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NOTORIOUS “The Burn Book” Recap

By on November 11, 2016
DANIEL SUNJATA, PIPER PERABO

(ABC/Tony Rivetti) DANIEL SUNJATA, PIPER PERABO

By Kirsty Pearce

Back and Better Than Ever

Picking up right where it left off from last week, this week’s episode had a fresh, intriguing feel to it that I think has been missing over the last few weeks spent wrapping up the mystery of Sarah’s death, and it was a sight to behold.

It opens with Julia and Jake walking towards a crime scene at a house owned by Dana Hartman. The first female to solo anchor a network news program, Dana was also Julia’s mentor whom she has not seen in years since Dana fabricated an interview, her alleged source was assassinated, and Julia went public with the story, seriously derailed her career. The house where the crime scene is was being rented by her daughter Maya, who found a body shot to death in the pool, and three of her friends, one of whom is the dead male, Johnny.

DA Max is also there, and tells them that Maya’s hands came back positive for gunshot residue. Jake takes her on as a client, and Maya wants Julia to sit in on his interview with her and Dana. Jake feels like she’s hiding something, and the secret quickly comes out that Johnny was her boyfriend and she was in love with him. Dana is visibly shaken by the news, and has to confess that she read Maya’s journal, in which Maya wrote that she wanted to kill Johnny. Maya tells Julia it’s not a journal in the traditional sense, but a Burn Book, suggested by her therapist to write stuff in about people that pissed her off, her writing that she wanted to kill Johnny because she told him she loved him and he didn’t say anything back.

Louise and Megan are in Julia’s office when she gets back, and show her a video that had been sent to Louise anonymously which contains footage of Dana having sex with Johnny. Julia confronts Dana about it, telling Jake as a professional courtesy at the same time that she is going to air it. Jake manages to come up with a deal where she doesn’t air it, but instead has Dana on her show, to advocate for Maya being innocent. In a subsequent talk with Jake, Julia reveals she was never going to air the tape, but figured it was the best way to get Dana on her show, her first appearance on-camera since being publicly fired.

Max is waiting in Julia’s office when she gets back with a blueberry muffin he initially meant to bring her for breakfast, but couldn’t get over there till that moment, which, I must admit, is rather cute, as is asking her if they are ok after everything that happened with Jake. They make another dinner date for that night, and then it’s show-time for Dana’s big interview on LHL.

Louise, who holds resentment towards Dana for single-handedly setting back women in media news, and her career personally, goes off-script in the interview, and then Julia’s boss comes in and takes over, telling the tech crew to air the tape, which Julia had promised not to show. Dana leaves furious, and Louise and Julia end up in a heated argument about Louise going over her head, and Julia having no right to bar Louise from showing the video, which was sent to her, ending with Julia saying Louise can find another producer if she goes behind her back again.

The sex tape ends up going viral, and Ella finds out it was recorded with a remote control camera which means someone else was taping it. Jake goes to the crime scene to try and figure out how it was done, breaking the police tape and discovering a transmitting device with a company logo in the roof. He tracks this to a neighbour who did the security installation on the house, whom Dana had blocked from being able to add a second story to his home, thus prompting him to send the tape in revenge. Jake compels him to give the entire recording over to him, and while Ella and a paralegal are looking through it, they find evidence that Johnny was involved in a threesome with the other two room-mates, Preston and Willow.

Johnny’s father comes to see Jake, and he is devastated with how his son has turned out, the fact that Johnny had cut off contact with him over the last year, and that apparently he really didn’t know him at all. His grief in this scene is genuine and heart-breaking to watch. Louise and Julia then patch things up just before Max holds a televised press conference to reveal that the ballistics on the gun came back as belong to singer Ray J, who is not a suspect, and says that his legally owned hand-gun was stolen in a home invasion a few weeks ago. However, this break-in was just one of many that have been occurring over the last six months in celebrity homes. When Ray J mentions other items that were stolen, Ella recognizes from the video.

The action then cuts back to Max, who is growing on me, as his date with Julia, one she is uncharacteristically nervous for, involves dinner on the roof of her building, with lights and candles, and later a black and white projector viewing of His Girl Friday, which Julia had quoted earlier in the show. Halfway into the film, they both get calls about Maya, who has been arrested along with Preston and Willow. And while Maya refuses to rat on her friends, they have no such compunctions, rolling on her for the murder of Johnny, and handing over her journal. Maya refuses to see her mother, who rounds on Julia and tells her it’s all her fault. After stating that it’s so typical of Dana to make everything about her, Jake confronts Julia on the fact that, regardless of her obvious remorse, she was ultimately unwilling to stand up to her boss and threaten to quit, cut Louise’s mic, or really do anything substantial that might have stopped that tape from running. He says he understands Dana’s anger because Julia broke a deal with him as well. The episode closes on a figure whose face we do not see putting the murder weapon into a safety deposit box.

This episode really upped the ante in every department. The progression of the murder investigation was sharp with several surprising twists, and also provided a fascinating deeper analysis into how much power producers actually have over what is relevant or not to the story they are telling, and whether or not certain things get shown. Julia’s relationships take several dramatic turns over the course of the hour, her friendship with Louise remaining strong and a wonderful example of two powerful women who can maintain a good working and personal relationship. Watching her dip her toe back into the dating pool with Max is also a sweet thing to witness, as he goes all out, and is quickly becoming too cute, smart and charming for words. And the quiet tension that rises between her and Jake was well-acted as well, as we see two people who know each other better than most struggling with where their jobs are taking them and how that’s impacting their long-held friendship.

Proving it can sustain itself without the overarching mystery of Sarah’s death, this episode has left me feeling hopeful about what’s to come next week.

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