It's Only a Game


Directed by  Vincent McEveety

Written by Richard Chapman

Synopsis:  Our old friend Jerry  Reiner is back, and this time it's the coroner that's in trouble. With dreams of riches in his head, he agrees to act as courier, bringing an innovative new video game to the Japanese for a guy he knows. In return,  he's supposed to get 10% of game sales. He becomes concerned when he finds  two goons following him in the airport as he's trying to fly to Vegas to make the drop.

He turns to  Rick and AJ for help in delivering the game without telling them what it  was and without mentioning the goons he'd run into at the airport. He offers the Simons a free trip to Vegas in return for bringing the package to him, no questions asked. Dubious, the brothers decide to sleep on it.

That night,  AJ's rudely awakened by the goons, but manages to scare them off before they can kill him.

The next morning, angry about his close call, AJ leaves a message for Jerry at his  hotel in Vegas, but he hasn't checked in yet. AJ then tries calling the  guy who hired Jerry to hand off the game, only to find a homicide lieutenant answering the phone and demanding to know who he was. More concerned than ever, the Simons head to Vegas to have a little chat with  Jerry.

When they get  there, though, they find Jerry's room has been tossed and there's some  blood in the bathroom. They also bump into the same goons that attacked  AJ, but manage to lose them in the crowd.

By bribing the savvy hotel receptionist, they discover Jerry's only calls from his room  were to the Appaloosa Ranch to Rick's amusement and AJ's confusion. The  receptionist is kind enough to clue AJ in on exactly what kind of 'ranch' they were talking about. The Simon boys head out to look for Jerry among the herd.

Along the way, the boys pick up a stranded motorist of the female variety and offer to  give her a lift to the nearest payphone. She and AJ hit it off pretty well  and when they get to the Ranch, she gives him her number. When the brothers leave the PowerWagon, however, she sneaks back and puts a bug under the dash.

After a lot of throat-clearing and open admiration, AJ and Rick locate Jerry there as a  friend of a friend of the madam. He tells them the goons worked him over, but he managed to hide out at the ranch. Clueless as to why all this fuss  over a video game, they take it to a friend of the madam's who's a  computer expert. He pops open the game and discovers an unnecessary microchip that he's sure was stolen from Uncle Sam. Realizing just how  deep they've gotten themselves, the brothers and Jerry decide to try to set up a sting to catch the folks buying the chip so that Jerry won't be blamed.

Jerry goes to  the table in a lounge where he's supposed to meet his contact. The  ventriloquist on the stage (Jay Johnson of Soap fame) tells him to  meet back in the lounge after the show. Rick and AJ accompany Jerry, and  the switch seems to be going smoothly when the goons bust in and demand the chip. The brothers, Jerry, and ventriloquist fight back, but the goons  manage to carry Rick off in the confusion.

AJ and Jerry,  disheartened at not being able to find Rick, go back to the hotel room to  wait for a ransom call. But when they get to the room, the gal Rick and AJ  gave a ride to is waiting for them. After checking with Janet to confirm her identity, they accept that she works for the government. AJ, however, makes it very clear he has no intention of handing her or anyone the microchip until his big brother is safe. Reluctantly, she agrees to try things his way, though she can only offer a little back up.

The Ricknappers  call and arrange to meet AJ near the Hoover Dam to swap for the chip. AJ arrives and the goons relieve him of his weapon and demand the chip while  holding Rick dangerously near a precipitous cliff edge. AJ reveals he's holding it on his tongue and threatens to swallow it if they don't pull Rick away from the edge. As they grudgingly agree, a car pulls off the  road and an elderly couple gets out to see the Dam. Long story short, the old couple is really the government agent and Jerry and together with the Simons, they overpower the bad guys. Rick and Jerry get them ready for arrest while the agent 'retrieves' the chip from AJ.


Though I love this episode, there's an interesting dichotomy in my feelings about it. The plot is ho-hum, barely holding together. The  microchip storyline is overdone and tiresome. But what redeems this episode is the wonderful scenes that the sorry plot makes possible. I don't mean to criticize Richard Chapman overly much - my writing is often the same way. The plot is just the means to create good scenes between characters. And boy, are there some good scenes here!

