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JAG: Unknown Soldier (2005)
Season 10, Episode 20
8/10
A good road movie for Graves and Vukovic
12 July 2019
Echoes from the past reach out from Vietnam-era incidents.

The Blues soundtrack makes this an enjoyable JAG episode as the series winds down towards its demise at the end of season ten (there were just two episodes, centred on DC, to broadcast after this "road movie" before "JAG" came to an end).

Useful investigations and some interesting back stories (Graves guesses - correctly - what lies at the heart of Vukovic's commitment issues and his approach to women). Her character could have been developed further.

Eventually, an unknown soldier is given an identity, meaning that one more MIA comes home. And yet, his brother's attitude ("he may just walk through the door some day") gives this antepenultimate episode of JAG a link right back to the early "harm Father PoW" ark of the early series.

This was a nice way to start closing down the ten-year run of "JAG".
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JAG: Cowboys & Cossacks (1997)
Season 2, Episode 14
8/10
"Some men value their enemies more than their friends"
12 July 2019
Harm's comment, as the last act of this episode (the penultimate episode in Season Two's short run) provides a rational view of the rivalry between the two ships' captains.

Tense action sequences, Mac using her Russian language skills and a useful look back at the old Cold-War rivalries make this an above-average 42 minutes of action.

The Bellisarius policy of recycling actors gives us a first glimpse of the friendly Russian face who will, over the years, appear as Capt. Alex Volkonov / Pilot / Commander Yuri Kretchiak.

Most of the characters survive the adventure. The final denoument in the explosive finale uses stock footage of a Falkland Islands explosion on board a Royal Navy ship back in 1982.
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JAG: Code Blue (1997)
Season 2, Episode 13
8/10
Doctors and Nurses with two Jags in the middle
11 July 2019
The 12th of 15 episodes in the shortened Season Two, which saw JAG move successfully across to CBS after NBC dumped them at the end of Season One.

An entertaining adventure within the confines of two hospital floors. Mac mainly plays a supporting role and Harm gets to see something which he "Can honestly say I have *never* seen that".

As always, the good guys win, there is a positive outcome on the vexed Israeli-Palestinian story (sadly no further forward at this time of viewing, 22 years later) and a baby gets a name.
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JAG: The Guardian (1997)
Season 2, Episode 12
9/10
A plea for support of military veterans from the middle of Season Two
10 July 2019
This above-average episode from 22 years ago gives voice to the problems faced by many ex-military veterans who, after joining up at a young age and serving with distinction for many years, are (fairly-) suddenly discharged and left to "fend for themselves" on the streets. We had a similar problem in the UK at the time that this episode was broadcast in 1997, leading eventually to the formation of the "Help for Heroes" charity in 2007.

Bruce Weitz (the former Sgt "Renko" from Hill Street Blues") gives good expression to the character of a former Vietnam PoW and veteran who has become "lost in the system". The reason why he spends his time watching the convenience store where the initial incident occurs becomes clear. Bud and Harm perform well both at the start and throughout the case.

This episode holds true to the Bellisarius policy of supporting the US military, both past and present. It is well-worth watching as you get to the mid-point of Season two. By this point, Catherine Bell had settled into the role of "Mac" and the characters were beginning to spark off each other. Of course, a happy ending is contrived leaving everyone with a positive glow and a hopeful outlook for the future.
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JAG: The Game of Go (1997)
Season 2, Episode 10
7/10
Hide and seek in the South American jungle
9 July 2019
A workaday episode, with Southern Californa (and a vineyard) masquerading as the South American jungle.

Harm, Bud and mac play several games of double-bluff to expose the bad-guys. Ham gets to roll around in the dust in what had been an immaculate set of Dress Whites. Clayton Webb gets to sit in a bamboo cage wearing an immaculate three-piece suit.

Despite the apparent humidity of the jungle, Mac's uniform gets to stay dry and immaculately pressed.

Not an episode to lament if you never see it!
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JAG: Force Recon (1997)
Season 2, Episode 11
10/10
Send in the Marines! Oh, it's a JAG!
9 July 2019
Harm poses as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant as part of an investigation. Plenty of live-fire and a few cliff-hangers. Eventually all becomes clear.

Several actors appear in this episode, who are re-used in future series.

Harm and Mac have to invent a "we met before" scenario at short-notice.
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JAG: Full Engagement (1997)
Season 2, Episode 8
10/10
Finally, our Dynamic Duo begin to trust each other!
4 July 2019
JAG meets Deliverance - not quite!

A breakthrough episode, as our two characters begin to realise that some of their feelings run deeper. They work together to defeat the "Baddies of the week" and the episode is a great adventure for Harm and Mac amongst the forest landscape.

Great inventiveness and resourcefulness as our hero and heroine battle "baddies" who (a) can't shoot straight (no surprise there!) and (b) don't work as a team - enabling our Dynamic Dup to emerge victorious.

But what a lovely old biplane!
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JAG: Ghosts (1997)
Season 2, Episode 7
8/10
A useful episode regarding the Chegwidden back-story
3 July 2019
After yesterday's travesty of "Trinity", CBS historical channels served up this episode from 1997. The back-story of Admiral Chegwidden is explored, utilising Webb from the CIA and delving into the murky world of CIA operations in Vietnam during "the war".

Sadly, the Admiral's girlfriend becomes a victim, Chegwidden decides on an honourable and ethical means to bring down the perpetrator and Mac gets to make eyes at a lab technician as she tracks down some physical evidence.

Harm gets to try out the Admiral's chair!

Back to normal standards after "Trinity".
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JAG: Trinity (1997)
Season 2, Episode 6
2/10
Oh dear! What a poor representation of another country
3 July 2019
We caught this on July 2nd 2019 (some 22 years after the initial broadcast).

Our jaws hit the deck in disbelief! This episode is so bad, it could be regarded as brilliant - not! This demonstrates seriously-poor research into what is a part of a sovereign country - and the USA's most-fastidious ally, through thick and thin over the centuries.

Clearly filmed in the USA, with a pastiche view of England in the 60s (1860s???). No clue as to how Belfast looks (claiming that the city was Dublin - in the Irish Republic, therefore *not* part of the United Kingdom since the 1920s - would scarcely have been any better!).

It looks like the apprentice wrote this with a hangover - and a broken arm.

In terms of the "backstory" to this episode, the programme demonstrates all that was wrong with Americans' (and especially Californians') perception of the terrorist situation in Northern Ireland in the 1990s (where as many people were killed as died in the Twin Towers in NYC in 2001).

In fairness to the USA, this level of naivete was finally dispelled when America discovered what terrorism really entails, on Tuesday 11th September 2001. After which, the USA took a sensible (and far more realistic) stand on terrorism.

Let's just write this off as an aberration by Bellisarius.

I re-read this review, in draft form, after an hour and decided - reluctantly - to double my rating. There was one bright note - at least the internal representation of London's Heathrow Airport in the 1990s was almost accurate! Almost!
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JAG: Crossing the Line (1997)
Season 2, Episode 5
7/10
Sets a number of standards for JAG principles in following episodes
1 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This episode, whilst suffering from some element of "going through the motions", nevertheless sets down some markers for the future direction of JAG.

The (older) CAG is keen to ensure that only the best pilots succeed and are put into the front line (one of his best pilots is female, disproving the insinuation that he is motivated by gender prejudice). The CAG holds the view that a carrier is no place to complete your substandard flying training. You need to be on top of your game to fly from a carrier. Sadly, events prove his experience to be correct.

Several acronyms are born, including "OSCB" along with "D.N.K.H." and some of Harm's backstory is alluded to (he mentions "no night flying" to the CAG, whom he rescued way back in "A new Life: part two" at the start of Season One, thereby achieving the nomination for his second DFC).

We meet the recurring character of Elizabeth "Skates" Hawkes, who gives a useful insight into the experience of female aviation staff on a carrier. She also accepts her detail from CAG, flying as RIO to the "sub-standard" pilot after two other RIOs have "sicked off".

The inherent dangers of carrier-borne operations is well-represented in this gritty episode which finishes with a 30-million-dollar bonfire of an F-14 (and a pushy politician's programme of special-interest pressure).
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Rebus: The First Stone (2007)
Season 4, Episode 2
8/10
Some great lines and proof that "God moves in mysterious ways".
29 June 2019
Ken Stott and Claire Price shine in a script with humour, darkness and musical references. Retribution delayed 20 years is, nevertheless, retribution.

The script builds nicely to a denouement.
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Waking the Dead: Pietà: Part 2 (2008)
Season 7, Episode 12
9/10
A claustrophobic set of interrogations get to the truth
18 June 2019
Boyd, front and centre but with excellent, knowledgeable, support from his team, digs through the layers of deceit and misdirection.

Records from the former republic of Yugoslavia provide the backdrop to a 1995 war crime in the Bosnian-Serb-Muslim war in that region. The evidence is slowly gathered, via a few misdirections, unmasking a pair of war criminals ripe for a one-way ticket to the IWT at The Hague.

Not the best ever, but a useful reminder that "nothing disappears for ever".
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Waking the Dead: Yahrzeit: Part 2 (2007)
Season 6, Episode 12
9/10
Brings together everything that is excellent about "Waking the Dead"
12 June 2019
In 2019, one of the UK satellite channels is broadcasting (either side of midnight) the back-catalogue of "Waking the Dead". The original two-parters are being shown in one continuous episode (apart from the adverts on "Drama" channel - fair enough, they need to make money!)

We occasionally caught the odd episode of WtD during the original broadcast, but this time the stories merit a further look (even if you sometimes fall asleep!).

This episode casts long shadows back to 1945 (and beyond), covering Jewish oppression, Nazi malfeasance (even Joseph Mengele gets a mention!) and a reminder that "nothing disappears forever".

The scrip is well-written, the ensemble cast bounce off each other and the layers of history - like the layers of flooring in the old man's house - are peeled back to reveal the truth.

Peter Boyd gets a love interest (Played with feline grace by Michelle Forbes) in a side-line which continues into the next story in this season.

This was tense, taut, well-detailed (without overkill - pardon the pun!) and a thoroughly enthralling two-hour story.
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JAG: The Brotherhood (1996)
Season 1, Episode 12
8/10
Solving crimes amongst Marines on the Californian beach
10 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A workmanlike episode from the mid-point of Season One.

Harm and Meg mesh well together on another investigation. she introduces him to the Texas "Hook-'em" horns hand -sign, as they begin to uncover links to the malign influence of LA gangs.

There is a touch of the "painting-by-numbers" approach to script writing. The final denouement sees Meg standing shoulder-to-shoulder alongside Harm, trading (single, automatic pistol) shots with (Uzi-like sub-machinegun-wielding) gang thugs, without being hit by a single round. Then someone sends in the marines and the gang members are all efficiently subdued.

A happy ending gives another lost soul a chance to train for something better in a civilian outreach program and the mystery is solved.

The only thing missing was Harm and Meg going back to the beach where they had been investigating earlier, then driving off westwards into the sunset...... Mike
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JAG: Nobody's Child (1999)
Season 4, Episode 17
7/10
Harmon Rabb's childhood trauma shows his soft spot for lost children
4 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A different line of script from the usual Navy/Carrier/Seaman stories, with a chance for Harm to show some emotion.

The Terri Coulter character reappears, repeating her working relationship with Harm from "Jimmy Blackhorse" and they make a good investigative team, complementing (and providing a counterpoint to) the usual "Harm-Mac" duopoly.

A happy ending enables Annie Lewis to be buried by name, and Dar-Lin Lewis to begin recovering from her ordeal.

This episode spun off two further adventures within the year. The Dar-Lin Lewis character would appear twice more, in "Adversaries" and "Goodbyes" within the 1999 series.
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JAG: Brig Break (1995)
Season 1, Episode 8
9/10
Meg works hard as the damsel in distress
4 June 2019
One-third of the way through the production run of the first season of "JAG", Harm and Meg reunite with Kate Pike (who clearly still has some affinity to Harm - this will be finally enunciated around five years later in Kate Pike's last appearance on the show) who is working in Intelligence.

There are several red herrings and Meg takes a swim (fully clothed) before the action moves onto a "nuclear detonation countdown" story where our heroic threesome emerge triumphant.

The cast act their little hearts out and the stunt team did great work. The world is saved for another day. The goofs listed on IMDB do not detract from the entertainment value.
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JAG: Meltdown (2003)
Season 8, Episode 21
9/10
Second part of the NCIS introduction, spinning out of JAG
20 January 2019
With Harm under arrest, Chegwidden had to hand the prosecution and defence caseloads to JAG officers who are not local and have (as fas as possible) no "history" with Harm.

This means that his defence is handed to a Navy LtCdr - Faith Coleman. This was another under-developed character, played with earnest seriousness by Alicia Coppola. The character has been extensively (and accurately) described in Fanfiction as "an anally-retentive with OCD, who cannot start her day without a full box of sharp pencils".

Gibbs and the NCIS team have been pressured to secure a prosecution then get out to the Mediterranean to "crack" a terrorist (this was 2003, remember, with 11/09/2001 fresh in the American memory). With a little time to think, Gibbs tasks Abby Sciuto (who works with the prosecuting Marine Major) and Tony DiNozzo with looking more closely at the evidence which implicated Harm in Loren Singer's alleged murder.

End game; Gibbs cracks the terrorist (in my case, if someone threatened me with wine, I would become a little less accurate during interrogation!) and the terror plot is sunk.

A very youthful-looking Tony DiNozzo uses basic dogged police work and interrogation techniques to uncover (you'll understand the pun if you know Navy terminology!) the real killer (with an effective flashback to Loren Singer's death)

Everyone lives happily ever after - in the case of "JAG", for another two seasons and, in the case of "NCIS" up until today (review written in 2019).
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An Accidental Christmas (2007 TV Movie)
3/10
Predictable and sleep-inducing
22 December 2018
The script-writers didn't break out of a slumber, let along a jog.

Workmanlike and entirely predictable (doormat wife rediscovers herself after two kids - the "daughter" looks old) and returns to her old job. Hubby can't accept this. The kids "engineer a "Parent Trap" style reunion with a Christmas booking at an old family favourite resort and...zzzzz.

We woke up as the titles rolled by. I looked at the original intended score for this and added one point.
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JAG: Mixed Messages (2001)
Season 7, Episode 5
7/10
Sturgis arrives; Renee gets engaged; Harm solves two murders
29 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Harm butts heads with NSG (Naval Security Group). His old Academy classmate Sturgis Turner arrives (and spots Mac's similarity to Harm's dead girlfriend Diana Schonke).

Renee visits the office - she is engaged to Cyrus. Harm looks uncomfortable when she declares: "he looks at me like I am the only living thing in his world" . Her follow-up "you and I both know we were never going down the aisle" meets a moment of honesty in Harm's reply: "Well, it wasn't down because of you".

Mac tries to track down Liliana (the Indonesian schoolgirl who assisted Mac's evacuation of the US embassy, under fire, in an earlier episode). Eventually the little girl is tracked to a hospital south of Ache (whish, IRL, was to be decimated by the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami). In the side-story, a perceptive Indonesian police officer guesses Mac's dilemma over more than one man (analysing the "ring" story).

Harm fights hard to save his dead friend's reputation - and, as we all expect, our hero is eventually triumphant. Harm eventually solves two murders and the three shootings which caused the deaths.

At one point, a date (August 17, 2001) pops up on the screen. Clayton Webb (the JAG series' tame CIA "spook") appears, and "mis-information" rears its ugly head.

Some tightly-plotted court scenes raise the standard of the performances. More is left "unsaid" than "said" - typical when "intelligence" matters are raised. Webb reveals his CIA position (on the witness stand) as "Deputy Directot of Counter-Intelligence".

Probably not for the first time, a counter-intelligence operation has cost innocent (or at least un-involved) lives. This aspect is well-written.

As often happens in the murky worlds of espionage, the result is a "score-draw"; Harm's friend's reputation is cleared but the proceedings are then sealed.
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JAG: Washington Holiday (1997)
Season 2, Episode 9
7/10
An enjoyable piece of "fluff", not to be taken seriously
9 October 2018
An episode which demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of European politics and geography (so soon after the Season Two episode "Trinity" had blundered through Northern Irish politics), but still provides entertainment for dedicated JAG viewers.

Harm's task of protecting/escorting/distracting Princess Alexandra gives us a re-hash of the Gregory Peck 1950s film "Roman Holiday".

The minor side characters include DJE's real-life wife Nanci Chambers, hiding as likeable reporter Meghan O'Hara whilst being, in her real character, the hired assassin (a useful range of acting challenges which Chambers performed well). This was some years before the actress returned to JAG as the memorable character of the devious, spiky and and self-centred Lt Loren Singer.

Harm makes his famous "I regard you as a sister" comment to Mac and our Dynamic Duo eventually thwart the assassin's plans. Finally, Harm gets his six pinched by the affectionate princess.

It helps to pass 45 minutes if you want enjoyable fluff. I don't think that any of the actors (apart from Chambers) got out of second gear at any point on the journey through this pedestrian script. And obviously Romania is not a monarchy!
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JAG: Secret Agent Man (2003)
Season 9, Episode 3
7/10
We find out what happened to Beth O'Neill; Harm flies again
8 October 2018
Harm's first CIA flight after completion of his training. Beth O'Neill (whom he defended in "Offensive Action" in season eight) has now left the US Navy and is flying for the Company. She has settled her lifestyle and is able to live openly, whilst also flying and serving her country,

Lots of "spy vs spy" type capers around the Philippines, plenty of baddies who cannot shoot straight and a safe return to the skies for our hero and heroine.

Not one of JAG's best episodes, but it does at least introduce us to the new (although ultimately soon-to-be-cut-short) flying career of Mr Civilian Rabb.
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JAG: Shifting Sands (2003)
Season 9, Episode 2
8/10
Harm and Mac return to Falls Church - one of them only momentarily
8 October 2018
Harm and Mac walk into Falls Church on their return, to find a celebration in full swing. Sadly it is not for them; PO Jason Tiner has been selected for Officer Candidate School (thence to Naval Judicial School).

Bud is sent (unaccompanied) to the desert to interview a deserter from an earlier Gulf War, but Sturgis is less than enamoured at the news. Harm is given an hour to clear his desk - the Admiral had processed his resignation the next day, meaning that Harm has been a civilian for 72 hours.

Harm gets a job call from the CIA....
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JAG: A Tangled Webb: Part 2 (2003)
Season 9, Episode 1
8/10
Season 9 starts with a bang and sets the limits for Mac and Harm
8 October 2018
The arc from Season Eight comes to an explosive end, after which our heroes gather to lick their wounds.

Gunny and Webb find a hospital where Webb's wounds are dressed, whilst in a contrast Harm and Mac share an hotel room. Contacting Hardy, they identify a possible mole, who had been leaking CIA information to the bad guys.

Sadik Fahd changes his appearance again, plugs the leak and escapes once more from Harm and Mac. Gunny and Webb begin their journey back to base, whilst Mac and Harm get close to renewing their outstanding "chat".

Eventually, we reach the realisation that "there can never be an us" (a critical point in the Mac/Harm timeline) and the final freeze-frame shows our favourite twosome, looking wistfully in different directions.

From here, it was downhill to the end of Season Ten; but this arc of episodes spawned a vast load of fanfiction.
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JAG: Fair Winds and Following Seas (2005)
Season 10, Episode 22
9/10
It ended, like real-life military events, as it began: with a posting
4 October 2018
Looking back at this through the prism of 13 years of history and fanfiction, it is clear that the producers could not have satisfied all of the wishes of all of the members of the considerable fan-base which this series accumulated during its 10 years on the air. The cast had aged and their characters had matured, arrived, left or died. It was probably the right time to say "farewell".

This episode tried to be even-handed and it touched on the pressures which many married military families face when one member of the "team" is promoted or assigned.

As it stands, it is a fitting end to "JAG"; and we still have "JAG" to thank for the continuing, excellent "NCIS" which was spun off from "JAG" season Eight in 2003. Thank you, all involved in "JAG"
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JAG: Second Sight (1999)
Season 4, Episode 20
8/10
Fills an important gap in the back-story of Sarah Mackenzie
16 September 2018
This episode is crucial (and we learn a significant amount) in understanding the childhood of Sarah Mackenzie - including a big hint as to why she has problems in forming lasting, trusting relationships.

The appearance of Michael Tucci, as Father Gennaro, is in contrast to the bumbling "Norman" from "Diagnosis Murder" (which was being filmed during this time in his career).

Catherine Bell's acting style and range had developed by this episode, late in the 4th series of "JAG". She runs the gamut from confusion to anger and (just a little) compassion.

The background to her childhood (abusive alcoholic father who left when she was 17, mother who abandoned them when Sarah was aged 15) is explored and she utters a memorable line about "the scars on what is left of MY soul" in one of her impassioned scenes.

The reconciliation with her mother is sweetly - yet poignantly - handled. We understand more about Sarah ("Mac") the woman, by learning about Sarah the terrified child. Sarah makes a decision about her parents.
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