Friday, 6 April 2012

The Six Million Dollar Diary Part Three: SERIES TWO (1975)

Jaime's back in town: Lindsay Wagner in The Bionic Woman
(Part II)
Season two of The Six Million Dollar Man was really one in which refinement and consolidation of the basic episodic TV formula, already successfully established in the Sam Strangis and Donald R. Boyle-produced first mini season, was the name of the game. With Lionel E. Siegel and Joe L. Cramer now taking over production duties, the series continued with a solid run of adventures which steadily cemented the success of the show, many of which drew more heavily on science fiction themes and weird science as the season progressed. Look alike substitutions and robotic doubles feature heavily once again, as do alien visitors with mind reading powers and -- a particular seventies obsession this, given the rise of Uri Geller during the period -- ESP-related industrial spies and their nefarious activities. The entrenchment of the close family-like relationship between the male trio of regular characters, consisting of Steve Austin (Lee Majors), OSI chief Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and bionics expert Dr Rudy Wells (Alan Oppenheimer), is clearly an on-going concern as the series advances; the relationship between Steve and Oscar in particular, continues to be portrayed as an unusually close one for the genre: in the episode Look Alike Oscar happily leaves his office unattended with its secret vault-full of top secret files still accessible, trusting Steve to lock up after him, so completely does he trust the Colonel (which is unfortunate in this instance because this ‘Steve’ is in fact an ex-boxer turned small-time crook, who’s had plastic surgery to make him look like Oscar’s bionic pal!). 

Troubled teenage psychic, Audrey Moss (Robbie Lee), helps
out the Government in The E.S.P Spy
In Return of the Robot Maker,
Steve and Oscar are even shown going out to dinner in a fancy restaurant on a double date with two young ladies, while in The Peeping Blonde Steve tags along on Oscar’s camper van vacation, where he plans to spend time relaxing by riding his home-built dune buggy around the Californian deserts while Oscar indulges his passion for amateur archaeology! Sequences like these indicate that, by now, the production team and writers were beginning to realise that they could take the audience’s acceptance of Steve and his boss being the best of buddies for granted. The ‘substitute family’ theme is reinforced by the complete absence of any reference to actual family members being present in Oscar Goldman’s life at all, at least thus far in the series. This is in contrast to Steve, whose mother, already played by Martha Scott in the season one story The Coward, returns once more for two of the most iconic episodes in the entire five series run, along with the introduction of Steve’s affable step dad Jim Elgin (Ford Rainey).

These two late season episodes introduced another member into the Six Million Dollar Man family, and arguably constitute the point at which the series really started to capture the imagination of the public in a special way. The appearance of Steve Austin’s childhood sweetheart Jaime Sommers in the two-part episode The Bionic Woman, not only catapulted the series into the forefront of consciousness as a top rated US show, it brought to a head an emerging motif of series two in which the close relationship between Steve and Oscar is often seen threatened with disruption, coming either from outside interference or as a consequence of the danger that's always inherent in their professional relationship. It also resulted in a different kind of emphasis being introduced into the series, which had more emotional depth and resonated with the viewers and fans to such an extent that it would result in The Bionic Woman writer Kenneth Johnson taking over the production duties on the third season and heading up a spin-off series that put Jaime right at the centre of her own set of bionic adventures.

Carol Lawrence awaits certain doom as Steve battles to avert
nuclear disaster aboard a nose-diving jet in Nuclear Alert
Before we get to that though, an early indication of just how the dangers of Steve’s job and the responsibilities of Oscar’s office could result in difficult decisions having to be made despite the team's close friendship, comes at the end of the first episode of the new season, Nuclear Alert. Charged with driving a truck across the Los Angeles interstate, transporting a vital component for an atomic bomb which the OSI believes is to be stolen to order for a jerry built nuclear device, reportedly being sold on the black market, Steve ends up a prisoner on-board a jet that's in the control of the rogue American nuclear scientist responsible for this treachery. Unable to risk the now-fully operational device being dropped from the craft, or its being sold-on to enemy states, Oscar is forced to authorise the destruction of the jet by military aircraft, even though Steve is still aboard. Steve manages to gain control of the jet by kicking out the doors and using his bionic strength to hold on while his enemies are sucked out of the hatch to their doom, afterwards disabling the device and reporting the crisis averted to ground control with only ten seconds to spare before missiles were due to take down the craft.

Crazed astronaut boffin David Tate (Mike Farrell) attacks Steve
and Dr Wells in The Pioneers.
In the episode The Pioneers we get the first indication that both Oscar and Rudy Wells are involved in secret cutting edge scientific research that might potentially be thought by some to take their work beyond the limits of acceptable moral norms, and which not even Steve knows anything about. The two certainly break a few ethics committee rules laid down by the Government in their sponsorship and funding of secret research into cryogenic freezing processes intended to facilitate deep space exploration; and only tell Steve about it at all when things go drastically wrong and his help is needed in cleaning up the mess by, effectively, covering the whole thing up to save their careers!  Scientists David Tate (Mike Farrell) and Nicole Simmons (Joan Darling) have developed a special cell regeneration serum which aids the body's recovery from the cryogenic state. Convinced of its importance they persuade Oscar to let them test it out by volunteering to spend a year frozen in space while they orbit the Earth in a space capsule. When the launch goes wrong and the craft crash lands in a wooded area of North America, Tate’s cryogenic chamber is contaminated by an overdose of the serum, giving him fearsome strength, but also sending him into violent seizures during which he is liable to attack anyone he comes across. At the end of an episode in which Steve fails to save the beleaguered scientist from succumbing to the effects of the serum, Oscar is ruthlessly self-excoriating about his own responsibility for the tragedy. It’s up to Steve to reassure him that he is a pioneer, and that the dead man was fully accepting of the risks and wanted to take them for the advancement of humanity and science. 

Steve feels some affinity for the two scientific test subjects, but as well as his thankfulness for the fact that his life was saved by Oscar's Cyborg program, we're reminded of the loneliness and sense of separateness from the rest of humanity his unique bionic status inevitably leaves him with, and how that loneliness has to largely remain secret because no one can know about bionics.  

Only an alien Meg Foster could learn to love Steve Austin's wide
lapel, open-necked shirt and denim leisure suit with flared
bell bottoms! From Straight On 'Til Morning.
Oscar’s self-flagellating guilt and his apparent conversion to the belief that science doesn’t have the right to advance at any cost seems to have gone completely out the window, though, only a few episodes later, in Straight On ‘Til Morning.
This was the first episode to take the futuristic basis of the show completely into the realm of full-on Sci-Fi of a type that was only hinted at in the season one episode Burning Bright -- rather than sticking with the exaggerated science fantasy represented by lifelike robots and such like.

A family of peaceful, silvery skinned alien explorers crash lands in California. Stranded on Earth with no hope of returning home, they are being slowly poisoned by the atmosphere -- and they in turn cannot even so much as be touched by human hands without causing instant critical illness to the contactee. The first disagreement between Oscar and Steve in this episode comes in relation to their respective views on the veracity of UFOs. Oscar doesn’t believe in them, but Steve, being a regular 1970s kind of a guy, seems to accept at face value the decade's pop culture obsession with all things paranormal or extra-terrestrial, and claims to have once seen a UFO himself on one of his NASA space walks. Furthermore, in the episode The E.S.P Spy, Austin turns out to be more clued up on the ‘science’ of telepathy than his boss, who dismisses it all as trickery until Steve arranges a demonstration with schoolgirl telepath Audrey Moss, who proves able to read his thoughts and report them word-for-word, although with all ‘the expletives deleted!’

In Straight On ‘Til Morning meanwhile, Steve ignores Oscar’s advice to forget the previous night’s UFO reports and sets out on his own investigation, aiding the Sheriff’s office hunt down the four strange-looking individuals who have left a number of people in the area critically ill or dead after their encounter with them. One recurrent theme of the series is Steve’s penchant for a pretty blonde ... and so he quickly builds up a natural rapport with winsome telepathic alien (and the daughter of the alien family being hunted) Minonee (Meg Foster), aided by the fact that his bionic arm enables him to hold her hand without injury, although that’s as far as alien/human contact can go in this case. Conflict between Steve and Oscar again arises when Steve promises to get Minonee -- who is by now the only surviving member of the alien family -- onto the OSI’s latest space probe, due for launch that same day. Oscar wants to keep her on Earth to study her further, even though it would mean certain death for the pretty alien. Eventually, the two men’s friendship wins out over Oscar’s scientific curiosity, but there are some heated scenes between the two before they’re finally reconciled and Minonee is allowed to re-join her own people after being smuggled secretly onto the probe, with only Steve and Oscar being aware of her presence there. 

More expensive than Steve, but unstable and power mad, Barney Miller
(Monte Markham) is The Seven Million Dollar Man.
Markham was 'Cyborg' author Martin Caidin's original choice for the role
of his creation, Steve Austin.

A far more serious potential for conflict in Oscar Goldman and Steve Austin’s friendship arises in the episode The Seven Million Dollar Man. Here Steve discovers that both Oscar and Dr Wells, his two closest friends in the world, have for some time been deceiving him, after he notices with his bionic eye Wells’ top nurse, Carla Peterson (Maggie Sullivan), handing over a restricted audio tape of his latest psychological evaluation session to a mysterious man on OSI grounds. Despite the fact that Steve once had a brief romance with Carla during his recuperation in the period after his post-crash operation (presumably this is meant to be the series’ own version of the relationship between Steve and nurse Jean Manners from the pilot TV movie), she continues to lie about handing over the tape; and, even stranger, Oscar and Dr Wells both back her up by trying to claim that the tape isn’t really missing, despite being unwilling to allow him to see or hear it so that he might confirm this 'fact' for himself, and despite Oscar soon-after sacking nurse Peterson from her post!

Barney's superior powers appear to have defeated his only rival
in The Seven Million Dollar Man.
Eventually, Steve discovers the amazing truth: Oscar and Wells have created another bionic man as part of their on-going Project Cyborg: racing driver Barney Miller (Monte Markham) has had both of his arms and legs replaced with bionics at a cost of $7 million after a racing accident! The trouble is Barney hasn’t been adjusting to his new cyborg status in the months since the operation, so Carla stole the psychological evaluation tape to try to show Barney that it was possible for him to one day come out the other side of his depressed state the way Steve has managed to. After Steve makes it clear that he’s deeply shocked by the fact that Oscar was keeping this whole thing a secret from him and that he then tried to lie about it, the OSI head tries to reassure him of their friendship, but claims that sometimes it is necessary for him to have to lie about certain things. Ultimately, this episode is designed to drum home the fact that not everybody is mentally equipped for the bionic life and emphasis Steve’s compassionate nature and level-headedness. Barney Miller is recruited, like Steve before him and like Jaime Sommers will be in the future, on the understanding that he will take part in secret OSI espionage missions for the Government, but he quickly proves himself too unstable to be effective; he gets ‘high’ on his new physical powers and indulges in excessive violence just for the buzz he gains from it.

The final "battle of the bionics" in The Seven Million Dollar
Eventually Steve and Oscar agree that Barney’s bionic powers will have to be permanently reduced and Barney returned to civilian life. But the power-crazed ex racer reacts by setting out to destroy all the OSI files and computer records on the science of bionics, so that Oscar won’t be able to create any more bionic agents in the future, and forcing him to retain Barney's services for an extortionate fee of his own choosing. In one of their many confrontations, Barney attempts to play on the fact that despite Oscar and Steve's friendship, Steve is, to some extent, still Oscar’s pet project: ‘Did you really think that when the great Oscar Goldman pushed one of his little buttons and ordered up you, his brand new bionic gadget -- did you really think he ordered only one of a kind? … Wrong!’

The classic 'which is the real me' split screen scene in Return of the
Robot Maker
If these kinds of moral and professional problems aren’t quite enough to be going on with, there are other potential sources of conflict caused by the devious machinations of OSI enemies and various criminal gangs.
There are two such instances that stand out in this series: in Return of the Robot Maker Dr Chester Dolenz (Henry Jones) returns to the series for a third time after his failed plan to replace Steve’s friend, Major Sloan, with a robot in the season one story Day of the Robot, and his subsequent attempt to incapacitate Steve in another episode from the first season, Run, Steve, Run. Here he sets out to kill Colonel Austin, setting up the plan by first kidnapping Oscar and replacing him with another of his lifelike robot replicas. Dolenz has been making some improvements to his machines since their last sighting, in response to Steve having previously accused them of giving themselves away by their ‘squeaking’! Aside from Oscar's sudden ability to down a cup of scolding hot coffee in one gulp, Steve suspects nothing, and even goes on a double date with his pal without any obvious sign from the impostor to give his robot-ness away. Dr Dolenz has even installed an incinerator in the chest cavity so that the Oscar robot can now eat and drink while secretly getting rid of the waste.

