Season 1 Episode 13

The House That Jack Built

Aired Saturday 10:00 PM Feb 08, 1997 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The House That Jack Built
When Jack of All Trades, the inventive but frighteningly elusive serial murderer stalking Sam continues to toy with members of the VCTF team and their families, Bailey orders everyone into the task force's command center.

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  • Seriously?

    I won't bother with a plot summary here. This is the episode we've been promised all season - the big confrontation with Jack of all Trades. Allow me to blunt: Is that al there is?

    The Jack story arc is a mess; it weighs down the good the show has to deliver, distracts from the week to week stories and bogs the main characters down in a morass from which they can't escape.

    In the late 90s, "mythology" was all rage for TV shows; the X-Files started it. The problem with mythology driven shows is pretty basic - casual viewers don't care and there's almost no way to make it interesting enough that serious viewers will be rewarded. Joss Whedon managed the problem with season long story arcs on Buffy; the season big bad evolved slowly, occupied the last few episodes and was then dealt with. The Pretender - another NBC saturday night series - used an ongoing mythology where Jared was almost always a step ahead. Profiler's attempt was the ongoing Jack story - his pursuit of Sam for his own mysterious purposes; we've gotten a season of it now and it's been turgid. Sure, we've gotten lots of blue tinted scenes of Jack smoking and cutting up photos and muttering meaningful phrases but it's gone no where. With a nearly season long story arc about Jack - and building up a mythology about him and his victims and his obsession with Sam - the show needed to deliver a payoff with this episode.

    In an episode that is otherwise a mess, there's some nice scenes and some good work. The characters telling us that Jack will know John and Sam aren't really a couple but won't be able to resist. The scene with George's "roommate" was a nice and surprisingly enlightened touch - the show was clearly treading carefully here and Bailey's greeting to Rich sent a nice signal about tolerance and diversity. The teaser where Grace finds her husband and shorts the house's electrical to save him was well done - we get a sense that she's actually smart enough to be a doctor. The rest of episode was oddly disjointed. The long sequence of Sam following Jack's clues - to end up in a skeevy warehouse, then he escapes and then he captures John who is somehow now at his summer house . . . it's all a mishmash, involving a hired hit man who tortures John . . . yeah whatever. We end up at the end at a convent where Jack has been living and working and has brilliantly rigged his room to be destroyed with acid. He escapes and there's lots of sturm and drang.

    At which point, we as viewers are screaming in frustration. Seriously? This is what the producers came up with? All of which gets to Profiler's core problem - they've invented a Super Villain. Jack is either so good he's always going to get away - in which case he should also be better at killing the people around Sam and then kidnapping her and making her his love slave, or he's not that good and they should have caught him. By treating Jack as the super genius of the world who can hack into secure government servers and who pretend to be almost anything and who can always get away . . well, it's just a bit much. The story arc has set up an unsolvable problem for the characters and the creators. The constant returning to scenes of Jack plotting in his lair, cutting up pictures and doing whatnot are too repetitive to build tension and to keep his identity secret they have to be vague. So we're left with a cipher onto to which the producers project whatever works for the week. It's obvious watching now that there was no overarching plan for dealing Jack - he was supposed to provide narrative tension and keep the viewers worried but without some payoff, he had become a drain on the show's creative energy.

    With the House that Jack Built, the producers missed a major opportunity. Had the Jack story been resolved - Jack shot and killed or captured - we'd have been able to move the show into a new direction, to create a new ongoing villain who would have been more interesting. Having missed the chance the producers are setting us up to see it resolved in the season finale.moreless
  • Will they or won't they???

    Jack is terrorizing the members of the profiling team, so they are forced to stay at the office with their families/room mates after Grace's husband gets tied up by Jack and nearly dies from electrocution. So Sam decides she will act as bait to lure Jack out and finally get the whole saga over and done with...we wish! They don't catch him...again...and I've just read elsewhere on here that they won't catch him till at least the last series, which probably wouldn't be so bad if this show was at all watchable with that awful actress in it who plays Sam... Her acting is wooden and contrived, and why on earth does she always have her mouth half open? Maybe she thinks it makes her look intelligent or thoughtful, I think it makes her look gormless, personally.

    Think I won't bother anymore with this, TV shows aren't meant to annoy are they ;o)moreless
Ally Walker

Ally Walker

Dr. Samantha "Sam" Waters

Caitlin Wachs

Caitlin Wachs

Chloe Waters

Dennis Christopher

Dennis Christopher

Jack of All Trades / Albert Newquay

Erica Gimpel

Erica Gimpel

Angel Brown

Julian McMahon

Julian McMahon

Det. John Grant

Michael Whaley

Michael Whaley

Det. Nathan Brubaker

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions