I had a bad feeling going into this one, just based on the episode title. “Reasonable Doubt”: It sounds like it ought to be a movie from the ‘90s that starred Harrison Ford or Ashley Judd, with a script based on a New York Times bestseller written by a popular novelist with a law degree. There is a terrific opening sequence, set in a veterinarian’s office. Reese and Finch appear to have brought Bear in for an examination, and the vet looks so concerned that I actually caught myself thinking, “If they kill off the dog, nothing I watch on CBS goes any higher than a C-minus from this moment on.” But Reese and Finch are there because some unlucky bad guys have violent intentions against the vet, and that ol’ Bear is just shamming; after Reese gets tired of shooting people, the dog comes running in to take up the slack. The honest truth is that, at the end of the day, I am a simple man, and I get an indecent amount of enjoyment from seeing a good-looking dog use an evildoer as a chew toy.
Once they have the evening’s fun out of the way, the heroes can concentrate on the main business at hand. Vanessa Watkins, a hard-ass judge, is being hassled by the police, represented by Paul Ben-Victor in full Inspector Javert mode. Vanessa’s story is that she and her husband were out taking a leisurely cruise on their boat, and she fell asleep, and when she woke up, he was nowhere to be found. Everyone listens to this story and assumes she murdered him, because they didn’t watch that show starring Buffy Summers and Reed Richards that was on The CW last year, not that I blame them. Even though Vanessa is known as a hard case herself, her husband was a defense lawyer, the kind that—in the words of Finch, who could be reading from an old script for any Quinn Martin Production—specialized in “helping violent criminals walk on technicalities.” Paul Ben-Victor hated the son of a bitch so much that it almost seems as if he wants to prove she killed him so he can give her a warm hug and the key to the city. But just because she married the defense lawyer, it seems he hates her, too. There might be something unspoken going on there on Paul Ben-Victor’s side, but the show has so much plot to get through that he never gets to make it explicit. That’s an example of what’s called a “small mercy.”
Vanessa is played by Kathleen Rose Perkins, who I thought was likable and funny as hell as John Pankow’s mistress-assistant on the deceased Showtime series Episodes. Playing action heroine suits her less well. She has to run all over Manhattan, in an impressively short haircut and boots that are to die for, accepting bricks of cocaine from a drug dealer acquaintance and jumping off a roof to land, sweet and cozy, in the bed of a passing garbage truck. Meanwhile, back at the office, Finch is trying to keep his head from spinning off its axis while he works out how the score card should read. “I wonder,” he says, “could Ms. Watkins be a victim after all?” After a little more time passes, he amends that thought: “Ms. Watkins is beginning to look more and more like a victim. Although I can’t think of why a victim would procure such a large amount of cocaine.” It would be good, for future reference and for all concern, to know just how large an amount of cocaine Finch would consider to be reasonable, but as I said, there’s a lot of plot to get through.
It turns out that the judge was framed for murder by her husband, who not only faked his own death, but has been having an affair with her best friend, Nicole, and cleaned out the $20 million in the bank account of their charitable organization. But you knew all that, probably as soon as you read that title. But did you know—gasp!—that Vanessa had helped him fake his own death, because she thought they were then going to run away and start a new life together, one where they no longer had to worry about all the money he owed to the mob. (Like I said, a lot of plot.) After Reese, who seems to be just the teeniest bit sweet on her, sees her off at the bus station and gives her a gun for her own protection, because, Reese, she hustles down to the docks to kill the treacherous bastard.
The final confrontation takes place aboard their boat, which is named Justice, a pretty fair indicator of this episode’s feathery-light touch. There are so many plot twists to be made sense of that the dialogue is like a series of footnotes; after Finch has spent so much of the hour embarrassing himself by speculating on Vanessa’s likely classification as a victim, when it’s revealed that she was the perpetrator all along, poor Michael Emerson is obliged to spout off, “Vanessa’s been the perpetrator all along!” It’s a testament to how well-tuned the show and the regular cast have become by now that it makes for a surprisingly watchable hour, most of it. And I did like Reese’s final gesture, when, having walked out in disgust and left the judge and her hubby to shoot each other, he unties their boat and lets them drift off together. It would have been better if he’d brought the dog, though.
- I think it’s revealed tonight that Carter’s goony new partner is an H. R. spy. I don’t think this was shown to be the case last week, but it’s hard to be sure, since we all knew it anyway as soon as he said his first lines, right?