'The People v. O.J. Simpson' recap: Fuhrman tapes make for tension-filled episode

As we close in on the finish, things are heating up on "American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson."

The penultimate episode, titled "Manna From Heaven," details the admission of the Fuhrman tapes into the case. It is a no-nonsense episode filled with real tension.


This episode stands out as one of the best because it does not waste time with side stories, and features an impossible decision that Judge Ito had to make.

The episode begins with a television show recapping the trial. The people on the show are arguing whether O.J. is in good physical shape. Almost as soon as the show is over, the woman watching, Laura Hart McKinny, gets a phone call from an investigator working for O.J.


The investigator asks for tapes that McKinny has of Mark Fuhrman. McKinny says she wants no part of it and hangs up the phone.

We are then taken back to the courtroom, where Johnnie Cochran is once again calling Chris Darden a racist. Darden blows up, saying Cochran's words have affected his personal life. The show really does not do Chris Darden any favors, while it seems to hold Marcia Clark in such high regard.

"Look what happened: His witness was failing so Johnnie threw a racial stink bomb to deflect attention," Clark points out.

We then see the defense discussing the Fuhrman tapes, which they all agree will eliminate any doubt in this case. Cochran even goes so far as to bring religion into the conversation.


"God brought us these tapes," Cochran says. "There is something much larger at play here.

F. Lee Bailey and Cochran go to North Carolina to secure the tapes after some bitter retorts from Bob Shapiro.

The pair is given transcripts, and we see the racial slurs Fuhrman said in these tapes repeatedly. Cochran grandstands in front of a North Carolina judge who immediately rejects his appeal through his sick Southern accent. The judge clearly has a problem with the way Cochran spoke.

Bailey says that he has to speak during the emergency appeal and makes a hilarious quip about the South.

"Johnnie look around, we're in the south. Haven't you noticed the smell of condescension and mint julep in the air?" he says.

It is fascinating that Johnnie spoke at all; I would expect the two lawyers to be smart enough to understand the racial situation they were walking into. Bailey promptly delivers an over-the-top, bible-quoting speech during the emergency appeal and is successful in his plea.

It is revealed that Fuhrman is not only an incredible racist, he also hates Ito's wife, who signed an affidavit claiming she had not worked with him. This revelation would lead to a mistrial.

What is fascinating is that Darden and Clark considered taking the mistrial, just to start over.

Either way, Ito acknowledges that the tapes could throw his judgment into question and decides that another judge should decide whether to call a mistrial.

Clark decides a mistrial isn't a good idea on a legal basis, but then oddly brings her personal life into it.

"You think I wouldn't want a do over?  I would love to do over all of my mistakes, do over my life, do over my marriage. … We have to plow forward," Clark says.

The alternate judge states he needs time to evaluate the situation and Cochran gets upset. We get a quick temper tantrum out of Shapiro in the elevator as he tries to calm Cochran down.

We get another elevator temper tantrum out of Darden, yelling at Clarck for using Fuhrman.

"You put me on this trial because you wanted a black face but the truth is you never wanted a black voice," Darden says.

It is a great quote — I just wish it would come for a more credible source, as it seems to me like Darden has screwed up a lot more than Clark has.

The NAACP, with Cochran at his back, quickly calls for the tapes to be released publicly and they threaten an event equaling the Rodney King riots. The stakes of the trial are kicked up a notch with the threat, and it is exciting to see the ripples it causes with in the attorney teams.

What is not fascinating is seeing Judge Ito symbolically turn his hourglass upside down amid protests. It just seems so fabricated for dramatic effect.

Both sides deliver passionate arguments, and Ito's decision is given the dramatic tension it deserves. This is a moment that had me torn  as to what I would have done. It is the most engaged I have been in the show up to this point and it is due entirely to the natural drama of the O.J. trial.

Ito decides to allow the defense to present the tapes, which leads to a courtroom explosion from Darden. Darden calls the trial a "circus" and nearly gets held in contempt of court. He demands council and Clark speaks up for Darden, almost getting held in contempt herself.

"Shall I take off my watch and jewelry?" Clark says.

It is a gripping scene in a gripping moment in the case, but it does all seem to good to be true.  In real life this conversation happened way earlier in the case, but it did happen.

Regardless, the tapes are presented in court and have a significant impact.

Clark apologizes for using Fuhrman and Darden apologizes about the gloves in the next scene.

Ito only allows two sentences of the tapes to be used as evidence, which convict Fuhrman of perjury. The rest of the tape, including the parts where he admits to tampering with evidence, is expunged from evidence. This spells disaster for the defense team.

Fuhrman takes the stand again in the episode's climax.

"It's hard to be hated by both sides, it takes a certain kind of character," Bailey says.

Darden walks out of the courtroom before Cochran gives his testimony. Fuhrman asserts his Fifth Amendment rights in response to all questions — even the one about whether or not he framed O.J.

O.J. expresses his jubilation toward Robert Kardashian in the next scene. I had not noticed until this point that these are the some of the only words O.J. has spoken in this episode. This made me like this episode even more — the less of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s cartoonish performance, the better. Kardashian seems reticent during the conversation, clearly questioning O.J.'s innocence.

The episode ends on a less dramatic note, with Clark receiving primary custody of her kids.

Episode 9 of "American Crime Story" was great and has rebuilt some of my faith in the finale.  Going into the episode, I was worried they were going to keep dragging out these side stories and not focus on the case, but this episode was direct. I am excited to see this largely mediocre show end on a positive note.