Hooking the real Oscar up to a somewhat casually introduced thought-reading machine (!) enables the doc to obtain his high security password for gaining entry into Fort McAllister: a US military base where a new form of energy is being developed as part of the top secret Brahmin project. So hush-hush is this project that the base is protected by an impregnable array of sensors and weapons: mines, alarms, automated machine gun turrets and electrified fences. The robot Oscar falsely tells Steve that a computer simulation has predicated that a bionic man might be able to breach the fort’s defences. He informs him that an exercise has been prepared to test this assertion, in which the machine guns’ ammunition will be replaced by blanks, and the mines by harmless explosive charges. Of course, this is all a lie – and Steve will, in actuality, unknowingly be up against the base’s entire armoury and the full might of its defence systems.

Meanwhile, the robot Oscar will be secretly micro-filming the Brahmin Project files at the fort while its personnel are preoccupied with their apparent intruder! Luckily for Steve, a fellow OSI agent, Barney Barnes (Troy Melton), has persuaded him to try out a bunch of his latest gadgets on the mission, and in one of those all very convenient plot developments, his bullet-proof glove, feather-light bullet-proof vest, suitcase-full of bombs and radio-disguised-as-a-pen transmitter, all turn out to be more than useful on the particular mission in hand, in addition to his bionic powers. After tracking down Dr Dolenz (having survived the attempt on his life), Steve has to figure out which Oscar is the real one and then face off against the super-strength robot version of his best pal.

The real Oscar Goldman would never lose his head in a crisis. Richard
 Anderson in Return of the Robot Maker.
Steve meets another of Oscar's protegees: Marcus Grayson -
aka boxing champ George Foreman.
The opposite problem occurs in the episode Look Alike. A former boxer called Johnny Dine gets involved with some hoods who recruit their muscle from gyms and training halls in poor working class districts. The organisation is out to steal a file on secret laser technology from Oscar’s office, and to do so they pay to have Johnny surgically altered to make him look exactly like Steve Austin. They wait until Steve’s away on his annual fishing holiday out in the sticks and manage to inveigle the fake Steve into Oscar’s confidence after the fake bionic agent explains away his early return from his vacation by claiming he has a bad cold (which also accounts for his voice being slightly more gravelly than usual). The gang behind the operation make the mistake of trying to assassinate the real Steve Austin, thereby alerting him to the fact that something is up. He returns to find Oscar showing his double around a top secret OSI facility in the city, but the fake is killed in a road accident during his attempt to escape. Steve is thus able to assume the identity of his boxing double in order to try and infiltrate the organisation and find out who is behind the scheme, as well as take back some photographs Johnny managed to pass to his bosses before his exposure. Incidentally, this episode is also noticeable for its high profile special guest actor: two-time heavyweight US boxing champion, George Foreman, who plays fellow OSI agent Marcus Grayson. This boxing themed story ends with an amusing concluding punch-up with the baddies in the middle of a stadium boxing ring, with Steve and Grayson disposing of an army of heavies by themselves, and Grayson complementing Steve on the power of his right hook!
Farrah Fawcett-Majors as news reporter Victoria Webster in The
Peeping Blonde
If there is one outside influence on the usually stable male trio of Steve Austin, Oscar Goldman and Dr Rudy Wells, which threatens on several occasions in this series to irrevocably alter the dynamic of their relationship forever, its women; who, naturally, tend to be drawn to the heroic former astronaut with bionic powers with some regularity. Steve Austin has a bit of a thing for elusive, willowy blondes it seems: during the season one episode The Rescue of Athena One, he was called upon to train the first ever woman astronaut, in the form of photogenic blonde bombshell Kelly Woods, who was played by his wife at the time Farrah Fawcett-Majors. The actress would thereafter go on to make regular guest appearances on the show, but each time playing different characters. In this season’s The Peeping Blonde she plays ambitious TV anchor woman and reporter Victoria Webster, who inadvertently stumbles upon, and captures on film, Steve demonstrating his bionic powers while she's covering a routine NASA space probe launch. She tries to use the footage as a bargaining chip in order to obtain an exclusive interview with Steve in which he will publicly reveal his bionic powers for the first time. She claims that bionics is such an amazing technological breakthrough that it should be widely publicised, as it has the potential to transform the lives of millions of other people as well. Oscar and Steve suspect selfish motives of advancement on her part and Oscar reveals that it might be necessary to take ‘drastic action’ against Webster in order to stop the film coming to light. But Steve is clearly attracted to the feisty reporter, and despite her methods and the ambiguous motivations driving her to attempted blackmail, he persuades Oscar to cut her a little slack, inviting her on their joint vacation, during which they will spend time attempting to make her change her mind by informing her that exposing Steve’s powers publicly will only make him a target for every major criminal organisation in the world.

