Life on Mars” gave us some great lines, good character work, genuine shocks, and more than a smidge of the sexy this week. Plus, Jason O’Mara got to speak with his real Irish accent and hit on his actual wife. So at he’s having some fun on the way out…

Sam goes undercover as a fresh-off-the-boat Irish longshoreman to infiltrate the organization of Jimmy McManus, a world-class thug and criminal kingpin who is all about psychotic rage and overkill. Fun! In order to get in good with these guys, Sam has to 1) embrace facial hair, 2) speak with the aforementioned Dublin accent, 3) get hauled into the station with the rest of the felonious bunch, 4) make lewd remarks about Annie, 5) hit Gene, and 6) get a shiner while he’s being “interrogated” by the cops. All this is enough to get him an audition in front of Jimmy — which basically entails him taking on Big Patrick (as opposed to Little Patrick, Medium Patrick, Medium-Large Patrick, Emergency Backup Patrick…) in a bar brawl. Sam actually does a pretty well — maybe too well, as he’s bouncing Big Patrick’s head off the bar rather more than necessary — until he’s distracted by a woman.

That woman is Colleen, Jimmy’s sister, the bar owner… and Sam’s favorite babysitter when he was a kid. Yep, it’s one of THOSE situations for Sam, where he confronts his own past. That turns literal when he’s sent to Colleen’s apartment, and Rose, his mom, shows up to pick up little Sam, who’s sleeping in the other room. Awk! Ward! Especially since Rose calls him “Detective Skywalker” (while Colleen is out of earshot, thankfully) and wants to know why he’s talking funny. Sam convinces her it’s an undercover assignment, and she agrees to stay away form Colleen. But she has a request — can you come talk to little Sammy? He needs a strong male figure to guide him, and he’s been having trouble since Vic left. Sam decides that talking to his young self would open up a big old can of spatial-temporal-distortion worms, and begs off.

Despite Jimmy’s admonition that he wants his men to stay away from his sainted sister, Sam and Colleen end up in bed together. The post-coital bliss doesn’t last long — a couple of Patricks are waiting for him outside Colleen’s apartment. They drag him back to the bar, where it looks like Jimmy is going to cap him for sullying his sister. But no, he’s cool with it — and he’s got another problem. See, someone is informing on him to the cops, and he thinks it’s Colleen. Yet more Patricks (or maybe Seans) drag Colleen in, and Jimmy demands that Sam kill her in order to be accepted into the family. Sam tries to argue his way out of it, but Jimmy’s not having it. So he folds — I know she’s not talking to the cops, because I AM a cop! Now get up against the wall, you’re all under arrest!

But Jimmy and the Seans (or Patricks) are unimpressed, and Sam eventually figures out it’s because the gun isn’t loaded. It was a trap! Colleen figured out that he “didn’t kiss like no crook,” and therefore he had to be a cop. She’s more than willing to pull the trigger on Sam (with a loaded gun this time) when Gene and the boys burst in. See, the harmless drunk sleeping in the corner was actually one of Gene’s men, and he was wearing a wire. He sent the distress signal, which brought the cavalry. Alas, Jimmy slipped out the back and got away.

A conversation with Annie prompts Sam to reconsider his “no talking to my younger self” stance — if you don’t talk to him, Annie asks, who will? And so Sam tries to get through to … himself. You’re having a hard time, he says. Trust me, I understand. You’re upset about your father being gone, and your babysitter Colleen, um, moving to Florida, but you have to remember it’s not your fault. Sometimes people go away. it’s just life. While he’s saying this, the Sammy he’s talking to gets older before his eyes, until he’s literally talking to himself. (Kudos to O’Mara for being able to make Rapidly-Aged Little Sam seem childlike and broken. It redeems an otherwise kind of iffy effect.)

Speaking of people leaving… Chris and Ray are tailing a drunk driver who’s weaving all over the road. They stop him, go over to the window, and discover Jimmy McManus, who shoots them both in the chest, point blank. Holy crap! Now THAT didn’t happen on the BBC!

Highlights, thoughts and odds and ends

  • Really, I can’t stop giggling that Colleen was played by Sam’s real-life wife. That’s so awesome.
  • Ray and Chris kill time in the surveillance van by discussing the afterlife. It seems odd, but it becomes increasingly relevant at the end of the episode.
  • Sam suggests that he should show evidence of being beaten in interrogation. Gene calls Ray over to administer the punch (and Ray is more than happy to oblige), then sucker-punches Sam himself. Heh — Sam really shouldn’t have elbowed Gene  when showing off to his new friends
  • There’s a lot of talk about Sam’s dark side — Jimmy muses about how we all become our fathers, Colleen revels that Sam was brutal in the bar fight, and Ray laughs that Sam is acting a lot like him during the interrogation. Sam is getting increasingly uncomfortable with this.
  • Sam’s fake Irish name is Sam Bono. Except… Bono is a stage name, and isn’t Irish at all.

Posted by:Sarah Jersild