Review: Inside Man

by Kitty

Inside Man has to be the worst ep TS has done to date. I can't decide whether this is a good sign or not. If every show has to have a single worst ep, this one is definitely the Spock's Brain of the series so far, so I'm glad they've gotten it out of their system and now we can get on with more of the usual quality secure in the knowledge it can't get any worse. On the other hand, this demonstrates how bad they are capable of getting, so I am not reassured they will handle the upcoming staff BOTW and "romantic triangle" well at all. Not if they buy any more scripts from these guys who apparently heard one or two things about the show and cruised the fan club site for the basic character bios, but have never actually seen an episode. True, it could have been worse. Hey, Blair ended the ep with both his own kidneys intact, so it could definitely be worse. But I will say this one was bad enough I couldn't bring myself to watch it a second time to look for details, so the review is going to be comparatively sketchy. On with the show....

We open at the wharf, tracking Dominic Lazar, an old mob family head, and his grandson Edward as they walk along. Dominic is discoursing on the joys of being a fisherman, although if it's such a wonderful life you have to wonder why he went into organized crime as a preferred alternative. They're being monitored from a surveillance van by Jim, Blair, and Frank the Fed, and it's from the dialog in the van we find out the usual history on the family, the kid's dad having been offed, how they can't get a man in close enough to do them any good in making a bust, etc.. Blair notes that the kid and the goombah seem to have a good relationship, and when Michelle, Edward's mother, shows up, he makes the predictable hormonal noises. But the day is a wash, Dominic's limo pulls up to take him home, so the surveillance team calls it quits and breaks up. Everybody knows there wouldn't be any point in following the guy once he leaves his kid and heads off on his own.

It's raining, Jim puts up an umbrella and he and Blair stroll off. Blair is wearing what has to be the ugliest striped suit jacket I've ever seen, and once they get outside you start to notice this is another of those sepia-toned episodes where everything is so browned out you can't even tell what color Jim's eyes are. Hazel, maybe. So much for visual stimulation making up for the boring story. Blair asks why Jim is so intent on this case and Jim tells him to ask someday about Jimmy Finetti, so Blair immediately does. Jim gives him the amused smile and says, "I said someday" before deciding to stroll around a bit on his own, leaving Blair standing in the rain blinking after him.

The first place Jim hits is a vendor with a cart selling snacks, and while he's scoping out the munchies, he hears a cable starting to snap. He looks up and sees it unraveling, naturally it's holding a load of Heavy Stuff right above where Edward has wandered off to, so Jim dashes frantically through the crowds and pulls the kid out of the way of the falling object just in time. Michelle sashays up, makes grateful noises at him for being a hero, and offers to take him to dinner as a reward. Jim is reluctant at first, apparently not wanting to get close enough to compromise the investigation, and doesn't give her his full name, but ends up accepting anyway. Near as I can tell, mainly because it would have made more of a scene to keep arguing with her if he refused than to go and get it over with.

At the fancy restaurant, they're making small talk when Dominic walks up to thank Jim for saving Edward. Jim puts on an act about needing some additional work and being willing to do shady stuff, which Dominic decides to take under advisement after seeing his references. Once Dominic's gone, Jim gives Michelle a line about being an ex-con and we fade out on what looks to have been a pretty business-like lunch.

Back at the station, Simon is chewing Jim out for taking the initiative and worming his way into the acquaintance of the family. Obviously he never watched WISEGUY and has no idea how these things work. Frank the Fed supports Jim's decision, pointing out they have nothing else and no way to get closer so what the hey, this is the best shot they have. It's never entirely clear why they're pursuing Dominic, unless it's because he's a Mob Guy and that's the Fed's personal calling. Simon asks if maybe Jim is going for this because of Jimmy Finetti, which makes Jim go cold with denial. After specifying the sort of stuff he wants on his record for his persona, Jim stalks off, Blair in tow.

Trailing after him, Blair demands to know what that name means, so Jim explains Jimmy was a cop who tried to infiltrate the Lazar family and disappeared. You don't get the feeling Jim was real close with the guy so it doesn't make much sense as a motivation, but I guess we're supposed to add it to the collective Dead Friends angst Jim is carrying around. At his desk, Jim divests himself of his cop stuff, leaving everything including his wallet behind, while Blair natters on about having always wanted to study a closed crime family social group, which Jim sees right through and tells him to forget it, he's not getting to go along on this one. In what has already become the pattern for their interactions in this ep, Jim leaves and Blair blinks at his retreating back.

