An Angel’s Trail
When driving through a picturesque backwoods road, Jill stops for gas but lands in the wrong place at the wrong time - she witnesses a shooting and is kidnapped by the murderous father and his two dim-witted (one legally verified) sons.
Once Jill's car is found, Charlie puts two and two together and explains to the worried Angels that Sam Mason, the man who nabbed Jill, is an escaped murderer on the run with his unbalanced sons Clint and Harley. As a distraught Kris and Tiffany leap into action, Charlie and Bosley privately tell Kelly not to let Kris get her hopes up because Jill is probably not going to make it out of this alive (wow, way to have faith in one of your best Angels.)
The three men drive captive Jill along the backwoods roads for hours, seeking an escape route into Canada since everyone on their trail assumes they'll be heading for Mexico. The mentally challenged Harley's ceaseless monologues lend an already tense situation even more discomfort.
Back in civilization, Kelly, Kris and Tiffany fret and act like they are looking at maps. Tiffany offers to go to the state capital and look at more mundanely official maps while Kelly and Kris stay behind to continue fretting.
When the kidnap van stops in an abandoned ghost town, Jill takes the opportunity to bust free and make a run for it. She kicks some butt, but ultimately loses the chase when some rotten floorboards give way, leaving her danging over stock footage of a pit of snakes. The bad guys pry at her fingers and let her suffer awhile before pulling her up.
Intercut more scenes of the other two Angels doing "all they can to help", namely sitting around the ranger station sighing and giving the ranger forlorn looks. Jill starts to befriend Harley, who's actually sweet and gentle, and convinces him to untie her hands so she can teach him how not to squeeze animals too hard, but they get caught by the mean dad, so it's back in the van for everybody.
The fugitive family continues to head north using a dangerous back road resulting in scenes of falling debris and a fake-looking, shaking panel truck. After a roll down the hill, the dad's ankle is injured and the van is out of commission, so everyone has to proceed on foot.
Now Kris is crying back at the ranger station, and sniffs through a story about how Jill was on her way to visit some kid with leukemia (please). Kelly provides minimally comforting statements and an obligatory hug when lil' sis breaks down sobbing.
After evidently walking through the wilderness all night, Jill stands behind looking faintly concerned as the dad murders some campers and steals their 4x4 truck.
Tiffany, engrossed in genuine investigative work, discovers that Jill and the Masons are following an old Mormon trail into Canada. Kris insists on coming along with the ranger to search the area, and Kelly helpfully announces that she'll stay behind and continue doing nothing.
Back to more hostage driving. Incorrectly believing herself to be the fastest North American land mammal, Jill bails out and attempts to outrun the bad guys' 4x4 only to be re-re-recaptured. Now Harley is loyal to Jill because she reminds him of his mom who once baked him a chocolate cake. The dad orders Clint to kill them both, but Harley accidentally kills his brother in the process of protecting Jill.
Unfazed, bad dad orders Jill to get behind the wheel, and they drive off leaving Harley alone in the desert. After sitting through his life story (featuring such chapters as "I Killed My Wife" and "You're Just Like My Wife") Jill kicks Mason and breaks away again. Just as he catches her again, Harley appears from nowhere and chokes the mess out of him. Jill stops him from killing his dad all the way by telling him his mother would cry if she saw what he was doing.
Kris and the ranger, who've been visiting the empty locations of previous Jill scenes, catch up at that very moment. Finally we're treated to the scene we've been building to for 40 minutes: a seconds-long and nearly emotionless reunion between the sisters. Hooray...
Jill sees to it that kindhearted Harley is put in "one of those places" where he can have a nice life and be properly cared for. When she and Bosley come to visit at the institution, she brings a chocolate cake for Harley and makes him eat it with no utensils while standing outside in front of the staff.
WHAT'D YOU THINK?
• Charlie and Bosley keep calling Harley "retarded" throughout the episode in a most un-PC and offensive way.
• Watch Jaclyn Smith try not to leave the office with Cheryl Ladd and Shelley Hack waiting for Charlie's late cue for her to stay behind.
• Cis Rundle tells Tiff that she really can be of no help in finding Jill's location, as no maps or books about the area exist - until just before Tiffany is about to leave and then goes, “Oh, this may not be any help but I know where you can find some old maps and books of the area." Uh..
• You can see the shadow of the device they use to poke the snakes to get them to look threatening.
• There being really no use for Bosley in this episode, we're once again acting like Charlie's office contains the only telephone on Earth, and he has to stay there and man it.
• Why was it necessary to dub those Farrah moaning sounds over the footage of her running from the Masons' car?
• The actor that played Cliff sure helped Harley out by rolling and rolling until his head found a rock to smash itself against after his brother simply pushed him down.
• How is a limping and injured Sam Mason able to keep up with Charlie's most athletic Angel even though she has a head start at a full sprint?
• When Jill asks the nurse if they make cakes often at the mental institution, she replies "Not as often as they'd like," referring kind of rudely/awkwardly to the patients, right in front of one. What, is enjoying dessert unique to the mentally disabled?
• Jill asks permission of the nurse to bring a cake onto the grounds, and when it's granted, does nothing to hide the fact that she already did.
• It'd be really sweet if we were to think Jill baked that cake herself, but the pink box sorta gives it away as a bakery purchase. Did she take some turns too fast on the way to the institution and make the box fall upside down on her floor mats, or did she get a bargain on the ugliest cake at the bakery because she didn't have to aim real high to impress Harley?
SHOTS FIRED AT ANGELS
SHOTS FIRED BY ANGELS
DAYS TO SOLVE CASE
Not a great episode for Kelly, who opens the episode with sort of a swashbuckling-grandma look and then spends the rest in a contender for ugliest shirt ever seen on the show. It's like if Nolan Miller designed a dress for Freddy Kruger's mother who was starring in Rage Of Angels. Jill sports a cool road trip turtleneck-jeans-and-boots combo while Tiffany would never be mistaken for a 70's Angel with her preppy sweater wrapped around a plaid shirt look. Cute outfit though. Kris opts for head-to-toe turquoise, which is a bold choice for an episode where you're not going to change clothes for 40 minutes (but since we only saw her for like 3, it's okay).
WORLD'S LEAST EFFECTIVE SEARCH POSSE
This episode fails miserably at depicting its characters' relationships with each other in a remotely logical way.
Bosley may be the most confusing. Why is he so unfeeling when he advises Kelly not to let Kris get her hopes up that Jill is alive? He loved Jill as much as any of them, why is he acting like she isn't a character he's met? He's just like "Oh, our former employee is probably dead. Those are the breaks, kid." Then 15 minutes later, after zero encouraging plot developments, he gives Kelly the exact opposite advice, telling her to tell Kris to hang on because he can feel that Jill's okay.
Even though the Angels run out of the office to go to Arizona to "assist in the search", all Kelly and Kris actually do upon arrival is sit around, mope, and stare at a map of the state, which they could've done just as effectively in Los Angeles. Although Kris is (correctly) the most upset of the bunch, you'd think she'd be the one to take the most active role in searching for Jill right from the get-go.
Throughout the episode we get the sense Kelly's trying to emote sorrow, but it's late season 4 and we're well into Jaclyn Smith's "mentally checked out vacant stare" territory and it's coming off a lot more like boredom. She truly does nothing at all to help Jill. Ok, moral support for her BFF Kris is important, but Jill is also her former BFF and she really ought to be doing something (maybe she hasn't forgiven Jill for Fallen Angel and is indeed staying the hell out of her life). Even after Kris leaves to go do something productive, Kelly continues sitting around the ranger station to wait for Tiffany. Why does she need to be waited for? Are there not phones?
To top it off, Tiffany, as the only Angel who actually doesn't know Jill, is the only one doing any work to help find her! Actually worse, they've been in two other episodes together and Jill never even acknowledged Tiff's presence, so we wouldn't blame her if she'd felt little motivation to help rescue her rude alum. Were it not for Tiffany's research, Jill truly might not have survived this episode, however Jill never even meets with her, much less thanks her.
SCREEN TIME ANALYSIS
No surprise that Jill wins this round proportionally to the other Angels - it's her second biggest solo outing. Interestingly though, she actually has much less time here than she did in several regular old Season 1 episodes.
