In Plain Sight: When Mary Met Marshall

New episodes of In Plain Sight continue to air on Wednesday nights on the USA network, and the series seems to be in fine form this season. This Wednesday’s episode, “When Mary Met Marshall,” takes us back into the past, before Mary Shannon has joined the Witness Protection service, where she meets her soon-to-be WitSec partner Marshal Marshall Mann for the first time. Sparks fly, insults are traded, and, the two bicker like siblings or like the long-time partners they’re destined to be. The dialogue is as snappy as in a classic screwball comedy, with the tall Frederick Weller as Marshall Mann a good contemporary Cary Grant substitute and Mary McCormack’s Mary Shannon as a kind of combination Rosalind Russell and Al Swearingen.

Mary also wields a mean toothbrush (photo from the In Plain Sight official webpage).

Mary is a cop in 2003, who has to join Marshall for propriety’s sake—one of the witnesses is a woman, so they want a woman officer along (“They’ve already got a girl,” Mary argues, “You should see this guy”). Marshall has his own share of sharp insulting dialogue, responding to Mary at one point, “I forget how the happiness of others angers you.” In the present day, the couple from that original 2003 case are on the verge of breaking up, which Mary has predicted all along would be the outcome, and Marshall taking the opposite position. The one who wins the bet gets to “sing the song.”

What I like about In Plain Sight is that so far the series has resisted the overused plot device of teasing the audience with whether or not the male-female partners will become a romantic couple. Will they or won’t they? In Plain Sight prefers to ask, who will get to sing the song? I won’t reveal who sings it, but the song goes something like this:

I’m right

You’re wrong

That’s why

I sing

This song.

As serious as they are about their jobs, and as good as they are at doing that job, the joy of Mary and Marshall’s relationship is the element of childish teasing, like brothers and sisters who have spent too many hours riding in the back of too many cars on too many family vacations.

Also, as I’ve noted before, what makes In Plain Sight unique is the way it successfully strikes a balance between the generic demands of the western and those of the “chick flick.” The tension between the western action roots and the attention to issues more typically seen in a series oriented toward a predominantly female viewership gives In Plain Sight its mojo.  Ultimately, in “When Mary Met Marshall,” they track down the bad guy, the killer searching for the couple, but both Mary and Marshall also act as substitute marriage counsellors throughout the episode, and it’s their counselling skills (Mary’s tough love, Marshall’s cerebral suggestions) that carry the day finally.

This episode was also the first appearance of new character, new WitSec director Allison Pearson, played by actress Allison Janney, who many will remember from her role as press secretary  C. J. Cregg on West Wing. Naturally, Pearson has just arrived in Albuquerque from DC and from rubbing elbows with the President.

This episode also continues a third season trend in getting more use out of the Albuquerque location, including a sequence set in Albuquerque’s Old Town.

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