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What is an "essential" episode?  It's an episode that has contributed something so significant to the fandom that it ought to be required viewing.  It's an episode that would be recommended to a new fans in order for them to understand why TS is so special, and why it generates such loyalty.  It's an episode beloved by old fans—one that's worth seeing over again; either to laugh out loud, sniffle or roll our eyes.  It's an episode that lasted only 40 minutes, but can be discussed for years. 


So, how did we decide on these?  Each episode will include many, and sometimes all, of these elements:

Ø  It explains sentinels; either the senses or the mythology

Ø  It's a great example of sentinel powers or pitfalls

Ø  It provides backstory for the characters; it makes them three-dimensional

Ø  It introduces memorable, influential villains or minor characters

Ø  It advances the relationship between the major characters

Ø  It provided memorable sound bytes

Ø  It's the source of a lot of fanfic; in other words it's captured the imagination of our writers


We settled on 25 episodes.  Considering there were only 64 made, that's a pretty good percentage of memorable, significant story-telling.  We hope you enjoy this as much as we have.
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We've laid out the episodes, in chronological order; one post per episode. We'll give a description, our analysis, and provide links to related fanfic. You are free to read any or all, in any order you like. Everything is tagged for your convenience. 


Then, the floor is open. You're invited to agree/disagree, share your viewpoints or discuss any episode in the comments area.  Don't be shy!    

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This project came out of conversations with fans who've been discussing and enjoying The Sentinel for years.  First and foremost, our thanks goes out to the TS Chat women, who contributed their insight and intelligence, as well as their passion for all things Sentinel.  The idea about deciding which episodes were the "biggies" germinated and developed from that group.  Thanks also to all the fen at TS Talk  who've participated when we've had episode discussions there.  Your viewpoints, your enthusiasm, and your humor keep our fandom lively and fun.  

A giant thank you to Lyn [personal profile] lyn_t , who chose to do the artwork for our project.  She generously agreed to an enormous amount of work; not only creating the banner we had hoped for, but all the collages for the individual episodes.  As you can see, they not only enhance the project, but in themselves capture the essence of each episode in a handful of images.  Truly, her illustrations reflect the spirit of the project, and went above and beyond all expectations.  Additionally, Lyn wanted to acknowledge Starfox, whose generously shared images were the source material for Lyn's artwork.    Starfox's Mansion continues to be a great resource of screenshots; she is truly a fandom treasure.  Another fandom treasure is Becky, a terrific author, whose transcript site is another invaluable resource we used. 


Big hugs to Patt[personal profile] pattrose who, besides being an unofficial cheerleader to us and everyone, helped us with tips on the finer points of LJ-spiffing.

And, finally, our gratitude to Morgan[personal profile] briarwood and Patt, the mods for the Big Bang.  It takes a lot of time and energy to organize, generate interest and keep the enthusiasm going. It's especially difficult in a smaller fandom, such as ours.  Both of these ladies do it with efficiency and grace; their love for TS is obvious.  Thank you for hosting and giving us all a chance to shine.


Magician  [personal profile] magician113   and PsychGirl  [personal profile] snycock 


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Most of the time, a show has to grab us right from the get-go, or else we're ready to flip to another channel.  Even in 1996 this was true; much more so for a mid-season replacement show airing on UPN, which was not one of the big network stations.  I was fortunate to see the pilot as my first episode, even though I'd been reading fanfic for a while.  I've got to say that the creators of the show hit a home run.  Because the pilot is longer than a regular episode and there's so much packed into it, I'll have to skip some details.  Watch the episode—it is awesomely good.



In the jungles of Peru, the fight for survival heightened his senses... )



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We open in the garage of the Cascade Police Department, where Jim and Blair are strategizing about how to approach Simon and ask him to allow Blair to ride along with Jim as an observer.  Blair is confident that he can “thesis-speak” Simon into agreeing, but Jim isn’t so sure.  He also again tells Blair not to tell anyone about the senses.  As they leave the garage, Jim tells Blair that he smells blood.  Blair thinks it’s due to the fact that he cut himself that morning making breakfast, but we see that there are two dead policemen in the trunk of one of the cars, and two suspicious-looking guys wearing police uniforms.


Here comes the roller coaster... )

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The Debt is the fourth episode of the series.  As the episode opens, we see Blair in his home, a huge warehouse in an unsavory part of town, watching TV and talking to Larry, a Barbary ape.  Jim stops by with a videotape recorder he's borrowed from Carolyn's lab, so Blair can record Larry's reactions to watching TV violence.  Yes, they are paying Blair to conduct this study.  After a little banter, we see Jim sitting down on the couch watching TV and eating popcorn with Larry sitting in his lap.  Isn't that cute?


Ah, domestic bliss! )


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Jim and Blair are stuck in traffic leaving a Jags game – Jim is annoyed, feeling that they could have missed this had they left earlier, but Blair ignores him, excited over the win.  That all changes when Jim gets a radio call about a 911 call reporting a prowler.  He puts on the sirens and he and Blair head to the scene.



Things are about to get quite serious... )

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Rogue is the seventh episode of the series. If you asked most fen about the influential episodes, this one would be high on their lists.  And yet it has terrible plot holes and no outstanding detective work to recommend it.  No, the biggest attraction here is the villain, Lee Brackett.  Arguably he's the fandom's favorite villain and we'll explore the reasons why. 



A forgettable plot but a memorable character... )



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We watch as a group of thieves, dressed all in black, break into a high-rise building by swinging down from the roof on a cable and breaking through the window (interestingly, Jim will do a very similar stunt in season two).  They use explosives to open a vault and steal what is probably millions of dollars in diamonds.

You know it's not going to be a simple theft, though, right? )

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Flight is the 11th episode in the series, and the first episode of Season Two.  It's a turning point episode, even among the "essential" ones.  It starts off innocently enough at the PD where we find out that Simon is about to leave for Lima, Peru for a police conference.  He's decided to take his son Daryl on the trip, hoping to reconnect with the teenager.  Blair excitedly gives him a list of "must sees", but Simon already has a big fishing trip planned for after the conference.  Everyone wishes them well.  That's the last normal thing that happens.


It turns into quite an adventure... )


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It’s night, and we see an old-model car coming down a deserted road.  The car comes to a stop, and the driver lights up a cigarette.  We see he has a briefcase full of money.  Lights flash; there’s another car coming down the road towards the first car.  We hear a gunshot as the scene fades.



We're building a mystery... )

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The Rig takes place mid-second season and is one of those episodes where you have to suspend your disbelief a lot and just hang on to the shiny.  I'll point out both along the way.


On with the show! )


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We come upon Jim and Blair as they’re working on catching a car thief.  There’s bait – a black Ferrari – driven by a cop, and Jim is waiting for the trap to close to make the arrest.  Unfortunately for him, the thieves realize that it’s a trap when they catch the driver wearing a wire.  Two of the thieves escape in a BMW, but Jim manages to arrive in time to catch a third thief, who was driving a semi and couldn’t get away in time. 




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Blind Man's Bluff takes place about mid-way through the second season.  The first scene has the guys eating hot dogs in the park, obviously on a lunch break.  A cute aside: A dog comes up begging for food and it's actually Richard Burgi's dog (the actor who plays Jim).  Jim says "Whose dog is this?" before feeding him a bit of food.


Eating hot dogs in the park... )


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We join the boys in the loft as they are getting their gear together to go fishing.  It’s very early in the morning, and Jim has the news on.  We hear a story about an undercover DEA agent, Ben Chavez, who has disappeared under what look like suspicious circumstances.  Jim is listening, but then gets distracted by Blair, who has an authentic Native American fishing tool he wants to bring along.  Jim teases him about it, even coining a new nickname: Hiawatha. 



You just know he's not going to get to use that spear... )

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We open with Jim and Blair chatting as they enter the PD.  Sounds like Blair has scared off a girlfriend by being incredibly open and honest about his past relationships, which Jim is good-naturedly ribbing him for (an interesting switch from Killers, when Blair is the one clueing Jim in on the habits of exes).  Jim tells Blair “your love life is criminal,” which is a statement that shows up in a lot of fic. 



Speaking of criminal... )

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The episode starts, not uncommonly for TS, with a crime.  This one takes place at night on the grounds of Lastings Park, Cascade’s race track.  A guy in a pickup pulls up and takes some papers out of a big metal box.  He heads back to his truck, but before he can get there, he’s shot.  We can’t see who did the shooting, but whoever it is drags the body away, takes the box of papers, and drives away in the victim’s truck. 



Now, that's got to mean trouble... )

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Warriors is another of the pivotal episodes that shows up at the beginning of each new season, full of sentinel myth and mysticism. It also has one of the biggest Suspend Your Disbelief(SYD) plots to date, so I'll get it out of the way early and not dwell on it throughout this essay.


Get ready to suspend your disbelief a LOT! )


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We join Jim and Blair at Cascade Arena.  Jim’s got a new truck – a classic 1969 Ford.  Seems he’s totaled too many cars and his premium for a newer model would be too high.  As Jim and Blair banter, we learn Blair was born in 1969.  We learn that Jim and Blair are at Cascade Arena to watch the Jags, who are in the playoffs, practice.  Simon set it up for them, because he knows Arthur Dell, the owner of the Jags. 



Boys and their toys... )

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If only for the first scene, this is a great episode. There’s nothing as much fun as watching these guys at play. We see Jim and Simon teaching Blair the fine art of fly-fishing. Look at how cute the dialogue is:

~Forest river. Day. Jim, Blair, and Simon all in fishing gear as they splash through the shallow water.~
Jim: Now, watch your step. These rocks are tricky.
Blair: Don't worry. I won't slip.
Jim: Slip all you want. I just don't want anybody to kick the fish. 



