Bluff City Law Episode 5
As Sydney and Elijah settle into life without Caroline, they cope in different ways. Sydney tries to drown her sorrows in whiskey with a side of bartender and Elijah tries to make home feel like home again with an omelet. When Sydney’s evening carries too far into the morning, Jake sees through her flimsy excuse and offers some of his own advice on maintaining a schedule in the morning.
As they move into their day, they encounter 12-year-old Erika and her “wagon of research”, a force with which to be reckoned – and is their new client.
Suing the Government
Erika appeals to Sydney and Elijah. Her research is thorough, and her cause is both urgent and just. The Straits want to help but suing the government for climate change won’t help but they will use all the resources at their disposal to garner aid for these families. It isn’t until they take Erika home to the motel, that the case is really made.
After seeing the realities of the displaced families, Sydney and Elijah are ready to take on the government. Specifically, the Army Corp of Engineers, the designers and builders of the failed levee. Sydney systematically makes the case and Erika checks off strategic points in her notebook as they are made. Just before the final point is checked, the Army Corp of Engineers throws a wrench in the case. They wanted to fix the foreseen probably but were blocked by the Environmental Defense Council. The new strategy? Add a second defendant.
This new strategy is particularly sticky for Elijah, a long-time attorney of record for the Environmental Defense Council in other cases. The Council’s chair is prepared and “kicks the can” of responsibility down the road. What can you do when a case turns like this? Add several new defendants.
When Erika calls a spade a spade and points out that they are losing, Elijah and Sydney are honest with her. No patronizing, no placating, just honest answers and even an “I don’t know” in answer of the new strategy. But they do settle on a new strategy, alternate liability. Rather than blaming one defendant, they can blame them all.
Erika is delayed in arriving at the courthouse after Emerson’s car breaks down. Elijah and Sydney proceed with the case, questioning each defendant and each one blaming someone else or claiming no fault. When closing arguments are set to start, Erika is still not there. Just as the judge orders Sydney to deliver a closing argument, Erika arrives.
The closing argument is a true story of so much more than this one case. The world is built on passing the buck, refusing to take blame, refusal to admit when we are wrong, and blaming others. We live in an echo chamber of such antics when, as Sydney points out, it is really our job to work together. The defense offers up that this was an act of God that no man could stop.
Erika provides the rebuttal to the jury. She tells the story of their dog, Memphis, when she was younger. They played the “not it” game when the dog would have an accident. Last one to call it, had to take responsibility for cleaning. Her grandmother saw it and reminded them all of this. “When you agree to take care of something, it’s your responsibility to uphold your end of the deal, no matter what.” Powerful argument and reminder from a 12-year-old. Sydney encourages the defendants to work out a settlement they can spin to the press rather than risk the jury decision. The settlement offer promises to take care of the levees, a displacement fund for the future and current care for the families.
Della sings the blues
This is our first glimpse at Della in action. A clues singer, Jimi Barkley, asks Della to help plan for his ultimate passing, driven by the recent loss of a friend. The charge? A private concert that leads her on a case of her own. Jimi claims to have written the song but he isn’t trying to fight for it.
Della and Anthony visit the record company to discuss the ownership of the song “Ruby Lou”. The songwriter’s widow owns half the rights and the studio owns half. Jimi’s past comes to light. While we are in the studio, Anthony treats us to a few bars of “He Leadeth Me”.
Della has Gertrude come in to discuss the origins of the song “Ruby Lou”. She has no interest in helping and holds nothing but ill will toward Jimi. Jimi is angry that Della would talk to Trudy. He claims to have caused her nothing but trouble and pain. His exaggerated reaction leads Della to ask if Trudy knew he was in love with her. That’s why he changed the name of the song to “Ruby Lou” from “Trudy True”.
Della and Trudy come to listen to the song with the original lyrics. Jimi falters a minute at the thought but plays it with the original lyrics. She sees the truth and will sign the ownership and royalties over to Jimi. When Della shows him a royalty statement, Jimi wants to set up a fund to help other bluesmen who don’t find a Della to help.
Life is hard
We find George climbing a water tower and looking over the edge. The audience breathed a collective sigh of relief when the police officers let Jake take George home. That’s when Jake finds out another one of George’s secrets. His new apartment, first freedom in years, has been vandalized with “Kid Killer”. Jake tells George he can stay with him for a bit. When Jake presses Robbie, they realize the complexities of an old case with high tensions. Robbie may have found a break for both Jake and his own investigation.
Robbie and Jake visit Tommy, the officer that took the first statement from the mother. The conversation brings new information to light. Chief Rayburn directed the “loss” of the first statement and encouraged the direction of the second statement. Though Rayburn has passed, the information gives Jake some leads for his case.
In addition to the case work, Jake has been making sure George is cared for. A new alarm system, the graffiti is cleaned up and he is ready to send George home. As Jake walks through the house he sees food out, wine ready, but hears no response from George. He pushes deeper into the house and still no answer from George. As the audience collectively holds its breath Jake finds George in the bathtub, curled up with a blanket and pillow. Turns out, freedom is just too big for George still. Too much space is overwhelming. Rather than sending George back home, Jake suggests he stay for a while.
Elijah and Sydney discuss the sinking in of life without their anchor. When Sydney asks what they are going to do, Elijah answers: “what we always do, keep fighting.”
This episode showcases the guest stars. Our cast delivered great performances, but Scott Shepherd (as George Bell) really continues to shine. His portrayal of George Bell is heartwarming and heartbreaking as he re-enters society. When I watched the pilot, I didn’t expect George’s arc to be so crucial to getting to know Jake, but it is a wonderfully written, intertwined arc that I can’t wait to keep watching.
Tonight’s star performance was without a doubt given to us by Priah Ferguson, who brought Erika to life. A powerhouse, spitfire and wiling to remind us of her tender age at the same time, her performance brought it all to us. I think we can all envision a future where she joins the firm, right?
We were also treated to some genuine Memphis blues brought to us by Chuck Cooper as Jimi Barkley. You can’t have a show based in Memphis without the blues and we were not let down here. The writers gave us a great take on a familiar story that gave us blues, Della in action, and a little musical performance by Michael Luwoye.
My favorite part about this show? It inspires me every week. The whole cast and crew, the creatives, the sound engineers, create such a seamless product that you feel like you might live in Memphis on Mondays and maybe you’ll run into Sydney or Robbie at your favorite watering hole. The show brings us truths wrapped in powerful stories and tonight, reminded us of lessons we all know, but perhaps, given the climate of the day, it was a timely reminder. We can all do better, do our parts no matter what, and keep fighting. Let’s meet in Memphis next week.
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