Lloyd Bochner always cheers me up. When describing him, a lot of people use words like “interchangeable” or “bland” or “that one guy.” I prefer to go with “Canadian” and “perfectly modulated voice” or sometimes I just yell: “It’s a cookbook!”
That last one is because after a long career of guest starring roles and small parts in movies, Bochner remains best known for his episode of The Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man.” But did you know he also made TV history with his recurring role on Dynasty? He played the first television character to die while doing the horizontal mambo, when Joan Collins’ Alexis overwhelmed him with a heart attack in the sack. Never say I don’t teach you things.
Today we’re watching him in an episode of The Big Valley. It’s the one where Jarrod goes blind, and I’m honestly so happy because it’s the best character-goes-temporarily-blind episode ever, with the possible exception of the Happy Days where it happens to The Fonz and they make him put his motorcycle back together as therapy. And by the best, I kind of mean the worst.
Temporary blindness used to be on the trope list right after amnesia. (There’s also an episode of Big Valley where Jarrod gets amnesia, it’s called “The Man from Nowhere” and two seasons later, Victoria – that’s Jarrod’s mother if this is your first visit – has her own case of amnesia. It’s a show that never lets you down.) By the mid-70’s, most primetime dramas figured out that blindness shouldn’t be a gimmick, and we start seeing more accurate and interesting portrayals of blind characters like in Little House on the Prairie or Longstreet.
What stops the whole thing from being offensive, most times, is that the trope had its heart in the right place. It was usually trying to teach us about loss, or perseverance, or the things we take for granted. The results were usually more cheesy than insensitive, as we’ll see shortly.
The episode starts with Jarrod visiting his old law school chum, Jim Scanlon. Scanlon’s wife Sharon teases them about their different personalities, with Jarrod being the charming kind of lawyer and Scanlon being the kind who diligently hunts down minutiae until four in the morning and forgets to say hello when he walks into new rooms. Both are valid approaches, but when you’re married to one kind, the other has a certain grass-is-greener appeal. But Sharon truly loves her husband… which might not be the best idea given how this plotline is going to shake out.
Scanlon and Jarrod adjourn to the den for a gentlemanly cup of coffee, where Jarrod notices a giant mountain of papers and maps. We find out that Scanlon is working on the Cunningham Case, and he finally has some dirt on Joshua Cunningham, the wretched land baron being played by Lloyd Bochner.
In the paper mountain are receipts, affidavits, and everything else Scanlon needs to prove that Cunningham hired a goon to dynamite the Collier Dam. Cunningham’s number is up, and Scanlon’s going to be the one who nails his coffin shut.
Jarrod’s law school buddies all meet tragic ends, btw. The most memorable is probably William Shatner as the worst bank robber ever. He doesn’t even take money.
“This time, there’s going to be no tampering with the jury, no buying of witnesses, no falsifying evidence,” Scanlon smiles with a gleam of pride in his eye. “This time, Mr. Joshua T. Cunningham is going to find out that he is not above the law!”
If there’s one thing I know about men like Cunningham, it’s that once they’re cornered they back right down. I’m sure it won’t make him even more dangerous. After all, when you corner a tiger it means the fight is totally over and in no way just beginning. Good job, Scanlon!
Jarrod says he’s sure that this is the end of Cunningham, thanks to his dear friend’s diligent legal work. But one thing confuses him. With Scanlon as just about the only county prosecutor willing to go up against them in court, why haven’t Cunningham’s lawyers moved for a change of venue?
They did, according to Scanlon, and the judge denied the request.
“It’s beginning to dawn on Mr. Cunningham that the days of the freebooters are over,” Scanlon says coldly. There’s something obsessive about him, a hardness in his face and a gleefulness in his voice when he talks about taking this guy down. He even bounces on the balls of his feet a little. It’s intense.
Sharon joins them with a fresh pot of coffee, and she’s topping off Jarrod’s cup when there’s a knock at the door. Scanlon excuses himself to go and see who it is.
He opens the door.
A double-barrelled shotgun is leveled at his stomach.
The unseen assailant fires.
Scanlon’s body is blasted against the table in the front hall, but it’s all totally bloodless. It’s even arranged so that when he hits the table, white roses fall over his torso to hide where the open wound would’ve been. (I would’ve have chosen red roses, but for all we know they originally did and got a slap from the censorship people.)
Sharon immediately begins weeping over her husband’s body, and Jarrod makes his Revenge Face into the middle distance.
Revenge Faces always mean trouble on a Western.
