Season 3, Episode 2
Date of airing: October 18, 2000 (UPN)
Nielsen ratings information: 3.6 million viewers, 2.5/4 in Households
This is a perfect episode for when you need help to fall asleep after your big holiday dinner feast. Two seasons and two episodes into the show, and the production delivers an episode that could have been any episode of SEVEN DAYS in any season of the show, of any of the decades this show could have existed. The producers move into some boring backwoods of British Columbia for a few days, they find some random tunnel that looks like it had been used in the show before, and they set up the usual silly shootout and explosion mayhem that rather dragged the episode to its end than making it tense and action-packed. The best example of this is the fact that the Serbs did not immediately blow up the truck in the new timeline, which is what they were doing in the old timeline. But I guess you cannot just do what you were doing in the old timeline, when there suddenly is a main character standing right beside the truck and he was not allowed to be killed off this way. SEVEN DAYS always employed convenient storytelling, but this episode kinda baked, took and ate the cake in one swift move.
The episode was pretty boring for other reasons as well. First of all, it was obvious that Donovan would decide to stay with the team — the season just premiered, and the show just got a brand new opening intro, which is not gonna be changed, just because another cast member has decided to step down (the fact that Sam Whipple is credited as “Special Guest Star” means he is about to be on his way out, although in his case it was the cancer diagnosis he got before or during the summer hiatus and which killed him two years later). Secondly, the action sequences were incredibly lame. The Serbs were not putting mortars on the trucks or the refugees, and the Serbs were too lazy to storm the tunnel from both sides and make sure that everyone dies quickly and the money is theirs. Thirdly, the Serbs apparently knew about the money all along. Couldn’t they have just taken it before the episode eventually happened to be? Couldn’t they have just killed the refugees in there and stolen the money? One of the characters talked about the Geneva Conventions and the notion that the land was not belonging to the Serbs just yet, but that did not stop them bombing the refugees and do whatever in the church during the old timeline. Besides that, the Serbs as depicted in this episode were criminals, murderers, they could have thought of something to make it seem that the church was theirs and never had anything else to offer but dust and blood. After all, the building looked like it had already been bombed multiple times before the episode even began.
Besides that, I was rolling some eye about the way the characters were behaving throughout the episode. Take Donovan, Morales and the refugees for example, who were taking cover behind the truck, yet Donovan was shot by a Serb who had him, Morales and all the refugees in his sight, which means the good guys were not covered at all. The same goes with Vladek, who popped out of the tunnel with a machine gun in his hand, listening to Major Danevic giving his final warning to the Americans — so, the Serbs did not see Vladek put half of his body out of the tunnel and were completely and utterly surprised they were shot at? And of course there is the thing about Parker’s almost execution. The ring leader was dragging out his countdown for his men to shoot, just so the episode can go for a commercial break and Donovan has all the time in the world to prepare himself in the bushes. There was quite the long sigh coming out of myself during that moment. Even Parker knew that he would be saved after the commercial block, because he never looked like he was about to face his maker through a bullet in his head.
The only really good part of the episode as near the end, when Grubbs and Morales decided to go back, play the heroes and die fighting. Even though it was a huge cliche that they would change their mind, after having been on a treasure hunt these past one or two days, and get killed while being the good guys for once, there was at least some kind of emotional depth in the episode, even when it was wasted within five seconds during the remembrance part of the story. What would have levelled the episode up though is if Morales and Grubbs would have been the good guys from the beginning, and the entire mission was simply just getting the refugees out. Yes, they could have been there for the money in the first place, but when they saw the drama, they took matters in their own hands and decided to become heroes (and then take the money). Even though that would have killed an entire story filled with conflict material, at least the writers would have found some time to give more attention to Donovan fighting a war he so desperately wanted to fight in, and the episode would have been more grounded and less boring and sleep-inducing. Because really, I was rolling my eyes even more when Grubbs and Morales turned into slave drivers, watching the refugees carry the money into the tunnel. What was missing in that scene to make the American soldiers even more evil was a freaking whip.