The writers of Human Target are a crafty bunch. Last week, they responded to all of our thoughts and fears about the new cast additions by writing almost all of them into the episode; this week, they continue their campaign to win us over by devoting an entire episode to newcomer Ames.
Ames does a favor for her oldest and dearest friend Brody (J.D. Pardo, who played Sean on FOX’s short-lived Drive), and by “favor” I mean that she helps him steal explosives and then literally blow out the back door. Her regression into her criminal past shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. It’s certainly not surprising to Chance, who’s been checking up on her after-hours activities. He’s seen the whole thing go down, and follows her from the scene of the crime, finally confronting her in an empty parking lot. Busted. (Amusingly, Mark Valley doesn’t even suffer from helmet hair. I swear the man is perfect.)
When news of Ames’ off the clock venture becomes public, she finds herself in a whole lot of hot water with the team, and deservedly so. As Winston points out at the beginning of his tirade (which is almost as if Chi McBride”s channeling his days as the principal on Boston Public), the only reason she’s there is because they vouched for her to Ilsa in the premiere episode and kept her out of jail in Geneva. Neither he nor Chance are particularly moved by her flippant apologies or her pleas that Brody needed her help. Maybe if she toned down the attitude that seems to come with every word she says, she’d have better luck.
Brody, meanwhile, has the stolen explosives and is walking into a very empty garage, which is always the place one wants to find themselves alone. He’s there to meet Andre Markus (24‘s Hakeem Kae-Kazim) and deliver the goods, saying something about how he wants to “settle up.” Considering that our first glimpse of Markus comes when he’s leaving a room where someone is being beaten up, this is not the kind of man you want to be in debt to. Markus wants to know about Ames, as he’s interested in bringing her aboard his team.
That’s how Ames and Brody end up meeting again. Although she tells him that she doesn’t want to be involved with whatever he has going because of the people she works for (not necessarily because she doesn’t want to), he still tries to pitch her a job with the potential of a seven-figure payoff. What neither of them know is that Chance, Winston and Guerrero are watching the whole thing. “I want to see if she bites,” Chance says. “See if she’s still worth saving.” They’re all caught off guard when Markus rolls up, giving Ames no real choice but to accept the job, as he’s not a man that you can say no to. Immediately, she turns to Chance to bail both her and her best friend out of trouble.
Over Winston’s objections, the team goes to the train station in order to begin hijacking Markus’ operation. This means Guerrero poses as a driver there to pick up the man known only as “Chicago” (Mike Dopud), so that he can divert him and allow Chance to take his place amongst Markus’ crew. As our hero glibly puts it, it’s “a job I know nothing about with some people I can’t trust.” What’s the job? Stealing some diamonds known as the Three Sisters of Antwerp from the Metropolitan Museum. I love how crime shows seem to go in phases; of recent a few shows did bank job episodes, and now we’ve moved on to diamond heists. When Ilsa finds out about the heist and that Ames is involved, she flips out, ordering Chance to cut Ames loose and leave her behind. Chance, however, has other ideas.
Not helping Ilsa’s blood pressure is that Guerrero chooses that moment to wheel “Chicago” to be tortured for information. She decides to call the cops, which means she misses the moment when “Chicago” manages to escape from his bonds and starts to wreak havoc. He wrestles with Winston and Guerrero, breaking two windows and a coffee table, and generally undoing a fair amount of that nice decor we’ve just now gotten used to.
Chance, meanwhile, is taking orders from Markus’ lead henchman Yuri (Douglas O’Keeffe). He realizes, when he’s brought in to finish off the guy that was being beaten up earlier on, that he’s the “cleaner” – not like the late Benjamin Bratt-Grace Park show, but the kind that gets to kill every person on the team when the job is done. Of course, Chance isn’t actually going to kill the guy; he’s just going to come close. He chokes the guy, and then once Yuri’s left the room, sets about trying to restart his heart with electrical wires from a handy light source. The action sequences on Human Target get a lot of attention (and deservedly so), but it’s nice to have the audience reminded that Chance isn’t just a good fighter – he’s also a brilliant mind as well. He’s even nice enough to apologize to the guy for the trouble.
The heist involves the usual “pull up to the building in a maintenance truck” schtick that we’ve seen countless times. Yuri dispatches everyone but Ames to make their way into the museum. When “Chicago” hears Yuri’s name, he informs Winston and Guerrero that he knows Yuri is also a “cleaner.” It dawns on him that Markus was planning on having him killed, too, and needless to say, he’s not happy about it.
