Season 1 Episode 17


Aired Saturday 10:00 PM Mar 22, 1997 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
28 votes

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Episode Summary

Sam is taken hostage by a zealous anti-nuclear scientist and his commandos after they capture a banquet room.

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  • A much better episode than it should be.

    This absurd, melodramatic, histrionic, overwrought and ridiculously moralistic episode should not work. But it does. The action is tightly focused and moves at breakneck speed from beginning to end. Even the scene in the airport hangar in which Sam and Zahn engage in their long talk – which could easily have bogged down – was engaging and well done. Sam's talk with Dr. Zahn actually portrays her as a smart, insightful forensic psychologist – she delves into his mind and gets to know him. It's well written and well acted – Ally Walker manages to avoid looking weepy through the entire scene. It communicates the sense that she's an actual professional rather than some sort of psychic. Before it can bog down the action kicks in and we start moving at breakneck speed to a resolution. Zahn is captured, the plot unravels and Sam is released. Rather than treating Zahn as a crazed madman bent on destruction, he comes across as a profoundly moral person who has lost his way; he's trying to do the right thing in exactly the wrong way. He wants the right outcome and he's willing to go to extremes to get it. He's prepared to die to make amends for his past bad actions. He believes he has to kill his brother, a general and a defense contractor who keep the nuclear game going year after year as part of making amends. Zahn comes across as very shrewd – he's done his homework, he's ready to act when the moment comes and he does act, quickly and decisively. Sam realizes – a bit too late – that he's worked very carefully to make sure that no one gets killed until everything and everyone is where he wants them. He uses same in the shrewd way – taking her hostage as a means of keeping the FBI close and controlled. They won't risk her life.

    The central moral dilemma of the episode asks the viewer to consider questions of means and ends. Is any means justified if it reaches a desirable end? Dr. Zahn says yes; Sam repeatedly points out that his method won't work, it won't get to the end point he wants. She presses him for his answer – why is he doing something he knows won't work? He refuses to answer. He says he'll surrender but only to his brother - also a nuclear scientist. His carefully concealed end is at odds with his means and Sam realizes this. Realizing he's too smart to do what he's doing, she keeps pushing him to figure out what he's really trying to achieve. He talks about how immoral his brother is, but then says he wants his brother's forgiveness. Forgiveness for what? He doesn't say. It's nice to see Profiler use Sam's intellect rather than instincts. She works through the emotional logic of his actions and realizes what he's actually trying to achieve.

    None of it should work. But it does and it works expertly. The b-story concerns Malone's daughter Frances getting arrested. She sits in jail while Malone deals with the hostage situation; he shows up at the end to get her released and take her to Atlanta. It's not a terribly interesting story but it's handled well with a minimum of histrionics. The c-story drags us back to more blue-lit Jack nonsense. There's the obligatory scene in which Sam has hysterics, lots of sirens and of course Jack gets away. In the meantime, he kills an elderly nun. It's all very repetitive.

    The main story is so strong and the Jack kerfuffle tacked onto the end so it's an easy episode to like.moreless
Ally Walker

Ally Walker

Dr. Samantha "Sam" Waters

Dennis Christopher

Dennis Christopher

Jack of All Trades / Albert Newquay

Julian McMahon

Julian McMahon

Det. John Grant

Robert Davi

Robert Davi

Agent Bailey Malone

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions