In this week’s episode of BULL, the team takes on their biggest case yet, bringing a class action law suit against a bank for defrauding their investors in a stock scam. The case is so expensive that if they lose, Bull could lose the company, but for an episode with such high stakes, it was strangely boring. The show continues to suffer from the issue that no matter how serious the stakes are on the surface, it’s hard for the viewer to take them seriously when it’s guaranteed that Bull will emerge victorious in the end.
Besides simply trying to win over the jury, Bull faces two major obstacles this week. The judge hates him for reasons unknown until the very end (apparently they had a falling out over a golf game) and Benny’s distracted by the U.S. Attorney Office’s investigation into his old murder case. DNA evidence cleared the man, so Benny has the fact that he put an innocent person in jail for nine years on his conscience. He ignores Bull’s advice on the case, disobeys direct orders, and generally just isn’t his on his game. I get that there’s a lot weighing on him, but take some time off and deal with it. Don’t mess up the biggest case the company has ever seen!
Benny’s downward spiral isn’t the most fun thing to watch. It’s the show’s first attempt at a serialized plot, but it remains a not particularly engaging distraction. Bull is at its most enjoyable when it’s light and fast-paced, not heavy and meandering. Benny also falls for this week’s client. The team is alerted to the bank’s actions by Erin, a schoolteacher who lost her life savings investing with the alternative investments division of a major bank, Brannigan Trust. She’s Chunk’s nephew’s teacher, so he convinces Bull to hear her out.
Bull’s skeptical at first, but after he talks to the CEO of the bank, he learns that Erin’s not the only one who was conned. Thousands of hard-working people lost their savings by investing. Class action lawsuits are incredibly lucrative to lawyers, as they get to keep one third of the settlement, but the team would have to fund the whole lawsuit themselves. Marissa is worried that Bull is acting recklessly due to the fantasy of easy money, which is also how the jury could interpret the actions of the plaintiffs.
Bull determines that what the brokers were doing was a pump and dump scheme. First, they purchased millions of dollars of stock for themselves, then got their clients to purchase that stock from them. Next, they convinced more and more people to invest, thus making the price sky rocket. Finally, when the stock was worth many times more than what the brokers paid for it, they sold their shares. The sudden flood of supply made the stock value tank, but that didn’t matter to the brokers. They already cashed out, making tens of millions while their clients lost everything.
Benny really wants to use Erin as their first witness, but Bull is worried that the jurors will find her to be vulnerable and easily fooled. He wants to use Sofia, one of the stock brokers. They need her to illustrate the fact that what the brokers were doing was fraud. He subpoenas her, but she doesn’t show up to court on the day the trial begins. The judge issues a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear, but only gives them a half hour recess. Bull tells Benny to stall so he can find Sofia, but Benny puts Erin on the stand when he leaves.
Bull was right, as always. Erin came across as foolish and gullible, as the defense brought up the fact that she donated to a charity that turned out to be fraudulent in the past. Bull locates Sofia at the car dealership she’s now working at, tricking her into going to court by pretending to be interested in buying a car. They go on a test drive, ending up at the courthouse, where an officer is waiting to arrest her if she doesn’t go inside. On the stand, Sofia admits that the list of people they targeted for the investment opportunity was known as the suckers list.
It’s enough to convince all but one juror. Larry is the sole holdout—he doesn’t think he’s capable of being scammed, so he doesn’t have empathy for those who were. Bull enlists Sofia to talk to him at a coffee shop, in order to show him that he’d fall for whatever she was selling as well. Right in the middle of this just barely legal strategy, the judge walks in. He can’t prove misconduct, but he bans Bull from the courtroom.
Benny thinks they’ve lost, as Larry now feels angry and humiliated, but Bull points out that he now knows how the plaintiffs feel. Bull wins the case. His clients get their money and then some back, his company makes millions, and the viewers get another predictable happy ending.
Season 1, Episode 17 (S01E17)
Bull airs Tuesdays at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor