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A Working Explanation of Zak's Plan and Phoenix's DisbarmentTopic%20Title
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Obvious spoilers for Turnabout Succession follow. Also, this thread contains a large amount of speculation and theorizing about people's motives.

So ever since the release of Apollo Justice, one of the more hotly contested issues involves the events preceding and following the trial where Phoenix loses his badge. People have argued that Zak's actions are erratic and make little to no sense, and that Phoenix should easily have been able to prove that he was not responsible for the forged evidence presented at the trial. I'm making this thread with the intention of elaborating on the entire series of events, which will explain Zak's motivations, why Phoenix got disbarred, and a couple other things. For this explanation to work, however, we need to accept two key assumptions.

#1: Zak cared about Valant more than anyone else at the time of his trial.
#2: The Ace Attorney legal world does not operate under an "innocent until proven guilty" rule, at least when it comes to defendants.

I think #2 is an assumption we can all accept without too much debate; if anyone wants to argue this point, I'll be happy to do so, but for now I'm going to assume that we're all cool with it and move on to assumption #1. The reasoning for this assumption is as follows; it's the only way Zak's actions make any sense at all. We know that Zak has the real diary page at the time of the trial, so he could have easily proved himself innocent (or at least jumped in and saved himself from being declared guilty when Phoenix presented the fake page), so he's not self-serving. Furthermore, Zak tosses Phoenix under the bus and abandons Trucy, so he's clearly not concerned about either of them. This leaves only one person...Valant.

Why would he care about Valant, though? Especially more than his own daughter? To put it simply, Zak and Valant felt abused by Magnifi. The MASON segments in 4-4 reveal that Magnifi blackmailed both Zak and Valant over Thalassa's death, and proceeded to "work them to the bone." We're never told what this means, but we do know that whatever it was, Magnifi felt bad enough about it to apologize to them on his deathbed. Zak and Valant, once bitter rivals over Thalassa's love, were now comrades of sorts; both in a common predicament. After years of being blackmailed and coerced by Magnifi, Zak probably felt sympathetic towards Valant; first he lost Thalassa to Zak figuratively, and then lost her quite literally when she was shot by either him or Zak.

So Zak felt sympathy for Valant. But that still doesn't explain why he would willingly abandon Trucy. There are two possible explanations for this. One is that Trucy was simply collateral damage; if Zak was confronted with a scenario in which he got to keep Trucy while Valant was convicted for murder, or give Trucy up while Valant went free, he might have chosen the second, assuming he cared about both parties. Another, far more depressing possibility is that Trucy served as another reminder to him of Troupe Gramarye, three years of blackmail and the now dead Thalassa. It's possible that he wanted to get as far away from magic as possible, by whatever means, and that meant leaving Trucy behind. Even if he somehow walked free at the end of the trial, he may have intended to abandon Trucy anyway.

So Zak is in a situation where he has the real diary page on him (somehow, I guess the police don't check suspects very thoroughly as they let Phoenix in with a bloody ace in 4-1), and he's in a precarious situation. He probably suspects Valant of murder at this point, as he was the only other person to visit Magnifi. For some reason, Zak remains undeterred to keep Valant from being accused. Perhaps at this point, he had considered the possibility of disappearing, and decided that starting over was more enticing than trying to remain in magic after this scandal. Perhaps he realized how much of a jerk he had been to Valant over the years and wanted to make it up to him in a rare moment of not being an awful person. Whatever the case, Zak realized that the real diary page would prove his innocence, and, by extension, immediately put Valant in hot water. So he hides it. Zak initially hopes to simply get an acquittal without casting doubt on Valant, but prepares a backup plan in case things go south for him or Valant gets in trouble. If he is about to be found guilty, or if Valant is in serious danger of being accused in his place, he will disappear, using Trucy to distract the bailiff while he runs straight out of the courthouse.

Zak hires Kristoph Gavin, one of LA's (or Japan's, depending on which version you play) most successful lawyers at the time to defend him. Initially, things go smoothly, until Kristoph visits him on the day before the trial, and shows him a one way ticket to a not guilty verdict: a forged diary page. Zak immediately panics, as this will make Valant the prime suspect. He realizes he has to get rid of Kristoph in favor of someone who won't use such a underhanded tactic. So he uses a game of poker as an excuse to fire Kristoph; making Gavin think he fired him because of his lack at skill at playing cards, when in reality, it was because of the diary page. Once Kristoph is out of the picture, Zak turns to the attorney with quite possibly the highest moral standing in LA/Japan at the time: Phoenix Wright. To keep up his act, he challenges Phoenix to a game of poker, planning to hire him regardless of the result. But to his surprise, he loses. His pride is wounded. But that's a side issue for now; the important thing is the trial. Zak doesn't want to give Phoenix too much info, or he might start to suspect Valant. So he simply hires him and then sends him away without any discussion about the actual allegations.

Meanwhile, Kristoph is seething. As far as he knows, he was dismissed just for being bad at poker. Fortunately for him, an opportunity to get back at Zak, and the person whom he views as having stolen his opportunity at fame, appears in the form of the forged diary page he still has on him. He doesn't need to go to much effort to get revenge; simply plant it on Phoenix, and have his brother, already the prosecutor for the case, call Wright out on it. The plan goes off without a hitch; Phoenix gets baited into being over confident by Klavier's smug rock star persona, and, as a result, makes the biggest mistake of his life. When shown the diary, instead of simply pointing out the easy, safe issue with the evidence (the ripped edges of the page indicating that something was torn out), Phoenix tries to hit a home run and get his client off the hook immediately by presenting the diary page received from Trucy. The trap is sprung, but so far, it's only an embarrassment to Wright. Phoenix himself is the one that seals his own fall from grace, and perhaps somewhat fittingly, it's because of his motto to always believe in his clients. In a last ditch effort, Phoenix throws himself under the bus...

"Your Honor, wait! I understand that presenting forged evidence in court is a serious crime. But you cannot hold my client responsible for actions I undertook as an individual..."

That quote is his ultimate undoing. Zak realizes he is about to be found guilty, and based on the way the trial has gone, pulls his disappearing stunt. Phoenix, meanwhile, has essentially openly admitted, in court, to forging evidence. He goes before the bar association two weeks later, and due to the standards of the Ace Attorney world, he does not need to be proven guilty. The evidence shows that forged evidence was presented by the defense. As it stands, Phoenix Wright is the only recorded attorney for Drew Misham, since attorneys are only logged the day before the trial. Phoenix himself has openly admitted, in court, to being solely responsible for it. That's two big pieces of evidence against Wright, and he has nothing to show in his own defense. If we assume that the legal world of LA/Japan does not require proven guilt to convict a defendant, that same principle would likely apply to bar reviews as well. With two incriminating points against him, and nothing to defend himself with, Wright is ultimately disbarred.

Zak, meanwhile, disappears entirely, with his pride somewhat wounded. After being blackmailed for three years, he probably hates magic now. His relationships are a mess, due to the coercion and covered up manslaughter within the Gramarye family. All that he has left to care about at this cards. Poker becomes his life at this point, which is what leads Phoenix to become an underground poker player. Eventually, Phoenix becomes famous enough in underground circles to draw Zak's attention. Zak decides to try and get payback for his loss 7 years ago...and, well, we all know how that ends.

Meanwhile, Kristoph becomes more and more paranoid over the years. After framing Phoenix, he begins to worry that somehow, someone will eventually uncover his crime. He gets close to Phoenix; probably so close that Phoenix begins to suspect him when he wouldn't have otherwise. He tries to kill both Mishams with poison, but doesn't succeed until seven years later. Ultimately, it's likely Kristoph's own paranoia that undos him when he attacks Zak in the Borscht Bowl Club. I think this is probably the strongest piece of "evidence" supporting this whole theory; Kristoph would have no reason to kill Zak unless he had something particularly condemning to tell Phoenix. Something that could possibly lead to Kristoph's cover being blown. Realistically, the only thing I could think of would be Zak telling Phoenix that Kristoph was responsible for forging the faked diary page (something that fits in quite nicely with my earlier speculation). Kristoph would have immediately been worried that the two of them would go to the police. Admittedly, that probably wouldn't get them much of anywhere, with one being an escaped suspect and the other a disbarred attorney, but Kristoph's paranoia still gets the better of him. He waits to kill Zak, and the rest is history.

So that's basically it. To be honest, I think it all fits together reasonably well, or, at least, as well as most motives in the Ace Attorney series. Admittedly, much of this is pure speculation, and this by no means excuses Apollo Justice (the game) for not explaining this and giving Zak a fleshed out motivation. But this is one way (and maybe the only?) of making sense of what happened over the seven years.

To summarize (TL;DR version)
-Zak sympathized with Valant and didn't want him to be found guilty, but also didn't want to be found guilty himself. He hides the real diary page to avoid making Valant the prime suspect.
-If the above scenario was not possible, he was going to disappear and leave Valant presumed innocent, at least by the court.
-Zak initially hires Kristoph. Kristoph has a fake diary page forged. Zak realizes the implications and fires Kristoph, hiring Phoenix in his stead. Kristoph gets upset over the seeming randomness of Zak's actions and, in a fit of jealousy, tries to ruin Zak and embarrass Phoenix at the same time.
-Kristoph's plan works unexpectedly well. Phoenix falls into the trap, and then makes things even worse on himself by essentially confessing to the forgery in an attempt to save his client. Zak disappears for seven years, leaving magic behind and embracing life as an underground poker player.
-Phoenix's impromptu confession leads to his undoing as he is disbarred. He becomes an underground poker player afterwards, hoping to reconnect with Zak and somehow salvage his situation.
-Kristoph becomes increasingly paranoid and tries to keep tabs on all players involved in Zak's trial, tipping Phoenix off. When Zak comes to avenge his poker defeat, Kristoph notices him, and decides to take him out to prevent him from spilling something. The events of Apollo Justice follow.
"I can't go to hell, little weirdo. I'm all out of vacation days."
Re: A Working Explanation of Zak's Plan and Phoenix's DisbarTopic%20Title
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I like it. I'd also argue that Zak knew his life on the the run would be no place for his daughter and hard on her, not wanting to subject her to that he abandoned her. Plus if she did prove to be a weight then he might get caught and she'd lose her father anyway.
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Re: A Working Explanation of Zak's Plan and Phoenix's DisbarTopic%20Title
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I wrote about Zak a little while back on my blog, and my conclusion was to keep the performance rights away from Valant. I'll throw it in a spoiler tag.
Zak had intended to disappear from the beginning. He doesn’t give a reason as to why, and this is my biggest gripe. Does this mean that if Kristoph had his chance to defend Zak, he would have disappeared before the not guilty verdict? I know he got rid of Kristoph because of how he read him during the poker match, but it makes no difference because the trial proceeded in the exact same way with Phoenix as it would have with Kristoph - the diary page would have been presented.

So Zak doesn’t give a reason as to why he disappeared. I can think of a reason why he would though: for Trucy. It turns out Magnifi tested Zak and Valant to see who would receive his performance rights. Perhaps Zak felt as though he was going to be targeted by Valant for the performance rights, and his suspicions were confirmed as Valant framed him. His disappearance put the performance rights in a legal limbo, as nobody could use them until Zak was declared legally deceased. He then turned up seven years later to pass the rights to Trucy in order to keep them away from Valant.

This is just a theory, mind you. None of it is canon, because Zak doesn’t elaborate on his reasons. Though even if he did have a reason, it doesn’t excuse his actions; it just explains them.

And then he resorts to cheating in order to beat Phoenix Wright. Why? Did Phoenix cheat in their first poker game? I bet Kristoph wished he had.

So in conclusion, Zak Gramarye is the biggest jerk in a game full of them.

Anyway, a minor point: Trucy was the one carrying the bloody ace, meaning she gave forged evidence to lawyers on two separate occasions. Only she could, because Phoenix was in detention. That leads to a theory that Trucy forged the ace, but that's not relevant to this thread.

Also, Phoenix's explanation when the diary page is revealed to be fake. When he says, "Your Honor, wait! I understand that presenting forged evidence in court is a serious crime. But you cannot hold my client responsible for actions I undertook as an individual..." I think it's more likely he's talking about the act of presenting forged evidence, not actually forging the evidence himself. But it can be interpreted that he is admitting to forging the evidence, and the Bar Association saw it that way.

Did Zak know that Kristoph had forged evidence? It was implied that Kristoph forged the diary page before being fired, but did Zak actually know of the forged page's existence before Phoenix presented it?

Finally, thinking back to Zak's meeting with Phoenix, there's one more thing that supports your theory. After talking about the Gramarye ability, Zak signs two things: the passing of performance rights to Trucy (which supports my theory that he was keeping the performance rights away from Valant) and a signed "confession" that he killed Magnifi (supporting the theory that he was protecting Valant from being charged with the crime).
Re: A Working Explanation of Zak's Plan and Phoenix's DisbarTopic%20Title
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That was a really nice read. I don't remember much from this game, so I can't tell how well it fits and how accurate it is, but it all made sense in my head, so there's that!
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