Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gemini Man Episode 4 - Night Train to Dallas

Originally aired on October 14, 1976
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Written by Steven E. de Souza

Dr. Arthur Friedman, a very important scientist who is up to the sort of very important stuff that scientists in shows like this are always up to, dies. No one can find notes on his work. But, he had a research assistant who is also an Olympic-level swimmer. And she has a photographic memory. Her name is Amy Nichols. So, the good guys and the bad guys go after her. (As with the previous episode, the "bad guys" are a little vague. They're definitely not Russian. Maybe they're just a Conglomeration of Jerks from previous cop/ adventure TV shows?) Sam Casey is our rep on the side of good! As he should be. Amy is on her way to the Pan American games in Dallas with the rest of her swim team. Everyone converges on a Night Train to Dallas...  plus there's a dog named Lucky and an elderly blind woman.

 Watching Amy: You can tell that Sam is about to smile.
He may be a perv but he's an All-American perv.

Gemini Man stays strong for its fourth episode. I think it's actually a step above the previous ones. Yes, there is very little Leonard and Abby, which I don't fully cotton to. But, this one has action, excitement, some comedy, nasty bad guys and a few twists. Sam begins his attempts to bring Amy into Intersect by going to her school, Santa Laura College, during training. Sam has to encounter the very protective football team, average age 32. And then he tries to convince Amy but she won't go. Even Sam's hunky charms don't work. So, we head for the night train.

 The football team or 30-year-old bodyguards? You decide.

Sam Casey, Pool Maintenance!

The Best of All Sam's Possible Faces

Yes, Sam does wander into the private car filled with young ladies and gets hit with pillows and carried out. Yes, Sam gets a sidekick in the form of the very smart dog Lucky. No, Lucky is not annoying. He's a cool dog. (Although, Lucky doesn't seem to get returned to his owner in the end. Maybe it was a set up for Gemini Dog?) Yes, Sam does sneak through the gal's car invisibly. And, gals do peek out from their berths with confused looks. There are fistfights and chases and Sam gets drugged and thrown under the train. It's all standard fare for a show like this but done well. Two things distinguish it and put just a notch above everyone else:

 Is that Lucky?

 No! There he is!

1) Mrs. Price, the elderly blind woman. The one person in the series who can't tell when Sam is invisible. She sits at a table in the Club Car reading Agatha Christie novels. After Sam tries and fails to convince Amy to come with him, Sam has a lovely chat with her. Mrs. Price travels on trains because she finds them relaxing. She also loves the possibility of intrigue on a train. She touches Sam's face to gauge his features. (She does not say "Hey! You're Ben Murphy!") It's a very nice scene. Now, this is all set up for her to save Sam when he gets thrown under the train. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a lovely, well-written, charming scene. A scene that becomes even stronger because it's in the midst of a very dangerous situation.

 Mrs. Price in a really great, atypical, scene

I know. It's a shot of nothing under a train...

 Fooled you! Mrs. Price found Invisible Sam!

2) The climax. This episode amends the Invisibility Rules of the pilot movie. In the movie, Sam cannot remain invisible for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour cycle or else he will fade away forever. In Night Train to Dallas, there is an addition: He turns the DNA Stabilizer off to become invisible. At the 15-minute mark, a fail-safe kicks in. The Stabilizer automatically turns on and Sam becomes visible, rather than fading away. If he removes it (or presumably turns it off again), he will go invisible forever. The fail-safe seems like a good idea to me. Well done, Abby! But, it does mean that if Sam hits 15 minutes, no matter what he's doing, he turns visible. So...

Why not let your babies grow up to be cowboys?

The implication throughout the episode is that if the bad guys catch Amy they will do whatever they have to do to extract the info. At the very end, Sam is on a hill on a horse with Lucky by his side. The three bad guys are fixing their jeep at the bottom of the hill. Amy is with them. Now, once that car is fixed, they are gone. Amy will probably be tortured and killed. Sam announces to Lucky and the horse that he has 18 seconds of invisibility left. So, very heroically, he turns invisible and takes the horse down the hill. It's very exciting. The thought that if he fails, she's dead, makes it incredibly tense because we like her. The invisibility is used to save the day. Well done.

 Alias Sam and Lucky!

 Invisible Sam to the Rescue!
16 Seconds Remain...

Although, I did miss the thought that if there was no fail-safe in place, it would be even more exciting. Sam riding into danger knowing he'll become visible shortly is tense. Sam riding into danger not knowing if he'll, in 18 seconds, be invisible forever is pants-wettingly exciting. But, both ways work.*

Amy! Lucky! Sam!
They're a fun team

Night Train to Dallas is great. It's a well-written, well-directed, well-acted adventure set mostly on a train. I'm so very glad someone decided to do this episode. I like to think that this is the same train that Laverne & Shirley rode on in the Murder on the Moose Jaw Express  2-parter. That train gets a lot of action! Four episodes and a TV movie in, Gemini Man remains a quality show. What could go wrong?

 Oh, and Kim Basinger...

*One odd thing about the 18-second scene: When Sam becomes visible again, he can be seen adjusting the DNA stabilizer. I can't imagine that he has to adjust it to activate the fail-safe. So, he must have accomplished the rescue in under 18 seconds. Wow. Sam is cool.

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