A quick jaunt through the title sequence and we’re at stately Barkley Manor. Silas is coming down the main stairs with a pile of laundry when the doorbell rings. Audra cheerfully passes him and says she’ll grab it since his arms are full.
Audra, no! Somebody with a shotgun is shooting people who answer their doors!
But, of course, since Audra hasn’t done anything to anger Joshua Cunningham, she finds that it’s just Mr. Gaines here to see Jarrod. So, presumably, some time has passed since Scanlon’s murder. Like usual, Audra is wearing era-inappropriate jeans and her hair is a masterclass of construction. She leads Mr. Gaines into the library, where Jarrod is looking less than his usual self.
He appears to be taking buttons as more of a suggestion than a requirement.
Gaines establishes that it’s been a few days since that night at Jim Scanlon’s, and Jarrod mumbles about goodness and corruption and looks around like he’s lost his keys but doesn’t really need to find them.
Audra mentions that Sharon Scanlon went up to Sacramento to stay with family, and Victoria went with her so that she wouldn’t have to travel alone. So don’t expect to see Victoria until at least the fifteen minute mark, giving the kids a good stretch of time to mess everything up in her absence.
You know what would be a particularly bad idea? If Jarrod, raw with grief and filled with a thirst for vengeance, were to take over Scanlon’s job as District Attorney and prosecute Cunningham. Naturally, that’s exactly what Gaines wants Jarrod to do.
Nick, Jarrod’s brother, is the hot-headed character who starts every conversation by punching the other guy in the face, but he’s got a good sense of when to let things go in the long term. Once you’re past that punching stage, you’re pretty much home free. Jarrod, on the other hand, hoards grudges like a dragon hoards treasure, and in several episodes, he hunts men to the ends of the earth for things they may or may not have done to him. If you make it personal with Jarrod, no force of logic in the universe can save you.
He has a long fuse but a lot of dynamite.
Still, even brimming with hatred like he is now, Jarrod has the good sense to suggest someone else for the job. He thinks that the young ADA, Mark Bromley, would be better suited to handling the case. Bromley helped Scanlon prepare for trial, after all, and also maybe Jarrod doesn’t want to get shot in the stomach? Someone’s been going around doing that.
But Audra’s had enough of this damnable common sense. She reminds him that Scanlon was his friend, and that means its vendetta time. He has to man up and see Cunningham either dead or behind bars.
Classic Audra. That girl never saw a fire she didn’t add fuel to.
Jarrod explains that of course he’d like to get the most vengeful revenge on Cunningham possible, but this is the world of lawyers, not the world of gunslingers and quick fixes. Cunningham’s attorney could use Jarrod’s friendship with Scanlon as part of the defense, convince the jury that Jarrod wasn’t fairly prosecuting Cunningham for Collier Dam, he was out for blood because of the murder.
Mr. Gaines says he doesn’t think Jarrod’s giving the jury enough credit, but he respects the decision. He leaves Barkley Manor looking very disappointed.
Audra tries to talk Jarrod into taking the job one more time, but Jarrod really puts his foot down. Unless something really dramatic happens to change his mind, he won’t be prosecuting Cunningham.
Sometime later, Jarrod rolls into his Stockton offices still looking grief-stricken and frumpy, only to find a couple of goons loitering inside. One of the goons swings the door shut with a very sassy hand motion, and the other is leaning against the windowsill like quite the roustabout.
But they’re not the only ones waiting for him.
Jarrod’s desk chair spins around for a dramatic villain reveal of Joshua T. Cunningham!
“I hope you don’t mind that we made ourselves at home,” Cunningham taunts in his sonorous voice, “Mason had a key that happened to fit the lock.”
Mason, the goon by the window, twirls a skeleton key in his hand and cracks a lopsided grin.
Bizarre as it may seem, Cunningham is not here to put the squeeze on Jarrod or intimidate him. He wants Jarrod to speak on his behalf at a set of hearings in Sacramento, where state officials are trying to prevent land-grabbers from freebooting. That would effectively kill Cunningham’s business model, but he’s all tied up in Stockton dealing with this dynamiting charge and can’t go speak for himself. If Jarrod would take this job and get out of the way of Cunningham’s Stockton dealings, he’d be well compensated…
The problem is that you can’t really buy Jarrod off. He already has more money than Croesus. If he gets a paper cut, he doesn’t bleed, he just leaks molten gold.
“Get out,” Jarrod orders, without even making eye contact.
Cunningham offers him a thousand dollars a week, plus expenses, but Jarrod still refuses. In modern money, he just turned down twenty-five thousand dollars a week. He wouldn’t even have to do anything, just make a speech and hang around Sacramento.
