Friday, March 24, 2023

"Inmate 78" (The Magnificent Seven, Season 1, Ep 8)(1998)

It takes Chris Larabee (Michael Biehn) a whole two minutes and seven seconds of this episode to get himself sentenced to five years of hard labor with no chance of parole.  That Chris, he always is a fast worker!

Chris has had the bad luck to slouch into the town of Jericho, a scummy nowhere town rotting from the inside.  Folks there have a jolly little set-up: slap a passerby in jail, claim they're a wanted criminal, and get them or their family to pay a ridiculously high bail fee.  If they can't make bail, they get sent to a hellhole of a prison to work as what amounts to slave labor.

You don't even have to guess where Chris ends up.  Of course, the minute they get him inside the prison compound, he makes a gutsy escape attempt, which ends with him getting sentenced to a few days in The Hole.  Which, as you can see, impresses and frightens Chris a great deal.

Those poor prison officials have no idea what kind of a feral critter has just landed in their midst.  I could almost feel sorry for them if they weren't all (except one guard) sadistic bullies.  Especially the Warden (Art LaFleur), who takes Chris's defiant sass as a personal insult and makes it his mission to grind our volatile hero into the dust.

Meanwhile, back in the unnamed town where the Seven keep the peace, Mary Travis (Laurie Holden) is concerned because Chris has been gone for ten days without sending word when he'll be back.  She asks Buck (Dale Midkiff) and a couple of the other guys if they shouldn't start looking for Chris, but Buck is convinced Chris has just holed up in some nice little brothel hotel and will come back when he's good and ready to.

I'm rather annoyed with Buck here because he knows that Mary cares about Chris, but he giggles like a twelve-year-old over how displeased she is when he implies that Chris is staying away from town (and her) for such a reason.  I expect that kind of behavior from J.D. (Andrew Kavovit) because he basically is twelve, but Buck is usually a lot more gentlemanly and kind toward the ladies.  I blame the writers for forgetting this about Buck, not the character himself.

Meanwhile, eight days in The Hole have not sweetened Chris's disposition any.

This ep is never stressful to watch because you KNOW Chris won't crumble under whatever pressure they bring to bear on him.  This is Chris Larabee.  It's honestly kind of a joy to sit back and watch him sass and snarl his way through.

Well, Chris has been out of  The Hole for about half a day before the Lawless Brothers (headed by Don Swayze) find him and try to kill him for shooting their cousin a few years back.

That goes about as well as you'd expect, considering it's three against one.  Chris probably would have taken them all down if one of them didn't have a shiv and slice Chris up with it.

At least he gets taken to the prison hospital instead of thrown back in The Hole.  This whole part where he's handcuffed to a bed, mostly shirtless, would be a little too much fanservice if he wasn't getting the cut across his abdomen sewed up by a shaky-handed prisoner.  That makes it really hard to watch, at least for me.

Back in town, Mary Travis finally convinces the rest of the Seven that Chris's disappearance isn't natural.  Led by Vin Tanner (Eric Close), they ride off to find him.  For a group of guys who have been hired to keep the peace in town, they sure do ride off in all directions and leave it undefended a lot.  Hmm.

The guys ride into Jericho and find it an unpleasant and suspicious sort of place.  Because they are intelligent and savvy that way.  They make themselves at home in the boarding house's barroom. (Hint: boarding houses don't usually have a barroom, so this is a big signal this town is many flavors of wrong.)  Josiah (Ron Perlman) and Vin try to charm some answers out of Jessie (Julianna McCarthy), the sweet old lady behind the bar.

She seems super trustworthy, right?  (Hint: trustworthy little old ladies don't usually tend bar.)

Nobody in town has seen Chris Larabee.  Or heard of Chris Larabee.  However, the sheriff and deputy would really like the Seven to leave town.  Which, of course, makes our guys very, very suspicious.  (Hint: most towns want customers who spend cash money to stay and enjoy the town as long as their money holds out.)

Well, the best way to make these stubborn heroes stay someplace is to tell them to leave.  Is it any wonder I love them all?

Meanwhile, for a guy whose will is supposed to be crumbling under the pressure of the Warden's shiny bootheel, Chris sure is looking mighty pleased with his bad self over how quickly he's worked his way to the top of various pecking orders at the prison.

Chris's triumphant smirking lasts for about twelve seconds, right up until the Warden drags a sick prisoner out of the hospital tent and tries to beat him into starting work again.

Chris Larabee won't stand for that.  He may be volatile, smirky, broody, sarcastic, and given to random acts of brash violence, but he has Justice running through his veins.  He cannot and will not stand by and watch a sick man beaten by armed bullies for not being able to stand up.

Ohhh, you can just see the Hero Vibes wafting off him, can't you?

