Michael Hayes (1997) s01e20 – Devotion

It’s an almost entirely middling episode with a great as always guest star performance from Joanna Gleason—she’s married to family values congressman, Jim Haynie, who’s schtupping Godly campaign worker Gina Philips—and they’re getting death threats because Haynie wasn’t pro-gun enough with the Republican party’s white supremacist base. The episode opens with David Caruso on a politics talk show opposite Haynie, who just rambles about the culture war, before we find out Caruso’s only on the show because he’s dating host Susanna Thompson.

The episode’s B plot is Thompson getting a job offer in Los Angeles and having to figure it out with Caruso whether or not they can keep going. They’ve only been dating a few weeks (at most) but it’s ostensible character development for Caruso so the show’s going to pretend Thompson might stick around. Who knows, maybe they’re floating second season possibilities by the network (though at this point “Hayes” was in summer burn-off so they were probably already not renewed). It’s hard not to see Thompson as a stand-in for Helen Slater, a similarly blonde, similarly upwardly mobile girlfriend Caruso had a while back. Maybe if she’d stuck around the story would have some heft to it. With Thompson, it’s fine, but it’s obviously filler.

The A plot is almost entirely Caruso and Rebecca Rigg, with Ruben Santiago-Hudson out of commission due to a foot injury—he at least shows up for a couple scenes throughout, whereas Peter Outerbridge and Hillary Danner are as forgotten as Caruso’s extended family. It’s such a weird show; they aimed low, they aimed high, they aimed desperate, and it turns out their best goal was just being middling. Get good guest stars, do a reasonably engaging investigation procedural (it’s inexplicable why Caruso and company—i.e. Caruso and Rigg, though Jodi Long gets a bunch to do presumably because it wasn’t in her guest star contract to shoot pilots or get to run away after the show didn’t get renewed). Both Rigg and Caruso have acting moments where you remember the show used to be better, used to require better acting moments. Not anymore.

As “Michael Hayes” heads towards its sunset, it’s nice it isn’t going out on its low point (there’s still time of course) but it’d almost be better if it had. Reminding of all its potential—and its occasional successes—doesn’t do it any good.

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