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Series / In Plain Sight

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"Since 1970, the Federal Witness Protection Program has relocated thousands of witnesses, some criminal, some not, to neighborhoods all across the country. Every one of those individuals shares a unique attribute, distinguishing them from the rest of the general population. And that is, somebody wants them dead."

In Plain Sight is an American Crime and Punishment Series television series that premiered on the USA Network on June 1, 2008 and part of the Law & Order Shared Universe. The show features US Marshal Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) and Marshall Mann (Fred Weller) who work with people in WitSec (Witness Protection) in Albuquerque. This leads to them sometimes having to uncover crimes, track down killers, work at protecting them, etc., in addition to somewhat nannying their clients. Their boss Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor) likes to stick to official WITSEC doctrine as often as possible but will still stand up for both Marshall and Mary when they hit trouble. In season 4 they're joined by detective Abigail Chaffee (Rachel Boston), Marshall's girlfriend who is extremely outgoing and friendly, much to the annoyance of Mary.

When off-duty, Mary is stuck dealing with her mother Jinx (Lesley Ann Warren) and sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz), both of whom are shacking up at her house. Neither of them work, both have criminal records (and in Brandi's case, a criminal boyfriend pimping her out to sell drugs), and one wonders how Mary came to be such a law-abider with these influences. Her father committed crimes and left the family long ago, leaving Mary to be their "hall monitor." Mom and sister resent the hell out of Mary for this. There's also Mary's off-and-on fuckbuddy/boyfriend, a Minor Leaguer named Raphael (Cristian de la Fuente), who has more feelings for her than she does for him. Brandi rags on him constantly, yet is desperate to get into his pants.

As of the end of Season 2, Brandi is on again/off again with a self-made rich guy and taking classes at the local community college, Raphael is working for Brandi's boyfriend, Raphael and Mary are engaged and Mary has told him what she does. Jinx has gone sober (maybe).

During the third season, the origins of Mary and Marshall's partnership have been revealed to the audience, among other things. Season 5 (the show's final season) ended in 2012.

This series provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Boss: Stan thinks he's in charge. He really does. He's slowly graduating from Type 3 and 4.
  • The Alleged Car: Mary drives a beat-up purple Ford Probe that is an ongoing topic of conversation.
  • Alliterative Name: Marshall Mann. Which makes him Marshal Marshall. He also does this with his Go-to Alias Marshall Miller.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Robert "Bobby D" Dershowitz. The name would give it away, except that he's black. The ambiguity is gone in season 3 as he had to move to Chicago because there are so many more synagogues than in Albuquerque.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Mary: Actually, I'm in a really good mood, which is kind of weird, considering where I was 48 hours ago. Then I have a witness off herself, and like that's not bad enough, I gotta play second fiddle to a knucklehead like you.
    Marshall: Thanks for lumping me in with kidnapping, attempted rape, and suicide.
  • Attempted Rape: In "Stan By Me", Mary is mistakenly kidnapped and held captive for several hours. One of her captors attempts to rape her and - with her being very much an Action Girl - it doesn't end well for him. She shoots him. Repeatedly. And then escapes.
  • Babies Ever After: Brandi, though sort of subverted in that she's not with the baby daddy. Kind of applies to Mary too.
  • Back for the Finale: Jinx (absent most of the last season) and Brandi (absent for all of it previously).
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: An inversion. Marshall is guarding a witness who's using the bathroom. From inside the stall, the witness starts complaining about Mary. Unbeknownst to him, while he's ranting, Mary has quietly come up to the open bathroom door and heard everything.
  • Berserk Button: 99% of the time Marshall is a calm as still waters, but threaten one of his witnesses or, God help you, Mary and he'll throw a body block on you at a dead run and choke you out before you know what hit you.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Stan is usually a Nice Guy and a good boss, but he can be quite scary when pissed off and used to have a nasty reputation.
    Malone: So, Stan McQueen. "Little Jack", I used to call him.
    Marshall: Why is that?
