As the trial begins, the defense team identifies new suspects and Naz falls deeper to the dark side
John Stone is thinking inside the box. The litter box. Viewers who finished watching the last episode concerned about the eczema-suffering lawyer’s new feline companion can rest assured. In tonight’s opening scene, it appeared Stone had obviously gotten advice from Katherine Heigl and provided his cat with a place to do her business.
Dressed in rubber gloves and a surgical mask, Stone dutifully scoops away the clumps, leading to this first dialogue exchange of the episode:
Stone: “That’s better, huh?”
Overall, this chapter returns to the series’ foreboding tone, briefly lightened last week with gags about Viagra and Duane Reade. The trial of Nasir Khan has officially started, with opening statements made by Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) for the people and Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) for the defense, and a string of witnesses called by the prosecution.
Though there’s no mention here of the hilariously named Duane Reade, we do take a deeper, creepier dive into the identities of two aforementioned players in the saga of Andrea Cornish’s murder. First up: The hearse driver from Episode 1, our old friend with the intriguingly Dickensian name of Mr. Day. Chandra tracks him down via security footage from the gas station and encounters him at his mortuary for perhaps the nastiest, spookiest conversation of the season thus far — and quite a change of temperature from last episode’s humorous scene involving an embalmed body.
First, let’s point out the bust to the left of a woman’s head. Totally normal, nothing to see there. “She had that vibration that some women got,” Mr. Day says of Andrea, while applying red nail polish to a female corpse. “Like she’s the cat and you’re the yarn. Women like that are out to destroy you. Sometimes you gotta strike first.”
Given the show has already produced at least three plausible suspects (in addition to Naz), Mr. Day’s serial-killer glare is probably too obvious a contrivance to be treated credibly. That doesn’t make it any less disturbing, particularly when he cites the Bible (never a great gesture for the mentally unstable), pointing to the fable that paints women as the root of all evil: Samson and Delilah (episode title alert).
Stone discourages Chandra from going down this dark road, which is ironic considering he found himself lost in the bowels of a building and chasing a subject at the end of last week’s episode. “Next time, when you wanna talk to somebody,” he tells Chandra, “let me do it.”
And Stone does talk to somebody. In tonight’s final minutes, he tracks down this guy:
That’s Ray Halle, whom Stone saw arguing with Andrea’s stepfather, Don, at her funeral. Ray was Andrea’s mother’s accountant before Mrs. Cornish died. After Stone makes his classic move of getting up to leave since Ray won’t talk (“We’ll have to do it a little more formally, with a subpoena and all that”), the CPA spills the beans.
Don, it turns out, has a history. According to Ray, when Don maneuvered himself into a position to inherit Andrea’s mom’s estate (worth $5 million), Andrea said, “Over my dead body.”
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Speaking of Andrea’s dead body, for those hyper-neurotic about the show’s devotion to accurate New York City geography, you’ll notice one little slip-up in this episode. During her opening statement to the jury, Helen Weiss says Andrea is buried in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. But we remember her funeral — held at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.
NEXT: What’s that written on Naz’s Facebook wall — and knuckles?
Ten more miscellaneous observations from “Samson and Delilah”:
Though the trial has only just started, Naz — now smoking crack through a Bic pen and tattooing “SIN” on his knuckles — has completed his transition into hardened prisoner. “I’m gonna make a proper convict out of you yet,” says Freddy. Mission accomplished.
Naz sees something he really wasn’t supposed to see. Passing by a cell door on Freddy’s floor, he witnesses one of Freddy’s crew receiving fellatio from young Petey, whose mother smuggled Freddy’s heroin into Rikers. Later, Freddy’s goon presses a razor to Naz’s throat in the shower (where Naz is noticeably not wearing shoes), and makes Naz promise not to reveal what he saw. The real question is: What would Freddy’s reaction be? One suspects betrayal over homophobia.
Finally (and mercifully), Stone has found a cure for what ails him. A Chinatown pharmacist named Dr. Yee, whom Stone compares to Helen Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan, has at long last cured his eczema. If the brown powder fails him — and at this point, we all live in fear that it might — there’s always cupping.
At the beginning of this episode, we find out a Pakistani cab driver has been beaten up by four white men in a “retaliation” attack for Andrea’s murder. From Naz’s case, we understand there’s a much greater racial and religious strife erupting in the city. Credit to series creators Steven Zaillian and Richard Price for keeping this issue on the slow-boiling back burner, never addressing it in a head-on manner, which would be sanctimonious given the admirably non-preachy nature of the show. And, really, how much bigger a spotlight does the audience need to prove things aren’t too peaceful out there?
Delete your account
Thanks to Detective Box’s online sleuthing, we get a glimpse at Naz’s Facebook and Linkedin accounts — and insight into an incident from Naz’s past, when he pushed a student down a flight of stairs after being insulted with anti-Muslim slurs in the wake of 9/11.
One is the loneliest number
Chandra reveals to Stone that she has just recently gotten out of a long-term relationship. She does not, however, mention this to Naz when he calls her. From Rikers. On a cellular phone.
Chandra might be single, but for some strange reason she insists on pointing out in court that Helen Weiss is not. “Mrs. Weiss,” Chandra says to the jury, adding, “She prefers to be called Mrs.”
In very brief glimpses, we catch up with Naz’s family. His mother is working as a janitor, his father has a job as a food delivery man, and his brother is seen vandalizing the high school he was expelled from. Not the best of times.
The wisdom of Freddy
The Night Of is perhaps most fascinating for how its characters — on completely opposite sides of the narrative — echo each other throughout the show. This incredible exchange between Freddy and Naz sounds almost exactly like a similar one Naz and Stone had during their first meeting:
Freddy: “Dude [Stone] is okay from what I understand. Girl [Chandra] is too young.”
Naz: “She believes me.”
Freddy: “That ain’t important. Only a new lawyer wouldn’t know that.”
The episode ends, hauntingly, with Stone spying on Andrea’s stepfather, spotting an older woman at the gym to the main theme from Fargo. Everything tastes better with a dash of Carter Burwell mixed in.