Of course, the Warden beats Chris to the ground for this.  And Chris keeps standing back up, getting between the Warden and the sick prisoner.  His obstinate courage inspires the rest of the prisoners, and they clink their tools against any handy object in aural support, like scruffy, filthy cheerleaders.  Including the Lawless Brothers, who wanted to kill Chris themselves not so long ago.

Meanwhile, back in Jericho, the guys find Chris's gun at a general store.  They set about trying to find real answers as to his whereabouts in various ways, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, depending on if you're Ezra (Anthony Starke) or not.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, the Warden is picking on Chris again.  His cruelty and malice eventually disgust one of his guards (Anthony Lee), who resigns his post in protest.

Doesn't do Chris any good, of course.  Back in The Hole he goes, and this time, the Warden intends to see to it that Chris will never come out alive.

Meanwhile, back in Jericho, the sheriff has found one of those pesky handbills with Vin's name and face on them.  Those do have a way of cropping up at the most inopportune moments.  He thinks if he waves that handbill around, five of his six problems will go away, and he'll be able to toss Vin in prison.

Vin doesn't seem any too perturbed, though.

Neither do any of the others.  The sheriff's expectation that they would scatter at the threat of their compadre's arrest goes completely awry on him.

As a matter of fact, Nathan (Rick Worthy) informs him that they knew all about that particular wanted poster, and it doesn't bother them a bit.

Instead of trying to run, Vin stands up and challenges the sheriff to a duel on the count of three.

Don't you dig how they frame our guys from a low angle in this scene to highlight just how in control of the situation they are?  Don't you also love how many shots of Vin I can cram into this little section since he's my favorite?

Well, the guys break into the prison camp in a reasonably clever way, which I won't spoil for you here.  One thrilling gun battle later, plus an unpleasant incident involving a rattlesnake, and off the Seven go, back home to their unnamed town.

Man, that ep hits so many sweet spots for me!  Wrongful imprisonment, attempted prison escape, a rescue mission, a guy standing up to protect someone helpless, people rallying together against a bully, Chris Larabee handcuffed shirtless to a bed Vin Tanner being ridiculously calm and cool and adorable at the same time -- there is no wonder this is my favorite ep of this show!

I have had such a great time reviewing "Inmate 78" that I think I just might start reviewing the whole series.  There are only 22 eps (here's a list of my 10 favorites, if you are curious), so it wouldn't take me that long, even if I spent two hours on each review like I did this one.

This particular review is my contribution to the 9th Annual Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts.  I love this event!  It is always such fun to focus on just one episode of a beloved show.


  1. The vibes in this town seem very Off, indeed. Not at all Correct.

    (I love the snark in this post XD)

    1. Katie, yes, it's a good lesson in how to identify a dangerous town, for sure.

      (Thanks! I love this show, but it doesn't take itself super seriously and really lends itself to some loving snark.)

  2. I had no idea there was a Mag7 series, much less one with Ron Perlman and Michael Biehn in it, but clearly you thought it was keen. Biehn’s character sounds not too far removed from those he’s played in movies.

    1. Rich, it only got two half-seasons, and it's not very well-known, but it's pretty easy to find on DVD. And I definitely enjoy it! I've seen the whole series twice, and several episodes quite a bit more than that. I would say Biehn's character here is kind of a cross between Johnny Ringo in Tombstone and Kyle Reese in The Terminator. Unpredictable and dangerous, but with his own code of honor.

  3. I totally missed The Magnificent Seven television series. At that time I was still young and I still went out on Saturday night. At any rate, I have always wanted to see it and from the sounds of this episode it sounds like it is a lot of fun! Anyway, thanks for a fine post and taking part in the blogathon!

    1. Terence, I was in my teens when this aired, and I COULD have watched it -- I was definitely aware of it when it was on. And I refused to watch it because teenage me took great umbrage at the idea of remaking a movie I loved SO much. Oops. Glad I'm wiser now ;-)

      The show as a whole is definitely a rollicking good time!

  4. Well, this is all new to me. I didn't know anything about this TV series. But then, my knowledge of television after the mid-1980's is a little sketchy, thanks to a workaholic lifestyle. And I don't remember seeing the film version of The Magnificent Seven either. So, I have a lot of catching up to do. You have an interesting blog, and I look forward to exploring. Cheers!

    1. Mike, yeah, I'm afraid this show was a blink-and-you-missed it show, as it only ran for 22 eps in two half seasons. It's really easy to find on DVD, though. As is the original movie, which is a western masterpiece.

      Thanks for the compliment on my blog! I welcome comments on old posts, and I've had this blog for more than 20 years, so feel free to poke around a bit and find things that interest you :-)

  5. Wow, I didn't know "Magnificent Seven" was a TV series, but it looks fun. Great review.

    1. Rebecca, it's loosely based on the movie, for sure, but lots of fun in its own right :-) Glad you enjoyed this!


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