SHOOTER delivers another packed episode with “Musa Qala.” This show checks a lot of boxes. Yes, there is action; shooting, racing, blowing things up. Shooter also jams a lot of story into its episodes. USA’s Queen of the South benefited from clever story pockets and Shooter exploits similar strengths. There is the legit law enforcement angle represented by Agent Memphis and her boss, Utay. There is also the covert espionage angle represented by Agent Isaac Johnson, who is caught in the middle of both groups. Bob Lee has the main story, but he’s often off on his own. Theirs is also the stakes story represented by Julie and Mary; they are also off in their own world most of the time.
That’s a lot to work with and so far, they’re doing it well. Shooter could easily spend an episode in one pocket, but it maintains high energy by visiting multiple story pockets each week. “Musa Qala” begins when Bob Lee stops at a convenience store for some basic supplies and bandages. The clerk recognizes him and tries to call for help, but he stops her and disarms her husband without hurting anybody. Isaac gets a call from Bob Lee as he approaches his car in a parking lot. Isaac knows Bob Lee is close enough to shoot him but doesn’t tell Bob Lee anything useful. Bob Lee still can’t figure out why Isaac set him up but he does still need Isaac to help protect his family.
Bob Lee calls the number Alex provided him in jail to get his family out of the country. Casper, the woman in charge, tells him it will cost $100K. If Julie and Mary were safe, Bob Lee wouldn’t have to depend on Isaac, he knows he can’t trust him. Still, Bob Lee doesn’t have enough money yet.
Bob Lee contacts Julie when she goes grocery shopping. The FBI follow her in but fail to spot Bob Lee when he bumps into her and spills coffee on her blouse. They let her go into the women’s restroom alone where Bob Lee waits to update her on his plan and progress. Julie tells him she thinks she can trust Agent Memphis and he tells her to point Memphis at the cop who claims to have shot him, Officer Timmons. He also tells Julie to ask Mary about Musa Qala and try not to worry.
Isaac gets a clever sequence where they cut back and forth between his update to the FBI task force and the update he gives his team of hench. On the law enforcement side, he knows Memphis is a challenge. On the hench side, Jack Payne is the constant challenge. It is clear Isaac feels the weight of a collapsing deception.
Meanwhile Julie gives Memphis the Officer Timmons tip. Memphis follows up by kittening up to Timmons at a bar where he goes to brag. At first, she plays the part of a hero groupie. Timmons gives her enough reason to suspect he’s hiding something and she confesses she’s FBI. She offers him federal protection if he tells her the truth, but he runs instead.
Jack Payne catches up to Timmons at his apartment and puts him into a rig that forces him to shoot himself. Bob Lee needs to find help elsewhere. He visits a local VA to see a friend of his, Dr. Perkins. Perkins doesn’t believe Bob Lee is innocent and he calls the cops, but he does give Bob Lee something he asked for, we don’t find out until the final sequence what’s in the box. Whatever it is, Bob Lee risks capture to get it. He also risks breaking into Memphis’ apartment to talk strategy with her. He tells her what he knows about the Russians and his suspicion that his set up is part of a bigger plot by Russian and American intelligence agents. She still doesn’t have enough information to believe him, but it’s enough to make her wonder.
Swagger returns to a cabin in the woods and builds a bomb. When it’s ready, he goes back to a little convenience store. This time, he does nothing when the clerk recognizes him. Soon, the FBI Task Force gets the update, Bob Lee was close to a heavily wooded area. Perfect for a deadly sniper, bad for clumsy FBI. Utay and Memphis want to go right in, but Isaac convinces them not to rush. He needs time to alert his hench and get information from Julie.
Jack Payne is the first to arrive, but he has his driver turn around. He knows Bob Lee has too much of an advantage on that kind of ground. Isaac arrives with Utay, Memphis, and a tactical team. They descend on a small cabin where Bob Lee has left an evidence board for Memphis and the FBI to study, then he opens fire on the little shack. He doesn’t hit anyone, but everyone is afraid to leave. Isaac grabs a rifle from the wall and Utay spots muzzle flash from the woods. Isaac takes aim and fires. The target explodes. The FBI finds burnt pieces of human, some of Bob Lee’s hair, and the replacement hip from the VA. If the serial number matches, Bob Lee will appear dead.
Julie sees a story on the news about the shootout and death of Bob Lee but asks Mary about Musa Qala; one of the bedtime stories Bob Lee used to tell her. Mary says the best part of Musa Qala is that daddy had to act like a ghost. Bob Lee’s still out there and there’s a good chance some of the pressure is off. He still needs to find the real shooter and eventually clear his name. The main question now is, will Memphis help?
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Shooter airs Fridays at 10PM on USA
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor