Taxi Angels


SUMMARY

The fact that we open with over a full minute of stock footage of downtown Los Angeles does not bode well.

A cabbie named Tom Archer parks his taxi on a street corner to buy flowers for his wife, at which point we're shown a close-up of ticking dynamite. An old army vet named Sarge leans into the taxi for a moment to nose around, then wanders off. Tom's wife, Laurie, drives up just in time to see Tom's taxi dramatically explode.

Laurie hires the Angels, explaining that an unidentified caller recently vowed to ruin their cab company, and has been sabotaging their vehicles. As for covers, Charlie points Kris toward a local drive-in diner where the cabbies lunch; Julie will be working as the Archers' new dispatcher. Eventually putting two and two together, Kelly acts overly devastated to realize she will be driving a cab. Halfhearted laughter ensues.

Cut to Kelly dropping off her first fare downtown, a group of punk rockers (or mimes?) with fake Australian (?) accents.

After more aerial stock footage of the city, we see a guy named Jake pull into the diner in an Archer cab. Kris rolls up on skates to serve him a burger and he complains about someone named Marian putting him on a diet. Drawing on years of undercover stealth experience, Kris immediately brings up the Archer situation and asks him about it repeatedly until he actually warns that she's asking too many questions.

Later in the Archer garage, Julie finds Jake tinkering beneath one of the cabs; she hassles him about who he is and what he's doing until he identifies himself as the company mechanic. When they aren't looking, the old guy Sarge sneaks into the garage and hides behind one of the cabs. Laurie and Kelly soon drive in, and Sarge overhears them discussing Jake as a potential suspect.

That night, the gang gathers around the Townsend office's crackling fireplace and romantic candelabras to feign uproarious laughter as Kelly complains about her outlandish fares. The case is at a standstill.

Next day, Kelly pulls up to the same corner where Tom's taxi was blown up and talks to Jammer, the resident kid who hawks flowers along this street. He says he saw Sarge messing with the cab before it exploded, and doesn't doubt he could be the culprit. Kelly then picks up her next fare: Mac, an overly-stereotypical New York cabbie on vacation in Los Angeles (which he hates). Interspersed in their conversation are close-ups of fluid dripping from the bottom of Kelly's taxi. (The music also takes a troubling tone to assure us that this is a bad thing.)

Hearing noises, Julie ventures into the Archer garage again and finds Sarge hiding among the parked vehicles. He's in the midst of one of his patented war flashbacks, and tackles Laurie when she comes near - Julie pacifies him by insisting that there are invisible tanks approaching their location. Jake reveals that Sarge used to work in the garage until he was fired because of repeated flashbacks. Laurie makes him take Sarge for lunch to get him out of the way.

At the diner, Kris waves away angry, honking customers as she shirks her responsibilities and loiters around watching Jake and Sarge. The old man rants about wanting his job back, and reports on the conversation he overheard. Jake tells him that Kelly and Julie must be cops who are trying to put him in the VA hospital - Sarge freaks out at this idea.

Meanwhile, Kelly is still driving the New York guy around, and suddenly they are careening down a steep hill with no brakes. The street ahead morphs into a bowling lane littered with garbage cans and stacks of empty cardboard boxes - the adventure comes to an end when the cab flies up a ramp and into an open semi truck full of more boxes. Contents: loose taco shells! Haha...?

Later at the garage, Julie, Kelly and Laurie seem convinced that Sarge is behind the Archer sabotage, since he was fired at about the same time the accidents began. Jake, who now seems to know about all three Angels working undercover, agrees that Sarge is unbalanced and upset. Meeting with Kelly alone, he says that he saw Sarge tampering with Kelly's cab before her taco accident, and also informs her of a possible motive: Sarge's wife was killed by an errant taxi. The old man becomes Suspect #1.

That night, Kelly and Julie pay Sarge a visit at his apartment. Thinking they want to send him to the hospital, he climbs out the window and up the fire escape to get away from them. They chase him onto the roof and are not very effective in calming him down as he leaps off the roof to the next building. The Angels just kind of watch as he struggles for a minute, but eventually falls to his death. Kris, who's been handling ground recon, is semi-crying in the alley as Bosley arrives from nowhere to report that the story about Sarge's wife getting killed by a taxi was untrue. Everyone stands around Sarge's corpse looking guilty.

The team returns to the Townsend Agency, where Kelly leads a mope-fest and then sets her sights on Jake, who must be the bad guy because he's the only other character. Bosley says there's no record of Jake ever having been married, which makes Kris frown and recall the thing Jake said about somebody named Marian. They somehow figure out that this Marian woman was the one who was really killed by a cab.

Kelly captures Jake in her taxi to grill him about sabotaging the Archer company out of grief over Marian's death. She bails when he flips out and tries to attack her; Kelly reveals that the car's radio button has been taped down for their whole conversation. Laurie, Bosley, Kris and Julie are all back at the Archer garage, helpfully staring at the speaker; it just now occurs to Julie that perhaps someone should be with Kelly.

Jake screeches away in the taxi, just as Julie arrives on the corner to pick up Kelly. After some unexciting taxi footage, they chase Jake on foot and corner him in an alley.

