Lou Grant: s02 e19 – Home


The watchword for this blog is ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’, which means that an episode-by-episode blog of a tv series has to go on, even if I’m not really enjoying it as much as I would like. Only extreme cases (remember Fortitude? I wish I didn’t) justify dropping it.

I used to love Lou Grant. It was a staple of the week’s viewing forty years ago, and my memories  of it are all fond. I still like the cast and their interplay, their intensity and integrity sitting alongside their plain human sensibilities. And the show’s virtues and passions aligned with mine, and I’ve not changed that much in the decades that have passed.

Perhaps its because of my age, ironically, that episodes like this one leave me cold ad, worst of all, bored. This is another of the crusading episodes, the exposure of a disturbing situation, alerting its audience to the injustices in society, whilst contriving a happy ending: two of them, in fact.

The theme was the aged in Society, care of the elderly. I’m not disparaging that, it’s clearly an important topic, in fact it’s Worthy within the show’s parameters. Unfortunately, this is another case where the approach is overly didactic. You could have replaced every member of the cast with someone else and the episode would have been the same, and that’s a problem.

The episode started melodramatically as a man wheels an elderly lady in a wheelchair, who’s obviously confused and frightened, into an office. He, John Bertram, owns a Home, she’s one of his patients, the Government hasn’t paid for her for six months and she’s now their problem.

That’s the cue for the Trib’s investigation of Homes in general and Bertram’s in particular. Billie goes undercover as an aide to see how horrific and uncaring the standard of care is. Bertram’s clearly only in it for the money, and out to maximise profits by minimising standards, though the show undermines itself by establishing twice that Bertram could get his money for Mrs Ford if he filled in certain forms: it was a major, logical inconsistency that was yet more lazy scripting, wanting the shock effect of the stark opening that should never have been happening.

At the same time, Lou’s morning jog in the park sees him palling up with Fred Horton (Jack Gilford), an active retiree, humourous, lively, optimistic, whose continually looking for a job in the face of  society that’s pushed him out. Fred’s a product of an age when the good guys worked and the ones that didn’t were bums: pychologically, he cannot shift his thoughts away from thinking he’s become a bum.

The problem with this episode, like others, is that the story can’t develop organically from the people: they are cyphers in the face of a series of moments that drop seamlessly into place, not with the remorseless inevitability of human existence but with the remorseless inevitability of a cheap script, hitting its numbers. Of course Mrs Ford dies from the shock of being used. Of course the Doctor doesn’t give a damn about Mrs Keaton’s serious pain at night.

And, of course, Lou finds a job for Fred as a surrogate grandad supervising kids in a playground, and of course Billie finds away for Mrs Keaton’s hassled daughter to give her mother a better standard of life, between Daycare in the day and Home care in the evenings. And equally of course, Bertram gets hit with multiple charges from the D.A.

All’s well that ends well.

I still like the series, but my enthusiasm is being severely drained by episodes like this. There are five episodes left in season 2 and I’m currently contemplating taking a break, if I can find something suitable to do on Thursday mornings. Just for a change of pace. We’ll see.

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Person of Interest: s02 e18 – All In


For once, I would almost say that I was disappointed with the latest episode of Person of Interest: almost, but not quite.

The problem lay largely with myself. Since Relevance, and knowing how the season ends, I assumed the show would be going into its end game to set this up, but in that I was premature. All In was once again, in respect of its Number of the Week, a solus, with all the longer-term aspects taking place elsewhere, beyond the ken of Messrs Finch and Reese.

Once I realised that the issue of Lou Mitchell (Ron McLarty), a retiree on a fixed income who played bacccarat in an Atlantic City casino every day and who had lost over $320,000 over six months, had nothing to do with the wider issues, I found it difficult to be enthused. Yes, the story was nifty, and there was a nice scene when Finch, following Lou around all day, discovered his quarry was much less naive than he’d assumed and had not only made him from the off but confronted him in a bar, played baccarat for questions with far greater skill than he’d ever shown in the casino, and lifted his keys before dropping them in the lobster tank.

No, Lou wasn’t the loser he appeared to be. He was a card sharp from way back who’d fallen foul of the Mafia and been beaten for it, had married the woman who helped in and had forty very committed years together before her death from cancer. But to fund her treatment, Lou had sharked at a casino owned by Darren Makris (Michael Rispoli), and when Makris found out, Lou found himself on the hook, alongwith several other retirees, required to play, and lose, every day.

Why? Makris was in the drug trade and also owned a pharmacy. Lou and the others picked up ‘prescriptions’ daily, money they then lost, in a money-laundering operation. Makris’ drug profits disappear into the casino and come out as its profits.

What makes Lou stand out, and drew the Machine’s attention, was that he was using his skills to skim a bit off the top, a gesture of defiance, I’m not a loser, on the one hand, and with a sentimental purpose in mind on the other. Even when Harold sends Lou out of town, whilst he and John ‘eliminate’ Lou in Makris’ eyes, the cantankerous old bugger comes back.

And this time he’s playing to win, win back everything he’s lost. But with Finch staking him to $2,000,000 and John running interference on Makris, Lou wins over $20,000,000, negating the presence of our old friend, Leon Tau (an ever welcome cameo from Ken Leung, as shallow as ever but also as forensic with a money trail).

Reese saves the day when everyone is captured and forced to go through a Russian Roulette situation that’s actually harmless because Lou palmed the bullet. And with Finch’s help, Lou is set up to buy and preserve the diner in which he eats every day, the one he and his Marilyn practically lived in. A nice, sentimental ending.

It was a decent Number of the Week, and in another frame of mind I would probably have enjoyed it more, but I’m impatient for things to hot up, andthe only place that happened was in the B story, centred on Detective Carter.

Joss is still gathering evidence about the missing Detective Stills, using Detective Terney (Al Sapienza), when Detective Szymanski is hauled in, in handcuffs. Szymanski is due to testify todayagainst the Yogarof brothers, when he’sdirtied up by planted evidence he’s on the take. Carter starts investigating this immediately. Would-be boyfriend Cal Beecher is about but ruins his romantic hopes by admitting he provided the tip on Szymanski.

It’s all a scenario set up by H.R., Officer Simmons and Alonzo Quinn, for a cash deal with the Yogarofs: they will not go to jail. Except that Carter, following the money on the advice of Fusco, finds evidence that Szymanski has been framed. The trial goes ahead, with extra charges as to witness-tampering. Fusco warns Carter aboout making herself a target. Quinn invites the DA and Szymmanski to dinner, impressing on them how invested the Mayor is in securing a conviction. Both of them are determined to press ahead. And Quinn pulls out a gun and kills both, two shots each to the heart.

And another member of H.R. enters, Detective Raymond Terney. The killer got away through the back, leaving two dead and one wounded: Terney shoots Quinn through the right shoulder.

That’s where the heat was, where the long story took place. I sure hope the show turns its face towards the season ending next week…

 

Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness: Those who Kill episodes 5 & 6


Third week for the revived Darkness: Those who Kill which, incidentally, is billed only as Dem som Draeber in the Danish credits so this ‘Darkness’ crap is justa bloody affectation.

For some of the classic series, the reduction of the standard ten-episode format to eight is a disappointment, but for the average-at-best stuff like this, it’s a blessing to know I’ll have it all over and done with next weekend. Even at a taut eight episodes, this  still feels like some things have been put in to pad it out.

To be honest, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for finishing this, not even for the $64,000 question of whether Emma, the last hostage, will be found alive (I’m guessing yes but the programme is sufficiently infatuated with its own supposed ‘darkness’ that it might kill her just to prove it).

