Baywatch “War of Nerves” (part 2 of 3)

And now, it’s time to cue up another time-honored Baywatch B-plot. This one involves Shauni (this season’s Token Hot Blonde Lifeguard, played by Erika Eleniak) approaching Lt. Ben with a request. She wants him to teach her how to surf. Ben is surprised by this request.

Lt. Ben: Aren’t you the one who used to call surfers “macho cretins”?

Alright, first off: who on Earth uses the term “cretin” these days to describe… anyone? Second, from a character standpoint, her opinion of male surfers shouldn’t preclude her own interest in undertaking the sport. Is she worried she might be described as macho?

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

Ms. April in this year’s Crocs calendar.

As to what type of cretin she might become, that’s sadly never addressed. And then we immediately learn that her militant attitude towards wave riders may be softening.

Shauni: That was before I moved in with one.

So, this negative view of surfers kept her from surfing, but not from dating surfers. You could also deduce that she still considered surfers macho cretins when she was dating one, and she was willing to even move in with a macho cretin. By her own admission, she only discovered they were not all cretins after living with one. Shauni must have a passel of emotional challenges tucked away in the back of her guard stand.

Lt. Ben, who has to be at least fifty years old, hems and haws (that’s how heptagenarians speak) about helping her. Eventually, he relents, which was cagey on his part. Because leaping at the chance to immediately work with a wet Shauni who’s thirty years his junior would have been unseemly.

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Next, Mitch and Hobie are walking together with body boards, as they banter about the dad’s poor cooking. Mitch is still sporting the rodeo shirt, but now he’s paired it up with white slacks. Much like Dalton, Mitch doesn’t care if it’s after Labor Day; he didn’t get to be the lead of the lifeguard team by subscribing to your fashion rules!

As they load the truck with beach gear, Mitch is approached by Sinister Shades Guy, who’s named Mason Sato. He’s a very cordial and demure individual, and Mitch quite frankly behaves with atrocious etiquette.

Sato: Been a long time.
Mitch: [gruffly] Not long enough.
Sato: Is that any way to greet an old friend?
Mitch: We’re not friends, Sato… Never were.

Okay, it seems I was a bit hard on Mitch, because we learn Sato was sent to prison by Mitch five years ago and he’s carrying a bit of a grudge. In fact, he’s so mad he strikes a match on the mirror of Mitch’s SUV [!].

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

Guys love putting flames on their trucks!

He tells Mitch he’ll see him “around”, and an orchestra sting leaves us feeling threatened. That Sato must be a real bad guy—he smokes!

Cut to the Buchannon home, nestled as it is at the end of a dead-end road, beside a quaint muddy ditch.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

The sump pond looks dreamy this time of year.

Mitch’s girlfriend Kaye (played by Pamela Bach, the future ex-Mrs. Hasselhoff) is here, and the whole family is having a cozy dinner. But their good time gets interrupted by harassing phone calls from Sato. While speaking to Mitch, Sato tosses knives at a wall, as bad guys are wont to do.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

And it seems he’s pitching these knives at a newspaper article covering the crime that sent Sato away. This strikes me as odd. Do criminals actually clip out news items from the low points in their careers? Sometimes I think back to that time I was mugged by a Girl Scout leader/meth-tweaker at a Chuck E. Cheese years back, and I promise you, that newspaper article is not in any of my scrapbooks.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

Usually, he blasts the JUMBLE with buckshot.

Mitch gets off the phone, and lies to his family about the calls so as not to ruin dinner.

America’s happiest family is then at a diner the next day, laughing together in a very Disney-esque fashion, when Sato enters the eatery. Either there’s an ominous passage on the soundtrack, or this place has the worst Muzak ever.

Sato sits at the bar wearing a very manly wicker necklace, and a trenchcoat with no shirt underneath. A woman with poodle hair smiles at him, and just gets the cold shoulder. She’s so distracted by Sato’s surly scowl that she leaves her wine behind. And comically, the woman is dressed like she’s at a posh nightclub instead of a beachside diner at one in the afternoon.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

Wait, you don’t suppose she’s a high class hooker, do you? Geez, Mitch, stop hassling teenagers drinking beer and clean up the real crime on this beach!

Mitch then comes over to have stern words with his stalker, with Sato telling Mitch a grave story about his wife leaving him after his arrest. It seems that his wife is now a “former” model, because he used his knives to render her less than photogenic. This leads to an interesting response from Mitch.

Mitch: [through gritted teeth] Alright, you listen to me. You stay away from me! And you stay away from my boy!

His priority of putting himself first aside, I guess this means Kaye is fair game?

Returning to the booth, Mitch deceives his family again by saying the man is an old friend. You know, because alerting them of a possible threat to their safety might ruin the dessert course.

Well, that was a tense resolution, and we need some comic relief, so we go to the beach where Shauni is showing up for her surf lesson.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

Lt. Ben is here, holding his long board and trying desperately to appear as if he knows what to do with it.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

“If my calculations are correct, this might actually be placed in the water.”

Lt. Ben begins with a “back in my day” lecture, mocking Shauni’s new fangled surfing gear. The camera zooms in on the man as we dissolve into a lengthy black and white flashback sequence straight out of Script Padding 101.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

By the time the old man snaps out of it minutes later, we jump to Mitch’s office, where he’s venting to LAPD officer Garner Ellerbee (this show’s Token Black Guy) about the Sato situation.

Garner tells Mitch he remembers the Sato case, but Mitch repeats the details of the case anyway for our benefit. He wants Garner to arrest the man, but of course the police can do nothing since no crime has been committed. I guess stalking and harassment aren’t crimes as far as this cop is concerned.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

That night, Mitch’s family has a break-in, and we see Sato enter the home. Mitch awakens to find a photo where Hobie’s image has been sliced out. So… Sato’s plan of terror involves entering the home only to vandalize pictures? I only ask because he was in the damned house, and I’m sure there were other options at his disposal, as far as scaring the crap out of Mitch.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

The next morning, Hobie is taking a body board class, and Sato is watching. When he’s finished, Sato asks the boy to teach him some tricks. And when Kaye arrives, she finds out Hobie is surfing with Dad’s “friend”, which is just fine with her. So it seems Mitch’s plan of lying to his family and not warning them about this psycho stalker is working out perfectly.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

After another frustrating phone call with Garner, Mitch hears about the body board event, and he sprints to the water, sort of. Once there, he rages at his son to get out of the water, and then runs into the surf and punches Sato in the face. This confrontation sends our two lifeguard bit players into hyperactive overdrive.

Caption contributed by Martini Shark

Seriously, these two were so energized they actually kept me awake through this episode.

Once the men are separated, the lifeguards learn there was a crowd of witnesses who saw the fight. We’re then led to believe that this fistfight could lead to the end of Mitch’s career and his entire downfall as a human being.

Baywatch "War of Nerves" (part 2 of 3)

That night, Mitch finally has a long talk with the family, explaining things thusly.

Mitch: This guy’s real clever. He knows how to stay one step ahead of the law without breaking it.

Well now, if he’s not breaking the law, that means he’s within the law, not ahead of it. And as far as stalking, threatening, breaking and entering… it sure seems like he’s breaking it. Plus, Sato’s ability to “stay one step ahead of the law” is certainly made easy given Garner’s refusal to do any actual law enforcement. Hell, Steven Hawking could probably stay one step ahead of Garner’s lack of effort.

Multi-Part Article: Baywatch "War of Nerves"

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