Julie: "Drop it, or you'll go down with it!"

Back at the office, Charlie explains that Jake lived with Marian for many years, but they were never married. (That was the big twist? Who cares?) Kelly says that she learned to drive "like that" (though she didn't do any amazing driving here) from an old boyfriend who drove stolen cars. Cue laughter.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Taxi Angels Episode #102 Season 5, Episode 9 Airdate: Feb 7, 1981 Writer: Robert George Director: John Peyser

WHAT'D YOU THINK?

Rate this episode:

CURIOSITIES

• In real life, Cheryl Ladd had a summer job as a car hop during her high school years. Guess she's a natural, 'cause she still managed to look adorable in the outfit here!

• If they were going to spend the whole episode leading us to believe Sarge is the culprit, why did they give us that close-up of dynamite in the first scene before Sarge got near the taxi?

• After the cab blows up, why does Jammer keep rolling and rolling backwards after everyone else merely falls down?

• Charlie tells Kris about that diner, but doesn't really say anything to suggest he's already gotten her the job, as he usually does for their covers. Does she have to go get hired for real? What if they're not hiring?

• Why does Kelly radio into the Archer dispatch and then identify herself by name to Julie? Isn't she the only driver, and Julie the only dispatcher?

• Kelly tells Jammer the florist: "If you think of anything and you can't find me, one of the waitresses at the drive-in is a friend of mine." Why doesn't she just give him the Archer phone number, or her number, or the office number, or anything remotely helpful? How's he gonna know which waitress it is? Is there not more than one drive-in in Los Angeles?

• Is this diner the ONLY place to eat in town? They sure take it for granted that nobody's going to conduct their secret discussions anywhere else.

• Why are they, at one point, talking in front of the mechanic like he’s not a suspect?

• Why does Jake make a big deal out of meeting with Kelly alone and anonymously when he was right there with her two minutes ago?

• The shot of hookers on the street corner around Sarge's apartment is recycled footage from Angel in Hiding.

• Why does Kris keep having the same revelation about Jake's wife?

• Kris tries to reassure Kelly that they're all equally to blame for Sarge's death. Um, doesn't seem like Kris, who was merely standing in the alley, was really as much to blame as Kelly and Julie who chased him off the rooftop yelling and waving guns, but whatever.

BAD GUYS BEAT DOWN

INNOCENT DEATHS CAUSED

SHOTS FIRED AT ANGELS

SHOTS FIRED BY ANGELS

DAYS TO SOLVE CASE

LOCKS SHOT OPEN

TURTLENECKS

CHARACTER DEATHS

FASHION

Turtlenecks are a rarity in Season 5 - three different sweaters make this the final year's turtleneckedest episode.

Kelly looks dumb in her cabbie hat, and seems to realize this after wearing it in only one scene. Aside from that, she's dressed very well considering the 80's fashion curse afflicting her in nearby episodes - it's quite refreshing to see her in outfits involving jeans and cute-girl-plaid. In fact, in the takedown scene, Kelly looks downright Season 1-ish in both fashion and hair.

Kris looks cute as expected in her little car hop outfit and roller skates, but off the clock, she's back to 80's-business-drab. Julie's par for the course in tight jeans and those V-neck sweaters she always wears.

FACT CHECKING

The effectiveness of these background checks always seems to vary based on how much activity the Angels have to do. In better episodes, Charlie simply produces his magic computer readout which reveals every detail about the bad guy, because the Angels have interesting scenes to fill out the hour and we don't need to watch them fact-checking. Then there are the episodes that ARE watching them fact-check, and not much else. On one hand you have to give them credit for doing actual investigative work; on the other hand, the kind of facts we want to see them checking are "how cool you can look while fleeing from an armed thug via skateboard", or "how many different bikinis can be worn in the same episode".

Charlie's background check on Jake, for example, is apparently specific enough to state that Jake "has a reputation as a tough guy" but too vague to mention his type of military discharge, thus allowing Bosley to have something to pretend to work on for most of the hour.

SCREEN TIME ANALYSIS

Kris being left alone in the dust, timewise, is an unusual occurrence; if Julie had gotten less time, this could've almost been a Kelly solo. Angel content is average, but nothing to brag about.

  • KELLY
  • KRIS
  • JULIE
  • BOSLEY
  • HOW MUCH OF THE EPISODE HAS AT LEAST ONE ANGEL/BOSLEY IN IT 77%

ACTION

There's a minor taxi chase featuring repetitive, boring slow-motion footage of taxis driving down alleyways, which hardly counts as action. Kelly and Julie manage a brief sprint down an alleyway, after which we get bored again while Jaclyn's stunt double takes forever to awkwardly climb on top of a semi truck and up to the rooftop of a downtown building. After all they put us through, they could have at least shot the bad guy.

LAUGHING AT NOTHING

Once again we're at the wrap-up with no entertaining or meaningful way to end the scene, so we opt for a freeze-frame on someone laughing. Of course, it wouldn't be so annoying if the joke was ever funny. This time we end on Kris pretending to laugh way too hard at Kelly's mention of a former boyfriend who stole cars. Haha? At this point we'd rather just have Bosley look into the camera and say "End of act three."

KELLY, WHERE IS YOUR STREETWISDOM

When confronted with a locked door, Kelly asks Julie in desperation "Can you pick it?" Why is the most experienced Angel acting helpless and deferring to the untrained rookie? Did she forget her Junior Miss Locksmith Kit today? And why is she clueless about how long the process of lock picking takes? Guess Julie's taken over for The Angel Formerly Known As Streetwise.

REPEAT OFFENDERS

Norman Alden: The guy who played Jake was also Fluellen, one of the bad guys in The Sammy Davis Jr. Kidnap Caper, and PJ Wilkes in Dancin' Angels.

Sally Kirkland: Laurie Archer was Kris' friend Lonnie last year in Caged Angel.

Robert George also wrote Hula Angels, Island Angels, Angels of the Deep.

OUR TAKE

Anna's Rating: 2 Stars It's funny - none of the scenes were really that entertaining individually, but as the credits roll, you find yourself thinking, "That wasn't that bad for Season 5." (That's as much an insult to the season as it is a compliment to the episode.) To me, it felt like a Season 1 throwback (albeit weak) and I think it hinged on Kelly. She seemed more invested in the case than usual (for Season 5), plus she actually dressed like a cool Angel again, instead of being suffocated by figureless 80's schoolmarm outfits. Two Angels in cute jeans chasing the bad guy down an alley just feels more like the good old days to me. Kris didn't really participate in the throwback, then again, her role in this one is completely negligible anyway.

However, that throwback flavor resulted in a lot of scenes that were intended to be funny, and might've been if they were filmed with the good vibes/chemistry/mental presence of the first season, but were not. Instead, the Angels' banter seems very strained, the laughter painfully forced, and the situational humor downright feeble. You just get the feeling that everyone wants to go home.

Holly's Rating: 2 stars I've said it before and I'll say it again. Why didn't this client just call the police?

Joann's Rating: 1 star There’s bad and then there’s boring. This, along with Stuntwomen Angels, and Angel on the Line, may be the most utterly forgettable for me. I am devoid of any recollection of what happens in these episodes apart from there being a taxi in Taxi Angels, Merry Maids in Stuntwomen Angels, and bad wiggery in Angel on the Line. This is the case too often with Season 5 episodes because somehow, inexplicably, the air had totally gone out of the show.

Everything that happens in Season 5 seems stilted, performed under water (and duress), and put together by a second-rate crew that’s never worked on this show before. Everyone from writers, costume, to set design has either forgotten their jobs, or just wings it. For instance, why are the Angels' marks (where they stand) lined single file at the side of the desk the entire time they’re talking to Laurie at the beginning? What happened to the couch and bar areas? Why are they all standing?

It prods along dully as cab driver Kelly, dispatcher Julie, and waitress Kris ask questions of rehashed stock character types like the cool black guy with inside information, a war vet down on his luck, a woman business owner being threatened, and so on. Another major Season 5 flaw is the lack of Angel investigation. In earlier seasons they would find stuff out, but here all they do is ask questions. Answers are then relayed back to Charlie, discussed lamely, and some sort of dull action then taken. Their method of gathering facts and talking about them is more akin to Harrigan’s shoebox system.

Watching Angels talking scenes out (especially with lines like: “You know this may just be the work of a crazy that doesn’t like taxi cabs.”) is dull! Not to mention they state the obvious and hypothesis badly. There are two suspects in the entire episode. How hard is it to guess who done it? Kris has dialogue amnesia twice bringing up Marian as if for the first time. When Kelly regales them with her L.A. cab stories, Kris says: “The first time I ever met Jake he mentioned a woman named Marian.” To which Bosley replies, “I’ll check for a marriage license.” Later, after Sarge dies (is recklessly endangered by the Angels), all lined up snuggling the side of the desk once more, they try and piece together how to get Jake, and Kris, light bulb going off, excitedly offers: “He mentioned someone named Marian. Could be an ex-wife or a girlfriend.” Where’s the script supervisor? Why do they run after a delusional man yelling at the top of their lungs? Why does it take so long for them to realize Jake was talking about HIS wife? *sigh*

I do like the brief flash we see of old Kelly, indignant over being duped by Jake. Why she goes off with him alone, and why they let her, is another matter. Inconsistencies prove the people working on this season just got there or have been lobotomized by their time there. I thought it was fairly established that Kelly is a good driver (she’d be dead if she wasn’t). That’s why I liked Kelly insisting on driving in keeping with at least a bit of continuity (until the last scene). Why does Kris talk as if she’s meeting her for the first time (dialogue amnesia!). What they get consistent (probably not on purpose) is Kelly’s knack for getting into faulty cars driving downhill with no brakes, and her running full out to catch bad guys (see Season 1 for cool Kelly pursuits). But you’d think they’d play that up, ala mentioning her penchant for being hypnotized in Angels in Springtime referencing The Séance. *double sigh*

Another thing Angels do in several episodes is make crazy people (once caught) cry. (Angel on the Line, Little Angels of the Night). Season 5 has that effect on the viewer.