I’m trying not to cry.
The goon by the door, Correll, starts scratching the furniture with one of his spurs. He stands next to the built-in bookcases and just runs that spur up and down and gouges the life out of that wood.
Jarrod says he’s going to send him a bill for the repairs.
It’s clear that these guys are trying to create an atmosphere of pressure and menace in order to intimidate Jarrod. It’s also clear that it’s not working.
Sometimes, when you’re used to seeing the same actor over and over again in different roles, it distracts from what they’re trying to do with individual characters, but in Cunningham’s case, it’s actually kind of useful. There’s ample evidence that Lloyd Bochner could play intimidating, smooth villains and dangerous scoundrels when he wanted to, so the fact that he’s not doing it here is interesting.
Cunningham seems overwhelmed by unexpected problems. He wants to be thought of as a power player, but his hired muscle speaks of a panic-button style of violence instead of a tactical ruthlessness. He dresses well and makes the grand entrance; but his fashionable moustache easily distracts him, and gives away his unease because he keeps smoothing it nervously.
He’s a dangerous man, but he’s not as smart as he should be, and he knows it.
He even makes the mistake of tipping his hand too soon.
Jarrod is well aware that this is all about getting him out of town during the Collier Dam trial, but Cunningham goes to the trouble of explaining that he heard Gaines was asking Jarrod to take over as prosecuting attorney. Jarrod replies that he didn’t take the job.
Satisfied, and a little embarrassed at his clumsily lacking intel, Cunningham stands to leave. At the door, he lets Jarrod know that – all bribes aside – if he really would like that job in Sacramento anyway, it’s his.
The whole notion that he would ever, ever work for somebody who had one of his friends killed sets Jarrod to boiling. With a hint of viciousness in his voice, he announces that he has changed his mind about the job.
But not the one in Sacramento, the one persecuting Cunningham for Collier Dam and he won’t stop until Cunningham is behind bars, or hanging for the murder of Jim Scanlon!
See you in court!
…uh… Jarrod? I know this is a dramatic moment for you, but Cunningham has prosecuting attorneys killed in their own homes. So, you know, maybe tone down the oath of vengeance? Just a little.
Cunningham looks like he got slapped by a nun for bringing orphans teddy bears, and he and his good squad hurry out. But not before Correll gets in an ominous parting shot:
“I’ll be looking for that bill from you, Barkley,” he smiles, “You’ll get paid.”
Awesome work, everyone. This impromptu meeting has gone exactly how each side was hoping.
When next we see Justice Crusader Jarrod – temporary District Attorney of San Joaquin County – he’s still rejecting the use of buttons, and researching legal stuff very, very late at night in his Stockton office. (I keep mentioning that it’s his Stockton office, newcomers, because he also has a San Francisco office, in case you were wondering.)
That sounds dangerous, you might be thinking. Alone? In the dead of night? Where he can be assassinated quite easily? That sounds reckless and unsafe. This guy won’t live to put Cunningham on trial if he doesn’t start thinking like a villain.
Luckily, Jarrod has a brother with a little less faith in humanity and a little more willingness to shoot anyone who knocks on a door at one in the morning.
That’s right. Beloved human punching machine Nick Barkley is in the office with his big bro.
He’s got his boots up on Jarrod’s fancy desk, and he’s whittling a stick to beat the soul-crushing boredom. After all, he’s in a law office with nothing to do all night, and nobody would invent Angry Birds for another hundred and thirty years. Poor Nick.
Poor Jarrod, too, for he faces that unique annoyance of spending time with a younger sibling who wants to have a conversation while you’re trying to read something important.
“They sure don’t make knives like they used to. It is a fact, a fact!” Nick declares, leaving long wood chips from his whittling on Jarrod’s papers.
Jarrod looks annoyed, but he’s the one who doesn’t have any dime novels or comic books in his law offices, which is selfish. You never know when you might get stuck with a kid or an antsy gentleman cowboy. He rolls his eyes as Nick yawns loudly and repeats himself:
“No, they sure don’t make knives like they used to.”
“They also don’t make desks like they used to,” Jarrod grumbles, grabs Nick’s foot and drops it off the desk. After all, we’ve already seen one set of spurs trash the oak around here. He pinches the bridge of his nose, “Look, Nick, why don’t you go get something to eat?”
“Not hungry,” Nick shrugs.
