“If you knew Erik and Lyle, you would know that they are not spoiled,” Abramson tells the cameras. But even the boys’ family, watching at home, knows this doesn’t look good.
For we viewers of this series, however, the imaging is worse for Dr. Oziel, who has swiftly become the ascendant villain among a cast of lawyers, brats and killers. Judalon is an unmitigated disaster, and her testimony to police and in court contradicts his assertions at every turn. She’s clearly enjoying the media spotlight, which is growing ever hotter; Diane Sawyer has contacted her, and she’s thrilled. She is also told that she’ll be tossed out as a witness if she goes on TV.
But that can’t stop her from causing a stir in court. Her impossibly low-cut blouse notwithstanding (“Please ask her to stop flashing her impressive bosom at you,” Abramson begs the judge), Judalon reveals, among other things, that Dr. Oziel often told her about his patients’ sexual kinks, partly in hopes of putting together a threesome. She also asserts for the second time that Oziel is an expert at mind control.
This plays into Abramson’s strategy, which includes persuading the judge that admitting the tapes into evidence would violate patient confidentiality. It wouldn’t be the first time Oziel did so, she notes as she rips the doctor apart on the stand: his license was suspended in 1986 for such a violation. What’s more, a former patient with whom he’d been having an affair once signed an affidavit stating that he had tried to strangle her with a telephone cord.
He admits he involved Judalon, having asked her to eavesdrop on his taped conversations with Erik and Lyle. But he did so, he insists, because he felt threatened by Lyle — in particular, by an exceptionally firm handshake. If true, a threat would destroy Leslie’s argument by taking the tapes outside of patient privilege: A tape as a document for therapy is one thing; a tape recorded to protect one’s self is another. Lyle has vehemently denied he made a threat, and when the camera cuts to his face in the courtroom following Oziel’s accusation, it’s clear where this show wants our sympathies to lie.
That would be with the Menendez boys. At this point, such sympathy is hard to resist. The extent of the abuse their father inflicted upon them is coming into focus, and — as strange as it is to write this — I’m starting to like the brothers. I want to believe that they were motivated by more than greed. And only abuse as heinous as that which Erik describes to his new shrink, Dr. Bill Vicary (Todd Weeks), feels truly convincing — not to mention morally exculpatory, at least by my standards. Any man who for years rapes and ridicules his own sons deserves whatever he gets.
Why the mother shared his fate, however, is still a mystery, although it’s revealed in Erik’s tearful confessions and hallucinations that she long turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse. Gerald Chaleff, Lyle’s former lawyer, suggests it was a mercy killing. I think Leslie is right to be skeptical. She believes Erik’s story about the abuse, unlike some of the other women on her team. (Their disbelief felt like an expository contrivance; I found that hard to buy.) Revenge goes down easier somehow than mercy, and one senses that’s an attitude informed by her deep sense of motherly loyalty: Leslie’s feelings as a mother lead her to believe Erik’s story, and those same feelings lead her to appreciate how utterly eviscerating such a profound violation of the mother-son bond would be.
She also, we learn, had an emotionally abusive mother herself. Her motivations are becoming clearer. They continue to feel genuine.
“Are you sure about this, Leslie?” one of her colleagues asks. “These boys shot their mother in the face.”
• “You don’t help people doctor,” Leslie tells Oziel. “You make them sicker.” Exhibit A: Judalon. They don’t get much sicker.
• “Thorns, thorns, thorns!” — Judalon, case in point.
• Lyle’s new lawyer, Jill Lansing (Julianne Nicholson), part of the all-women dream team Leslie has assembled, does a lovely job of coaxing some softness out of Lyle, which we tend only to glimpse in dealings with his little brother. When Lyle tells her about his Erik’s birth, there’s genuine love in his eyes. And pain. “I wasn’t alone anymore,” he says.
• “Dude, you’re famous!” Donovan Who-dreau?
• Fifty-plus minutes (with commercials) without a flashback: I like how this is trending. That said, the contents of this flashback were so horrific that I hardly noticed the cheapness.