Alien Nation #7: The First Cigar

Sikes and Francisco are up against a community leader who's dealing drugs. Buck gets accidentally involved in a timeshare scam.
SLAGS LIKE US: "Jack" is the crack of the '90s. More ozone layer problems; they lead to freon appliances being outlawed and recalled (another indication that Alien Nation's U.S.A. is far more liberal than it actually was, environmentalism in addition to the integration of a large immigrant population). In the 80s, timeshare sales peaked, and timeshare fraud along with it, making Sam Simian's scam a crime very much of that era.

REVIEW: The common thread running through the episode is the corrupting influence of money, whether one needs it or has vast stores of it. No doubt because the Newcomers are new to money, some have a certain naive attitude towards it. George can't recognize a bribe when he sees one, and can't be bought in part because he can't see someone is bidding on him, and in part because he believes Newcomers should be doubly careful of following human rules to the letter to be better accepted and ensure the survival of his culture. The one time he breaks the rules, by standing up to the IRS, he does so thinking he's within his rights, but it's an idealized misreading of American history. Meanwhile, Buck falls prey to a con artist, and helps him scam dozens of Newcomers with an imaginary housing development, including Buck's own sister. Even when Emily puts money into New Tencton, it is out of a juvenile and naive kind of greed, a game. And all the hero Newcomers seem to engage with money the same way.

The character who is most under pressure to be corrupted is George who almost folds under the weight of his debts, and Sikes amiably prodding him to skim a little blood money off the top is ambiguous at best. George chooses to believe his partner is only joking, and certainly TV's Sikes isn't as dodgy as his movie incarnation, but it's doubtful he would have judged George on it. Still, they commend each other on their integrity at the end, so regardless, they respect each other the more for making the right choices. That's really too bad for community leader Betty Ross who thinks she's bought herself the only Newcomer detective in the force, because she really hasn't. As an overseer, she had other means to control her people. Now it's money and drugs. She's basically the Terrence Stamp of the TV series, without the hulking out. It wouldn't have taken much for her to become a recurring villain, seeing as Captain Grazer was happy to let her ply her trade in exchange for some showy busts of other dealers - another kind of corruption. Annoying journalist Burns (in the regular cast even if we see little of him) is only there for the cops to strong-arm Grazer into doing the right thing. Why redeem Grazer in the previous episode only to make him fall again though?

In a way, it's too bad he DIDN'T get his way because Betty WOULD have made a good villain (despite being derivative of the movie's villain). She's pretty badass, and supplies the show with one of its better explosions. Good action beats throughout, in fact, including a dynamic fight with drug pushers around a disgusting toilet in the opening sequence. Over in the subplots, it's nice to see Buck try to turn his life around, getting a suit'n'tie job and everything. It's not his fault he went sideways, and he could use the skills he demonstrates here in more legitimate jobs. The IRS stuff is a fine, a set-up for the Franciscos' money troubles, and as such, is solved rather conveniently. As for the Sikes/Cathy element, ugh. Tepid will they/won't they scenes that feature plumbing gags and forced laughter. No thanks.

The A-plot is very much taken from the film, though "jack" works just as well on humans and doesn't have a connection with how the slaves were kept in check.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A good A-plot, a coherent theme, and Buck shows signs of evolving. Unfortunately, we've been this way before, and not all subplots were created equal.



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