Time to play with the guys... )


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Jim and Blair are at home watching football.  Jim gets a visitor, Kelly, who tells him that her husband and Jim’s friend, Matt, was shot trying to escape from Starkville Prison.  Both Jim and Kelly seem shocked by this, as we’re told that Matt only had three months left on his sentence. 


I know what you're thinking... Jim has a friend who's serving time? )

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Sweet Science is the 50th episode of the show. It takes place about two-thirds into the third season, right before Remembrance. This is a great episode. A wonderful combination of case solving and relationships old and new. One thing I especially like is that we get to see a bit more of Blair’s world. The action starts in a boxing ring, with Blair and Jim in the audience. Blair is excited and analyzing the fight, and Jim’s a little surprised that Blair is into boxing.


Ding! Ding! Round One... )


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The episode opens on someone’s first-person POV, running through the forest.  We can hear panting.  The person looks upwards at a huge tree; there’s a crashing sound and we see a young boy’s face. 




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The episode opens with Simon, Jim and Blair at the airport, waiting for Australian Police Inspector Megan Connor to come through Customs. While they're waiting, they're admiring Simon's brand new car and Jim is grousing about having to meet the foreign exchange officer. While they are poking fun at the Aussies, Connor shows up with a sharp comeback. After introductions, she asks some questions about what Blair does for the department, which go unanswered. Almost immediately, Jim's super sight finds an armored car heist in progress. Jim takes Simon's car and Connor commandeers a taxi (shades of The Switchman!), telling Blair, whom she calls "Sandy", to get in with her. A car chase ensues with predictable results: Jim ruins Simon's car and Connor ends up driving on the wrong side of the road. However, they do get the bad guys. Megan is a bit miffed that Simon doesn't give her full credit for the capture.


But she's got bigger fish to fry... )


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We watch a young kid (Johnny Macado) break into a car parked in an alley, but before he can get it started up three men come out of one of the buildings.  From the conversation it seems that one of the men (Kaplan) is reassuring the other (Miller) about something having to do with a jury and legal issues.  The third guy (Smallwood) is just standing in back.  Kaplan hands Miller an envelope of money, but then Smallwood starts to strangle Miller.  Johnny chooses this moment to start the car; the lights come on and he can see all three men clearly.  Smallwood shoots at him, and he panics and drives off.  Gabe, a homeless man, sees the whole thing.



I've come to bear witness... )

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Sentinel, Too, P1, is the last episode of the third season, and almost the last episode ever—UPN unexpectedly cancelled the show.  But through an extraordinary effort on the part of fans everywhere, the show came back for an abbreviated fourth season.  S2P1 was also a cliff-hanger—one of the main characters dies.  In an interview with the creators, they emphatically stated that the character would not have remained dead (to quote Miracle Max from The Princess Bride, "he was mostly dead") and that they were caught by surprise as much as the fans by the network's decision to cancel.  So, a big "brava" to all the fen whose efforts allow me to tell you about both parts of this essential episode.


After this, nothing will ever be the same... )


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We see a young man and a young woman break into a house and start to steal something off a computer.  The owner of the house comes back and catches them and the man (whom the woman calls Brad) shoots and kills the owner.  The woman is horrified, but Brad convinces her it’s for the best.  The two finish their job and leave.


It's such a shame to see young people turning to a life of crime... )

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As did many others, I learned about The Sentinel first through fanfic.  There were many, many post-series stories, most of them falling in one of these categories:

        ·         Blair becomes a cop

        ·         Blair doesn't become a cop

        ·         Blair (or someone else) finds a way to fix everything

        ·         Blair leaves (at least for a while)

And then there were the authors who wanted to obliterate this episode; they wrote AUs where TSbBS never happened.  You can probably imagine how apprehensive I was to actually watch it.  I dragged my feet as much as possible, until a few years ago when I joined the TS Chat group.  We would watch episodes together and then discuss them, so I could no longer avoid it.  This last essential episode, also the show's finale, was really painful to watch. 


Time to share the pain... )




Oct. 20th, 2011 10:08 pm
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So, there you have it.  Twenty-five episodes that are the crème de la crème when it comes to understanding and enjoying the show and our fandom.  Did we miss any you think are important?  Did we include an episode that you thought was just meh?  Did you want to dissect one particular scene or interpret it entirely differently than we did?  Please join us here at play.  For fans, there's never too much discussion of the characters, the concepts or the fic . 

Fifteen years and we're still going strong. 

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The episodes give us the structure and the characters we love—the fanfic, through infinite permutations, enlivens and entertains us.  These are almost exclusively missing scenes or epilogues, with some notable exceptions.  Feel free to immerse yourselves in the talent of our wonderful fen.  Enjoy!


NOTE: No warnings are given.  If you need or want them, consult the web page. 

On to the treasure trove! )


Oct. 20th, 2011 10:02 pm
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Lyn created two banners, from which we also created the icons. Here are both for your viewing pleasure.


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the essential episodes


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