Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Raising The Bar “Trust Me” One Trust Broken, Another Gained

Last night’s episode of ”Raising The Bar” (TNT) “Trust Me” involves many forms of trust – trust of the word of a defendant or the police, the trust between colleague, and a big fat trust fund.

Public defender Bobbi Gilardi (Natalia Cigliuti ) – likely still reeling from the suicide of her husband that she was in the process of divorcing – throws herself into the case of Andre Jackman (Eugene Byrd) who was arrested for dealing drugs. The problem is, Jackman’s case is tied to another man who was arrested with him, and Jackman fears if he turns on his partner, Slice, he will end up dead. But Bobbi seems to have trouble with her client, as it seems his story morphs every time the situation warrants. Jackman seems to be looking for any excuse to get off, and refuses a plea deal because he is afraid if it comes out he had been a confidential informant in the past, he’ll be dead. Jackman also claims that the police set him up because he refused to go back to being a snitch, which he signed on for 10 years prior. Bobbi’s opponent is the competitive and aggressive prosecutor Michelle Earnhardt (Melissa Sagemiller), who is constantly trying to prove herself to her boss, the smarmy Nick Balco (Currie Graham). Michelle takes a group pep talk that Nick gives very seriously, and she is determined to win this case.

While Bobbi works to find facts she can use to support her client’s claims, Michelle works even harder to build her own case. When Bobbi feels she has the advantage when she gets Jackman’s case severed from his partner in crime, Michelle uses that to her advantage, getting Slice to take a deal in order to flip on Jackman. She times the process so she purposely won’t have the time to notify Michelle until right before she calls Slice as a witness. Things go downhill from here, as Michelle pays to have the police officer who signed Jackman’s confidential informant agreement 10 years ago up to testify, and he paints Jackman as someone who is unreliable and less than truthful. Meanwhile, Jerry Kellerman (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) had tried to help Bobbi with her case, by talking with Jackman without her knowledge and getting a tidbit of information, which he relays to Bobbi just as she is going in to the courtroom. Later, after Jackman is found guilty, she rips Jerry for talking with Jackman behind her back and feeding her the information without enough time for her to prepare herself for Jackman’s testimony. Bobbi seems to think that Jerry does not trust her, and she says she can’t trust him if he continues to go behind her back. She also ties in to Jerry for his behavior, indicating that Jerry thinks that only he can save the day all the time. Jerry finally apologizes, but I sense that things between him and Bobbi have definitely cooled off in more ways than one. If her husband hanging himself in her home wasn’t enough to put a crimp in her relationship with Jerry, his meddling certainly is.

The other case in this episode involves public defender Richard Woolsley (Teddy Sears). He is having lunch at the Woolsley club with Rex, who seems to be his financial advisor. It seems that Teddy had recently come into possession of a $3 million trust fund payment from his father, and Rex is annoyed that Richard has the money simply sitting in a checking account. Richard says he will look at Rex’s proposals and make his own decisions, and Rex seems impressed with this response.

When a former client of Richard’s, Camile de la Paz (Ivet Corveaz) complains to him that she is being sued for $1,500 in damages for shoplifting $6 worth of batteries – a charge for which she has already served her time – Richard decides to get involved. Camille tells Richard that having to pay this money will mean she can’t afford her rent, and she will be out on the street. When Ros (Gloria Reuben) won’t give Richard any help from their civil lawyers, Richard realizes that his father’s name and money has some clout. He calls the office of Jefferson Cox (Stephen Markle), the man heading the firm who is suing the woman and asks to meet him at the Woolsley club. But Cox thinks he is there to meet Richard’s father, not Richard, and he gets very pissy when Richard tries to twist his arm to drop the case. Richard gets wise later, though, when he decides to fight fire with fire, and threatens Cox with a lawsuit of his own which would drag the firm’s name into the public eye in a very negative manner. Cox drops the case, but threatens Richard if he tries this again he will find himself in a battle.

The experience, however, helps Richard to decide what to do with his $3 million. He writes a check for all of it and hands it to Ros, telling her to use it to hire more civil attorneys to help people like Camille have a fighting chance against battling these big law firms against these ridiculous lawsuits. Even after she gives him the option to rethink his position, Richard stands firm as he doesn’t need the money right now and will get more in 5 years anyway. Clearly, Richard is not totally comfortable with all this money; maybe it is more about the fact that it is from his father.

What I am beginning to enjoy about ”Raising The Bar” (TNT) is that the outcome of each case isn’t always obvious. Unlike many of the other crime/drama shows on television where it seems like the “good guys” - law enforcement, crime scene people, etc. – always win, ”Raising The Bar” (TNT) covers both sides of the fence equally well. You never know if the prosecution or the defense will get a win, and this makes the show more suspenseful all the way to the end. And unlike the Law & Order franchise, this law drama allows people a glimpse into the real lives of the main characters in a way that it is believable and comfortable. The characters are developing very clear personalities, to the point that when they step out of their persona it seems very real. For example, the smarmy Nick Balco (I can’t write his name without the including the word smarmy) does something unexpected when he gives some sincere praise to Michelle for winning her case, and the moment seemed genuine. (But he’s still smarmy.)

I didn’t think I would ever say this about this show after watching its premier last season, but I actually now look forward to the show and it is becoming one of my favorite dramas. They truly have “raised the bar” for legal dramas.

Clip from Raising the Bar: Trust Me

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