Jim drives over to the Lazar estate and as soon as he disembarks from his truck, (his very own truck, mind you, complete with his very own license plates) Thug One (TO) mashes Jim's face back against the truck and proceeds to search him. Jim objects that he was expected and then that he doesn't like people handling him, and when this fails to impress TO, Jim lashes out, takes him down, and pins him. A new BOTW arrives on the scene and introduces herself as Erica, Dominic's daughter, and informs Jim his references passed muster and he is now assigned as Edward's personal, full time bodyguard. They head toward the house and we cut to a freight truck somewhere in the city where a couple asian guys are opening a crate, pulling out a large automatic weapon, and looking over a photograph of Dominic and what I thought was Erica, which they burn as we fade out. The cell phone company sponsoring the show didn't get their money's worth this time, I don't think anybody made any cell calls through the whole thing.

Return to a park where a gang of kids is holding a football game and Jim is walking along with Edward, talking about how the best times he ever had growing up were playing sports with his friends. When Edward still isn't interested in joining the game, Jim says he understands fear too, he was scared a lot as a kid, and this appears to be enough reassurance to send Edward on into the game. Michelle comes along and freaks that her son is being allowed to be in such danger, but Jim talks her into letting the kid play, then gives Edward a lesson in sportsmanship and respect, generally proving he would make a great parent. There doesn't appear to be any other point to the scene at all.

Cut to the estate, where Erica is giving Dominic a shot and we learn he is dying of some unnamed illness. The point of this scene is to establish that Erica thinks she can handle the family business but Dominic thinks she would do more good for him by getting married and having a grandson for him, so she can forget ever getting close to being in charge of anything. It's late enough when this occurs that as he sends her out of the room and takes a phone call, Jim is back from the park and skulking about, and overhears part of the conversation in which Dominic agrees to provide safe conduct for somebody who will be arriving. It apparently doesn't occur to Jim to try to listen to the other side of the call and find out any more. You start to wonder why this story is being passed off as a Sentinel episode.

On to the dinner scene. The usual mafia family tensions, ho hum. Michelle wants to put Edward in a regular school because tutors are hard to come by, and Dominic refuses because the kid ought to be with family and kept safe. They bring up Vincent, the dead son/husband/father, quibble over whether a car bomb counts as a accidental death, and Michelle tries a power struggle with Dominic when she decides to leave the table and demands the kid go with her. He ends up refusing and staying on with Dominic, but you don't get the feeling it was any great struggle to come to that decision either. The only other major item of conversation before closing out the scene is Dominic enthusing about the bottled water he's had brought all they way in from the old country, as he pours a glass for Jim.

Later on, Jim wanders around outside by the pool and finds Michelle moping about. She whines about losing her son and Jim reassures her with the usual platitudes about identity crises and allowing freedom, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, in the library Dominic and Edward are settling in for a video game. Back to the poolside heart-to-heart, which has some very nice guitar music in the background which I found highly reminiscent of the moody piece backing that great gas station scene in MIAMI VICE's "Evan." Jim is leaning toward blowing his cover, and tells Michelle there is a way out for her and her son, but as he's about to explain what he means, he hears some bad guys sneaking up and the asians pop out of the underbrush and attack, spraying the place with bullets. Michelle beats feet out of there and Jim draws, intending to defend himself and the two in the library behind him, when his vision goes all wonky. It's blurry and he's dizzy, losing his balance, can't focus, and barely avoids getting shot himself. The asians have the place pretty well riddled with holes when they're taken out by Erica from an upstairs balcony, who then gives Jim a mysterious look before vanishing back inside.

Dominic and Edward had taken cover under the big desk and are OK, but Michelle flies in and makes a scene about wanting to remove the kid and run for it. Dominic refuses and after finding out it was Erica rather than Jim who took out the attackers, stomps off vowing vengeance. Jim goes to check on Edward and is met at the door by Michelle, he offers again to get her out of her situation but doesn't say how, and then for no apparent reason leans forward and kisses her before leaving. There's a little more feeling to it than plain old reassurance of a frightened helpless person, but not a hell of a lot more.

Back at the station, apparently later that same night, Jim reports on his progress to Simon and they discuss mob politics and what the visitors Jim overheard the arrangements for mean. Jim tells about the vertigo attack he had, which worries Blair, who demands to be let in so he can monitor this and figure it out. Simon refuses.

Cut to the requisite Bare Chested Jim scene of the evening, he's wandering around the apartment over the shed at the estate where he's supposed to be staying while working for the Lazars. There's a knock on the door and it's Michelle with a request to be with him, and he drags her inside quickly, though from the expression on his face I thought it was more out of not wanting to be seen with her than out of any great unstoppable desire. Apparently they never did manage to get any real chemistry going on the set because we are spared the usual flailing about between the sheets, the scene cuts directly to the sun coming up the next morning and highlighting Jim's pecs as he stands by the window. He wanders over to the bed where she's still snoring, and they exchange some "I knew what I was doing and I don't regret it either" dialog while he smooches on her a bit more. It's all very sweet and tender, but totally passionless. Apparently they didn't do much talking during the night, he's still being vaguely reassuring about knowing a way out although "this complicates things." Well, duh, Jim, could you possibly have done anything more unprofessional? This scene is relieved only by the commercial break, watch for the highly amusing Visa ad. You're gonna need all the cheering up you can get to make it through the rest of this thing.

Outside, Edward is sulking, though there isn't any way to tell whether it's because of things in general or because he knows where Mom spent the night. Jim tries real hard to act normal but there's an embarrassed awkwardness to the way he talks that allowed me to hope he feels some twinges about what's going on. He tells Edward a new tutor is coming, it's a friend and to cut him some slack, cue Blair's entrance in his geek outfit. The kid immediately pegs him as a dweeb and bugs out. Jim hands over a list of "everything" he was in contact with, though from his grimacing and snurfling around you know he didn't put Michelle's douche on the list and isn't about to admit the possibility, but feels guilty about lying to Blair about how complete the list is. Blair can tell something is up and jumps to the right conclusion pretty rapidly, but doesn't have enough info to really rag him on it and merely conveys the message that Jim should go meet Simon.

When he tries to leave, TO informs Jim he is not allowed to leave the property, and although Jim offers to drive slowly so as not to lose any tails, TO is not in a good mood and gets belligerent. Jim start having another vertigo attack just as TO gets nasty, so he's not doing well at all in the ensuing fisticuffs. Blair comes dashing around the corner of the building, presumably to rescue Jim, but Jim recovers in time to subdue TO on his own and then declares he is fit to drive and leaves. Yup, Blair gets to stare after him.

Jim meets Simon and Frank on a suburban street somewhere and they all pile into Simon's car and act like they're holding a secure, secret meeting. Frank has pictures showing Erica buying the asian hit on Dominic, and Simon decides it's gotten too dicey and wants to pull Jim out. Jim refuses, Simon guesses why (maybe this is why Jim doesn't mess around more often, everybody in the city immediately knows exactly what he's been up to) and Jim's sole defense of his action is "It happened." Now there's a new, deeply valid reasoning I hadn't considered, and so completely in character too. Simon growls, "I hope she's worth it" but the reaction shot on Jim doesn't make it look like he thinks it is. He doesn't even make the token protest about it, just looks sheepishly defiant and heads back to the estate.

Once there, he finds a major catered party starting up. Limos are arriving and Erica is cheesed off, she reads Jim the riot act for leaving against orders and banishes him under guard to his apartment over the storage shed. Blair's already incarcerated there, but has at least figured out what is causing the weird vertigo attacks. He explains it's the specially imported water which has a magnesium alloy in it from the source that might cause normal people to feel a bit high but is enough to throw Jim's senses totally. Now, call me a stickler for technical detail, but I have never in my life heard of a magnesium alloy which causes such a symptom in dosages under the acutely toxic, and I quite certainly am not familiar with any bottled water which is intoxicating. Oh, gee, must be that special Italian bottled water, the rules are so different over there, you know. This may not seem like such a major point in an episode so full of disappointment, but the sheer idiocy of the assertion strikes me as representative of the entire script's disregard for the intellect of the viewers. I was disgusted before, this pissed me off.

Jim stands at the window and provides a running commentary on the identity of the arriving crime syndicate guys. Jim wants to spy on the bad guys holding the big summit meeting. His Guide is standing beside him. Does he try using his vision or hearing and monitoring the meeting from where he has a good vantage point? No, they tear up the floor with a poker so he can escape down into the shed and go sneaking about in order to peer directly in the window. Presumably the reason he didn't kick down the door to the apartment was that Erica had left a thug on guard, but how he knew the guard wouldn't wonder what all the banging and ripping was as they took up the floor, I don't know. And, having ripped up an interior floor recently myself, I am also qualified to creeb that they didn't even get that right - there was no subfloor, only planks nailed to rafters. And as you'd expect by this point, Blair watches him leave through the hole in the floor.

So anyway, Jim's squatting in the rhododendrons, making nose prints on the window as we discover that Vincent, Michelle's husband, was not dead after all. He was merely playing dead for a year in order to set up this great big consolidation meeting, the actual purpose of which is never disclosed beyond hints that a Great New Crime Order is in the offing. Erica is pretty blown away, seems the only person who knew Vincent was still alive was Dominic, and she's as mad about this blowing any last hope she had for inheriting the leadership as she is about not being let in on it. Jim apparently decides finding out what the world's greatest collection of crime lords is up to is not as important as blowing his cover to Michelle, so he skulks away to find her and tell her she has to leave now. She decides to trust him and go for it and is directing Edward to start packing when Erica, Dominic, and Vincent all barge in through the door.

