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TV Review: Painkiller Jane – “Piece of Mind”

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Jane and Strike Force Vicodin become the bad guys for one episode – and they let a Neuro live.

The show gets into a groove here, not so much trying to explain the why of Painkiller Jane the phenom as tell a story. I know, I was shocked as well. They writers have 19 more episodes this year to get into the nitty-gritty of why former DEA Agent Jane Vasco can be wounded, scarred, shot, stabbed, and heal in short order.

Speaking of short, Vicodin's resident computer geek Riley "Nerd" Jensen gets played by a Neuro who can take over people's minds, and make them forget a little or everything. He becomes the pawn for the Neuro to hatch his dastardly world domination plans to, um, grab a painting of a little boy holding a floppy basket. Wait, don't go. Why he does it is almost convincing (it wasn't a groan moment) if you can buy into the, as yet, incomplete puzzle of who and what Neuros are.

We open looking down on a train rattling down open-country tracks. Inside the engine, the train engineer says he can't remember how to throttle back to steer the thing. As a result, it's going too fast and derails, leaving a typical smoky but flameless train crash scene. (Think Fugitive in the daytime.) The driver, Jason Hampton, has a spotless record and he's not likely to just go off the rails without a reason. Vicodin team member Joe Waterman, knows him. Remember, Waterman's a former railway man who for some reason became part the team that now has its HQ in the same subway where he used to work.)

We have a Liberty Mutual Insurance ad moment – without Half-Acre's "Hem" – where PJ helps an old lady who was bumped pick up all her groceries, and they share appreciative smiles. "What ever happened to common courtesy," PJ voiceovers. "Is everyone involved in their own personal drama today? Well, let's just pretend I didn't ask that."

At HQ, Riley notes an Edgar Dawson has had a similar mindswipe experience. Dawson's a supra-wired ubërmensch to millions of Digg fans who want to hijack HD-DVD codes. And Riley has posters of him in his bathroom. Well, maybe. Since both are computer teKheads – they share the geekenese language – team leader Andre McBride gives him the nod to go out into the field. Usually Riley's stuck in front of the monitor, fielding communications, and watching everyone else get their hands dirty.

Riley gets a little enamored at the thought. He has a similar reaction on seeing PJ in sports bra and lycra short shorts after he breaks into her apartment. Wait, huh? With a gun briefly pointed at his face and a righteously pissed off Vasco staring him down, he said he heard voices and she didn't answer. She was singing with iPod buds on and didn't hear. He keeps his leering eyes on the prize and asks if she maybe has wine and can they sit and … "NO." Riley's pumped up on the energy crank of working the mystery out among the players, and wants PJ to check out a pharmacy break-in with him. She turns him down as she's in chill mode, ready to put her feet up.

That's later. First, Geek and Edgar are off in their own circuitous discussion about code and thermo-radiological spectrum waves (or something). But in talking to him, Dawson's forgotten key elements of his hardware creations and hyper-relays. Dawson helped design a better railway switching system used all over the world. Hmm, trains seem to be rapidly becoming a central focus of what's going on 'ere.

Meanwhile, a homeless guy finds himself on the receiving end of a body falling on his head. A guy in a long coat falls through the bannister of an outside stairway onto this gormless, homeless guy. Except suddenly homeless guy – helpfully called Patient John Doe just about 50 seconds later – has advanced medical knowledge and talks the talk. An EMT crew turns up in a shitty part of town in record time. Hell, they show up in what would be record time from one wing of the hospital to the other. The homeless guy takes over and in the middle of the fray, figures out how to save a life.

But the soon-to-patient Doe suddenly keels over, exhausted. The guy who he has just healed walks off with no one noticing.

Doe ends up in the hospital and starts telling anyone who'll listen that he is Dr. Allen Rafferty from Johns Hopkins. That's not right. Strike Force Vicodin's Doc Carpenter knows of Dr. Rafferty, who's a neuro-muscular specialist. And homeless guy, you're no Rafferty. Carpenter is seen looking at a drooling Robert Crumb of a character while a psych ward nurse (it could be the missus, though) explains to him Rafferty's precipitous decline from genius to drunk to suicidal sad sack.

From that moment, we go to where Riley gets his eye-popping moment of PJ, not a hard body (hooray) but a regular, work out twice a week bod. And tall. I think I've mentioned that. After he can speak and gets past the request for wine, which coincides with PJ donning a red silk bathrobe, he tells her the only drugs taken in the pharmacy break-in, near where the homeless guy was, were hemoglobin accelerators. This factoid is promptly ignored for the rest of the show.

