The enthusiasm is all but gone and shapeless episodes like this, with very little sense of conviction to them, don’t help: this is dead man walking stuff.
There’s three stories going on here, two of which in different ways exemplifying the episode title, the third next to invisible. Going for his early morning jog down near the beach, Lou sees a surfer nearly mow down a swimming kid. The surfers are a bunch of fanatics decorated over with SS signs that stand for ‘Surf Soldiers’. They have nothing to do with Nazis, the gang are too empty-headed for that. They’re just very possessive of ‘their’ beach space, with which I was mildly sympathetic: there’s a case for arguing that when an environment is particularly suited to a specific activity that it should be reserved for that and not disrupted by general stuff that can be done anywhere.
That’s not an argument that gets a hearing here. Lou’s not convinced it’s worth that much space but Charlie wants to jump all over it, the result being chaos and a riot as the story provokes tensions, rivalries with another gang, extreme hassle for Lou and tension between him and Charlie.
The other beachhead involves Billie and Ted, Cliff Potts making his last appearance in the series. They’ve just bought a house in a nice suburban environment and on their first night they’re interrupted by a small-minded neighbour wanting them to sign a petition against the house two doors down that’s introducing lunatics and dangerous madmen into the neighbourhood. In reality, it’s a halfway house for young men from emotionally disturbed backgrounds, discharged from mental hospitals, being gradually reintroduced into the community and into looking after themselves.
Billie’s sympathetic – she’s a cast member on Lou Grant isn’t she? – but Ted, who’s protective of his wife and unable to escape feeling guilty about being on the road so often, is more hostile until he visits the place to see for himself and is completely converted, mainly because they love his baseball stories.
The third story may have a foreshadowing element to it, I’ll know in two weeks time. The Denver Record has folded, dropping a lot of good reporters on the market. Lou’s enthusiastic, and so’s Charlie, offstage, until Mrs Pynchon hits him over increasing overheads: no new hires. Lou spends the episode fielding calls from reporters that he can’t take on until the end when Mrs Pynchon interrupts his argument with Charlie to tell them they were right and she was wrong: she’d tried to sign a very highly-regarded columnist only to be too late, she’d already been picked up. She wanted to tell Lou and Charlie how much she relies upon them and their instincts, and what a good team they make.
So. Not much in any of it, and certainly no conviction in either programme makers or this corner of the audience. Dead men walking.