This was an interesting if somewhat standard episode, wandering between the polemic and the personal, but integrating the two elements of the story comfortably enough not to make either seem out of place.
The key to both parts of the episode was Joe Rossi. In one half, Joe’s starting to date an attractive, intelligent journalism student who seems to be in line with his thinking. There’s just one problem: her name is Joanie Hume and her Dad is the Managing Editor of the Trib, who does not like the idea of his adult daughter dating a) a reporter and b) this reporter.
This is like a running gag. Joe’s nervous and forever on the point of breaking up with Joanie out of fear of what Charlie will do, though ultimately Joanie, who can tell something’s up, talks him into taking things as they come and getting round problems when they arise.
There’s something different about Joanie since her last appearance. Oh, wait, I got it, she’s bbeing played by Dinah Manoff instead of Laurette Sprang (who was by now appearing in the original Battlestar Galactica). It’s difficult to tell the difference, what with Sprang having long, curly, very blonde hair and Manoff having shoulder-length, straight dark brunette hair, not to menion the completely different facial shapes, but apart from that it’s really hard to tell.
This is but the counterpoint to the real story. Rossi gets a letter from a mysterious young man (who even looks like your typical period white-guy turned terrorist fanatic) threatening to detonate an A-Bomb somewhere in LA if their demands are not a) published and b) met. This lot are for an independent Croatia (Jeez, that’s going back), not to mention the release of two Croatian prisoners and $10,000,000.00.
That lets us in for some fairly dry information alerting us the the public’s general ignorance about A-Bomb technology, i.e., that you can’t build one without a Manhattan Project behind you. The message is, you can so too, much of which is delivered by Bilie’s old college buddy, physicist Jack Ridgeway, played by Joe Spano (a second consecutive guest star role for a future Hill Street Blues star).
It’s delivered fairly painlessly, humanised by the increasing nervousness of Rossi, Lou et al over the realistic prospect of being blown up at any moment, an approach that’s no longer viable forty years on, when we’ve had too much of the reality rather than the theory of unexpected terrorist bombing for our own innocence to remain.
In the end, Rossi gets a secret message that leads him to the group’s headquarters, where they have a van. The FBI burst in and arrest everyone, Rossi included. The bomb’s real, they just don’t have any fissionable uranium as yet, so all’s well that ends with a couple of mild black humour jokes.
There are two episodes left in season 2 and I’m still decided on whether to plunge straight into season 3 or to refresh my palette with something different. Be here in three weeks to find out.