Thursday, February 27, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 20: Mystery of the Blues

To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While an archaeology student at the University of Chicago, Indiana Jones is getting his real education at night in the city's jazz clubs. With practice and tutelage from some jazz experts, he turns himself into a respectable "sax man." He also attempts to solve a mobster's murder with the help of Ernest Hemingway and Eliot Ness. 

Memorable Quote:
You can play happy birthday in jazz, or you can play St. Louis Rag so straight it won't be jazz no more.  ~Sidney

There are half a dozen scenes that would be the highlight in most of the other episodes, but the biggest highlight in this one can only be one thing: the presence of the man himself.  What a brilliant call to bring Harrison Ford in to bookend the episode, and of course he's awesome in his brief time on screen. It's just great to see him and hear the Indy theme.

Indy comes off as too innocent and in awe of his musician friends. That characterization might have worked in a pre-war episode, but given all the drama that he experienced in Europe, it's hard to imagine him being so wide-eyed and sheepish about playing the sax.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Eliot Ness
  • Sidney Bechet
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Ernest Hemingway (second appearance)
  • Al Capone

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Jeffrey Wright delivers what's arguably the guest star performance of the series with his energetic and charismatic portrayal of Sidney Bechet. 
  • It's doubtful that Eliot Ness was 1/24th as goofy and inept as he's portrayed, but his character acts as a good foil for Indy, and it's fun to see young Ness and young Capone cross paths. 
  • The music is another highlight in this episode, with one amazing jazz number after another. In particular, I dig the variations on Turkey in the Straw.   
  • Those old-school jazz clubs are the coolest. Between those jazz clubs and the blues club in my favorite Quantum Leap episode, Chicago must have been the place to be back in the day. Now I think of it as a place with crazy drivers and too much traffic. 
  • 45:55 - some great acting from Wright and Flanery when Sidney surprises Indy by calling him up on stage to perform. 
  • Jane Krakowski appears as Colosimo's wife. I saw her name in the opening credits and at first thought she was the one who stopped Indy at the frat party to tell him that she liked his music. 
  • It's a little sad at the end to see old Indy, the same guy who successfully took on hundreds of Nazis and Thuggees, get pushed around by a couple of two-bit crooks, but I like how he cleverly uses the saxophone to get the upper hand. As Dr. Jones Sr. says in the Last Crusade, sometimes when you just sit down, the solution presents itself. 

Final Analysis:
From start to finish, this is the #1 episode. So many highlights in this one: I already mentioned Jeffrey Wright and the jazz music, but there's also the Godfather-style Italian mafia plot, the dinner debate over the role of African-Americans in an unjust society, the frat party barbershop quartet scene, and the action sequence in the warehouse. And the presence of the great Harrison Ford is the icing on the cake.  

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