The nature of fame is up for debate in Episode 3 of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. On the one hand, we have a wary Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) scolding his spotlight-hungry children: "Being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting. It's hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart." (If this depiction of Kardashian is true, one can't help but wonder what he would think of Kourtney and Kim Take Miami and the like, not to mention the philosophical spoutings of his son-in-law Kanye West.)
On the other hand, we have Kato Kaelin (Billy Magnussen), O.J. Simpson's houseguest who's trying to use his newfound celebrity to revamp his career and dating life. "Fame is complicated," Kaelin tells a jogging buddy, after he's flashed by a group of girls in a convertible, and then called an accomplice to murder by two passersby, in quick succession.
Both men are correct in their assessments, and in this series, no one embodies the dichotomy more than O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Once the country's golden boy, Simpson is beginning to see his status erode, as more and more damning information linking him to the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman is leaked to the media. Locked in a jail cell, Simpson laments that none of his friends from the country club have come to visit him. Legal pundits are speaking about the case on national television as if a conviction is a foregone conclusion. "He's never gonna stop being The Juice," the loyal-to-a-fault Kardashian says of his friend at one point in the episode. But he's wrong. Regardless of the outcome of the trial, Simpson's life as he knows it is over.
The episode also gives us a clear-cut outline of the strategies employed by the prosecution and defense teams during Simpson's trial. The defense, bolstered by the discovery that Det. Mark Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) has come under fire for alleged bigotry, decides to make the case about race and float the theory that Simpson was framed by prejudiced cops - over the protestations of Simpson himself, who doesn't want to bring race into it and insists, "I'm not black. I'm O.J."
The flip side of this is that Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) is mystified that anyone would question Simpson's obvious guilt, even after assistant district attorney Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) tells her he knows plenty of black people who believe O.J. is innocent. She eventually comes around, but refuses to take Fuhrman off their witness list.
The other part of the defense strategy comes courtesy of young DNA expert Barry Scheck (Rob Morrow), who's brought in by lawyer Alan Dershowitz (Evan Handler) to help the team deal with the DNA evidence - which, effectively, states that there is literally a one-in-a-billion chance that someone other than O.J. Simpson committed the murders. Scheck and Dershowitz advise Robert Shapiro (John Travolta) & Co. to question every piece of evidence the prosecution submits and every move the opposing team makes in order to chip away at their case bit by bit (a technique whose disastrous effects become clear in later episodes). As Scheck puts it: "At best, we get some of it thrown out. At worst, we get the jury to question it."
The prosecutors, on the other hand, convinced that they've got an open-and-shut case on their hands and desperate to maintain an air of political correctness, make hubristic decisions that will come back to haunt them. First, they opt to hold Simpson's trial (and, therefore, jury selection) in downtown Los Angeles rather than in Santa Monica, so they're not faced with having to awkwardly explain away a mostly (if not all) white jury. "We have a winning hand," District Attorney Gil Garcetti (Bruce Greenwood) notes. "Let's make everyone look good."
Second, the prosecutors launch a crusade against the practice of "cash-for-trash" interviews and make it a policy to remove anyone from their witness lists who sells their story to a media outlet ahead of the trial. "We have all the aces," insists Marcia Clark. "Let's hold the high ground." This includes Jill Shively, the only eyewitness who could place O.J. Simpson in the vicinity of the crime scene at the exact time the murders were thought to have occurred, but who was interviewed by Hard Copy before being called to testify.
-The entire aforementioned scene with the Kardashian kids is amazing, from the gleam in their eyes as they get their first taste of the spotlight (with their dad "Richard Kordovian"), to Robert's bristling at the mention of his ex-wife's new beau, the "really famous" Bruce. Also: "Uncle Juice."
-We get an interesting glimpse into the relationship between Robert and Kris Jenner (Selma Blair), who is outraged that her ex-husband is defending the man she believes "butchered" her best friend - and has no problem telling her children that their "pretend uncle" is likely a murderer.
-Anyone notice the cover price of the New Yorker issue containing Jeffrey Toobin's interview with Robert Shapiro? $2.50. God bless the '90s.
-Nathan Lane is really hamming it up as F. Lee Bailey. (See: his extended metaphor about Robert Shapiro's "brass balls.") Hard to say who's having a better time, him or Travolta.
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.