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[Meta] The Sentinel: A Gratuitously Detailed Episode Guide

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I. The Jungles of Peru

We open at the Pentagon where some government guys are looking at a satellite photo of a downed plane deep in the jungles of Peru. It was carrying a team of anti-insurgence op guys led by Captain James Ellison. It has been missing since March 4, 1988.

A team of army rangers heads into the jungle to investigate the wreck and they find the bodies of all the men except Ellison. Suddenly, they're attacked with arrows!! Which for some reason are really scary to the commandos army with AK-47s. As native warriors come out of the woodwork and surround the team, the head army guy says, "Hold your fire! If they wanted to kill us, they could have already." Way to be, rangers.

From further back in the jungle, we see the aforementioned Ellison, in what we will come to know as his Jungle!Commando!Jim gear: bandanna on his head, war-paint on his arms, giant gun slung on his back. Close-up on his eyes (so blue!) and, across, the jungle, he focuses in on the head army ranger's ID patch. Oh my goodness! How does he do it?

Captain James Ellison

Jim approaches the head ranger. "Are you my relief?" The ranger is confused. Jim explains he has followed his orders, to organize a local militia. "These men and I have been holding the Chopec pass for the last eighteen months." Ranger guy gets a look on his face like, Ha ha, smile and nod, appease the crazy man! Jim doesn't help his sanity cred when he suddenly jerks his face up without warning. Army guy follows his gaze and sees nothing, but then a few moments later he hears birds and sees them pass overhead. He glances helplessly at the scary singleminded semi-native superpowered commando.

II. Cascade

Fog! Skyline! Title cards: "Cascade, Washington" and "5 Years Later." September '94? But actually I think it's supposed to be late '95 (when the show started IRL). We head over to the Cascade Police Department where Captain Simon Banks of Major Crimes is explaining a serial bombing case to some visiting forensics officers. "Welcome to Cascade; we have seven different kinds of rain here and 42 ways of ordering a coffee," he says. Got it. Cascade = Seattle. Lt. Carolyn Plummer of Technical Support explains that the bomber communicates by email, signing himself "Switchman." The emails are all taunts addressed to James Ellison. The forensics people ask to talk to Jim, but Simon and Carolyn explain vaguely that Jim is off staking something out or something and he'll be back when he feels like it. Because he's a loose cannon, and plays by his own rules, and, for some reason, still has a job! This will set the stage for all of Simon and Jim's boss-employee relations for the rest of the series.

Jim crouches in the woods, peering through binoculars. Don't get used to that sight. He turns back to his little campsight, and suddenly the sound of water boiling in his adorable little mess kit is too loud, and he frowns at it motionlessly for awhile. The sound of another cop calling him over a walkie-talkie eventually snaps him back to reality.

Suspect is entering the building! Jim leads a SWAT team on the old lumber mill. Inside, they can't find the suspect, but they do find a copy of "News Update" magazine, with a big picture of Jim.

That must be either a posed Jungle!Commando!Jim!Re-enactment! shot, or else one of the army rangers brought his professional-quality camera on the rescue mission just in case there were beautiful survivors.

Jim's attitude about the magazine seems to be Resigned Chagrin. Now that sight you can get used to.

Suddenly Jim smells gas which nobody else does. He follows it to a trapdoor; peering into the darkness, his pupils mega-dilate, and he sees a bomb. "Clear the building, NOW!" Jim and the team are just running out when the building explodes. Outside, Jim sees to sense something else, and he's poised, when a motorcycle comes zooming out of a cellar door, to jump onto it. That's one. When the cyclist looks round, Jim is confused and alarmed by his own super-lifelike reflection in the helmet visor, and he lets go and falls off.

Simon's office. Carolyn and Simon talk about the case a bit. As Jim enters, Carloyn takes off, quipping, "Whoof! Stake out a dumpster all night, Jimmy?" Jim sits in a chair and stares wordlessly as Simon chit-chats and pours him a coffee; it's unclear if he's zoning or just being rude. Eventually Jim asks for a leave of absence because he can't do his job properly. Simon thinks he's psyched out by the Switchman's personal vendetta. Jim is more concerned about his recent weird experiences: "I'm losing control of my senses; I don't know how else to describe it!" Simon resists, but Jim grits, "Either you grant me a leave, or I'll take one." So... that's where that gets left.

Next, Carolyn and Jim are at a restaurant together, nicely dressed. Carolyn is yammering on about her sister Wendy's wedding and suddenly Jim says, "Why are we here?" Oooh, screenwriting rookie mistake. He exposits, "I've asked you out before, but you always said no," just narrowly avoiding starting his sentence with "As you know..." Jim suspects she's just here to convince him to go back to work, and Carolyn insists she isn't, but then tries to get him to talk about it:

JIM: I don't want to talk about it.
CAROLYN: But if you did talk about it, maybe I could help you!
JIM (overlapping): So let's just drop it!

Carolyn gives up, saying, "Lights out, nobody home, or if there is, how would I know?" which doesn't really make sense but I guess she's saying Jim is uncommunicative and emotionally unavailable. The funny thing is, take the exact exchange above and replace "Carolyn" with "Blair" and it's a recipe for a swift and thorough Jim soul-bearing. But we're getting there.

Anyway, Carolyn's about to leave when Jim takes his first bite of food and immediately sputters and chokes and downs his wine. He makes a big scene, thinking he's being tricked or poisoned or something, but Carolyn tastes his food, and it's fine.

Carolyn is walking away in the rain when Jim runs after her, ducks under her umbrella, and apologizes. Then he kisses her. It's sort of inexplicable.

Remember, for future reference: Jim is heterosexual. Ignore any evidence you may see to the contrary.

They make out for awhile, then, "Maybe if you'd kissed me like that before, we'd still be married," says Carolyn, and walks off. Is that supposed to be a twist?

III. The Hospital

Jim gets up from an MRI machine and we get our first gratuitous Shirtless Jim scene.

The first of many.

But the eye candy doesn't stop there. An adorable little man with a ponytail and a labcoat over his beat-up jeans and Converse sneakers is heading down the hall. I rub my hands together gleefully. He enters Jim's room as Jim is shirting up, setting an early precedent for semi-nude conversation on this show.

HIM: Detective Ellison! I'm Dr. McKay.
JIM: Your nametag says 'McCoy.'
HIM (looking): Um... yeah! But the correct Gaelic pronunciation of my family name is 'McKay.'

McKay is a squirrelly long-hair who looks and approximately acts like the love child of Noel from Felicity and the cool English teacher from Boy Meets World, if that love child came out really short and spoke with an approximately 1:1 ratio of the word "man" to all other words.

Dr. McKay?

He tells Jim intensely, "You don't need medicine; you need information!" Jim: "What are you, an intern?" Because interns notoriously hate medicine! McKay insists, "Wait a second, hear me out here! Loud noises that shouldn't loud. Smelling things that no one else can smell. Weird visuals. Taste buds off the map, right?" "That's all in my chart," Jim points out. McKay says, "Yeah, but I bet I can add one more. A hyperactive tactile response." Off Jim's confused look, he clarifies, "Extra sensitive touchy-feely lately!" Jim snaps, "That's none of your business! Who are you, anyway?" McKay: "Hey, I'm no one. But this man, he is." He hands Jim a business card and vanishes into the night. Okay, so he just walks out the door--just as doctor with no name tag enters and introduces himself as the real McCoy. Oh, I just got that! I thought it was just a Star Trek reference. Slash prescient Stargate: Atlantis reference. Which in itself is a Star Trek reference, isn't it? Whoa. I just blew my own mind!

Speaking of which, someone is making a bomb. Tra la growing sense of tension.

IV. The University

Jim wanders around a tidy college campus. We get a close-up of the business card:


Department of Anthropology

[unreadably tiny contact information]

and as Jim lowers it, we see a door marked "ARTIFACT STORAGE ROOM 3," with a handwritten note taped under it reading "BLAIR SANDBURG." He opens the door to find a squirrelly longhair bouncily rocking out from a sitting position to some music with heavy percussion. It's McKay from the hospital, of course; his hair's down now, and he's wearing a funky vest the same round glasses. Seeing Jim, he grins and starts talking about the similarities between jungle rhythms and rock music. "I'm sure your dad used to stay that stuff all the time about the Stones, y'know, 'H-hey, turn that jungle music down!'" It's weird that Blair would assume Jim has a dad since he himself doesn't have one. Anyway, Jim, not amused, asks him to turn it off. You know, if I were Blair, and my one and only chance at an idea subject walked in the door, I'd try harder to keep him. But we're getting to that. This is a vital conversation, so let's just transcribe it.

JIM: Why are you in my face?
BLAIR: Oh, hey, look, I'm really sorry about all that Shakespeare stuff at the hospital, but I just had to find some way to get you into my area here to talk.
JIM: So talk.
BLAIR: Okay, all right, uh, here, please, take a seat here.
Blair nervously flits about, moving a pile of folders off a chair.
BLAIR: Have a seat, man.
Jim sits, still staring warily.
BLAIR: Y'see, uh, there's this nurse I've been... (He grins and pumps his fist.) Y'know... (Jim stares stonily, then looks away in distaste.) Tutoring. At the Med Center. And, she saw your chart and she faxed it over to me, and when I read the thing, man, it was just like, (Blair claps his hands enthusiastically) BANG! Holy Grail Time!
JIM: ... You're losing me, Chief.
ME: Awwwwwwww!
BLAIR: Okay. Um. My name is Blair Sandburg and I'm working on my doctorate in anthropology and you just may be the living embodiment of my field of study. If I'm correct, Detective Ellison, you're a behavioral throwback to a precivilized breed of man!
Jim stares. Blair laughs nervously.
JIM: Are you out of your mind? (stands, getting in Blair's face) You dragged me all the way over here to tell me I'm some sorta caveman?
BLAIR (frightened): Well, maybe I was a little out of line with that caveman remark, but, I mean--
Jim shoves Blair roughly against a wall.


JIM: Listen, you neo-hippie witch doctor punk, I could slap you off right now with larceny and false impersonation [Ed. note: Is there any other kind?] and you are heading real quick into harrassing a police officer! And what's more, your behavior is giving me probable cause to shake this place top to bottom for narcotics.
BLAIR: Whoa, hey, Joe Friday, relax! (regaining his courage, though he's still pinned to the wall) Look, you mess with me, man, you're never going to figure out what's up with you! (Jim lets him go, opening and closing his mouth wordlessly.) Now, I know about your time spent in Peru! And it has got to be connected to what's happening to you now.
Let me just show you something here. (Blair walks behind his desk, and Jim looks off into the distance, mouth-breathing. Afterglow?) This is a monograph by Sir Richard Burton--the explorer, not the actor. It's over a hunnndred years ooold. [Ed. note: You'd think a hundred years would be a blip on the radar for a scientist... But maybe he's just trying to impress the layman.] Now, the idea goes like this. In all tribal cultures, every village had what Burton named "the Sentinel." [Ed. note: That's right. All of 'em.]
Jim turns the pages and sees an old photograph of a Chopec warrior, presumably a Sentinel.

Well, this proves it! I'm sold!

I'm going to switch to text now, because I don't want to trasncribe all the exposition, but basically, Sentinels kept watch over the village using hyperactive senses (Blair calls them a "genetic advantage" this time. Flattery will get you everywhere) which are honed by "solitary time spent in the wild." Adorably, Jim is nodding a lot now, and participating cooperatively in the conversation. For example, when Blair is describing hypersense cases and excitedly interrupts himself, "Oh, and in Vietnam, the army long-range recon units that had to--" Jim finishes his sentence, "Change their diet to fish and rice because the Conga scouts could smell a Westerner by his waste," nodding agreeably. "Right, right, exactly!" Blair beams. "I have hundreds and hundreds of documented cases of one or two hyperactive senses, but not one single subject with all five. You could be the real thing!"

Jim goes all soft and dreamy. "The truth is, I don't remember much of anything about the jungle." Blair suggests traumatic repression. Already, with the repression?! Also, here's my question: Jim knows there's someone on his trail who's been following his career and knows everything there is to know about him; why doesn't he suspect Blair of being the crazy Jim enthusiast/bomber? Oh well, he just doesn't, and as it turns out, he's correct not to. Jim wonders, "Why is this coming back now?" "I don't know, but you need someone who understands your condition," says Blair. "What's the payoff?" "My doctorate!" Blair puts his hands on Jim's shoulders. "I want to write about you! You're my thesis!" Jim shrugs out of Blair's grasp and walks out: "I've had enough." "Just think about it, okay?" Blair calls, and then, at the door, "OH WAIT THERE'S ONE OTHER THING I GOTTA WARN YOU ABOUT!"

Jim walks out into the street and immediately gets mesmerized by a red frisbee some students are throwing around. He doesn't hear the warning honks of an oncoming truck. "Look out!" cries Blair, running up and throwing Jim to the ground.

By the thighs?

They lie flat on the ground as the truck passes harmlessly over them. Blair gets up. "Oh, that really sucked, man!" I get the feeling they haven't really worked the kinks out of his dialogue yet. Or his wardrobe. His jeans have artful patches on the thighs. Blair tells Jim he has just experienced "the zone-out factor." The truck driver stops and Blair assures him on both of their behalf, "We're okay, man, we're all right." Jim, leading Blair by the arm: "Let's get out of here before I have to answer a lot of questions."

Perhaps Jim has been feeling extra-sensitive-touchy-feely lately...

Blair, his eyes lighting up: "'Let's'? As in 'we'? Great! I got some really specific ideas on how we could proceed here." I'll bet. "Come on, let's go, come on!" He pushes Jim bodily along.

...but Blair is just like that. In the background: I sort of want to make an A-Team from the college losers who are standing around being horrified at the truck accident and subsequent man-touching. Guy With Plaid Polo--superpower: wearing backpack on both shoulders for proper lumbar alignment! Jean Jumper Girl--superpower: Frisbee-catching and vague queasiness! Flowered Dress and Clasped Hands Girl--superpower: mousiness and closet slash fandom (before it was cool)! Guy with Mullet and Sunglasses and White Pants After Labor Day and Sweater Tied Over Shoulders--superpower: EVERYTHING.

V. The Wharf

Jim and Blair stroll through a crowded outdoor shopping center. Blair explains the "zone-out factor": "It's suggested by Burton's research that when a Sentinel's working his deal, he gets oblivious to the outside world, sorta like he has the blinders on. He usually had a partner around, someone to watch his back." Jim, drily: "You mean like you?" Blair, purposely ignoring his tone, and clapping him on the back: "Oh, yeah, beautiful, great idea, I'd love to!"

And that's how the kids got married.

Blair wants to do some tests, and Jim just wants to turn the senses off. Blair puts a hand on Jim's breast, forwardly, and says he doesn't know how. Besides, "you're a detective with hyperactive senses," he points out. "You're a monster, man! A human crime lab with organic surveillance equipment! What more could you want?" "Control," says Jim. Which tells us a lot about Jim's character. Blair says they'll work on that.

Blair asks Jim to smell the roses in a flower booth a ways away. Jim complains that he feels stupid, but then tries. Meanwhile, some girls come up to Blair and one flirts with him a bit. As they walk off, Jim cries, "Hey, I think it's working!" "86 that, 86 that," says Blair. "See that blonde over there? See if you can hear what she's saying about me." "I'm not helping you troll for co-eds, Short Eyes!" cries Jim. "She's a TA, I'm clean, man, now let's go, radar up!" Blair insists, with a cute series of gestures. Say what you want about this show, comedic chemistry between the leads is apparent from day one.

Jim finally concedes and hears the girl say, "Yeah, I'd go out with him, he's adorable. But he's never asked me!" Blair, boring holes into Jim's chin with his eyes: "Well?" "She thinks you're a dork," Jim reports spitefully, and walks off.

VI. The First Investigation

Simon, Carolyn, and bomb expert Taggart are at a crime scene examining a neutralized bomb they found when there's an explosion! They do not die. That night, at the station, Jim meets up with them with a new Switchman note he found in his "email folder." Simon asks Jim to come back to work, and he nods.

A red Jeep drives up to the old shell of a lumber mill, and Jim and Blair get out. Seeing the woodsy surroundings, Blair suggests that the extended stake-out reinitialized the Sentinel thing. Jim expresses doubt that he can find any clues when forensics didn't (calling Blair "Sandburg" for the first time that we know of, and lending credence to the theory that calling Blair by his last name is a show of cop-partnerly-acceptance). Blair insists he try. "You gotta learn how to turn things on and off. Now, I'm gonna shut up and let you feel it out."

Coincidentally, that's exactly what he said last night! Oh, is it too soon for that?

Jim says he can't, and Blair orders, "Put your hands behind your back." Jim eventually complies, and Blair places some stuff from the ground into Jim's hand. "What's in your hands?" Jim says he can't tell but it doesn't take any further cajoling from Blair before he's identifying them as ashes--wood in one hand, and plastic in the other. Blair is delighted.

As Jim bends to smell some stuff, Blair pulls out a Camcorder. Jim turns and sees it, and he's like, No friggin' way.

A bit later, Jim complains because he can't find anything. You can't win with this guy, eh? Blair points out that his current complaint is a far cry from begging doctors to turn off his senses. Jim hears flapping and looks up to see a bird plucking something out of the beams. "How good are you at climbing trees?" Jim asks Blair.

Not very. Blair struggles up to a nest, complaining, and then throws it down. Jim finds a blue thread and wonders if it belonged to the bomber. Blair remarks, "The nest isn't finished, so the time frame could definitely work there." Off Jim's look, he says, "What? Part of your job is looking at places and trying to figure out what happened there, well, so's mine!" Nice. Jim sniffs the string and smells "jungle plants."

Blair drags a whining Jim into a perfume store. As Blair tries to chat up the girl at the desk, Jim cuts him off, showing his badge and asking to inspect the perfumes. The girl says there are over 365 and suggests he start with what she's wearing. She holds out her wrist. Jim just looks at it and then turns back to Blair, who is scribbling in a notepad. "What are you doing?" "Taking notes!"

Eventually Jim figures out the unique blend which leads them to the client, who is...

VII. The Switchman

"Veronica Saris." Jim shows Simon her file. She is the daughter of one of Jim's old ranger team, an ex-Navy munitions expert in her own right. She was discharged for mental instability. Those Navy girls! Simon refuses to give him a warrant for "a perfume a detective smelled on a piece of yarn he pulled out of a bird's nest." Fair enough.

Jim meets Blair in front of the PD building and assures him he's not giving up. He calls the company where Veronica works as a tour guide.

Jim parks in a no-parking zone in front of a tall building with a roof observatory, apparently part of the Cascade tour. Blair wants to go in and film Jim in action, but Jim gives Blair the phone and tells him to stay put and be his backup.

I mean, yes, there is a phone in that hand, but it's at best tangential to the hand-holding.

Jim arrives at the top only to be told by the tour guide there that Veronica has already taken her group down to the bus. Down on the street, Blair looks up from Veronica's file to see her getting the bus boarded only a few meters away. I wonder if there is a reason that she has Blair's exact hair.

Jim rushes back down to the street in time to see the bus leaving and his Jeep getting towed away. He commandeers a taxi and immediately pulls an evil U-turn.

In the bus, Veronica quietly changes the route and pulls a gun on the driver. From a seat, Blair tries to figure out what's going on.

Jim gets out of the taxi on a bridge, peers over the side, and then jumps as the bus passes below, landing on the roof. That's two. Dude, it's like a twenty foot drop. I like how this is just another superpower that he has with nothing to do with his senses.

As Jim struggles to get purchase on the bus roof, a startled Veronica waves her gun at the tourists. Blair looks like, Well, I guess I walked into this one. Veronica makes the driver drive through a roadblock and then stop, whereupon she heads back to where Blair is lying down on his seat calling the police. She sticks her gun in his side and takes his phone.

Simon gets on the line, and Veronica demands to talk to Jim. As Simon dispatches backup, he stalls, "Uh, Detective Ellison will be with you in a moment..." and right on cue, Jim throws himself through the back window, gun drawn on Veronica.

A brief standoff ends when Jim uses his sight to look down the barrel of her gun and then shoot directly into it. So... his senses give him impossibly perfect aim? LAME. She drops her gun and he lunges at her. Blair gets all up in the situation with a video camera. Veronica has some expository crazy ramblings about how she hates Jim for letting her father die in Peru. He tries to convince her he was her father's friend, but she still won't say where she hid the bomb. "Help me look for it," Jim asks Blair. "Don't look--listen," Blair sages.

Jim shoves past Blair, pushing the gun into his hand, to Blair's butterfingered dismay. Sure enough, when he glances around to see how Jim is doing, Veronica kicks the gun out of his hand. As Veronica beats up on Blair and they struggle for the gun, and Blair shouts, for the only time in his life, "Ellison! Ellison!", Jim obliviously wanders back, focused in on a ticking sound. "Oh, God," Blair moans miserably as he crouches over a struggling Veronica. He punches her in the face and then shakes out his hand, "Ow!" Jim finds the bomb and throws it out the window just in time.

Wrap-up. Firefighters and police surround the semi-charred bus. Simon tells Jim, "I've been worrying about you the past couple of days. Glad you finally came to your senses." Wanh-wannnh! Carolyn flirtily offers to make Jim dinner, but she can't find her watch to determine the time. Jim tells her it's in her car and adds brightly, "I'll see you at eight!" before she can get out her question.

We end happily with our soon-to-be-tradement 30 Seconds With Blair. Jim finds Blair getting his hand bandaged and grudgingly handing over his Camcorder tape to Taggart. "You know this guy?" Taggart asks Jim after Jim calls him "Sandburg" (which Taggart already did; does Taggart know him from before or did he just learn his name? unclear). "Yeah, my new partner," says Jim.

"Partner?" Blair repeats, getting up to follow Jim.

JIM: Every--(snaps his fingers) what-d'you-call-it--Sentinel--needs one. Isn't that what the book said?
BLAIR: Oh, excellent! I thought this was just going to be a thesis paper, but I think we're talking best-seller here!
JIM (stopping him): Whoa, whoa, darlin'-- [Oh, sorry, misheard that--] Whoa, whoa, Darwin, just slow down, here. You're not publishing anything for awhile, okay?
BLAIR: Why not?
JIM (pulling Blair secret-sharing-close): Because, I don't want every lowlife in town knowing I've got an edge! Especially one I can barely control. Now you just keep this between us, you got it?

I'm not sure it will fit.

BLAIR: Hey, do I get a badge?
JIM (appearing to consider this): First I've got to find a way to clear it with the captain. Then you've got to go through the Academy, just like every other cadet. (walks off)
BLAIR: Cadet?! (to Jim's retreating back) Cade--wait a minute, man! I am not cutting my hair! (runs to catch up)

Huh. It's amazing how much of that they came back to in the final episode.

Bottom Line: As you can probably tell from the length of this recap, I like the episode. We meet our characters; we get the brunt of the Sentinel mythos info, always good times; Jim uses his senses a lot, and there's lots of other iconic events (see below); and we get a good amount of Jim/Blair bickering, agreeing, assistance, and mutual manhandling, especially considering they only just met.

The Roundup

Senses Used: Sight (army ranger patch, bomb in basement, gun aim); Hearing (birds in jungle, girls talking, bird at lumber mill, bomb on bus, Carolyn's watch); Smell (gas, rose at shopping center, perfume on yarn); Taste (spicy food); Touch (wood ashes and plastic ashes, the kiss? (possibly))

Zone-Outs: 2 (Hearing (boiling water on stakeout); Sight (red Frisbee); Hearing? (looking for bomb. He was oblivious to the other things going on, fitting with the definition of 'zone-out' given in this episode, but he wasn't incapacitated as he generally is during a zone.)

Near-death Experiences: Blair saves Jim from being run over by a truck; Jim saves busload (incl. B) from bomb

Relationship Milestones: Jim and Blair meet; decide to become "partners"

Babes of the Week: Carolyn (Jim)

Vehicles Jumped Onto: 2 (motorcycle, bus)

Evil Turns: 1

Phones Given to Blair: 1

Guns Given to Blair: 1