SCORE: 4 out of 4 Tennis Balls
Feb. 25, 2012
(Edited Nov. 1, 2015 for additional notations)
Dear Bionic Blondes,
Mood Ring: Red (unsettled)
For most Bionic Woman fans, this one is the “holy grail.” It has been one of the most difficult episodes for me to review in the typical Bionic Blonde format due to the intense drama that was so untypical for this series. When Jaime isn’t happy, this upsets my whole universe.
I somehow missed most of the 3rd season of The Bionic Woman as a girl, but by some miracle I managed to see On The Run—and I never forgot it. I was too young to appreciate all this other stuff going on, but I remember being incredibly moved by Jaime's sudden sadness, and upset with an ending that didn't seem to resolve in Jaime's favor. And that made me sad.
Add to that the shell shock of seeing this Chris Williams boyfriend for the very first time and the notion that Jaime would wind up with someone who was not Steve?! It was borderline traumatic for me and my world of happy romantic fairytale endings. But the 2012 me understands the predicament the producers were in at the time with forbidden network crossovers and not a lot of cancellation notice to plan something epic for both Bionic series before they pulled the plug. So they did the best with what they had. And in On The Run, they did it better.
Back After These Messages: Let me just start here this time. Great script from Steven E. de Souza, layered with some subtle story continuity dating back to the beginning of the series (the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, Jaime clutching a tennis ball in the park—her life was coming full circle.) And he wrote us the dark and complex drama of what it must have truly been like for the Bionic Woman to assimilate her cyborg parts with her own flesh on a daily basis. Hardware she can’t exactly give back, so she finds herself minimized as a government asset.
Some of these concepts were dramatically addressed in the early Six Million Dollar Man pilot movies with Steve, but they glossed over it in The Bionic Woman series and fast forwarded from her sky diving recovery to stuff like beauty contest missions. Having never seen Jaime go through this struggle, we were left to believe she was invincible during her accident transition, and that none of this ever bothered her. She was all better and fully adjusted to her bionics right after the commercial.
Then, you have this stunning, gut-wrenching performance by Ms. Wagner, who turns our congenial and ever-confident Jaime inside out with a disturbing nervous breakdown, followed by anger and determination to reclaim her independence and respect as both a woman and a human being.
And Richard Anderson, OMG what an amazing actor. I totally never noticed that in the 70s, but I get it now, and I want to be president of his fan club. They both deserved an Emmy for their performance in that goodbye scene in Jaime's apartment. Just. Wow.
As for wardrobe… several nice outfits in this (noted at the end), but mostly wanted to point out the heavy use of white during the scenes when Jaime quits and goes on the run… (a.k.a. the “Clorox collection”) white sweaters, dresses, hats… to portray her with alabaster innocence, or to symbolize that the government was trying to strip her of all her human "color" and dignity?
I am being a good girl and waiting to listen to the bonus commentary included on the DVD with this episode until after I have finished writing this review, so I won't know until later if any of my surmises are addressed by the scriptwriter, or if I interpreted things differently. (See footnote at the bottom) For now, I am just going to guess they already knew when filming this that NBC was canceling the series, and the cast and crew seized this final opportunity to go out with a bang. And also, I cannot help but recognize a bit of "art imitating life'" here with regard to Ms. Wagner's own challenges as an actress to separate herself from a demanding role and character that had become way bigger than anybody had ever bargained for.
Fasten Your Seatbelts. It’s Going To Be A Bumpy Night: Okay, everybody have your On The Run Survival Kit ready? (Click image above for checklist)
Inhale 2 pieces of chocolate and just go ahead and down that first martini now, because the first person we meet tonight is Not!Steve 3.4 (Chris Williams), last seen in Sanctuary Earth, before Jaime went on to date four more guys.
With rose in hand, he’s coming into the OSI office to meet Jaime for a lunch date. But temp receptionist Sarah informs Chris that Jaime has gone on a last minute mission. Because Jaime seemed blue lately, Oscar was hoping this assignment to bodyguard a cute kid might help cheer her up.
