Follow TV Tropes


Series / Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

Go To
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2002-2005) was a police drama very loosely based on the real-life story of Sue Thomas, a deaf investigative analyst working at Washington, D.C. It aired on the ill-fated PAX network and was cancelled in 2005, when the network decided to cancel all original series due to budget problems. Despite this, it was one of the network's highest-rated shows. The final episode ended with "The End... for now," and there have been sporadic rumors of a continuation movie.note 

The entire series is available on DVD.

Provides examples of:

  • Anchored Ship: Jack and Sue, since they can't get together without at least one of them quitting their job at the FBI.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: In "Silent Night," when Sue isn't getting along with her mother, Lucy tells Mrs. Thomas a story about a childhood friend who grew up and stopped talking to her mother, eventually revealing that she was talking about herself.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    • In one episode, Jack sees Sue make the sign for "down" to Levi, who pushes the "down" button for the elevator. He asks if that was the sign for "down"; she replies, "No, it was the sign for Accounting. Levi knows that Accounting is two floors down."
    • In "Did She Or Didn't She?", when the agents' car breaks down on the side of the road:
      Passing Motorist: You fellas having car trouble, are ya?
      Myles: No, we're holding a roadside tutorial on engine repair.
  • Advertisement:
  • Awesome Aussie: Played with Bobby, who has the accent and a tough attitude. Looking over a crime scene in the field, Bobby makes a big deal acting like he can literally smell clues from the dirt, talking about his experiences in "the bush." At which point, Jack laughs that "the closest he's gotten to the Outback is the steakhouse chain," as Bobby grew up in the city and often plays up the Australian stuff mainly to woo women.
  • Bad Boss: In "Mind Games," the team get a supervisor who's not even 30. He seems okay at first, talking of his experience with a SWAT team and big busts. Then he subjects the team to a ridiculous color-coded system to "prioritize" cases. They also lean he was nothing but a paper pusher for his past units as he arrogantly throws his weight around, even threatening to fire Darius for marring a case. The team trick him into confessing he doesn't care about cases, just making his name to rise up on tape. After he resigns as supervisor, they make sure he gets into a proper position...working for arrogant office manager Randy who soon drives the punk crazy with his own bizarre system and attitude.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: As Sue can read lips, it leads her to uncover quite a few secrets.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A few times, some seemingly innocent person turns out to be far more dangerous.
    • The team search for a missing waitress with Tara convinced the girl was trying to get her help. When they find she was tied in to a counterfeiting ring, Tara is more convinced she wanted out and was murdered. When they find her alive, Tara realizes the "victim" was behind this entire plot, to get a big payday and using Tara as part of the setup.
  • Black-and-White Morality: A pretty consistent theme in the series.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Happens several times in-universe with characters mistaking similar ASL signs in translation, such as "sausage" for "shoe." Or the time Randy asked his Deaf date if she wanted to make out.note 
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: In one episode, the characters play football. The other team hides their mouths during huddles so Sue cannot read their lips. On the final play, they let her see their lips, but call a fake play. She doesn't fall for the bluff.
  • Bluff the Imposter: When Jack goes undercover as a former Marine turned explosives expert, one of the mobster presses him on his experience working for a "legendary" bomb expert at a base. Jack has done his homework to reply he's never heard of that guy but quoting the real expert on the base. The mobster accepts it.
  • Bothering by the Book: In "The Holocaust Survivor," Obstructive Bureaucrat Randy denies Myles' expense reimbursement for a rental car. The group decides to get back at him by drowning him in expense vouchers for cheap, mundane things that they bought out of pocket, each on a separate form.
    Sue: I used three sheets of a yellow pad at home last night for FBI business. That should be three vouchers.
  • Break-In Threat: In "Bad Hair Day," Tara shoots and kills a criminal and his brother tries to get revenge. He leaves a note in her car (which is locked and in a secure garage) saying he can get to her whenever he wants.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: in "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", a hunter steals a briefcase of money from a drug trafficker's crashed airplane.
  • Broken Pedestal: Bobby and Jack are happy when their mentor, Wes, who helped them become top agents and a legend in the FBI, aids on a case of stolen uranium. When Wes appears to have been killed, the two men are intent on tracking the terrorist group down. But evidence comes up that Wes faked his death. They track him down to the meeting spot where Wes shocks them by revealing he can't keep up with a bad desk job and wants them to look the other way while he takes the money from the deal and vanishes. Wes does end up taking a bullet meant for Bobby and dying. Bobby and Jack put out the story that Wes was running a secret investigation so he's remembered as a hero. While the rest of the team obviously suspects the truth, they don't press it as they know how hard it is for Jack and Bobby to accept their mentor going bad.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Used often. Saves Myles and Jack's lives on separate occasions.
  • Butt-Monkey: Myles, more often than not. Whether it's Levi peeing on his leg right before a meeting with the President, or just a jammed filing cabinet, he's on the receiving end.
    • The rest of the team also regularly plays practical jokes on him, which sometimes go too far. For example, in a Season 1 episode, they set up an elaborate joke where Myles is supposedly made the new media liaison — and even get the Unit Chief in on it. Then in a later episode, "The Girl Who Signed Wolf," Myles assumes that the author who wants to interview him is another practical joke and tells her off. The Unit Chief berates Myles for poorly representing the FBI and acts like he has no idea why Myles would think it was a joke.
    • In one episode, Myles is told he has very high cholesterol and put on a strict diet. He tries to fight it by eating garlic-laced foods and breaks out in a rash. At the end of the episode, Myles reveals the doctor made a mistake and it's Bobby who has the very high cholesterol. Myles naturally taunts Bobby with the same jokes Bobby has been laying on him all episode.
  • Canine Companion: Levi, Sue's faithful dog. She's rarely without him.
  • Celebrity Paradox: See Real Person Cameo below.
  • Censor Suds: This being a PAX series, Sue takes a bath completely covered in a mountain of suds.
  • Character Tic: Discussed in one episode of Myles pointing out the various tics of co-workers: Sue clicks her pen, Lucy crumples an empty water bottle, Jack unwinds paper clips, etc. Myles himself insists he doesn't have any but Tara proves he dipping one end of Myles' pen in ink so his face is soon covered by blotches from his habit of tapping it on his chin or forehead.
  • The Charmer: Bobby Manning. It helps that he has an Australian accent.
    • Lampshaded by himself in "Silent Night": "It's the accent. Gets 'em every time."
  • Christmas Episode: "Silent Night" in Season 1.
  • Cold Sniper: Jack Hudson, and the serial killer in "The Sniper".
  • Courtroom Antics: In the pilot, Sue testifies in court about a conversation held in a surveillance video with no sound. The defense attorney calls her accuracy into question, then approaches the bench and tells the judge that Sue could be making things up and is unreliable. Sue, reading his lips, shouts out "I object!" from the witness chair.
  • Darker and Edgier: The third season qualifies, as there is noticeably more tension in the cases and at least one dead body displayed, albeit only strangled. There weren't bodies previously (referring to crime victims; dead criminals had been displayed in the past such as in "Bad Hair Day").
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "A Blast from the Past" for D.
    • "Bad Hair Day" for Tara.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Myles, although everyone gets their moments of snark at least once an episode.
    "Didn't we all just take a Ha-Ha Pill!"
  • Deaf Composer: In "Silent Night," Sue sings Christmas carols. She jokes that she can tell when she hits the wrong notes by the faces other people make. In her autobiography, the real Sue Thomas describes learning to play piano by memorizing the keys and learning to sing by feeling the vibrations of her mother's voice box.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Discussed in "Bad Hair Day," regarding a criminal who goes by the name "Crazy Loco":
    Lucy: Doesn't "loco" mean "crazy"? So he's "Crazy Crazy"?
    Jack: He's got a real commitment to being crazy.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Sue, after her awkward attempts at hospitality in the pilot when Jack shows up in the middle of her bath and she answers the door in a robe.
    Sue: (closes door; to Levi) Please tell me I didn't just offer him a cookie to go.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In "Cold Case," the men compete for who can get the highest bid at a charity bachelor auction. Myles drives up his bids by promising a date on the Italian Riviera, then panics when the others point out how expensive that would be. He ends up buying himself to avoid the trip, and his credit card is declined.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: In "Diplomatic Immunity," a crooked Sudanese diplomat uses his status to hide his role in slave trafficking. Diplomatic immunity even goes so far as to protect him from legal consequences when three FBI agents (among other people on the street) see him beating a woman in broad daylight and Bobby pulls him off the woman. The diplomat gets away with it, and the State Department makes Bobby apologize for the "misunderstanding."
    • In the end, the team proves the man is involved in a slavery ring and the Sudanese government cuts ties with the man at once so they can arrest him.
  • Disability Superpower: Sue's deafness led her to learn lip-reading, which comes in handy when the FBI needs to eavesdrop on suspects from afar.
  • Double Entendre: In "Cold Case," when Myles makes a video for a charity bachelor auction, he ends with: "Followed by... dessert, the choice of which I'll leave up to you."
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title of the Season 1 Christmas Episode, "Silent Night," is an obvious reference to the Christmas carol. It's also the title of the real Sue Thomas' autobiography.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Lucy and Myles dating in the pilot. Doesn't make sense with their later character developments. Doesn't make sense considering the rules of office relationships that keep Jack and Sue apart for the whole series. Not mentioned again until the series finale.
    • Although not explicitly so, it's actually referenced when Lucy transfers to the Personnel department a few episodes later and Myles' last ditch effort to convince her to transfer back turns into a sincere apology.
    • And it's also slightly implied that the way the characters interact throughout the rest of the series is partly due to how their dating relationship ended.
  • Elvis Impersonator: Bobby goes undercover as one in "Elvis is In the Building."
  • Enhance Button: Used frequently to help Sue read lips from grainy surveillance footage.
    • Invoked when Bobby and Jack convince a suspect that they can digitally remove his mask in surveillance photos (see Stupid Crooks below).
    • There's a particularly egregious example in "The Leak," when Tara tries to find clues about a terrorist's location based on a video he sent a news station. She enhances a barely visible spot of color behind a white curtain and comes up with a brightly-colored, easily readable neon sign for a diner.
    • And another in "The Mentor" when she finds a clear reflection in the pupil of a man in a photograph.
    • Another in "Spy Games" when Tara enhances and rotates images of suspects' heads to identify them from their ears.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out:
    • Jack and Sue in "The Kiss," for which the others tease them mercilessly.
    • Tara and a witness she's protecting in "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
  • Five-Man Band:
  • For the Evulz: In "The Sniper," when Jack asks the sniper why he shoots people, the sniper replies, "Because I can."
  • Freudian Slip: In "The Kiss":
    Sue: I'd better get home... see how Levi and Lucy are kissing along... getting along!
  • Friendly Sniper: Jack (first shown in the episode titled "The Sniper").
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Used frequently, often with Jack and/or Bobby playing the bad cop and Sue playing the good cop. Lampshaded by Troy in "The Signing":
    Troy: (signing) We both know this is the part where you come in without the other guy and be nice to me so I'll soften up and change my mind. It won't work.
  • I Minored in Tropology: When Jack starts getting neck pains before his heart attack, Lucy reveals that Sue minored in kinesthesiology and can help with a massage. Basically just provides an excuse to ramp up the UST.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "You need it, Howie Fines it."
  • It Gets Easier: toyed with but ultimately averted in "Bad Hair Day" when Tara deals with the aftermath of killing someone for the first time, initially feeling no remorse and fearing she has become a heartless FBI agent, but this later changes (though it's amazing that someone clearly suffering post-traumatic stress in such a situation isn't offered counseling).
  • Justified Criminal: In "Missing," a man steals money to pay for his son's operation. He's completely okay with going to jail because his son will now recover. However, Jack and Sue find him so sympathetic that they work to get the charges dropped.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Averted when a semi-trained sniper killer was identified by a black left eye. They were able to figure out that he was only an amateur copycat (and not the expert killer they were tracking) as he put his face too close to the scope and got smacked in the eye by the recoil, a mistake that real snipers would never make.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: In the second episode, Sue thinks she's messed up the case against a bomber. She and friend Charlie see the suspect on the street and Sue follows him. When they separate, Charlie is found by FBI agents as it turns out the team was following the guy this whole time. When Myles snaps that Sue is going to ruin the bust, Charlie rightly points out that if they'd bothered to let her know they were following her lead on the guy, she wouldn't be in this mess.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Levi, Sue's hearing ear dog.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: More than once, what seems like a small-time offense leads the team to a much bigger crime.
    • A missing waitress leads to a dangerous Triad.
    • A routine traffic stop unveils a terrorist bombing plot.
    • A man with amnesia leads to a complex spy ring.
  • Mixed Metaphor: In "Billy the Kid," Jack says that if the criminal they're interrogating knew anything, "he'd be squealing like a canary." Sue gets annoyed because lip reading involves filling in gaps based on the context of the words, and mixed metaphors are confusing to pick up.
  • Motive Decay: Sue's FBI team started as a group dealing with surveillance. Their specialty quickly widened to everything from anti-terrorism and homicide to business fraud.
  • Motive Misidentification:
    • One episode has the team tracking a group of men from Chechnya who have gotten fake passports and assuming it's for some terrorist attack. It turns out the group is a black market organ stealing ring.
    • When a Senator's son dies at a party, the team at first thinks it's a frat prank gone wrong. When they find the boy was murdered, they suspect a classmate did it for money from a millionaire businessman angry the Senator ruined a big deal of his. The real motive? The classmate is the recently radicalized son of a known terrorist who killed the boy just so he could set off a bomb at the funeral to take out the youth's father and several other senators.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Randy, who frequently berates the team about overusing post-it notes and paper clips.
