Baywatch “War of Nerves” (part 1 of 3)
It’s been six long months since our last Baywatch recap, so another one was long overdue. This is one of those episodes where they try to explore the drama away from the shore, and also position Mitch Buchannon as a multi-faceted character. Clever; give us fewer bikini shots, and force us to watch David Hasselhoff trying to emote.
Here, Mitch gets terrorized by a Japanese drug lord who was arrested after Mitch broke up his drug ring, during some unspecified time in Mitch’s past when he was working as a lifeguard somewhere else. And the drug lord is played by longtime character actor Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, who went on to star in the blockbuster Rising Sun just after this appearance, but here, he’s clearly slumming. Yes, even more so than when he played the bad guy in Showdown in Little Tokyo.
To begin the episode, we get an establishing shot of a man on a beach. The scene is rocky, windswept; pulsing with the feeling of isolation, and the steely resolve of an alpha male comfortable in his environment. It’s the perfect setting for a male deodorant commercial, or at least an ad for adult incontinence.
One thing’s for sure: it’s not a public beach in SoCal, because there’s not another soul to be found. Maybe Babs Streisand dispatched one of her minions in Malibu to sweep away all the footprints those damned seagulls tracked all over “her” beach.
As the guest credits roll, a figure looms into the frame, and we see that it is in fact our Adonis-of-the-Bay, Hasselhoff himself, proudly sauntering in that manner only a virile and testosterone-polluted male can, with his shirt tucked into his designer jeans. And what a shirt it is, looking like something for the understated man from the Brooks & Dunn Honky-Tonk Collection.
A sad-sack ballad fills the silence, and it’s something that’s better suited for a breakup scene midway through a Lifetime Original Movie. Just to help us grasp the concept of what’s happening here, we’re served numerous camera angles of Mitch ambling and looking around—for a full minute of screen time—to drive home that he’s a man alone on the beach. We get it!
Eventually, something happens. Off in a deep fog is a young boy, Mitch’s son Hobie, who’s running with a football and waving, and the Hoff grins at the sight. However, Mitch is not blanketed by excess condensation at sea level like the lad. What gives here?! It turns out this isn’t a flashback memory, so I’m at a loss.
The kid runs in slow-mo, tosses the ball to Mitch, and they clutch in a manner only fathers and sons can on the beach… or Rocky and Apollo Creed. They spin around and around, then share a double high-five and collapse in a rather uncomfortable embrace before walking off together. I sure hope this becomes significant later on, because there’s a hard edit away from that scene, as well as from any explanation.