Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1 recap – what happened in the pilot?

By Daniel Hart
Published: April 24, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
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Apple TV+ series Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1 - Pilot


Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1 is an intriguing opener, introducing the Barber family in the wake of a deadly murder in the community.

This recap of Apple TV+ series Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1, “Pilot” contains significant spoilers.

What happens in the opening of Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1?

There’s a grand jury, and Andy Barber (played by Chris Evans) is being questioned; he reveals himself as the former district attorney and he’s waived his 5th amendment right. The lawyer running the grand jury reads out an article from the Boston Globe about the Barber family being happy. He asks Andy if this is an accurate description before Ben Rifkin was murdered.

Andy says yes.

So it’s clear this is a reference point for the rest of the series before s*** goes down.

10 months earlier. 

Andy gets Jacob out of bed and the family discusses going to Mexico for Christmas. Family spirits seem good, and very solid. Andy heads to court and shows how skilled he is at his job — stopping a defence team from getting a continuance and produces witness evidence.

But then something changes; while Jacob is at school, a lockdown is initiated.

What’s the lockdown for?

Andy heads to a crime scene and he learns a student named Ben Rifkin is dead, found with stab wounds and left in the woods. Andy learns that this student was in the same year as his son Jacob.

Jacob rings Andy and asks why the school is in lockdown.

Rattled by the day’s events, Andy comes home and tells his wife Laurie how bad the crime scene was. There’s no identification from the partial fingerprints so far. Both parents speak to Jacob about it, checking if he’s okay. Jacob is quite casual in how he feels, stating he barely knew Ben.

Is there a suspect in Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1?

At the halfway point of Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1, Andy gets to work on the investigation; Neal Logiudice has offered to take over as he states there is a conflict of interest as Andy’s son goes to the same school. Andy says he should stay on, citing no conflicts. Andy also states that if he’s wrong, he’ll stay in answer to a jury and take the hit.

Andy proving his confidence in this scene.

Andy and Paula head to the school to interview students; they struggle to get any useful information with every student being very casual with their answers. One of the students, Sarah Grohl, asks Andy if he has spoken to Jacob about the murder and seems a little on the edge — might be worth remembering this.

When Sarah finishes her interview, Derek asks her if she said anything. Derek was at Jacob’s house the night before.

But they do have their first suspect — Leonard Patz; he’s got a history with child abuse but Paula raises that Ben Rifkin had no signs of sexual abuse.

What happens at Ben Rifkin’s wake?

Well, Andy goes to the wake but soon realises it was a mistake when people keep asking him questions. As he grabs his coat, the father Dan Rifkin has a conversation with him and breaks into tears — he states Ben was a good kid.

Andy leaves the wake with Jacob. On the car journey, Jacob says he thinks some people were being phoney, acting how they think they should act at a wake. Jacob and Andy eat at a diner, spending quality time together.

How does Defending Jacob season 1, episode 1 end?

At night, Andy confirms that he wants to bring in Leonard Patz. He then receives an email from an unknown sender, it’s a link to a Facebook post; a tribute to Ben. One of the comments is asking Jacob to shut up. Jacob’s comment is telling everyone to stop pretending to be Ben’s best friend. In the replies, Derek claims everyone knows Jacob did it, and that he has a knife that he’s seen.

Andy looks in Jacob’s room while asleep to see if there’s a knife. He finds one next to his bedside drawers.

Well… Andy… that’s a conflict, sir.

Apple TV+, TV Recaps
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