Lois' Daily Planet

The Pretender

which aired on Saturday, January 2, 1999

The Pretender was created by Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle

The series stars:
Michael T. Weiss as Jarod
Andrea Parker as Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau as Sydney
Jon Gries as Broots
with Jamie Denton as Mr. Lyle

The Pretender also stars (although not necessarily in every episode):    Sam Ayres (Sam  the Sweeper), Zachary Browne (Young Kyle), Paul Dillon (Angelo),  Jeffrey Donovan (Kyle),  Willie Gault (Willie the Sweeper),  Pamela Gidley (Brigitte), Richard Marcus (Mr. Raines), Ryan Merriman (Young Jarod), Kim
 Meyers (Jarod's Mother), Jonathan Osser (Younger Jarod), Ashley Peldon (Young Miss Parker),
 Harve Presnell (Mr. Parker), and Alex Wexo (Young Sydney).

Guest Stars:   Leight Taylor Young (Michelle), Darren Kennedy, Joe Unger, Scott Atkinson, 
Kirsten Nelson, Dakota Leopardi, Jacqueline Aries
with Andrew J. Robinson

This is EPISODE #52 
Written By:  Harry Dunn
Directed By:  Rodney Charters

The episode begins with Sydney's son, Nicholas, at the teacher's compound at Merrill's Crossing in the Appalachian hills, talking on the phone to Sydney.  Nicholas is holding an antique compass and Sydney is telling him that it belonged to his (Nicholas') grandfather, who once said that it kept him from losing his way while he was in the Belgian infantry.  The phone conversation is interrupted when a small child, Seth, runs up to Nicholas, begins tugging at his hand and reminds him that he promised to read to him.  During the conversation, Nicholas is referring to Sydney as "Sydney" and when they finish talking, Sydney begins to tell Nicholas, "Don't call me Sydney ... call me dad," but Nicholas has already hung up the phone.

Nicholas goes back to Seth and readies himself to read Green Eggs and Ham.  The child is full of questions.  First, he sees the compass and asks Nicholas what it is.  Then, when Nicholas opens the book, the child sees a picture of Nicholas and Michelle and asks Nicholas, "Is that your momma?"  Nicholas smiles and tells him that it is.  Seth asks Nicholas about his "daddy" and the smile leaves Nicholas' face, but before he can phrase any kind of answer, an old pickup truck with four armed men in it skids to a stop in the middle of the campground area, where Nicholas and the other teachers are working with the children.  The men leap out and begin herding the teachers into the bed of the truck. 

After putting Seth into the arms of his mother and telling him to stay with her, Nicholas tries to protest that they are all just teachers, but he is struck down by one of the men and is shoved onto the back of the truck with the rest of his group.

The truck pulls away and Seth is left, alone, with the Green Eggs and Ham book that has the photo of Sydney and Michelle in it.  Seth sees that during the abduction, Nicholas dropped the antique compass on the ground and picks it up.

Jarod walks into a room in a seedy hotel and tosses a well-used hard-hat that has a logo with an oil rig on it, onto the bed.  He is dirty and unshaven, but he holds the Port Arthur Examiner in his hand and smiles as he reads the headline, "Binkley Oil Shut Down."  Beneath the headline, the leader reads, "Worker Exposes Toxic Waste In Bay."  Jarod opens the refrigerator and grabs a plate of cold pizza.  He's eating a slice as the news comes on the TV.  Jarod's dinner is interrupted when he sees a picture of Nicholas being broadcast as one of a group of teachers that has been abducted by a radical group that is known to hide out in the Appalachian mountains.

At The Centre, Lyle, Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots are looking over the contents of the latest package from Jarod ... the package contains an oil-covered swallow.    Lyle tells the group to call him when they figure out what it means and leaves the room just as the phone in Sydney's office rings.  Sydney leaves the room to answer the phone.  Broots looks at the box of oil covered birds and says that he thinks it's sad.  Miss Parker retorts, "devastating" then hisses at Broots to "flush it."  Sydney didn't close the door to his office when he went in to answer the phone and Miss Parker and Broots can hear his end of the conversation ... it quickly becomes clear that he is talking to Michelle and that Sydney's son has been abducted.   Miss Parker and Broots drift quietly to the door of Sydney's office and he turns to see them standing there, as he talks to Michelle.  Michelle is distraught and asks Sydney what they are going to do.  Calmly, but with great determination, Sydney replies, "We'll get him back."

Back in the mountains, the ATF has been called in to find the abducted teachers.  Although only a few hours have passed, Jarod has already managed to insert himself as a member of the ATF's Rapid Response Extraction Team as Special Agent Jarod Miner, a tracking expert who is well versed with the area and the people who live in it.

In Sydney's office, Miss Parker is asking what Nicholas was doing in that area.  Sydney is typing something on his computer as he tells her that Nicholas was working as a volunteer, fighting illiteracy.  Finished on his computer, Sydney prepares to leave.  He asks Broots to cover for him and Broots says that he'll do whatever he can.  Sydney asks Miss Parker, "What about Lyle?" and she tells him to let her worry about "Eddie Haskell."  Then she implores Sydney not to do anything crazy.  As he's ready to walk out the door, Sydney looks directly into Miss Parker's eyes and says, "Parker, they took my son!"

At the site of the abduction, the ATF agents are asking people what they saw when the teachers were abducted, but no one is admitting to seeing anything at all.  Seth's mother catches Jarod's eye and then pointedly shifts her gaze to an old tire that has been recycled as a childrens' swing.  There is a dead rattlesnake draped around it.  Jarod explains the meaning to the other ATF agents.  It is the trademark of the Appalachia Freedom Militia.  The AFM's leader is a man named Eldrige Hailey and Jarod says that the abduction is a retaliatory gesture.  The rattlesnake uses its rattle to warn its victims when it's going to attack.  The dead snake is a warning to the residents of the area - telling them not to talk to anyone about what happened.

Jarod finds Nicholas' little student and asks him about what happened.  Seth shows Jarod the Green Eggs and Ham book that Nicholas gave to him, along with the picture of Nicholas and Michelle that was in it.  The child tells Jarod that the men took Nicholas up into the hills, then gives Jarod the compass that Sydney gave to Nicholas, telling him that it will help him find his way when he gets lost.

At the ATF field office in Lexington, Kentucky, Sydney meets Michelle and together they wait for news.  An ATF Agent Beth Swik tells Sydney that the search team is already on site, but until they can pinpoint the location at which the teachers are being held, there is nothing that anyone can do but wait.

The teachers are all sitting in a darkened room.  One of the women teachers is sitting across from Nicholas, crying softly.  He moves next to her and tries to comfort her by telling her that when they get back on campus, he'll take her to a popular coffee shop called Flannery's.  The AFM man who is guarding them puts a gun in Nicholas' chest and tells him that not everyone is going to make it out of there and the ones that will go first are the ones who don't do as they are told.  He tells Nicholas to get back to his side of the room and shut up.  Nicholas follows the instructions, but continues to display a slight smile that is directed at the tearful woman.

In Lyle's office, Broots squirms as Lyle explains to him why he thinks a four-fingered hand is "sleek."  Broots tells Lyle that he found Jarod, working at an oil refinery near San Juan Capistrano, going a little too far in his explanation of the area, by reminding Lyle that it's where the swallows migrate every year.  Lyle asks Broots where Miss Parker is.  Broots says only that Miss Parker is "out of the office."  Lyle's expressions clearly say that he isn't buying any of it, but he doesn't call Broots a liar.  As Broots continues to squirm, Willie the Sweeper comes in and hands Lyle a slip of paper.  Lyle reads the paper, let's Broots twist in the wind a moment longer, then brightly announces that he's off to Capistrano.  Clasping Broots shoulder, Lyle tells him to stay near his phone, in case he needs his assistance.  Broots manages a strangled, "Yes, sir."  Lyle smiles, says, "Talk to you soon!" and leaves.

Having returned to the relative safety of his own office, Broots tells Miss Parker that Lyle has gone to California, then pleads with her to not make him do that anymore ... "that" being lying to Lyle.  He says he thinks he's getting an ulcer and is worried about what's going to happen when Lyle realizes that he's been sent on a boondoggle.  Miss Parker tells him to drink a glass of warm milk with a shot of bourbon in it and reminds him that it doesn't matter what happens, as long as Sydney brings his son home alive.

Back at ATF headquarters, Sydney isn't exhibiting a lot of patience with the way things are going.  He tells Michelle that he's never been able to be a part of Nicholas' life and now, when Nicholas needs him - he's just sitting there ... "PATIENTLY" he yells, directing the word at ATF Agent Beth Swik.   Michelle spirits him away to an anteroom and explains to him that when Nicholas was an infant he had a ventricular disorder ... and she had to sit, by herself, waiting, while he had a five and a half hour open heart surgery.  Patience is something you learn, she explains, because you have no choice.  Sydney is full of remorse for not having been there when she needed him, but Michelle reminds him that someone at The Centre told her that Sydney would be killed if she ever contacted him again.  Michelle tells Sydney that it was hard enough, trying to prepare herself for the fact that she might have to bury her baby, let alone the love of her life.  Sydney kisses her hand gently and tells her that he's glad that she called him this time.

