‘Franklin and Bash’ Recap (Season 1 Episode 10): Mountain Fever
Franklin and Bash wraps up its amusing but unremarkable first season with an amusing but unremarkable finale. It delivered pretty much everything you can reasonably expect form this show and maybe even a tiny bit more, so overall I’d have to call it a fitting conclusion.
As the episode starts, Franklin and Bash are handling a case involving a Lucha Libre wrestler (this, for the uninitiated, is a form of Mexican professional wrestling involving masks). An elderly wrestler, Ultimo, is being forced by the league to retire and hand over his cherished mask to a younger contender, and he and his attractive daughter Amelia come to Franklin and Bash for help.
But wait! More important things are happening! Stanton is in court pleading guilty to a murder charge! So Franklin and Bash’s meeting with the wrestling family is cut short and they’re called into the office where they meet Brett Cayman, a lawyer from the New York branch of Infeld Daniels, who is taking charge and has called them in to give them their assignments.
According to Brett, Stanton is charged with the murder of his best friend Gibson Hawke, who disappeared fifteen years ago. You may recall that last week we saw a news report revealing that that his body has been recovered. Years ago they were hiking up Mount McKinley and Stanton told the police that Hawke marched up the mountain alone despite his protestations and was never seen again. But now Stanton’s being charged with his murder, and wants Franklin and Bash to defend him. Oh, and Karp. But not Hanna, who is rather upset by the snub. Hanna takes Franklin and Bash to the morgue, where they learn that contrary to Stanton’s report, Gibson Hawke wasn’t killed by the elements. He died from a stab wound. The murder weapon: a knife with the name “Stanton Infeld” inscribed in the handle. Oh damn.
In prison, Stanton admits to his legal team that he lied to the police all those years ago. The truth is that Hawke had gone crazy and stolen the climbing team’s oxygen, then attacked Stanton. Stanton killed Hawke in self defense. Which would probably mean he’d be off the hook if only he hadn’t lied all those years ago. All Franklin and Bash have going for them is the copious amounts of character evidence they can present. But there’s one strange problem: Carmen and Pindar discover that Hawk’s private bank account in the Bahamas was closed out shortly after his death. Franklin and Bash choose to ignore this for the moment until they have more info.
Bash then walks in on Brett in her office. In her underwear. Yikes. She tells him that she wants Karp off the tram for the trial, because it looks bad to have Stanton’s nephew arguing his innocence, and she also instructs Bash to keep her informed of all developments. It’s very difficult for Bash to say no to a barely-clothed Tricia Helfer. Later, Brett confronts Hanna and tries to offer her a job in New York, where her talents won’t be ignored, insinuating that the only reason she wasn’t picked for the trial team is because she’s a woman. Hanna refuses and gets to work on the Ultimo case, which she’s taking over while the boys are otherwise occupied. Brett also goes after Karp and tries to apologize for taking him off the case by telling him she’s helping him get bumped up a few spots on the judicial list. He’s always wanted to be a judge…
In court, the prosecutor is Ellen Swatello. My favorite! She’s the really bitchy and sarcastic one that’s always so fun. Franklin manages to throw her off by unexpectedly admitting that Stanton killed Hawke and explaining that it was in self defense. But an Alaskan police officer testifies that all those years ago, the night before the climb, Stanton had been in a drunk holding cell for assault. And it was Hawke he assaulted, actually, in a bar brawl, and Stanton even threatened to kill him. Stanton admits this and claims he forgot about it because this sort of thing happened between the two of them all the time, but Franklin and Bash begin to wonder whether he might actually be guilty.
Meanwhile, things look rough in the Ultimo case as the league owners argue that because they own Ultimo’s “character,” they have every right to insist that he hand over the mask. There’s nothing Hanna can do about this, so the judge says that Ultimo will have to appear in court the following day to surrender the mask. Back at Franklin and Bash’s place, Franklin makes out with Ultimo’s daughter Amelia and they begin… ahem… “wrestling.” She makes a comment about her father’s wrestling moves in comparison to Franklin’s, and suddenly Franklin has to rush out because he’s gotten a great idea about how to win her dad’s case.
But when he rushes out of the room he learns from Pindar that Gibson Hawk’s bank account was closed out three days after he died… by Stanton. Stanton explains that this was a joint account that they kept to fund their gambling, with the understanding that if one of them were to die the other would close the account and give the money to charity. The boys suggest to Stanton that he might want to think about pleading guilty. Stanton is impressed by their guts in telling him this, but he refuses and says that if he honestly believed that he was guilty of murder he’d have confessed long ago, so he’s got to stay the course even if he has to represent himself. Franklin and Bash agree to continue representing him.
Next day in court, when the judge demands Ultimo’s mask, Hanna explains that Ultimo is filing a countersuit for ownership of his own signature wrestling moves, which are are not mentioned in his contract with the league and are therefore owned solely by Ultimo. This is unlikely to win Ultimo his mask back, but it’s grounds enough to let him keep it for now.
Stanton testifies in court that he lied to the police just to protect Gibson Hawke’s reputation, but Swatello brings up the bank account. How did she know? It turns out that Brett Cayman told her, claiming that she’s playing it by the book by providing the DA with any evidence that Franklin and Bash were going to use in court. Franklin and Bash are pissed: they were not at all planning to bring up the bank account. They decide they’ve had enough of her meddling and bring Karp back on the team. When Karp learns about Brett’s job offer to Hanna, he realizes there’s something fishy about Brett.
Hanna invites the league owners, Ultimo, and Ultimo’s successor to a meeting, where Ultimo challenges the young’un to a wrestling match for ownership of the mask. He agrees, and the league owners sanction it. Meanwhile, Hanna and Karp have come to the realization that Brett Cayman is trying to take over the LA office. She’s screwing with the legal team and ensuring Stanton is convicted, trying to get Karp a job as a judge, and offering Hanna a position in New York. With Stanton, Karp, and Hanna all out of the way, Brett would be next in line to take over in LA! They confront her about it and shame her with their detective skills.
In court, Bash tries to call Gibson Hawke as a witness, despite the fact that he’s, y’know, dead. He really just wants a field trip to the morgue. He invokes the sixth amendment to insist that Stanton has the right to face Gibson Hawke. I’m not sure of the logic here, but the judge buys it and they go to the morgue. The coroner tells them that at the time of his death, Gibson was sugaring from hypoxia, or “mountain fever,” which would cause fits of violent rage. This means it’s completely reasonable to think that he might have attacked Stanton and Stanton might have killed him in self defense. And reasonable doubt is all we needed! Swatello cuts a deal with them: if Stanton pleads guilty to filing a false report, he gets three years of probation and 3,000 hours of pro boon work. Stanton gladly takes it and even ups it to 5,000 hours. He then asks for a moment with the body to say goodbye. It’s quite moving, until the corpse’s head falls off.
Stanton later tells Hanna that that he didn’t want her on his team because she’s too important, and then reveals that he’s naming her as his chosen successor when he retires. Meanwhile, back at Franklin and Bash’s house, there’s a huge party while they watch the wrestling match on television, and Ultimo wins. Later Ultimo and Amelia show up and Amelia and Franklin make out. Ultimo tells them that they’re now business partners: because the league was broke, they all get partial shares in ownership of the league. And then he pulls Jared aside and takes off his mask and reveals that he’s played by cult film actor Danny Trejo. Hooray! A happy ending.
Once again I found myself much more interested and invested in the main plot of the episode than I was in the subplot. In fact every time Ultimo was on screen I found myself wanting to get back to Stanton’s case. The case delivered all of the surprising twists you’ve come to expect from this show, as well as a few good laughs, particularly as we saw Stanton adjusting to life in an orange jumpsuit. It was even slightly touching in some moments, as we get to see a bit more of what makes this rich loon tick. In fact, I think in light of this episode I’m slightly more willing to buy into Stanton as something other than a cartoon character, which is always appreciated even in a comedy.
It’s a shame that Carmen and Pindar weren’t given much to do in this big finale, but it was really nice to see Ellen Swatello back. I understand the need to use different prosecutors and judges in each episode, but Swatello is the one I look forward to seeing most because when she’s a worthy adversary to Franklin and Bash who engages them on their own level. Sometimes in court it seems like the boys are on a completely different show from everyone else in the room, but when Swatello’s trading jibes with the boys and saying things like “I want to poke my eye out with your tiny body,” it seems like the world of the show has some coherency. I think I’m rambling now. How embarrassing. I’ve exposed myself for the unabashed Swatello fanboy I truly am.
So that’s it for now, but Franklin and Bash will return next year. It pains me a bit, I admit, that lighthearted, throwaway procedurals like Franklin and Bash can thrive on cable while more serious and “quality” television withers and dies. I know I’ve heard a few fans of Men of a Certain Age muttering angrily about Franklin and Bash’s renewal. But overall, the first season of Franklin and Bash was enjoyable and it’s a show I’ll tune in for again next summer, even if it’s one I don’t think I’ll ever be terribly excited about.
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