Tonight, the Bionic Woman was only 3 minutes late on her last day of work. (I am assigning her 100 points right off the bat for that achievement in employee morale, and she wasn't even carrying an empty box to pack up her desk.) Jaime is at the zoo with a super-smart little girl who is the daughter of a scientist the OSI is worried might be a kidnapping target. As they stand in front of the pacing polar bear exhibit, there's a little discussion about animals being caged, and despite being given everything they need, they will never enjoy true freedom. The plot tone is set, and by accident a bunch of balloons slip from the attendant's fingers and the camera follows them being carried by the wind. A symbol of a happy-go-lucky life suddenly out of control?
The minute Jaime turns her back, the girl gets nabbed by kidnappers, but Jaime picks up this giant Pez dispenser-looking thingy (a helium balloon tank?) and with perfect tennis-pro aim, hurls it into the hood of their Datsun truck and blows their engine. Angry Birds Score: 100 points. "Stars and Stripes" Pez resemblance to Uncle Sam? 500 bonus points. Symbolic tone #2 is set. "TAKE THAT YOU WASHINGTON BASTARDS."
In a scuffle with one of the bad guys, Jaime's bionic arm gets maimed by a garden hoe. When the little girl notices the wires sticking out of Jaime’s forearm, she freaks out and screams at her, "what ARE you?" Crushed, dear. The look on Jaime's face here is heartbreaking. We are clearly going to need more chocolate to battle our sympathetic depression, possibly with extra caramel.
Edited to add the little girl in this episode is the same young actress who played the bratty little Kim in 2nd season's Beyond the Call – who broke Helen's prized plate and caused her to leave the series for good. And now the same thing is about to happen to Jaime. #JinxedJuveniles
Driving Her Over The Edge: After Rudy repairs her arm, Jaime goes back to visit the girl who has now calmed down—thanks to the police doping her up with Ritalin—and when her father approaches, she cheerfully introduces Jaime as "the robot lady!"
Embarrassed, Jaime tries to explain "it's what you are on the inside" stuff, but loses her composure and races out, still carrying the pair of stuffed polar bears she was planning to give the girl until she started calling her mean names.
When Jaime gets to her car, ...drumroll... it's her MERCEDES BENZ 450SL!!. Yes boys and girls, woo-hoo, Jaime finally got her luxury sports car back!! (If it were up to me, I would just end the series right here on this ultimate high note.) But alas… a very sad Jaime climbs into the front seat, where the newly-installed OnStar system keeps repeating in haunting echoes, "The Robot Lady, The Robot Lady." Thanks a lot OnStar. You have just driven our poor Bionic Woman over the edge.
Two Weeks Notice: From home, Jaime decides to forego a “Rancho la vista, baby” text message and hand writes a letter to Oscar outlining her decision to quit the OSI:
"… I never asked for this arm… this army called the OSI. I didn't even really enlist, I was drafted. ...I'm tired of answering the bugle. I'm tired of being called a winner, just because Rudy's genius made it impossible for me to lose. And I'm tired of looking in the mirror and seeing an OSI agent instead of a woman..."
Sniff. In the next scene, Jaime takes a really long "Dead Man Walking" trip down the hall of the OSI offices wearing a white dress and Easter hat and delivers her letter to Oscar personally. From a distant camera angle, after 3 years of working closely together, we watch Jaime hand an envelope to Oscar and quietly say, "Bye." (Hey, but we can always stay in touch on Facebook!)
Like Water For Chocolate: A couple days later, we find Jaime sleeping in at home and ignoring her ringing phone, but (bad, bad dog!) Max fetches it off the hook and hands it to her. In her chat with Sarah, we learn Jaime is feeling great, has her resumé out on monster.com and is fielding her options. But she doesn't want to go back to teaching at the Air Base—no more federal paychecks.
While we jealously watch Jaime laze in bed, there on her nightstand is an actual open box of assorted chocolates! OMG, I totally never noticed this before, I swear! She also had a stack of paperbacks (titles unreadable, but my money's on Harlequin) and also there are those stuffed polar bears again… who likewise manage to make it into her suitcase and show up later at the hideout cabin.
Since we are fully aware stuffed bears double as lethal weapons with the Bionic Woman, we will consider this “packing heat.”
Meanwhile, Oscar gets called into some Senate office in DC where the Feds regret to inform him that "Janey Sommers" is not permitted to become a drop out. Her bionics are government property and she's a security risk. They want to put her in a special ex-agent retirement facility where she can be monitored and served Jello. Oscar is livid, vows to fight their orders, and sets the record straight on his way out: "When you're finished building that cage and you're getting ready to put her name on it, get it right, will you? It's not Janey. It's Jaime. Jaime Sommers. SAY it! Don't you EVER forget it." Yup, that's our daddy!