Lee Majors and guest artist wife Farrah-Fawcett in The Peeping
The episode becomes a tussle between Steve’s heart and his brain; and between Victoria’s career ambitions and her developing relationship with Steve as a man rather than as a meal ticket to promotion. It also offers an interesting perspective on gender relations in the mid-seventies with its faltering and ambivalent attempt to portray sympathetically the ambitions of an independent woman trying to make her own way in a male-centric world. Victoria Webster's boss at the TV station (Roger Perry) routinely patronises her, and also expects her to submit to his romantic advances in return for letting her stories on the air (it also later emerges that he’s sold her film of Steve to some criminals, who, just as Oscar feared, soon set out to capture him); and she knows she’s only tolerated at all because she’s conventionally pretty -- but yet she yearns to be taken seriously as a journalist as well. The episode remains conflicted about these kinds of career ambitions in a woman though, and there is a clear subtext which suggests that such ambitions have made her hard and cynical and therefore unfeminine (which is automatically assumed to be a bad thing). Steve Austin as a character embodies something of a traditionalist attitude to the role of women and relationships between the sexes, despite his willingness to try and understand the others’ points of view. During one of their arguments over whether or not her film should be broadcast to the public, he comments on how her Southern accent comes out when she’s angry, prompting Victoria to ironically take on a girly and homely ‘Southern Belle’ persona for a second, before stating that he’d probably prefer her if she acted that way all the time, to which Steve admits that indeed he might!

Taming the feminine beast in Taneha
There’s an even more extreme example of Steve’s traditionalist attitude towards women’s roles in the conservationist themed episode Taneha, in which Steve is asked by an injured mountain ranger friend of his to help try and save a species of rare Cougar from being killed by hunters who have been employed by local farmers in the mountains who've recently have had their sheep killed by the predator. The animal's habitat and hunting ground lies on the edge of a small town much like the one Steve grew up in. He goes there to find his guide, who turns out to be a beautiful young woman, E. J. Haskell (Jess Walton), harbouring dreams of killing the cougar herself as a tribute to her trapper father who earlier perished also trying to hunt it down. E.J. is a strong, 'feisty' independent woman who can hold her own against any of the other trappers out looking for the beast, but by the end of the episode it is strongly suggested that this tough persona is the result of some kind of warped desire to be ‘like a man’ induced by a subconscious need to complete her father’s unfinished business. In the end, Steve helps her to see that killing the cougar won’t help slay her own ‘demons’; and by instead joining him to capture and preserve the beast rather than kill it, he also helps re-feminise her. The episode ends with Steve and E.J. sitting on the steps of the town hall, watching life drift by in the hazy summer sun, as though they were small town boyfriend and girlfriend; and in this image Steve’s small town sentimentalism is presented in its most prominent form thus far in the series.

This emphasis on Steve’s fondness of the American small town, and a foregrounding of the character’s homely values as counterpoint to his ultra-modern and scientifically advanced physical enhancement; his sentimental attitude to family relationships and the surrogate role Oscar and Rudy play as members of his new bionic-centred family; and, finally, the threat of disruption to that latter relationship, which comes whenever the two sides of Steve’s makeup are brought into conflict with each other: these are all themes that are finally brought to a head and reach their full expression in the two-part episode The Bionic Woman.  

