BULL Review: “Benevolent Deception”


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ends its first season with a mixed episode that focused, once again, on Bull and JP, sidelining the rest of the ensemble. Although the particulars of the hour obviously differ from last week’s, the episode followed a very similar structure. JP uses her agreement with Bull to get him to help on a case that he has moral and ethical objections to, Bull works behind her back to investigate on his own, everything works out in the end. Last week the client was a cyber security firm refusing to turn over information to the FBI, this week it’s a single mother, Cecelia, arrested after the DEA finds six kilos of heroin under the deck of her Miami home.

JP insists to Bull that they’re simply defending an innocent woman with no criminal past, but she makes her case to him while they’re on a private jet paid for by her drug-dealing brother, Leo. In fact, Leo is paying for the whole defense. Leo’s a notorious drug kingpin, but the government has never been able to prove this, and he happens to be one of the firm’s biggest clients. Here’s an instance of what could be perceived as sloppy writing—this week, JP is an employee beholden to other, more established partners at the firm, but when she was first introduced, she seemed like the head of her own practice, with no mention or introduction of colleagues.


If JP wins this case, the other partners have agreed to let her buy herself out and take her clients with her, allowing her to finally open her own shop…which would have more impact if we had known these partners existed before this episode. Bull of course doesn’t want anything to do with a case fueled by drug money, especially after Leo’s cartel kills members of a rival cartel, the Silanz, who he claims planted the drugs and phoned in the tip to the DEA. If they didn’t, how did the officers know exactly where to look?

Just like last week, Bull decides to work on the case, despite his objections. There’s a few added hurdles to his trial science. The potential jurors are all so terrified of the cartels—they too saw the news of the shoot-out—so all of them claim that they’re unable to serve on the jury. The judge comes up with a solution. They’re going to have an anonymous jury. The jury will sit behind a solid screen and watch the trial on a TV. Bull and JP object, as if they can’t see the jurors during voir dire or know their identities, Bull’s whole thing doesn’t exactly work.

Bull tries to work around this major obstacle by analyzing the juror’s voices while JP questions them during voir dire, but he can’t have any certainty as to whether or not their mirror jury holds any resemblance to the real one. No matter—like all other episodes where Bull has trouble executing his trial science, the case ultimately isn’t decided by the jury. This is something the show has consistently done. It puts obstacles towards Bull using his methods, then makes it so the jury isn’t the deciding factor in the end, because, as all viewers must know by now, Bull can never lose.


The government offers Cecelia a deal. If she responds to some questions they have with verifiable answers, they’ll drop all charges. But Cecelia refuses to testify against Leo or incriminate him in any way, as when they were children, he saved her from war-torn Croatia after their parents were murdered and took her to the United States. JP also has to win the case in court in order to get her partners to sign the deal releasing her from the firm, as Leo is their biggest client. The rest of the firm is funded by defending criminals, which is something Bull might have looked into before engaging with her.

Bull’s team analyzes the 9-11 call made to the police alerting them to the drugs, discovering that the caller was none other than Cecelia’s ten-year-old son Peter, calling from a burner phone with a voice distortion app. He must have saw Leo plant the drugs and gotten scared. Benny and Danni interview an informant, who neither tells them that the Silanz cartel was most definitely not involved. Bull and Marissa give Ceceila this new information, but they’re worried if she testifies in court, Leo will have her killed. He’s already broken her promise to keep her out of trouble.

Bull calls his team to a secret meeting on the beach to tell them his plan, but here’s the thing—the team didn’t feel like an active, necessary part of this case. Benny and Danni interview the informant and Marissa analyzes the call, but they only have a handful of lines this episode. Cable and Chunk don’t have any, except for a few murmurs of agreement and the such. This is about Bull and JP. The intention is clearly to get viewers invested in their will-they-won’t-they, sexy sparring thing they have going on, but it feels so contrived it’s hard to care.


Bull’s plan goes off flawlessly, which shouldn’t be a surprise. The prosecutor enters a document into evidence confirming that the substance found in Ceceila’s house was heroin, but purposefully forgot to notarize the last page. He rests his case before JP brings up the mistake. This nullifies the whole document—the prosecution can’t prove it’s heroin, so there’s no crime, JP asks for a direct verdict and the judge declares Cecelia not guilty, all without the jury being involved. As she leaves the courthouse and gets her son back from Leo, officers arrest him.

JP is smart enough to know that Bull must have done something to achieve this result, even though he kept her in the dark so she could get her papers releasing her signed. JP is now free to do whatever she wants, including work for Bull? Eliza Dushku signed on for a three-episode arc with an option to become a series regular in season two, so Bull fans will have to wait and see.


Season 1, Episode 23 (S01E23)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS

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Jennifer lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
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