Hayes and Co. take on the war on terror

By Kelli Bamforth
January 15, 2017 at 11:00 PM EST
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ELIAS EDRAKI, HAYLEY ATWELL, MANNY MONTANA
Credit: ABC/Sven Frenzel
S1 E12
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Tonight’s Conviction finally introduces us to former President Theodore Morrison (Martin Donovan, Legends of Tomorrow/Weeds), and unsurprisingly, he’s exactly how you’d imagine him to be … awful. He calls Hayes “Bug,” puts a serious damper on her blossoming relationship with Conner, and conceals his true motives for asking the CIU to take on the case of a suspected terrorist. Sneaky, that one.

As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning and see why, exactly, Mr. President pays Hayes — and a shirtless Conner — a surprise visit this week.

Case No. 12: Omar Abbas

We open on a clearly postcoital Hayes and Conner in the midst of debating whose bed is more comfortable — for sleeping and, ahem, other extracurricular activities. Of course, that’s not exactly an optimal time to unexpectedly find dear old dad in your kitchen, but timing isn’t really a strong suit for any of the characters on this show.

Dad/Mr. President is there to ask Hayes and the CIU to investigate the case of Omar Abbas, who was arrested Nov. 15, 2011, at an NYC subway station with a duffel bag containing liquid sarin. Since then, he’s been in federal custody — without being charged or going to trial — on suspicion of planning a chemical attack on Manhattan. A confidential source told the former commander-in-chief that Abbas may be innocent, but he’s had no luck getting the case reopened … until now. Luckily for dad, the idea of taking on the military and Homeland Security is right up Hayes’ alley.

She brings the case to the rest of the gang, who briefly debate the issue of prisoners’ rights during the war on terror before Mr. President chimes in with a line I’m assuming is supposed to be all sorts of presidential but really comes off as super pretentious: “These types of disagreements are what make America the greatest country in the world. All I’m asking is that Omar Abbas be offered the protection of this great country’s legal system.” We also hear him refer to Hayes as “Bug,” and I nearly spit out my hot chocolate when Maxine mouths the word to Sam and he almost cracks up. The guy has a sense of humor after all!

The CIU gets to work, with Hayes and Tess interviewing Omar via video conference. Since Omar — who’s a month into a hunger strike and now refusing water — has been labeled an enemy combatant, none of his conversations are considered privileged (i.e. private). He’s not looking so good, but he’s unwilling to start eating again. As he tells Hayes and Tess, control over whether he lives or dies is all he has left.

Omar shares his story: On the day in question, the cab-driving Abbas had dropped off a fare. Upon realizing the passenger left a duffel bag in the trunk, Abbas grabs the bag and tries to find the guy in the subway station he saw him enter. That’s when the police arrested him, thanks to an anonymous call to one of those “If you see something, say something” tip lines. That’s all he knows.

“Any idea why they think you’re al-Qaida?” Hayes asks. “Because my name is Omar Abbas, I have brown skin, and I’m Muslim,” he replies. “That bag wasn’t mine. I tried to do the right thing and in turn, I spend the last six years caged like an animal, living a nightmare. One way or another, it ends soon.”

Meanwhile, Maxine is chatting with Agent Cole Sexton, trying to find out how Homeland Security connected Abbas to al-Qaida within just 48 hours after his arrest. Sexton, of course, is unwilling to give up much information, only saying the NSA had picked up some “chatter” about a possible attack and put MTA Police on alert. Turns out the federal government has installed what Sexton called “sniffers” at all major terrorist targets in the city — and Omar’s duffel bag tipped the sensors when he entered the subway station. He does agree with Maxine that Omar, a cab driver who was studying child psychology at the time of his arrest, couldn’t have made the liquid sarin himself. So, who did?

Sam visits with Omar’s wife and father, Tariq, at CIU headquarters, trying to find out whether someone could have held a grudge against Omar. Not with him, Tariq says, but with Tariq himself, who was actually supposed to be driving the cab that day. The lead, a guy named Nasir Muhammad, who operates a sort of black-market Western Union used by Arab communities to send money overseas, is quickly ruled out as a suspect, but he does lead the CIU to Omar’s cousin, Asif Khan. Asif had used Tariq’s account with Nasir to send $3,000 to jihadists in the year leading up to Omar’s arrest, during which he also visited Pakistan three times — once via a flight paid for using Omar’s credit card.

