Sunday, December 5, 2010

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

“The Night of the Janus?” Janus is a Hindu god with two faces. It sounds like someone is going to be exposed as a traitor.

That is indeed what happens. A top Secret Service agent is killed after stumbling upon the identity of a traitor to the agency. The only clue he was able to leave behind is a song he had written and left for Jim to pick up. He and Jeremy Pike assume the song has a coded message, but know nothing more than that.

Jim takes the song to a professor at the Secret Service academy for deciphering. While taking part in a training exercise for the benefit of new recruits, he is nearly killed by live gunfire that was supposed to be blanks. The assistant director of the academy is nicked in the arm by a bullet. The traitor is obviously at the academy and onto them.

Two points ought to be astoundingly obvious to you from the above recap. One, the song’s simple tune, when slowed down, reveals the plot in Morse code. The message had to be encoded that easily in order for it to be revealed quickly. Overcomplicating the bit by examining hidden words in the lyrics was just a way of buying time for the traitor to make more attempts on Jim’s life. Two, the assistant director is the traitor. The minor wound to cast off suspicion is a dead giveaway.

The assistant director, frustrated with his low pay, has concocted a plan to print up money legally from the mint using legit plates and retire in luxury. When the first agent stumbled upon the plot, he had the guy killed. Jim and Jeremy bust up the operation and torch the funny money, which is rather dumb, since it is evidence. But our heroes did not figure out what was going on until the fourth act, so perhaps I should lower my expectations.

“The Night of the Janus” is fun to watch for its action sequences, including one in which Jim must cross a room booby trapped to explode at various points, and Jeremy’s disguise as an obnoxious Baron in charge of Germany’s Secret Service equivalent. Speaking of Jeremy, this is the final time he will koin Jim on a case. He is my favorite replacement for the irreplaceable Artie. Do not think about the plot too much, and you will have a good time.

The episode also features singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon in a brief cameo as the saloon singer whom the murdered agent entrusted with the song. DeShannon had a lot of success as a songwriter with moderate success as a singer throughout the ’60’s and ’70’s. Here is one of my favorite of her songs:

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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