The Pretender

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Saturday 9:00 PM Sep 19, 1996 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
101 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

QUEENS, NEW YORK - Miss Parker and Sydney find they had just missed Jarod helping a tanker ship in Alaska. Jarod is now posing as a doctor to uncover the truth behind an operation that resulted in a boy becoming a paraplegic. Jarod also befriends a Greek woman who has trouble with (ahem) bowel movements.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • Not available outside the US...

    Would be awesome if this was available to watch outside of the US...

    Score based on my memory of the show when it first aired in Australia in the late 90s.
  • Meet Jarod, a genius who can do any career he wants.

    When first meeting Jarod, it is obvious that he is not also very smart, but empathic towards other people. He speaks Greek, which is probably very rare in the US. He starts out the episode by performing a complicated surgical technique. Jarod gets a job as a doctor at a New York hospital in the Bronx. He spends time trying to help a little boy who was left a paraplegic by an intoxicated surgeon. Meanwhile, Miss Parker, whose first name is unknown, and Sydney, last name unknown, try to find Jarod to bring him back to the Centre, an unscrupulous think tank that used Jarod in simulations. They track him down by a set of clues that he leaves for them. We learn that Jarod is a pretender, a genius who is able to become anyone. He has been with the Centre since the early 1960's and escaped after learning the true nature of the Centre's simulations. While in the outside world, Jarod is amazed at the things he missed while in the Centre. Jarod is on a crusade to help the people that have been wronged.moreless
  • The first step into the real world

    Jarod choses the surname Russell. Throughout the entire tv show the assumption is that this is his real surname. Also he pretends to be three different persons (professions).

    An exiting beginning to a superb and extraordinary tv show.

    In the opening sequence we see a special pilot writing.. which begins with :

    there are extraordinary induviduals amoung us...

    the rest of the the season one and two begins whith:

    there are pretenders amoung us....

    Also the tv show music theme is not heard in this episode.moreless
  • This, the first ever episode of the pretender, set the pace for the rest of the series. Great action, creative story lines, mystery, and suspense, nothing can be greater.

    This, the first ever episode of the pretender, set the pace for the rest of the series. Great action, creative story lines, mystery, and suspense, nothing can be greater.

    In this pilot episode we are intruduced to Jarod and his Pretender abilities along with The Centre. Miss Parker and Sydney are also introduced and the hunt for Jarod begins!
  • Human and their humor in it. I really loved this show.

    Human and there is humor in it. I really loved this show. The actors are good. We discover the personage and the story as the show goes on. This show looks a little bit like the movie "Catch me if you can"... but instead of pretending without being able to do, this pretender is really able to do whatever work he'd like to.
L. Scott Caldwell

L. Scott Caldwell

Gwen Porter

Guest Star

Dylan Provencher

Dylan Provencher

Kevin Bailey

Guest Star

Jeffrey Shepard

Jeffrey Shepard

12 year old Jarod

Guest Star

Jonathan Osser

Jonathan Osser

Younger Jarod

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • When Jarod first calls Sydney, the phone on the desk has a power cord plugged into the back, but there is no phone line plugged in.

    • When Jarod calls Sydney, he calls himself Shreve Harmon. These were the men who built the Empire State Building. In this episode, young Jarod builds a replica of the Empire State Building in less than 2 hours

    • Jarod's Pretends: Tanker captain, doctor, Wall Street broker, fireman, airplane pilot

    • The Pretender was inspired by the life of Ferdinand Demara Jr., a genius with an eidetic memory, who could master any skill just by reading a book about it.

    • DSAs
      DSAs--Digital Simulation Archives--are the compact cd-roms that Jarod carries around with him everywhere and contain, apparently, a record of his entire life at the Centre. The archives can be retrieved by a playback computer contained in a silver Halliburton case he also carries. Although Jarod's shown to possess an eidetic, photographic memory, he'll often refer to a DSA record for inspiration or past sim knowledge. The Centre is as keen to retrieve the DSAs as they are to recapture Jarod since those are the only records of 30 years worth of their most gifted Pretender's simulations.