“Not hungry? What do you mean you’re not hungry? You’re always hungry, you—”
Both men freeze suddenly, their ears pricking at the sound of footsteps on the hallway stairs. Nick positions himself kind of like a jaguar about to spring, and Jarrod pulls the emergency desk gun out of the top drawer.
The footsteps draw nearer.
There’s a surprisingly gentle knock on the door.
It turns out to be Mark Bromley, who aside from being less fresh-faced than we’ve been led to believe is also taller than you might expect. He’s wearing a soft grey suit and holding his hat and a packet of papers. There’s something, I don’t know, obviously venal about him. He ducks his chin the way that guys who think they’re handsome tend to do, and he makes a habit of looking at people out of the corner of his eyes instead of straight on. If he were on Game of Thrones or something, it would just be like: “Uh-oh, don’t tell this guy anything important.”
Bromley is here to drop off some papers that Jarrod might find useful, because he’s apparently totally unaware of the time of night, but whatever. He hands over the packet, and Jarrod awkwardly apologizes to him for stealing his case and also his promotion.
“The important thing is to get Joshua Cunningham convicted,” Bromley shrugs. He bids both Barkley brothers good evening, and leaves.
On his way out, he passes by Heath.
Heath is trying to look nonchalant, which means he has his thumbs in his belt loops, but Jarrod isn’t buying the pretense of a casual visit. He doesn’t even let Heath get his malarkey explanation out.
“Look, one well intentioned brother is enough. But two is impossible,” Jarrod shakes his head.
Kick Nick out, then. Heath is way better at quiet time. He might even start casually studying law!
Jarrod decides to kick both of them out and send them on a beer break, something they only agree to because he promises to not leave the office. He locks the door behind them and settles back in at his desk.
The sound of the window pane breaking startles him enough to stand up, and that may well be what saves his life. Someone from the street has thrown a bundle of dynamite into his office. He has little time to react before the explosion.
It shakes the whole building and sends Nick and Heath running back in like twin bolts of lightning.
The office is a mess. Scratches on the built-ins are the least of anybody’s worries now. The whole room is covered in black soot, and a good chunk of the ceiling is on top of the desk. Jarrod is coughing and gasping for air amid the wreckage, but he seems to be mostly alright.
Nick and Heath hurry to his side to check on him. His shirt is torn to ribbons, and there’s a large gash on his shoulder, and something else is wrong, too.
Blue eyes open wide, Jarrod realizes that he can’t see. Not his brothers, not the wreckage of the office.
Dramatic commercial break!
Huh… anyone else find it very interesting that Bromley was in the office just before the dynamite? Almost as if he were checking out how Jarrod’s security was arranged, so he could tell someone on the street what the best way to proceed might be? Something to think about.
When next we encounter Jarrod, he’s having his eyes tested by Dr. Russell in a sequence that’s, ironically, one of the most visually interesting Big Valley ever did.
In a darkened room, Jarrod is highlighted by a thin halo of light as the doctor examines him with an old wooden lens slider. With a note of grim fatalism in his voice, the doctor says that for the next test, he’s going to expose Jarrod to varying degrees of light, and Jarrod has to say if he sees anything at all.
The doctor stands behind the light box, bathed in shadow except for a slim outline of his shining silver hair. He moves the slides back and forth in the box, running a beam of light over Jarrod’s face. Back and forth. Like a scanner or a copy machine.
Jarrod says that he can feel the heat of the light, but he can’t see it.
Grimly, Dr. Russell blows out the candle in the light box and opens the blinds. Jarrod sits in a room bathed in sunlight now, his expression one of nervous dread beneath a clam façade. The doctor gentle touches his shoulder as he passes by on his way to the waiting room.
Every. Single. Barkley is in that waiting room. And they all pop up like meerkats when the doctor comes in. He’s giving them the news we already know and Victoria fears.
Jarrod is totally blind, and it might be permanent.
(Spoiler: It’s not permanent. Sadly, we do not get a weekly series about a blind lawyer in 1880’s San Francisco fighting land barons with the help of his ill-tempered brother.)
Nick flies off the handle and demands to know what the point of the examination was if it can’t tell us whether this is permanent or not. Victoria shushes him, in full mom-mode, while the doctor goes on to say that he has no idea whether Jarrod actually damaged his optic nerve or whether this is a conversion disorder.
And, of course, this being the olden days, there are only two ways to know what’s up with Jarrod’s eyeballs. Cut him open, or wait until the end of the episode. Victoria being Victoria, she decides that the best thing to do is plan for him being permanently blind, and then be pleasantly surprised if he’s not.
