After Agent X has spent a lot of time building up John Case (the agent is one tough customer) a Mayan battle axe takes the man down. Surprises all around as the vice president’s personal weapon of choice seemed, apart from his poisoning last week, pretty much too tough to tackle. Sharon Stone finally moves up and out of the White House and into a helicopter which allows her to move away from the somnambulistic acting style that the Oscar nominated actress has adopted thus far.
Before going into a closer look at the show, mad props to whoever decided to make John Case (Jeff Hephner) a disciple of MacGyver (for those who have not had a television glued to their face since birth, MacGyver, played by Richard Dean Anderson, was the all time master at improvisational weapon making) as proven when he boobytraps the crashed chopper with petrol, a flare gun and the fire extinguisher. What ever else happened in this episode, this was its crowning moment.
A flashback, which becomes very important later on, has John and Millar (Gerald McRaney) in a marina observing a takedown being orchestrated by fellow agent, and friend of Case, Ray – whose face we never see. Ray is blown up while onboard his sailing vessel, via a purse bomb and his body is charred beyond recognition. John feels responsible and Millar lets him. Malcolm tells the then vice president and later president, Eckhart that he will be of more use “that way.”
Fast forward and Natalie Maccabee takes on the task of mediator when negotiations break down between the Mexican president and an insurgent who sells drugs to buy weapons. The VP take the two parties on a helicopter ride, over Mexico, where they cannot just leave when things get rough.
Unfortunately, Nicolas Volker (Andrew Howard) and his team steal an E.M.P cannon and shoot both Maccabee’s chopper and their escort bird out of the air. Luckily for all on board the vice president’s ride (except for the pilot and co-pilot who die in the crash) Case is on hand.
The Mexican president is badly injured and the insurgent, along with his daughter (played brilliantly by Gabrielle Walsh), and Maccabee move the wounded man to a Mayan archeological site for treatment and to call for help. Case stops off to “arm” the fallen chopper and takes out most of the villainous Volker’s crew.
Another “mad props” moment is when, after the explosion, only Nicolas and one henchman are left alive. The henchman has a leg that has been pretty much shredded by the blast. Cue a The Wild Bunch moment. In true Sam Peckinpah style, the wounded baddy tells his boss that “I can walk.”
Staggering and falling the wounded man moves away from Volker. While this leader does not shoot his injured minion in the face, he does smash his skull with a rock. The implication is different in Agent X than in the Peckinpah film. Pike shoots his gang member for two reasons, to put him out of his suffering and because he will slow them up.
Nicolas kills his one surviving team member, one feels, just because the man will hinder his mission, both acts are cold-blooded and shocking.
Volker, who would make any Bond villain proud, was at the Mayan dig before the survivors – they shot down the helicopters from the site, and Maccabee and co. find all the workers dead, murdered by Volker and his men. The villain shows up later and when he leaves, Case is his unwilling travel partner.
This episode marks a turning point for Agent X. While it still shows off Gerald McRaney and star Hephner in a good light, it also allowed Sharon Stone to drop the sleep walking performance that has marred the series thus far. For a start, her Maccabee is allowed to get out of the White House, or that secret office, and do something other than be a figurehead.
She works well in the negotiation scenes and later, as they all scramble for safety, Stone rises to the occasion as Maccabee. The VP is even allowed to use Case’s service pistol to shoot, and wing, Volker.
Up north of the border, McRaney discovers that a trusted colleague “betrayed” the brotherhood, by leaving a hole in their computer system’s security software. This realization leads to a discovery that Case has already made.
An interteresting note is that Eckhart (John Shea) turns up when Maccabee goes missing, it seems that when the current VP dies, or is “lost” the previous one steps in. While this facilitated the plot of Sacrifice, it also screams “plot-hole.” Trying to imaging a prior VP, who could well be from another political party and no longer in office suddenly being in charge of Agent X again is stretching the old suspension of disbelief envelope to breaking.
Overall this episode worked, despite the show makers putting John Case in peril again. After last week’s episode also put Case in a life or death situation, this could be seen as a lack of creativity. This is not, however, the case (no pun intended) this week’s plot device makes sense when the flashback and the storyline are all put together.
While Olga Petrovka’s absence is still keenly felt, Nicolas Volker as villain is fun to watch and his larger than life “Big Bad” actions make him a real treat. Hephner still sells it as the “super” agent, who is more Jason Bourne than James Bond, although a bit more “human” than Bourne.
Agent X is moving up the scale. The actors are settling in and hitting their stride, some quicker than others but this is starting to come together. The series airs Sundays on TNT; tune in and see how the Yank’s do “licensed to kill.” Cracking entertainment that just leapt up a notch.