Edward can't wait to spill Jim's identity and the fact Mom has decided to run off with him, and Vincent takes it rather badly. He whacks her one and when Jim moves to defend her, he gets held down by a couple spare thugs and slugged a few times. Vincent orders Jim returned to his room and hauls Michelle off, locking her in the pool house. Like, on a mob guy's estate there isn't somewhere more secure than the pool house? Edward watches this and looks as blankly sullen about it as he has about everything else that's gone on so far. With so many speaking guest roles I guess they couldn't afford to get a kid with any acting talent at all.

Back up in the room, Jim and Blair are sitting on the couch and Dominic is interrogating Jim. Blair looks mildly worried though this sequence but does not have another word to say for the remainder of the ep. I'm pretty sure GM is darn glad he's not paid by the word since this episode would barely have been worth phoning in. Anyway, Jim explains who he is and that Blair is just a friend helping him out, as if he expects this will make the bad guys just pat Blair on the back and set him free. Dominic decides he'll have to kill them both, it being something he knows he can get away with because after all, they got away with killing that Fanetti cop guy a while back. This would have provided some angst if we'd ever been given an impression Jim had some emotional connection to the guy beyond the fellow cop loyalty thing.

Vincent returns with Edward in tow, the idea being to give the kid a real taste of what the family business is about by having him watch the execution. Finally getting a little involved in what's going on, Jim stands up and blows in Erica for arranging the asian attempted hit, and it turns out she wasn't trying for Dominic after all, she wanted Edward dead so she'd be the only remaining choice for next in line to take over when Dominic dies of natural causes in the near future. There's a lot of vituperative family stuff yelled back and forth and finally Vincent shoots her. While Dominic is reacting and being all shocked and surprised, Jim attacks Vincent and the gun goes flying. While the two guys are rolling around on the ground, Edward gets the gun. I'm not sure where the hell Blair was during all this, probably still sitting on the sofa reading a magazine.

Another power struggle ensues as Vincent urges Edward to shoot Jim, and Jim tells the kid not to do it. The supposed suspense goes on well past the point where I lost interest in the proceedings, and by the time Edward is handing the gun over to Jim it was less than surprising Vincent was able to knock it out of their grip and make a run for it. Jim scoops up the gun, tosses it to Blair to hold on Dominic and what remains of Erica, and Blair watches as Jim dashes out the door. Aha, you think to yourself, now we have the Exciting Chase Scene of the week, perhaps this isn't a total loss after all. Alas, not even that relieves the tedium. Once Jim has rocketed around the corner of the house heading for the pool and you're wondering what new vehicle they will find to go speeding about the landscape on, Vincent pulls Michelle from the pool house and hides behind her. We get Hostage Stand Off Standard Dialog Exchange #2, Michelle does a judo number and frees herself, and Jim tackles Vincent so they can wrestle in the pool for a while. Yawn. It's not even filmed so you can have any worry about one or the other of them drowning.

The cavalry arrives about this point, having had the place under surveillance all along and, apparently presuming that any collection of crime lords in suits is worth busting, probable cause or not, they come haring up with bullhorns and kevlar to mop up the non-excitement. Jim wins his pool wrestling match, hauls Vincent out of the water and hands him off to be taken away, and Simon congratulates himself on what a great advance they have made in crime fighting here. Jim wanders off, draped in his blanket, and finds Michelle, where he says he's sorry to hear she's moving. Exactly when or how he found this out we don't know, and by this time such a minor quibble isn't enough to arouse my curiosity. They exchange a desultory goodbye kiss that left me with the impression they were as bored by the whole thing as I was, and she takes off leaving us with a relatively nice fade on Jim looking wistful. I think he was missing the good old days of consistent characterization and a definable motive for his actions.

I give this one a rating of 2, mainly because Jim has a better chest than anyone on Gilligan's Island and we get some nice lighting on it. But if you always had a sneaking fondness for one ep where Gilligan and the Skipper did some cute bonding stuff and the Professor had a couple good lines and his hair was really nice, well, I wouldn't tell you to pass it up in order to see this episode of TS. The most enjoyable 30 seconds I had during the hour of watching it was that hilarious Visa ad in the third commercial break. Let it be known, therefore, that henceforth Kitty rejects this episode from inclusion in canon and will greet any mention of it with a blank stare. I only hope I can manage to genuinely forget it as thoroughly as I intend to pretend I have.