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Bull - E.J. - Review:"Technophobia"



If the writing team for Bull wanted to make me paranoid about taking out USB drives, it sure worked. This week’s episode heralds the show’s return from winter hiatus and warns of the dangers of reading too much into technology.


Bull’s latest episode, “E.J.” starts out like a horror movie. A humble techie, Adam, is testing out a self-driving car when the car takes control of itself and runs him over. It’s a chilling scenario, but Bull isn’t too interested in the ethics of technology and the current debate about such vehicles. Instead, like always, it focuses on the people. This episode may borrow heavily from a few horror tropes, but it doesn’t end up being a story about a Frankenstein’s monster of a car.

It’s a ghost story.

The ghost in question doesn’t become obvious for a while. The episode first focuses on the car, it’s A.I., E.J., and the scatterbrained genius who brought it to life. Ginny Bretton is the developer of the car and now the techie’s widow is suing her for her role in his death. Ginny insists that it was user error, not E.J., who killed Adam. She is confident in her programming, but Bull’s team quickly sees some flaws in her thinking. Ginny may be a passionate believer in making cars safer, but one of her employees doesn’t seem to share her viewpoint.


As Bull preps Ginny for trial, the rest of the team focuses on Carter Spinell, her old friend and employee who is very openly bitter about her success. Cable examines the update E.J. received right before it attacked and finds extra code. She and Bull have to pull some subterfuge to get an anti-social hacker to crack it for them. When they do, they find out that someone at the company installed a backdoor that could be used to override E.J. at any time. Before they can seriously question Carter about it, he’s found dead from an apparent suicide.


Meanwhile, Bull and Marissa try to stack the jury with people more likely to blame the captain and not the Titanic for the disaster. They get an artsy type and an out-of-the-box thinker who says he would rather blame the iceberg. Their strategy works in some situations. Benny manages to make Ginny sympathetic by attacking Adam’s widow and letting Ginny jump up to defend her. They can’t, however, completely assuage the jury’s suspicions about technology, even after a fun obstacle course demonstration of E.J.


In the end, it isn’t about persuading the jury. It’s about persuading Ginny. Ginny is grief-stricken over losing her oldest friend and refuses to listen to Bull when he tells her Carter was up to no good. That’s where the ghost comes in. Ginny has been haunted for years by the death of her boyfriend, Evan, and created E.J. as a kind of replacement. Because Ginny saw E.J. as her long-lost love, jealous Carter saw E.J. as a rival and conspired to destroy it. Bull tells Ginny that this is the story the jury will believe. They may be confused by technobabble, but they can understand a simple love triangle, even if one of the points is a computerized echo of a dead man.

Ginny refused to testify and Bull turns to her creation for inspiration. E.J. was designed to minimize casualties. It would even drive itself into an obstacle and kill the driver if it meant saving more innocent lives. Bull takes a page from E.J.’s book and stages a scene where it looks like a hacker has taken control of the vehicle he and Ginny are riding in. Cable swoops in and “saves the day”. Ginny is so shaken up by the experience, she realizes that E.J. doesn’t have its own personality or its own soul. It’s a program, and it’s a flawed one at that. Bull destroys her faith in the program in order to save Ginny’s company. Ginny admits in court that Carter hacked E.J. and killed Adam. Bull manages to connect Carter’s subterfuge to Ginny’s greedy CFO and he’s promptly arrested for both Adam’s and Carter’s murders.

Ginny is, after all, a genius and quickly realizes that Bull staged the attack. She forgives him and decides to let E.J. go once and for all. Bull tells her that just because she’s letting go of the compromised program, it doesn’t mean that she’s erasing her boyfriend’s memory. He encourages her to start focusing on the people, both living and dead, instead of just the work. He also takes his own advice and makes a final-act phone call to an “Amy.” To find out who Amy is, we’ll have to stay tuned!

Juror of the Week: Let’s go with the social-media-phobic artist with her own spirit animal!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday break. Let me know what you think of tonight’s episode in the comments!

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