The  opening scene between brothers is one of my all-time favorite openers.  It's partially influenced by reading the account of the TV Guide reporter who was on the set that day, but it just has all the classic earmarks of a  Simon spat. First of all, knowing that Mac's goggles made JP go into a giggle fit makes the sheer fury in AJ's eyes all the more impressive.  Here's a play-by-play, click to see bigger version:

Let's look at Rick: he is simply adorable as he's hitting  the skillsaw, trying to figure out why it's not working when AJ's unplugged it. Then the big grin as he relates his great news to his  brother - cheap toys! Which turns into defensiveness when he feels he's been accused wrongly - after all, he did put a drop cloth down. And finally sheer  puppydog chagrin when he realizes he's used the wrong sheets and that AJ's really going to be mad at him. Precious!

As for AJ, the scene does kinda make me feel for him. (Not as much as I felt for Rick, but still...) Especially when he gives the anguished cry asking if Rick plans to do these things to him or if it comes to him in a vision.  We all know this isn't the first thing Rick's done to him, either well-meaning or otherwise, and it's no surprise AJ feels a little  persecuted. AJ is in fine form as he continues his eloquent denunciation  of his brother as Jerry enters. Too funny!

I've said it once, I'll say it again - they should have stuck with Jerry a  little longer. As he says himself, they're like brothers. For instance, Jerry knows them well enough to pitch his wild plan to Rick directly, not  AJ. He knows as well as we do that Rick's the one most likely to go for it. It's little things like this that really endeared the  character to me, and I think it's a shame they didn't keep him around.

I  must say I relished watching AJ unleash a major can of blue-robed whoop-*ss on the goons who broke into his house. All I could see was a blur of blond hair and blue terry cloth - great to watch! Both brothers  have come a long way in hand-to-hand combat since the show  started.

One  small thing I liked, silly really, was the phone call where Rick picks up on the fact that the guy on the phone is a cop. First, that Rick was able to peg that. Second, that his hand signals instantly made sense to AJ. Third, the enjoyment AJ got out of letting the cop know they knew who he was. Just a brief brotherly moment that made me grin.

I  want to nominate the receptionist at the Sahara as one of my favorite flash-in-the-pan characters. I loved her ability to take the wind right out of AJ's sails, both about the wet hens, and teaching him a little  lesson about Nevada ranches. She was just great.

Need I say anything about the boys' reaction to the Appaloosa? Didn't think so. I'll just say I derive amusement from their discomfiture and unabashed  grins.

It was fun to see Jay Johnson again, the most famous ventriloquist to my  generation. Sure, Edgar Bergen was technically bigger, but who among us  doesn't remember Jay on Soap? (Warning, if you aren't old enough to  remember, be kind and keep it to yourself.) ;)

And finally, we come to the last few scenes, pulsing with power.  Rick, always cool under pressure, stares his Ricknappers in the face,  makes a glib comment here and there, no matter how hard he gets hit. In this case, he also had to point the bad guys to water regarding the  possibility of a switch. Even as he stands on the edge of a very big cliff, he's cracking jokes and enjoying AJ's sense of humor, also. I adore  this strength in Rick.

AJ is an awesome power to watch after Rick is captured. His entire being is focused on one thing - getting his beloved  brother back. He cuts off Jerry's self-recriminations so he can concentrate and he doesn't have time to be gentle about it. And the sheer force of his fury and frustration as he faces down the government agent.  Wow, Wow, Wow! I sure wouldn't have crossed him. Great job, JP!

Finally, the last scene by the Dam, where AJ reveals his clever  location for hiding the microchip. Though I didn't care for the agent  much, I gotta admit I got chills when he said, "Come and get it." Oh my, my, my. Whew!

As I said, I couldn't care less about the plot, but there are so many scenes that show the essence of why I love this show, I gotta give it four Camaros.

4 out of 5 Camaros




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