McBride makes the synapse jump that the three victims are all connected.

The scene changes to Riley being the dumbass, socially inept dork that he is, walking through Shady Back Alley carrying a fancy, expensive-looking tracking device. He hasn't got the pimp walk down and suddenly he's jumped by a group that clearly aren't the Guardian Angels. He's left roughed up and wobbly. Just as suddenly Riley's blurred vision sharpens onto Patient Doe, standing above him in the alley, who mumbles what he thinks are Riley's injuries: fractured baby back ribs and crows' feet.

Riley is able to report into his walkie that talkies that he found the Neuro behind Seventh and Coulter streets. 'Cept when Strike Force Vicodin shows up, he runs from them, having forgotten who they are. His arm had been grabbed as he sat there and his mind is n00bed.

Back at HQ, Techboy looks zoned out and the others are fumbling around the comm system trying to get it to do something. The Team powwows and out pops the brain storm that the Neuro is sick and in search of the knowledge to make him better. They're trying to figure out how the train fits into all this. Designated woman-hater, Connor King snipes at PJ again, saying she's to blame for Riley "losing his mind."

Unlike the others, Riley has had a complete memory meltdown, which I thought was a clever computer tie-in by the writers. He sits in front of a bank of ten monitors to try and bring the RAM memories flooding back. Though for a second it looks like he knows what he's doing, instead he completely bollocks up the works. "System failure. Warning, systems failure." He's next seen fists pumping in front of a screen, after making a double albatross putt.

The Neuro, by the name of Simon Connolly, comes in to HQ to reveal all. He's leaning on a cane and looks fragile. Turns out he's dying soon, though we don't know why. With Riley's brain dump he's able to get in, copper bracelet and all. He has also realized what he is. What he is is a balding guy who looks like a 55-year-old Jon Cryer. Not chatty by nature, Connolly lays it on the line — help me or I fry Riley's brain for good. He's right, it would be for good, Riley's a half-shaven weasel of a character and if PJ didn't feel guilty about not heading out with him, she'd probably not worry too much about team loyalty, seeing as how she's only been there long enough for one menstrual cycle. (Hey, does her body heal those before … anyhoo …)

Riley's "piece of mind," of course is restored before the end of this Happy Hour.

Connolly says he can steal, transfer, and restore knowledge. He says he's given back Dr. Rafferty's mind as proof of his good intentions. McBride justifies the great train robbery as serving a higher cause. Connolly, having touched them all as a homeless guy and in an earlier HQ visit during the night, has given them all the extra-sensory train-spotting knowledge.,

Freight line 122 (#6425 by the way) has cargo he needs. He says he's more than willing to be "chipped" after it's all over. Since he knows of Vasco's ability, she is given the most "physically challenging" task of the operation. I've thought since episode one that Painkiller Jane is a Neuro herself and she certainly feels an affinity for Connolly. So when he asks her whether she knows for sure she's on the "right side," and that her being different is a lot like him being different, it's either a complete red herring or a wildly unsubtle clue. The way this show is written, I'll go with the latter.

With unscheduled track switching, hijacking the official train TV monitoring system for a minute and PJ onboard, SF Vicodin successfully decouples the car they need with the cargo they need. Inside is an electrostatic pulse of 15,000 volts protecting, well, the team doesn't know. (It's that painting I told you about up top.) However, PJ in her first test of powers in this episode, is going to have to go through the voltage to unplug the power surge. She has a rebellious, pouty moment, saying it "could fry whatever gift I've got."

Of course she does it and looks shocked (sorry). "Don't ask me if I'm okay" she moans as smoke seeps from all around her body.

The painting entirely underwhelms everyone, Simon says he's the subject of the painting done before the artist became famous and the art worth millions. Simon says it means experiencing life as it was before he turned into an abnormal Neuro. Simon says touch your nose.

As Connolly sits in his oversized apartment looking at the painting, he says he's ready to be chipped. Vasco feels more than a tug of sympathy and can't shoot the chip into the guy's nape. McBride has to instead, only PJ discovers later that the gun was firing "blanks." Connolly gets a tracking ankle bracelet and is told to stay put or he will be shot. PJ goes back to visit him. "What makes people special is not always what you see on the outside," she voiceovers. "With this one simple, beautiful gesture, Andre proved he was an open book" and as conflicted as she is about what they're doing.

NEXT EPISODE: This Friday, May 4 at 10 EST on the Sci-Fi Channel, "Catch Me If You Can." Someone can see the future, and sends messages back to PJ, but are they truth or dare? I'm waiting for an episode to be called "Neuromancer." Is that so wrong?

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.