"JERICHO" Retrospect: (1.08) "Rogue River"
Once in a while, a television series would air an episode that proved to have a wide effect upon its remaining storylines. This certainly seemed to be the case for (1.08) "Rogue River", the Season One episode of the CBS post-apocalypse television series, "JERICHO".
"Rogue River" was not the first episode to have a major impact upon the storylines for "JERICHO". The series' first episode, (1.01) "Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours" obviously had an even bigger impact, considering it featured the explosion of a nuclear bomb in nearby Denver and other cities across the county - an event that initiated the series' premise. "Rogue River", on the other hand, could have easily been a solitary episode in which the main premise - acquiring needed medication for gravely ill mayor of Jericho - could have been resolved by the end. Instead, the series' producers and screenwriters Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia used a minor incident from the episode to echo throughout the remaining Season 1 and most of Season 2.
The end of previous episode, (1.07) "Long Live the Mayor", left off with Mayor Johnston Green's collapse, thanks to an infection that had turned deadly due to the lack of proper medication. His daughter-in-law, Dr. April Green, reveals that the mayor needs a more specialized antibiotic - Cipro - to overcome his infection. Since the medical clinic in Jericho is dangerously depleted of needed drugs, the mayor's sons Jake and Eric Green (April's husband) need to travel to the nearby town of Rogue River and acquire Cipro from that town's larger hospital.
"Rogue River" opened with Jake and Eric driving across the Kansas countryside toward Rogue River in the former's muscle car. The pair spot a woman's body sprawled across the side of the road. Eric wants to check on the woman's condition, but Jake insists upon continuing their journey. He had spotted a second set of tire marks and concluded that the woman had been ambushed and murdered for her money and any supplies. Upon their arrival in Rogue River, the two brothers notice that the entire town had been abandoned. And when they reach the town's hospital, they are fired upon by someone inside. Jake and Eric discover a wounded mercenary from the Ravenwood private security firm named Randy Payton and a doctor named Kenchy Dhuwalia. The two strangers reveal that Ravenwood troops were sent to Rogue River to assist FEMA in evacuating the town's citizens. The difficulty in evacuating the hospital led one Ravenwood to snap and start shooting some of the patients. His actions led to an all out massacre of many other patients. Before the Green brothers can get their hands on the medicine they need, a large group of Ravenwood gunmen led by a man named Goetz arrive to confiscate the hospital's remaining supplies.
The episode featured two subplots. One of them centered around the efforts of the Green women, Emily Sullivan and Heather Linsinski to keep the ailing Johnston alive long enough to receive the Cipron. Their efforts led Heather, a science teacher, to create enough ice from chemicals to keep the fever down in Johnston's body. In "Long Live the Mayor", businessman Gray Anderson had questioned Eric about the town's newcomers. He made good on his threat to learn more about them, when he and new sheriff Jimmy Taylor appear at the Hawkins home to question Rob and his family about their decision to move to Jericho.
Earlier, I had pointed out how some of the plot elements in "Rogue River" end up having a major effect on some of the series' future plotlines. This was especially apparent in Jake and Eric's confrontation with the Ravenwood gunmen and their leader, Goetz. And this is one reason why I view "Rogue River" as one of the series' finest episodes. But it occurred to me that even if the episode had merely been a stand alone, my opinion of it would have remained. "Rogue River" is truly a first-rate episode. Although previous episodes like "Long Live the Mayor" and (1.04) "Four Horsemen" hinted the devastating effects of the nuclear bombs that struck the country, "Rogue River" revealed the full force of those effects with scenes that featured the Green brothers' encounter with a dead woman at the side of the road, and their experiences in Rogue River. Thanks to Federman and Scaia's screenplay, along with Guy Bee's direction, "Rogue River" was filled with enough danger and tension to keep any viewer on his or her toes.
But the Rogue River trip was not the only plot that impressed me. I was also impressed by the storyline that featured Gray Anderson and Jimmy Taylor's interrogation of Robert Hawkins and his family. The interesting thing about this particular subplot is that Gray Anderson, who had no experience as a law officer or politician, seemed smart enough to use interrogation tactics that someone with that particular background would normally use. Gray was no dummy. Unfortunately, he had more than met his match in the mysterious Robert Hawkins and surprisingly, the latter's very intelligent daughter, Allison. Between the two of them, they played Jimmy and especially Gray, like a fiddler. But as the episode proved, playing Gray did not prove to be an easy task. And I must say that for a subplot that featured no epic scenes or action, it was filled with a great deal of tension, drama and a little comedy as well. Very satisfying.
The subplot featuring the effort to keep Johnston Green alive before Jake and Eric's return proved to be solid, but not particularly mind blowing. Well, I did learn one thing from this storyline. Heather Lisinski is a warm, vibrant and intelligent woman . . . who also seemed to possess nerves of Jello. It amazed me at how easily she nearly fell apart in her efforts to create ice to cool down Johnston. It was a good thing that Emily Sullivan managed to put her back on track. And if one might think I am exaggerating about Heather's tendency to lose her cool, she did it again in Season Two.
I could pinpoint the performances that impressed me. But I must be honest, all of the cast members featured in this particular episode did. Skeet Ulrich and Kenneth Mitchell proved they had superb chemistry portraying the two brothers, Jake and Eric Green. I was especially impressed by their scene in which Jake's past and Eric's affair with tavern owner Mary Bailey were discussed. Lennie James continued his superb portrayal of the always fascinating intelligence agent, Robert Hawkins. Michael Gaston also impressed me with his portrayal of Gray Anderson's paranoia. But I was really impressed by Jazz Raycole's spot-on performance as Robert's equally intelligent daughter, Allison. Darby Stanchfield gave a poignant performance in a scene in which her character, April Green, reveal to the unconscious Johnston that she was pregnant. The episode also featured outstanding performances from the three guest stars. Theo Rossi gave an appropriate performance as the frantic and remorseful Ravenwood soldier, Randy Payton. Aasif Mandvi gave the first of several outstanding performances as the talented, but alcoholic surgeon, Dr. Kenchy Duwhalia. And D.B. Sweeney proved he could a subtle, yet menacing villain as the leader of the Ravenwood gunmen, Goetz. In fact, Sweeney would eventually return and solidify his position as one of the best villains I have seen on television, hands down.
What can I say about "Rogue River"? Unless I am mistaken, it is considered to be one of the best episodes that aired on "JERICHO". The episode literally vibrated with suspense and tension in two story lines that featured the Green brothers' trip to the nearby Rogue River and Gray Anderson's interrogation of the Hawkins family, thanks to director Guy Bee. The entire episode was well written by Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia, and featured outstanding performances led by Skeet Ulrich, Kenneth Mitchell and Lennie James. If "Rogue River" is not that highly regarded, then I believe it should be.