The episode begins unlike any other episode so far, with a lilting country song playing on the soundtrack (the vocalist is non-other than Lee Majors himself!) as Steve Austin’s distinctive red corvette drives into the rural Californian town of Ojai, which even has a roadside sign welcoming its visitors that reads: ‘Welcome to Ojai, home of American astronaut, Steven Austin’.

Steve is returning to his home town during a short break in his work for the OSI. Here he plans to buy his own ranch and catch up with his mother and stepdad who still live in the area, neither of whom knows anything about his bionic powers. The writer of this two part story, Kenneth Johnson (who later also became producer on season three) introduced the term ‘pocket bionics’ to the show’s conceptual armoury here. This is where minor displays of bionics, usually performed in a domestic situation and with a whimsical or comedic intent, are utilised in order to keep Steve’s bionic power in use and at the forefront of attention, even when the actual storyline has no need of it. Thus this episode has Steve singlehandedly doing up his new ranch in super-speeded up time and being reluctant to accept when his aging Stepdad offers to help out (‘you’re acting like you could do it quicker by yourself!’); and when his mom wants help moving her kitchen refrigerator so she can sweep behind it, she’s nonplussed when she finds Steve has apparently achieved the task alone while she was out!
Idyllic childhood days rekindled. Lee Majors & Lindsay Wagner
are the perfect couple in The Bionic Woman.
This episode requires copious bionic ‘reminders’ such as these to retain the interest of younger viewers because the focus of the story is uniquely unconcerned with the series’ usual business of bionically hunting down various shades of criminal gangs and spies. There is a traditional white-suited counterfeiter and his similarly clothed henchman (played by Malachi Throne and Paul Carr respectively), but they make only token appearances to set up future business after the pre-titles sequence in which Steve is seen retrieving a bill printing plate stolen by the bad guys, after which the mastermind of the operation then vows to find out who he really is and exact revenge.
 Instead, most of the first episode is more a quite character piece than anything usually seen in episodic adventure TV: while strolling around town and relaxing in his casual, off-duty cardigan, Steve stumbles on his childhood sweetheart, one Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) in the park. Like Steve, she grew up to be one of the town’s few celebrities, a pro-tennis champ who’s won various events such as Wimbledon in her time (‘Jaime's the most important person that ever came out of our town … Except for that astronaut guy!’ burbles a girl fan to Steve, while watching Jaime play) but who has, unlike Steve, continued to live in the town she grew up in, where the two originally met and became inseparable all those years ago.  

A freak accident requires bionic intervention for Jaime
Sommers (Lindsay Wagner).
The series idealisation of quaint, small town values and a previously established preference (in episodes such as The Peeping Blonde and Lost Love -- the latter being one in which Steve again meets up with a former flame, this time played by Linda Marsh) for pretty, girl-next-door blondes, both combine to ensure that Steve Austin is soon completely smitten with the grown-up-home-town-girl-made-good that is Jaime Sommers; the two pursue a gentle courtship in true romantic movie fashion, with Steve all the while attempting to keep his bionics a secret. Unfortunately, one of their dates involves a spot of skydiving and the inevitable accident occurs in which Sommers’ chute malfunctions above a forest glade. She plummets to the ground and, in a perverse coincidence that echoes Steve's own accident two years earlier, and which would make anyone think they were merely characters in a melodramatic TV script, loses both of her legs, her right arm and her right ear. Naturally, Steve petitions Oscar to make Jaime bionic just like him, but the OSI boss is unwilling. He reminds Steve that he can’t authorise such an expensive operation without having to also recruit Jaime and thereafter require her to go on exactly the same kinds of dangerous mission Steve is regularly expected to carry out. He knows that even though Steve claims to be okay with this, he’ll agree to anything at the present moment just to see Jaime made better, and that when the time comes it will be different: he won’t want to see the woman he loves ever put in danger, even for his best pal, Oscar.
Difficult bedside explainations.
Romance bionic style.
As always Oscar’s steadfast friendship with Steve, and the great sorrow his refusal causes his pal, eventually see him capitulating to Steve’s insistent demands. The operation is carried out and, after a period of angst and readjustment, Jaime proves far more emotionally adaptable than did Barney Miller, the race car driver from The Seven Million Dollar Man. Cue frequent montage sequences accompanied by a rather dreadful ballad, sung by Lee Majors himself, called “Sweet Jaime”. (Sweet Jaime, I'll love you forever, I know we'll never part, I love you like I've loved no other, Make room for me in your heart) During the time covered by these scenes, Steve helps Jaime adapt to her new bionic powers by indulging in a lot of track-suited slow motion running with her. The show’s earlier adoption of the slow motion visual motif as a way of portraying high-speed bionics becomes blurred here with its more traditional usage in schmaltzy romantic drama; Jaime and Steve are frequently seen running together in slow motion while accompanied by Oliver Nelson’s romantic cues, and on one level they’re the most sentimental film romance clichés imaginable; but, at the same time, they do portray and indicate the two characters practicing their bionic skills, as is emphasised when Steve’s mother catches the couple sprinting at high speed through the fields around Steve’s ranch when she unexpectedly comes to pay the childhood sweethearts a visit. At this point the traditional family dynamic has been re-established in Steve’s life: he has his homestead ranch, parents living nearby who both adore the love of his life and come to accept the couple's bionic status, the familiarity of the town he grew up in and, soon, a marriage is also on the horizon. Steve’s life with Oscar, Rudy and the OSI seems but a mere memory that’s rapidly fading in importance.
The romantic dream is interrupted.
Bionic meltdown. Jaime Sommers at the end of the road.
This story was originally pitched as an attempt to fashion the series’ own version of Arthur Hiller’s popular film Love Story (1970), which had starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw. Writer Ken Johnson was always of the opinion that an option to bring Jaime Sommers back for future episodes should be kept in mind, but Universal were adamant that the character should be killed off at the end of the two-part story in true weepie style. All good tear jerkers need a dark cloud to emerge on the horizon eventually, and The Bionic Woman establishes early on that all is not quite as it should be with Jaime’s bionic powers; at first it looks as though her bionic arm needs slight adjustment, but soon Jaime is experiencing random bouts of of pain in her head and sudden personality shifts; then her bionic hand develops a tendency to go all wibbly without warning. Soon, Oscar turns up looking grim-faced, and informs the couple that their wedding will have to be postponed: he has an urgent job for them both involving the white suited mastermind Joseph Wrona, who is once again busy with his counterfeiting activities. Wrona has also been able to track down Steve -- just as he once vowed he would -- after his wedding to Jaime was announced in Ojai’s local paper, so the criminal is already preparing an ambush for the couple. Although Steve and Jaime do successfully complete their mission, Jaime experiences a loss of control during the job that jeopardises their escape and which really brings the extent of her bionic teething troubles to Steve’s attention for the first time. Back home, Dr Rudy Wells delivers the bad news: Jaime's body is rejecting her bionics and she will certainly die unless operated upon immediately.

"I love you Jaime ... I've always loved you." A final farewell to
Jaime Sommers. Or is it?
We all remember the spin-off series The Bionic Woman, in which Lindsay Wagner’s adventures ran parallel to and sometimes crossed over with those of Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man, until both series were cancelled together three years later. But this franchise extension was never an planned intention from the beginning. The character was meant to be killed off at the end of these initial episodes and that was supposed to have been that. But such was Jaime Sommers’ popularity with viewers (and the chemistry between Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner was undoubtedly strong, despite the over-sentimentalised portrayal of their characters’ developing relationship) that Universal were quick to go back on the original plan and resurrect her from the dead at the beginning of series three, in preparation for the start of her main spin-off series, which began airing soon after. But it’s easy to forget just how grim the character’s fate originally was, and was intended to be: with her body rejecting her bionics, Jaime’s brain is tormented by horrific pain that shreds her nerves until she has a massive cerebral haemorrhage! The writer of this episode, Ken Johnson, later went on to create The Incredible Hulk for TV , a series which essayed a similar mix of romantic melodrama and slow motion action, even featuring, in its pilot TV film version, a similar conclusion to this two-part episode, set in a rain storm, with dramatic thunder and lightning occurring as Jaime blacks out for the last time in the arms of her helpless fiancé.
A final scene on the operating table, concluding with a flat-lining Jaime being wheeled away after an emotional last farewell from Steve, would appear to offer no way back for the character. But Ken Johnson’s ingenuity and knack for outlandishly unlikely twists of plot come into their own in the series three opener, entitled The Return of the Bionic Woman … but that is a story to be continued at a later date.


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