The show with the longest episode titles ever doesn't disappoint with another wordy installment. As the title suggests, Sam was faced with some new clues to the mystery of why he's in 1973, seemingly pointing to the fact that he could actually be dead. Meanwhile, the case of the week involved a young African-American girl seemingly pushed off a roof by a Puerto Rican janitor.
This episode, however, the outcome was telegraphed from the start. Angel's protests of innocence fall on the deaf ears of everyone on screen, but it's pretty clear to the audience almost immediately that there's more to the story. That didn't stop everyone from assuming the worst and attempting in their own ways to prevent an all-out street war between the African-American and Puerto Rican communities. As usual, Sam found out that his familiar way of policing doesn't exactly apply in his new environment, but even he didn't catch on until way too late in the game. Then again, I can't exactly blame him for not suspecting that the answer lay in chasing butterflies. No one could have anticipated an explanation that lame.
Sam met a young version of his future mentor, Fletcher Bellow, and in turn becomes his mentor. Just when I think this show could become a routine police drama, it throws me a time-travel curve ball. If Sam passes down his wisdom and advice to the young Fletcher, who in turn passes it on to the young Sam somewhere down the line, doesn't that create the paradox in that Sam is essentially passing down his own advice to himself? At least the twist with Fletcher was a little less obvious than the one involving Angel.
The casting of Whoopi Goldberg in a guest-starring role as a militant DJ was a head scratcher, though there was nothing wrong with her performance. It's just that, despite the massive afro and '70s garb, she didn't exactly disappear into the character of Brother Lovebutter, even when disguised as a male voice over the radio. Her strong celebrity persona has the effect of taking the viewer out of the story anytime she's on screen. You can't say it wasn't a brave choice -- both on the part of Goldberg and the producers -- it just didn't quite work within the setting of the series.
In further casting developments, Lisa Bonet was back as Maya this week, and continues to be irrelevant. She's not really a part of 1973, and she's not helping Sam figure out why he's there. She just seems to be in the way. It made me kind of miss Sam's loopy spiritual guide and neighbor Windy, who was MIA this week (due to being merely a recurring character and not a series regular). The writers have successfully found a balance between the policing and the freaky time-travel stuff -- as well as the humor and the drama -- now they just need to work on solidifying the relationships between Sam and his colleagues, especially Gene and Ray. The key is in building layers of reality. On the surface it may seem that Sam doesn't fit in with his surroundings, but it should be evident that underneath it all, he's having the time of his life.