BULL Review: “How to Dodge a Bullet”

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Last week I praised for leaning into its more ridiculous elements, but I meant plot-wise, not acting-wise. This week featured a bunch of ridiculous acting from both Michael Weatherly and new recurring guest star Eliza Dushku, playing JP Nunnerly, a “fixer” and an accomplished lawyer, called in to help Benny when the government files charges against him not just for obstruction of justice for failure to disclose the phone call he received the night before Hayden Watkins’ trial about a killer with a similar MO, but also tampering with evidence for planting a contact lens from a victim at Watkins’ apartment. I should’ve guessed that the show wasn’t going to let the Benny being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office thing drop so easily. This episode officially puts the matter to rest, but not before indulging in some over-the-top dramatics and exaggerated flirting.

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The episode opens with a dramatic voiceover monologue from Bull, as he talks about the idea of metaphorically dodging a bullet, avoiding a situation that could change your life forever. The seriousness of the speech is undercut by the fact that it’s played over footage of Bull’s team “dodging bullets”, but with the exception of Danni, who finds out she’s not pregnant, the situations they’re avoiding are certainly not life-changing. Cable decides not to go to dinner when she sees her prospective date arguing with the waitress over a bottle of wine and Chunk decides not to park in a handicapped spot. Cable avoided an awkward dinner and Chunk avoided a ticket. Not exactly on par with what Bull’s referring to, which is a detective avoiding taking the blame for planting the contact.

Of course Benny didn’t tamper with evidence. It turns out that a detective he was close to did. He was planning on returning the next day and “discovering” it with a team, so that it would be hard to pin the blame on any one person, but Benny went back to the crime scene by himself that night. The detective knew that Watkins was guilty–Watkins confessed and gave the police the location of the bodies of his victims, but Watkins is such a cunning sociopath that he coerced the detective questioning him into coercing him, knowing that the confession would be thrown out and that the bodies were too decomposed to provide solid evidence anyways. Benny is exonerated when JP brings all this up in court.

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Benny was always going to be found innocent, as he’s one of the show’s main characters and it wouldn’t make sense for him to go to jail. He’s offered a plea deal in the beginning of the episode, but it would require him to admit his guilt. He sputters and bangs his fists on the table, declaring that that’s something he’ll never do. It’s a hilarious display. This episode really isn’t about Benny’s legal troubles anyways. It’s about the relationship between JP and Bull. JP agrees to work on Benny’s case as long as Bull agrees to work on three cases for her in return.

Eliza Dushku is a fine actress, but she’s not given a lot to work with here. The show is more interested in establishing that she’s sexy instead of establishing that she’s smart. She pouts her lips and speaks in a husky low voice laden with sexual tension. When she and Bull talk, they stand close enough to kiss. It’s soap opera level stuff and not in a fun way. The poor woman is also given some ridiculous lines. Examples include “That was yesterday. Yesterday is not in my purview, welcome to today.” and my personal favorite “ I’m a world-class litigator. World-class. The court is my church and I am it’s high priestess.”

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Bull has two more episodes left in its freshman season. Eliza Dushku’s character seems to be a last ditch attempt to shake things up in a show that has settled into a predictable routine each week. Bull gets a seemingly unwinnable case, but pulls it off last minute by conveniently finding the real culprit. We’ll see if she can liven up the show in its final two outings.

TB-TV-Grade-C

Season 1, Episode 21 (S01E21)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS

Read all of our reviews of Bull here. 
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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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Keep up with all of Jennifer’s reviews here.

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