    Malone: Because he's like a Jack Russell Terrier. Pound for pound, probably the toughest man I know.
    Mary and Marshall: Stan?
    Malone: Well, you know, he plays that shy, quiet thing pretty well, but you don't want to be the guy he's looking at when the switch flips.
    Mary: I didn't even know he had a switch.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Jinx and Brandi are just as good looking as Mary, but have very little common sense.
  • Broken Bird: it was more heavily emphasized in the first two seasons, but Mary continues to hit most of the major notes of this trope.
  • Casting Gag: Possibly. Starting with "When Mary Met Marshall", Allison Janney plays a character with similarly lofty connections to her character on The West Wing.
  • Catfight: In "Good Cop, Dead Cop", Mary and a female detective get into a fight at the detective's partner funeral, the suspect being one of Mary's witnesses and the detective is lived at seeing Mary there. They start throwing punches, but it quickly devolves at them falling into the ground wrestling, while the nearby camera crew rushes to record. The next day their Catfight is being reported all over town and neither of them got any bruises.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless:
    • When Marshall mentions that they can't get reception because of the mountains, you know something bad's going to happen.
    • Played with hilariously in the pilot. When Stan starts to give her orders she doesn't like, Mary invokes this by holding her phone out the window and yelling that she can't hear him. Equally Stan knows what she's doing and just calls Marshall. Equally Marshall pulls the same trick.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In a Season 1 episode, Mary discusses the two firearms she carries with a witness, and clearly shows the subcompact Glock she carries in an ankle holster. Cut to the season finale two-parter, where that hidden weapon is instrumental in saving her life.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Mary's father, James Shannon is a Disappeared Dad being on the run for law enforced for robbing a bank. He's often mentioned, nut remains The Ghost for most of the show, only finally making an appearance in the final season, in the episode "Drag Me to Hell" where he suddenly appears at Mary's door. Mary immediately arrests him.
  • Clear My Name:
    • Pops up in 2x07, "Duplicate Bridge", when the witness, Norman, goes off the reservation to get his boss to confess. And subverted. Norman forces his ex-boss to confess that he built a collapsed bridge with substandard steel, instead of the steel Norman originally specified, but says it shouldn't have caused the collapse. Norman then reveals that it was his incorrect calculations, the ones he realized he'd been making his entire career as an architect, combined with the substandard steel, that caused the collapse. And the other 25 bridges he built will eventually collapse on their own.
    • This also forms the basis of 2x09, when Brandi gets arrested for possession on the suitcase of meth that caused the Shannon family so much trouble, along with a laundry list of trumped-up charges related to the whole thing, not least of all Mary's kidnapping.
  • Crossover: Mary is introduced in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
  • Cutting Corners: An engineer is put into Witness Protection after he reveals that a major construction company used subpar building materials when constructing a bridge that later collapsed. This is subverted in the end when the engineer discovers that he made a crucial mistake when designing the bridge and it would have collapsed no matter what materials were used.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone at WitSec, to some degree or another. Occasionally the witnesses themselves snark it up too.
  • Deceptive Legacy: Subverted when Jinx tells Mary her father walked out on her years before and never came in contact and that all of the stories about how he loved her most were lies made up to comfort the distraught young Mary. In response, Mary shows Jinx all the letters her father has sent her over the years and bitterly asks "How many did he send you?"
  • Destroy the Evidence: In the season one finale, Mary takes the suitcase full of crystal meth from Brandi’s room and, through deliberate editing, seems to magically make it disappear just as the police, F.B.I. and Marshal Service arrive to search the house and vehicles for it. The final scene of the episode is of Raph smiling at batting practice and then the back of a line-painting machine on the baseball diamond, implying that she got the very tipsy Raph to help her get rid of the evidence. In S 2 E 2, we find out Raph must have swapped out the drugs the night Brandi came to see him in tears, *before* Mary’s kidnapping, and Mary didn’t know anything about it until she discovered in that episode that he didn’t have any towels in his apartment.
  • Dies Wide Open: Mary goes to the crime scene and finds one of her victims dead. When she goes to shut his eyes a woman who we can assume is a detective or from forensics says "Hey don't touch that." Mary asks if they can close his eyes and she replies only if she has a needle and thread.
  • Ditch the Bodyguards: Frequent element of the show, where many of the "Client Of The Week" end up ditching Mary or Marshall for one reason or another.
  • Due to the Dead: After her father dies and is cremated, Mary spreads his ashes on a horse racing track, since going to a racetrack with him is the earliest memory Mary had of her father.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Mary's family is quite messed up, wit an alcoholic mother, drug addict sister and bank robber father. Mary's actually the White Sheep of the family.
  • Dysfunction Junction: During the pilot, Mary narrates how good she is at solving other people's problems but not her own. Her father abandoned his family to evade the police when she was a child, and she's been taking care of her alcoholic mother and chronically irresponsible sister ever since. During the course of the series, the sister ends up involved in a drug deal gone bad. Even Mary's sorta-boyfriend is a minor-league baseball player who can't make it to the big leagues, and he's the most normal character in the immediate family. With the exception of Mary's coworkers, everyone else in the show is messed-up, even the witnesses under protection.
  • Easy Amnesia: Played with in 2x02, when a witness - who claims to be unable to testify without weed - falls off a cherry picker while toking up. Mary, who had recently informed him that he couldn't testify high, refuses to believe him.
  • Economy Cast: Nobody but Mary, Marshall, and Stan is ever seen in the large, empty WitSec offices.
    • Each season after the first adds at least one minor character who hangs out at the office, but none of them have stuck around for more than a year so far. Stan also mentions that he used to have twice as many Inspectors with half as many cases, and it was still too much. When he flashes back in "One Night Stan", only him and his boss are seen.
    • Similarly, while other Albuquerque cops are seen every oso often, they only seem to end up working with Bobby D. Vaguely acknowledged in an episode where another local police officer has been shot - Mary asks Bobby for information on him, and he asks her if she has any idea how many officers there are in Albuquerque PD.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Played With. Mary just wants to smear lipstick on Marshall's face to make them look less suspicious when they confront the diamond smugglers, but he mistakes her intentions and tries to kiss her. When she tells him off, he unapologetically responds, "I'm a guy. It's what we do."
  • Fake Static: In the pilot episode, Mary simulates a bad signal by holding her phone out the window of her moving car and shouting, "What? I'm losing you!"
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: The opening and closing narration, arguably.
  • Flashback: Repeatedly through "When Mary Met Marshall". We find out that Marshall is a fifth-generation Marshall, and Mary used to live out East, used to be in the fugitive-hunting part of the Marshals, and most importantly, wore bangs and a ponytail. It's pretty weird.
  • Foreign Queasine: In "Jailbait", Mary visits her boyfriend's relatives, lifts the lid off a pot on the stove and is shocked to see what looks like a dog's carcass (it's actually a goat); Subverted in that what really freaks Mary out is not her disgust at the sight of the "dog", but the fact that the stew smells great.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: While helping Mary clear one of her witnesses of a murder, Marshall visits the victim's favorite bar and talks with The Bartender, who mentions that the victim always stood by his people. After wondering what that means, a confused Marshall looks around and realizes that all the patrons were male and many were holding hands...
  • Go-to Alias: Mary "Sheppard" and Marshall "Miller".
  • Girls Behind Bars: Invoked. Marshall seems to believe a women's prison is some kind of sorority.
Marshall: Spending ten months undercover in a women's prison? I can think of worse.
Mary: You do know it's not all lingerie and pillow fights?
Marshall: But it is sometimes, right?
  • Guns Akimbo: In "Lola", both Mary and Marshall pull out their backup weapon in order to drive off some assassins coming after the witness they're protecting. Played realistically: the only time anyone manages to hit anyone during that gunfight is using a single gun, and the two guns are used more for suppressive fire than to actually kill anyone.
