Bitter Lawyer Without Pity: The Deep End

[Ed. Note: The following is a Television Without Pity-like recap of the first two episodes of the legal dramedy The Deep End, which was written by Law Firm 10 while she watched and sunk into her new professional depression.  Episode 3 of The Deep End airs tonight at 8/7:00 Central on ABC.]


AKA: Are we supposed to love this show or hate it?  Both.

Who’s the new class at Sterling, Huddle, Oppenheim & Craft?  We’ve got “Dylan Hewitt” from Columbia, who looks like he could be Josh Duhamel’s shrimpy younger brother.  “Addy Fisher” from Case Western—the most realistic-looking character on the entire show.  (Which is sad for women lawyers, since the same actress also nailed the portrayal of Deb, Napoleon Dynamite’s love interest.) “Beth Branford,” from Stanford (hey, that rhymes!), whose grandfather was a federal judge.  Stanford apparently educated her for free because her father endowed a chair there.  (I didn’t go to a fancy law school, so all I’m thinking is, “She said endowed.”) Beth looks exactly as I envisioned the hot Sweet Valley Twin, Jessica Wakefield, to look when I obsessed over those books as a child.  And finally, “Liam Priory,” the Englishman with an Australian accent from Cambridge, who mentions his weakness for women in his job interview.  Totally realistic.  Biggest flaw: women.  Again, totally realistic. 

The inexplicably named hiring partner, “Rowdy,” ends the interviews by positing a rhetorical query: ”Are you going to sack up and grab opportunity’s doorknob?” The look on Rowdy’s face indicates he wanted to say something other than “doorknob.” Even without the edit, it still doesn’t make sense.

And so it begins.  Thankfully for the viewing audience, Sterling apparently doesn’t subject its new hires to the usual agonizing orientation procedures.  In fact, they don’t even contact new associates who are absent from the first 10 days of work—like Dylan, whose lateness resulted from an inadvertent typo in his offer letter.  Beth, fresh from a session with a hot, large-barreled curling iron and full of jaded barbs from the get-go, hints at a conspiracy: “Half of what they do here is keep you off balance.  It’s how they gain control.”

Little Dylan enters his new office he shares with Liam.  I think we’re supposed to conclude that Liam was just screwing a secretary, based on the subtle hints.  You know, like the fact that his pants are around his ankles and the young, hot secretary is adjusting her skirt.  Totally common BigLaw scenario.  Though I’ve never used “young” and “hot” in the same sentence as “secretary” at my firm.  But, then again, this takes place in Los Angeles, where no one is ugly.  So who knows?

Enter Addy, desperately seeking Liam’s help.  Apparently Sterling exempts the foreigner from billing, leaving him free to fornicate and assist with legal research. 

Addy panics over a message from “Robert.” She’s working on a brief for him and it has to be perfect because last time she made a tiny mistake and got screamed at.  Finally, something that a real associate can identify with!  Liam advises her that a mistake on this brief will send her straight to The Prince of Darkness.  Wise career advice from a man who engages in blatant sexual interactions in his office at 9 a.m.

Dylan looks perplexed, which doesn’t suit him.  Winsome smiles better suit his impish features.  Who the hell is this Prince of Darkness?

Cut to Billy Zane, head freshly waxed and eyebrows heavily penciled.  Ostensibly to prevent whispers of alopecia affliction.  The Prince of Darkness and Zane are one in the same:  That is, Sterling’s managing partner “Cliff Huddle,” who views taking on pro bono cases as akin to running a soup kitchen.  I find it hilarious that the most relevant credit to Zane’s name remains Titanic, which I think came out when I was in grade school.

So aptly named, this Prince of Darkness wisps down the hall while chiding “Susan Oppenheim,” the head litigation partner, for choosing to take on a pro bono case representing firefighters with cancer.  He sentences her to “client maintenance for paying accounts” to atone for her anti-capitalistic transgression.  And the maintenance takes the form of “attending the Adler bris.” Now I’m really confused.  I learned from Entourage that talent agents in Los Angeles invite their clients to their daughters’ Bat Mitzvahs.  Now I know that this principle likewise applies to litigation partners and circumcision ceremonies.