Both the short, black and white flashbacks this week helped us to understand the fair but homicidal Stine. In the one, she’s getting raped by her overly tall and nasty brother Mikkel, the one whose birthday party her mother is so insistent on her attending (she’s  16, he’s 19). Oh well, thaat explains it all. In the other, the slimeball has already ‘confessed’ to Ma and Pa to pushing her over and making her bump her head but denied her other accusation, and of course Mummy and Daddy don’t believe her and think she’s just wickedly passing off what some other of her endless shags has done to her. Oh well, that explains any leftover bits of it all that we didn’t take from the first one.

I know we’re not supposed to feel sympathy for psychopathic serial killers, especially ones that get their victims to write a beautiful, heartfelt, farewell letter to their parents then burn it in front of the girl, but I did thoroughly enjoy Stine attending Mikkel’s birthday party tinkling a glass and standing up to tell the assembled guests her story about her brother. Yes, that one. She wasn’t a sixteen year old slut, he was her first.

The rest of it was the investigation progressing in fits and starts. Louise clears announcing Anders’ name publicly in the belief he and his accomplice will go dormant. Unfortunately, he reacts by trying to snatch someone off the street. The Police do get tip-offs that lead them to where Anders is sleeping when he’s not at Stine’s and, significantly, they retrieve the dress of Natasha, the first one.

This does not go down well with Anders, who is stupidly determined to get the dress back, which he attempts by kidnapping Louise (didn’t see that coming), smacking her about and demanding she tell the cops to bring the dress to her or he’ll kill her. He really is stupid. Fortunately, he’s interrupted by a security guard before this development gets to a point where e and it get out of control and he has to kill the second lead in episode 5.

The personality sink that is lead investigator Jan is not there for Louise because, in contradiction of my preduction he’s not getting his rocks off with our dark-haired psychologist, but rather with karate instructor and volunteer unofficial civilian decoy Sisse (Malene Beltoft Olsen, looking very nice). Don’t worry, he does get to sleep with Louise in episode 6, though I can’t claim that because it’s on her couch and he’s fast asleep when she curls up beside him.

Anyway, episode 6 is all about Louis recovvering from her ordeal whilt the fuzz start to make real progress. Louise’s women’s group prompts her to ask if Anders’ accomplice is a woman, not a man, and Jan finds the missing link between the slurry tank victims that gives them the name of Stine Velin.

Who has told Anders they have to stop and get out, and he’d better get rid off his little blonde girl himself. And she’s just finished packing when the doorbell goes. No, not the Police, just an extremely pissed and pissed-off Mikkel, who’s still the victim in all this, who’s come round to tell Stine that he never wants to see her again (oh the ironic comic cliche of it!) and she’dbetter not contact their parents again (why on Earth would she want to). Then he blows it rather by snogging her, though if I were looming drunkenly over Signe Egholm Olsen, I would probably have done the same thing. Not that she would have enjoyed it any more than her oh-so-charming brother.

With doubled irony, the intrusion of Mikkel holds Stine up just long eenoough for the  Police to arrive, bristling with riot gear and assault rifles. Mikkel get arrested. Stine, quick-thinking, plays the victim card, Anders threatened to kill her. Everyone storms the basement, looking for Emma. But she’s gonne. And so’s Anders…

If this were a British series, I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole. I’m only watching it because it’s Skandi, but not all Skandis are Skandi, if you know what I mean. End of the series next week. I can only hope that if there’s another Skandi lined up fortwo weeks hence, it’s one of the great ones. I’m not holding my breath.

Lou Grant: s02 e18 – Hit


Crusaders

We’re rolling towards the end of season 2 of Lou Grant and this oddly cool but emotional episode may end up being the best of the season. I know it started a bit unprepossessingly with encounters between Rossi and a middle-aged woman in a Court Record office, a woman who one might describe as ‘no-nonsense’ if one wanted to avoid the use of the word ‘rude’. But this was merely the prelude to an episode which combined an understated character study with an equally understated murder mystery, and kept firmly away from the emotional pedal throughout, and all the better for it.

The woman was Martha Emmett, played superbly by Allyn Ann McLerie. Two years ago, her son Warren was killed in a hit and run case in Altamira. The man responsible was never found. Martha has left her husband, her home in Wichita and her job to pursue the case. As you may anticipate, she is obsessed and impatient, and that makes her acerbic and aggressive. She’s using a record book Rossi needs, and has no intention of surrendering it to him. On the other hand, when she’s accusing the staff of being unhelpful. he intervenes to show her how to home in on the unknown case number she needs, as to stop her clogging up the counter queue as any desire to be helpful.

But once he learns her story, Rossi sees her as a story. Not an easy one: Martha’s a hard woman to deal with, her mind focused upon one thing, and her insistence on this being the only thing that matters is interfering with Rossi’s other stories. When he bales, under the pretext of needing time to clear his decks, she sees through it, calls it for what it is, sends him of without a backward thought. Which brings Rossi round, fully-committed. And it’s not a tactic or a ploy, she really does dismiss him.

Meanwhile, in a slightly awkward attempt to tie everybody else into a related story, we start with Lou undergoing a prototype road rage incident on his way to his laundry, which somehow segues into everybody being snappy and at each other’s throats for no apparent reason. It’s a weak sub-plot because it comes out of the blue and we know it’ll disappear back into the black by next week, but it half-suggests Billie to a piece on road rage that’s then dropped because she hasn’t got statistics to support it (just wait, Billie, this  is 1978, you’ll get all the facts you could want starting 1988).

The main story doesn’t need this stuff to distract from it and it doesn’t do enough to supplement, especially as there’s no suuggestion that road rage was behind Warren Emmott’s death, just a big black Cadillac hitting him, sending him literally flying, to land and break his neck, shoulder, arm and multiple ribs and die of internal bleeding whilst the Cadillac driver was courteous to swerve around Warren’s body to avoid hitting him again before driving off.

Slowly, the puzzle unravels. For the ultra-sharp viewer there’s a hint of foreshadowing, a mention of a tough traffic judge, and that’s where the story goes, in the closest it gets to dramatic irony. With a wonderful tough-mindedness, the episode refused to go into emotional tones: Rossi and Martha get an interview with Judge Cromwell (Ivan Bonar, stunningly effective in a tiny role). They elicit the Judge’s opinions on the deterioration of society, which is that it’s down to the cynical refusal of people top respect the law. Rossi then brings up a 1976 hit and run case, and without a word, or a  gesture, solely by his face, Bonar crumples from within. Chillingly good.

So Martha had won at long last. The show was equal to the challenge of not going off the rails then, and McLerie remained perfectly pitched. It was as if she was in shock, suddenly her determined energy had gone, the monomaniacal purpose that had driven her for two years collapsed within, and she not ready for it yet.

That was the end, the unemotional emotional end. The show allowed the rest to develop off-screen, the Judge who would fight their case. We jumped to Martha’s return to Wichita, to her old life, by bus. Rossi saw her off, trying to be sentimental about their shared experience, but Martha remained solidly rooted till the end. They wouldn’t see each other again, but there was no soppy stuff, not even self-congratulation.

There was a moment earlier on that stuck with me. Martha didn’t seem to be motivated by any great love for her son, not even the ordinary level of maternal love you’d expect. He was just a kid who’d done nothing and found nothing, except the desire to get out. But Martha said that he’d never had the chance to be passionate about anything, a job, a cause, a girl, and she thought that that was the biggest cheat of all. On a line like that, alone, the greatest of stories could be built. Lou Grant built very well.

Person of Interest: s02 e17 – Proteus


Behind you…

We’re into the season 2 endgame now, or so we thought from last week’s brilliant episode, introducing Shaw and showing Root in her full-on mania to find the Machine. So Person of Interest hands us an intricate, oddball episode that is ninety percent a solus, with only minimal links to the overall story. In fact, you could say that Proteus was typical in its untypicality.