  • Has a Type: Mary and Rafe's wife tease him about his type: blonde, with boobs.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight:
    • The show's premise, being about the Witness Protection Program, the title indicates exactly where the relocated witnesses are concealed.
    • This is what happens to Brandi's meth stash.
  • Hostage Situation: Several, the last in season one played realistically; Mary converses with the kidnappers, bides her time, and even tries to convince one that she's on their side. Like real-world law enforcement officers are trained to do.
  • Idiot Savant: Judy Wagrowski from "Her Days Are Numbered" (3x10), a math savant with Asperger's. One of her coworkers even jokingly refers to her as "Rain Man". She was the perfect witness because she couldn't lie, but she was the worst protected witness because it was impossible for her to maintain a new identity. She hits all the key tropes: Hates Being Touched, Sarcasm-Blind, Good with Numbers, Brutal Honesty, Cannot Tell a Lie, Photographic Memory, and when Mary is doing one of her Character Filibusters, Judy points out, "That's called monologuing, what you just did. I do it all the time." On top of that she still believed her boss was her friend and tried to visit him during the trial, which nearly got her killed.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: One episode had a witness who insisted that a bridge collapse was caused by faulty materials rather than his calculations. He goes to the government, testifies in court, and holds the owner of the construction company at gunpoint to force him to admit that substandard materials were used in the bridge... and it turns out that the materials were switched without his knowledge, and the collapse really was sparked off by events beyond his control. Unfortunately, during the course of his rigorous investigation to prove that it was not his fault, and after he gets the culprit to confess, he learned that it was his fault anyway. Though this particular collapse was instigated by the improper construction, he had been using flawed math on every bridge he ever made, and one of them was going to collapse sooner or later, this one just went first because there were additional problems. To his credit, he told everybody that part, too, in addition to what the constructor did.
  • Improbably Cool Car: One episode lampshades this when Mary has to replace her old car which was wrecked in a shootout. Her sister's rich boyfriend owns a car dealership and he hooks up Mary with a great looking vintage muscle car. However, Mary's boss quickly points out that the car is way too noticeable. A US Marshall working for Witness Protection cannot stand out and Mary is forced to return the car to the dealership.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Episodes are given punny titles often by combining the central element of the episode with a cliche or film or music reference. "A Fine Meth", "Coma Chameleon", "Second Crime Around"...
  • Important Haircut: In "Kumar vs. Kumar", an Indian housewife gets her long hair cut short as part of looking more "American" in order to blend in while in Witness Protection. Her very traditional husband objects to these changes in her appearance and personality but they eventually reconcile.
  • The Informant: Many of the people who get into Witness Protection were informants who are now on the run from their former employers.
  • Instant Seduction: In the "Pilot" episode, Mary goes to Raphael's house during a Heat Wave so she can talk to him about Brandi. He answers the door shirtless and their UST immediately starts up, but Mary is determined to just talk even as Raphael invites Mary her in. Cut to Raphael's bedroom as we hear Mary's loud moan as they both collapse in bed panting and sweating.
  • Instant Web Hit: A teenager in witness protection performs in the school choir and one of the parents makes a video of it and posts it on the Internet. The video goes viral because the girl was an up and coming rockstar before witnessing a murder and she still has many loyal fans wondering what happened to her. Mary has to relocate the girl before the gangsters who want her dead come looking.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Everyone in Mary's family has been on the wrong side of the law, wit her being the sole exception.
    • Marshall is a fifth-generation U.S. Marshal.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Several of Mary McCormack's The West Wing costars have paid the show a visit, most notably Joshua Malina (who played McCormack's boyfriend on the earlier show) in a recurring role. Allison Janney, Richard Schiff and in season 4 Bradley Whitford also put in appearances. And the music is by W.G. Snuffy Walden himself.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: An interesting subversion occurs with one of the witness couples. They were a very unhappy but very devout Catholic couple when they see a priest murdered. Because of their faith they cannot get divorced, even though it is quite obvious they hate each other at this point. To make a long story short, she has found someone else that she likes and they both know this, but she wouldn't dare cheat. He ends up faking his death so that she can move on. She is not his beloved, but she is his wife and he admires her very much, and in order for her to be happy she can't be tied to him. So he fakes his own death and gets WitSec to help him get relocated again. At the end, the man she really loves is comforting her as he sneaks out the back.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Mary frequently bumps head with homicide detective Bobby D whenever he's assigned to cases involving Mary's witnesses. Tricky because Mary cannot reveal that anyone she's asking about is in WitSec (though Bobby D can certainly figure that out for himself, and is frequently annoyed by the fact that Mary and Marshall aren't cooperative).
  • Just Friends: Mary and Marshall. He seems to have a crush on her, but is well aware that she's a total relationship trainwreck. He tells every client lusting after Mary to steer clear.
  • Karma Houdini: After the season two finale, Francesca returns to South America as a hero to her people, while Mary only just starts to recover from nearly being killed by Francesca's willful endangerment.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Mary. Marshall, too, to a lesser extent.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Kenny, even though he started in the second to last episode as a snarky casual love interest for Mary. Which works so well that you wish he'd been in longer.
  • Lawof Inverse Fertility: Mary gets pregnant after a single Sex with the Ex session with her ex-husband. A case of Real Life Writes the Plot since the actress was also pregnant at the time.
  • Lawful Stupid: Played With - Marshall tells his superiors that informing a mob boss whose mistress who turned witness is now carrying his baby is a really bad idea since it could lead to the mobster going after his former lover to potentially kill her or the baby. Unfortunately, they cite a real-life case where the government did this before and got sued over it; the mobster won. They don't want to tell him but it could cause them a whole lot of trouble later down the line.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Marshall's ubiquitous jacket, dark dress shirt, jeans combo. Mary does the same thing, but usually with a leather jacket and t-shirt.
  • Limited Social Circle: Taken to an extreme when Marshall and Mary's social circles consist of... Marshall and Mary. Over the years, the rises and falls a little bit. Raph and Bobby D join and leave. Abigail hovers at the edges. Stan joins and seems to stick. Even lampshaded by Brandi, who's frantic that she has no guests to invite to her wedding.
    Brandi: Who are you bringing?
    Mary: Marshall. I don't know, Stan, maybe?
  • Manly Tears: In the season two finale, this is utterly averted. Marshall, resident stoic, breaks down in tears the second the doctors take Mary from his side. And again, later.
  • Marry Them All: Averted. When a witness is caught out as a bigamist, he seems to want both of his families to merge into one big happy one. The wives and kids do not agree. Everyone agrees that they don't want to see the dad very much, if at all. The end of the episode does show the moms letting the kids play together.
  • Mellow Fellow: Marshall Mann, in strong counterpoint to his high-strung partner Mary Shannon. The only time we ever see him less than confident was the episode featuring his father, who doubted his son was cut out to be a U.S. Marshall.
  • Metallicar Syndrome: Lampshaded after Mary's car is destroyed and she gets a muscle car as a temporary replacement. She wants to keep it permanently but her boss tells her that working for Witness Protection she cannot drive a car that people will notice and remember.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Marshall, trying to make small talk with a witness, comments that Albuquerque must be a big change from Moscow. The witness responds that she is from Kiev, but Marshall continues to assume that she's Russian, and she has to explain that Kiev is in Ukraine.
  • Modesty Towel: Humorously Played With in "In My Humboldt Opinion", where Rafe asks for Mary a towel from inside his shower. She goes to look for them, she finds them all missing except a washcloth, explaining a towel filled suitcase earlier in the season which was thought to contain drugs. She leaves the washcloth hanging on the handle and joins him in the shower (We only see their Sexy Silhouette through the glass door.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Rabbi Garfinkle explains that finding the needle is easy "If you are willing to look at each and every piece of straw." The rabbi has patiently spent years in a methodical search and successfully found one of Mary's witnesses. He tells her that Witness Protection works because "Criminals are lazy. That is why they are criminals. I on the other hand..."
