I've unwittingly noticed a bit of a pattern in the various topics that I have chosen over the last couple of weeks or so on Fridays. Perhaps you've noticed it too? If not, I'll explain what I mean.
With the exception of the entry that focused on the various Simpsons Treehouse of Horror specials, the last month, I've featured television shows that have three things in common.
1 – They were all shows that aired on CBS
2 – They were all shows that were drama series on CBS
3 – They were all shows that ended up being canceled by CBS.
Who knew that “Ghost Whisperer”, “Joan of Arcadia”, and “Cold Case” had so much in common?
Well, why break with this trend? Today's show also happens to be a dramatic series that aired on CBS until it was canceled.
What I found interesting about all of these shows was the fact that all of them had a unique theme to them that helped them stand out. “Ghost Whisperer” featured a woman who could communicate with the spirits of the dearly departed, “Joan of Arcadia” showcased a teenage girl who could speak with God, and “Cold Case” featured a team of detectives who re-investigated old murder cases that were never solved.
And for today, we'll be looking at show that featured a team of detectives that worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (otherwise known as the FBI) aiding in the search for missing people.
I'm not talking about the missing people whose faces could be found in department store lobbies or milk cartons. I'm talking more along the lines of people who have disappeared more recently than that, like within a 48-hour time period.
I'm not exactly sure where I heard this statement...for all I know, I could have heard it on this show...but I have heard that the more time that passes after the initial 48-hour period, the less of a chance that a missing person is found alive. So it's incredibly crucial that investigators and police work as quickly as possible to make sure that they can save the life of a person who has gone missing.
As many of you know, the circumstances in which a person can go missing are plenty. They can be kidnapped or abducted, they could have some sort of disease or mental illness that causes them to wander off, they could have gotten lost in an unfamiliar area...and in some bizarre cases, they could even fake their own deaths.
All of these plots and more could be found in this television show.
The Jerry Bruckheimer produced program “Without A Trace” is our topic for today, a show that aired on CBS from September 26, 2002 until May 19, 2009.
The series depicted five (six as of season four) detectives who worked for the FBI offices in New York City. Each episode, they would be alerted to a missing person (or in some cases, persons), and they would have to work together to try and locate the person before something terrible happened.
In almost all the cases, the missing person was found alive...but sometimes the ending wasn't a happy one. And in some cases, the missing person ended up being involved in criminal activities, and the team had to try and locate them before they caused innocent people harm.
You think that's stressful enough? That's not even counting all of the personal struggles that all six of the detectives had to deal with during the course of the series.
What sorts of personal problems are we talking about?
Well, let's start with introducing the team members and go from there.
The leader of the team is Special Agent John Michael Malone, otherwise known as Jack (Anthony LaPaglia). During the first two years of the series, he has to take care of his ailing father (Martin Landau) who is battling Alzheimer's Disease. He also ends up getting divorced from his wife, and struggles to be a single parent to his two daughters. Jack also gets abducted and is tortured by his kidnapper, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which leads to him getting demoted. He does get reinstated as team leader in the final season. He also gets involved in a couple of relationships during his time on the series, including one of his own team members...
Special Agent Samantha “Sam” Spade (Poppy Montgomery) is introduced as the other woman that Jack is having an affair with at the beginning of the series. And would you believe that the affair goes on and off during the entire length of the show's run? But by the end of the series, Sam ends up finding her one true love, and gives birth to a child. Samantha's time on the series was quite memorable as well. At the end of the first season, she gets shot, and ends up getting severely beaten up while going undercover in a missing persons case. Samantha also ends up having a secret relationship with fellow detective Martin Fitzgerald, and she also has a strained relationship with her family after it is revealed that she murdered her mother's boyfriend with a shovel after she discovered that he was sexually abusing her sister.
Special Agent Vivian “Viv” Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is the second-in-command of the missing persons team at the FBI. If anything were to happen to Jack, she would immediately take over. When Jack moved to Chicago in order to try and save his marriage, Viv took over. But when Jack came back after his marriage inevitably failed, he returned to his old job, which caused tension between her and Jack. She and Jack did settle things, and she probably understood Jack better than anyone else. She has a teenage son named Reggie, and she underwent open heart surgery in the middle of the series, making a full recovery.
Next up is Special Agent Danny Taylor (nee Alvarez) (Enrique Murciano) probably has the most troubled background out of anyone. He lost his parents in a car accident when he was little, and shouldered most of the blame on himself, as the car crashed as his father turned away from the wheel to yell at him. He ended up being shuffled from foster home to foster home, and as a result is sympathetic to children with poor home situations, much like Samantha. Danny helps Martin get over some personal issues, sees Jack as a father figure, and has a very close relationship with Samantha and Viv. His brother ended up becoming a drug addict and Danny did whatever he could to get him on the straight and narrow. At the end of the series, he ended up marrying...
Special Agent Elena Delgado (Roselyn Sanchez). As you may have learned from the last paragraph, Elena ended up marrying Danny at the end of the series. She actually didn't join the series until the fourth season. When she first appears, we quickly learn that she fled from her ex-boyfriend Carlos Aguilar, and is a single parent to her daughter, Sofia. She didn't have a huge role in the series until she got involved in a nasty custody battle with Carlos. The battle climaxed with Carlos kidnapping Elena, but she was rescued by the team and began seeing Danny shortly after.
The final member of the team is Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close), who has quite a huge role on the series. Originally with White Collar Crimes in Seattle, Washington, Martin's father had him transferred to the FBI offices in New York. The pilot episode of the series was Martin's first day. Despite some of the team (Danny in particular) believing that Martin's transfer was brought on by favortism, Martin's relationship with his father is lukewarm at best. Martin ended up shooting a suspect in suspicious circumstances (which Viv witnessed), and the two of them kept it under wraps until Martin confided in Jack what really happened. Martin ended up having a brief relationship with Samantha, and ended up getting shot several times while transferring a prisoner to a detention facility. The shooting caused Martin to develop an addiction to painkillers...one that Danny helped him kick.
So, that's about all that I have to say about the characters of “Without A Trace”. Now for some of the cases. I don't have a lot of time to go over all of them in detail, but I will briefly talk about some of the more memorable cases below. I'll write down the season and episode number for you, in case you want to find them yourselves.
Season 1, Episode 1 (9/26/2002) – The episode where it all began. It's the perfect episode to introduce the team characters, as well as the premise of the show.
Season 1, Episode 5 (10/24/2002) – When a teenage boy goes missing from a private school, Jack discovers that the headmaster may be responsible. And believe it or not, this episode is the beginning of a storyline that lasts almost a whole year!
Season 1, Episode 11 (1/9/2003) – The victims are just two young girls...and Samantha develops an obsessive need to find them before something terrible happens.
Season 1, Episodes 22 and 23 (5/8/2003 and 5/15/2003) – Doing a case based around the 9/11 attacks just a year and a half after they happened was a risky move, but I think these two episodes did a fantastic job handling a sensitive subject. This is also the story arc where Sam gets shot.
Season 2, Episode 1 (9/25/2003) – This case was unique as an entire school bus filled with children goes missing, and it's a race against time to find them before something bad happens.
Season 2, Episode 6 (11/6/2003) – The case is about a missing high school student, but it also got slammed by parents groups, who sued CBS for its display of a teenage orgy on screen.
Season 2, Episode 15 (2/14/2004) – As a child who was bullied, I recommend that EVERYONE SEE THIS EPISODE just so they can understand how much of an impact it can have on a child.
Season 3, Episode 5 (10/28/2004) – Ever seen those extreme makeover shows with the plastic surgery? Believe it or not, this episode focuses on one of these shows...as well as the negative effects that can come from them.
Season 4, Episode 6 (11/3/2005) – The first episode to visit another country, the team goes to Mexico in order to save a man who was kidnapped on a vacation with his wife.
Season 6, Episode 6 (11/8/2007) – Believe it or not, this show did a crossover with CSI, as Gil Grissom (William Petersen) makes a guest appearance.