'Life on Mars' flies the friendly, sexy skies

Gretchenmol_lifeonmars_240 After a bunch of made-from-scratch episodes, we had another close translation of an original British episode of Life on Mars. A decent ep -- I mean, how can you go wrong with key parties and Annie kicking ass? -- but disconcerting the way it was placed. You've only got a few episodes left, guys -- why waste it on a retread that doesn't advance the US version of events?

A woman's body is found in a dump site that is the regular haunt of a homeless guy prone to spewing hibernation facts. That's not the weird part, though. The weird part is she looks exactly like Annie. The dead woman, Valerie Palmer, is  the second flight attendant from this airline to be offed. Annie is freaked out, but she decides to be proactive -- she'll go undercover as Valerie in hope of flushing out the killer.

Things seem to go well -- she even fools Valerie's roommates -- but the only weird thing in Valerie's room is the profusion of David Cassidy posters. Oh, that and the envelope full of cash that Annie finds hidden in the ceiling. Valerie's datebook has an entry highlighted for the next day 00 the flight and seat number of a passenger. Annie will keep that meeting -- and Sam and Ray will be along for the ride. Sam poses as a deadheading pilot, which means he gets to be in the employee lounge before the flight. He meets Ronald Harris, a pilot, and Ron's wife, Rita, a former stewardess and real looker. She seems fine with the idea of Ron ogling every stewardess on the plane. Hey, whatever works.

On the plane, Annie meets Valerie's contact, Lincoln Hart, and he seems sweaty and agitated to see her. He asks if she has what he wants, and she says yes. Later, Lincoln grabs Annie, and the men come running. They think he's been using stewardesses to smuggle drugs, but a search of his apartment reveals a cache of lacy undergarments. He'd been paying stewardesses for their underwear. OK then -- whatever turns you on...

Speaking of which, the squad figures out that Ron was the last person to see Valerie alive, and send Annie to reel him in. A bit of flirting, some sexy talk involving ice cream, and bingo, Annie/Valerie is re-invited to Ron's regular party. But she has to bring a date -- it's a key party. Those dates are made for swapping!

Sam gets enlisted as Annie's date (much to Ray's dismay), which makes Sam uncomfortable as hell. He keeps giving Annie self-defense tips -- go for the trachea! Or the groin! -- but Annie is getting into the undercover life. That shows at the party, where she willingly goes off with Ron, leaving Sam to Rita's tender mercies, and Gene -- who crashed with "a hooker I know" -- to another sexed-up attendee. Rita tells Sam to relax -- the only rule is not to fall in love. Other than that, anything goes. It sure does! Exhibit A: A closet full of bondage toys. Exhibit B: Annie in her underwear whipping a bound Ron. Sam and Gene send Annie out so they can interrogate Ron, who denies all wrongdoing. They're interrupted by Ray and Chris, who heard Annie screaming for help on the radio. It seems Rita isn't as sanguine about her hubby hooking up with other women as she appears. She saw that Ron was getting close to Annalise and Valerie, and she killed them. She's more than happy to kill Valerie again. But Annie remembers Sam's advice and gets Rita in the trachea. Another case close by Annie!

Back at the precinct, Annie talks about how much she identified with Valerie -- they both decided to pursue their dreams, but those dreams went sour. Valerie ended up dragged into sex parties, and Annie? Well, being "No-Nuts with the Donuts" wasn't how she expected her policing career to go. So what are you going to do about it? Sam asks. Annie marches into Gene's office and announces she's a good -- no, a great! -- cop, and she's ready to be a detective. What's more, she deserves it. She leaves Gene to ponder that. Will he let it happen?

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends
  • Annie doesn't take well to Sam's response to finding a dead woman with Annie's face. "Don't try to overthink it," he says. "I'm just sorry the crazy is rubbing off on you." "You don't get it!" Annie replies. "This isn't about you. This is about me, my life.... How can you just stand there and insist this is just some puppet show being performed in your head?"
  • Sam and Annie spar over flight attendant vs. stewardess. In the future, the word stewardess will be seen as demeaning, he says. "Will the same thing be said for seamstress and princess in this magical word of yours?" Annie replies.
  • Sam responds to the news that Valerie's room is plastered with David Cassidy pics. "I Think I Love You!" "Excuse me?" Annie replies. "That Partridge Family's greatest hit," Sam explains, hitting himself on the head. Heh.
  • Leslie, one of Valerie's roommates, on Ron: "He's like a sculpture of Tom Jones made out of cream cheese!" Then, on undercover Sam: "He can put my tray in the preflight position..."
  • Ray, on the plane, tells Annie/Valerie he has a problem: "I got no nuts. Can you help me out with  my no nuts situation? Because I really hate no nuts!" That qualifies as witty banter from Ray. ;
  • Annie gives back, when she's cozying up to Ron: "You're not like most mustached men I know," she coos for the benefit of the listening cops. "Always compensating for something...."  
  • New euphemisms I plan to work into conversation: taking Herman to the circus, torturing the tentacle, choking Kojak, playing tug of war with the Cyclops, and paddling the canoe.
  • Annie bemoans Valerie's fate -- falling in with a fast crowd, "with the sex parties and terrible turtlenecks..."
  • Sam's undercover identity: Tom Cruise. That sort of backfires when the woman who would become Gene's "date" asks what he's about. "I'm about risky business with the color of money and a few good men."  That last bit is less than enticing to her. "I didn't mean - I got all the right moves!" Sam sputters. Heh.
  • The only time-travel bit we got with Sam was a story he told Annie about being a kid and playing that a refrigerator box was a spaceship. He took a magazine in with him, which featured a stewardess taking care of a young boy on a plane. That magazine, that picture, became his protector, his sentinel, his talisman. At the end of the episode, he finds a copy of that magazine -- and it's Annie' s face on the stewardess in the picture.