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The commercial for the series finale had Marshall telling Mary "I love you", making it appear as though they finally become the Official Couple. They don't: while Marshall does tell Mary that he loves her, it's as a sibling or Best Friend.
  • No One Sees the Boss: The US Marshals transport a man who is the go-between for a mysterious female assassin known as "Lola", who agreed to inform on her after being caught in a sting. It turns out There is no "Lola", he is the assassin, and he let himself be caught just so he could get at a target in the jail he was being held at, confident his lieutenants would free him from the marshalls.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Mary more often than not leaves in the middle of the night when she ends up in bed with Raph. In "Rubble with a Cause", he's excited when he finds her still in bed under the Modesty Bedsheet and even makes her breakfast. Naturally, Stan calls moments later and she ditches Raph for work.
  • Oblivious to Love: One episode has Mary helping a witness who's in love with a suspect in the case he's involved with, something Mary figures out fast. They eventually bring the woman in to get her help with Mary snapping about how this guy is going to all these lengths to help the woman he loves... and is stunned when the woman is actually surprised to realize this.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The Federal Marshal's office has 4 people, of which only two do fieldwork and one is a secretary.
  • Only Friend: Early on, Marshall and Mary proclaim each other to be this. Ultimately, it seems like their circles have expanded... by [[Limited Social Circle: maybe one or two people each]].
  • Only a Flesh Wound:
    • Subverted. Marshall gets shot, and gets back up to help Mary fight off their assailants. Then he collapses. More specifically it hit the pleural space (the empty space in the chest not taken up by organs and such). This led to a tension pneumothorax, in which air is pulled into the chest cavity, preventing the lungs from inflating. He explains all this when performing his water seal with a bottle trick. A good portion of the rest of the episode is spent dealing with the wound, and he spends a few episodes in a cast.
    • Mary herself is shot in the season two finale, which turns out to be a life-threatening injury.
  • Only Sane Man: Mary around her relatives. Mary and Marshall around any bureaucrats. Marshall around Mary. Peter around Mary and her family.
  • Organ Theft: Done slightly more realistically with one witness of the week. It was a doctor removing kidneys from gastric bypass patients, since they are operating in the same area and the patient is likely to write off any problems caused by loss of kidney to complications from surgery.
  • Outrun the Fireball: In 3x05, "Fish or Cut Betta," this is subverted when Mary and the woman she just pulled away from the bomb are hurled across the hood of a car by the blast, right after they get out of the building's door.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mary's dad abandoned his family to escape law enforcement after he robbed a bank.
  • Personal Arcade: One episode showed a vintage electro-mechanical pinball table in Raphael's apartment.
  • Pet the Dog: Spanky confesses to murder, as long as his infant son is spared the screwed-up life that he had.
  • Pick Up Babes With Babes: When Mark has to watch Nora unexpectedly, he takes her to a "steak house" and women at the bar start making eyes at them. Though she is his kid, it's still a blatant use of this trope.
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: Mary dating Raph.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Mary and Marshall are opposite-sex platonic friends and partners at work.
  • Playing with a Trope: Very subtle about it. If the narration was a little different, this show would look a lot like Burn Notice.
  • Pregnancy Scare: Mary hopes that her pregnancy will turn out to be this, even after the positive test. The doctor then gently reminds her that she'd have to be seriously ill to get a false positive.
  • Product Placement: Rather cleverly. In one episode, the witness is a rich guy who gave away all his money to the victims of the crime he's testifying against. He is unable to do things as simple as change a tire. Later on, he calls Mary at the office.
    Mary: Is this Manny, Moe, or Jack?
    Witness: Who?
    Mary: Pep Boys, it's a...never mind.
  • Professional Killer: These are shown as both witnesses and bad guys. Deconstructed to an extent in 3x05, "Fish or Cut Betta", when the former hitman client has trouble getting a date without advice from Mary and Marshall because he's only ever slept with prostitutes. And then when the woman rejects him, he tries to blow her up.
  • Put on a Bus: As season 3 begins, we find that Bobby D has left for a task force in Chicago and Eleanor has been hired by the FBI as an analyst.
  • Promotion to Parent: Mary had to become the "parent" of the house since she was 10 when her dad left them and her mother became The Alcoholic.
  • Public Exposure: One episode has Mary barging on an art class to talk to a suspect while a model is posing nude (shot with Scenery Censor and Shoulders-Up Nudity). Being her naturally rude self, Mary begins Eating the Eye Candy and makes some awkward cracks at his supposedly impressive endowedments.
    Mary: What's he make an hour? Or does he charge by the foot?
  • Race for Your Love: Subverted when Mary's drives to the airport to chase after Rafe but ends up missing him thanks to a comedy of errors, such as being stuck in traffic, stopped by trains and getting her dress caught in a door.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Mary gets sent through the wringer, including betrayal, kidnapping, and attempted rape. She keeps it together... until she's safe, secure, and her car won't start. Then the sobbing and breakdown ensue.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Mary's pregnancy. Mary McCormack was pregnant with her third child.
  • Sadistic Choice: Played straight, horribly. The hostages are Mary and Brandi's boyfriend. The baddie is a drug dealer, and offers Brandi the choice of who's gonna die. When she points out that she has the drugs he wants, he barks "wrong answer!" and kills the boyfriend.
  • Saying Too Much: Mary is handling a teenager discovering her mom has been in Witness Protection for her entire life. Mary meets the woman's husband, who also knows, and they share the story of their first meeting with loads of details on the weather, what each wore, etc. Something seems off to Mary so she asks Marshall how he met his girlfriend and he gives a short, simple answer. They both realize the entire story seemed way too rehearsed and soon find the husband was actually the woman's criminal partner who's been on the run for years. Mary notes the irony that the duo trying to go overboard on details just gave away their secret.
  • The Scapegoat: * Happened in one episode where a teenage girl witnessed a gang crime and her entire family had to go into hiding. She was essentially shunned by her own father for having gone to the forbidden part of town in the first place. Come The Reveal, and the parents learn that she only went there to collect her younger sister, who was in trouble, and that both girls witnessed the crime. The older sister ordered the younger to keep quiet because "that way Daddy will only hate one of us."
  • Sex with the Ex: Mary and her ex-husband Mark have a no strings attached one night stand in season 4. He's impressed she kept him up for six hours, but she tells that was her being tired.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: One episode has Mary's latest witness being a con artist who turned on her partners. The story opens with her pulling a scam of cleaning up a house and showing it off to a couple, getting a hefty "down payment" for it. The couple are moving in when the police show up to inform them that the house had been foreclosed on and was never on the market.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Zigzagged in one episode. Mary, and another cop are trapped in a burning building. The second cop wants to shoot the lock, but Mary informs him that it won't work; the shrapnel would just bounce back. She tries to find the key for the door on the huge bunch of janitor's keys she used to get into the building, gets impatient, and shoots the lock. No shrapnel, but the dents damage the lock enough for them to get outside. She's surprised that it actually works.
  • Shout-Out: A character mentions Glee in the same episode as the actress who plays a recurring character (Finn's mum) on that show.
  • Shower of Angst: After her abduction ordeal in "Stan by Me", the next episode opens with Mary in a fetal position while soaking in the bathtub.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Frequently. At one point, Mary advises a witness to get into a bathroom and into the tub to avoid gunfire. This was actually done by residents of certain parts of LA during the 80s.
    • Also see There Are No Therapists below.
  • The Smart Guy: Marshall seems to know everything, including origami, mambo, and virtually every book every written. A case once turns on his ability to differentiate between various kinds of wood.
  • Starting a New Life: The premise of the show is that the people entering Witness Protection have to leave their old lives behind and make a new life for themselves under a new identity. Some embrace the opportunity and thrive but others cannot adjust and try to reach back to their old life thus causing serious problems for the US Marshals tasked with protecting them.
  • Surprise Car Crash: Marshal got into one of these during their final season. Surprisingly he came out mostly unscathed.
  • Superficial Suggestion Box: In the special features, Mary and Marshall use the suggestion box for dueling suggestions, driving Stan crazy to the point he actually puts suggestions in his own box.
  • Taking the Bullet: Mary's dad James is shot by a business partner after diving in front of Mary, to protect her from being shot and he dies from his wounds.
  • The Teaser: Shows how this week's WitSec client came to join WitSec - committed/witnessed a crime, made a deal, etc.
  • There Are No Therapists:
    • Averted in the season 2 opening episode, where Mary is both on administrative leave and clearly suffering from PTSD symptoms, including skirting the edge of a Heroic BSoD. Marshall is remarkably knowledgeable about it.
    • The second episode of S2 involves a therapist being sent in to evaluate Mary. Mary herself is still suffering from residual PTSD. And that same therapist (Dr. Finkel) comes back in subsequent seasons to help Marshall and several witnesses deal with emotional problems.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Brandi. An ad for season 3 also pointed out that no one in WitSec who's followed the rules has ever been killed.
  • Trash the Set: After the house is torn apart by drug-seeking FBI agents in the S1 finale, it spends S2 messed up before it's fixed between the finale and Season 3 premiere.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Alcoholic Parent Jinx has Brandi pretend to be her and attend AA in her place, which is how Brandi ends up meeting her current boyfriend.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Bobby D. (the D stands for Dershowitz) from In Plain Sight is black and Jewish.
  • Verbal Judo: Delia pulls off one of these brilliantly when a Neo-Nazi potential witness tries to pick a fight with her.
    Delia: You don't have to sign a thing. You can rant, and spew your hate, take a swing at me for all I care. I'd like that, actually. I'd like to see this entire office pin your cheek to the cold, hard floor and before you can get up from under my shoe, your deal's blown, and you're locked up where no one can protect your sorry ass. [steps closer] So, please, Ms. Owens, I'm begging you: don't sign.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal:
    • Marshall proposes to Abigail by attaching a ring to her target when they go to the shooting range for their one-year anniversary. But then, Abigail is a police detective and it was her favorite range.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In the season 2 finale, Marshall realizes the reason the witness moved to a dangerous Latin 'hood, nearly getting Mary killed, was because she didn't want her future biographers to find out she stayed in a cushy American mansion while her people launched a revolution.
    • It goes the other way, too. The same witness thinks that Mary wouldn't have gotten shot if her hostile (and in the witness' opionion, biased) behavior hadn't raised tensions to begin with.
  • White Sheep: Mary is a U.S. Marshal despite having a bigamist father with a serious gambling problem who has been a fugitive for decades, a lifelong alcoholic mother (now recovering) and a sister who trafficked drugs for her boyfriend, in Mary's house. Slightly subverted in that Mary is hardly a saint herself, and we are meant to sympathize with Brandi and Jinx despite their largely self-inflicted problems.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Mary and Marshall, in a remarkably subtle version of this; Raphael and Brandi in particular.
  • Witless Protection Program: Zigzagged, many times the protection's secrecy breaks because of the witnesses being Too Dumb to Live (or something else happens, like a recording where one appears becoming a YouTube sensation), and sometimes because of inner leaks or because the bad guys are that much of an example of the Implacable Man.
  • Witness Protection: The show is about two U.S. Marshal involved in this program and the various plights of their charges.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl Subverted amusingly by Marshall.
    Mary: [pleading to be let out of an assignment involving an 8-year-old witness] Stan, I suck with kids.
    Marshall: So? You suck with grown-ups, too.
    [Mary punches Marshall; Marshall punches Mary back]
    Mary: I can't believe you'd hit a girl!
    Marshall: You're no girl.