Chris Evans in Defending Jacob.

Defending Jacob Episode 4 Review: “Damage Control”

After declaring in episode three that she “won’t tolerate anymore lying” from Andy or Jacob, and stressing “no more secrets”, Laurie Barber did an impressive amount of lying and secret keeping in the most recent episode of Defending Jacob. 

Her episode three declaration came after being burned by the truth about both Andy’s father’s murderous past and about Jacob having been bullied by the murder victim. She was exhausted by the flood of troubling information she received in the small window of time since her teenage son was accused of murder.

Andy and Laurie -- Defending Jacob

Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery in Defending Jacob. Apple TV+. 2020.

However, her almost immediate repeated violations of her newly established rule are troubling. Is she a hypocrite or a desperate woman trying to figure out what the hell is going on? Let’s do a brief recap of her actions…

secrets and lies

Laurie used a fake name to secretly request news clipping about William Barber’s crime and hid the results when they arrived. She lied to Jacob about meeting a friend from work and instead skulked in her car outside the gala she was disinvited from attending. She lied to Andy on the phone while sitting outside the gala, repeating the story that a coworker asked her to dinner. After getting duped by a reporter while having a solo dinner at a diner, she not only failed to tell Andy about the possible press story when she got home, she doubled down on her lie about having dinner with a friend.

destructive decisions

She made one destructive decision after another. Obtaining the news stories I understand; she’s curious about what her husband failed to tell her for 17 years. A white lie about dinner with friends because she is upset about missing the gala is also understandable. However, getting too friendly with a stranger at dinner was a big mistake that will have lasting consequences. Their lawyer had told Andy (and the audience) that ‘any press is bad press’ right now.  Laurie emotionally revealed a seemingly innocuous detail about Andy (that he has never had real friends outside of her) before learning the friendly stranger was a writer. Then, she failed to request any of what she said be kept off the record, even after the writer asked.

flicker of doubt

It’s fascinating to watch Michelle Dockery portray Laurie as she slowly comes apart. She is stressed and stricken at all times. Laurie was on the verge of an emotional breakdown from looking at a painting while waiting for Jacob at the psychologist’s office. She finally gave voice to her doubt through whispers in the dark to Andy. By asking him if a tiny part of him thinks Jacob did it, she made it clear that part of her does.

After all of the secrets and lies and destructive choices, I was floored by her immediate insistence that Andy would visit his father in prison to get the needed DNA sample. No discussion. No reasoning. Andy made it clear he had no intention of going, and she overruled him. She used his own words to persuade him. He’ll do it for Jacob. Whatever it takes.

friends and allies

Episode three ended with Jacob’s classmate Sarah calling the police tip line. We didn’t learn what she told them, but Derek, who had been trying to talk to her since police started questioning kids, was called in to be questioned by police. Sarah visited Jacob and left him with the impression that she suspected Derek. Jacob passed that information onto his dad.

Andy, Jacob, Laurie -- Defending Jacob

Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell, and Michelle Dockery in Defending Jacob. Apple TV+. 2020.

Jacob went through a range of emotions this time around. Early in the episode, he cracked under the pressure of being questioned by his lawyer about finding Ben’s body. He panicked and was adamant that she was trying to trick him, making it clear that he did not belong on the stand at trial. Later, he underwent a couple of tests for the psychologist looking both scared and determined. After upsetting his mother over dinner, he apologized. He was relaxed and happy while watching a movie with his dad and later playing video games with Sarah.

Jaeden Martell is playing the conflicting, detached emotions of a typical teenager so well that it causes the viewer to go back and forth on whether or not to believe his professed innocence. He’s making Jacob very difficult to read.

Victim or NOT?

Determined to give the jury a suspect other than Jacob, Andy Barber began his own private investigation into convicted sex offender Leonard Patz. He visited a local teen, Matt McGrath, who accused Patz of groping him, and quickly blew apart his story. The police had dropped his case because they didn’t believe him and Andy agreed. When he pressed to find out the kid’s connection to Patz, McGrath got angry and demanded he leave. It’s clear Andy struck a nerve and we’ll likely hear from McGrath again before the case is solved.

Chris Evans in Defending Jacob

Chris Evans in Defending Jacob. Apple TV+. 2020.

Tailing and truth

Andy spent a fair amount of time tailing Patz and recording his movements. What stood out about all of Andy’s choices this episode is that he was immediately up front with Laurie about his investigation. She demanded truth from him so he gave it. His openness was glaring in the face of her repeated deceptions.

at home with the barbers

This episode opened on the image of Andy Barber swimming laps. Intercut with scenes of Laurie waiting for the market to open at 6am, it’s clear that the Barbers are avoiding the public as much as possible. While Laurie snuck around, we were treated to several scenes of Andy doing dad things. He had movie night with Jacob. He told a terrible dad joke to diffuse tension. He teased his son about a girl. It was sweet.

Chris Evans brings a quiet intensity to Andy. He’s calm and measured with his family. He’s determined and laser focused as he follows leads that might direct the police to a new suspect. In the few moments where he does get upset and lash out in anger, fear, or frustration, he takes a breath, steadies himself, and apologizes. Evans is making it clear that Andy has spent his life very aware of violence and rage.

Lingering Questions

As with any good limited series, each episode leaves the audience with a few essential questions to be answered. Something to carry you forward and pull you back in next week. Aside from the obvious question of Jacob’s guilt, which won’t be quickly solved as it’s what propels the series, these are the questions I am left asking at the end of episode four:

  • What did Sarah tell the tip line at the close of episode three?
  • What did the police talk to Derek about?
  • What does Matt McGrath know and what’s his real connection to Patz?
  • What kind of parent would let their teenage daughter go hang out at an accused murderer’s house unsupervised?

Defending Jacob continues with episode five next Friday, May 8 on Apple TV+.

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