But there’s no fooling Susan.  She’s a brilliant litigator, after all.  She knows that Cliff is just worried because “Hart’s coming back.” But all the violet eye shadow in the world can’t outwit that brow pencil.  Cliff has apparently been running the firm while “Hart Sterling” was gone, and the choices he made tripled the firm’s profits: “Sweetheart, those choices made you a very wealthy woman.” Wait, SWEETHEART?  Ohhh.  They’re MARRIED.  Billy Zane and Robin Givens, J.D. are husband and wife. 

Back to an office where all of the first years have congregated.  Although, maybe this is a file closet because they’re busy moving boxes around the room.

Addy asks Dylan if he’s “married yet.” Naïve little Dylan says he’s single and faces yet another edict from Beth’s multi-volume treatise on the Brutal Truth of BigLaw: “We work 24-7.  We don’t have time for actual romance.” Ah, now he understands.  It’s Sterling-speak for having been assigned to a case.  Which hasn’t occurred yet for Dylan, since he just arrived, 10 days late.

But fear not, winsome one.  Hart Sterling has returned, back from three years of caring for his MS-afflicted wife.  Addy informs everyone that he’s not just a brilliant litigator, he’s also a civil rights champion.  The first order of business for Jesus Christ Superlawyer?  Handing Satan, AKA Cliff, a pro bono case.  OMG—this totally reminds me of The Devil’s Advocate

Cliff tosses Dylan the pro bono case, which he works on with “Kate,” a curvy, pillow-lipped paralegal and 2010’s Joan Harris.  She, apropos of nothing, professes to having boyfriend problems in the Sterling law library, while the two of them look through the books for cases.  WAIT—EXCUSE ME?  Sterling doesn’t have Westlaw?  Note to writers: Unforgiveable eff up.  Sheesh.

As for the pro bono case, Dylan must defeat a certain “Grace Graham” in order to fulfill his obligations to his client.  But alas, Grace also happens to be on the board of several of Sterling’s most valued corporate clients. 

Cliff sidesteps a couple of major ethics rules, promises Grace that they will drop the case, and strong-arms Dylan into doing his evil bidding.  Until Rowdy, fresh from an inspiring moment with Jesus Pinstripes Superstar, advises Dylan to defy Cliff.  Dylan wins an important reversal after a procedurally impossible one-on-one meeting with the judge in chambers.  But when Dylan advises Grace and her lawyer of the ruling, everyone learns the gross detail that Grace was the surrogate mother for her dead son’s child.  Is that medically permissible?  No matter, though, because a second review of the case file alerts Dylan to an agreement, signed by Grace, that means a conclusive victory for his client. 

We brace for Dylan to be fired by Cliff after taking a moral stand—and yet, another surprise waits, because Grace is actually pleased with the result.  Everyone wins!  But maybe not the kid whose grandmother gave birth to him. 

Liam also faces a messy situation.  Susan, who inexplicably brought him to the Adler bris, scolds him on the way into the event.  Yesterday, Susan and Liam went to depose the president of Liberty Mutual Bank.  He probably made a rookie mistake like forgetting to bring an important exhibit, right?  Wrong.  Susan is pissed because during the deposition, Liam “nailed the president’s niece in his beach house.” This totally reminds me of something that happened when I was a first year!  Except for the sex with a deponent’s niece part.  And the deposition being held at a beach house.  And the bris.

Of course, Liam’s antics cost Sterling a client, and Susan advises Liam that he must land a new one or he’s fired.  She also warns him: “Don’t stick it in anything that hasn’t been fully vetted first.” I’ve given up trying to parse that out.  And apparently this means the death knell for Liam because first years can’t land clients, can they? 

At Sterling, of course they can.  Liam returns to Sterling still wearing his temporary yarmulke, and Hart hands him “Rachel Blau,” an Israeli mogul who is looking for representation.  She senses in Liam—or rather, in his religious headgear—a kindred spirit, and he wins the client.  That is, until Rachel seduces Liam and discovers his uncircumcised penis, realizing he’s not on her team.  Because Jewish men are circumcised and Europeans (or Australians, whichever the case may be) aren’t—get it?  Ah, foreskin humor. 

Moving on to Beth, who is handling a corporate matter for Cliff.  An old man, “Mr. Douglas,” is stepping down from his post as CEO.  In order to install the new CEO, Beth just needs to draft some resolutions and get a few signatures.  But she realizes that Mr. Douglas has Alzheimer’s and wonders whether she should reveal the information to the board, which will stall the deal.  She asks her dad for advice, and he criticizes her lack of ruthlessness.  So disappointed is he in her conscience that he says he no longer laments her decision to join Sterling rather than his firm.  Because there’s no place on his team for a wishy-washy, ethical lawyer like Beth.  Can you say, “Daddy issues?” Nonetheless, Beth takes her dad’s advice and closes the deal, which results in a “low point” for her.  And apparently when Beth has a low point, she climbs atop Liam and has sex with him.

Now for Addy, who we find in Susan’s office.  Apparently she’s trying to turn down work because she’s got something else due for this unknown “Robert” partner again.  Another rare moment of realism—until Susan counters Addy’s excuses with, “I’m in the middle of a filing for the Mead Chemical suit.  Do you want to tell a 53-year-old firefighter in his sixth round of chemo that I can’t get him justice because you were too busy doing something for Robert?” Partners don’t say things like that when you try to turn down work.  They just force it down your throat, or they find someone else to do the work and turn other partners against you because you’re unreliable.  But back to Addy, who has some trouble with the metal detectors in the Beverly Hills Courthouse, and her overzealousness gets her arrested.  I guess they don’t have docket clerks at Sterling.  Addy returns from her brief moment in jail to a message from Robert: “If you don’t complete this brief by tomorrow, you’re fired.” I’m starting to understand the rules at Sterling.  Sex with a client’s niece that results in losing the client—not a fire-able offense.  Lateness on a brief—fire-able offense.  Crystal clear.

Over rooftop cocktails, the omniscient Beth advises Addy that she invites abuse.  She needs to stop being a doormat.  And good news—Dylan got Susan’s motion filed for Addy.  Was he allowed to bill for that?  Bring on the victory shots and group fist pounds followed by explosions.

The following day (I guess), Susan calls Addy to her office.  She noticed that Dylan was the interoffice sender of the file-stamped copy of her motion.  Those interoffice envelopes leave such a problematic paper trail if you aren’t careful.  We think Addy’s been sunk—but then she gets all balls-y and starts mouthing off in a stunningly unrealistic monologue.  Which apparently was exactly what Susan was hoping for.  She clears Addy’s calendar and makes her “second chair” on the “asbestos case.” For the love of God.  Junior partners don’t even second chair things half the time.  Couldn’t she just have put Addy on the team?

Another rooftop bar happy hour.  Rowdy celebrates with his new hires by throwing Dylan into the pool and smacking Addy on the ass: “Little Miss Heartland, you’ve got quite a porch to go with that swing.” Again, I don’t really understand what he means.  I’m guessing they modeled him a little after Ari Gold, but I can’t quite tell.  Addy announces that she’s heading to Mozza for a “$100 dollar pizza.” Okay, the pizza there isn’t cheap, but it definitely costs less than $100 per pie.  Maybe Addy is just using some heartland hyperbole.

Back at Sterling, the tension between Cliff and Hart comes to a head after Hart hires another new associate, “Malcolm.” I guess for diversity.  Susan brokers a compromise, and they agree to share power.  Hart leaves, probably to go memorize lines off of Successories for the next episode.  Cliff and Susan immediately shift into a marital discussion.  Susan found condoms and knows Cliff is having an affair.  Ever the lawyer, Cliff promises to end what he’s done to create distance, “if he’s done anything.”

The evening ends (almost) with Dylan heading to paralegal Kate’s with flowers.  So they have sex, of course.  Post coital, Dylan muses that this might be his big moment.  Bliss interrupted!  Cliff rings the buzzer at Kate’s—also with flowers.  CLIFF IS HER BOYFRIEND!!  Another moment of realism.  But why can’t the winsome one catch a break?


AKA: We’re writers.  We make stuff up all the time.

We pick right back up where the first episode left off—at Kate’s apartment post coital.  Kate just turned away Cliff, and Dylan can’t believe that he effed his boss’s mistress.  The next morning in the elevator, Dylan behaves awkwardly in front of Cliff.  Unbalanced by Cliff’s freaky eyebrows, Dylan throws coffee all over Beth, who must attend a meeting with Cliff and a new client covered in a coffee stain.  That actually happened to me once, except I spilled my own coffee all over myself.  And of course there wasn’t a client involved, because I was a first-year. 

Cliff wants Beth to second chair his class action against McKenzie Industries (such a TV company name), alleged manufacturer of malfunctioning furnaces that “roast people alive.” WTF?  Beth was a CORPORATE ASSOCIATE during the first episode.  Now she’s prepping for a class certification hearing.  Note to writers: Another unforgiveable eff up.  Sterling doesn’t have Westlaw, AND its associates seamlessly weave from litigation to corporate work? 

Before boning up on the federal rule for what constitutes a class, Beth insists that Addy switch blouses with her.  They change publicly, of course, right in front of Liam, who, yet again, appears to have no billable work of his own and promises to give Beth “a litigation prep packet.” WTF is that? 

Beth and Cliff arrive at the courthouse for their hearing.  But wait—there’s a twist.  Beth’s dad is lead defense counsel.  Cliff wins with a brilliant argument: “If that does not constitute a class, I don’t know what does.” Certification granted.  Pre-trial conference scheduled for the following morning. 

At the conference, Beth’s dad outwits her and she falls for the old “agreeing to stipulate to everything our experts said” trick.  Cliff is disappointed.  Beth is realistically red-faced, and vows to save the case.  Beth notices that the affidavit of one of the furnace company’s engineers differs from the others.  Her dad must be hiding something!  She somehow tracks down the engineer, now employed in a clock repair store (do those really exist?)—but he’s still bound by a confidentiality agreement with the furnace company.  No matter that the rules prevent her from speaking ex parte with the guy.  She tugs at his heartstrings with a photo of the plaintiff and her dead husband.  And details about the dead husband having been roasted alive by the furnace.  He cracks immediately. 

Beth whips up a subpoena, places a clock on her dad’s Maserati (a souvenir, I suppose, from an ethical violation that should have resulted in Sterling’s dismissal from the case) and accuses him of destroying evidence.  Dad prudently makes a fair settlement offer. Hugs from the plaintiff.  Praise from Cliff—“I picked my best lawyer, wound her up, and let her go.” Beth celebrates by giving Liam the best kiss she can muster—and we learn from Liam’s expression after Beth leaves that his non-billable quest for the perfect kiss has been satisfied.

Addy has a successful meeting retaining prospective clients, who need help restructuring their herbal remedy business.  They seem cagey and overly concerned with attorney-client confidentiality and immunizing themselves from personal liability.  I’m so distracted by their mysterious behavior that I ALMOST don’t notice that Addy WAS A LITIGATOR during the first episode, and now she’s being hired to do CORPORATE WORK.  I can’t handle this. 

Addy celebrates her new client by accidentally mouth-kissing Liam.  As you do.  He reveals his quest to find a kiss as good as his first—which didn’t happen until he was 18.  No, Addy, Liam wasn’t a feral child—he was a late bloomer.  He was probably ashamed of his uncircumcised unit.  And the fact that the makeup artist keeps forgetting to clean the pancake makeup stains off of his chapped lips, making it look like he spent the entire day sanding spackle.

Addy seeks help with California corporate law and receives it from Malcolm, who apparently doesn’t have anything billable to do that day, leaving him free to assist Addy.  He agrees to drive her to Venice for a visit with her new clients.  Addy doesn’t have a car because she lives downtown and walks to work.  Wait—she lives in downtown LA?  Where, on Skid Row? 

Together, they realize that Addy’s new clients run a medical marijuana clinic.  Which reminds me, I should really look into taking the California bar and relocating.  Hart and Rowdy okay the representation and share a suspiciously knowing chuckle.  But they stop laughing when Addy receives a 10-pound delivery of marijuana at the office from her clients.  Before anyone can figure out what to do next—apparently they don’t have a copy of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in their library—the DA arrives with a warrant.  For some odd reason, Hart takes the fall for the firm and says it’s his pot, which lands him in jail. 

It seems there’s no hope for springing Hart from prison.  That is, until Addy and Malcolm happen onto the useful fact that prescription-carrying patients have already pre-paid for the pot in question.  They round up the patients and present them in court mid-hearing.  Just in time to save Hart.  But if the pot had been properly pre-paid for, why did the clients need to hide it with their lawyers?  No matter.  High fives all around.  Rowdy celebrates by giving the recently freed Hart a pot muffin.  Because that makes sense.  In the words of Malcolm: “It’s all bongwater under the bridge.” Oh, brother.

Which brings us back to the Cliff-Dylan-Katie-Susan love square.  Cliff admits to Susan that his affair was with Katie, the pillow-lipped paralegal.  Susan is outraged.  Her cowl neck throws a vase against the wall.  Susan takes action by kicking Cliff out of the house, confronting Kate, and shipping her off to serve as the “point person” for some sort of due diligence occurring in Montana.  Hopefully Kate doesn’t know how easy it is to get right-to-sue letters from the EEOC. 

Kate shares a tearful goodbye with Dylan, who consoles her with: “We all make bad choices.” Although it seems like he might also be making reference to his decision to sleep with Kate, she still wonders aloud: “Why didn’t I meet you first?”

Read LF10’s ”Dramedy of Broken Dreams,” which corresponds with this post.

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[Ed. Note: The following is a Television Without Pity-like recap of the first two episodes of the legal dramedy The Deep End, which was written by Law Firm 10 while she watched and sunk into her new professional depression.  Episode 3 of The Deep End airs tonight at 8/7:00 Central on ABC.]


AKA: Are we supposed to love this show or hate it?  Both.

  • Guano Dubango

    How does she have the time to provide running commentary of these episodes?  She should be humping Carson (or me).

  • BL1Y

    Continuing to pick apart The Depends is like beating a dead, retarded horse.

  • justme

    Did you say Robin Givens? I immediately stopped reading this dribble when her name appeared as a cast member of The Deep End. Opinionated as your article may be, at least get some of your facts straight. Seriously, do a little more research. http://www.imdb.com, at least.

  • justme

    And even if you are trying to be satirical, another comma is warranted.

  • Alma Federer

    I think its great that LF10 has summarized these for us.  You see, boys, that women like us can be smart AND good looking. It is not one or the other.

  • BL1Y

    Yeah…Alma, you know the women on these shows aren’t real, right?  The people are real, but they’re actors, they’re just playing pretend.  Sorry.

  • Alma Federer

    BL1Y, I know they are actors, but they represent real lawyers.  I am like them, so I know that it is real.  I like the Australian guy, and am better looking than both women, so there.  Besides, the blond is just like me; she just told the guy she wanted more than going out with him to places to have SEX.  So there.  Even actors have morals, sometimes.  If youre watching the show, you will see for yourself.

  • BL1Y

    I hope that you don’t “represent” your clients in the same was the cast of The Deep End “represents” real lawyers.

  • Guano Dubango

    Alma, I will defend you!  BL1Y, be nice.  Alma, Will you date me, or at least bang me?

  • BT

    Any one of the attorneys on this show would been in front of an ethical review board before the end of the first episode.  Oh, and why are the 1st years running cases instead of doing document review?  Deep End is to Law what Gray’s Anatomy is to Medicine.