episode "Bait," which airs Nov. 28, Jonas is bound and thrown into a room with a bag over his head, and his captors are about to draw his last blood. He proves himself to be Houdini, however, by persuading them that he's more valuable to them alive than dead. Houdini, master of illusion and escape - we never know who's the rabbit and who's the fox. Jonas manipulates his captors to have them videotape him with their terms of release. As he reads their demands, he secretly signals to his comrades back home. He pulls more than one rascally rabbit out of his hat in order to escape, only to be captured and returned, bound and tortured. Meanwhile, Washington suits aren't interested in negotiations, so Colonel Ryan has to perform his own sleight of hand - before our Houdini runs out of rabbits.
On the home front, Colonel Ryan's wife, Charlotte, who was shot at the end of last season's finale, is now hooked on pain meds. Driving under the influence, she wrecks another woman's car, sending that woman to the hospital. Who should go to prison? Tiffy, trying to protect Charlotte, confesses to the crime. Bound by a lie, Tiffy faces jail time while her husband Mac is called away to save Jonas, just when she needs him most.
On the Set
This is the first television script Randy "Huggy Bear" Huggins has written. He's excited about being a part of the process, from writing, to filming his script, to air. He drops by to introduce his mother to the set. She has flown in from Detroit. She's a fiftyish, attractive, lean, brown-skinned woman in a black tracksuit trimmed in red. She's proud of her son for writing this tough and brutal episode. As we're introduced, she gives me a warm embrace. I understand better now, though I have always known where Randy got his nickname.
In between takes,
(Tiffy) sometimes shadowboxes. Born in Kentucky, reared in San Antonio, her tongue holds onto its Texas twang. She likes testing the limits of mind and body. She's been known to go on silent meditative retreats in the wilderness. Long-limbed, sinewy and strong, she fires fast jabs - mixing her punches - eyes focused on an imaginary foe. A crew member warns her that she keeps leaving herself open. Boxing is her newfound passion. Her trainer has sparred lightly with her. She's working hard building up to when she can take and give her first real and solid hits. When she finally comes to rest, she smiles ear to ear. She's ready for her close-up.
When Tiffy's husband leaves her while she's most vulnerable - to go to the aid of Jonas - watching Abby's face is like watching a knockout, though she refuses to fall. Unit wives are expected to roll with the punches.
- who plays the colonel's wife (and who is
's wife in real life, as well as a noted jazz/folk singer-songwriter) - penned, in "Crimefighter":
"Superhero though the moon may shine/ You leave this loving heart on a dime/Gotham city's a safer place/But your treatment of this lady's a damn disgrace"
Could be the tune playing in Tiffy's head.
There's a scene in which Colonel Ryan (
) has the task of telling Molly that her husband's been captured. Molly finds it hard to roll with this hit as she feels the earth shifting under her feet. With each take, Robert Patrick - the man with eyes of steel - fixes me with his gaze. I first saw him in
as the unstoppable machine. In this scene, Robert remains the tough soldier breaking tough news to the wife of a Unit man. He accomplishes his mission, but at the same time Robert is always fully and achingly human.
Before we shoot, or afterwards, Robert can often be found sitting under a shade tree in front of the production office. A Harley man who wears a skull ring with diamonds set in its eye sockets (a gift from his beloved wife), as well as layers of crucifixes around his neck, he sits puffing his favorite cigar and sharing much-needed jokes.
, as the captured Jonas, is tied, trussed and chained for hours on end and tortured, beaten, suffocated and cut over and over, take after take, during the course of several days. Physically and mentally it's grueling.
Veteran Unit man Eric Haney often shadows the set in a safari jacket, a cowboy hat and boots - his usual camouflage.
he's always armed - with a small pistol or a knife always concealed. Behind his thick mustache is an easy smile. But on days like this, I can't imagine what's behind his eyes as he watches scenes, play-acted on a stage, that are part of his real-life memories.
Home During the Break
Texas on Thanksgiving Day and I'm sitting around the table with aunts, uncles and various cousins. My Aunt Virginia has been banging some pots since the day before. I have a plate of Cornish hen, ham, stuffing, cabbage, beans and links, roasted potatoes and
. Haven't had chitlins in over 20 years. And we got some lemon cake and sweet pu-tay-tee pie. Umph.
Around the table sit 4-year-olds to 64-year-olds. The baby girl smiles back at me with my mother's face. The youngest boy tears around the table like a Tasmanian devil with the eyes of an angel. We grown folks talk about the future and the present, but we mostly chew on the past. On my right is my Aunt Evelyn, who enlisted in the Air Force in the '70s, put in her 20 years and retired a master sergeant. She traveled - Germany, Korea, New Jersey. Never saw combat. She enjoys watching
. Appreciates what we get right about portraying life in the military. To my left is my Uncle Johnny. Drafted. 'Nam. Artillery. Three years. He's had too much of a
taste of it
before he came over this afternoon, and is nodding at the table. He joins the conversation midstream: "I remember. You thought I had forgotten. You'd be surprised what I remember," reminding his younger sister Evelyn of a conversation that they had ages ago. Then pointing to my hands: "You used to play - you were good," reminding me of the piano lessons I took till the age of 13. Haven't played since. "I don't forget nothing."
Erect now in his seat - "Drafted. 23 years old. Three years I was out there, shooting almost everyday at people I couldn't see. They hated me. They were shooting at me. Hurts. Never forget." His cheeks are wet. The youngest boy stops running around the table long enough to squeeze the grown man.