Last week in The Player, Alex started searching for Ginny in earnest and Mr. Johnson offered to help his player in the effort. This week in The Big Blind, the pit boss is more interested in the game than in helping Alex find his “dead” wife. It also seems that Johnson does not want Cassandra to know about the assistance. Ms. King and the pit boss reveal a bit more about their “relationship” while she struggles to keeps things smooth with her boyfriend.
The Big Blind delivers in spades. This new series has definitely hit its stride and is moving swiftly into an addictive experience. With the underlying plot thread of Ginny’s “fake” death (The missing tattoo and Cassandra’s connection with Alex’s wife , that she removed all evidence of, show that something shady is going on here.) plaguing Kane’s thoughts as well as the increased action and impressive stunts of the game, The Player as series has shifted easily into the top spot on the NBC lineup.
This week the show starts with Alex laying in the dirt, bloody and disoriented and a female shape, with a silhouette that looks an awful lot like Ginny’s (Daisy Betts), appears and Alex says her name. Later, we learn that Alex met Ginny, aka Virginia, this way; wounded, laying in the dirt and blood at the Sudan. Like any good romance scenario, the soldier fell in love with his doctor.
Alex and Ginny are given just enough screen time together to cement their backstory. The two are decorating their first home, “for posterity” and we see a playful exchange of paint and a kiss. (This scene is, perhaps, the only annoyance out of the whole episode. The reason? For a “self-filmed” bit of action, the camera work was way too smooth. Apart from that little problem the scene does set up the relationship between the two brilliantly.)
The stakes in this episode were raised through the roof as Alex has to face a number of bounty hunters who appear to be after a client of his. Later he learns that the men are attempting to collect on an anonymous contract placed on the target, Ray, by his wife Monica. After the initial attempt on Ray’s life, the contract changes. The mob thug puts out another contract on his missus.
It is also revealed that things between Mr. Johnson and Ms. King are not entirely harmonious. There is some tension there, not entirely caused by Cassandra losing her day off.
Ray is almost killed by a bomb and Cassandra tracks down the hitman, using Alex’s security cameras and Kane finds the killer dead with four fingernails pulled out. At this point, the player learns, with Ms. King’s help, that a number of new “hitmen” have been drawn to the $250K bounty.
A total of five hunters are competing for the bounty and Alex must defeat them all to win.
The Big Blind had the right amount of action, stunts for the win and even contained a couple of “MacGyver” moments. One, used a timed flash on a smart phone and another was a paint thinner, duct tape and a welding torch construct. Both equally impressive, violent and effective. The fights between Alex and the baddies in the deserted hotel were choreographed brilliantly. Kudos all around for the action scenes in this one.
Eric Roberts, in his cameo as the mafia daddy of Monica who is in prison with a wheelchair and a nasty bit of emphysema gave his usual above par performance. Roberts played Pauly Agostino, a mob figure who has connections with Mr. Johnson and despite his ailments is still a very powerful man.
The plot of The Player, set around the failed assassination attempt on Ray, is really about spousal abuse. Monica, who was friends with Ray’s wife Ginny (yet another trail leading back to Kane’s “dead” wife) miscarried once before when her husband threw her down the stairs. Monica is pregnant again and since Ray beats her on a regular basis, she puts the initial contract out on his life.
Along with the domestic violence storyline the episode is also about relationships. Most notably Cassandra and all her relationships/connections with the main characters, as well as her personal one with Nick, a partnership that looks to be dissolving. Cassandra King is connected to Alex (work), Mr. Johnson (work) and Ginny (This last is a question mark, is Ms. King a friend, an old colleague or former coworker of Mrs. Kane? We do not know…yet.)
Charity Wakefield as Cassandra continues to captivate and the writers of the show have the “Dealer” down pat. The scene in the kitchen, the morning after, is spot on. Nick asks for spices and King opens a cupboard door to take out the one item on the shelf; salt. She hands it to Nick and he jokingly tells Cassandra that she’ll make someone a good wife some day.
The scene between Philip Winchester and Daisy Betts shows the chemistry these two performers have. We have no doubt that these characters are/were very much in love. Wesley Snipes also shows another side to his Mr. Johnson; pit boss extraordinaire. When Cassandra tells Alex that she is seven moves ahead of him and to “catch up,” Johnson grins widely and chuckles, a little touch that makes Snipes’s character a bit more dimensional.
By the end of the episode, after Alex “sees” the silhouette of Ginny and he wins the game, we have to ask if that was Ginny. Kane’s flashback to meeting his wife and her treating his wounds before makes the sighting feel a bit ambiguous. Still, it is pretty much a certainty that Ginny is still alive so it could well have been her.
The Player airs Thursdays on NBC. Tune in and see what an action/thriller television series should look like. Show creators John Fox and John Rogers have hit their mark perfectly this week and this series is delivering on all cylinders.