Jill and Roger face off in the courtroom and put their friendship at risk.
Oh, For the People, you are a tricky one. The last episode gave us a closer look at Roger and Jill’s complicated, adorable, borderline romantic relationship, making the tension and anger that abounds in “Flippity-Flop,” where they face off on an emotional case, all the more gutting. Will their friendship survive this? Do we even want to watch a show where Jill and Roger aren’t Jill and Roger? Do not do this to us, For the People!
The friction between Mom and Dad begins when they find themselves in a very odd place — and I’m not just talking about the diner where Roger decides to hold their regular meeting in order to soften the blow of the news of yet another DEA raid by offering Jill omelets. I’m talking about who Jill and Roger come to represent in the major Case of the Week.
Jill has had enough of the DEA swooping in and arresting people, claiming it is an effective way to fight the war on drugs. The raids are reckless and unconstitutional. So, Jill has Sandra look into the most recent one. When Sandra discovers that one of the 12 people arrested in the raid is not in the system, Jill and Sandra want to find this missing Brian Torres. If he was let go and not charged for some reason, he could be a good way in to a case against the DEA.
Like the good little public defender she is, Sandra heads down to the last place there is a record of Torres. When she asks the guard for information as to what happened to him, he tells her that Torres was checked into Holding Room 3 four days ago. Since there’s no record of him being processed and charged, he must have been let go and no one entered it into the computer. It’s not like someone would put him in that cell and leave him in there, right?
Unfortunately, no. When Sandra and the guard open Holding Room 3, they come upon a grisly sight. Brian Torres is unconscious on the ground, covered in blood. Something horrible happened here. We learn of the horrors Torres endured while left in that windowless, bathroomless cell with no food or water for four days; he became so disoriented that he began hallucinating and clawed at his own neck. There is footage of the entire thing. We only see short clips of it, but it is more than enough.
Jill wants justice for Brian Torres. She doesn’t care that the arresting officer, Agent Keener, was fired. She wants the government and Keener to pay for what they did to Torres. She pleads with Roger to take on the case, but he will not. What happened to Torres was inhumane and tragic, but it was an accident and there is no criminal action to prosecute.
Well, that’s what he says until the tape of what happened to Brian Torres goes public (thanks to Jill Carlan, no doubt), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is forced to take action. They must simultaneously show the public that they are taking what happened to Torres seriously, while also not pissing off too many people at the DEA — an organization they work with frequently. Which is how it comes to pass that Roger Gunn and Leonard Knox are prosecuting a former DEA Agent for deprivation of rights under the color of law.
Jill cannot believe it. Up is down. Black is white. Roger Gunn is arguing a case against the U.S. government. What is this world? She’s ready to celebrate with a big bottle of bubbly, until she and Sandra learn that they will be the ones defending the DEA agent who left Brian Torres in that cell for four days.
That, my friends, is a buzzkill.
Neither side really wants to argue what they have to argue, and when Sandra and Leonard come to this realization in their plea negotiations, their jobs gets a lot easier. They’ll have Keener plead guilty to a civil charge and the criminal charges will be dropped. In short, no jail time. It seems like a best case scenario…until Jill brings the deal to Keener.
Keener knows that Jill’s defended people who he arrested and that there is no trust between them, but he also needs her to understand that he is a human being and he made a mistake. He claims there was no intent to torture Brian Torres. He put him in the cell and then got pulled away on another job — he, and everyone else, forgot about Torres. It’s horrible, but it is the truth. If he pleads guilty to a civil charge, he’ll be admitting he did something wrong, he’ll never work in law enforcement again, and he’ll simply look like another cop who partakes in police brutality. He believes in his work, he’s not just part of the system, and he made a mistake. He needs Jill to fight for him.
While Keener is pleading his case to Jill, Roger finally brings himself to watch the footage of Brian Torres in the holding cell. When Jill and Roger meet again, they are arguing the exact opposite stance they took at the beginning of the episode. Roger, visibly disturbed by what he has seen, wants justice for Brian Torres. Jill believes this was a tragic accident. They are both emotionally attached to this case — and they take it out on one another.
With the plea deal off the table, the emotions between Roger and Jill spill into the courtroom. They’re both fighting to the death for their clients, even if it means risking their friendship. When Roger gets the video of Brian Torres admitted into evidence, it looks like the prosecution might have this thing locked up. Roger gives an emotional Closing Argument Moment about how terrible and wrong it is that the government can just sweep people up, lock them away, and forget they ever existed. It’s not the Closing Argument Moment one would expect from Roger Gunn, but nothing about this case is going as expected.
No one wants to follow that act, but Jill must. She gives a similarly stirring speech, even using Roger’s line about sweeping people up, locking them away, and forgetting they existed — only this time, she’s referring to how terrible it would be to do that to Agent Keener because he made one mistake.
Keener is found not guilty. And although the post-trial elevator flirting between Sandra and Leonard is very interesting (Shondaland loves a good Elevator Flirt Session), we need to find out what this means for Roger and Jill.
Duh, you guys, Roger and Jill’s relationship is bigger than any case. They’ve walked in each other’s shoes for a while, and now they can put it behind them and talk baseball over omelets and champagne at the diner. That was a riveting case and all, but let’s never make Jill and Roger angry at each other again, okay? Okay.
None of the other storylines are as compelling as the saga of Roger & Jill & the DEA. Jay discovers that his father made a bad investment in a water filter company pyramid scheme and enlists Seth to help take the company down. Although this seems like it could be the beginning of a beautiful bromance, Seth finds no evidence of illegal doings by the company. Jay’s dad simply made a dumb decision. It takes a heart-to-heart with the wise Tina Krissman for Jay to realize that parents are human, too. The best thing to come from this storyline, however, is that Jay’s need for information on Seth before he asks for help gets Allison thinking a little bit more about how much she’s missing her ex. They end the evening chatting about Seth’s mother and her recent trip to the Antiques Roadshow while munching on some of the Apology Baklava Jay gave Seth for not taking Seth’s news so well. Seth and Allison will hook up before the season is over, right? It’s only fair.
I shouldn’t rag too much on Kate Littlejohn’s storyline because it is a delight to watch Kate Littlejohn do anything outside of her comfort zone. This time, it’s animals. Because Kate Littlejohn wouldn’t dare get emotionally attached to furry critters, Roger gives her an animal smuggling case. She is now The Animal Lady — just don’t tell her that. And even though her case is settled before she can do anything with it, she has become so immersed in the animal kingdom, that by episode’s end, Kate Littlejohn is feeding mangos to a little lizard named Mango. After all the Mom and Dad drama, that scene is truly the gift we deserve.