    Lucy: "You budget stickies?"
    Randy: "We budget everything."
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: From "The Kiss" -
    Janice: "What are you, blind?"
    Sue: "No, but I am deaf." [Janice thinks Sue is joking and laughs] "I really am. Deaf."
    Janice: "....Oh, I am so sorry."
  • The Plague: In "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," terrorists plan to attack large gatherings by spraying weaponized bubonic plague from ultralight planes, which would cause a major pandemic.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Frequently used to show the scene from Sue's perspective (i.e., with no sound).
    • Also for Levi in "Rocket Man" as he sneaks up on Myles and steals his scone.
  • Previously on…: For the second half of the two-part episodes, including an excessively long one (over two minutes) for "Breaking Up is Hard to Do."
  • Product Placement:
    • An extended dialogue at the beginning of "The Fugitive" boils down to "aren't Snapple facts awesome?"
    • Krispy Kreme donuts, in "Into Thin Air."
    • The Purpose Driven Life, a Christian self-help book which was very popular around that time, is plugged at the beginning of "Bad Girls."
  • Profiling: In "Silent Night," serial bank robbers disguise themselves in Santa suits. The FBI apprehends a guy dressed as Santa near the scene of the crime, but he turns out to be just a department store Santa — and then a Strawman Political reporter accuses them of profiling for targeting men in Santa suits.
    • Plays into the plot in several other episodes with regards to Muslim terrorists.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In "Elvis is In the Building," Bobby auditions for a job as an Elvis impersonator as part of an undercover operation. He sings the public domain hymn "Battle Hymn of the Republic"; although Elvis did sing it, it's not exactly the type of song you'd expect to hear at a nightclub.
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • The show's title itself: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, because she reads lips instead of hearing.
    • A few episode titles, including "False Profit" (about a money-hungry cult leader) and "Troy Story" (about the character Troy).
  • Public Secret Message: Used by terrorists in the episode "The Lawyer." A terrorist in jail sends a message to his organization to change their plans for an attack by having his lawyer read a statement on the news about how sad he is to miss his nephew's birthday party. The FBI team brings in a special expert on these types of hidden-in-plain-sight messages to help decode the communications.
  • Put on a Bus: Darcy D'Angelo moved to Los Angelos in Season 3.
  • Reading Lips: Sue's ability. It's worth noting that lip reading in real life is much harder than Sue makes it seem on the show. In Silent Night, the real Sue Thomas describes having to go over a surveillance video multiple times, pausing and rewinding, in order to get a full transcript. Sue in the series, presumably for the sake of speeding up the story, is usually able to get all or most of what is being said on the first attempt. (Note: this only refers to Sue's ability to read lips on video recordings and at distance; most hearing impaired people - such as the actress - who read lips can do so quite efficiently in face-to-face conversation.)
  • Real After All: In "The Girl Who Signed Wolf," Myles is approached by an author for a big piece. Myles assumes this is one of the gang's practical jokes and ruins the interview by berating the author as an idiot who has no idea how an FBI agent works. Cue Myles dragged before his supervisor who chews him out for making the FBI look bad to a very real author.
  • Real Person Cameo: The first and third season finales featured the real-life Sue Thomas as an actress named Deanne. (Sue Thomas in the series is played by the actress Deanne Bray.)
  • Reflective Eyes: In "The Mentor," reflective eyes in a photograph provide a needed clue to solve a case (see Enhance Button above).
  • Road Trip Plot: Bobby and Myles' trip to Arizona with Howie and Otis in "Did She or Didn't She?" becomes this thanks to Howie's fear of flying.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: A variation in "Skin Deep" as the team arrest a rich heiress who finances an eco-terrorist group. The woman smugly says she'll be happy being a "martyr to the cause" and that the only people hurt by the group are greedy developers. The team bring in the man she's been talking to online, Joel, who when he was 11, was caught in a fire set by a member of this very same group. Not only was his mother killed trying to help him escape but Joel was horrifically burned over most of his body to the point he barely looks human. Seeing first-hand the effects of such actions is enough for the girl to give up her partners.
  • Serious Business: The inter-office football game in "Greed."
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Myles' many rants tend to turn into this. Randy is also a repeat offender.
  • Setting Update: The real Sue Thomas' tenure at the FBI spanned the late 1970s into the early 1980s. The series version is set in The Present Day.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In "Elvis is In the Building," as they discuss infiltrating a Chinese gang:
    Myles: The reason Chinese gangs are called Chinese gangs is that all the members of the gangs... tend to be Chinese.
