“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” is the title of this week’s episode of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. As if this isn’t enough to excite me (the 10 of you who read this recap may know that I would watch Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark eat corn nuts in pajamas at this point, and love it), this is a resonant pop-cultural milestone for late Gen Xers, like myself, who learned the term “middle child” from the deconstruction of the relationship between TV sisters Jan and Marcia Brady.
We are trying to draw parallels here…for example, Chris Darden (Sterling K. Brown) has seemed to be filling Jan Brady’s shoes in the last few episodes, getting meaningfully brow beaten by Johnny (Johnny, Johnny!) Cochran (Courtney B. Vance).
And of course, between last week and now, we have “The Knife.”
Seriously, let’s get this straight—a cop had a KEY piece of evidence in one of the most inflammatory murder cases in modern history, and he decides to wait till FX makes a biopic to expose this?
Why? Are alleged murder weapons like comics or baseball cards? Do they gain value if you put them in a plastic sheath and wait for years before revealing them?
Anyway, despite the Brady themed title, I would have called this episode “The Gauntlet” because our girl Marcia Clark was besieged on all sides like she was on her own private Charge of the Light Brigade.
We start in court again, but this week we are introducing Marcia Clark’s pending, messy divorce trial. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband is casting stones at her maternal skills. This is but one of the death-by-a-thousand-cuts type tortures that Clark suffers through this episode.
I have to be honest. I normally get pretty bored with courtroom scenes, but there are some awesome, uncomfortable moments in this one—like Nicole Brown’s sister on the stand stating, “OJ grabbed Nicole’s crotch, and said this is where babies come from (trembling), and this belongs to me.”
“He was angry—he wanted everyone to know that she was his property.”
GHHHAA!!! I felt like I needed a shower right after this.
Cut to Clark driving home. When she arrives, she is greeted by talk-radio chatter asking the audience to chime in on her horrible taste in personal style. Clark gets her one moment of peace here, when her young son comes out for a moving “let’s give mommy a hug” scene. He says to her, “I knew you were home “cause I could smell smoking.” He then goes on to say, “Smoking’s gross mom.”
We then get a scene of Clark fondling her curls in the mirror before the opening credits.
There’s some snooze-y scenes with Detective Tom Lange (Chris Bauer) getting lambasted for taking evidence home. It feels like the defense is setting up the idea of tampering at worst and incompetence at best.
Then, somewhat randomly, we get a roomful of TV execs deciding to clear their programming slate to air the Simpson trial instead.
Random, yes—but I'll take random over what came next.
As you all know, I have a mad crush on Sarah Paulson. So, I wasn’t too happy when the next few scenes simmered with sexual tension between her and lawyer Chris Darden (Sterling K. Brown)—who was singing R&B to Marcia Clark…MY fantasy TV girlfriend!
She is coy at first, telling Darden she “cannot afford to be accused of having a good time.” But Darden is undaunted, eventually disco dancing with my girl!
DISCO DANCING! WITH MY GIRL!
GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY WOMAN, DARDEN!
Oh, uh sorry…yeah, back to the show.
The next day, we cut to shirtless, six-packed Darden calling a local radio station to comment he thinks Clark is a babe. Why you…you…you silver tongued MEPHISTOPHELES!
Right. No, really—back to the show. I’m ok now…
We return to the court where Clark is about to announce witness Mark Furhman, but she is Coch(ran)-blocked by the defense approaching the bench with “an incredibly urgent matter!”
Clark is ritually tortured throughout this episode, by the media and her colleagues, in a never-ending attack on her femininity. There's one scene where she is buying Tampax at a convenient store, and the checkout clerk holds them up and says, “I guess the defense is in for one hell of a week!” Classy.
We then get a long, botched scene of a witness for the defense. She is the English challenged, South American maid for Simpson’s neighbor. Her job is simply to say at what time she saw the white Bronco parked outside Simpson’s home the night of the murder, to presumably throw the prosecution’s timeline off. She buckles like a belt under the questioning of our girl Marcia until she finally just answers with, “What Mr. Johnny say,” gesturing at Johnny Cochrane.
YES! Win for Marcia!
There is a great aside when an LA Times reporter asks Cochran about his OWN history with domestic abuse—D’OH!!!
The next scene is basically Cochran buying off an ex-wife’s silence over some mystery slight he had committed upon her in the past—DERP!
OK, I have said before that the lack of actual O.J. scenes is a little disappointing, but there is an epic tantrum where Cuba Gooding Jr. delivers the line, “When I want to hear from you, I’ll rattle my zipper!” to the wax figure stand-in that is John Travolta as Robert Shapiro.
We cut to Clark at the hair salon. The pressure to fix her look having finally gotten to her, she has a porn-y scene with her hairdresser as SEAL is playing in the background. Her barber says he’s going to make her look like “Farah.” Clark asks, “Farah?” to the camera like a schoolgirl about to get her first make-out on.
When she enters court, she is wearing a super high-and-tight, curly bob of a mess that prompts one witness to shout, “GOD DAMN, WHO TURNED HER INTO RICK JAMES?”
OOOOUUUCH! My girl! My poor, poor Marcia!
The next scene is a long, rolling, stroll shot from behind, as Detective Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) walks into the court backed by a spooky Portishead song. It feels really Twin Peaks-y, and for the first time, we see Clark’s face express doubt at the decision to put this guy on the stand.
Fuhrman does well in the opening volley. His answers are very clinical. Very accurate sounding. Very professional. Very detailed.
Looks like a win, but we then go to a scene of the defense lawyers after work, drunk at a bar. F Lee Baily (Nathan Lane) is talking big on how he is going to ask Fuhrman if he ever used the word nigger on the stand. His reasoning is: if he says no, he’ll look like a liar; if he says yes, well, he’s a racist.
And when Bailey gets Fuhrman on the stand, it is an N-Bomb-o-rama!
“In describing people do you use the word nigger?”
“Have you ever used the word nigger in the past 10 years?”
And then it is basically nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger…and so on.
Seriously, it’s like they wanted to see how many times they could get a short, fat white guy to drop the “N-word” on television. It seemed like the television equivalent of “Can I say it if it’s in a rap song?”.
Fuhrman denies it all with extreme prejudice, but ultimately, this line of questioning has Fuhrman looking like he’s putting his hands to his ears and screaming “no, no, no, no—lalalalala not listening!” through the whole thing.
OK, so that’s bad—but not a game changer.
Next, pictures of Marcia Clark on the beach naked are published in a tabloid, and it comes out that she’s had not one, but two failed marriages. Now, if she was a man would it matter? No. But she wasn’t, and this is the kind of garbage women in power positions have to deal with, even today. It’s slimy, and awful, and hard to swallow—but it’s the truth.
Our last scene is Clark and Darden on the floor, Marcia crying into his shoulder and then laughing…
OH, WILL THESE TWO GET A ROOM ALREADY!
Spyridon P. Panousopoulos spends his time whittling sharp sticks out of blunt ones. He has written for Flavorwire.com, The NY Press, and Gen Art in the past. He has 3 cats that all hate him. Follow him @TheRevSpyro.