Conviction is very obviously a case-of-the-week procedural and a shameless attempt at replicating the success of another ABC property currently on hiatus: Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal. Both shows center on strong, intelligent, beautiful, take-no-prisoners female leads who are eventually revealed to be somewhat morally ambiguous women with scandalous (pardon the pun) pasts. The truth, though, is their pasts just so happen to be infinitely more interesting than that of their clients, at least usually.
Listen, I dig the idea of setting wrongfully convicted prisoners free just as much as anyone, but Conviction’s latest installment cemented my previously nagging belief that the show’s potential largely lies in the backgrounds of the CIU’s major players (i.e. Hayes and her team). And luckily, we got a few brief glimpses at said backstories in tonight’s “The 1 Percent Solution.” Let’s dive in, shall we?
Case No. 5: Will Jarrett
Following last week’s reveal that Hayes’ brother, Jackson, kicked her out after her disastrous attempt at damage control on national TV, we quickly learn Hayes has been crashing in her office. She’s woken by a janitor cleaning the floors and trudges to the bathroom to clean herself up for work. After she emerges, we hear the first of several voicemails she leaves for Jackson, which sound increasingly desperate as the episode wears on. In a nutshell: Hayes is sorry, she misses Jackson, and she wants him to call her back. I, for one, hope he does, and rather quickly — I’m a huge fan of his portrayer, Daniel Franzese, and I love the chemistry between the brother-and-sister duo.
The CIU’s team members make their usual pitches for case of the week, but it’s Sam (a so-far underused Shawn Ashmore) who comes through with the “winning” convict: Will Jarrett, who is serving a 40-year sentence for murder after being passed around by six court-appointed attorneys. His victim? Debra Porter, a wealthy wife and mother found stabbed to death in her mansion. Will met the Porter family through a charity for disenfranchised youth, one of several in which Debra was active prior to her demise. Debra’s son, Sean, was away at boarding school and discovered his mother upon his return home, lying in a pool of her own blood after being stabbed seven times and having her throat slashed.
It has all the hallmarks of what Hayes was looking for — a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, accused of killing the matriarch of a “perfect family” who took him in and treated him as one of their own. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe…
Hayes and Sam visit Will in prison, where he (of course) maintains his innocence: “Of course I didn’t kill Mrs. Porter,” he says. “The Porters were the closest thing to family I ever had, ever will have. I never would have done anything to hurt her.” Except that doesn’t really explain how his skin ended up underneath her fingernails, Sam points out. Apparently, Debra was changing a light bulb when she tripped and Will caught her. (The way he looks up as he tells the story is a clear indication he’s lying, right?) When Sam presses him on why he told the cops he hadn’t seen her that day, Will says he simply got the days mixed up — the most paper-thin excuse I’ve ever heard. Could the CIU have picked a case in which the convicted actually turns out to be guilty?
When Maxine visits Debra’s surviving husband (David) and son (Sean), they’re understandably less-than-thrilled at the idea of her case being reopened. As far as they’re concerned, the guilty party is right where he belongs. David says he and his wife treated Will like a son and Sean treated him like a brother. (Anyone else’s spidey sense immediately start tingling re: the son? Maybe Sean was jealous of the attention his parents paid to Will.)
NEXT: This week’s whodunit takes on a new twist
Later, as Frankie and Tess dig through two dozen boxes of case files, Tess discovers a piece of evidence not used in the original trial: a photo of a bloody shoe print at the crime scene, size 9. But Will wore a size 11 at the time of the murder, Frankie says. Alas, we have our first piece of proof hinting at Jarrett’s potential innocence. Who left the print and why didn’t Will’s lawyer(s) introduce it at trial? Apparently, by the time Will was on his sixth attorney, one of the 24 boxes went missing through human error — and it just so happened to contain this piece of crucial evidence. Sleuth Frankie does some digging and finds out that 73 pairs of the size-9 boots were sold in the five years prior to the murder, and one was purchased by none other than Debra’s husband, David. Dun dun duuuun.
Here’s how the rest of the investigation shakes out:
- When asked about the boots, David says he gave them to Louis, the family’s gardener. He also fesses up to having consulted a divorce attorney prior to his wife’s murder, but insists he didn’t kill her and has an alibi to back that up.
- Louis takes off running when confronted by Maxine and Frankie about the boots. Like Maxine points out, “Now that doesn’t look too guilty, does it?”
- As it turns out, Louis fled because he had been stealing from the Porters, not because he killed Debra. However, a missing steak knife from the Porter home’s kitchen miraculously turns up in Louis’ truck and contains microscopic traces of Debra’s DNA. Thankfully, the CIU agrees with me that the knife’s discovery is just a little too “clean.” Why would someone who got away with murder hold onto the murder weapon for all these years? It just doesn’t make sense.
- Upon reviewing the security footage of Louis’ truck outside the homes of his wealthy clients, the CIU spots Sean planting the knife. (I knew something was off with that kid!) It’s also discovered that though Sean was supposed to be at boarding school the day his mother was killed, he paid a proctor to let him leave early. With a lawyer in tow, the Porters claim Will (from behind bars) forced Sean to plant the knife and threatened him with violence if he didn’t comply.
- Frankie and Hayes update Will re: Sean’s allegations, and a flicker of hurt crosses his face just before he suddenly confesses to the crime for which he’s imprisoned. He killed Debra, he made Sean plant the knife to implicate Louis, and he did it alone. Wait, what?
- Frankie to the rescue yet again! (He’s pretty much the smartest guy at the CIU, right?) He leads the team in a reenactment of the crime, proving that based on the location of the stab wounds, Debra was murdered by TWO people — one left-handed, one right-handed. And wouldn’t you know… Lefty Will and righty Sean fit the bill perfectly.
The case wraps up once Hayes confronts Will with the team’s theory: He and Sean were lovers who killed Debra because she didn’t approve of their relationship. Will was Sean’s patsy, she says; he never cared about Will, but used him to take the fall for a crime they committed together. Will insists they were in love and points Hayes to a video he says will prove it. In said video, we see Sean and Will in bed together and hear Sean pushing his paramour to help him with “his problem,” claiming that once it’s over, they can finally be a couple out in the open… no more hiding.
We learn that although Mr. and Mrs. Porter didn’t have a problem with their son being gay, Debra objected to Sean’s choice of boyfriend. Will “wasn’t like us,” David tells Maxine; that’s why Debra insisted on sending him to boarding school. Once again, justice is served as Sean is arrested and led away to join his former lover behind bars — though it’s not immediately clear if he ever really loved Will or simply played on his emotions so he could turn him into an accomplice.
NEXT: Like justice, love isn’t always black and white
Frankie and Rey / Hayes and Conner
Tonight’s episode showed viewers a bit more of the complicated dynamic between Frankie and Rey (who I assume is his boyfriend?). Turns out Rey’s on his last appeal, and he proposes Frankie ask his boss (i.e. Hayes) for help. Frankie’s hesitant to agree, saying it’s a new job and that’s quite a favor to ask. “I wouldn’t want you to feel weird,” Rey says sweetly, and the two briefly grasp hands under the table.
In the episode’s closing moments, Hayes happens upon Frankie in the CIU’s office. Seeing Rey’s case file in his hands, Hayes remarks “I was wondering when you were finally gonna give me that.” When she asks if Rey’s a friend of his, Frankie explains they’re more than that: “I love him… or I did… I don’t… He helped me get through, so…” He admits he doesn’t know if Rey should get out, if him being released would be the right thing. In an uncharacteristically supportive moment, Hayes responds with “Let me know when you are or not… It’s your call.”
Speaking of complicated, the will-they-won’t-they energy between Hayes and Conner seems to be reaching a fever pitch. Early in the hour, Hayes pays him a visit as FBI agents exit his office with boxes of his case files. She offers him a gift to apologize for last week’s interview that resulted in the investigation against him: a bottle of ibuprofen (to help him deal with the headache Hayes is), which Conner promptly tosses in the trash. (Why so cold, Tag…er, Conner?) He’s not mad, he says, but he’s done. The only relationship they have now is a professional one. Hayes leaves, disappointment written all over her face.
Later, Hayes invites her mother, Harper, to her office for a drink. The two have a candid conversation about the fallout from last week’s interview, which included causing a hit to her mother’s poll numbers. Hayes apologizes (even appearing sincere!) and laments that Jackson isn’t returning her calls and Conner wants nothing to do with her. Your brother will be fine, Harper says, as soon as her numbers recover… But as for Conner, she encourages her daughter to go with her “weapon of choice — the truth.” Not about her opinions or a case, but about her feelings. “Tell him and see what happens,” she says, and I immediately perk up and start imagining the glorious reunion that awaits Conviction’s titular pair of star-crossed lovers.
I’ll have to wait a bit longer, though, because when Hayes drops by Conner’s office a second time — presumably to perform her own version of “pick me, choose me, love me” — he announces he’s hired outside counsel to assist him in the Department of Justice investigation, someone named Naomi Golden from Chicago. The shock on Hayes’ face mirrors my own as she tells Conner: “She’s my ex-girlfriend!”
Conner’s response? “Mine, too.” BOMB = DROPPED.
Episode 5 Case Notes:
- Hayes: “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Tess: “How come your suitcases and toiletries bag are in your office?”
Hayes: “No reason.”
- Hayes, as she walks into a team meeting wearing her pajamas: “Never heard of casual Tuesday?”
Maxine: “Jeans are casual. This is…slumber party.”
Hayes: “And later I thought we could braid each other’s hair, do a slam book?”
Maxine: “You touch my hair, I kill you.”
- Jackson, when he finally answers Hayes’ umpteenth phone call and makes up with his sister: “I’m gonna need more groveling.”
- Sam pointing out the obvious pun: “The murder weapon is a porterhouse steak knife? Like…a porterhouse steak…”