Audra demands to know what they should be doing to help Jarrod, and the doctor says it’s more like a list of what not to do. Don’t pity him, or cry for him, or “lead him around like a crippled puppy.”
Hey, did you guys ever see that video about the two-legged puppy getting a tiny little wheelchair? Here it is:
His name is Tumbles! Tumbles!
Okay, so! Back to the doctor ordering Jarrod’s family not to make special arrangements for Jarrod’s new disability. Pretty sure that isn’t sound medical advice, but Victoria agrees to it anyway. Jarrod will not be helped or loved during this difficult transition.
Sounds awesome. I always thought Jarrod got too much attention anyway.
A clatter rings out from the inside office, and everyone rushes in to find Jarrod stumbling next to a knocked over chair. He explains that he was looking for some water and he tripped.
That’s all it takes to send Nick tearing off to hunt down Cunningham this very second. Time for the King of Kneejerk Reactions to earn his title! Heath goes after him, to be the sensible one. I swear to god, Heath, if you stop a poorly choreographed Western fistfight, I will be so mad.
Cunningham is in a local restaurant, having what appears to be a ladies’ high tea with his two goons. They have fancy china teacups, cakes, and tall glasses of untouched beers on the table. So, it’s like a more like a beer-and-cake tasting party, I guess?
BEER & CAKE
The District Attorney is Blind!
Please join Joshua T. Cunningham
At Stockton’s Only Restaurant
To Celebrate this Fortunate Turn of Events
Nick busts right into that dining room like he doesn’t even know what RSVP stands for, and walks straight up to Cunningham who cheerfully greets him. Nick threatens to punch him to death, and it earns him a pistol-whipping from Morgan.
Correll pulls a gun on Heath, as we realize that everybody in the restaurant is on Cunningham’s payroll. (So the Beer & Cake party idea wasn’t that far off. Huh.) Three guys hold Nick while Morgan hits him in the gut a bunch of times. It takes three large goons to hold one Nick Barkley because he’s one of the best and most notorious fighters in Western TV. Oftentimes, you’ll see fans of these kinds of shows debating who would win in a fight, Hoss or Nick Barkley?
It’s a silly question because the answer is Hoss. It’s like The Thing vs The Hulk. The Thing wins because he keeps a cool head. Strength is only part of the equation.
The sheriff rolls in and breaks up the… well, not so much a fight as a beating at gunpoint. Everyone pretends to play it cool, like it was all in good fun, and Correll holsters his gun. Heath takes the opportunity to then hit him in the face as hard as he can.
It takes a special kind of jerkwad to goad Heath into doing something reckless. Congratulations, Correll, you made yourself worth an inconvenience.
The sheriff goes straight to Cunningham and demands an explanation. With a mouthful of cake, Cunningham shrugs the whole thing off.
“He came looking for trouble. He found it,” he says, very lightly.
Hunched over with pain, Nick snarls at him like a wounded wolf.
“Cunningham,” he manages to grunt out in between painful breaths, “You’d best go to prison. Cuz I’m going to get to you.”
Nick! Don’t threaten people’s lives in front of the sheriff! Wait until he’s gone!
Cunningham dabs away cake crumbs with a scarlet napkin as Nick and Heath storm out of the restaurant. The sheriff looks at him, then at the door the Barkleys left by, and exits quietly. He doesn’t want to get caught in the undertow of this kind of power struggle.
Back at Barkley mansion, we find Victoria arranging flowers. Which is, of course, what everyone does when their eldest son is stricken blind during an assassination attempt. The world may be crumbling around her, but Victoria Barkley will be damned if she lets the marigolds look droopy.
She hears Silas’s voice, as he helps to guider Jarrod down the foyer stairs. She promptly tells Silas to go get something from the kitchen, and insists that Jarrod do his own stair-walking. Just like the doctor ordered. Jarrod has lived in Barkley mansion for almost all of his life, he should be able to navigate it without help.
Audra saunters out onto the landing just in time to watch Jarrod tackle the stairs. Without the bannister, for some reason, which is bananas. I know sighted people who wipe out on curved staircases if they don’t use the bannister. But Jarrod manages it, and everyone seem optimistic.
Victoria complements him, and so does Audra. Jarrod jumps at the second voice, then plays it cool like he knew Audra was there the whole time. But her stealthy entrance clearly upset him.
He makes his way into a living room chair, counting his steps and feeling for furniture landmarks as he goes. He’s doing okay. He might run into trouble when he realizes that the steps he was taking were enormous Frankenstein steps and in no way resembled his normal gait, so his count was totally off. But, yeah. He’s doing okay.