NEXT: In the Morrison family, maybe honesty isn’t always the best policy

Coupled with a photo provided by Asif’s roommate — one that shows Asif and Omar standing next to some guys on the most-wanted terrorist list — Hayes thinks she might have Omar all wrong. Perhaps he is a terrorist, or at least a terrorist sympathizer, after all. An increasingly frail Omar says Asif stole his credit card to fly to Karachi; Omar followed him there to bring him home and had to pretend to be a jihadist to get Asif out. The story seems a bit far-fetched, but Frankie believes him and thinks he can find Asif to get some answers.

After tracking Asif to a restaurant, where Hayes hilariously tries to bribe the worker to give them information in exchange for access to her nude photos — which he’s already seen, natch — she and Frankie find Asif holed up in a nearby hotel. It’s not long before he confesses to being the one who informed on Omar, but he insists he only did so after being tortured by the government. “I had to get out of there,” Asif says. “So I told them what they wanted to hear. My cousin saved me when he pulled me from that terrorist camp and in return, I ruined his life. He’s never even met his daughter.”

Hayes persuades Asif to recant his testimony, but even that isn’t enough to get the Department of Justice to release Omar. Up against a dead end, the only thing left for Hayes and Co. is to find the real suspect — the one who left the duffel bag in Omar’s cab. In other words, they have to “do in two days what the Department of Homeland Security couldn’t do in six years,” as Maxine so eloquently puts it. (Doesn’t she know by now the CIU is made up of superheroes? I bet Marvel and DC are fighting for rights to a Hayes Morrison-like character, a lawyer whose superpower is only getting assigned to cases with completely innocent defendants.)

Hayes pleads for her father to give up his anonymous source, but he refuses. She lucks out, though, when someone mysteriously leaves in her elevator (in the middle of the night, of course) a copy of the unredacted phone log from the terror tip line, showing that the anonymous call reporting the sarin gas originated from the Financial District, a pay phone in the courtyard of Galloway Bank headquarters.

The rest of the case unravels pretty quickly from there. Omar remembers a customer he dropped off in FiDi the day of his arrest — though he usually tried to avoid the area due to traffic, the passenger offered him five times the meter to take him downtown. Perhaps he’s the one who left the duffel bag in Omar’s cab?

The Occupy Wall Street protests had started roughly two months prior, so the Financial District was unsurprisingly full of protesters — and one, in particular, had given Galloway Bank some trouble. His name was Paul Sedgewick, and his family’s wealth had been wiped out by the country’s financial crisis. Turns out Paul’s dad lost his pension, came out of retirement, and later died on the floor of the factory where he worked. Smell like motive enough to you?

It does to Hayes and Maxine, too, who bring in Paul for questioning and convince him to confess before the feds take him into custody. Paul admits he planned the attack on Galloway Bank, but says he got cold feet when Omar pulled up and the bank was crawling with protesters. He didn’t want anyone innocent to get hurt, so he left the duffel bag in Omar’s cab and called the tip line to report the sarin.

Hayes is smug after the win — but less-than-thrilled that Omar will only be released if she agrees to keep his investigation classified. “It’s in everyone’s interests for Omar to be released with as little fanfare as possible,” says Sexton, who’s revealed to be the former president’s anonymous government source. It’s also Sexton who says “the right people will know” about what Hayes’ father did, leading to the reveal that Mr. President wanted to be seen as a humanitarian to give him a better shot at getting the job of UN secretary general.

“Why is there always an agenda with you?” a dismayed Hayes asks her dad following Omar’s release into his family’s arms. “Not just me, Bug, that’s everyone. That’s Wallace,” the jaded elder Morrison responds.

Hayes is quick to defend her relationship, saying she loves Conner, but her dad responds with one hell of a zinger: “And he loves you, too. But part of what he loves about you is that you’re my daughter. You were raised in a political family. You have power, access, all the things he never had.”

“You’re wrong about him,” she says, rather unconvincingly. “Okay, but how will you ever know?” he asks, though Hayes doesn’t answer.

Later, when Conner tries to celebrate with a glass of wine, her skepticism is written all over her face. Will Hayes’ lingering doubts cause the lovebirds to call it quits in next week’s series finale? We’ll have to tune in to find out.

Episode 12 Case Notes:

  • President Morrison: “So it’s been awhile since your girlfriend’s dad caught you talking about sleeping with her?”
    Conner: “If it’s happened before, I blocked it out entirely.”
  • Hayes: “Are you saying you didn’t assault a 47-year-old mother of two with an egg?”
    Paul Sedgewick: “I was aiming for her boss.”
    Hayes: “Gandhi would be proud.”

Episode Recaps

Conviction

Hayley Atwell stars as a former first daughter in this ABC legal drama.
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