January 21, 2012

Street Hawk, episode 11: "The Arabian"

From stables emerges a veterinarian who tells Harry Stone (Jeff Pomerantz) that the horse within, Rebel's Choice, is dying and needs to be put out of its misery so it doesn't linger in pain until morning. This is a problem for Stone as the horse, a prize-winning breeder worth $8,000,000, is just a few days away from being sold, and if he dies, he's only insured for $4,000,000. Stone conspires with trainer Keller (Tom Simcox) and the two quickly kill the vet and swap out the dead Rebel's Choice for one of its siblings.

The horse's real owner, struggling actress Corinne Collins (Bibi Besch) is unaware of the deal hatched by her fiance Stone and even fails to recognize the new horse as an impostor when she visits the next day. Suddenly, a van full of armed men (all on Stone's payroll) squeals into the stables, firing machine guns into the air and catching a stable hand with a stray bullet. They make off with "Rebel's Choice", but are caught by surprise when Street Hawk, in the area on some test runs, shows up and chases them down. The crooks get away, but not before a stray thug, Belding, is left behind for the police to catch.

Altobelli and Jesse show up at Corinne's home with questions. Stone, says he received a ransom call for $2,000,000, but tries to dismiss the issue as a private matter. The stable hand who was shot has since died, meaning the case is officially a homicide and the police won't let it go. Elizabeth Morgan (Barbara Stock), an investigator for Midwestern Insurance, arrives, promising to get to the bottom of things and pushing both the victims and the cops for anything they know.

Altobelli orders Jesse to tail Elizabeth. The two meet at a posh restaurant, discussing the recent illness of Rebel's Choice and the missing vet. Jesse offers to let Elizabeth sit down with Belding, but she says she's calling it a day.

Stone meets up with the head kidnapper, Goon McThug Frankie Munroe (M.C. Gainey), and shoots a ransom video of "Rebel's Choice". They discuss bailing Belding out of jail once he's been arraigned. Stone returns to Corinne's home where he pretends to discover the tape. Corinne is unable to pull together the $2,000,000 due to the financial troubles that led to her try selling Rebel's Choice to begin with. Stone suggests asking the insurance company for an advance.

Elizabeth slips Jesse, investigating the stable on her own, then bails Belding out of jail in exchange for information. Frankie, who was there to bail out Belding himself, spots the two driving off and tails them. He's about to shut them both up with a machine gun when Street Hawk shows up and shoots Frankie's truck. Unfortunately, Frankie swerves and knocks Elizabeth's car off the road. Street Hawk rescues Elizabeth, but her wrecked car explodes before he can get Belding out.

Meeting with Corinne and Stone, Elizabeth agrees to front $2,000,000 in insurance money for the ransom, but only if she gets to make the drop.

At the Command Center, Norman tells Jesse that the vet was discovered dead near the stables and that a close sibling of Rebel's Choice is also owned by the trainer, Keller. Jesse heads to the stables where he eventually uncovers the carcass of the real Rebel's Choice. Jesse is unable to convince Elizabeth to not make the drop, but he tells her the horse is dead and gives her a homing beacon.

Street Hawk quietly tails Elizabeth from payphone to payphone until she meets up with Frankie. When the bag of money turns out to be nothing but shredded newspaper and Elizabeth insists on seeing the horse, Frankie blindfolds her and drives off. The homing beacon is still in the car, leaving Jesse without a trail. He goes to Keller's ranch and, after chasing a horseback Keller with his motorcycle, learns everything was arranged by Stone.

At the stables, Elizabeth discovers Stone, who's all set to kill her when Street Hawk arrives. Street Hawk's weapon system is taken out by a stray bullet, leaving Jesse to take down the crooks with his bare hands and some fancy racing. He triumphs and races off before the police arrive.

Jesse takes Elizabeth out for a hotdog, where she says Street Hawk is the first real man she's ever met.


Tony, I highly doubt that you'll disagree when I say that the only thing less interesting than a middle-aged rich white villain in a suit is a middle-age rich white villain in an ascot. Seriously, is Harry Stone a gigolo shaking up with a rich older woman? Because that's the air he's giving off with his leisure suits, neck scarves, and porno-stache. He's totally a wolf in boy-toy clothing who roped in Corinne Collins only to discover she's not as rich as she used to be and pressures her into quickly cashing in on her most expensive asset: a highly desired breading horse that up and croaks before the deal can be made. I'm not saying it's an uninteresting plot, but it's really out of place in this series as we're literally pitting the high tech wondercycle that recently blew up a bulldozer against a con-artist who kidnaps a horse. Oh, but no, he doesn't kidnap the horse, he kidnaps another horse pretending to be the horse. And none of this plan makes any sense. How much is he planning to run off with on this deal? After paying a sum to his handful of collaborators, of course. If he wanted the full $8,000,000, then why not just pass off the fake horse as the real thing and see the sale through? If he wants the $4,000,000, then why not just produce the real dead horse? There's something about Keller not getting his cut, but there's absolutely no reason he can't be paid off. Especially since, as it goes along, it seems they'll be lucky to make a meagre $2,000,000 off the ransom charges before skipping town. It boggles the mind how this entire story seems convoluted in a way to guarantee the villain makes significantly less money than if he JUST SAT ON HIS THUMB AND DID NOTHING!!!

(pulls hair out for a few minutes before calming and supergluing it back on)

What's surprising is how good this episode is outside of the whole nonsensical horse plot, a big part of which is the authoritative energy Barbara Stock brings to Elizabeth Morgan. Elizabeth starts out as a seemingly bland bombshell for Jesse to fall for yet again, but then she gradually kicks into action, showing herself to be a formidable force who outsmarts people on all sides, and driven with a passion to do the right thing, a fact she makes sure to keep as buried as she possibly can beneath her cool, snarky exterior. Right up until the end, she's driving the action, keeping Jesse - who's supposed to be manipulating her - on a dangling thread, and constantly forcing the bad guys to re-evaluate their plan to compensate for the wrenches she hurls in their faces. At least up until the end, where she becomes a damsel in distress.

The Street Hawk segments are all pretty well done, with Hyperthrust kicking in a few times and the bike jumping over about a dozen things over the course of the story. I love how the wonderbike is finally show to be fallible in two sequences. First, when he tries to save Elizabeth's car only to inadvertently cause it to fly off the road. Second, when the gunfire Jesse frequently drives straight into suddenly hits a key component and his entire weapons system is taken out. It's great to be reminded that, for all its abilities, Street Hawk is still just a machine and Jesse a mere human being, and that the threat of accident and injury is always upon them. Granted, no real lingering aspects of these threads are explored, but it's still nice to see them present. And I also love the scene of Street Hawk chasing the horse, punctuation by Norman's wonderment at a steeplechase playing out before his eyes through the cameras located above Jesse's eyes.

Another thing worth mentioning is, if you're going to get a goon, get M.C. Gainey. He's a great presence that bring both menace and a bit of character to the role of Frankie.

In the end, this isn't an awful episode, it's just anchored to one of the most inexplicably awful plot threads one could ever conceive of. How this nonsensical bit of rubbish made it past the scripting stage is beyond me. I mean, yeah, the angle of Elizabeth and her dueling investigation is nice, but Harry Stone and the kidnapped fake horse needed to be put to pasture before ever making it before cameras.


Thursday evening, I made the slow trek home from work through a mix of snow and ice. Cold, wet, and tired, I decided to take a hot shower while my dinner cooked. If the water hadn’t eventually turned cold, I might have stayed in there an hour. When I finally did get out, I put on my most comfortable pjs, grabbed my dinner, and popped in this week’s episode, asking aloud, “Well, what’ll it be this week?” A coach conspiring to throw the Little League World Series (title: “Eight Boys Out”)? A group of disgruntled used car salesmen who hijack an airliner (title: “The High Mileage Club)”? A mafia Don who launders his money through a chain of waterbed stores (title: “Crime Doesn’t Lay”)? Nope. Horse extortion! I was just saying to Noel a few weeks ago that I really hope one of the upcoming plots centers around a horse. My only disappointment is that Rebel’s Choice didn’t talk to Jesse while the two were alone, then clam up whenever someone else was around.

Okay, I’m being a bit cheeky here, but this episode left me utterly conflicted. On one hand, as Noel mentioned, the plot is mind-numbingly stupid and Street Hawk has about as much business doing an episode about horse extortion as Marilyn Manson does putting out a Christmas album. On the other hand, I kinda enjoyed it. Chalk it up to exceeding my ever lowering expectations, I suppose, but it isn't the mind-flogging grind the last few episodes have been (see Compliment, Backhanded for more info).

A big reason for the relative success of this episode is Barbara Stock. First, please allow me to be male for a second. Dear God this woman is beautiful... and sexy. She’s, well, she’s beauexy. Beyond that, she gives a great performance, combining the breathy delivery of a classic film noir vixen with the tough, straightforward manner of a private eye. Say, if a P.I. is known as a “Private Dick”, would that make her character a Private... never mind. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt this way because Rex Smith is so charming in this episode that I don’t think he was so much acting as trying to woo Stock in real life. Sadly, Norman isn’t given much to do, and Rachel is AWOL for the first time since the pilot. At least Altobelli gets a few decent scenes and a couple of zingers. I’ve come to believe that Richard Venture is the show’s most under-used asset. And then there’s Harry Stone. Noel, you hit the nail on the head. Harry Stone looks like a third rate gigolo from the Lowered Expectations Escort and Car Detailing Agency. And this guy is our villain! When the bad guy’s strongest weapon is the stench of his knock-off Aqua Velva...

And yet, I still can’t bring my self to be as harsh here as I’ve been in the past. This episode has all of the same faults I’ve been ranting about since week three, but it’s better executed. The performances are a bit sharper, the writing a little crisper. I smiled a few times at the back and forth between Jesse and Elizabeth. I laughed when Norman started to ask if the bike was okay before catching himself to ask about Jesse. The steeplechase between Keller and Street Hawk is inspired. I don’t know. Work stress has put me in a bit of a crappy mood the last few weeks. I described my job to Noel as being like Thunderdome. I honestly expect to show up tomorrow and have my boss put a dwarf on my shoulders and shove me into the ring. But for the better part of an hour, the good natured heroics of Jesse Mach and his wonderbike distracted me from my work troubles and ultimately put me in a better frame of mind. For that, it gets a hoof thumbs up from me.

A list is a list of course of course...
  • To my complete and utter astonishment, Barbara Stock never became a star. She appeared as the primary love interest of the title character on Spencer for Hire, but she might be best known for her appearance on the Seinfeld episode “The Subway”, where her character seduces George (on his way to a job interview), takes him back to her motel room, handcuffs him to the bed in his underwear, and leaves with his wallet. Which only contains $8.00.
  • You may recognize the beautiful and talented Bibi Besch as Dr. Carol Marcus from the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. She's also the mother of actress Samantha Mathis. Sadly, Besch died in 1996 after a long battle with breast cancer.
  • Noel, this one’s for you. Jeff Pomerantz had a recurring role as Lt. Malcolm Whittaker on the 80s TV series Automan!
  • The two films listed on the marquee of the drive-in where Elizabeth meets Frankie for the drop-off are the horror documentary Terror in Aisles and Scarface!?

Tune in next Saturday Morning for another Street Hawk adventure in "Female of the Species".

If you'd like to watch along with us, the entire series is available in a DVD set which can be purchased through Amazon US, Amazon CA, or Amazon UK.

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