The murder of the Gambler is still unsolved, and there are a lot of pieces that aren’t adding up. Stargirl and her new JSA are doing their best, but none of them are trained, or even mentored by, actual investigators, and that lack is showing. This team is notably lacking a Batman type. They try and get somewhere with the case, with developments from last episode, and in a few different relationships in “Frenemies: Chapter Four: The Evidence.”
Cameron has been an interesting background character, and he gets some time front and center as the episode opens. In what I believe is his father’s study, the young man looks over a distinctive collection and had another episode with his developing powers. His ever-creepy grandparents show up and offer… well, it’s not exactly love, guidance, or support, but I suppose it’s something. They do talk a bit about their family and the origins of the power they have. At home, Courtney gets roused out of a sound sleep (apparently in her clothes on top of her blankets) by the Cosmic Staff, which not only yanks her out of bed, but out the window as well. The staff brings her to the infamous trailer park, where she finds more wreckage and the badly beaten Sylvester Pemberton, who we saw attacked last episode.
In the hospital, which we’ve really seen a lot of throughout this series, Sylvester remains unconscious while Courtney and Pat worry. Dr. Bridget Chapel, Beth’s mother, is trying to be an ally, and her enthusiasm is clear, although she’s also very obviously inexperienced at this kind of thing. Pat and Courtney gently offer suggestions for the next time something like this happens. The two heroes try and figure out what Sylvester was up to, and Pat is able to offer at least a bit of insight. Rick Tyler, this show’s Hourman, lived with an alternately abusive or neglectful relative, and he’s still not in the top few worst homelife situations. Yolanda is near the top of that list, and she and Rick talk on the phone about recent events before Yolanda’s mother comes in. Yolanda reflexively lies, which I don’t blame her for, as her mother showers bad news and baseless accusations. Things are not going well for the Montez family. After mom leaves, Yolanda pulls out her Wildcat costume and looks upset. As a tip, I’d say hiding your costume under your bed when you have a suspicious parent who doesn’t trust you isn’t a great idea.
Courtney is sitting by Sylvester’s bedside when he finally wakes up. It’s interesting watching their dynamic since I don’t believe they ever actually met in the comics. There was a two year overlap between her first appearance and his death, but they were literally in different places (Blue Valley, Nebraska and Los Angeles, California) for the majority of that time. At any rate, Sylvester can’t shed a lot of light on his attacker, and is having trouble accepting he got ambushed and beaten so easily. Pat, showing the common sense that helps him be such a good mentor, has called for some specialist help, and Dr. McNider, the original Dr. Midnight, returns for a special consultation. Once again we see that someone with a lot of monitors and spare time is closely observing the heroes of Blue Valley.
As McNider examines Sylvester, we see the two old friends and teammates catch up. There’s finally at least a theory about how Sylvester came back from the dead, and it makes some degree of sense, as well as hinting at some possible interesting developments down the road for Courtney. In the DC Comics, Dr. Midnight III seems to be the world’s leading expert on superhuman physiology. That character doesn’t exist here, so we’re relying on the original, who I guess did some impressive catching up during his years lost in the Shadowlands. I also haven’t forgotten the weirdness with McNider’s birth certificate. They went out of their way to show us, so I still want to know how he should be around 100 but definitely doesn’t look or act it. The good doctor asks Sylvester what should be a fairly easy question, and the long pause is very telling. The new JSA visits the now double crime scene. Dr. Midnight’s goggles find them a clue that’s puzzling, Shiv offers some unique insight, and Wildcat continues her crappy attitude she’s had most of the season. I get it, I do, but she needs to either accept things have changed or move on from the team.
At their big house (there seem to be a lot of those in Blue Valley), the Grandparents Mahkent continue their disturbing version of “caring” for Cameron. The kindly grandparent myth is nowhere in evidence here. Pat helps Sylvester back to his basement, and Sylvester wonders about his future. Pat does his best to talk his former partner out of his current funk. Over at the Pit Stop, which I guess is the closest this JSA has to a headquarters, the Doctors Midnight go over what Beth found and come up with a disturbing lead for who the suspect might be. It doesn’t fit what I know of this character, but they are enjoying changing up a few things, so who knows?
Between classes at school, most of the JSA compares notes about what they know of the new suspect. Yolanda is quick to keep playing her one note, but Courtney offers some insight against that idea. They wonder about the absence of one of the team, and we see this person is having a really bad day. Mike and Jakeem keep trying to shove themselves into the current cast. Mike’s reasoning is actually sound, although I don’t know how he knows what he does. The two are once again reduced to comic relief courtesy of the wildly unpredictable Thunderbolt.
Barbara Whitmore seems to be one of the only normally employed people in the cast, and she pitches her new project at work. Tim, her manager and former tormentor, has suddenly changed his tune, leaving her puzzled and the audience amused. Back in her office, Barbara gets a visitor and a present. I really wish those two would get more screen time together; they’re a great pairing. Sylvester and Pat are doing some weird male bonding over a classic Western when Larry Crock, gone from supervillain to wacky neighbor, drops by with a peace offering and a claim of innocence regarding the attack on Sylvester. Larry is refreshingly honest about some of his past, and the three of them start on the road to a weird kind of acceptance with each other.
The school day isn’t quite over, and Courtney makes another attempt to touch base with Cameron (there really are too many “C” characters on this show). He tries to brush her off again, but she follows him into the art studio. Cam surprises her with what he’s up to, and then even more so when his powers flare out of control. Cameron is in too much shock when it happens to notice how mostly unphased she is. Cam talks about his family legacy, leaving Courtney uncomfortable on several levels. Sylvester and Pat take a break on the porch from the movies and talk about old times. Sylvester is uncharacteristically introspective, and the talk ranges over the old days. It’s also the first reference to Ted Knight, DC Comics’ original Starman and inventor of the Cosmic Rod/Staff. In the comics, Ted eventually gave his technology to Sylvester, and that seems to be the case here, too. Pat gives Sylvester a present that clearly touches the hero.
While Courtney and Cam go for a walk, Sylvester regards the newest addition to his wardrobe. His contemplation gets interrupted when Rick and Yolanda show up, update him on recent events, and ask for some help since Courtney isn’t answering her phone. I get she’s really interested in Cam, but if you lead a hero team and they’re in the middle of a murder investigation, maybe turning your phone off isn’t the best idea?
Things gain momentum as we get to the end of the episode. Courtney offers Cameron some suggestions about how to deal with his newest changes, and she really does seem to have absorbed some wisdom from Pat. Cameron creates a romantic little effect by way of experimenting with her advice, and their much delayed first kiss finally happens. But it’s not all good news, as we someone going through some unwelcome and apparently painful changes elsewhere.
What I Liked: Overall, I thought this was one of their better episodes. Calling in McNider made perfect sense, and I liked his perspective and insight. Dr. Chapel accidentally making things worse was a believable touch, and gave Pat and Courtney someone else to teach. Larry, who is usually irksome, actually had a great exchange with Pat and Sylvester, and I like how they handled it. The developments with Courtney and Cameron were good. Cameron’s grandparents were freaky, but at least they’re trying to do something. Shiv’s uncomfortable honesty during the reexamination of the crime scene was nicely done. I was really happy to hear the reference to Ted Knight. Barbara and Paula together are pure gold and need to get used more.
What I Didn’t: Yolanda’s mother is pretty thoroughly unlikable. I get a sense of relief every time she stops talking and/or walks off screen. I was really enjoying Shade, and hope he comes back. I understand Yolanda’s animosity towards Cindy, but she’s just coming across as annoying.
This was one of the better episodes of the series, which makes the recently announced cancellation all the more annoying and disappointing. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5. I guess we’ll see what’s left in store for the new JSA before their time runs out.