There’s a storm a-brewing, a monster, heading for New York State, creating the ground conditions for the episode as Reese and Finch end up trapped on an isolated island with a group of people, one of whom, Ten Little Indians style, is the Number, a serial killer.

It begins with rain, and our two buddies coming out of a cinema with Bear. They’re not on a mission: the Machine has not coughed up a number for three days, Reese is worried, there’s a nod to last week when Reese asks if Finch has heard from Shaw, the balls being kept in the air. Then the Machine breaks its silence to spit out six Numbers all at once.

Six people, all male, no link between them except that when you put their pictures up on a US map, there’s a pretty clear direct line across America, someone heading east, who’s now in New York.

Carter’s brought in (there’s no Fusco this week) to assist, and she uses her FBI connection, Agent Moss, to get their Missing Persons files. This introduces the name of Special Agent Alan Fahey (Luke McFarlane) and a reminder from Moss that Carter’s boyfriend, Cal Beecher, is baaaad company.

Reese’s investigations into the New York name, Rollings, leads him to a summer home on Owen Island, way out to nowhere at the far end of Long Island, and in the eye of the storm. Over Finch’s objections, Reese heads out there, despite the fact everyone is being evacuated. Rolling’s house is already being searched when he arrives, by Special Agent Fahey, who’s usually a desk jockey. Reese immediately produces his stolen Marshall’s badge.

The storm’s getting worse. A disparate group of stragglers, some residents, some visitors, are stranded. Everyone takes refuge in the Police Station, echoing Key Largo. Finch flies in, having developed a theory. Rollings is dead, reduced to ashes in a basement furnace. The Numbers are linked by the absence of any photos of them, the minimal or non-existent digital profile. They are victims, of a digitally erased killer, who doesn’t just kill but who assumes the identity of his victim and lives their life for them, until he gets bored and moves on.

In retrospect, the killer is obvious, and should have been obvious to anyone who knows PoI: who would make the biggest twist? I didn’t need advanced analysis, I remembered the episode from before: it’s Agent Fahey.

Finch works this out whilst John is elsewhere, inadvertently disrupting a marijuana shipping. ‘Fahey’ intends to kill Harold Gull and assume his life (boy is he going to have trouble detecting that digital footprint). Before that, ‘Fahey’ treats us to what might charitably be called his philosophy, but which Harold calls his deluded ravings. ‘Fahey’ sees himself as superior to his victims. He watches them closely, absorbs the details of their lives, so that when he’s ready to kill them, and make them physically disappear entirely, he steps into their shoes and lives that life and, do you know what?, he’s better at it than they are. He lives their lives to a fuller extent than they did or could, because he’s just better at being everything. One day, he’ll find the life that is perfect, and he’ll stop.

Which gives Finch the cue to tear down such pretensions by pointing out that ‘Fahey’ could never be him because Finch saves lives and ‘Fahey’ ends them. And ‘Fahey’ will never stop, because people like him don’t, they don’t kill for some pretentious, elevated cause, they kill because they like it, and for no other reason.

That diatribe gets ‘Fahey’ to raise his gun, at which point we expect, and get, the trademark PoI saving shot from offscreen, Carter into ‘Fahey’s back. Only, as Finch realises, too late, ‘Fahey’ is wearing body armour… But don’t worry. It’s a double-bluff, another offscreen shot, this time from Detective Beecher, who’s come to the island with Carter, despite her resistance to seeing him. Their story is not yet done. Not until the middle of next season.

But there’s a coda. Day dawns, the storm clears, the island can be evacuated, all the symbols in place for emergence from the Long Dark Night of the Soul. The Machine fed our heroes the Numbers for the victims because there was no number for the perpetrator. All very clever. But it was silent for three days. Finch fears what’s coming. It’s nearly five months since Reese and Snow, under Kara Stanton’s coercion, fed that virus into the Government network. Is it coming active?

