What can I possibly say that has not been said before? The Piper is one of the funniest episodes of Special Unit 2. Its dark humor and satire provided the audience with a wonderful escape for an hour. Its the perfect reason why Special Unit 2 should stay on the air instead of being dumped by UPN. What made this episode work was that it was a satirical look at children's shows and how many of us see those shows. Many of us hate Barney, hate that song he sings, and find him annoying as hell. So seeing Arnie as the Link that controlled the minds of children puts a new spin on the children's show idea, while keeping the show within the confines of the Special Unit 2 mythology. It also gave us something we wanted to see or even do in bringing down you know is evil. You know what I mean. So, for my first excellent point, I give it to the writers in Harry Victor and Dan Fesman. I also want to pay tribute to John Kretchmer for bringing their script to life and the visual and fast paced feel he can deliver. If the writers and the director do not see something the same way it usually spells disaster for an episode. That was not the case here as John most definitely saw what Harry and Dan were trying to do. Looking good on paper does not necessarily mean it will turn out the way it is intended to be.
Danny Woodburn, if I do say so myself stole the show. His penchant for comedy came out in full glory. Being trapped in the hole for crimes he did not commit added to flavor of the episode. Seeing Nick and Kate stroll down the hole and telling Carl he was free to go was a great sequence. I think Carl turned on the charm when we attended the casting session. As he looked around the room and had a look of "you people are freaks, what am I doing here." You knew from that point on, Carl was going to be gold. Seeing Danny playing a Gnome who is a bad actor was a scene for the ages. Then Kate's comment about how Carl really is trying to do his best, but he really is just that bad sealed the deal. My favorite scenes with Carl were when he was talking to Miss Understanding and then later with the agent as well. The one-liners and dialogue were sharp as ever and helped make Carl a little more complex and believable as someone undercover who still has vices. It was nice to see signs of Carl's greedy and selfish nature coming out as well as his charm with the ladies. Even though the money making scheme didn't really pan out it provided for an amusing scene with Captain Page who wanted all of Carl's merchandise gone while Carl was trying to get the Captain to invest and become a partner.
Also notable was Michael Landes, who did a fine job as well. His facial expressions, amongst other aspects of his acting in this episode, were amazing. After watching the newscasts of his "on air," beatings of Arnie were priceless. Those smiles or disgusted looks were just dead on; I wonder how he could keep a straight face in some of those scenes. Especially the last one where he could not help but smile, then the Captain looks over, he stops but still has a smirk. His reactions to everything in this episode were just priceless; he did not have to say anything. Just one look and you could tell he was happy or annoyed. The makings of a great actor are in this man, who am I kidding; he already is a great actor. It was also nice to see some great interaction between Nick and Arnie. They lit up the screen and played out each other extremely well. Nick certainly met another Link he could match wits with. Usually Nick can outsmart these Links, but every so often, he has to get downright intelligent to find a weakness. His quick thinking with the helium balloons to alter the vocal chords of Arnie at the end was very quick thinking. I am very happy the writers keep Nick as an intelligent guy who can think on the fly or really setup an entire plan.
Another thing I liked about this episode was the behind the scenes work. I never really mention this and I really should. However, in this episode the Set Decorators, Property Master, and the wardrobe people really shined in making a realistic environment for the childrens show. The Arnie costume was very original yet kept its child like innocence. The sets looked like a part of a real children's show. Kate was dressed more casually, which helped flesh out her character a little bit as someone who takes pride in what she wears and does not just wear things for the hell of it. She wears them because she feels comfortable in them Kate looked very sexy and classy in this episode and I like to see that every now and then in Special Unit 2. Everything was beautiful and very smooth on an overall level. Those minds behind the scenes put on a clinic in this episode and made me take notice of what they can do. I'm not saying they havent done a good job before, I'm just saying that this was an episode that woke me up to see how talented these people are. A show is not made up of writers, directors, and actors and I am happy to give credit to everyone behind the scenes. I apologize for not knowing many of the names of these people but you do know who you are.
There is one downside to everything though. The downside of this episode was that Alice Kramer is no longer part of the show. Storyline wise she quit because she thought the job was becoming too stressful and demanding so, she joined the Gore for 2004 presidential campaign. I suspect that behind the scenes she only had a small contract for appearances in the show. I am very happy she is a part of the show and its mythology. It was better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Pauley Perrette added an extra punch to the episodes she was in. She is smart, sexy, and funny and had chemistry with everyone on the show. There was great potential in how Alice was written to become the breakout character. I am sad to see her go, but happy to see how big a factor she was in the show.
With a well-written and balanced episode, "The Piper" does down as one of the funnier episodes of the show. In the overall scheme of things, we learned a little more about Carl and got to see him work his 007 like charm. Then with the overall satirical look at children's shows this is on my favorite list right behind "The Brothers" and "The Walls."