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JAG: Dream Team (2005)
Season 10, Episode 21
Absolutely amateur writing
11 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In the plot of this episode, the writers somehow felt that trying to throw in all-too-predictable twists would make for a compelling legal drama. The opening shows two sailors in a fist fight among a supportive crowd, where a far smaller knocks out the other. The latter dies.

Of course, things are not so simple. Obviously, this guy did not just die from being punched. So, Rabb the defender gets a blood report saying that tainted puffer fish was the culprit in the deceased's demise. Of course, the story doesn't end there, as that's far too simple. Instead, the smaller sailor, who was relentlessly bullied by the deceased, tainted his food.

Now, even the writers realized how ridiculous this was. Why would the offender, after having poisoned the bully, get in a fist fight with him that would be so close to his time of death? The rather lame explanation given was that he couldn't resist the opportunity to hit him. Really? Creating totally implausible motivations for characters results in crappy drama. It looks like JAG has only one episode after this. I predict that they made absolutely no plans to tie up the loose ends of the series (particularly the sexual tension between Rabb and Mack) and it will be a rather lame end to a series that was fairly good in the earlier seasons (though never in any of its history plausible) but clearly jumped the shark multiple seasons prior to its last.
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JAG: Death at the Mosque (2005)
Season 10, Episode 18
The Legal Writing Gets Less Imaginative
10 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In previous seasons, JAG played like an exciting legal thriller. In these latter episodes, there is little intrigue. This particular episode involves an infantry Marine in Iraq gunning down an unarmed Iraqi who was begging for his life and the act being caught on camera. Having watched JAG for a while, I can't remember any combat troop being convicted of killing a civilian. What you will find in this show is a total lack of any criticisms of what the US military is meant to do: kill people efficiently. The only problems that apparently plague the military are that it sometimes mistreats some women and homosexuals; other than that, it is the march of God on earth.

In the case, they find evidence that the unarmed Iraqi who was shot was actually reaching for explosives, thus justifying the slaying of all those Iraqi civilians since the dawn of the Iraq War. One wonders if the Pentagon funded this show, as it is unabashed propaganda.
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JAG: JAG: San Diego (2005)
Season 10, Episode 17
A show about lawyers that knows nothing about lawyering
27 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
One of the worst things about JAG is how utterly insulting it is to the audience. In this episode, a Marine is tried for involuntary manslaughter after he struck a man in a big crowd with the butt of his rifle. If you were the defense, or even the prosecutor, what is one of the first pieces of evidence you would review? Obviously, you'd want to establish (if you were the prosecutor) that the trauma to the deceased's head is consistent with the Marine's rifle. Not only was that not done before the trial, the blood on the rifle was not even tested for a match with the deceased. (It ended up being the case that the deceased was killed by a large box hitting his head and the blood on the rifle belonging to someone else.) How can this show pretend to be a legitimate show about lawyers when both the prosecution and the defense should be brought up on charges of incompetence? It's just so incredibly stupid there's no wonder why this was the last season of this show.
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JAG: The Boast (2003)
Season 9, Episode 9
JAG is insulting to audience's intelligence
8 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Please note the spoiler alert.

In this episode, an Iraqi POW is found dead, executed with a shot to the back of the head. A marine who boasted to a woman in a bar, after being asked if he had killed anyone, told her that he had taken this prisoner and "zapped him." He is court-martialed with Col. McKenzie defending and Bud prosecuting.

As one familiar with JAG could reasonably predict, the marine was found not guilty. As I've noted in reviews of previous episodes, JAG tends to stay away from every criticizing the military as an institution. With scandals such as what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison, JAG wouldn't have been out of line in admitting the fact that members of the military have abused prisoners. But the particular reason for the titling of this review is that the episode ends promptly after the marine is acquitted. Are we supposed to just forget that there was a murdered POW? Just because a prime suspect was acquitted doesn't mean that a murder didn't happen.

The subplot is also pretty silly. A Navy pitcher is investigated for hitting a batter in the head with a pitch. A huge problem is how poorly the incident (or accident) is presented. The director made a poor decision; the pitch was done in slow motion with the batter not moving at all and it appears as though the ball strikes him under the shoulder. This becomes very confusing when what we are told is that the pitch actually hit the batter in the head and was aimed behind his head so that he would back into it.

This makes no sense. If the ball is actually aimed behind his head, it is hard to imagine that the batter's instinctive reaction would be to back up. As well, the pitch was a fastball. The only way such a result seems plausible is if the pitch had movement on it, such as with a curve ball or slider. Some pitchers' fastballs do have movement on them, but not enough for a batter to misjudge it so badly that they move into it. Lastly, it is quite hard to believe that a Navy pitcher with a 95 mile per hour fastball is playing for the Navy baseball team. Someone like that would probably have been drafted, at least into the minor leagues, right out of high school. (Perhaps I am nitpicking here, but it's rare that I feel like the plot of a JAG episode is tight and cohesive. Clearly, this isn't one of those times.)
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JAG: Posse Comitatus (2003)
Season 9, Episode 8
Rabb was better as a crop duster
7 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The issues presented in this episode are as relevant as ever. But with local police becoming more militarized (even police departments of small towns of 5,000 people are being sent mine resistant vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan), is the question of military personnel being used on US soil to enforce law a mute point? In this episode, a man with an assault rifle has one sheriff's deputy hostage and has the other deputies outgunned and at bay. Then comes a Marine chopper that cuts him down. This chopper was not called for and not wanted by the sheriff's department; the pilot was acting out of his own volition.

To me, there is no question that such an act is illegal, and the legal arguments made regarding the case are ridiculous. Rabb's argument: after 9/11 state governors had to call in National Guard troops to help with airport security and could not call in the Army; therefore, posse comitatus laws are outdated. The judge says that this is a good argument for repealing the laws, but he's not a legislator. What? This is a lousy argument. It amounts to: the state sucks at protecting people, therefore martial law should be easier to implement.

As well, the defense's other arguments lack force. The defendant says, "I was trying to save lives." Even if he was, this does not justify the ability to use military hardware against civilians. The judge accepting this argument would create a ridiculous loophole through which an armored personnel carrier (or gunship) could fit through. An even worse argument (said by the judge, no less) was that the Marine did not have orders not to engage. Hmm...I guess I'm no expert on the military, but I think the LAW would be more important than orders. What is he doing in a gunship in the first place if he has no orders? Sometimes I think the writers of JAG have run out of ideas for legal issues that are plausibly contentious among rational people and simply make either Rabb or Turner take the rabid statist position in order for their to be confrontations. And yet, it's probably the case that the writers sincerely believe that more use of military force against US citizens is noble and just. The Marine is not only acquitted, but is also made to look like a martyr because he is transferred because "the Marine Corps thinks its image is more important than one man's career." The subplot has Turner and Bud deciding investigating whether a recent Quaker convert's application to conscientious objector status should be accepted. Personally, I don't see why such a thing should matter. Even if it is the case that his unit has been given notice that they might be sent to a combat zone, or even if his commitment to pacifism is feigned, should it matter? Is it really better to either 1) force him into combat, or 2) imprison him? For issues such as these, JAG doesn't really even touch whether or not they are wise or just, yet it will for other issues such as gays in the military or sexual harassment. I wish they would be a little braver here. Indeed, it is quite safe to talk about racism, sexism, or prejudice against gays in the military; but to question more essential traditions of the military, such as prosecuting deserters or conscientious objectors that don't meet the military's standards, is something JAG shies away from.

Another thing I want to point out is that you can bet that pretty much any person finding their way into a JAG court and who wants out of the military is going to be presented in a less than copacetic way. Last season, when the sound engineer wanted out, he turned out to be taking source code from a military contractor and using it to make video games. In this episode, the conscientious objector is threatened with not having his medical practice available to military health insurance coverage, and doesn't like the thought of losing such business.

What the show seems to be implying is that once you are in the military it owns you until it wants to give you up; your will is irrelevant in the matter. And should you want to leave before your term is up, it is always for selfish reasons. If JAG is not yet to the point of promoting outright military worship, it's getting close.
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JAG: Back in the Saddle (2003)
Season 9, Episode 6
Just when you thought it couldn't get worse
7 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
My goodness. Do the writers not understand the logic of their own show? In the last episode, Rabb landed a C-130 on a carrier and for some reason there was a news crew there who recorded it. This episode he is being fired because of that news report; his face has been broadcasted on every TV! OK? This makes no sense. For one thing, Rabb has been on TV several times before while either defending, prosecuting, or presiding over very high profile international cases. You'd think that that cow was already out of the barn.

No further case need be made for why that reasoning is absolutely ridiculous. But putting this aside, it still doesn't make sense. Why would it matter that he's well-known? He is a pilot! He flies aircraft that carry CIA assets. It is only in their nonsensical world that this makes sense, where CIA pilots are used as undercover assets because apparently the CIA cannot possibly spare anyone else.

Rabb also seems sad that his office at JAG is no longer his. Turner asks, "Didn't you know?" What? Did Rabb really expect that they would hold his office for him or turn it into a shrine for him? He's been gone for months.

It is also annoying how everyone thinks less of Rabb for being a crop duster. This is rich, coming exclusively from government workers, whose contribution to society is quite ambiguous: indeed, would their jobs exist if not for the fact that they are paid by taxpayers who have to pay them regardless of their desire? In contrast, as a crop duster, he is providing a service for which he is voluntarily paid. All their medals and prestige obscures the fact that they are paid in money taken by force.
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JAG: Secret Agent Man (2003)
Season 9, Episode 3
What do these writers take us for?
7 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There is just too much of the plot of this episode that doesn't make sense. Let me list them.

  • The CIA director says that the Philippines are extremely politically important to the US, and there needs to be a US friendly puppet in charge. And yet there are no CIA assets on the ground, like a safehouse or something, such that you have to send in pilots to be spooks? - Wouldn't it be far easier to bug a car than replace it with a bugged car that looks exactly the same? I'm pretty sure if you have the ability and time to get into the said car, remove items and then place them in the bugged car, then return to the said car and move it, it's probably the case that you could have just planted bugs in the original car. No sense whatsoever.

  • O'Neill was being an idiot when she seduced the driver of the vehicle to create a distraction. I suppose I can accept that she decided to kiss him with the car (being replaced by Rabb at the time) was in plain sight behind him, because he didn't want to leave the car. But it seems absolutely dumb that she had to keep her eyes on Rabb the whole time; there is no way she could have done this without the driver noticing her actions. But somehow she manages to do so. But then, after all this, decides that she's just going to leave and knees the man below the belt when he isn't finished and runs, subsequently getting arrested. Why would she be this dense? If you don't want to perform some sexual act, there are other ways of getting out of this; you're in a relatively public area in the middle of the day. You have some options: take off your top and run around like a crazy person, soil yourself, faint, etc. These are all things she could have done that would have gotten her off the hook, and yet she screwed it up.

  • Rabb and O'Neill are put in a situation where they have to disarm a bomb. But they knew about it beforehand because of the bugged car. Why not call in a bomb threat to evacuate the building and get professionals to disarm the bomb? It's not like you're blowing your cover or revealing the fact that you bugged their car, not any more so than disarming the bomb yourself would. But, of course, they do this to try and create a false tension (really, did anyone expect them to make a mistake with this bomb?) and a totally unnecessary chase scene at the end. However, chase scenes that make you roll your eyes because they are totally unnecessary and only happen because of the stupidity of the main characters do not create tension.

This is an episode worth skipping.
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JAG: Touchdown (2003)
Season 9, Episode 5
JAG keeps getting more statist (and less plausible)
7 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
It seems JAG just keeps getting dumber and less plausible every episode. So many things are either implausible or don't make sense:

  • O'Neill not getting shot when providing covering fire - The plane being only configured for one passenger - what else do you need the cargo bay for? - The flares making the pilot crash. Is he an idiot? Why mess with the throttle when blinded? -Perhaps the landing of the C-130 on a carrier was the most plausible feat, considering the video of it actually happening (though the pilots made it look really easy).

In addition, Commander Turner keeps becoming more of a statist psychopath. In the previous episode we saw how he wanted to court-martial a man for not stabbing a child shepherd. In this, we see him arguing in favor of torturing people? They have made a point of the fact that his father is a Christian preacher, as well as the fact that he is a Christian. It is questionable then how such a person could also advocate such non-Christlike things.

One thing I find somewhat annoying about JAG is that there is hardly any room given for moral ambiguity or dissent from the status quo of always giving the military the benefit of the doubt. When Seaman Weston says, "I do want to be alive to see it when the Great American Empire is destroyed," Col. McKenzie replies, "Whoever taught you to hate like that ought to be in prison too." The problem here is that the writers had a great opportunity to explore the idea of whether factually innocent people are tortured (which we know to be the case with many inmates in Guantanamo Bay prison), but of course the defendant is factually guilty, so we don't have to face such a terrible (yet factual) idea of the US government torturing innocent people. Also, so far in the series aired after 9/11, there has been no consideration whatsoever towards the terrorists' motivations (if I can remember any, it is the cliché that "they hate us for our freedoms"). Here, Col. McKenzie totally denies that there could ever exist any rational argument against the US empire; to desire its end is such an offense that the one who desires it ought to be put in prison. No discussion at all is made of the hypocrisy of such thought, as most Americans who support US intervention overseas would NEVER accept a foreign country perpetuating the same thing towards them or their government. Thus, it seems like the writers and producers of JAG desire that we toe the government line and think of its foreign policy as just, and anyone who opposes it as unpatriotic, or perhaps even a terrorist.
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