Hayes revisits the decade-old case that brought her and Wallace together

By Kelli Bamforth
January 29, 2017 at 11:00 PM EST
ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg

Conviction

S1 E13
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The likely series finale of Conviction left me with more unanswered questions than I’d prefer from a closing episode. Is Maxine still sober? Whatever happened to Frankie’s jailbird lover? Did Matty really forgive Tess — which apparently happened off-screen a few episodes back — and, if so, are they still in touch? Combined with the jaw-dropping and ridiculous final moments, I have to admit I expected more from this show.

For (probably) the last time ever, let’s dive in.

Case No. 13: Gerald Harris

Hayes and Wallace are in an awkward limbo following her father’s grim characterization of their relationship in “Enemy Combatant.” In a nutshell, he believes Conner loves her but thinks her status as the daughter of a former president plays a role in his affection. She obviously thinks there might be some truth to it and has been pulling away from Conner as a result, though she continues to insist to his face that “everything’s okay.”

I suppose there’s no time to get into it now, because she’s got work to do. This week, the CIU’s taking on the case of Gerald Harris, currently serving life in prison for the murder of his wife, Claire, who died after a fall from their home’s second-story balcony. The prosecution claimed she fell after a blow to the head delivered by Gerald, but Hayes — who defended him in the original trial — always believed in his innocence. The real kicker? That’s how she met Conner, who prosecuted the case nearly 10 years earlier.

It’s also responsible for the best parts of tonight’s episode — flashbacks that show the now-couple’s first meeting and reveal how Hayes lost the first time they faced off in court. To sum it up quickly: Gerald insisted he and Claire were happy and in love (in other words, he had no motive to kill her), so Hayes tried to introduce reasonable doubt by focusing on the string of burglaries in the neighborhood around the time of Claire’s death. She contended Claire surprised the robber, who knocked her off the balcony and was still at large.

Meanwhile, Conner put Claire’s sister, Emma, on the stand to reveal some extremely damaging testimony: Three years prior, Claire had told her Gerald was having sex with men and that she wanted a divorce. Hayes could have asked for a continuance prior to Emma’s statement to have more time to properly vet her, but Gerald told her nothing Emma could say would be damaging. If only that had been the case … Instead, Emma gave Gerald motive. And despite the presence of unidentifiable fingerprints on the inside of the Harris’ back door, the jury believed Emma’s story. It’s no surprise, then, that Gerald isn’t too thrilled when Hayes pays him a visit to tell him the CIU is taking another look at his conviction.

When Conner hears about the CIU’s newest case, he confronts Hayes about why she didn’t tell him and again mentions the distance between them since the former POTUS left town. She finally admits what dear old dad said, to which Conner replies “That’s ridiculous … But you believe him?” She doesn’t not believe him, and an obviously hurt and disappointed Conner leaves her office without a word. Insert sad-face emoji here.

Though Gerald is now in a New York prison, he and Claire lived in Chicago at the time of her death, so Maxine flies to the Windy City to track down Scott Hill, a man arrested for robbery one year after Gerald’s conviction. He was picked up with items from some houses in the Harris’ neighborhood and spent five years in prison for residential burglary, so he definitely fits into Hayes’ original theory that Claire was killed after surprising a robber. Unfortunately, his alibi for the night she died says otherwise — Scott was busy robbing a big greystone over in North Lawndale, where he took “a hell of a haul.” He remembers because the next day, he saw news of Claire’s death on TV. In any event, the CIU is back to square one.

Conner quickly returns to Hayes’ office and delivers a pretty good explanation of why her father might be right after all:

He leaves again, seemingly to let Hayes ruminate on his confession. After a quick flashback showing Gerald insisting to Hayes that his wife came to accept his dalliances — “She saw me, and loved me anyway” — Hayes takes the elevator to Conner’s office and returns his declaration of love. At least that’s settled, right?

In another flashback, Hayes asks Conner for a deal after Emma’s testimony, knowing she’s likely to lose the case. Conner, of course, refuses, and the two end up getting hot and heavy in the courthouse elevator. (Yeah, their chemistry was off-the-charts even then.)

NEXT: An unexpected outcome

Back in present day, Hayes shows the team a pile of Polaroids featuring Gerald’s old flames, who are now all suspects in Claire’s murder. Frankie pulls fingerprints off the images and runs them through a database, which spits out the name of Paul Lund — whose fingerprints also match the unidentified set found inside the Harris’ back door. Maxine, who’s still in Chicago, tracks down Paul for a quick interrogation. He confirms he once followed Gerald home after a hookup, and later knocked on their door out of loneliness and curiosity. He claims Claire invited him inside for a cup of coffee; though it wasn’t stated outright, it was obvious Claire knew he was Gerald’s lover and was “very kind” anyway, suggesting she was, in fact, okay with her husband’s extracurricular activities. However, his alibi for the night in question confirms he couldn’t have killed Claire.

The CIU’s last hope lies with Frankie, who suggests they have Claire’s body exhumed so he can figure out how she could have otherwise gotten the wound on the back of her head (if it wasn’t inflicted by Gerald). Using a creepy AF dummy — which he repeatedly pushes over the second-floor railing of the CIU’s office building — Frankie determines Claire could have fallen backward over the banister and hit her head on the landing on her way down. It might prove she wasn’t hit on the back of the head, but it still doesn’t mean her death was an accident … until Frankie remembers she had a cough the night she died.

This seemingly insignificant detail leads Frankie back to the medical examiner’s office, where he has the doc examine Claire’s aorta. His long-shot theory turns out to be right: The ME concludes that Claire died from a spontaneous coronary aortic dissection. Basically, a coughing fit caused the lining of Claire’s aorta to shred; blood flowed up underneath and formed a bubble blocking the artery, leading to a virtually undetectable heart attack. Yep, it was an accident after all, which means Gerald’s in the clear. Score another one for the good guys.

Elsewhere on Conviction

The episode’s B-story is what brings us to the hour’s bizarre final moments. Way back in episode 3, the CIU took on the case of Rodney Landon, a known xenophobe serving four life sentences for bombing a mosque and killing four people on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Though the investigation revealed Landon was innocent of the crime — he actually intended to bomb a different mosque — he remained in jail after stabbing an unarmed inmate with a shiv.

Landon requests a visit from Sam and says the white supremacist was the one who attacked him — after getting intel that Landon was a snitch. What’s more, the inmate in question is planning to testify at Landon’s upcoming assault trial that an ADA tipped him off about Landon’s snitching in an effort to get him killed. The identity of that ADA? Sam himself. So, yeah, he’s about to be subpoenaed. What he says could not only end his career but call into question everything the CIU has done so far. Yikes!

Though Sam plans to plead the fifth — which will result in his immediate disbarment and end his career — Hayes convinces the judge on Landon’s case to disallow the inmate’s testimony, leaving everyone in the clear. Wallace, though, wants Sam gone from the CIU and asks Hayes to fire him.

Once Gerald’s case is settled, Hayes visits Sam to deliver the bad news. He says he understands and then … out of absolutely nowhere … Hayes pulls him into a surprisingly passionate kiss. When they’re done, Sam takes the words right out of my mouth when he asks “What the hell was that?”

“You’ve been sexually harassed by your boss, in front of a witness,” Hayes responds, her gaze drifting to the office cleaner watching them through the glass walls. “No one’s firing you now.”

Okay, I guess that makes sense. Hayes is loyal to her team and wants Sam to continue working for her. But then we see there’s another witness to their little makeout session: Conner. At this point, Hayes leaves Sam’s office, walks up to Conner, delivers a lame “Sorry,” and then keeps on walking. And that’s when the episode fades to black.

Seriously, Conviction? Seriously? That’s how you’re going to leave it, with no explanation? Was Hayes just trying to help Sam, or was she also engaging in a bit of self-sabotage (i.e. she knew Conner was watching and wanted to purposely ruin their relationship)? If the kiss didn’t mean anything, why couldn’t she just clarify what happened? But nope, we’re left in limbo — like Conner, probably — and will likely never find out what happens next.

What did you think of Conviction‘s season-ender? Were you as shocked as I was? To be honest, I think my jaw is still on the floor.

Episode 13 Case Notes:

  • Conner: “Listen, that was …”
    Hayes: “The most fun you’ve ever had in an elevator?”
    Conner: “Yeah … but I still have to say no to a deal.”
    Hayes: “You think I had sex with you for a deal? I screwed you because I wanted to screw you, because you’re kind of hot in a freckly Irish way. I mean, obviously, you’re into me, too. If I win or lose this case, it’ll be on my own merits, which are really damn good.”

Episode Recaps

Conviction

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