Its 12:33 am
Its sort of surreal to think about all the TV shows and films at the theater one misses.
In the old days,if you missed a show or film,you either hoped for a rerun in the summer or had to wait years for the film to get on television.Slowly but surely the landscape changed,especially for films as cable TV rose in popularity. Now a movie you missed would debut in months instead of years. TV shows still faced a tough road as many independent stations stuck with older and cheaper shows like “Get Smart” and “Gomer Pyle” to fill their schedules. Syndication costs were rising but as many stations found out,viewers grew tired of seeing the same old shows that were sometimes shown 4 times a day. They wanted to see newer shows and whatever station would show them,reaped the viewers and advertiser dollars.
Then came the VCR and after that,the DVD player. New cable networks rose up and put more films on faster and independent TV stations were soon swallowed by the big corporations who able to show any show in syndication,provided they hit the 100 episode mark.
So why the history lesson you may asking yourselves…its because in today’s world if you miss a show like “Without A Trace” when it aired years ago,you don’t have to wait to watch it. Now you can go out and buy it with a few clicks of your mouse and a credit card.
Thank heaven for that because I missed the entire run of “Without A Trace” when it aired on CBS. Set in the same “universe” of the CSI series (all were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) the show follows an elite 5 member FBI team who look for missing persons in the New York City region. Now while our Warner Brothers Archive contact “MP” is looking for season one for us,he did send season two and this is why we are starting here.
The team is led by Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia). The other four agents are Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close), Vivian Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) Samantha “Sam” Spade (Poppy Montgomery) and Danny Taylor (Enrique Murciano). All five agents work as one,there are different pairings with each episode.
The stories pretty much start the same,we see the missing person of that show and are introduced to them as they go about their lives and then they vanish. Once the FBI MPU is called,it will show how long the person has been missing- which can be as little as 2 hours to has long as 39 hours.
The agents start working the case and start backtracking to see if they can discover where the missing person has gone and to recover them.
This show,like the CSI franchises and also “Cold Case” which is also set in this universe,are connected by story arcs. The cases may be solved but they often follow the agents and shows how they are affected by them.
Season Two opens up with Samantha recovering from being shot and the fallout of her wounding. Other major arcs shown include Martin and Vivian trying to cover up a mistake by Martin that could cost both agent not only their jobs but Jack’s faith and trust in them. Martin suffers from PTSD while Jack fights to save his marriage by agreeing to take a demotion and move to Chicago when his wife lands a lucrative new job.
The cases themselves…they are rich,complex and very moving. I won’t deny that the cheetah’s fur got wet while we watched some of the shows. Everyone has a reason in wanting to vanish,intentional or not and the MPU team sees a lot pain and anguish during the season.
Of course good series are only as good as the cast and guest stars go and “Without A Trace” was the rare show that drew both excellent casting but outstanding writing as well.
Speaking of guest stars,it was pretty sad seeing who was on the season two opener,Anton Yelchin,who plays a bullied teen picked on and then is involved with a terrible crime in the “The Bus”,died in 2016 at age 27. Its a little surreal to see him and know he still should be here,alive and well. When you see his character vanish,it will bring a lump to your throat knowing that Anton did as well much too early.
The second episode of the season,”Revelations” again highlights the strength of the guest stars as Hector Elizondo plays a dying priest who has gone missing,he urgently needs to be found because his life can be saved a organ transplant. This episode featured the first of two appearences by one of the best characters working today in Jared Harris.
I wish Harris’s Father Walker had been a recurring supporting role but it wasn’t ment to be.
Harris made his second and last appearance in “A Tree Falls” as the team searches for missing 10 year Hispanic child who was kidnapped in broad daylight. During the investigation when Martin and Viv find a main suspect,Martin discovers a tortured child and assaults the suspect. When the prep draws a knife,Martin kills him in self-defense but his lack of control is what sparks the incident. Vivian then covers for her partner telling Jack it was a “good shooting”. This will lead to serious trouble in future episodes.
Despite the seriousness of the show,there is room for humor and in “Life Rules” we saw what happens when a pair of brothers attempt to pull off a kidnapping scam. Long time favorite character actor Rick Hoffman (Suits) plays the mastermind of a goofy plan that has Jack seeing red.
The standout episode of season two is “Wannabe” where a juinor high boy who wants to be part of the “in crowd” vanishes during a trip to the school’s bathroom. A broken mirror and the pool of blood left behind looks like a kidnapping but the truth is even worse and Jack leads a desperate search before tragedy hits. This episode had me sitting on the edge of the sofa…when I was looking at the ratings for “Without A Trace”,it didn’t surprise me to see this episode ranked first.
One thing I really liked about how LaPaglia played Jack Malone….he didn’t pull his punches,be it an adult suspect or minor,if you crossed him,he was coming for you. It was a totally realistic potrayal of a FBI agent who also was a father.
The season finale,”Bait”,sees a billionaire’s family kidnapped and the team is racing to against the clock to find them. Martin saves Sam’s life during the final confrontation with the kidnappers and ends up inviting him home while Jack has turned over the squad to Vivian as he prepares to move to Chicago…..only to be blindsided by unseen events.
I definitely can see why “Without A Trace” was a long running hit for CBS. The playground that is New York City provided a wealth of potential stories and many different directions of where the show will go to.
The main cast is pretty rock solid as LaPaglia,Jean-Baptiste and my favorite actor on the show,Eric Close shining brightly. I know the focus was supposed to be on Poppy Montgomery’s Sam Spade but I found her to be the weakest link of the main cast.
It’s not because she wasn’t good,she was but the other cast members were just so much better.
The second season of “Without A Trace” can be bought on the website of Warner Brothers Archives.
This season features 24 episodes but strangely enough,there are no special features other then a few delated scenes. One hopes that will improve in Season Three.
The cheetah and I give “Without A Trace” two thumbs/4 paws straight up. This is a must have for any serious TV buff.
Have you ever watched “Without A Trace”? Drop a comment and share your thoughts on the show….