Trial & Error is a terribly underappreciated show that is evident in the network’s decision to release its second season during the dead summer months. Season one was intriguing because of John Lithgow’s presence, but he was always meant to be the foil to the true protagonist, the outcasted Josh Segal (played by Nicholas D’Agosto). Lithgow’s story is long gone as this season, with the aptly added tagline “Lady Killer,” sees the emergence of another big name player. While keeping together the hilarious ensemble of season one, could this show improve on its true crime satirical style?
Synopsis: In the Season 2 premiere, Josh Segal and Associates get their first case: defending Lavinia Peck Foster, the eccentric First Lady of East Peck, who was found with her husband Edgar’s corpse in a suitcase in her trunk. (1) Judge Kamiltow rules that Lavinia must stand trial for the murder of her husband; and Josh and the team try to poke holes in the timeline of the case Carol Anne will present. But when a clock is determined to be the murder weapon, they are forced to seek help from two unlikely sources the convicted murderer of Lavinia’s brother and the host of a popular murder podcast called “M Town.” (2) (TVGuide)
Writers: Jess Astrof (1), Craig Gerard and Matthew Zinman (2)
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Running Time: 44mins (2x22mins)
Airs: Thursday at 9:00 pm on CTV (Canada)/NBC (United States)
“The Suitcase” starts off with the introduction of this season’s accused murderer, East Peck’s First Lady Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth). She gets pulled over for going 90 in a 35, but manages to get off with a warning by charming the officer. That doesn’t last long when he finds the dead body of Lavinia’s husband Edgar stuffed into a suitcase in the trunk of her car. She realizes that she needs the best lawyer in East Peck who happens to have won the most controversial case in their history. Don’t worry, Josh Segal and Associates are on the case!
With the team back together, Josh reveals the new case, but Anne and Dwayne refuse to work on such a high profile case given Lavinia’s status in the town. Josh visits Lavinia in prison bringing her cookies in good faith, but she surrounded by gifts and food. He asks for her story, but after revealing it happened during the night of the annual Peck Gala, she breaks down sobbing. At the courthouse, Josh runs into Carol Anne Keane who reveals she is pregnant and he starts freaking out whether or not he’s the father.
The two of them are excited about the case because if Carol wins she will get the DA position she yearns for, but if Josh wins he will become the town’s biggest hero. With some law about women not being able to publically judge other women, Judge Horsedich has been replaced by Judge Kamiltow (Joel McCrary). Unfortunately for Josh, this new judge speaks in a high-pitched Peck dialect which only he cannot understand. Carol tries to set bail at 300 million, but Lavinia convinces the judge to not only set it at $10, but pay for it himself.
At the office, the team sets up the murder board. They learn that Edgar’s watch stopped at time of death thanks to it falling into water and they team excitedly chants Murder Board, Murder Board. They arrive at Peck Gardens, Lavinia’s mansion, to check out the crime scene and talk to Lavinia. As Josh investigates, Lavinia decides to take a dip in the pool and convinces Josh to join her. Josh starts to connect with Lavinia learning that the pool is salt water meaning it isn’t the right crime scene as fresh water was found in the watch.
Meanwhile, Anne and Dwayne notice a hedge maze on the property and decide to test their puzzle solving abilities. Unfortunately, Dwayne gets scared near the entrance causing Anne to yell at him to keep moving. They manage to make it to the center of the maze where they find an old sundial inscribed with Roman numerals. The episode ends with Dwayne digging up the sundial to discover a mass grave under the maze sending him and Anne frantically leaving the maze.
“The Timeline” starts off with Josh excitingly discussing the case and how Lavinia is the greatest client he has ever had. He enters the office to overhear Dwayne listening to a podcast called M-towne, which is focusing on the Lavinia Peck-Foster murder trial for its second season. Dwayne informs Josh that the mass grave found at Peck Gardens was eight of his ancestors who helped build the mansion for their rival family. Josh is relieved that Lavinia is not at fault for the mass grave, but the team suspect she could be a vampire and state that there are no bad theories.
At the courthouse, Josh runs into M-towne host Nina Rudolph (Amanda Payton) who wants to interview him for the podcast, but he doesn’t trust her. They sit down in front of Judge Kamiltow, but Lavinia is nowhere to be seen. She arrives fashionably late with scarves for the entire courtroom continuing to exude charisma. As Josh refutes Carol’s accusations, she continues to deflect with her pregnancy and ends up convincing the judge to bring them to trial. They are given new photos of the autopsy showing marks on Edgar’s forehead from the murder weapon: a clock, which conveniently imprinted time of death.
Carol brings up concerns that the jury is comprised, but Josh sees no issues as Lavinia poses with the jury members for photos. As Judge Kamiltow goes through the juror selection process, Lavinia informs Josh about an intriguing suspect named Jesse Ray Beaumont. Apparently he worked under Edgar as a clock apprentice and was found guilty of murdering Lavinia’s brother Chet. As she breaks down about all the death around her, Josh reassures her that he will win this case. Turns out that the judge has decided to have a bench trial meaning that the verdict will be decided by the judge alone which would give Carol the upperhand.
Meanwhile, Dwayne and Anne decide to recreate the crime scene by stuffing Dwayne in the suitcase and taking him down to the river. They arrive at the courthouse with bad news. Lavinia definitely had enough time to dispose of the body and return to the party. And of course Dwayne locked himself in the suitcase. At the office, Josh asks Lavinia to tell him where she was during the suspected time of death. She explains she was doing her solo and without a beat breaks out into song. The solo lasts 25 minutes which doesn’t help their timeline, but upon further inspection of the photos they discover that her clocks run on North Peck time, which is an hour behind East Peck time meaning she couldn’t have made it to the river and back (unless she was a vampire of course).
Josh visits Peck Island Correctional to get information on the clock from Jesse Ray Beaumont, but he wants something in return. As Dwayne tries to slide his pistol over to the convicted felon, Jesse states that he wants to explain his conspiracy of Chet’s murder to Lavinia. Unfortunately she refuses. In order to get the information, he asks Nina to interview Jesse for her podcast and he asks her to stop ripping on the town whose flag is an owl saying “Woo farted.” Their meeting is interrupted when Carol Facetimes Josh completely naked in her odd flirtatious way.
He confronts Carol about her confusing tactics and tells her that they are either something or nothing and she immediately pounces on him. At the prison, Jesse finally reveals that the clock is owned by the Jessups, the weirdest family in town. To celebrate the completion of the timeline, Josh offers Nina some Peck Rum, the official Rum of Peck Elementary as he excitedly exclaims that she is not a criminal. The episode ends with security camera footage of Lavinia in a disguise stealing food from the supermarket.
New Conditions for Anne:
- Jumping Frenchmen of Maine – causes you to jump high when startled
- Localized spontaneous human combustion – triggered by Rum
Overall, this was a great two-part season premiere. While Lithgow’s clueless character is no longer with us, he is replaced by a delightful and infectious Kristin Chenoweth. The best part about this show is its attention to detail and its world building. Trial & Error’s East Peck can only be compared to The Office’s Scranton or Park and Rec’s Pawnee. Each of these towns have a ridiculous aura about then and East Peck is the most ridiculous of them all. While the anthology style of the narratives between seasons could give this series a shelf life, the cast of characters paired with the hilarious world they inhabit makes the start to this season one worth checking out. This is 2018’s big mockumentary sitcom.
The Suitcase: 9/10
The Timeline: 9/10
What did you think of the two-part season premiere? Did it pick up from the hijinx of last season? Let me know in the comments below!