In Plain Sight Season 1 Review

  • Title:  In Plain Sight
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 12
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast: Mary McCormack, Fred Weller, Paul Ben-Victor, Lesley Ann Warren, Nichole Hiltz
  • Network:  USA Network (NBC, Universal Production Companies)
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

In Plain Sight is a little different from the typical Whodunit or traditional cop show – this series is about the US Witness Protection program (aka WITSEC – Federal Witness Security Program) and the Federal Marshals who work in the program to protect witnesses. Some are criminals who testify against other criminals in return for protection. Most are innocents who happen to witness a crime and offer to testify and need protection. Like many series from USA Network, In Plain Sight is character-driven and although it helps to watch the series sequentially it isn’t absolutely required to follow the show. In other words, it’s a bit of a throwback to 1980s-style television (highly character based, plot not so much, with little to no inter-dependency between episodes). Episodes typically revolve around bringing a new witness into the Program, or dealing with a crisis involving a witness who has been in the program for years.

Marshal Mary Shannon is a strong woman and the main attraction of this series – she’s strong, capable, and good at her job. Personally – that’s another story, her mother is an alcoholic, her baby sister is dating a drug dealer who’s using her to transport drugs, and her father’s been missing for decades (and was a bank robber and compulsive gambler before he disappeared). Mary is modern, but conflicted, and has a hard time letting others in to her life.

Marshal Marshall Mann, Mary’s partner, is quiet, intelligent, able to speak intelligently on nearly any subject, and the Yin to Mary’s Yang (or is that the other way around). Marshall and Mary are good partners, and in the first season there’s no “will they or won’t they” romance between the two. In some episodes, Marshall and Mary work together to help the same witness get settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and in others they each have their own witness to protect.

In one episode, Mary and Marshall discover their two separate Russian witnesses, on two completely separate cases, who should have no contact at all – are dating each other, having met through a dating service. While the two, and their boss, attempt to figure out what to do to keep both witnesses safe – and available to testify in two completely different cases, Mary discovers that Serge, Marshall’s witness, actually went through quite a number of women from the same service, and he’s making his money through an Internet payment service. Then they discover he’s installed a hidden webcam in his bedroom and he films himself having sex with women – then gets people to pay to watch it online. Basically, it’s live porn. However, he doesn’t tell the women what he’s doing. Mary reveals this to her witness, Tasha, who is understandably angry – and both witnesses have to be relocated.

The final two episodes of the season are a single story, and wind-up a lot of issues with Mary’s family, but not everything is resolved. Brandi goes to deliver the drugs for her boyfriend (having given herself a cover by having Mary drop her at the airport and pay for a plane ticket for her to go to New Jersey to see her boyfriend). She gets to the hotel, but not only does the guy and his drugged-up girlfriend scare her, but she’s appalled to find a live baby hidden in the bathroom tub. Brandi gives the baby her stuffed bear, Biscuit, which Mary had given her, and anonymously calls the cops on the drug dealers. Meanwhile, her boyfriend, Chuck is caught by the FBI – he offers to turn over info on the Big Cheese drug dealers in return for immunity and protection – but before anyone can do anything – Spanky the drug dealer’s gang shows up, kills the FBI agents, and takes Chuck. In a case of pure mistaken identity, they also kidnap Mary. Chuck is murdered in front of Mary, and Spanky tries to get Brandi to turn over the drugs. But Brandi, and Mary’s mother, Jinx, are being interviewed by the FBI, not to mention Marshall and Stan (his and Mary’s boss) are there because they are concerned for Mary. The FBI agent quickly treats Brandi as a criminal rather than a victim and keeps her at the house so she can’t complete her rendezvous with the drug dealer to rescue Mary. After Chuck’s murder, Mary manages to free herself, kills one of her kidnappers, and shoots up the place before Stan and Marshall come in to rescue her. Mary’s problems aren’t over, however. Not only is she suffering from trauma due to her experience – but one of the FBI agents is convinced her sister is the kingpin of the drug ring, and that Mary knew about it.

In Plain Sight is set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is great to see a show that isn’t filmed in Southern California. And it is also great to see a show that isn’t filmed in Toronto or Montreal, yet pretending to be “somewhere urban USA”. The show is filmed in Albuquerque, and that lends some real authenticity to the show. There are also Native American guest actors on the show, who aren’t automatically shown in a negative light – though, given the show’s subject matter, the Native characters aren’t all saints either. In other words, they are real people – who sometimes get caught up in Mary and Marshall’s world. Both the unusual location and the non-white casting gives the show flavor, and helps it stand out.

Overall, I enjoyed season 1 of In Plain Sight. It has a strong female lead, and women writers (I didn’t notice any female directors though). The other female characters, though a bit, off, are written in many ways also very realistically. At the very least they aren’t simply “eye candy” to serve the male gaze, or there as romantic interests of a male lead. (Marshall is unattached. Mary has an “friends with benefits” casual relationship with a major league baseball player.) The setting is beautiful and different. The plot of the show is also unique, or at least not your standard police procedural fare. Based on the first season, I’d call this a highly enjoyable show and I’m quite likely to purchase additional seasons.


Note: I did have technical issues with my particular set. I had one episode on the second disc that fritzed badly, and another episode on the same disc that would not play at all. I will replace this set when I can and hopefully get a playable disc two.