Suddenly, the ATF begins receiving a video transmission from the kidnappers ... it demands that a million dollars be deposited into their off-shore account before sunrise, or they will begin to shoot the hostages.  At the end of the tape, the leader of the AFM grabs Nicholas and throws him across the room and out of sight of the video camera, then points his gun in that direction and fires.   They may have shot Nicholas, or they may not have ... it's impossible to tell.

Sydney calls The Center and Broots is giving him a run-down on Hailey's criminal past.  Miss Parker breaks into the conversation and asks Sydney what's going on.  He says that he's not even sure if Nicholas is alive.  Miss Parker tells him that he has to believe that Nicholas is alive and that he should do "whatever it takes" to bring his son home.  Sydney asks Miss Parker why she is doing this for him and she answers, "Because you'd do the same."

In the mountains with the ATF team, Jarod has zeroed in on the video transmission closely enough for them to assume that it originated from the abandoned, Dry Creek Mine.  After informing headquarters, the team begins to move in that direction.  Having finally reached the limit of his patience, Sydney leaves with Michelle from the ATF headquarters to head out to the abandoned mine.   He calls Miss Parker first, and asks her to liquidate his assets and wire them to the designated account.  He tells her that it won't be enough, but maybe Hailey will take it and free the hostages.  Miss Parker tells him that since The Centre is responsible for him not even knowing he had a son for all those years, she's going to let The Centre pick up the tab on this one.  She also tells Sydney that he shouldn't take Hailey on by himself, but Sydney says that he has spent too much of his life standing by while others were hurt ... this time he is going to act.

Back at The Centre, Miss Parker tells Broots that they need to go and help Sydney.  She says she understands his need as a parent to do whatever it takes to help his child, but getting himself killed won't help Nicholas.  Broots points out that maybe Sydney has help and maybe he isn't alone.  Broots reminds Miss Parker that before Sydney left, he was at his keyboard - he thinks that Sydney may have been sending an e-mail to Jarod.  Miss Parker tells Broots to find out.

Jarod and the ATF team have reached the mine and are checking the area around the opening.  It looks abandoned, but Jarod can smell kerosene lamps burning.  The men are in position and Jarod reminds them to hold their fire if they see anyone - he doesn't want to risk hitting a hostage.

On the road, a red car pulls up.  Sydney gets out and begins walking toward the mine, calling out, "Hailey!" over and over again, telling him that he's had the money wired into his account.  One of the ATF men spots someone coming out with a rifle in his hands and radios the other men that he has a "shooter" by the mine.  Jarod rushes over and pulls Sydney down and out of sight, just as the man with the rifle takes aim and fires.  Bullets strike the spot where Sydney was standing, only moments before.  The ATF team returns fire, even as Jarod is telling them not to, for fear of inadvertently hitting a hostage.   The shooter moves away from the opening of the mine and the ATF team moves in.  Lieutenant Jenkins tells Jarod to secure the area and moves into the mine.  Inside, Lieutenant Jenkins opens a door and finds a room full of dead bodies, but it's too dark to see who they are.

Sydney is in despair until he is told that the bodies are those of Hailey's militia men and not of the teachers.   Someone staged an assault upon the AFM, killed all of them except the one that was outside of the mine, and then took the teachers, including Nicholas, someplace else!  As Jarod is explaining the situation to Sydney, he calls him by name and the ATF hears it.  He asks Jarod how he knew his name.  Quickly covering up his gaff, Jarod says that he saw Sydney on one of the news reports - he's the father of one of the hostages and his name just stuck in his mind.

One of the ATF men brings over the man who was shooting at Sydney.  He says that it's Hailey, the leader of the AFM.  Hailey pleads with the ATF to not "let him get me," then falls unconscious.

Jarod tells Sydney that they'll find Nicholas.  Sydney thanks Jarod for responding so quickly to his message ... but Jarod says, "What message?" 

At The Centre, Broots tells Miss Parker that Sydney did e-mail Jarod and he can't believe that Sydney was foolish enough to send it from his office - anyone could intercept it.  Miss Parker asks Broots when they last heard from Lyle and Broots quickly remembers Willie bringing him the urgent memo while Broots was in the room.  He tells Miss Parker that Lyle acted like the message wasn't important, but he had a look in his eye - like he'd just eaten a raw steak.

The ATF team leader is reporting in, telling someone on the other end of the line that they have three dead and one wounded, all AFM, and they are trying to figure out where the hostages have been taken.

