Due South: s03 e06 – Bounty Hunter

Due South

This was an episode in which the creators had two stories they wanted to tell. Not an ‘A’ and ‘B’ story type of deal as we so often got in Deep Space Nine, but one in which the two were linked inextricably, but in which one was the story they had to tell in order to tell the story they wanted to. The one they had to tell could have been pretty much any story but, because it was the commercial one, it had to be given a prominence it didn’t deserve, and which frankly meandered and outstayed its welcome.

Let me explain.

We began in disreputable fashion, with a dream sequence of Constable Benton Fraser wandering the empty halls of the station, with Diefenbaker racing round and appearing from strange directions. Never trust an episode which begins with a dream sequence. But this was misleading. A background babel of voices arose and it turned out to be real after all. Pay negotiations were not going well, it was illegal for cops to strike, so they were all going down with a severe case of the ‘Blue Flu’.

Into this impasse arrived Janet Morse (Wendy Crewson). Janet is the story. She’s a Montana Bunty Hunter on the trail of a jumper, Bradley Torrance (Hugh Thompson). Janet is a sturdy, competent, practical woman, uncombed but not unattractive. What she is is a Montana version of Fraser. And given that the rest of the division is ‘down with the flu’, Fraser is the only law enforcement officer who is prepared and able to help her hunt down her quarry. Which he is prepared to do beca use not only does he regzard it as his professional obligation to pursue the course of justice, he has immediately sensed a kindred spirit.

That’s the story the show wanted to tell. The Bounty Hunter bit, and all the complications proceeding from that, are just context. The story got complex in that Torrance turned out to be wanted by the Mob for stealing $2,000,000 of their money but also because of one pretty obvious development that was meant to be a siurprise to both story strands but which was easily foreseeable to the ordinary viewer.

Let me digress, slightly. There was a supposedly comical aspect, serving to ‘feminise’ the otherwise highly effective Janet, by habving her drag around with her three children aged between eight and five (girl-boy-girl). The children were unruly and uncontrollable, determined to ignore any instructions and do what they wanted at any given moment. In short, they were Malcolm Saville’s Morton Twins from the ‘Lone Pine’ series writ large and making the latter look like mere nuisances. They’re supposed to represet Janet as mother, and make her endearingly female by showing her as fallible. They were, in fact, an atrocious diversion who wanted stranding in the middle of Lake Michigan in a leaky boat, but you can’t do that sort of thing in comedy drama, more’s the pity.

But they were also a signal that Ms Morse had been, or in fact still was married, much to her regret, and that she was very much attracted to Fraser, both as the tall, strong, handsome guy Francesca Vecchio is open to getting off with every week, as the kindred spirit backwoodsperson they both were, and someone with whom she could allow herself to be properly and womanly vulnerable. Too vulnerable, in fact, because Fraser found himself to be too chivalrous to take advantage of what was as much desperate need for comfort as emotional and physical attraction.

But all of this, being the real reason the show wanted to tell this story, was a blatant signpost to the fact that Torrance was Janet’s deadbeat husband.

Like I say, this side of the story went on a bit too long for something intended only to set up Fraser and Janet meeting and going through their reserved dance. Inspector Thatcher was wheeled in to disapprove of Fraser letting the Morses sleep overnight in the consulate, assuming the Conzstable to have been satisfying his unspeakable desires (for another woman), his dead Dad to approve of Janet as a suitable mate, and Dean McDermott popped up as the idiot Constable Turnbull to be easily made a fool of by the kids.

Ultimately, Torrance was spared separation from his life and did a deal for immunity and witness protection in exchange for testimony (which nobody mentioned would do the impecunious Janet out of her much-needed bounty). She goes back to Montana, to build on a shack to her cabin for Torrance to sleep weekends when he sees the kids (in Witness Protection from the Mob? I don’t think so), but not without a kiss before leaving. It wasn’t a good ending: the kiss served the emotional what-might-have-been but upped the clixhe quotient unmercifiully whilst every other aspect of the story they had to tell fell completely to pieces.

I liked Wendy Crewson. She was strong, intelligent, and despite holding back many details of why she was there, she was open and straightforward. It was a great shame the story had to undermine her the way it did. I’d have liked to have seen more of her, though this appearance more or less used up all the interaction Janet Morse and Benton Fraser could properly have had: another encounter would have ended up as melodrama for having no new territory to cross. Overall, though, I’d only rate the episode as moderate, falling well short of what makes a great Due South story, which was a shame because the story they wanted to tell had the legs for it.


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