In this week’s rocky episode of BULL, Dr. Jason Bull and his team venture to his hometown, a small town in New Hampshire, to help a young man accused of arson and second degree murder after a diner explodes, killing a man. It’s personal to Bull for a couple of reasons. First, his cabin was burned down in the blaze, and second, he relates to the accused Peter Walsh, who he believes is being targeted because his family has a bad reputation in the tightknit, gossipy community.
Bull pulls his whole team, who were looking forward to their first weekend off in ages, to work on the Peter Walsh case because Peter reminds him of himself. Bull didn’t have the best experience living in Kavanaugh. His father was a crook who conned the citizens out of millions on a bad real estate deal, then left, leaving Bull to pick up the pieces. We learn that his father isn’t dead, but alive and well in Florida, so we’re most likely going to meet the old man at some point. This reveal wasn’t as illuminating as last week’s reveal that Bull couldn’t make things work with his ex-wife after she suffered a miscarriage, but it’s nice to learn a little bit more about Bull, seeing the cracks in his perfect façade.
Things don’t look good for Peter. He’s being blamed for not one, but three fires and the evidence surrounding them is murky. The prickly old fire chief thinks that an accelerant was definitely used, while Bull maintains they were all accidents. Also, the town is so small that they can’t possibly find a mirror jury, so they have to improvise. They decide to use local busybody and gossip queen Joyce as the mirror jury, as she knows everyone in the town so well she’ll be able to predict which ways they’re leaning.
Peter is a shy, awkward young man, the type of guy who’d rather make homemade guitars alone than attend community functions. This hasn’t helped his reputation—his family is full of criminals and people have misinterpreted him searching through trash for guitar parts as him casing their houses. His reputation in the town is so bad that one wonders why he just doesn’t leave, but he tells the court that Kavanaugh is his home. He buried his mother and grandfather there, so he doesn’t want to leave.
Bull’s strategy is to prove to the jury that gossip can spread like a wildfire and can quickly become fact. He starts a rumor that Joyce is planning on helping developers turn Kavanaugh into a resort, going so far as to hire a bunch of suited actors to stand in front of the town square, pretending to survey the land while waving to Joyce, who of course nods back. Benny then tells the jury in his closing arguments that the rumors were fake, started by them, as an attempt to prove that even the most upstanding Kavanaugh citizens can be taken down by a little bit of misinformation.
Peter is found not guilty and in a very strange twist, it turns out that Joyce was actually responsible for all the fires. They were arson, not accidents as Bull first posited, but arson committed by the firefighter who was always first on the scene. He’s a professional, so he was able to cover his tracks. He started the fires on Joyce’s orders, as she really does want to drive down the property values so she can help a developer come in and take over the land. How Bull could possibly know this, I have no idea. The last minute, blink and you miss them twists making it so his client isn’t guilty and the true culprit is found are getting ridiculous, although this is a little bit better than last week’s murderous mistress reveal.
The episode ends, like all Bull episodes do, with the team hanging out, drinking and celebrating their win. It’s a sort of saccharine way to end these episodes, which often deal with serious crime, and this one was particularly cloying. Bull’s team roasts s’mores together, laughing and enjoying the wilderness. I really thought that this may finally be the episode where Bull loses a case, as I thought the jury would feel tricked by his team’s deception in framing Joyce, but I should have known better. Bull can seemingly never lose, which really does take some of the tension and drama out of the show. However, you always know what you’re going to get, which makes watching the show almost escapist in its predictability.
Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E9)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor