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Bull - Light My Fire - Review:"The Kavanaugh Blues"

Bull allows its protagonist to go back to his roots in an episode that reveals the good doctor’s past and forces him to confront powerful emotions about his father.

We’ve gotten hints that Bull’s relationship with his father is complicated, particularly in the pilot when a juror muses that he became a psychologist to understand his own family. This is the first time we find out what his issues actually are.

Bull and Benny are looking forward to spending a weekend at the old Bull family cabin for a fishing trip. Unfortunately, the cabin has burned to the ground – the result of an arson that blew up on old diner (and killed the diner owner) in the town of Kavanaugh, New Hampshire. A fired employee, Peter Walsh, is arrested for the crime.

Peter Walsh is the local scapegoat for the good people of Kavanaugh, and Bull knows how that feels. Bull’s own father was a huckster who swindled the town out of money for a nonexistent development. He even stole $500 of Bull’s own savings. No one, especially surly Chief Simonds, has ever let Bull forget who his father was, and they all treat Peter the same. Bull naturally connects with Peter and volunteers the whole team (who already had weekend plans) to help him prepare for trial.

This episode bears an uncanny resemblance to an earlier episode of the season, “Callisto”. Just like in that episode, Bull and his team arrive in a hostile small town where gossip travels like wildfire and a select number of influencers control the jury. Bull also has a personal connection to the town and something to prove to the townspeople. While “Callisto” had fun with the concept of the team operating outside the comfort of their technology, “Light My Fire” suffers in comparison. The emotional focal point of the episode is solid, but there are just too many similarities for the episode to be truly enjoyable.

Instead of an old flame, “Light My Fire” sets up Bull’s main opponent as the faux-friendly Joyce Macgruder, real estate maven and queen bee of the town. Because there aren’t enough people to form an accurate mirror jury, Bull uses Joyce as his prognosticator. Joyce, as Marissa and Bull explain to Cable, is the “sneezer”. She sneezes out gossip that spreads through the entire town like contagion.

Bull’s other enemy in the town is Chief Simonds, who hasn’t forgiven him for what his father did. Simonds is surly, gruff, and condescendingly refers to Danny as Bull’s “assistant”. It’s no wonder that when Danny discovers that the arsonist could only be a firefighter, the team immediately suspects the Chief.

As Danny investigates the arson case, Bull and Benny have their work cut out for them in court. Peter is shy and introverted, but his awkwardness is seen as creepy by many. Peter just wants to be left in peace to write his music and make his guitars. In the best scene of the episode, Bull gets Peter to focus on the trial by timing his testimony to the beat of a blues riff.

Peter is soothed by the music and delivers more effective testimony as a result. He’s a musician and Bull allowed him to play music instead of simply speak to the town. Peter doesn’t lose his cool on the stand and proclaims his love for Kavanaugh, even if everyone irrationally hates him for his family.

Peter’s testimony is enough to sway the jury, but Bull knows that Joyce can, and will, move it back in a heartbeat. To defeat her, he has to fight fire with fire. With the use of paid drivers and some well-placed message board comments, Bull gets the whole town to think that Joyce is negotiating a development deal. It’s enough to get everyone to stop listening to her, even when Benny reveals it to be false in his closing arguments. Peter is set free and the Chief approaches Bull for one last conversation.

It would have been easy for the writers to make the Chief the mustache-twirling bad guy, so it’s nice to see they pick a different direction. The Chief actually does care about the town and finds the arsonist (a firefighter he regularly plays poker with) on his own initiative. He tells Bull that he isn’t like his father and returns the $500 he found in the burned-out cabin. Bull’s father may have taken his money, but he never spent it.

The show could have ended there, but it has one last twist in store. The firefighter didn’t think up the arson plot on his own. Instead, Joyce was the mastermind behind the crime. In creating a bit of false gossip, the team hit upon her real plan to buy up land in the town. Bull and Marissa get the last laugh, and the last shot, as Joyce is led away in cuffs.

When the team unwinds from the case over s’mores and Benny’s horrible fishing skills, Bull admits that he always wished for a better father-son relationship. As he reveals to the team, it’s not too late. He knows exactly where his father is, and I’m sure we’ll meet him too before the show ends its season.

This is the last episode before the New Year, so I’ll see you all in January. Let me know what you thought of tonight’s episode in the comments!