Season 2 Episode 5

A Single Blade of Grass

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Oct 24, 1997 on FOX
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Episode Summary

A Single Blade of Grass
When a Manhattan construction site unearths a body of a Native American man, Frank is called in because it seems he was slaughtered in an apocalyptic ancient ritual. At the site Frank learns more about the Indian culture and he begins to unearth many strange prophecies involving the resurrection of Indian men and the destruction of the white man from the west. Frank also begins to learn a little more about his visions.


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Amy Steel

Amy Steel

Dr. Liz Michaels

Guest Star

Garry Chalk

Garry Chalk

Richard Powell

Guest Star

Doug Abrahams

Doug Abrahams

Sgt. Manny Walters

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Perhaps more a nitpick, at one point in the episode, Frank performs CPR briefly on a construction site owner, then stops CPR and declares him dead. All first aid procedure aside (once you begin CPR, you are not supposed to stop until a medical professional declares the recipient dead), as the camera pulls back it is very, very clear that the corpse is still breathing.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • Michaels: The prophecy. It came true.
      Frank: Part of it, but not the part they really want, I guess. I wonder what's out there that's been said that will one day come true. Will it be part of what we really want?

    • Frank: The buffalo will return here.
      Joe: When? Tell us when?
      Frank: The prophecy has been fulfilled. You're just to blind to see it.
      Joe: No.

    • Joe: Once you join Daniel in the spirit world. The circle will be complete.
      Frank: I'm not the white brother. Killing me won't bring you paradise on earth.
      Joe: You are honored. You have been chosen to deliver the prophecy from the ancestors in the other world. You will tell us what to do. You... the single blade of grass.
      Frank: You invented this apocalypse. You created it. This ritual out of old prophecy that never came true. These interpretations are out of your own desperation. It's what you wish it to be. You're seeing what you want it to be, Joe. The grass will not grow over the white man.

    • Old Indian: (Voice over) Long ago, there were two brothers. One red. The other white. The Great Spirit gave them a stone tablet with a sign of the circle upon it. Each took half of the tablet. Half the circle. The white brother went west to develop the power of reason. The red brother stayed behind to develop the power of spirit. When Bahana the last white brother returns. He will bring together both halves of the circle. Spirit and reason will become one and at last we will have a paradise on earth.

    • Frank: This is the head of the Iroquois' false face. It's identical to the one found on the body of Daniel Olivaw.
      Michaels: Red half symbolizes the east. The black half, the west. And the mask represents half human bodies with the power to walk between the real and spirit worlds.
      Frank: Half human.
      Michaels: Well not literally. It's...
      Frank: Whoever dismembered Daniel Olivaw's body took it literally. Daniel was buried with a mask that represents the ability to contact the dead.
      Michaels: I believe the symbol may belong to a lost tribe of the Iroquois. See when the Seneca were put on the first reservation back in the 1790s, the bond between the five Iroquois tribes was severed. The other tribes ended up on reservations with the exception of this one. Which apparently... died out.
      Frank: ...Or scattered. The symbols left at the murder scene were from different tribes. What if the members of the lost tribe hid themselves among other tribes? And they were so successful that the white man completely overlooked their existence. Daniel was a Mohawk. The others were Hopi, Cheyenne, Navaho. But in the beginning their place was here. They've been hiding for centuries. Until a prophecy told them to reunite. Through separation and time the original prophecies have been lost or forgotten. The men who killed Daniel Olivaw, have been taking from other tribes and filling in the blanks.
      Michaels: You see the carvings tell a story. The grass will grow over the white man. The ancestors will be resurrected. And the buffalo will return. Ah... that's Ghost Dance. At the end of the last century, Wovoka told the Indians to dance the Ghost Dance and the white man would be eradicated. Only it was the Indians who were massacred at Wounded Knee.
      Frank: A prophecy. This is a blueprint for another culture's apocalypse.
      Michaels: No. No... you can't believe that this is just symbolic. Like the Book of Revelation or any other religious apocrypha.
      Frank: The Book of Revelation may be portrayed allegorically, but the overarching idea of the apocalypse is real. Everything starts with one blade of grass. These events to them are coming true. You said that this images prophesies the destruction of the earth and the return of the ancestors. Well that's already happened. When Powell's men unearthed the grave site.
      Michaels: This symbol represents a messenger.
      Frank: The murder victim Daniel was sent to the west. To the land of the dead to speak with his ancestors.
      Michaels: That could be. I'm still not sure what this lower figure is suppose to mean.
      Frank: It's me. Daniel was sent to the west. I came from the west. They think I came here because I was summoned. My death, my reunion with Daniel, will open a door to the east.
      Michaels: Frank. People have researched this. I have studied myths ever since I can remember and I don't understand all this.
      Frank: I see it Liz. That other plane. How you wished it were true. How you wanted it to be there. When I'm here touching this earth, I sense it. I'm in that plane. I can't call it up. I can't control it. I can't understand it. I have an ability. That I thought I lost. I was told that it would change in ways I wouldn't understand. Its happening now. A door opens in the west. A rough hewn building.
      Michaels: That's an Iroquois longhouse.
      Frank: Yeah... huh... Crows, fly in.
      Michaels: That could be the... the dead ancestors returning.
      Frank: A coyote turns and he looks at me.
      Michaels: He's a contradictory creature. He... he manages to be both the trickster and, in the southwest tradition, uh a creator of the universe.
      Frank: I see myself walking on a road and then I fall down to the earth.
      Michaels: That could be the spirit road.
      Frank: This represents heaven.
      Michaels: Yeah.
      Frank: Phases of the moon.
      Michaels: What? I...
      Frank: Full moon. First quarter moon. New Moon. Third quarter moon.
      Michaels: I don't understand... what?
      Frank: Its a calendar telling them when to act.

    • Joe: Is he dead?
      Frank: Yeah he's dead.
      Joe: It always starts this way. A single blade of grass.

    • Frank: They wanted Daniel's body to be found. Reynard wanted the bones removed to continue their prophecy.
      Powell: Prophecy?
      Frank: Yes, prophecy.
      Powell: Yesterday. They're all on the warpath! Today, that what they want. I don't know what your game is mister, but I have done my bit! I followed the rules!
      Michaels: You followed your own rules.
      Powell: Oh. My heart bleeds for you lady. You know something. You're as bad as me. I mean you're digging 'em up too. And don't tell me you have a right to...
      Michaels: I have a responsibility!
      Powell: To a bunch of science journals! To a group of people as far out in left field as that guy... No... No. My responsibility now is to make up all the time I lost in this! And I don't want to hear about it any more! You hear me?! I don't want to...
      Frank: You're gonna give yourself a coronary. Come on. Sit down.

    • Michaels: Um. Early researchers thought that the... the prayer stick was a kind of Indian rosary. The top and bottom represent Heaven and Hell and the symbols in between normally suggest specific prayers that the sticks owner might say. But, this one, it... its just different. Its... like a series of events that lead up to ultimate event.
      Frank: I keep seeing this symbol.
      Michaels: You've seen that before? Frank, I've never seen that before.
      Frank: Could this be a resurrection symbol? One would carry if he were sent to the other world. And, if this messenger was carrying one, Daniel Olivaw must have been carrying it too.

    • Michaels: You see now most of the stitching material just rotted away.
      Frank: From the marks here on the shoulder it looks as if this body underwent some of same post-mortem mutilation as Daniel Olivaw's body. The arms and legs removed and then reattached. Does this look like one of the South American sacrificial rituals?
      Michaels: Oh. Oh No. This is not a sacrifice. This is an attempt at resurrection.
      Frank: Resurrection?
      Michaels: Yeah. There is an ancient Seneca myth in which, uh, an attempt was made to revive a corpse by taking it apart and putting it back together again. Now it usually followed a unsuccessful attempt by the victim to reach and return from the spirit world.
      Frank: So, in order to converse with his ancestors. He would have to bring himself to the brink of death by ingesting poison, for instance. Instead of bringing back a message from his dead ancestors, he becomes one.
      Michaels: These people believed, and... and still do believe in, another plane of existence. People actually died from the heart squeeze. A myth in which a Seneca sorcerer committed murder by psychically squeezing a victim's heart.
      Frank: Victims of curses die from their own fears.
      Michaels: But they're still dead.
      Frank: Rituals may work, but not the way you expect.
      Michaels: You know everyone gets hysterical when Nostradamus appears to vaguely predict an earthquake. And our culture ignores the fact that the Hopi predicted the railroads. The arrival of long-horned cattle. The strip-mining of Hopi land. The Native Americans appeared to have access to an elevated plane, that... that no matter what I do or how much I think I understand I just can't get there. Do you believe in that plane? I mean do you, do you think that any of us could really get to it?

    • Frank: Joe Reynard. My name is Frank Black.
      Joe: Where you from? NYPD? FBI? Bureau of Indian Affairs?
      Frank: Seattle. You might want to bet, 'Don't Come'. Less risk.
      Joe: Shorter odds.
      Frank: Depends on your intentions.
      Joe: Why does anyone gamble? Because they believe they are sure of the outcome. That they have some control over it.
      Frank: Daniel Olivaw worked on your crew. Tell me about him.
      Joe: He worked hard. Showed up on time.
      Frank: That's it?
      Joe: He worked for me. We weren't married.
      Frank: Was he a religious man?
      Joe: And how would I know about that?
      Frank: Some Christians wear medals with patron saints on them or they put religious statues on the dashboards of their car.
      Joe: Even if he did anything like that, it wouldn't mean nothing to me. He was Mohawk and I'm Hopi. How Catholics many could tell you what goes on inside a Jewish Temple?
      Frank: Probably not many, but they would probably realize it's a religion.

    • Frank: Dr. Michaels, you might want to prepare yourself. This scene is very disturbing. Dr. Michaels, I know you're not a detective, but do you see anything on these walls that might explain why a man was buried at that construction site? For starters, can you explain the significance of any of these symbols?
      Michaels: I know most of them, yeah. They're from may different tribes. There, there's Mohawk, Seneca and the other Iroquois tribes. And, and Cherokee. Hopi. Navajo. Seminole. I mean there's even Comanche. You never see 'em jumbled up like this.
      Frank: It's been my understanding that North American tribes didn't practice sacrificial rituals. My grandmother's mother was Crow.
      Michaels: You're more likely to see sacrifice among the South American tribes. But that's not what this is, either. This is, this is a mishmash of various cultural symbols from half the tribes in the U.S. It's, it's... nonsense.
      Frank: Is there even an attempt at a common theme here?
      Michaels: Almost everything here represents communication with the spirit world.
      Frank: An apocrypha?
      Michaels: Okay, the, the cochina. The cochina is a Hopi figure that acts as an intermediary between the living and the dead. And, and this right here is... This symbol is an owl.
      Frank: The symbol of death.
      Michaels: Right. And in the Cree tradition the skeleton is a helping spirit.
      Frank: Like a guardian angel.
      Michaels: In Native American mythology we all have a helping spirit. I'm told mine's an ant.
      Walters: Why, you like to ruin picnics?
      Michaels: Some tribes believe the ants carry messages from our ancestors buried in the earth and that is what I do.

    • Walters: Whoa. The Mansons take Manhattan.

    • Walters: We didn't touch a thing. I was waitin' for you.
      Frank: Uh. Been dead about a week. The one over there's been dead about 200 years.
      Walters: Well. Like I said. You're the first one to take a look. I figured the new dead guy lookin' like the old dead guy and the situation here...
      Frank: What is the situation here?
      Walters: The anthropologist thinks this is some Indian burial site. Now I got the construction company ticked-off because they've been ordered to a cease and desist until the site's been excavated. I got the anthropologist ticked off because the foreman givin' her grief.
      Frank: What's going on with those guys?
      Walters: Ah. That's just a bunch of guys ticked off at the world in general. They're Indians who work construction.
      Frank: And they account for their whereabouts over the last week?
      Walters: They hang out at a local bar. So, they cover for each other.
      Frank: Did they know the victim?
      Walters: Foreman identified him as Daniel Olivaw. Worked here a couple of weeks.
      Frank: He wasn't murdered here.
      Walters: What makes you say that?
      Frank: Signs of violence on the body. He would have bleed profusely. There are no signs of blood in the immediate area. And... Uh.
      Walters: You okay?
      Frank: He was killed indoors. Somewhere nearby.
      Walters: How do you know that?
      Frank: I don't know. I feel it.

  • NOTES (4)


    • Old Indian: When Bahana the last white brother returns.
      Bahana (or Pahana) refers to "the true white brother" or "the lost white brother". Hopi prophecies speak of the return of Bahana who left them in ancient times with the promise to return. Some see the Bahana as an almost messianic figure.

    • Dr. Michaels: That's an Iroquois longhouse.
      An Iroquois longhouse was a large building made of wood and animal skins. One average they could be between 25 to 150 feet long and were usually large enough to hold a family of 30 to 60 people.

    • Dr. Michaels: Ah... that's Ghost Dance. At the end of the last century, Wovoka told the Indians to dance the Ghost Dance and the white man would be eradicated. Only it was the Indians who were massacred at Wounded Knee.
      Wovoka (c.1856-1932) was the Paiute tribal mystic who spread the Ghost Dance religion among many Native American tribes across the American West. His pronouncements heralded the dawning of a new age in which whites would vanish and leave Indians to live in a land of material abundance, spiritual renewal and immortal life. His teachings stressed the link between righteous behavior and imminent salvation. Salvation was not to be passively awaited but welcomed by a regime of ritual dancing and upright moral conduct. Though Wovoka told his followers to "not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do right always... Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble with them." The Ghost Dance religion was connected unrest on the Lakota reservations and eventually to the massacre at Wounded Knee.

    • Frank: This is the head of the Iroquois' false face.
      The "False Face Society" was an Iroquois society that attempted to employ magic in the healing of the sick or injured. The False Face Society wore painted masks carved from wood. Members of the society were often concerned with driving away the spirits of sickness or injury that were, presumably, plaguing a sick or injured Iroquois Indian.

    • Coroner Hutson: Timber rattle snake. The venom has a high LD 50. It takes a lot to kill you.
      LD 50 is an expression of comparative toxicity. LD 50 means that a lethal dose that kills 50% of test animals (mice being the universally accepted test animal).

    • Frank: You might want to bet, 'Don't Come'. Less risk.
      Frank is talking about the craps strategy "Don't Come." The don't come bet must be made after a point is set by the shooter. If a 7 or 11 is rolled you lose, if a 2 or 3 is rolled you win, and a 12 is a standoff. Otherwise a come point is set and you win if a 7 is rolled before the come point is repeated, and lose if the come point is repeated before a 7 is rolled.

    • Old Indian: Do not tell the white people about this. Jesus is upon Earth. He appears like a cloud. The dead are still alive again. I do not know when they will be here. Maybe this fall or in the spring. When the time comes there will be no more sickness...
      This quote is taken from "The Messiah Letter". This letter was a message from the Paiute Indian mystic Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson). Wovoka's (c.1856-1932) religious pronouncements spread the Ghost Dance, a Native American religion, among many tribes across the American West.