After last week’s heavy character development (well, for a typical procedural show), this week’s episode of S.W.A.T. was an action packed hour from start to finish. We did get some glimpse into the lives and mentalities of a couple of the side-characters we’ve barely spent time with, but these stories served to just raise the stakes in an episode that was already one of the most intense ones in the series to date.
We open on a prison riot. The prisoners have taken control and taken hostages of the warden, the guards, and some construction workers who happened to be working a job that day. They’ve also split into their separate gangs and taken over separate cell blocks. There are the One-niners, the Baja Diablos, and of course the Aryan Brotherhood. Each gang has their leader who is profiled at the top of the hour to Hondo and his team. But one is particularly bad. The leader of the Aryan Nation, Gunnar Cade, has an agenda beyond just ruling the prison for a day. He has the prison therapist and some priests hostage in his cell block, and one of them, Sister Carmelita, is somebody Hondo knows personally. As a faithful viewer of the show, we know that this will probably not end well for Cade.
The scenes with the prisoners, and Cade especially, were surprisingly brutal to me. The series does not pull any punches, especially for a CBS show. Cade shanks Sister Carmelita early in the episode and she begins to bleed out. When Cade discovers a security camera that has been turned on, he puts the warden in front of it and executes him point blank to send a message to the authorities: come in here and more will die. So Hondo and the team pack it up and head home.
Just kidding. Of course they go in to save the day. And they are mostly on their own, as they are the only people trained for such a thing, and bringing in cops that are non-S.W.A.T. might just result in the prisoners grabbing more hostages. They bust their way in with some explosives and split into three teams, each one going to neutralize a different gang in a different cell block. And as expected there is danger around every corner. The prisoners have weapons. Some stole guard uniforms. Others are just eating tubs of ice cream watching day time soap operas–pretty harmless, but all of them have to go back in their cells.
Meanwhile on the outside, Annie, Deacon’s wife, shows up at headquarters with a cake. She is there to celebrate Deacon’s tenth anniversary of joining S.W.A.T. As he’s a bit indisposed at the moment, she spends time chatting with Commander Hicks. We get a little glimpse into his personal life–his wife Barbara stood by his side and went through all the tumultuous times with him, when he was working late or in danger, throughout his time on the force. Annie says that Barbara taught her how to be a good S.W.A.T. wife, and we learn that Barbara passed away. We finally get some sympathy for Hicks after he’s basically just been the jerk commander out for Hondo most of the series.
Later in the episode, Annie starts speaking strangely, slurring and mixing up words, and not making sense. She’s having a seizure. Hicks gets her to the hospital where they give her an MRI and tell him that a non-cancerous tumor had caused bleeding in the brain, which caused the seizure. They need to drill into her skull immediately. Hicks isn’t sure what to do. He puts it on Cortez, who puts it on Hondo. He ultimately makes the call not to tell Deacon, knowing that it would hurt his judgment and put he and everyone on the mission in danger.
Ultimately Hondo and S.W.A.T. are able to bring order to the prison and save Sister Carmelita, with Jessica Cortez herself gunning down Gunnar Cade outside. He had been making a play to find and kill a man who was transferred there who was an informant and was going to be putting away a lot of Gunnar’s friends on the outside for very long times (who was the genius who decided to put them in the same prison?) But the most dangerous thing about the prison was that the owner (it’s a for-profit facility) was putting up to five people in a cell meant for two. He was essentially running a sweat shop making prisoners manufacture things. Once everything is settled, Hondo lets the owner know that he intends on filing a formal complaint and putting him in jail. I hope we get to see that happen.
The episode ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Deacon finds out about Annie and is flown to the hospital in a helicopter. When the team shows up to the hospital to support him, they still don’t know how her surgery went. We’ll have to wait for next week to see.
Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
S.W.A.T. airs Thursdays at 10 PM on CBS
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor