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‘Law & Order True Crime’ Episode 2: No Surprises

So what does he do? After first pointing the detectives directly to Dr. Oziel, his therapist since the Calabasas burglaries, he confesses the murders to Oziel as soon as he gets a chance. To Lyle, who could hardly have been shocked, Erik later explains: “I had to tell somebody. I wanted to kill myself.”

You don’t say.

Or take Lyle. As the detectives learn from one of Lyle’s friends, Lyle had been dropping hints that he wanted to kill his father for a while — specifically for cheating on his mother. (Literally: “I could kill him for what he’s doing,” said in a way that sounds more like suggestion than exasperation.)

So what does he do? See above.

Then there’s Dr. Oziel’s mentally unstable lover, Judalon Smyth (an ageless and bewigged Heather Graham). After Erik’s confession, Dr. Oziel has Erik and Lyle come into his office to conduct a psychological assessment at the behest of Erik’s lawyer in the Calabasas ordeal, Gerald Chaleff (Michael B. Silver). Lyle isn’t keen on what’s happening, not least of all the fact that it’s all being tape-recorded. He threatens Oziel, and Judalon catches wind.

In a separate-but-soon-to-be-related thread, Oziel lets himself into Judalon’s apartment for a little hanky-panky, only to find her in the kitchen — with her head inside the gas oven: Red Flag No. 1. (Oziel is Judalon’s shrink, so it’s probably Red Flag No. 1,000.) In what’s probably the stupidest move we’ve seen, Oziel decides it’s a good idea to ask his wife if Judalon, whom she believes is merely a troubled patient, can stay in the guest room for a while. Runner-up in stupid moves: His wife agrees.

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And when things get all “Fatal Attraction,” as of course they do, Judalon announces she’ll tell the police about the Menendez confessions if “Dr. Daddy” doesn’t make her his one and only. This would not only be bad for the Menendezes, it would be bad for Oziel — patient confidentiality notwithstanding, Oziel sniffs opportunity, and he’s billing the Menendezes accordingly. He also clearly relishes being at the center of the action. He calls his lover’s bluff.

So what does she do? You guessed it.

Next we see, the cops are barging into Oziel’s house to seize the confession tapes. Lyle is hauled out of a Jeep, thrown onto the asphalt and cuffed — but only after handing off his Rolex for safe keeping. Erik, who’s in Israel for a tennis tournament, gets word of the arrest and flies home to turn himself in. (“This lawyer Robert Shapiro arranged it,” he tells his aunt Marta, referring to the man who later became a household name for defending O.J. Simpson; how Shapiro got involved is never explained.)

Into this vortex of human folly and predictability comes Leslie Abramson. With clients, she’s gentle and nurturing, tending to their wounds both figuratively and literally. With opponents and fools, she’s the Tasmanian Devil, whirling and sharp-toothed and dangerous to anyone in her path. That includes Bob Shapiro, whom she faults for having allowed Lyle to surrender without preconditions. It includes Ira Reiner, the local District Attorney, who’s planning a run for state attorney general.

She starts making quick work of both men right away: On advice from Chaleff, who can’t take Erik’s defense because of conflicts with Calabasas, Leslie appears to snatch the case from Shapiro, at least in any meaningful way. As for Reiner, his dull news conference announcing the arrests is immediately eclipsed by Leslie’s. She’s blindingly charismatic, and she does what all good defense lawyers do in the court of public opinion — particularly in Hollywood, where everyone loves a show: She makes the case about something bigger (and other) than murder.

“Mr. Reiner, who wants to be our attorney general, is at war with the most basic social contract we have: the doctor-patient privilege,” she says, referring to the seizure of the tapes.

“Someone has to stop him,” she adds. “And we will.” Judging by the look on Reiner’s face, he may be the first person we’ve seen who’s willing to take a stated threat seriously.

Go ahead and Google the political fortunes of Ira Reiner: He probably still didn’t take it seriously enough.

Stray Fragments:

• Much is already being made of the wigs on this show, as much should be. They are nutso. But this idea that the real-life Jose Menendez forced Lyle to wear a wig? That’s next-level nutso.

• Speaking of nutso, I suspect Lyle’s wig is just the beginning of what we’ll learn about how terrible Jose was. “My brother didn’t coddle Lyle and Erik,” Aunt Marta tells detectives. Spoiler alert: That’s an understatement.

• About those hints at Lyle’s possible homosexuality: A little research sheds some very interesting light on that notion, among other things. Click only if spoilers about the case don’t bother you.

• Hints notwithstanding, Jose obviously has opinions on that subject, as evidenced in that heartbreaking dinner flashback. The scene itself is a bit cartoonish, down to the menacing score. But it’s sad to think about the suffering experienced by the real Lyle and Erik: What kind of father calls his little boy the F-word for not cleaning his plate? This show hasn’t gotten great reviews so far, but if it can make that suffering real — if it can humanize the origins of this monstrous tragedy — it will have succeeded at something worthy.

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