It was one step forward, multiple steps back for Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) and the prosecution on this week's episode of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Darden strikes out both inside and out of the courtroom, first on a weekend trip with his co-prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) - who's now rocking another new hairstyle, non-permed this time - and then with his infamously disastrous shepherding of O.J. Simpson's (Cuba Gooding Jr.) ill-fitting gloves into evidence.
Darden's idea to have Simpson try on the gloves found at the crime scene and at Simpson's house comes after he notices the jurors' interest in testimony starting to wane. They're more likely to pay attention to "razzle dazzle" conspiracy theories than boring hard evidence - which is why Johnnie Cochran's (Courtney B. Vance) subtle suggestion that Nicole Brown Simpson's murder may have been drug-related (a theory supplied to him by Alan Dershowitz, who's observing the trial on TV from his classroom at Harvard) seems to land with the jury, even though Marcia Clark dismisses it as "desperate flailing" on the part of the defense.
While Cochran seems to be thoroughly enjoying putting on a performance in the courtroom, Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) is having less fun. At the start of the episode, District Attorney Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) calls Shapiro out for fanning the flames of racial tensions so soon after the Rodney King case, and Shapiro blames the rhetoric all on Cochran. With his reputation at stake, he tries to backpedal, praising the LAPD to reporters and later strutting into the courtroom wearing a "police solidarity pin" on his lapel to undo the "damage" Cochran is causing. ("What the hell do you have that on for?" Cochran asks, in the best line reading of the episode.) Later, O.J. himself takes Shapiro to task for trying to undermine Cochran ("crossing the quarterback," as he puts it), especially since Shapiro is the one who proposed the police conspiracy theory in the first place.
Meanwhile, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) is having his own crisis of conscience. "Johnnie, why do you think there hasn't been a realistic theory about who did it, or any evidence?" Kardashian asks, looking like a little kid inquiring about how Santa Claus can possibly make it to every single house in one night. O.J.'s BFF says he's having trouble reconciling the blood evidence in the Bronco, and is also growing increasingly skeptical about the notion that the police may have planted it.
But before Cochran can answer young Bobby's query, he gets distracted by the night's episode of A Current Affair, which features Cochran's ex-wife and his former mistress doing a joint interview about how the famed attorney led a double life when he was in relationships with both of them simultaneously. Cochran's alleged assault of his first wife is also brought up. Cochran suspects Shapiro is the one who facilitated the interview, but later deflects questions from reporters so skillfully that it becomes a non-issue. Less easily placated is his current wife, who's super pissed because now her friends, family and pastor know their big secret.
Back at the district attorney's office, Investigator Tom Lang (Chris Bauer) has brought the prosecution a gift: an old credit card bill, which reveals that Nicole purchased two pairs of the same Isotoner gloves that were found at the crime scene a week before Christmas. What's more, the gloves are extremely rare - they were only sold in one store, and only 200 pairs were sold. Marcia believes this find will seal the deal for the prosecution.
Possibly buoyed by the glove discovery, Marcia decides that she needs a vacation. So, when Darden asks her to go with him to Oakland for an overnight(!) trip to celebrate a friend's birthday and get away from everything, she agrees.
Shapiro has also gotten word about the glove receipts and, like Marcia, believes this evidence could be the nail in Simpson's coffin. In a conversation with Kardashian, Shapiro reiterates that O.J. should consider a plea deal. He not-so-subtly notes that there's video of Kardashian walking out of Rockingham with O.J.'s garment bag. Could it possibly contain the murder weapon? If it does, Shapiro points out, Kardashian could be charged as an accessory after the fact.
With that seed planted in his mind, Kardashian goes to A.C. Cowlings (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) and they reluctantly decide to open O.J.'s bag together. (Remarkably, none of the investigators have asked about the luggage, so it's still just sitting in Kardashian's house.) They're obviously both holding their breath about what they might find, but are happy when the contents turn out to be just standard clothes one would take on a weekend trip (and some issues of Penthouse). Kardashian, however, is still at a loss about who else may have committed the crime - and laments his son "Bobby" is getting teased at school because everybody thinks Uncle Juice did it.
Unfortunately, we don't get any footage of Chris and Marcia's road trip to Oakland, but once they get there, it's incredibly satisfying to see them cut loose. Marcia hits it off with all of Darden's friends, all black, even as she's (good-naturedly, but incredibly effectively) shutting down one of them who says he believes Mark Fuhrman did indeed plant all the evidence against O.J.. Darden's friends dig Marcia and tell Chris he should make a move.
And now, the moment #Clarden 'shippers have been waiting for. The co-prosecutors are stumbling drunk back to the hotel. They pause outside Clark's room and gaze into each other's eyes, sharing a wistful look. (Land that plane, Darden!) He leans in and ... says good night. Marcia, looking a bit disappointed, goes into her room alone. Cue sad trombone sound.
When they're back at the office on Monday, Marcia's pretty icy, especially after Darden tells her he thinks they should "just go for it" and she realizes he's just talking about the damn gloves again. She stresses what a bad idea it is, nothing that she doesn't want to hand over control of their biggest piece of evidence to the defendant himself. ("We've been dealt a King and a Ten. I don't know why you want to ask the dealer for another card.")
In court, they call a glove expert who says it's "virtually impossible" that the gloves Nicole purchased were not the ones found at the crime scene. But, during a recess, Shapiro tries on the gloves and realizes they're too small for him, and O.J.'s hands are even bigger than his. He huddles the defense together and they hatch a plan - they're going to essentially coerce the prosecution into having Simpson try on the gloves.
Darden, meanwhile, observing once again that the jury members are fading fast, insists that they need to put on a show. A frustrated Marcia pulls rank and tells her shellshocked co-prosecutor, "This is my case. You work for me here." As if that wasn't enough, F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) insults Darden's manhood upon returning to the courtroom, taunting him that if the prosecution doesn't make Simpson try on the gloves, the defense will. Cochran piles on, calling a sidebar with Judge Ito (Kenneth Choi), where he makes a reverse psychology show of insisting how inappropriate it is to have O.J. try on the gloves.
Darden returns to the podium and promptly calls Simpson forward to try on the gloves. When Cochran doesn't object, Darden realizes something's fishy, but proceeds anyway. At least he has the jury's attention now. Marcia looks like she's about to cry.
Simpson tries the gloves on - er, tries to try them on - over Latex gloves. He's making a big show of tugging and tugging, to no avail. (They're supposed to be snug and fit like racing gloves but the Latex gloves, combined with the fact that Simpson's keeping his fingers bent, prevent the evidence gloves from going on all the way.) "These gloves are too small," Simpson says, mugging for the jury. Darden, trying to salvage the demonstration, asks Simpson to straighten his fingers, make a fist, etc., but it's too late. The glove display has backfired, just like Marcia said it would. The Goldmans look sick, and Marcia looks livid. Later, Darden calls the Goldmans to personally apologize.
Here's actual video of Simpson trying on the gloves:
Two other points of note in the episode:
-When Denise Brown (Jordana Brewster) shows the cops Nicole's belongings, Simpson's children wander into the garage. "Are you helping my daddy find the man who hurt my mommy?" Sydney asks. Do the kids seriously not know their father is on trial, or did I totally misread this scene???
-While Marcia and Chris are in Oakland, one of Darden's friends says he heard O.J. was working on a TV show where he had received training from actual Navy SEALs about how to stalk and kill people. This is true, but Marcia and Chris say they don't plan to bring that up in the trial because they think their case is strong enough without it.
The People v. O.J. Simpson airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.