American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson 1.09: “Manna from Heaven” Episode Review

As we hurtle toward the predestined conclusion of The People v. O.J. Simpson, we wonder if they will pull a Quentin Tarantino, à la Inglorious Basterds, where they just decide—screw the facts. We’ll make revenge porn instead! Yeah, probably not.

We open this week’s episode with O.J. on Current Affair—a decent news show from the 80’s/90’s for those of you too young to remember. The show is touting how his defense is portraying Simpson like a broken athlete, too feeble to actually commit the atrocities of murdering his wife and Ron Goldman. Then, they show a clip of him starring in a recent exercise video.

DERP! If you ever get annoyed with exercise DVD ads on Saturday morning, blame this era. It started the craze.

We left off last week with an ominous, seemingly anonymous call to the defense about Detective Mark Fuhrman, a key witness to this case, launching N-bombs that were recorded on audio tape. This week, they call Laura Hart McKinny, a screenwriter that had interviewed Fuhrman about a movie and had the recording. She hangs up, saying she doesn’t want any part in this. Later on, the defense evokes the episode’s title, calling the recording “manna from heaven.”

Cut to a scene where Prosecutor Chris Darden and Johnny Cochran are arguing about the race cards that have been dropped all over this case like a game of 52 Pick Up. Judge Ito goes ahead and slaps them down, and my girl Marcia Clark further lambasts Darden for the thinness of his skin.

The defense speculates on the contents of the tape after the Juice Defense Squad issues a subpoena for it from the screenwriter. Cochran and F. Lee Bailey go visit McKinny down south and get the tapes. Reading the transcripts, it is all niggerniggerniggerniggerniggernigger, and Cochran is actually visibly shaken by their contents. But, they still need to go in front of a southern judge and force the tapes release—a judge that may not be so interested in justice for a black celebrity in Hollywood.

He denies the tapes to the defense. Cochran has a racism melt down, and F Lee Bailey reminds them they are in the Carolinas. In front of a statue of a Confederate soldier holding a rifle, Bailey asks Cochran if he smells “the Mint Juleps and condescension in the air.”

Bailey takes it to a higher court, doing his best Dixie’d-up, God-fearing Southern Lawyer routine, but it actually ends up sounding like the chicken lawyer from Futurama. It works, and he gets them released.

Ito doesn’t jump to allow the tapes, but we do get a long, drawn out scene to build up tension around the legal teams listening to the recordings—and then it's just Fuhrman spewing niggerniggerniggerniggerniggernigger! It is some UGLY stuff with a capitol UG!

But, the defense finds that Fuhrman ALSO horribly insults Judge Ito’s police woman wife on the tape, basically calling her a slut! GYAAAAHHH!! It is a BAD day for the defense.

The words “gross incompetence” are raised in the context of Darden and Clark.

The defense knows that the mention of Ito’s wife might make the judge re-try the case. The prosecutors fear a mistrial. Everyone freaks and worries. Ito gets on the seat, tells us he loves his wife, and that he is wounded by the tape’s contents. He wants another Judge on the case to ascertain if Ito himself should still remain at the gavel in an impartial capacity.

There’s a LOT of courtroom drama in this episode, and we get some life out of Rob Shapiro losing his cookies on Cochran, followed by a great “I told you so” moment from Darden to Clarke about Fuhrman.

The press gets the tapes. Cochran is on camera with activists, who basically imply another Rodney King-like riot if the court doesn’t “release” the recordings of Fuhrman, and by “release,” he means allow him to use them as evidence in the case.

Ito gets a pass and is allowed to rule on the tapes.

The tapes are heard. They contain 30 occasions of the use of the word nigger. 30 occasions! And there’s an additional 17 times where Fuhrman talks about the LAPD’s rampant criminal corruption. But, the question is:

Will the jury get to hear the tapes?

Ito’s call is to allow the tapes to be heard. To some level, at least, this is a matter bigger than OJ, he says.

Once again, Darden and Cochran have words in the courtroom. Darden is on the verge of rage tears. The prosecution spews on about the unfairness of the case, but throughout it all, it just looks like sour grapes at this point.

The tapes get played. I’m not going to get into the details. They were insane. Violence. Torture. Blood. Misogyny. Sadism. Racism. Corruption. Lies.

Clark finally admits to Darden that she’s made mistakes about using Fuhrman. Darden apologizes for screwing up on the gloves as well. The sexual tension builds, and then fizzles, sputters, sparks, blips annnnd nothing! Come on already people! Just snog!

Ito then flip-flops and blocks 90% of the tapes as evidence, which makes the defense lose their minds. Cochran goes on television to drag the judge through the muck, and ends it ominously by telling the citizens of Los Angeles to “remain calm.”

The next scene is Furhman’s ride back to court, attacked by angry Los Angelinos. We have another weird, drawn out moment as Fuhrman takes the witness stand. Cue horror movie-ish soundtrack. Fuhrman pleads the 5th on every question. Cochran asks one last question:

“Did you plant or manufacture any evidence in this case?”

Annnnnd Fuhrman takes the 5th again. DOH! 

We end on a semi-high note when our girl Marcia Clark gets news that she retained custody of her kids in her divorce. Yay?

This was not the best episode, so far, but there were some twists that kept the courtroom drama alive. Let’s see what the aftermath of the Fuhrman tapes bring next week—like we don’t know already—sheesh!

See also: American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson 1.08: “A Jury in Jail”


Spyridon P. Panousopoulos spends his time whittling sharp sticks out of blunt ones. He has written for Flavorwire.comThe NY Press, and Gen Art in the past. He has 3 cats that all hate him. Follow him @TheRevSpyro.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.