People v. O.J. Simpson Recap: The Dream Team Gets Ready to Play the Race Card

Johnnie Cochran joins O.J.’s legal defense, and Marcia Clark and the prosecution team aren’t ready for what’s coming.

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Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson

FX Networks

In general, I am loving this series so far. Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. has received some flak because he doesn’t look like O.J., especially in stature. There’s been some fuss about John Travolta’s “weird” Robert Shapiro, which is an accurate assessment, but I happen to find him hilarious. Neither of those common complaints bothers me, especially since Gooding’s distraught O.J. is great TV.

My one critique is about the amount of Kardashian name-dropping and how often the kids pop up in the first three episodes and throughout the series. (I’ve watched through episode 6.) Robert Kardashian Sr. is not even the lead attorney. His role in the Dream Team, at least as depicted in this series, is less actual legal maneuvering and more managing O.J., which, admittedly, is a full-time gig. But here we are.

At the start of episode 3, it’s Father’s Day and Kardashian is taking his brood to Chin Chin’s. It’s crowded, but his party of five doesn’t have to wait because the waitresses recognize him. It’s a testament to just how popular the O.J. Simpson case is and an indication that everyone is paying attention, even to the minor players. The kids are impressed. 

At the table, Kardashian, who is obviously uncomfortable with the newfound attention, gives the kids a speech about fame being fleeting and hollow and meaning nothing at all without a virtuous heart. Obviously, he wasted his breath.

Elsewhere, Simpson’s lead attorney, Robert Shapiro, decides to fly out attorney F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane), who once represented Patty Hearst but has since fallen from grace. Shapiro goes over the most damning evidence with Bailey. Everyone, including Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler), “the most famous lawyer in the country,” thinks O.J. is guilty and Shapiro is “the schmuck who will walk O.J. to the gas chamber.” He wants to shut up Dershowitz, who is all over the news talking about the case. Bailey says to hire Dershowitz.

Dershowitz, aka Harry from Sex and the City, shows up with awful hair and attorney Barry Scheck (Rob Morrow) to meet with Shapiro and Bailey. Dershowitz says that O.J. has goodwill among the populace. “He’s a Greek god laid low, but he’s still a Greek god,” Dershowitz assesses.

There’s more. Scheck is an expert attorney on this brand-new thing called DNA analysis, and his legal strategy is to make the jury question all the evidence they see. “We will hack at them,” Dershowitz says. “Make every piece of evidence presented either thrown out, untrustworthy or confusing.” This is brilliant, which I can say with confidence because I know it worked.

Scheck is the gift that keeps on giving. On the way out of the meeting, he mentions that he knows one of the officers involved in the case: Mark Fuhrman. And even better, “He’s a prick.”

Across town, Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance) is practicing his upcoming turn on NBC, where he is being called the “senior O.J. analyst.” The missus wonders if Johnnie should try to get in on the case. He says he isn't interested because it’s a lost cause. She asks how he would feel if someone else got O.J. off. Cochran says that wouldn’t feel good, so his interest begins. 

Scheck does as promised and finds the Fuhrman files. The short version: Fuhrman hates black people and once sued the city because working for the Los Angeles Police Department made him have violent fantasies about beating up black people. Wait. What? Right then, Shapiro comes up with the defense’s strategy: The LAPD set up O.J. because it has a systemic-racism problem. He tells this to a reporter from the New Yorker (Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote the book on which this miniseries is based).

Shapiro visits O.J. in jail to tell him that he wants to add Cochran to the legal team. O.J. balks. He doesn’t want to turn his trial into a race thing. “I’m not black,” he says. “I’m O.J.!” His delusion is astounding.

Prosecutor Chris Darden is at work when he gets a call from a reporter about Fuhrman. He runs it upstairs to Marcia Clark, who is unbothered by the call but, for kicks, asks Darden what he thinks about the case. He says it’s strong, but adds that a lot of black people think O.J. didn’t do it. Clark seems shocked to hear this. She has no black friends. None.

When the New Yorker article comes out, co-prosecutor Bill Hodgman gives it a read and declares to the other attorneys that Shapiro’s strategy is desperate and transparent. Darden tells them it will stick. For the love of Hova, someone listen to this man.

Kardashian is reading the New Yorker article to O.J. in jail. Does O.J. do anything at all for himself? O.J. is mad about the race card being played, but Shapiro insists that hiring Cochran is the only way O.J. will see daylight again. 

The next day, Cochran meets with Shapiro, who offers him a spot on the Dream Team. Cochran says that before he commits, he has to meet with O.J. at the jail.

O.J. is a mess when Cochran shows up. Cochran says that he will get him off but he needs O.J. to muster up some strength. “If you don’t have enough, you can have some of mine,” Cochran says. It’s a beautiful line. 

At home, Clark goes out for a smoke in her backyard. She’s preparing for the worst as she flips over the Los Angeles Times. The headline announces that Cochran is now on the Dream Team. She stamps out her cigarette and says “motherf--ker” in disgust as the camera pans high and wide. Finally, she knows she’s in trouble.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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