19th Nervous Breakdown: Later, Oscar comes to visit Jaime, who is still in her jammies and reading newspaper comics on her bed at 2 in the afternoon. Gravely, he tells her it's out of his hands, but her request for federal freedom has been denied, and then he secretly advises Jaime to "run... with all the skills I taught you, to prevent us from paying you back in this way."
Jaime totally loses it, Oscar loses it and adopts Max on his way out, and then Jaime has a total emotional breakdown while she's packing, breaks her bed, smashes her fist into the mirror, and then just when I can't take it any more, no Jaime DEARRR GODDDD NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
NOT THE FETAL POSITION!!!!!!!!!!
Ouch. Nothing kills me more than seeing Jaime reduced to this crouched position in total despair. (Thumb sucking optional.) If you know what I'm talking about, then you probably also know the names of the other 2 episodes where Jaime completely cracked under pressure like this and fell to the floor. The point where the Bionic Woman is at her absolute weakest.
This ENTIRELY breaks my heart.
But like only Jaime can do, she somehow manages to pull herself together during the commercial and when the Feds arrive to nab her, she’s gone. By now I'm on my second box of tissues and my eyes are practically swollen shut.
But that's okay, since many of the following scenes involve Not!Steve, so this temporary blindness is actually a blessing. Hurled at the TV in protest: Scores of empty chocolate wrappers, an American flag and my teddy bear, which sadly failed to knock him out of the picture.
Cabin Pressure: Jaime drops out of sight, so the evil NSB Feds put out an APB on her, splashing her photo in the newspapers, which of course is immediately picked up by Nancy Grace on CNN as a scandalous "School Teacher Turned Bank Robber" exclusive.
We see Jaime hiding in some remote winter cabin up in the snowy mountains. Not sure if this was intended as symbolic, but we get to watch Jaime wind up like Paul Bunyon and split a piece of firewood with a hatchet. (Yeah, thanks for giving us the ax, NBC).
But BF Chris has already guessed where Jaime is hiding out and is driving up the hill in a Jeep. True to the episode title, Jaime RUNS, while trying to balance her hat on her head, which unfortunately causes her to take a major spill down a snowy mountain slope. She lands at the bottom in a skier’s classic "yard sale" position (trust me, I do this stunt really well myself), but thankfully Jaime is okay.
Later in the cabin, Jaime tells Chris she intends to keep running, even when he advises her to give herself up. But Jaime is fiercely determined, vowing she will never let them take away her freedom. She says ‘thanks but no thanks’ to Chris' offer to spend the rest of his life with her in the Sunnyside government retirement home. She walks out and orders him not to follow her. Evah.
Ohnoshedidnt: Yeah, unfortunately she did. Jaime wanders down the highway on foot and decides to thumb a ride, showing absolutely no signs of hesitation while getting into a car with some strange man who could be a serial killer for all we know. Boys and girls, do NOT try this at home. And if you think hitchhiking is warranted here because Jaime is strong enough to fend off an attacker, let's count how many times the Bionic Woman has been easily restrained by bad guys using guns or sedatives during the course of this series. Bad girl, Jaime. You get fifteen minutes in time out for this.
Park Place: While the hitchiker driver was at a rest stop pay phone calling her in to America's Most Wanted, Jaime takes off running through a public park. She bumps into a boy who asks her to play ball because his blind father is no fun. Jaime tries to explain we should accept our imperfections and limitations, then realizes she's giving herself a pep talk, too. Incidentally, using some of the very same points she pitched to the girl earlier in the episode to defend her robot lady profiling.
While it was nice to see Jaime recapture her self-esteem, I have to say there was something about this scene (and the final one in the government office) that felt somewhat shoehorned in to me. But I forgave it because while this dialogue was going on, we see Jaime handling the kid's tennis ball and accidentally pulverizes it—exactly like she did the very first time she realized her bionic strength. This time, she was realizing her self-worth.
Surrender Dorothy: The NSB swat team soon finds her in the park and Jaime decides not to resist capture. And now comes what I have decided is truly my very favorite line of the entire series, when the NSB agent warns Jaime she's surrounded, and that they know she's "a bionic woman."
“NO sir. I'm just a woman.”
Awesome line! Part of me wishes they could have just ended it all right here and let the audience draw their own conclusions as to what may have happened next. Did Jaime run? Did she cave in and go back to the OSI? Did she run out of chocolate?
Methinks they would have had to invent the internet right then and there just to give the fans an outlet to discuss this clever plot twist en masse. It would have been brilliant. It would have trended on Twitter. But unfortunately, not the kind of thing our viewers still using crayons would understand.
The End: So In the final scene with the government guys and Oscar, Jaime agrees to come back to work, but only if they meet her list of conditions that will allow her to have a personal life. The government thanks her for reminding them they should treat their employees like human beings in addition to providing health care, paid vacations and 401Ks. (Damn those unions.) On her way out, Jaime bumps into Chris, apologizes for dumping him earlier and they decide to get back together. Hug. Fade to black. Huh?
Mood Ring: Unmercifully Red
You know how I just love happy endings. But regrettably, I would have to wait another 9 years to see what I had hoped for Jaime Sommers. 1) To know the government higher-ups that Oscar could neither trust nor control ever fulfilled their promise to leave Jaime alone and grant her retirement status. 2) That all these little "marriage and children" hints dropped within the lovesick gazes of Chris Williams never came to fruition. And 3) That, wellitsaboutfrickintime, her memories of Steve Austin finally returned. Squee!
So boys and girls, for the Bionic Blonde's TRUE Bionic Woman happy ending endorsement, please join me after the commercial, 2 terms of the Reagan administration, the near end of the cold war, the invention of the Walkman—and don't forget to wear your mullet haircuts, acid-washed jeans and torn Flashdance sweatshirts. We're gonna party like it's 1987!
Video: On The Run - The Bionic Woman’s Journey.
Six outfits for her final episode... Jaime wore a lot of white in this episode, speculated earlier as symbolic she was beginning to feel drained. In the beginning a long-sleeved white blouse with long, blue skirt and matching neck scarf. Followed by a 2-piece dress and large hat with a peach flower decoration, a pastel pink nightgown and a rust bath robe.
While on the run, she wore white slacks, a long, ecru sweater, suede leather boots and a matching suede coat and hat. In the mountains, she also wore a tan turtleneck underneath. And finally in the last scene, a 2-piece short sleeved dress with colorful skirt... a sudden shift from whites and neutrals to perhaps illustrate some color had come back in her life again.
Footnote: Now that my review was finished, I went back to re-watch this episode with the DVD commentary from writer Steven E. de Souza (who also wrote Out of Body). Some great behind the scenes insight! Please note that the following information will contain some pretty major spoilers about the original ending, so if you don’t wish to know this, stop reading now.
First, the Uncle Sam prop at the zoo WAS intentional and was written in the script, as well as the Humpty Dumpty and tennis ball references to bookend Jaime’s bionic beginnings.
Secondly, Ms. Wagner was heavily involved in this final story concept and worked closely with Mr. de Souza, and yes there were definite, intentional parallels with her own desire to part with the series and character. According to de Souza, since Ms. Wagner was apparently not contractually obligated to return for a 4th season, this made it easier for the network (with ratings already dangerously “on the bubble”) to make their cancellation decision.
Lastly, the original ending that was written AND filmed had Jaime in the park surrounded by the Feds, and right after she said, “No Sir, I’m just a woman.” SHE ESCAPED AND CONTINUED ON THE RUN! We would have just watched her fading into the distance. The end. I am so tickled that my wish while watching this was to end it here, too. HOWEVER, it was decided Jaime’s all out disappearance would not bode well for the series in syndication where episodes would often air out of sequence. So they were forced to go back to write and shoot this new end scene that had Jaime conceding to come back to work.
THE BIONIC WOMAN 3x22
May 13, 1978
Mood Ring: Red (unsettled)
Wow I finally got to see the Bionic Woman tonight. But it was really sad. Jaime wanted to quit the OSI but they would not let her. She cried a lot and had to run away. And then there was some stupid guy I never saw before that was not Steve and Jaime even kissed him! I don't understand what happened to Steve!? At the end they captured Jaime and she had to go back to work but they promised her more days off. Who would ever have a job they didn’t love? Yeah, right. When I’m a grown-up, I’m sure that will NEVER happen to me.
In the final episode of the series, Jaime has to make some tough choices. Chocolate covered caramel or truffles?
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