Jarod is confounded by the tracks.  He says that there are four sets, which means that an outside group came in and killed the militia, then took the hostages.  Sydney corrects him, saying that the group executed the militia.  Jarod continues with his line of thought, pointing out that whoever shot Hailey did it in a premeditated way.  He was shot three times, but none of the wounds were fatal.  Someone wanted him to survive, so he could talk to Jarod.

Hailey regains consciousness and Sydney asks him if he hurt Nicholas.  Hailey tells him that the didn't hurt him.  Jarod questions Hailey, who tells him that the people who killed his men and took the teachers were lead by a man with only 9 fingers, by a man who was missing a thumb!    Jarod and Sydney know that it can only be one man ... Mr. Lyle. 

At The Centre, Broots tells Miss Parker that Lyle went to the Appalachians.  Miss Parker calls to have the jet made ready.  Broots fears for Sydney and Nicholas and Miss Parker agrees that, for a shot at bringing Jarod back, she wouldn't put anything past Lyle.  Broots asks her what she plans to do, and she replies, "Whatever it takes."

Hailey tells Jarod that Lyle took the hostages west.  Sydney doesn't understand why Lyle would do this and Jarod explains that Lyle is using Nicholas as "bait" to draw Jarod to him. 

Jarod tells the ATF team leader that he was right - that Hailey said a rival militia group did this and they are hold up in a farmhouse in Pine Ridge, five miles due east of the mine.  Jarod talks the ATF team leader into allowing him to be the one who stays with Hailey so that he and Sydney can pursue Lyle on their own.  Jarod tells Sydney to stay out of it, but Sydney tells Jarod that Nicholas is his son and Jarod will have to shoot Sydney to keep him out of it.

As Sydney and Jarod start to head west, Hailey cries out, asking Jarod what kind of law man he is, leaving Hailey alone like that.  Jarod tells Hailey that he's not really ATF, he was just ... pretending.

Elsewhere, Willie and Lyle are leading the teachers into an abandoned mine shanty.  Nicholas asks Lyle what happened to Hailey and his men after Lyle got the teachers out.  Lyle lies, saying they just tied them up for the ATF to find.  He tells Nicholas that an extraction team will meet them here.  Nicholas asks Lyle if he's with the FBI and Lyle replies, "Something like that."  Lyle tells the teachers to go up into the attic, in case there's more trouble.  At the last moment, he calls out to Nicholas and asks him to "keep him company."  Willie slams the trap door to the attic shut, and Nicholas remains downstairs, with Lyle.

Jarod looks at the map and realizes that the trail dead ends at the abandoned mine shanty.  He tells Sydney that Lyle wants him walking "in" without a way of walking "out."  He says that it's been "a long time coming, him and me."  Sydney asks Jarod if he thinks that revenge will put an end to the pain in his life.  Jarod only says, "He killed my brother."

Sydney twists his ankle a little and they stop to rest.   Sydney tells Jarod that he's spent a lifetime working for a corporation that takes his son away from him, and when his son is finally back in his life, they kidnap him.  Sydney wonders what that says about him.  Jarod gives Sydney the picture of he and Michelle that Jarod got Seth and tells Sydney that Nicholas looks just like him in the picture.  Jarod says that he could see in Seth's eyes that Nicholas meant the world to him ... he tells Sydney that his son is a good man.  Jarod also gives Sydney the compass.   Sydney tells Jarod that he gave Nicholas the compass because he wanted him to know something of his family and Jarod looks pained throughout the entire conversation.   Sydney is the only family that Jarod has ever known, and now Sydney has a family of his own ... most specifically, a son, with whom he is sharing things that he never shared with Jarod.   All of which leaves Jarod more alone than ever - out in the cold, looking in through the window at someone else's family.  At the end of the conversation, Sydney realizes how painful it was to Jarod to hear all of the things that Sydney said about Nicholas and he tells Jarod that he knows how much he's missed of his life.

Miles away, the ATF team storms the farmhouse and finds it empty.  Lieutenant Jenkins wonders whether Hailey lied to Jarod, or Jarod lied to them.  They head back toward the mine.

Sydney doesn't want to sacrifice Jarod in order to free Nicholas, so when they arrive at the abandoned shanty, Sydney hits Jarod over the head and goes in by himself to confront Lyle and retrieve Nicholas.

Inside the shanty, Lyle is talking to Nicholas.  Nicholas asks Lyle how he lost his thumb and Lyle tells him that he trusted the wrong people and he paid the price.  Sydney walks in and corrects Lyle, saying that he hasn't even made a down payment on his debt.  Lyle is surprised to see Sydney show up, instead of Jarod,  and the two of them exchange glances.   Nicholas realizes that Sydney knows Lyle, but is at a loss to understand what is going on.

Meanwhile, outside, Jarod awakens ... realizes what Sydney did, contacts the ATF team, and then begins his own attack on Lyle's lair.   Jarod dispatches Willie and the two other sweepers who are acting as guards outside of the house and then goes after the man who killed his brother ... Lyle!

Broots and Miss Parker arrive at the airport and find The Centre helicopter already there -- confirming their worst fears.   Miss Parker orders the pilot, Roy, to take them to Lyle ... NOW!

Entering the house from the second story in the back, Jarod gets the other teachers out safely, leaving only Nicholas and Sydney inside with Lyle. 

Sydney is berating Lyle for endangering Nicholas by using him as bait to capture Jarod.  Nicholas tells Sydney that Mr. Lyle saved all of them from the AFM and says that he's a good man.  "Except for the fact that he's a murderer," adds Jarod, as he enters the room.  Jarod adds that if Lyle is looking for Willie and the others, they're a "little tied up."  Jarod says that revenge is a great equalizer.  Lyle looks at his revolver, which is sitting on the table.  Jarod chambers a shell in his rifle and tells Lyle to "go ahead."  Lyle says that he's not going to give Jarod another reason for killing him and doesn't go for his gun.

Quietly, never taking his eyes off of Lyle, Jarod tells Sydney to take Nicholas upstream to meet with the other teachers.  Nicholas doesn't understand what is going on.  Jarod tells him that his father will explain it all to him, then tells him again to go.  Sydney says that Jarod is right, they need to go.  Nicholas wants to know who Jarod is, but Sydney only says that he is someone to whom they need to listen and begins backing toward the door.  Just before he walks out, Sydney turns to Jarod and asks him if he's sure that this is how it has to be.  After a long pause, Jarod says that he's sure and, without another word, Sydney leaves.

Jarod asks Lyle how he knew where the militia was holding the teachers.  Lyle tells him that The Centre has strange bedfellows, even among their inbred brethren.  Lyle tells Jarod that, needless to say, things haven't turned out as he planned.  Jarod replies that things have turned out exactly as he's planned, in his mind, every day since Lyle killed his brother.

Lyle tells Jarod that he told him once before that the two of them could do great things together and that the offer is still on the table.  Still speaking in the same calm voice, Jarod asks Lyle if he's trying to bribe him.  Lyle begins to tell Jarod that the offer isn't a bribe, but Jarod interrupts him and asks him if he wants his last breath on this planet to be a lie.  Lyle falls silent. 

Jarod tells Lyle to step to the center of the room, then makes him get on his knees, as though Jarod plans on shooting him - execution style.  Lyle makes an attempt to dissuade Jarod, saying that he killed Kyle in self-defense.  He also tells Jarod that he knows things about Jarod's family that no one else knows.  He says that if he dies, the answers that Jarod wants die with him.

The sound of an arriving helicopter is in the background as Jarod points his gun at the back of Lyle's head.  Jarod says, "Ready ... Aim ..." and screams, "FIRE!" just as the chopper lands.

When Miss Parker and Broots enter the building, they find Lyle getting up off of the ground -- unharmed.   Lyle shoves Broots toward a door on the other side of the room, screaming at him that Jarod has gone out that way.    Having no wish to become Lyle's human shield, Broots peaks tentatively out the door ... but Jarod is gone.

Miss Parker asks Lyle what happened as Broots urges them all to leave - the ATF team is closing in.    Lyle wants to pursue Jarod, but Miss Parker agrees with Broots - there is no way to explain their presence there, they must leave before the ATF team arrives.  As they all climb back into the helicopter, Miss Parker gives Sydney and Nicholas a long look - which Sydney acknowledges with a small smile.   Jarod watches it all from behind some trees.

Back in the area where it all began, Nicholas is working with Seth ... teaching him to read Green Eggs and Ham.   Sydney arrives and he and Michelle are obviously very happy to see each other and to be there with Nicholas.   Once again, Sydney gives Nicholas the compass (so that he can never lose his way) and introduces himself to Seth as a friend of Nicholas.    But Nicholas corrects him and tells the student that Sydney is his father, much to Sydney's delight.

The episode ends with Jarod talking to Sydney on the phone ... this time about the importance of having a family.    As they speak, Sydney is looking at a picture of Nicholas and Michelle ... while Jarod looks only at his own, lonely reflection in the mirror.  Sydney says that Nicholas barely knows him, but Jarod says that Nicholas knows the most important thing - he knows that Sydney loves him.  The conversation ends and as Jarod picks up his bag preparing to exit the room, he repeats the last phrase ... "You love ... him.

And the screen fades to black ...

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