    Lucy: How do you do it, Myles? Always so insightful.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Jack and Sue: Lucy throughout the series from the very beginning, then Myles, of all people, in the series finale.
    Myles: Who needs to talk about it? We work in the same room with them. If you all haven't picked up on their obvious chemistry — well, I suspect a career change might be in order.
  • Ship Tease: Tara and Bobby, who go on a date in "Troy Story" while Bobby is on the rebound from Darcy. It actually ended up being an extremely popular ship with the fandom.
  • Spanner in the Works: Jack suffers a heart attack during an undercover operation.
  • Spice Rack Panacea: Myles gets into this on a few occasions. In "Boy Meets World," he starts taking mountains of herbal supplements on a needlessly anal, timed daily regimen. In an earlier episode, he tries to lower his cholesterol by eating raw garlic cloves, much to the discomfort of the rest of the office.
  • Stupid Crooks: In "Assassins," Jack and Bobby tell a crook that they could identify him by digitally removing his ski mask from the surveillance photos. He believes them and confesses.
    • In fact, quite often, the gang get lucky breaks thanks to the sheer stupidity of the crooks they meet.
    Bobby: In our line of work, we very rarely run into Nobel prize winners.
    Myles: The best thing about these kinds of idiots is...they're idiots.
  • Sucks at Dancing: When Lucy asks why Tara isn't joining their flag football team, Myles points out Tara's "athletic" experience:
    Myles: The only woman in the history of ballet who broke not only her own ankle but those of three other people with one fateful pirouette?
  • Tag-Along Actor: In the two-parter "The Actor" and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," the movie star Adam Kinsey shadows FBI agents as they investigate a possible terrorist threat. He constantly questions their actions, and the one time they agree to his request (cuffing a suspect's hands in front rather than behind her back) it ends badly (she is now able to take poison and kill herself). Reinforces the show's usual Aesop about how law enforcement knows best and is doing the right thing, even if their reasoning is not readily apparent to an outsider.
  • Theme Naming: Used in-universe when they need aliases to refer to unidentified suspects they're tracking down. For example, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria or Bachelor #1, Bachelor #2, and Bachelor #3.
  • Third-Person Person: Howie often refers to himself in the third person.
  • Title Theme Drop: At the end of the pilot.
  • Tonight, Someone Kisses: Based on the trailer for "The Kiss," you'd think that was the most important thing in the episode.
    • Never Trust a Trailer: And although there was an actual kiss in the episode, it was nothing like it was played up to be; the dramatic shot shown of Jack and Sue going in for the kiss was actually a reversed shot of when they pull away from each other.
  • Translation Convention: An odd case involving sign language: many conversations with other Deaf people where it would make more sense for Sue to sign without speakingnote  begin with everyone communicating in subtitled ASL, then switch after a few lines to Sue speaking while signing for the benefit of the audience.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Invoked in "Homeland Security" when Myles proudly shows off an expensive abstract painting he bought and everyone else mocks it for being worthless scribbles/not being literal.
  • Twofer Token Minority: The title character's a deaf woman in an otherwise entirely hearing main cast. Deaf guest stars do occur though.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Most episodes feature two concurrent plotlines, one an FBI investigation and the other following the characters' personal drama.
  • UST: Between Jack and Sue. A few episodes plays with this: in "The Newlywed Game" the pair goes undercover as a married couple, and in "The Kiss," Jack fakes having an affair with Sue to maintain their cover at a law office they infiltrated. Never resolved.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Only the case presented in the pilot was based on a true event; the rest was completely fictional.
    • Admittedly "The Sniper" was loosely inspired by the Real Life Beltway Sniper case; although the snipers' skin color was changed.
    • Sue's retelling of her childhood in the first episode is very close to the real Sue Thomas' life, and some aspects of her character, such as her religious faith, are based on the real Sue Thomas. However, the other characters on the show and how her time at the FBI plays out are entirely fictional. In fact, the real Sue Thomas spent much of her tenure at the FBI working as a tour guide because there wasn't enough lip-reading surveillance work to keep her employed full-time in that role.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Tara (resident computer expert), Lucy (base coordinator).
  • Vomiting Cop: In "The Actor," movie star Adam Kinsey, who is shadowing the team, insists on seeing a dead body at the crime scene so he understands what his character would experience. He ends up running out and vomiting while Jack and Bobby quietly make fun of him. Sue later tries to reassure him that it happens to a lot of agents, but only manages to convince him that he'll get nightmares about the experience.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Sue's boyfriend David from Season 2. She's single in Season 3, so presumably they broke up off-screen.
    • Averted with Arif Dessa, as he was brought back in Season 3.