While the heist continues, Ames gets to strip down and climb through an air vent, which seems more like it’s a convenient excuse to show Janet Montgomery half-naked. I think I’m spoiled by Leverage, but Beth Riesgraf makes moving through vents look a lot easier. She disables the security system, which allows the guys in the museum to literally blow a hole in the exhibit floor and drop the diamonds into the parking garage where they can be dug out of the debris. It’s sort of like what happened in Takers, only on a smaller scale and the camerawork won’t give you motion sickness. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
Ames recovers the diamonds, but when Brody sees Chance knock out “Boise,” he realizes he could be next and panics. He tries to tell her to run, but Yuri decides he’ll just shoot the both of them. Cue Chance jumping through the newly-made hole and coming to the rescue in yet another fantastic brawl that ends with Yuri impaled. When Brody wants to make a run for it, Ames is forced to tell him that Chance isn’t the cleaner, but the guy she works for and asked to help save the both of them. Feeling betrayed, Brody takes the van and leaves them both standing there, forgetting that Ames still has custody of the all-important diamonds.
So what are our heroes to do now? If Ilsa has her way, the diamonds will be returned to the museum and Ames will be cut loose. Chance points out that she could have taken the diamonds and run off, which in his mind makes her worth saving. Honestly, considering it’s Chance whose face is the worse for wear, I think he’s the one who should get to make the decision, but no one asked me. While they’re arguing over this, Ames gets a phone call from Markus, who has unsurprisingly taken Brody hostage and wants the diamonds in exchange for his life. She sets up an immediate meet with him at the train station and then has to convince the others to play along. Her emotional appeal to Ilsa is the most vulnerable that we’ve ever seen Ames, and for the first time since she’s arrived, I actually find myself liking her. Ilsa is convinced, and the team sets out to save Brody.
As the guys look on, Ames arrives at the train station and is instructed to leave the diamonds in a locker. Markus retrieves them and tells her Brody is outside. Unfortunately, he’s also attached to a bomb. While Winston and Guerrero help collar Markus and leave him in the custody of a now-recuperated and still ticked-off “Chicago,” Chance arrives to help Ames. Does he do the typical “stare at the bomb and try to defuse it” thing we’d see on any other show? Of course not, because this is Christopher Chance. He proclaims that he’s going to “knock this punk on his ass,” and then executes a running tackle that takes Brody to the ground. The bench he was sitting on disintegrates, and Chance’s hearing suffers for awhile, but Ames’ friend remains breathing. Oh, Human Target, how I love your unconventional solutions to conventional plots. That’s the essence of the show, anyway, and it’s always a lot more interesting than anything else out there.
After the dust settles (literally), we find Ames saying goodbye to Brody, and reassured of her place on the team. The diamonds are returned safely. Everyone comes back to the warehouse for a celebratory drink. It leads to the one thing about this episode that I have a problem with: a look between Chance and Ilsa that I know is going to be interpreted as some sort of longing expression. I’ve said before that I’m against the idea of the show needing romance, so rather than repeat myself for another few paragraphs, I’ll just say that this can be taken as a pretty obvious hint that the show is going to move in that direction. Whether or not it actually happens is another, so I’ll continue to hold on to my hope that it won’t. I believe Mark Valley when he said just a few weeks ago that their relationship is more of a mutual understanding. My best friend for the last ten years is a guy with whom I am that close, but whom I’ve never dated; I’d love to see Human Target take that tack, and show that a man and a woman can bond well without having to fall in love. Now that would be unique.
That said, “Taking Ames” is another fun outing for Human Target, which is the most important part. When I’m reflecting on an episode, the most important thing for me is whether or not I had fun with it, and once again, I certainly did. It also did a great job in terms of selling me regarding the character of Ames. Prior to this episode, I didn’t actively hate her, but I wouldn’t have missed her if she had left, either. Now at least I understand how she ticks, and that she’s not always the smartmouthed kid that grates on my nerves. With Montgomery not a de facto regular (while she’s listed in the opening credits, she still gets guest-star billing in press releases, and won’t appear in the next two episodes), I’m hoping the writers decide to hold her in reserve for when she can be used best, with plots that will allow her to show character depth. Not seeing her every week may actually strengthen the character.
I have to end this review on a bit of a soapbox note. Now that the second season is in full swing, I find myself amused by the number of people who just now seem to be talking about how great of a series this is. In my opinion, it’s always been a wonderful series, and to gush all this praise on it now seems a bit of a slap in the face to all the people who did amazing work on the first season. The show didn’t just magically become great; I don’t think it’s had a bad episode in its entire run. If you don’t believe me, wait until next week, when original showrunner Jon Steinberg brings us “The Return of Baptiste.” Having said that, I’m glad that more people are realizing that Human Target is something special. It really is. You never know what this team has up their sleeve, and honestly, I love them for it.
Don’t forget to check out the trivia and tidbits for this episode in this week’s installment of The Human Target File.