With really only one Angelless scene, this is also one of the series' fullest episodes.
- HOW MUCH OF THE EPISODE HAS AT LEAST ONE ANGEL/BOSLEY IN IT 94%
All the action, of course, revolves around Jill's road trip from hell with the brutal hillbillies. All the action looks cheesy, from the falling rocks to people acting like they're bouncing around inside that van. Refusing to go quietly into the night, Jill kicks one of the bad guys every several minutes and tries to escape, but ultimately strikes out more than the '62 Mets. It makes the fights hard to score, since every one is a win-a-battle-but-lose-the-war type situation.
THREATENING RATTLESNAKE #4
Jill joins the ranks of Angels Threatened By Rattlesnakes (Sabrina, Kris and Kelly are the others) and her situation is by far the most dire, hanging precariously over a pit of the snakes while one of the crazy sons looms over her. For some reason rattlesnakes were the snake of choice to threaten the detectives, we like to think that it's the same rattlesnake from Circus of Terror and Game, Set, Death back for revenge! Sorta like a recurring arch neme-hisss! (Sorry.)
CHARLIE'S MAGICAL POWER ALERT
Charlie somehow is able to divine that Tiffany and Kris have left the office and Kelly has lingered behind waiting for him to talk to her privately about how Jill is probably dead. Charlie and Kelly seem to have some sort of telepathic connection first glimpsed in Angels on Wheels when he warned Kelly about a bomb attached to her car.
Instead of taking the trouble to write scenes that establish a realistic sisterly bond, or even an unrealistic one, the script just peppers in these constant references into the dialogue about how Kris and Jill are sisters (because real siblings constantly remind each other/friends/passers by of their relation). Listen for lines like "It's my sister out there," and "They've got her sister out there," every ten minutes in case anyone forgot.
L.Q. Jones: The mean dad previously played the blown-up bad guy in Bullseye, the mean dad in Angels in the Backfield, and another minor bad guy in Angel Hunt.
John Dennis Johnston: Harley first appeared as the friendly mechanic in Hellride.
Cis Rundle: Cheryl Ladd's friend had many extra-level roles on the show including Charlie's babe in Circus of Terror, tai chi chick in Angel in Love, waitress in Angels in the Backfield, random crowd extra in Game, Set, Death, camera chick in Antique Angels, football chick in The Sandcastle Murders, random casino extra in Angels in Vegas, waitress in Angel Come Home, cheerleader in Pom Pom Angels, random dock extra in Love Boat Angels, and the librarian in An Angel's Trail.
Dennis Donnelly directed Angel Flight, Angels in the Wings, Caged Angel, Angel's Child, Dancin' Angels, An Angel's Trail, One Love... Two Angels, To See an Angel Die, Angel in Hiding, Waikiki Angels, Stuntwomen Angels, and Angel on a Roll.
Anna's Rating: Two of those stars are just because of Farrah. Unforgivable the way Charlie instantly warns that Jill is probably dead. It's a good thing Tiffany wasn't the one kidnapped; he would have just hired Julie the same day and gone on. Tiff would be out in the wilderness living on grubs and berries, communicating telepathically with mountain lions and making smoke signals no one was checking for... anyway.
Though Jill episodes are always a treat, it's almost a good thing this was the last one, since they're running out of reasons to have Kris cry over her. It's good as a filler episode for Farrah, but pretty lame as her final one. Knowing that, they really ought to have put in more (any) interaction with the other Angels.
Holly, my sister, do you have anything to add?
Holly's Rating: I love this because it's like Jill from the old days. She's not quite Moody Guest Star Jill, she's Real Jill. So she's a fun feathered morsel amidst this so-so season. Plus, I never fail to become agitated at Kris and Jill's weird, cool "reunion" once Jill has gotten to safety. What is that??
PS: Tiffany was the most helpful, and she barely knows Jill. (KELLY.)
Greg's Rating: This ep is pretty bad, but damn it if I'm not entertained by its badness. We get Jill being kidnapped by a bunch of inbred hillbillies, rattlesnakes, Jill kicking ass multiple times, and a touching story of squeezing bunnies.
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