There aree five episodes left in this season to find out. Person of Interest has fed us a fascinating thriller, again, and kept its enlarging background in the background, for a while longer. We wait. We shall see.

Saturday SkandiKrime: Darkness: Those Who Kill episodes 3 & 4


The awkward couple

It didn’t even take half the first episode this week to have it confirmed that this story is going to be stretched out way beyond its meagre ability to entertain, and it only took the self-same episode to stablish that Those Who Kill is not going to offer us anything original in tems of developing its sordid little tale.

This latter moment was brought to us by Emma, the newly-taken of Anders Kjelvard’s two little-blonde-girl prisoners in the fortified basement of Avis lady Stine’s house. Julie, who has been prisoner six months, is broken, unable to fight or resist or hope, convinced that Emma’s arrival means her time is up. In this, she is correct.

But Emma still has spirit. She frees a length of piping from the supply to the washing machine and, when Anders comes to take Julie, she cracks him over the head with it and, when he goes down, does so a second time. He’s helpless, dazed, semi-concious at best. My God, when will someone, anyone, take this as a cue to beat his fucking brains out? Smash his skull to pulp, make sure he doesn’t get up ever again. You know, incapacitate him.

Oh no, two whacks, just daze him and then run up the stairs to the locked door by which you are trapped and here he is. Emma gets her head punched, Julie gets her finger cut off and her body wrapped in plastic, though only the red smear on the plastic alerts you to the finger thing.

That’s arrived in the story courtesy of Louise, our lovely psychologist, suggesting the files be combed (in Sweden tooo) for connectable cases. So it’s off to the country of Saga Noren, Landskrim, Malmo (who is dearly needed to give this dull tosh some life) to a dead body with a missing finger and a wierd mix of matching and non-matching M.O. characteristics.

Thrown in a rift between our lead investigator and our psychologist, because the latter thoughtlessly psychologises the former over his foul-mouthed and ignorant ill temper at learning his ex-, Annemarie, is not gravitating back to him but has, for the last four months, been gravitating towards the loins of Danny (who’s he, and does it matter?).

Throw it out, conveniently on the way to a lead that uncovers three bodies, all nine-fingered, dumped in a slurry tank by dear sweet Anders. Have Anders turn up with Julie’s body, realise his plans are up the slurry, add in a short car chase in which Jan the Man is too easily thrown off after reading only seven characters off Anders’ number-plate, and I’m left with nothing. It’stoo feeble even to snark. Where are the Salamanders of this world?

But that still left episode 4? Might that have more meat on its bones, and might that meat be tasty, or at least stringy enough to go after heartily?

We began the second part with a micro-flashback to a girl walking along a deserted road, rejecting the offer of a lift on a biike then accepting it second time. He’s Anders, she’s Stine.Later on, the now isolatedEmma gets Stine to talk to her, to admit she’s a victim of Anders too, taken into the woods a virgin, raped, afraid for her life, undr his thumb. But Emma’s talk of God persuades Stine to release her, taken far away, blindfolded, in the trunk of her car. Hold that though.

Jans, aka tall, dark, gloomy and a miserable shit on top of that, in driving around aimlessly, looking for the car he lost last night and being pretty bloody. When Louise suggests there are better ways of using their time, he throws her out at a bus stop (nothing due for hours) and tells her to fuck off. Then his colleagues report finding the car in a gravel pit. The dead Julie is in the trunk. The pathologist places time of death between five and seven. When Jan chased the car at three a.m., Julie was still alive.

That’s a pretty devastating blow, though with one-note Jan it’s hard to tell, except by his resigning from the Police, driving to the former marital home and starting work on the bathrroom. Of course Annemarie will welcome him back and it’ll all go back to normal, like it was before. Clue: no it won’t.

It’s a dumb move, mere padding for the story as this whole subplot clearly is, and padding with a hole in it that an entire water tank could slide through, since the only person he tells he’s resigned to is Louise, you know, the useless psychologist he treats with utter contempt.

It needs to be Louise for the scene where she spots that Julie is wearing Emma’s other earring, thus drawing him back, but it’s still a spot of crappy scriptwriter’s convenience.

There’s another hole in the plot too, and that’s about Julie. We saw her being wrapped in plastic at the end of episode 3, ring finger removed, and Anders was taking her to be dumped in the slurry pit, where he’s already dropped three bodies. Bodies, not live people. Julie died after this.

And our intrepid police band wind up episode 4 by determining that Anders is not working alone. He’s a sexual predator, turned on by absolute power. His accomplice is the killer, and ring finger souvenir-taker. And guess what? It’s Stine. Only the timelines don’t work for the twin modus operandi.

Halfway through, the show’s trying to be dead clever and only revealing itself to be dead stupid. At least, the way things are going, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Jan and Louise are going to shag next week. If we ask nicely, we may get away without it happening at all…

Lou Grant: s02 e17 – Samaritan


This was a vastly better episode than the previous week, even despite the slightly trite ending. The subject this week was serial killers (though the term wasn’t used, this being before its public coining), but the idea was merely the underpinning of a well-written episode that avoided melodrama and sensation and let the effect of such a character play out through not only the Trib, but the general LA public.

It began with a letter bing written, that arrives at the City Desk. Lou thinks it’s a hoot but Donovan recognises it as the work of Samaritan, a serial killer active for six months, five years previously, who disappeared abruptly. Samaritan’s motif was to offer aid to stranded motorists or hitch-hikers, and then kill them.

The letter’s taken very seriously. There’s much debate about printing it, though the paper goes for not stirring matters up again for a mere letter. This decision is primarily Lou’s, though he’s supported by Jim McCrea (guest star Ben Piazza), the reporter who covered the Samaritan storry, who’s the paper’s expert.

That’s until theTrib’s star columnist, Jack Towne (guest star Richard B. Shull), blows the story in an overwritten, insensitive ‘personal appeal’ to Samaritan to give himself up, to Towne. This echoed the real-life Son of Sam case  in New York, a couple of years previously, and the involvement of columnist Jimmy Breslin.

Towne’s unrepentent of the damage he’s caused, the fear, the tension, the paranoia. One guy, stopping to help a stranded motorist, gets blasted by a shotgun.

The story escalates, as does the efforts to track down any clue. Jim McCrea is back in the swing of things. Jack Towne walks around smugly, with a near permanent paranoia. A guy walks into a Police Station to confess, but he’s not Samaritan, merely some poor schlub obseesed with confessing.

I liked the  way the episode, without even a single xplicit word, teased us with the idea that Samaration could have been McCrea himself, or possibly Lt. Bergen, the Homicide detective handling the case, who retired only a couple of months after Samaritan stopped, without explanation. Nothing was said to point the finger, just the facts combining to leave the possibility in the air.

Everythingwas moviing along. I was mentally preparing myself for some kind of non-ending, which I think may have been the better option, but the programme wanted some form of closure. Everybody’s accepted the letters as genuine, but Rossi tracks Bergen down and he takes one look and pronounces them fake. Samaritan’s letters always include a Bible quote, from Luke, chapter 10. Samaritan always used a King James Bible: the new letters use a modern language version.

So they’re fakes. So, who’s writing them? Here, the episode dipped from it’s high level of sustained quality. Lou has a wild hunch that tuns out to be true. It’s Jim McCrea, missing the excitement, the drama of the Samaritan era, the spotlight of his involvement, and trying to get that back by conjuring Samaritan up again.

It’s an ending. I found it a bit banal, but in all fairness, in 1978 it would have come as more of a shock. It even produces a good, sensitive column from Jack Towne, which is used to give the episode a melancholy pay-off, a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God flavour.

But this was still a strong episode, because it used its subject to create a genuinely strong story, rather than a didactic exposure of a subject-for-concern. More of these and less of last week’s episode, please!