“The drapes are open,” he smiles to himself.
“How could you tell?” Victoria asks.
Well, let’s see. It’s like nine o’clock in the morning on a summer weekday, and you have a butler who opens the living room drapes every day at sunrise, so… common sense?
“I can feel the warmth of the sun,” Jarrod announces instead, feeling his face and looking thoughtful.
Audra gives him his pocket watch. Nick had the glass taken off so that Jarrod could tell the time by feeling the hands.
Victoria becomes suddenly emotional, and hurries off to make breakfast.
“What day is it?” Jarrod suddenly asks Audra, “How long has it been, since…?”
“Three days.” Audra answers quietly.
Jarrod tells her to run along, so she gives his shoulder a squeeze and hurries off to go cry in the kitchen with their mother.
Jarrod sits alone in the living room chair looking devastated.
It’s evening when next we check in on him. He’s in his bedroom, indulging in his new favourite pastime of sitting in silence and trying to destroy his emotions. Sharon Scanlon lets herself in with his dinner tray, and doesn’t announce herself. Like she thinks it’s a good idea to surprise a blind person by quietly entering rooms and expecting them to recognize your face and be pleased.
Anyway, once Jarrod figures out it’s her, he does seem happy. Except that she wants to hang around while he eats, so she can talk his ear off about something.
He tries to explain that eating is kind of a delicate thing for him right now, he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it. Which is why it would be a good idea for his family to portion his food and organize his plate until he’s more confident, Dr. Russel. But Sharon insists that she doesn’t mind.
Somewhat bitterly, Jarrod tells her she doesn’t understand, and then he struggles to slurp a bunch of peas off of his fork. It’s really melodramatic, and it ends with Sharon running off in tears because Jarrod’s having a hard time with slippery foods. The whole thing makes Sharon look like an insensitive idiot, which I don’t think was the aim.
When Victoria and Audra ran off crying in the last scene, you could tell it was because they were overwhelmed that Jarrod might never recover his sight. His whole life of casually reading in the living room in the mornings could be gone forever, replaced with a new life full of new challenges that the two of them can’t even begin to anticipate. When Sharon runs off crying, it feels like it’s because the charming cosmopolitan friend she once knew isn’t so charming and cosmopolitan right now.
And, yeah, she also lost her husband to the same goons that took his sight, but it really doesn’t seem like that’s what’s upsetting her.
After she’s gone, Jarrod angrily pushes the tray of food away.
Victoria comes in to scold him about chasing off Sharon (you weren’t there, Victoria, Sharon was acting like an idiot), but she barely gets into it at all before Nick also makes an entrance.
He wants to know if Jarrod’s ever heard of an attorney called Marvin Sanders. Turns out, Sanders is the head of Cunningham’s defense team. He and Cunningham just had a secret meeting with Mark Bromley at Stockton House, and whatever it was about, Bromley didn’t want anybody to know he’d been there. He snuck out the back.
Nick spends a good portion of the year on cattle drives, and he’s well-liked by the local cowboys and laborers. Occasionally – really not enough for how awesome an idea it is – he uses them as a kind of spy network to round up information and pertinent gossip.
“Cunningham either scared him off or paid him off,” Nick says of Bromley, “or a little bit of both.”
What? Bromley’s untrustworthy? That seems so unlikely!
Jarrod says that the whole thing could’ve been some kind of innocent, late-night, secret meeting between the prosecuting attorney and the defense. At a hotel. With an air of skullduggery. And anyway, even if it was as bad as it sounds, what’s Jarrod supposed to do about it?
Victoria says it’s time for him to put his lawyerin’ shoes back on.
This episode was made three years after Marvel comics debuted Daredevil, the ultimate blind lawyer. Just in case you were wondering.
Jarrod stubbornly refuses to take the case back up, but Victoria won’t let him quit. Even though his taking the case to begin with was basically the worst idea of all time.
“Nothing has been decided,” Victoria says, in full Barbara Stanwyck grandeur, “Maybe one day, your sight will return. But if that day comes, it won’t mean a thing if you can’t stand the sight of yourself.”
I feel like that works more on a metaphorical level than a psychological one, but whatever.
Jarrod hesitates, his eyes totally still as his lips move slightly. As though he can’t see possibilities anymore, so he searches for them with words. Which is silly, but also kind of dramatic?
“Do it.” Nick orders, sick of all the soul-searching pauses.
So Jarrod does.
Next stop, the Stockton courthouse! It’s a small space, organized more like a middle school mock trial than today’s modern legal procedings. Bromley and Marvin Sanders are both ready to go, with Cunningham sitting back in his chair like he’s waiting at the travel agent’s office, instead of at his own corruption trial.
