Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wild Wild West--"The Night of the Cossacks"

It is tough to see such a run of the mill, laughably budget saving episode so close to the end of the series, but that is unfortunately what we get with “The Night of the Cossacks.” at least Artie is back to his old master of disguise shenanigans. This time he is a Russian Orthodox priest with a peculiar sense of humor. One sad thing to note--this was the final episode filmed for the series, though not the last to air. Hence, the blatant budget saving act.

Jim is assigned as an escort to the royal family of Karovnia when they flee to the United States after an assassination attempt. The royal family is pursued by assassins hoping to stop them from retrieving a sacred icon that will ensure rightful leadership from a settlement of refugees. With the help of a traitor in their midst, the princess is kidnapped and held for the ransom of the icon. Jim and Artie rescue the princess, thereby keeping the icon with its rightful owners.

I am embarrassed I fell for the red herring in this one. Remembering nothing about the episode, it looked like the captain of the guard was the one who betrayed the princess. It is always the captain of the guard. He is the overly aggressive jerk who never seems to be in the right place when either there is an assassination attempt or the princess is kidnapped. Alas, it was the princess’ adopted mother instead. She was a little too maudlin when it came to efforts to kill the prince and at the kidnapping of the princess. I should have seen that coming.

The captain is played by Donnelly Rhodes, who played Doc Cottle on Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica. I thought I recognized him, but had to look it up on IMDb to make certain. Indeed, it is him.

In my defense, I was distracted by the most blatant reuse of a scene from a past episode of any television show I have ever seen. In his first attempt to rescue the princess, Jim is knocked down a hole in the mine shaft where she is being held. He lands on a crumbling ledge. He has to shoot a line into the ceiling and climb out before it crumbles entirely. If that sounds familiar, it is because the entire scene is lifted from the third season‘s “The Night of the Arrow” with the actress also in that scene badly edited out. What is worse, Robert Conrad is not sporting the same hairstyle in both episodes, so he has a comb over before and after falling into the shaft, but a standing wave inside the shaft. It is pitiful, actually. Were they having that much budget troubles? Heh.

“the Night of the Cossacks” is pretty run of the mill. It is not great, but it is not bad. It is certainly not the way I would like for filming to have ended. There is an interesting bookend, however. The first episode of the series featured Suzanne Pleshette, who played Bob Newhart’s wife in the ’70’s, as the femme fatale. “The Night of the Cossacks” stars Mary Fram, Bob Newhart’s television wife in the ’80’s, as the princess. There is a fun bit of unintentional symmetry, no?

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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