Friday, May 22, 2009

Barn Burner 5/5

The judge has returned to the courthouse and the community has reassembled inside. No one is standing while the judge makes his way to the desk. Hear ye, hear ye, Bizarro Court is now in session. The judge asks if the jury has reached a verdict. Charles is slow to rise as he mentions that they have not reached a verdict on both counts. Murmuring ensues. After restoring order, the judge asks what the jury has accomplished. They reached a guilty verdict on the assault charge, which should come as no surprise to Larabee who admitted he hit Andy, but he still makes a face that looks like this :-( only with more grizzle and bigotry. The jury is still deadlocked on the barn burning verdict, causing Larabee to smirk. He smiles at Matt, but Matt looks like he wants to gut the defendant.

The gallery is all abuzz with the latest developments, so the judge threatens to clear them out if they don’t quiet down. He asks what the breakdown of votes is and Charles reports 11 guilty 1 not guilty. Is Henry Fonda on the jury? The judge thinks for a moment before saying “may I ask the identity of the dissenter?” No, your honor, I don’t think you may. Before anyone can call for a mistrial, Joe Kagan speaks up and says he is the one. Larabee is just as surprised as the gallery as he looks over at Matt, who still wants to do awful things to Larabee. The judge restores order once again before making his next statement. “Mr. Kagan as a member of the colored race you’re pretty much accepted in this community?” Kagan says he is, causing the judge to conclude that “in my experience you’re the first negro to serve in judgment on a white man, perhaps it’s all gone to your head.” God forbid the use of jury nullification in this kangaroo court.

OH! And then the judge continues to suggest that Kagan’s gone totally drunk with power and is acting completely irrationally. Kagan coolly explains that he doesn’t like Larabee any more than anyone else in the courtroom but that even though there is probable cause that Larabee started the fire, no one saw him do it. How DARE you bring reasonable doubt into the jury room, Mr. Kagan?! Seriously, what sort of screwed up legal code is this judge operating under? He asks if Kagan could possibly be dissuaded from his stance, but Kagan says no way. Justice Bullshit decides that the only sensible thing would be to excuse Joe Kagan from the jury and replace him with someone who will provide a twelfth guilty verdict so that the judge can get to his four o’clock golf game. Charles and Doc Baker exchange a “WTF?” glance, but don’t intervene, probably for fear of being banished to some foreign country or thrown into a well.

Joe Kagan agrees to being excused, but decides to make a speech first. The judge says that Kagan already had his say, which is bullshit. Before things get ugly, Reverend Alden rises and asks for Kagan to speak. The judge agrees to let Kagan speak but not to waste any time. Kagan then makes a speech about how the Larabees in the world need to get with the times and get over their hate. Also, even though Mr. Larabee is a despicable person, he should be treated equally under the law as everyone else, regardless of personality or skin color. Yay equal protection arguments! Kagan goes on to equate convicting a man unfairly with lynching, which makes me wonder what white guy wrote this script. Seriously, those two concepts are not on equal footing. That’s like equating the Holocaust with a fender bender. Hester-Sue is in the gallery and is moved by Kagan’s words, so perhaps I’m just being overly critical.

Everyone in the gallery seems to be taking Joe Kagan’s words to heart, but the judge still excuses the juror. He walks towards the back of the gallery and puts his hand on Hester-Sue’s shoulder. Charles selects another juror. As the new juror takes his seat, the judge says “since we already have eleven guilty verdicts, it would save time and trouble if you simply announced what yours is.” Are you kidding me? Charles? Reverend Alden? Nels? Why is everyone sitting on their hands about this bullshit process? “No,” a voice cries out. Finally! It’s Andy, who walks up to the front saying that there was something he didn’t say in his testimony. “Young man,” Justice Bullshit says, “anything you have to say must be considered irrelevant unless you...lied in your testimony.” Andy is all “What?” before explaining that he might have caused the fire. Andy explains that he left a lantern on the corral post the night of the fire and the wind might have knocked it over after he left. Larabee jumps on this and says that the fire must have happened that way. Justice Bullshit asks if Andy found the lantern, and the kid said he found it in the ashes. Andy goes on to say he held back on this testimony because he wanted Larabee to be punished, but Kagan’s words taught him that justice is more important than vengeance. It takes a while for the judge to process that concept, but he eventually allows it. Andy rejoins his Pa in the gallery.

The judge asks Larabee to rise. Now that Andy has presented his full story, reasonable doubt now exists beyond a reasonable doubt (NOT the standard of measurement, I might add) that Larabee did not cause the fire. For the assault charge, Larabee has to pay Jonathan Garvey the amount his crop would have sold for at the original co-op price. Larabee says “no fair!” which really ticks off Justice Bullshit. He warns Larabee that the sentencing phase isn’t over, so he should use any further objections very carefully. Larabee shuts up, and with that the court is adjourned.

As the gallery clears out, Mrs. Larabee and her sons are pondering over what just transpired. They eventually get up and leave while Larabee remains standing in the front of room. Mrs. Larabee turns to look at her soon to be estranged husband. He turns back and decides to take the high road. “I didn’t need no nigger defending me! I didn’t need nobody!” I guess the high road is closed for repairs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Barn Burner 4/5

Jonathan is on the witness stand. The judge asks, “it was because you felt cheated by Mr. Larabee that you went to confront him at his home?” Objection – leading the witness. Jonathan agrees with the judge’s assessment. The judge points out that Garvey was the only person to confront Larabee, but Garvey says he was merely the first and that others would probably follow his lead once word got around. “You were abusive to him then?” the Judge asks. Larabee hops on this saying that Jonathan tried to shame him in front of his family. Garvey said they shouldn’t have been there. Okay, both of you lose this argument. “Shaming” is not a criminal offense and the Larabees have a right to congregate in their own house. The judge bangs his gavel to stop the shouting match before it gets too deep. “I’m establishing that the defendant had sufficient cause to seek revenge against Mr. Garvey.” What?! What sort of legal concept is that? “If he did in fact do so in the manner charged is what we are here to find out,” the Judge continues. MISTRIAL. The judge asks if Larabee wants to question Garvey, but Larabee has nothing to say to him. Garvey steps down.

Next up is Andrew Garvey. The judge leads, er, asks Andy if Mr. Larabee frightened him as he ransacked the Garvey house. The judge then asks if Andy thought that Larabee deliberately tried to hurt him. Andy asks to clarify if the judge meant if it was an accident, to which Andy replies that no, it wasn’t. Larabee tries to interrupt but the judge stops him. The judge asks if Andy saw Larabee after regaining consciousness or when trying to track down his parents, but Andy says no since it was so dark that night. The judge hands the questioning over to Larabee who stands up and attempts to look sympathetic. “Now boy,” he starts, losing any sympathy heading his way, “I’ll admit I was riled. I’ll admit that I pushed you around. But I didn’t mean you no harm. Can’t you see it was an accident?” Andy gives Larabee a blank stare for a moment before saying “no, I can’t.” Larabee then demands that the judge make Andy see that the assault was an accident. Hon, that’s not how forgiveness works. The judge and Andy exchange a glance before the judge asks if Larabee has any more questions. Larabee sits down, defeated. Andy steps down.

The judge is now questioning Larabee. He asks if Larabee thought that Jonathan had cause to be angry with him. Larabee says he reckons so. The judge asks if others might be angry also, and Larabee adopts the “it’s a free country, ain’t it?” defense. The judge asks about the wheat price debacle and gets annoyed when Larabee tries to dodge the question. Larabee explains that he broke his word because it was in his best interest. The judge points out that even factoring in the apples sold in the deal Larabee actually didn’t do as well as he would have if he stuck with the co-op. Larabee explains his reasoning that the customer might have gone elsewhere and then the whole co-op would have lost out. Therefore, Larabee would have come out ahead. The jury does not look impressed with this argument. Reverend Alden looks either confused or bored or both.

The judge asks if there was another reason why Larabee broke the deal. We then see Joe Kagan shift in his seat, uncomfortably. Larabee claims not to understand the question. The judge enlightens him with some of Jonathan’s testimony, particularly the part about Larabee voicing his concern about Joe Kagan making an equal profit as the rest of the co-op. Larabee agrees with this reasoning. The judge reaches the conclusion that because of Larabee’s spite towards one man he was willing to destroy the economy of the community. That’s the button that needs pushing. Larabee yells, “I don’t care what others want to think!”

The judge then stupidly offers the floor to Larabee to make a final statement. “I might have hurt that boy, but I didn’t mean it. But I never burned down no barn. I think Garvey done it himself. He even said he’d rather burn his crop than sell it at that price. I think that’s exactly what he done and I think he’s trying to blame it on me and that’s what I got to say.” Um, sic. The gallery starts to murmur at this. The judge gives the jury one hour to reach a verdict because he has places to go and things to do. Uh, mistrial. Court is adjourned.

As everyone files out of the School/Church/Courthouse, there is quite a bit of murmuring. We hear random people giving their opinions, mostly of the “hang the son-of-a-bitch” variety, only more polite. Andy watches as Larabee is escorted back to the ice house. He walks over to his parents and asks if they are going to hang Larabee. Jonathan says he hopes not. I hope not also, mainly because I don’t think arson is a capital offense. Alice just wants to leave and take her son away from the proceedings, so they send Andy home.

At the icehouse, Mrs. Larabee pays a visit to her husband. He asks if the jury is still out and she says it is. “Waste of time,” Larabee says. Since his buddy Matt is on the jury there’s no way a verdict will be reached. You’ll remember Matt as the guy before the trial who complained about Larabee cheating the co-op and that hanging was too good for him. Mrs. Larabee is less confident than her husband and asks “are you sure, after what you did?” Larabee is annoyed by the question. “None of this’d happen if they hadn’t taken that nigger in like one of our own.” You see, this is why LHOP (not the Little House of Pancakes, Little House on the Prairie) could never be done today. Mrs. Larabee looks down at her husband, figuratively and literally, and tells him “all you know is hate.” He looks at her and asks “Who are you talkin’ to?” She shrugs. “I don’t know anymore.” Mrs. Larabee tells her husband that after the trial she is taking the kids and leaving his sorry racist behind. Yay quaternary character revelations!

Alice and Andy return to their house. Alice dismounts and says she’ll make lunch while Andy puts the horses away. He still appears to be racked by guilt. Here’s an interesting development: Andy is now hearing voices. Oh, it’s just him remembering the crowd murmuring about hanging Larabee for his crimes. Andy decides to drive back into town.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Barn Burner 3/5

Andy is all bandaged up and walking around outside. He goes to inspect the smoldering remains of the barn. He stops and notices something on the ground. Andy kneels and finds a broken lantern. This sparks a flashback to the night before when he placed the lantern on the fence post of the corral. I suspect Andrew Garvey with the Lantern in the Barnyard. Or, Mrs. Oleson with the Lead Pipe in the Mercantile. No, I’ll stick with my first guess. Andy sets the lantern down, has another flashback of the burning barn, and gets startled out of his thought by his father approaching. Jonathan tells his son that he doesn’t have to go to school today, but Andy says Doc Baker gave him the okay to go. Jonathan looks at the smoldering pile and laments on all the hard work lost in the blaze. He does find comfort in the idea of Larabee rotting in jail. Andy looks like he wants to respond to this, but decides to head off to school instead.

That evening we rejoin the Garveys at dinner. Jonathan is saying grace and is filling God and the audience in on all the details of what has happened so far in the episode. Once the recap is over and the family starts to eat, Jonathan tells his wife and son that Larabee claims he is innocent on the arson charge. Alice is more concerned about Andy having to testify at the trial. Andy pokes at his food for a bit before asking what is going to happen to Larabee. Alice ends the conversation before he gets an answer.

The next morning the town is gathering at the schoolhouse for the trial. That is one multi-purpose building they have there in Walnut Grove. It’s a school, a church, a theater, and now a courthouse. Modern urban developers could learn a thing or two from a space like that. As people file in, one man is grumbling about how Larabee, despite being his so-called friend, was willing to cheat him and the rest of the co-op. He passes by Joe Kagan as he mutters “hanging is too good for him.” Joe Kagan breaks the fourth wall as he gives the audience a look that reads “uh, not so fast there Captain Swift of the Justice League.”

Nels escorts Larabee from the ice house as the trial gets ready to start. The judge is at the desk making some notes while Reverend Alden looks on at the gallery with concern. Nels brings in the suspect and the crowd grows silent. Larabee begins to sit down but the judge asks him to remain standing for the time being. “Barn burning is a serious felony offense,” the judge says before asking for a plea. Larabee says he didn’t do it. The judge says that the record shows that Larabee confessed to the crime. Larabee said he thought they were talking about the assault charge. The judge concludes not guilty on the arson charge and guilty on the assault charge. Larabee agrees, though I’m finding this process a bit fishy.

The judge asks Reverend Alden to be foreman of the jury. The Reverend is okay with serving on the jury, but he thinks there would be a major conflict of interest if he served as foreman. He nominates Charles for the foreman duty. Charles agrees and is asked to assemble a jury with great speed since the judge has stuff to do elsewhere. Your Honor, it is the defendant who has a right to a speedy trial, not the judge. The process gets even murkier when jury selection turns into a schoolyard pick. The jury includes the Reverend, Nels, Doc Baker, Fred Simmons, and Steve Mason. At this point Larabee interjects that all the jurors are prejudiced against him. The judge tells him tough. Um, mistrial? Larabee says his friend Matt should be on the jury and Charles tells him that he was next on the list anyway. This calms Larabee down until Charles calls on Joe Kagan. Larabee hops to his feet saying, and I quote: “cause it’s agin the law to have a colored on a jury.” The judge verifies that the objection is on racial grounds before informing the gallery that people of the “negro race” may sit on the jury of a trial of a white man. The crowd oohs and ahhs as Kagan joins the jury. Larabee looks just a bit more sour.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barn Burner 2/5

Jonathan is at the Ingalls’ house sharing with Charles what happened with Larabee. Charles tries to assure Jonathan that things will turn out for the best, but Alice is there and disagrees. With the co-op broken, it’s every farmer for himself.

Meanwhile, Larabee is still steamed about what happened and is pacing furiously across the parlor. He mutters, partly to himself and partly to his wife, that he can’t believe someone would barge in and shame him in front of his family. Maybe if you didn’t do something shameful it wouldn’t be an issue, eh Larabee? He pours himself a drink that he quickly chugs down. Mrs. Larabee notices this and reluctantly attempts diplomacy. “You can’t hardly blame him for being upset,” she says. Larabee accuses her of taking Garvey’s side, which she quickly denies. Larabee decides to settle the score and grabs his shotgun. Oh geez, this is bad news. Mrs. Larabee tries to block the door but he just pushes her out of the way.

Andy Garvey is working on his homework when Larabee barges in. “I’m here to see your pa, boy,” Larabee tells a frightened Andy. The kid says he isn’t home but Larabee calls him a liar and starts to search the place. Andy tries to stop the man, but Larabee knocks him to the ground. We can hear what sounds like a tree branch snapping. Did Larabee just kill Andy? Not cool. Larabee looks down at the kid, says “boy” and gets no response. He rolls Andy over and there is blood streaming down the side of his face. Oh poopies. Larabee high tails it out of there. A few moments later, Andy regains consciousness and stands himself up. He grabs the lantern from the table and goes outside. He can feel the blood on his face as he heads over to the corral to get a horse. He places the lantern on the fencepost as he opens the gate.

Andy gets the bridle on the horse and rides over to the Ingalls place. He runs into his folks on the way there and tells them what happened. Jonathan lifts Andy on the wagon and mounts Andy’s horse. He tells Alice to go home as he goes to take care of Larabee. Alice tells him not to go since Larabee has a shotgun and a thirst for blood. Jonathan says he doesn’t care, but Alice says she does. Jonathan thinks about it for a moment and decides to ride back with his family.

Upon their return, the Garveys see their barn in flames. Everyone is shocked and Andy supposes that Mr. Larabee must have come back. Jonathan tells Alice to take care of Andy and she knows he’s departing again. “Don’t worry,” he tells her, “I’m just going to town.” If you’re being figurative, Jonathan, I think that’s what your wife is worried about.

“NOOOOO!” we hear Harriet scream at her husband. “THIS DOESN’T CONCERN YOU,” she screeches as Nels walks down the stairs. I guess Jonathan has rounded up a posse of the other co-opers. Nels grabs his shotgun as Harriet tries to keep her husband from joining the angry mob. He tells Harriet to go to bed as the posse moves out.

We rejoin the posse as they surround Larabee’s. Charles bangs on the front door as Larabee loads his shotgun in the parlor. Mrs. Larabee comes out of her room to find out what’s going on but her husband says he has a handle on this. He yells out for the posse to clear off his property. Charles tells Larabee that resistance is futile, but the man disagrees. Larabee’s sons come out to see the hubbub and they still have the same stupid looks on their faces. Garvey yells something into the house and Larabee responds “It’s your own fault that your boy got hurt.” Yeah, I guess Jonathan was the one who decided to place the bureau at the location where Andy’s head got cracked.

Larabee yells out a few more threats before Nels, sticking his shotgun through the back window, tells Larabee to put his gun down. He tells Larabee to unlock the door, allowing Garvey to barge in and grab Larabee around the collar. The rest of the posse breaks up the developing melee and tells Jonathan a judge should take care of this matter. Until then, Larabee will be locked in the icehouse. Nels apologizes to the other Larabees as the posse escorts Mr. Larabee out the door.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Barn Burner 1/5

Serious Dragnet type music plays as we see a wagon rolling into town. 12:08 p.m.: The wagon drives by Hanson Lumber. A crowd is gathered outside. The gathering appears peaceful so the wagon drives by without incident. Ahem. Jonathan Garvey is leading this meeting about wheat prices. Oh, they’re establishing a wheat cooperative of some sort to ensure they get the best sale price in the township. Yay co-ops! A couple of the farmers are skittish about the idea until Jonathan reminds them of the bumper crop fiasco of ’76. Back then the small farmers were totally hosed and they can’t afford to have that happen again. The crowd seems to be in agreement except for one guy: Larabee. He has the largest crop of anyone and is therefore at greater risk should the plan fail. Or as he puts it, “why should I stick my neck out so some ex-slave make the same money as I do?” Uh, sic and sick dude. The one black man in the crowd doesn’t bat an eye and Jonathan comes to his defense. “Do you think Joe Kagan’s the only one who gets hurt if we don’t stick together on this thing?” After Jonathan’s impassioned plea, seconded by Charles, Larabee relents.

With everyone in agreement, Jonathan dismisses the meeting. As he leaves, Larabee makes a point of walking past Kagan and says “free or not looks like the white folks still have to take care of you, don’t it, boy?” Joe gives him a look that reads “seriously?” before he starts laughing at Larabee. John Waters would approve. Larabee doesn’t and walks away.

Later on at the Garvey house, Jonathan is in business talks with a buyer. My goodness there’s a lot of laughing in this episode. The guy Jonathan is talking to thinks the price that is being offered is laughable and is responding in kind. The guy pompously says he’ll stop by again after he buys up all of the other crops and he’ll see what Garvey says then. Jonathan stays cool as he informs the jerk that everyone is offering the same “fair” price. I believe this is what is referred to as a “tell”, Jonathan. Now instead of finding this information out for himself and eventually giving in, your customer is going to try to find some leverage to get someone to go lower. The guy leaves and I can see the wheels turning in his mind.

The next stop for the customer is Joe Kagan’s place where, lo and behold, the price is the same. The customer thinks the small size of the crop doesn’t demand such a high price, but Joe doesn’t budge. The customer then tells Joe that he is going to make sure that everyone is sticking together before he gives in. He says it in a way that makes it sound like it was circled in the script with a note reading “THIS IS EXPOSITION!!!!!! HERE!!!!!” The customer also threatens that his company may pay the shipping cost to get the wheat elsewhere, but I doubt any company is going to be spiteful enough to cut into their profit margin. Joe just smiles as the customer walks away.

The customer tries to dig his hooks into Larabee’s crop. Larabee sticks to his guns, saying he won’t budge on the price, but the customer says he isn’t authorized to pay a price that high. He’ll have to check with his supervisor. I really hate listening to haggling. Before the customer leaves, Larabee offers a discount on apples. The customer is totally uninterested since there is a bumper crop of apples this year. Larabee then works in his pitch that if the company buys the apples for a modest price he can give a discount on the wheat. Uh, I may need to reread the minutes from that meeting from earlier but I don’t recall that sort of deal being okay with the rest of the co-op membership. Both men literally start to cackle.

Now there’s a team of horses racing down the road. Dude, Garvey is PISSSSSSED. He bangs on Larabee’s door before his wife answers. Jonathan demands to see Larabee but before she can stammer out a half-baked diversion, Larabee says to let him in. What is he holding in his hand – a 19th century Viewmaster? Sorry, anyway, Larabee is uninterested in whatever Garvey is there to complain about. He lies and says the customer offered a price on his apples that he couldn’t refuse and gave a discount on the wheat in return. Basically: “too bad, so sad.” Except for this nugget: “Besides, ain’t no nigger gonna make the same profit as me.” Wow. That’s…wow. Garvey is just as flabbergasted, particularly since this spite towards an individual has the potential to bankrupt Walnut Grove. Larabee tells Jonathan to leave, but he just keeps lecturing the bigot. After accusing Larabee of being a thief, Larabee slams his fist on the table, stands up and yells at Jonathan to get out of his house. Well, the way the scene is blocked Larabee is yelling at the ottoman to get out, but Garvey takes the hint. After Jonathan leaves, Larabee is still seething. Both his wife and two sons are looking at him emotionless. Or thinking about what emotion they should be expressing -- it’s not quite clear.