The doors to the gallery open, and a procession of Barkleys file in. First Heath, like a flag-bearer, and then Audra and Victoria, then Prince Jarrod, and lastly, bold Sir Nick, Knight of Try-anything-and-you’ll-be-sorry.
The onlookers gasp, the judge seems mildly surprised, and Cunningham looks confused and angry.
“As acting District Attorney, I assigned Mr. Bromley to this case,” Jarrod announces with less than his usual grandness, “However, I changed my mind. It’s my intention to prosecute the case myself.”
Everyone starts murmuring among themselves as the rest of the Barkleys find seats, and Marvin Sanders makes a face like he’s trying to figure out how to fix this. Cunningham looks like… have you ever played that game with a dog where you mime throwing the ball, but keep it in your hand? He’s making the face the dog makes when he realizes there’s no ball in the distance.
Bromley, in a fit of temper, vacates his seat and slams his papers down on the table.
Jarrod takes his place, with Nick at his side and Heath nearby for note-taking. Heath’s a clerk now. I guess it’s better than making Nick do it. I feel like that would result in a lot of broken pencils and crumpled pages.
“Scared?” Nick asks his older brother in hushed tones.
“Yeah, I’m scared.” Jarrod replies.
Meanwhile, at the defense table, Cunningham is agitated and sharply demanding that Sanders get rid of Jarrod somehow.
Sanders says he’ll try, and he gets up and tells the judge that this change of prosecutors is a complete surprise to him, and that’s not cool. Also, everyone in the room has sympathy and compassion for Jarrod and his tragic blindness, which might sway the jury to his side regardless of the strength of his arguments. Sanders “respectfully requests that Mr. Barkley withdraw from the case.”
Jarrod refuses to withdraw.
Sanders replies that this means Cunningham cannot receive an impartial trial in Stockton. If he could, then he would be acquitted, and Jarrod Barkley knows that. Which is the real reason he took over the case, to “wave his affliction around in front of the jury like a flag” and by incurring their pity, convict Cunningham. Not on the strength of evidence, but out of a desire for misguided revenge.
Nick boils over like a kettle, springs out of his seat, and demands that Sanders shut his mouth. It’s actually very intimidating. Heath holds him back, and the judge warns him that if he does it again, he’ll be held in contempt.
The motion for a mistrial is denied, and the judge tells Jarrod to give his opening statement and get the ball rolling.
It doesn’t go well.
The statement is bland, he delivers it pretty well, but rather than stand still, he decides that for dramatic effect, he’s going to walk around the courtroom. I have no idea what he’s thinking, but he crashes into a table with a pitcher of water on it, slips on the spilled water, and becomes so enraged and embarrassed that he demands Nick and Heath take him out of the room.
It’s an inauspicious start, and it all could have been avoided if he stood still while talking. Like most real lawyers do.
The judge orders a recess until the next morning.
“How about a drink?” Cunningham smiles at his attorney, adjusting his cufflinks.
“No thank you. Tearing apart a blind man isn’t something I care to celebrate.”
Aw, but Sanders! You’ll miss out on Cunningham’s legendary beer and cake combo! He picks the flavour of the cake to perfectly match the notes in the beer! It’s his hobby!
Meanwhile, Jarrod’s been taken into an interview room or small office in back of the courthouse. Heath and Audra look on with concern, while Victoria decides it’s time for another motivational speech to stop Jarrod from quitting. (Holy hell, Victoria, he almost died doing this job! Let him quit if he wants to!)
“A lawyer has to be able to see!” Jarrod shouts, pounding a fist on the table. “He has to be able to look into a witness’s eyes and know if he’s telling the truth or not! He has to know what effect he’s having on the judge, the jury! He can't pleas his case to the wall!”
He breaks into a sob.
So, I think we all know that, actually, a lawyer doesn’t have to be sighted. What’s going on here is Jarrod refusing to adapt, because the things he used to use as guideposts for his presentation are now gone. It’s like his insistence on walking around during his opening statement. Lawyers don’t have to do that, but Jarrod Barkley does.
Victoria replies with a speech of her own. Basically, she thinks that if Jarrod quits the law, he’ll just become a bitter hermit who blames his blindness for everything he doesn’t want to do. Which, given his last reaction, might be a fair assessment.
“Time is your enemy, not your friend,” she warns. “Time will only ask for more time.”
Nick reminds Jarrod that feeling helpless is actually a choice. Jarrod’s still got his hearing.
