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Recap / JAGS 01 E 0102 A New Beginning

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Harmon Rabb: Home Sweet Home.
The double-length 1995 Made-for-TV Movie Pilot Episode that kick-started the Bellisarioverse, starring David James Elliott, Andrea Parker, and Terry O'Quinn. Guest starring Kevin Dunn, Cliff DeYoung, Patrick Laborteaux, W.K. Stratton, Katie Rich, Raye Hollitt, Kane Picoy, Bill Bolender, Tim Quill, and Matthew Glave.

A young female naval officer has just made history by being the first female Radio Intercept Officer to take part in air to air combat, after she and her pilot (mostly the pilot) splash two enemy fighters over the Adriatic Sea. Shortly after, she is thrown overboard in the middle of the night and two officers from the Judge Advocate General's office are dispatched to investigate what happened before the news breaks. As it happens, The Captain of the carrier and the CAGnote  both served with Harm's father. Lieutenant Harmon Rabb and Lieutenant Caitlin Pike must find out the truth about what happened and bring the killer to justice, all while navigating the dangerous waters of gender politics in the traditionally male environment of the Navy.


A New Beginning contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Captain Boone is a legend among the crew, and flew with Harm's father. Harm himself is a former pilot, but Boone and some of the other fliers are dismissive of him due to the crash that ended his career and his diagnosis of night blindness making it seem like he's incapable of piloting anymore (it is also mentioned in passing that Harm never saw combat).
  • Alpha Strike: Firmly invoked. The military urges for the authorization of one of these against Serbian SAM missile sites after one of their rebels shoots down a MASH unit 50 strong. After getting clearance from the executive branch of government, the Seahawk initiates the alpha strike. Kate inquires what this means, and Bud sums it up as an attack involving "everything that flies." Basically, the Tomcats, Intruders, and whatever else can be used to bomb the hell out of dodge. It becomes central to the climax of the movie when Harm goes on an ATARS mission with the CAG, Cassie, and Buster.
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  • Anvilicious: The movie goes out of its way to make sure the audience knows that sexism in the armed forces is wrong and hurtful.
  • Back in the Saddle: Deconstructed to a degree. Harm ends up in the cockpit of an F-14, and takes the stick after Boone is injured, but has visible difficulty remembering what to do during an in-flight emergency while flying the complicated aircraft and needs Puller's help.
  • Bleed 'em and Weep: While Arutti doesn't cry after the up close dogfight, she is visibly shaken and flustered.
  • Body-Count Competition: A flight deck officer is seen applying two stripes to the left side of the CAG's personally-labeled Tomcat with a decal stencil and red paintbrush after blowing two Fishbeds out of the sky and congratulating sky the CAG and Arutti.
  • California Doubling: This being long before the show was Backed by the Pentagon, the pilot was filmed on the decomissioned USS Lexington (CV-16), an Essex class diesel carrier that served in World War II and part of the Cold War, subbing in for a Nimitz class nuclear carrier.
  • The Cameo: Antonio, the son of the Italian fisherman manning a simple rowboat, is played by Michael Bellisario, son of the show's creator, Donald Bellisario. He is the first character to be shown on JAG, with the fisherman immediately after him.
    • Small Role, Big Impact: Antonio and his father are on screen for under thirty seconds in total, starting with a funny gag, only to reappear in a much darker circumstance when they discover the corpse of Lieutenant Arruti tangled in one of the fishing nets.
  • Captain Crash: Puller has the worst record for poor landings on the ship, though it is implied to be because Carter, acting as a Landing Signal Officer, is intentionally giving her poor directions and waving her off to make her look bad. When Harm voices concern because of this, Puller points out that technically, with his arrival on the Seahawk, she has only the second worst record on the ship.
  • Captain Ersatz: A lookalike of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton appears in the pilot during a relevant scene.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Once it was established that Harm used to fly Tomcats, it was pretty much a given that he'd end up flying one by the end of the movie.
  • Coming in Hot: Boone is seriously injured and won't survive bailing out, Harm hasn't been in the cockpit of a Tomcat in half a decade, and he suffers from Night Blindness. Puller tells him his best chance is to follow her in.
  • Control Freak:
    • Boone, Boone, Boone! It's his ship, his rules. And had another captain been sent to contest him, there would have been no peace on board the Seahawk for the entire duration of his stay.
    • You also have Drake, who's got his own controlling tendencies. To pinpoint the exact moment he establishes himself as difficult to work with, this exchange cements Boone as a hardass:
    Harm: Sir, if Mr DePalma doesn't contact his bureau desk soon, they'll want to know why. We can't deny he's onboard, sir.
    Drake: I can deny any damn thing I want.
    Harm: Yes, sir!
    Drake: Damn captain's privilege.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Upon recovering Arutti's body, the coroner is able to determine that she survived the fall into the water, only to die a slow agonizing death by drowning while suffering severe internal injuries.
  • Death by Sex: Arutti is murdered soon after sneaking off for a covert liaison. In fact, if she hadn't snuck off to begin with, she wouldn't have been murdered. But then Cassie might have been murdered.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • You'll notice a mock in-universe episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno airs late at night. This is something that could only take place while JAG was licensed by NBC and thus open to reference other programs carried by NBC; after a Channel Hop to CBS when NBC lost heart in continuing the program, this is no longer a possibility.
    • Pike is set up as a main character, but she doesn't make it to the transition of the main run of the show; instead, she's quietly Put on a Bus and not a peep is made regarding her status until Season 6.note 
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several, for multiple characters. For Harm and Pike, we have Harm's assured familiarity with a carrier flight deck contrasted with Pike needing help getting out of the helicopter and losing her hat due to jetwash. DePalma in particular makes a zig-zag with this trope: He comes off as a loud-mouthed jerk, but is familiar enough with the military to recognize that Harm and Pike are JAG officers by their insignia. Harm mentions that they met previously in Bangkok 15 years before, and he immediately recalls who Harm is warms up to him on the spot.
  • Eureka Moment: When Harm prepares to go on a mission with Boone and Puller, he realizes that Puller's callsign is "Lobo". This causes several other details to suddenly fall into place.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Subverted. Harm is a trained aviator, albeit five years out of practice with the F-14. He takes the opportunity to tag along with Boone in a trainer/recon variant of the F-14, and ends up having to take the stick after Boone is seriously wounded. Despite his confidence and experience, Harm is noticeably taken aback by his first experience with being shot at as Boone takes them through a hailstorm of enemy Anti-Air fire. After Boone is wounded, Harm doesn't deal with any combat, and has his hands full just putting out an engine fire and flying the plane back to the carrier.
  • Fanservice: Lt. Arutti appearing in naught but a thong and a skimpy top with visibly erect you-know-whatsits. And then there's Puller shamelessly undressing in front of Rabb and we see she has no bra on under her top and a pretty tattoo on her right shoulder blade.
    Harm: I'll wait outside.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: The CAG's plane captain congratulates Lt Arutti's first air to air kill by saying "congratulations on popping your cherry, lieutenant!" Arutti is not pleased with that particular choice of words.
  • Funny Background Event: When Harm and Pike go to the Crypto section, Lubin clips a set of badges on them to indicate they are allowed to be in there. After he has clipped on Pike's badge (in the foreground), he clips on Harm's badge (in the background) and quickly brings his finger up to tap Harm's nose when Harm looks down at the badge. Harm doesn't look amused.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Good God, Jack Carter. He despises the fact that Cassie Puller bench-pressed more than him so much he resorts to a botched murder attempt that gets a innocent (well, except for the fact she's breaking a rule about married personnel serving together in the Navy) girl. Then when he learns he killed the wrong person, secretly attempts to rectify his mistake. He tries to keep waving off Cassie from landing after a mission in a heated standstill, and even hopes Harm will take Cassie with her if he crashes upon trying to make a trap.
  • Here We Go Again!: Buster gives Cassie an annoyed eye roll when she has a rough takeoff that nearly deafens Harm, Pike, and Bud and causes them to look over at the launching Tomcat in surprise, cluing us in that she's a bad pilot.
  • Hot-Blooded: Pike shows signs of this, though she mostly keeps her composure.
  • Jerkass: Captain Boone and Lt. Carter both come to mind. While Carter seems to be something of a misogynist in general, Boone is willing to tolerate women who can meet his exacting standards, while being equally intolerant of anyone who would make things difficult for female crewmembers on false pretenses. It's also worth noting that Boone has a reputation for being irascible. The man in charge of assigning Harm to the case sent him to the Seahawk because he was a junior officer; had he sent equal-ranked Captain Morton who was in Naples, the man bemoaned that he would be "in a spitting contest with the ship's captain 10 minutes later."
    • Boone is more of a jerk to everyone he sees as not meeting his standards and has fond memories of Harm's father, Rabb Sr., AKA "Hammer". Through the course of the movie, Arutti, Carter, Puller, DePalma, and Harm all draw punishment for Boone for various slights, and Pike only narrowly avoids it due to Harm's intervention.
    • Admiral Drake is a lesser example, because while he gets pretty mad as hell several times, he also possesses a remarkably soft side and has enough faith in Harm to let him trap and save the CAG's life.
  • The Lad-ette: Lt. Puller, who has Boyish Short Hair, a gruff personality (though she was very warm towards her roommate, Arutti), and who can bench more than Lt. Carter three times out of three.
  • Leno Device: Since this was back when JAG was on NBC and before Leno's retirement during his high point on The Tonight Show, they couldn't help but throw in a Leno joke. And it's Actually Pretty Funny!
    Jay Leno: This just in, one of the Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down a couple of Serbian MIGs over Bosnia this afternoon. Listen to this- the radar intercept officer in the Tomcat was a woman! Boy... you thought getting shot down by a woman in a bar was bad, oh, my GOD!
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: The coroner mentions Angela was missing a boot when she was found. He also makes no mention of her hat (which he couldn't have known she was wearing at the time she was ejected from the Seahawk), which blew off when she was thrown overboard, meaning it was also lost to the seas.
  • Manipulative Editing: One scene where Carter exclaims, "Roger, Ball!" from the opening of the movie is recycled for when Harm and Pike touch down on the Seahawk and given a warm filter to make it appear like it's happening in the morning. If you stop the footage at just the right times, you can see it clearly.
  • Nom de Guerre: The aviators' callsigns turn out to be a plot point towards the end: Arutti was murdered because she was wearing Puller's jacket emblazoned with her nickname of "Lobo" (they would share clothes as roommates). Carter thought he was shoving Puller overboard. Harm later recognizes Cassie's callsign and has to find a time to warn Kate to arrest Carter, but the CAG won't let him until their mission is done because the comm lines need to be kept open. When the CAG gets hit by ricocheting gunfire, Harm disregards this because of the desperate situation.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The movie makes it explicitly clear that the flight deck of an aircraft carrier can be a very dangerous place for the unwary. Lt. Arutti is described as not being accident-prone, but nearly falls to her death accidentally when she missteps due to not noticing a deck elevator was beginning to move. In her case, it was dark, and she was distracted trying to sneak back belowdecks after a covert romantic liason.
    • At the same time, the trope is Averted when Captain Boone points out that the carrier deck is surrounded by safety nets to prevent anyone from accidentally falling overboard, making an accidental death very unlikely. Thus, Arutti's death was most likely a suicide (she jumped far enough to clear the nets) or murder (she was thrown with enough force to clear the nets).
  • Meaningful Name: When combined with Nom de Guerre. The killer's name is Jack "Ripper" Carter.
  • One-Man Army: A literal version of the trope, with Manipulative Editing in play. We are shown tons of gunfire pouring out of the Serbian combat site, but only ever one gunner.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Harm and Pike don't actually get around to doing any lawyering during the movie. In fact, they spend most of their time investigating, which would normally wouldn't be done by JAG officers at all. That kind of stuff falls more into the hands of NCIS, which will end up taking precedence in the years to come.
  • The Resenter: Mace toward Harm, because his brother was Harm's RIO on the night he "screwed the pooch" with a landing and got Mace's brother killed when, despite punching them both out, Mace got caught in the fireball from the wrecked Tomcat. They're on good terms by the end of the movie, when Harm has redeemed himself as an ace fighter pilot.
  • Secret Relationship: Arutti was secretly married to Painter. They kept it a secret because the Navy would not have allowed them to serve in the same unit. Painter also convinced Arutti not to tender her resignation; their secret relationship also proved that Arutti's motivation to resign was not just driven by a feeling of inadequacy, but fear of the consequences of being found out as a protocol violator for the both of them.
  • Sex for Services: Pike implies that she promised to have sex with Lt. Lubin, an officer in the ship's cryptology section, in return for his help with the investigation, in particular recovering a tape Arutti made that Puller had tried to erase. She also confirms Zane Lubin outright told her he knows of a secure area on the fantail where they could "do it".
  • Spear Carrier: Bud Roberts is introduced in a very minor role doing little to nothing but Infodumps any time he's on-screen and vastly overshadowed by several other characters and doesn't even have his name in the "Starring" category, but the "Guest Starring", of which, his is third. If you watch just the pilot or commence watching the series late, you'd have absolutely no idea this guy is fated to become a main character later on. Ironically, Bud would go on to become the Tritagonist of the series.
  • Stock Footage: Uses aerial footage from Top Gun. Saving money by recycling footage from Paramount films whenever possible was part of the show's draw for the networks, allowing them to get more bang for their buck.
  • Stuffed in the Fridge: Lieutenant Arutti exists largely to angst for a little bit before getting thrown overboard.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Arutti mis-steps and nearly falls overboard, barely managing to grab onto a ladder and pull herself up to safety. She pauses to catch her breath, looks down and the roaring water below, and her expression shows that she's thinking what a close one that was... And then she is immediately grabbed and thrown overboard.
  • Tempting Fate: When the Rear Admiral Brovo about him and his Yes-Man Lieutenant Teddy getting kicked off JAG, this is before Harm ended up under the command of far more prevalent AJ Chegwidden and Bud became Chegwidden's gofer.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Pike gets one in after spending the entire movie trying to get the male sailors to treat her with the respect that her training and rank warrant.
    Lt. Pike: And it's "Lieutenant Pike". Not "bitch". ASSHOLE!
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Harm's dad is played by David James Elliot wearing a fake mustache.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Inverted, the very buff and gruff Lt. Puller survives the film, while her pretty room mate dies almost immediately.
  • Verbal Tic: Boone calls a lot of his male juniors "Mister", including Harm and Ripper.
  • Zeerust: Pike's statement about the computer in Puller and Arutti's room. "Windows 95. Most of the more sophisticated bells and whistles." Sure, it was advanced for its day because this episode aired in 1995, which was the titular debut year of this Windows platform, but saying that in today's day and age will get you laughed out of a building. Only the most technologically stunted places in the world still use Windows 95 (like an interrogation center in the Middle East, as Bassem Youssef attests.)

JAG Time Cue Scoreboard

Episode 1 (Part 1): 3 Time Cards
Episode 2 (Part 2): 2 Time Cards
Overall JAG Time Card Tally: 5
As you were...

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