blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Michael Hayes (1997) s01e18 – Gotterdammerung

It’s recognizable guest star week on “Michael Hayes.” Lots of guest stars. Sadly former “Facts of Life” co-stars Meredith Scott Lynn and Charlotte Rae don’t share any scenes. But there’s also the return of Larry Miller—he gets a “special appearance” credit—and does his best Gene Hackman in “The Conversation” (or Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State trailers) as a CIA agent who gives David Caruso the dirt on the CIA hiring on a bunch of Nazis after World War II, which is true but the show’s so silly at the conspiracy stuff it doesn’t come off truthy. The main guest star is Lawrence Dobkin, playing an elderly German immigrant who changes his testimony on the stand. He’s testifying against other guest star Vyto Ruginis.

Dobkin changes his story right after Holocaust survivor Rae spots him in the court house, in such an obvious sequence (even without the show’s “cut in a Nazi uniform” montage technique, even worse than the show’s flashback devices) you have to wonder if Hillary Danner’s character is supposed to have never seen or heard of Marathon Man.

Last recognizable guest star is Lawrence Pressman as the government Nazi hunter who tries to find out the story on Dobkin.

Meanwhile, Caruso, Danner, Peter Outerbridge, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson are all scrambling to save the case against Ruginis (for murdering a federal agent) while wondering if they fell for an old Nazi’s lies or if Rae’s just mistaken.

Once the CIA gets involved, Miller comes back for a scene—which just leads Caruso off to another visit with jailed CIA whistleblower now conspiracy crank Thomas Kopache (who isn’t a recognizable guest star so much as what I assume is a desperate attempt at appealing to “X-Files” viewers)—and then Caruso’s got to figure out how to uncover all the secrets.

There’s some good acting. Rae’s really good, Pressman’s good, Dobkin’s pretty good—the problem for Dobkin is he’s in it too much, doing too little, and the script (credited to show runner Michael S. Chernuchin and Barry Schkolnick) doesn’t really know how to do the story. The script shoehorns in conspiracy when it’d have been more affecting and effective without it. The regular cast just gets to be angry about Dobkin hoodwinking them—or is he—and all of a sudden you’ve got a roomful of righteous rage and not just the seething righteous rage of Caruso. Caruso’s righteous fury a lot more effective when the bad guys aren’t potentially actual Nazis. It’s over kill, lighting a burner with a flamethrower; though it does give Caruso endless one-liner deliveries to try out, just not a lot of acting.

It’s well-acted enough, just really thinly written—the episode disappoints in an all new way; even towards the end of the season, “Michael Hayes” can always find a new fail vector.

Also, one final complaint—no Rebecca Rigg (but Danner, who’s been sitting out Rigg episodes). Not sure why they can’t be on the same episodes anymore, possibly because all the characters are purely functional at this point.

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