Heath chimes in that Jarrod also still has a memory. All he has to do is memorize the layout of the courtroom, and make himself feel comfortable in the space.
Both of them are going to help Jarrod, all night. And by tomorrow morning, every single one of them is going to know that courtroom as thoroughly as if they’d built it themselves.
During all of this, Audra is standing in the corner looking like she wants to say something. But she doesn’t.
We get a fun glimpse of Nick forcing Jarrod to walk around, counting his steps and talking to an imaginary judge. Heath is slumped over the defense table with his sleeves rolled up, like he can’t understand how come it takes over people so long to memorize stuff. Heath would’ve been out of here hours ago.
Then, before we know it, it’s time for a montage of Jarrod’s case.
He’s killing it out there! He’s pacing the court, swaying the jury, interrogating witnesses! Turns out you can totally be a blind lawyer! Take that, downhearted Jarrod of two scenes ago! He even pours himself a glass of water!
Cunningham doesn’t stand a chance!
And Cunningham himself is well aware of this, especially after the incriminating testimony of Amy who runs The Big Nugget. After the montage, we find him sitting with Sanders, insisting that they do something to make Amy look like a liar or a fool. Also, we notice that the ring Cunningham’s been wearing this whole time looks just like Princess Diana’s engagement ring, which is so weird I had to point it out.
Sanders says that even with Amy’s testimony nullified, Jarrod’s still got them by the throat.
Cunningham decides that the best thing to do is kill Jarrod and bring Bromley back onto the case. Sanders pretends he didn’t hear that, and makes his exit.
That night, at casa de Barkley, we learn that Nick and Heath are out riding heard, and it’s just Victoria, Audra and Silas home with Jarrod. But that quickly changes when an urgent knock on the door reveals a cowhand, telling Victoria that Heath has been badly hurt after falling off his horse. She’s to come to the doctor at once. Jarrod insists that Audra and Silas go with her.
He’ll be alright.
And not at all cut off from help and alone under sudden and kind of suspect circumstances.
This episode was the same year, same month even, as the Audrey Hepburn thriller Wait After Dark. Criminals assaulting blind protagonists in their homes was kind of having a Hollywood moment.
In this case, we start with Jarrod hearing a window softly banging open and shut in the breeze. He goes to close it properly, as tension mounts with the help of suspenseful music.
The next sound we hear is a pair of spurs jangling on the stairs.
With him are Morgan and Cunningham, because apparently Cunningham doesn’t know enough to not get his hands dirty this time around.
Jarrod quickly realizes that Heath hasn’t been hurt, and it was all a ruse to get him alone.
What follows is a slightly awkward sequence of fighting, where Cunningham reveals his plan to make it look like Jarrod died by falling into the backyard well and drowning. It’s actually not that bad a plan, but Jarrod quickly frees himself from their clutches and douses all the lights in the house so that he has the advantage in the darkness. What makes this less effective than in something like Wait After Dark is the fact that Jarrod has been blind for about a week.
After dispatching the goons with the usual means of throwing wine in their faces and confusing them in the darkness, Jarrod manages to make his way into the family gun room. Which, you might recall from the lastepisode we watched, is packed with enough weapons to start a dystopian zombie hunting militia.
Adjacent to the gun room is the billiard room, the door of which Jarrod barricades. He then lays pool cues on the carpet in front of the door, arms himself with a revolver, and waits.
Cunningham breaks the door down, trips on the pool cues in an enjoyably slapstick manner, and is held at gunpoint by Jarrod.
He demands Correll and Morgan drop their guns, one at a time so he can hear them fall, and ride so hard he can hear them leave.
Once their gone, Cunningham makes a move for their abandoned guns, and Jarrod shoots him dead.
Oh, Cunningham. If you’d been convicted, you could’ve had it declared a mistrial after the fact. It would have been a piece of cake, and a matching pint of beer.
Well, that’s the end. Except for one last piece of business.
At Jarrod’s next appointment with Dr. Russel, the whole family is literally behind him as he reads off all the letters on the eye chart.
His vision’s back. It was a psychological disorder all along.
Glad that everything’s back to normal, Nick and Heath announce that they’d better get back to fixing the fence that the wind knocked over last night. Jarrod asks if they’d like some help, all puffed up that he’s good as new.
“You’re not serious,” Nick smiles tightly. “With your lily white hands?”
“Well, I don’t think I’d look any sillier digging a post hole than you must’ve looked in that courtroom!” Jarrod quips back.
Everyone laughs as they file out of the doctor’s office.