The Guardian: Paternity

Saturday 15th August 8.00pm

The legal drama starring ‘The Mentalist’ actor Simon Baker continues. Having been arrested for possession of narcotics, disgraced corporate lawyer Nick Fallin (Baker) is sentenced to perform community service representing abused, neglected and at-risk children. In this instalment, Nick takes on the case of a disabled boy who is desperate to live with his stepfather.

In the third episode of the series, Nick is asked to represent Lawrence Neal, a wheelchair-bound boy who faces being sent to a state-run facility. Lawrence tells Nick that his mother, Summer, is about to begin a two-year jail term for prostitution. The boy is keen to stay with his stepfather, Jerry, but he has a previous conviction for assault and battery. Nick attempts to persuade Lawrence’s social worker, Laurie Solt, to let him stay with his stepfather, but she insists that the Riley centre is the best option. “There’s no way I’m changing my recommendation,” she says.

Nick visits the Neal residence and sees Lawrence happily playing with Jerry. When he looks into Jerry’s case, Nick finds that he was convicted for assaulting his mother. He goes to meet Jerry’s sister, who reveals that Jerry was trying to protect her from their mother’s boyfriend. “He didn’t hit my mum – all he did was block my mum and give her boyfriend a beating,” she says. Nick speaks to Laurie again, but she tells him that even if Jerry’s sister testifies on his behalf, the family home is still not suitable for a wheelchair user. She also believes that Lawrence would be better off at the centre. “I’ve seen what can happen when a placement goes bad,” she says.

Nick and the Neal family visit the Riley centre, but when Lawrence sees that most of children have learning difficulties he is even more determined not to live there. “How come just because I’m in a wheelchair I get stuck with kids like this?” he asks. When Summer is distracted, Lawrence tells Jerry and Nick that he thinks he has tracked down his real father, and hopes that if he can convince him to pay child support, it may help Jerry’s case. However, a visit to the man in question ends in disaster when he denies any responsibility. “Your mother is a whore!” he shouts.

Nick realises that Lawrence’s illness could be the key to finding his natural father. Examining Summer’s client book he comes across a number for Derek Johnson, a man he knew when he was still using drugs. Nick remembers that Derek’s brother has neurofibromatosis, the same disease that caused Lawrence’s spinal condition. Nick meets with Derek and tells him he thinks Lawrence could be his son. “The kid is going to end up in a state home for mentally disabled children,” he says. However, Derek refuses to agree to any financial support. “I have two kids in private school – I can’t afford this!” he insists.

Despite Nick’s insistence that Lawrence should stay with his stepfather, it seems that the assault charge and the fact that Jerry is working two jobs will count against him. But the hearing to decide where Lawrence should live is interrupted when Derek and his wife, Emily, suddenly arrive and offer to look after Lawrence themselves. In the heated debate that follows, it seems that Lawrence’s wishes could be ignored once again…

Elsewhere, Nick faces a tricky situation when his childhood friend Rachel Shell asks for his help in taking over her father’s firm. “My father called me into his office last week and told me he was going to promote my brother over me,” she tells him. With Rachel’s father, Bart, asking the firm to represent his interests, Nick must decide where his loyalty really lies.

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