So basically this episode can be summed up in one sentence: the kids go undercover to catch a conman and end up liking swindling people.
It's really hard for me to believe they're in-character in this venture. They don't like hurting people. Most episodes feature them rooting for justice to be done, even if sometimes their methods for obtaining said justice are a bit unorthodox. But here, they're rooting for the crook and they try to justify the swindles by saying that the conman says he only cheats people who already have larceny in their hearts.
That isn't quite what he said. He justified himself by saying that everyone has larceny in their hearts, and with that as the case, why shouldn't he be the one to bring it out for a spin? After their little adventure, they can go back to being honest and meanwhile, he's made a profit. That's rather twisted logic.
He also tries to claim that he only hurts people's pride and their pocketbooks. He seems to go after people who are already rich rather than preying on, say, poor widows with only a Social Security check, so at least that's something, but it's still not right. And it's not even true, concerning the only things he damages. At one point he does a stunt in a restaurant pretending to have been cut by glass so he won't have to pay for his meal. That's just immature, mean, and it could permanently damage the restaurant's reputation! And the kids just think it's funny and cool. I just can't wrap my mind around it. This isn't the Pete, Julie, and Linc I know and love. They're acting like juvenile delinquents, something they were supposed to have matured beyond being.
What bothers me even more is that there's no real moment of realization that they are totally idolizing the wrong kind of guy. Okay, true, The Boston Strangler he's not, but that doesn't make what he does right. In the climax, the kids actually want to destroy the evidence they've got against the guy. Luckily, Captain Greer is right there to take it from them. Unfortunately, the guy conned all of them and the evidence is a fake.
He finally does get caught, off-screen, in the epilogue and the kids all feel bad about it.
I could see the kids, especially Julie, feeling some fondness for the guy, as he is charming and seems to like them. But actually going so far as to think it's okay for him to swindle people and to actually end up enjoying it themselves? Um, no. Just no. It's totally out of character, unless you want to say they're enjoying railing against the establishment, but I thought they'd matured enough that they wouldn't enjoy it in this type of way.
It could have been at least somewhat interesting and forgivable if the storyline had been approached more seriously and the kids had come to an epiphany of "What are we doing?!" But instead there's no such thing and the script really seems more like it's glorifying the conman and his swindles. I am not impressed.
The only real highlights of this episode: Captain Greer expressing an aversion to heat and the usage of the Paseo Verde exterior set from Mannix for the Mexican café scene.
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