    • PEZ candy dispensers
      Jarod shows a distinct fetish for PEZ candy throughout the series and he'll often carry around a dispenser that matches the theme of his current sting or discovery. PEZ is an abbreviation of the German word for peppermint--phefferminz--and was invented in Vienna, Austria in 1927. The candy is most known for its unque toy-like dispenser that pops out one candy tablet at a time when the cartoon head is pulled back. There are over 300 varieties of PEZ dispensers available with six candy flavors in the US and many more distributed worldwide.

    • Jarod's Discoveries:
      PEZ candy, ice cream, Wheel of Fortune

  • QUOTES (12)

    • Narrator: There are extraordinary individuals among us known as Pretenders. Geniuses with the ability to insinuate themselves into any walk of life, to literally become anyone. In 1963 a corporation called the Centre isolated one such Pretender, a young boy named Jarod. Locked in a controlled environment, they exploited his genius for their "unofficial" research. Then, one day, their Pretender ran away.

    • Jarod: How many people died because of what I thought up?

    • Sydney: (to the camera) This one has only been with us for thirty-six hours and he's already demonstrating more talent than any of our others. (to Jarod) Hi, Jarod. I'm Sydney. I'll be taking care of you for a while.
      Younger Jarod: Why? Where's my mom and dad?

    • Mrs. Nikkos: You a doctor?
      Jarod: I am today.

    • Younger Jarod: Cree craw toad's foot...geese walk barefoot...

    • Sydney: You were such a happy little girl. What happened to you?
      Miss Parker: I grew up, Syd. So should you.

    • Miss Parker: Make up your mind, Sydney! Be a scientist or a mommy. You can't be both.

    • Andy: (pointing to x-ray film) Any special reason you're looking at those?
      Jarod: Any special reason you're in here half-naked?

    • Miss Parker: Your little monster need his teddy bear, huh, Sydney?
      Sydney: Jarod is not a monster.
      Miss Parker: Call him what you want, Dr. Frankenstein. Just tell me where he is!

    • Jarod: And, by the way, ice cream is good.

    • Miss Parker: Hell of an environment you keep him in, Syd. With input like this maybe we'll find him masquerading as a postal worker.
      Sydney: He doesn't masquerade. He's a Pretender.
      Miss Parker: Hmm.
      Sydney: He becomes anything he wants to be.
      Miss Parker: Well, the Centre should have stuck to computers for their simulations. They don't run away.
      Sydney: But they're not human. They can't tell you how the crew was feeling as the aircraft lost power; how their emotions contributed to their fate. Jarod can.

    • Sydney: The Centre wants him alive.
      Miss Parker: Preferably.

  • NOTES (4)

    • The Centre, first seen here and will appear in nearly every episode, is actually the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant, located in Toronto, Canada.

    • At the end of this episode, Miss Parker shows a photo of Jarod to two Coast Guards at the dock. The one with the mustache, Mark Dodson, at the time was a physical therapist and a lawyer (pretender in training). Mark went on to become a writer and producer on the series, scribing eight episodes including "Quallupilluit" and "Corn Man".

    • Since this was the pilot, this episode doesn't have the opening title sequence. Also, Miss Parker utilizes a room filled with computers and technical experts which you never see in the show again. They're probably all replaced and represented by Broots. Jarod's room is also a miniature palace, but later in the series his room is a cell.

    • In this episode, the young Jarod is played by Jeffrey Shepard instead of series regular Ryan Merriman


    • Mannlicher – He designed the rifle that 12-year-old Jarod used in his similation. The rifle was a bolt-action rifle with low recoil, excellent accuracy.

    • Doctor Frankenstein
      Sydney is compared to Doctor Victor Frankenstein because of his work on Jarod. The fictional Dr. Frankenstein discovered the secret of life and created an intelligent but monstrous creature. Victor keeps his creation of the monster a secret and wishes to destroy his creation.

    • Curious George is a monkey who is brought from his home by The Man with the Yellow Hat to the city. Some say that The Man in the Yellow Hat kidnapped George. George is too curious to obey the man in the yellow hat.

    • Jarod's surname: Russell (referencing Steven Jay Russell, famous real-life imposter and "pretender")

    • Wheel of Fortune
      Jarod discovers "Wheel" when he and a homeless man are watching TVs through a store window. He solves the puzzle with only a few letters showing. The puzzle was "THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH."