The Good Guys: "$3.52"
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The Good Guys: "$3.52"

Tonight's episode of The Good Guys solved the flabbiness the last couple of episodes have had through relatively novel means: It put the bad guys and the good guys in the same place for much of the runtime. This is not a method the show can use from week to week, since it would be too contrived if it happened all the time, but as a way to keep the plot relatively streamlined, it worked like gangbusters. I don't know if this is the episode the series should look to going forward, but it had much of what makes the series work when it's working, from some very funny scenes (basically everything with Jack and Dan in the truck) to some interesting action with that final car chase. This episode was probably done to cut costs - since those scenes with Jack and Dan in the truck probably could have been shot on a bare stage with just a few props - but that sometimes inspires greater creativity.

Here's what happened: Dan's testimony at a trial has let a drug kingpin named Wayne Young, whom Liz has been trying to get behind bars for ages and ages, off the hook. Liz tasks Jack to catch the guy in the act, letting him know that this isn't exactly what Dan's good at. Meanwhile, Dan is trying to further cultivate his relationship with Julius, who's turning out to be a pretty valuable snitch. Jack challenges Dan to catch the bad guys in the act but do so by the book. This, of course, leads Dan to break into his place of business, leading he and Jack into the back of the semi. Eventually, the bad guys show up, close the two in the back of the truck, and head off down the road to a little place outside of Lubbock. And from there, we're off to the races, as Jack and Dan search for evidence of criminal activity amidst a large shipment of scented candles, the bad guys talk about meeting up to sell their product, and Julius and his friend race after the two to make sure that Dan doesn't get killed, leaving Julius in severe legal trouble.

Some of the persistent problems with The Good Guys were still present in this hour. It continues to have no idea of what to do with its female characters (even creator Matt Nix's previous series Burn Notice had mostly figured out what to do with its more tertiary characters by this point), and every time the series cuts to anyone but the two guys, the quality of the scenes is pretty hit and miss. But unlike the last two weeks, the criminal plot the guys get caught up in isn't very complicated. There's a big brick of heroin hidden amongst the candles, and Wayne is going to sell it to some other bad guys. That's pretty much it, and the simplicity of the set-up allows the show to play around more and have some fun. The final car chase, where all three parties (the guys, Wayne, and the guys Wayne was selling to) are pitted against each other, is as much fun as the other action payoffs the series has had, and it doesn't really rely on anything like complicated plotting.

Or maybe the actors on the bad guy side are just that much more compelling. For one thing, you have Gregg Henry turning up as Wayne, and Henry plays a nice kind of good-ol' boy menace, giving these scenes a nice tone that works to the show's advantage. Wayne feels like he could kill our main guys, but he also is funny enough to be laughed at. Maybe the problems with the bad guy scenes are the fact that the actors struggle with the show's tone, having trouble dancing between comedy and action as often as the show does. Another fine actor turned up as Julius' friend who was helping him find the guys (they were out west somewhere). This was Kevin Sussman, perhaps best known as Stuart from The Big Bang Theory, and a fine choice every time you need to find a weasel-y nerd type to show up in your show. His Skeeter maybe isn't the most well-developed character, but he and RonReaco Lee (as Julius) play well off of each other, and I hope he returns to the show at some point.

But what's fun about this show is still fun. Honestly, it could just be a show that contrived a new way to lock Colin Hanks and Bradley Whitford in a new room week after week, and it would probably be pretty good. And I like the gradual "arc" the show is building for itself, where Dan is gradually dragging Jack down to his level and the department is grudgingly accepting of this, so long as it continues to get results. This episode also had some pretty nifty plotting, where Dan swapped the brick of heroin for a souvenir brick at the curio shop, and then revealed that only at episode's end, though it laid the clues for us to figure it out for ourselves all along. And, as mentioned, the action stuff worked very, very well. Add that to a number of scenes where Hanks and Whitford were in a tiny space, just bouncing off of each other, and you had what might be the best episode of the show since the pilot. If things continue to head in this direction, The Good Guys will become something more than just an enjoyable time-waster.

Stray observations:

  • According to production codes, this was the second episode produced. Since the show moved it out of order and to one of the least watched TV weeks of the year (the week leading up to the Fourth of July), they clearly thought this was a weaker hour. So maybe I'm missing something that was just terrible about this episode. I'm sure you'll tell me if I was.
  • It's not often you see shows blatantly trying things that are meant to be continuing plotlines that just never took off, but Jack's visit to the donut and coffee shop and his talk with the well-intentioned black waitress feels like something the series hoped might become a regular thing. Instead, it just felt stereotypical. Lots of older cop shows had devices like this, and it's something that has mercifully mostly disappeared.
  • My wife used to work at a Pier One Imports with a woman who developed an allergy to the scent of the candles. Now, speaking as someone who delights in smelling the many interesting scents the candlemakers of the world are able to come up with, I find this bizarre, but apparently it is, indeed, a thing that exists.
  • Dan's attempts to break out of the truck, particularly that gunshot that the guys up at the front of the truck wrote off as a backfire, were funny.
  • Oh, just get Liz and Jack together again already. The will-they/won't-they thing is just not interesting at all.
  • On the other hand, I can get behind the lieutenant receiving increasingly unhinged reports from the field from Jack and Dan.
  • Is it at all weird that the REALLY bad guys in every episode seem to be from another country? It's South Africa here, but it's also been Peru, China, and other countries I'm sure I'm just forgetting about.
  • "I think your shirt is egregious."
  • "Detective Stark made a visual inspection and determined that the boxes were filled with crime."
  • "Dan, this is Texas, OK? You just described 10,000 square miles!"
  • "Save the mustache."
  • "What? It smells like a mystic sunrise."
  • "If you're gonna die, might as well be in a hot rod!"
  • "You know they got giraffes down there?"
Filed Under: TV, The Good Guys

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