other that any fiber-optic communications of official documents qualifies as sorcery.
East Peck: it’s a heck of a town.
The opening statements from Carol Ann are about what you’d expect from the prosecutorial side of the fence, but there’s something about the way she describes Larry – he seems to be “a harmless, affable, bewildered poet,” but “a violent tempest of a man” is lurking just beneath the surface – that even Larry can’t help but appreciate, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with the sentiments of her statement. When she further sways the assembled crowd with a computer recreation of Margaret’s murder that looks vaguely like the old ‘80s video game Karate Champ, the pressure’s on for Josh to really deliver with his own opening statement.
Too bad everything he’d planned out for that statement – most of which revolved around painting Rutger Hiss as an awful human being – ends up being wiped off the table when Hiss is wheeled into the courtroom.
A fair amount happens over the course of the next few minutes, including Clanton spilling his dip cup, Larry suffering the repercussions of going shoeless in the courtroom, and Hiss struggling for an absurd amount of time to get a straw into his mouth. Needless to say, Josh ends up walking away from the first day of the trial having made a really, really terrible first impression on the jury, but as he’s quick to remind his team, “Second impressions are also important.”
As they begin to plot out Day 2 by examining the witness list, they spot the name “Alfonso Prefontaine,” a.k.a. the gentleman with whom Larry shared some very special extra-marital moments. Larry decides that he needs to visit The Discipline Room - that’s the name of Alfonso’s gym, you’ll recalll - and talk to his former paramour, despite the fact that Josh has told him that it could be considered witness tampering. (This is in no way shocking, of course, since it’s not as if Larry has been particularly concerned about following Josh’s instructions up to this point.) Alfonso enjoys teasing Larry for a moment and pretending that he’s simply going to take the stand and announce that Larry killed Margaret, but he quickly reveals that he’s only joking. The problem lies with Larry’s repeated underlining of how Alfonso was and remains nothing more than “a piece on the side,” if you will, to the point of saying that if he ever gets remarried, Alfonso would once again be the one he’d have an affair with. It’s clear from the look on Alfonso’s face that this is in no way acceptable.
Meanwhile, Josh has decided that he needs to meet up with Carol Anne, having been startled by the presence of Rutger Hiss’s name on her witness list (not to mention the fact that he wants to make sure that they’re on the same page after having slept together at the end of last episode), but when he goes to her office, he finds her in the midst of a passionate kiss with Hiss. Oops. When Josh walks away from the scene and back onto the street, Carol Anne follows him out, but they still end up sniping at each other, and she informs him in no uncertain terms that their close encounter at the end of last week’s episode was purely physical. “I had a need,” she explains. “And you were there.” Ouch.
But you can’t keep a good man down: when Josh returns to court the next day, he’s armed with a vocabulary that’s ostensibly free of New York words and a spiffy new haircut, ready to take on Hiss. Unfortunately, things fall apart as a result of the level of respect Hiss earned as a result of having been in a coma - that noblest of all head injuries - and Josh’s general inability to conceive of how the jury can’t see that Hiss is using his coma to convince them that he can’t possibly be guilty. Suddenly, it’s looking like the oft-forgotten importance of third impressions could be the only way for the team to remain optimistic.
But no! With Larry’s help - or, more specifically, his willingness to take a photo which seems destined to pop up again at some point - Josh manages to gain access to the hospital security video, which proves that Hiss only faked his coma and confirms that there’s been a buttload of lying going on. At last, a win for the defense! (Shame about the ironic twist, though.) If only Larry had secured a similar win when he went back to the gym to meet up with the now-annoyed Alfonso and try to sway him back to their side. Instead, harsh words are spoken, Alfonso makes some remarks about Margaret which warrant his inclusion on the suspect list, and Larry pulls his signature move and throws Alfonso through the plate glass window of the gym, leaving him looking just as guilty now as he did when our story first started.
Still, if there’s an up side to this whole situation, it’s that it led to an incredibly catchy jingle for East Peck Glass. Am I right, people?
Actually, strike that: it’s not an up side if it results in the jury turning in a verdict before the trail is over because, as per the lyrics of the delightful little earworm, “The choice is clear.” In fact, there really aren’t many up sides to be found in the case at the moment, and it’s been that way since… Well, since the very beginning, frankly, but as we see in a quick flashback, it was particularly bad during jury selection, when virtually all of Josh’s potential jurors were wearing shirts featuring Larry’s face and the word “GUILTY” emblazoned upon them. In a desperate attempt to make the most of a bad situation, Josh tries to convince the judge to sequester the jury and keep them from seeing any more anti-Larry material that might - oh, hell, let’s say will - pop up as the trial continues. She’s not having it, but while Alfonso recovers from his window-related injuries, an agreement is made to use the temporary trial delay as an opportunity for the jurors to visit the crime scene.
The defense team quickly examines the list of jurors and works out that if there’s anyone in the mix who might be sympathetic to their case, it’s Juror #9, so they decide to keep their eye on him while he’s doing the tour. Meanwhile, the team attempts to redecorate the house in such a fashion as to remove anything that might somehow cause the jury to hate Larry even more, but Larry is distracted by the way things stand between him and Alfonso, and Dwayne is distracted by his mistaken belief that he might have a shot with Summer, who’s just broken up with her ab-tastic but dim-witted boyfriend. There’s also a possible new lead: it turns out that Margaret got a new cell phone only a few days before her death, and it’s still active. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.
The tour of the crime scene ends up turning into a complete fiasco, unfortunately, thanks to Larry throwing a ball to Juror #9 and somehow managing to send him through a plate glass window (if nothing else, you’ve got to admire his consistency), and when court resumes and Alfonso takes the stand, Carol Ann’s line of questioning is…memorable, if not necessarily in a good way. Well, not for the case, anyway. For viewers, I feel comfortable saying without fear of accusations of hyperbole that the repeated bleeped-out description of Larry and Alfonso’s shenanigans will be remembered as the Trial & Error equivalent of this classic scene from The Simpsons:
In the end, the heart wants what the heart wants, whether the court wants it or not, and Larry can’t stop himself from expressing his feelings for Alfonso - and, almost as importantly, his feelings for Margaret - in front of the jury. Voila: instant humanization! So that’s a happy ending, right?
Well, not really. Now we’ve got to spend a few days fretting about Margaret’s phone being in Larry’s office. Surely it’s just another case of mistaken perception, though, right?
- “I’ll start.”
- “Let’s talk about what we learned today.” “Well, I found out I’m going to die…”
- “Don’t judge me. I already have a jury for that.”
- “I said ‘buttload’!” “But your eyes said ‘preponderance’!”
- “Do you know how hard it is to date when you’re a bisexual with a murder trial hanging over your head?”
- “Go Peckers!”
- The cutaways to Dwayne’s brief East Peck history lessons are almost as entertaining as the brief pans over to the courtroom sketches. (Where do I get me one of those?)
- I’m convinced - and I said as much on Twitter - that the writers of this show came up with more East Peck days and important events than there are days on the calendar.
- Call me crazy, but I feel like Larry’s failure to wear pants on a regular basis in front of the camera could somehow be tied to breaking the case wide open. Then again, it could just be a consistently funny recurring gag.
- I already thought Jayma Mays was cute, but I feel like I really turned a corner in my appreciation of her with that “rub it in your face” remark.
- Nice to see Marla Gibbs turn up again, although I wish they’d managed to utilize her more. The biggest laughs scored by her character - Larry’s concern about his bowling pins and the Murder-abilia website - didn’t even require her to be onscreen, let alone deliver any dialogue.
- In closing, for ultimately no reason other than my own amusement, I’d like to offer up the opening credits to the last TV series to bear the title Trial & Error. Lemme tell ya, that Nicholas D’Agosto kid is good, but he’s no Paul Rodriguez…