Fear Itself – Family Man (06/19/08)

Dennis Mahoney (played by the unfortunately-named Colin Ferguson) is attending a perfect church in his perfect suit with his perfect wife Kathy and 2.0 perfect young children.  They are quite the active members, knowing the 2nd verse to Amazing Grace, cooking for the upcoming church pancake breakfast.  Daughter Courtney blurts out that the secret ingredient is ice cream.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess vanilla.

They go back home to their perfect McMansion and dad agrees to play a little catch with son Sean.  First though, he must crunch a few numbers at the office.  On the way, Kathy calls his cell and asks him to pick up some milk   Sadly, she did not also ask him to look to the right, where he would have seen a pickup truck ready to T-Bone him.

He awakens in the hospital, but discovers that his family can’t see or hear him.  He is joined by Richard Brautigan (no, not that one).  Brautigan is a serial killer a/k/a “The Family Man”.  He takes Mahoney on a tour through the hospital whose staff now seems to be frozen in place.  Brautigan shows him his own body where he is dying from gunshot wounds, then shows Mahoney his body which was in the auto accident. Strangely, Brautigan seems to know what is going on and is unphased by it.

fifamilyman3Mahoney does regain consciousness, but that’s all he regains — he awakens in Brautigan’s body.  Of course, he tries to tell this to his court-appointed attorney and comes off looking crazy; even for a serial killer.  Holy crap, the attorney says Brautigan is wanted for 26 murders and 19 kidnappings.  Mahoney protests that he is just a banker, probably expecting a bailout or a bonus for his body’s reign of terror.

To his credit, his attorney says spiritual transmigration is a crappy defense.  To his debit, he tells Brautigan that the only real evidence the state has is a shoe-print and the testimony of a 3-year old girl.  The rest of the evidence is circumstantial, which is inadmissible in TV-court.  He thinks he might be able to get Brautigan off.  He is a little concerned that Brautigan’s juvenile shenanigans might be used by the  state — you know, murdering one’s own entire family can really be blown out of proportion.

His jailers aren’t so impressed; they rough him up and toss him back in his cell.  He is brought out when he has a visitor.  When he sits down, it is like looking in a mirror (except the image is not reversed) as he sees his face on “Family Man” Brautigan sitting across from him.

Visitor’s Day:  Brautigan tells Mahoney he is sorry the way things worked out, but that it is God’s will. Brautigan considers this his chance at redemption; and at boning Kathy. His attorney returns and tells him that tapes have been found showing him “raping and murdering entire families, one by one.”  I hope that sentence is grammatically incorrect. It might be possible to avoid the death penalty by disclosing where the bodies are buried.

Is it Sunday already?  The family is back in church.  Just as in the Star Trek Mirror Universe [1], it is easier for a civilized man to blend into a savage environment than for a savage to blend in to a civilized setting.  Brautigan is just not used to decent folk.  He loudly belts out Amazing Grace (which must be in the Top-40 of 1779 as they appear to sing it every week).  He is ready to chow down the pancakes rather than helping with them, he snaps at his kids.  Sure, he is being a lout, but strangely his wife doesn’t cut him any slack for just nearly being killed and maybe suffering from some noggin trauma.

Distraught over the loss of his family, Mahoney accepts a deal from the DA to show them where the bodies are in exchange for a life sentence.  While on the field trip to find the bodies in the field, Mahoney overpowers the guards and goes back to his house.  He and Brautigan end up in a struggle and both die again.  Mahoney regains consciousness and this time regains his correct body also.

fifamilyman2Tragically, Kathy and Sean have been killed by Brautigan in Mahoney’s body, but Courtney is still alive.  When the police ask who killed her family, she points at Mahoney, now back in his own body.  It is a nice ending unless you think about it.  A man who has killed 26 people breaks into the house of this nice church-going family.  Not only that, Mahoney has been stabbed in the chest, beaten with a frying pan, thrown through a glass table and strangled. Are the police really going to take the word of a traumatized 9 year-old girl against the likelihood that Brautigan was the killer?

None of that matters, though — it still feels right.  The performances were uniformly excellent.  It was, however, strange that there wasn’t more carryover of mannerisms. We only got to see pre-switch Brautigan in one scene, but that body seemed to retained so of the same tics — head tilted 15 degrees, frequent sneer — even after Mahoney occupied it.

Many people seem to think this was the best episode so far, or maybe even of the season.  I wouldn’t go that far — it is very good, but I still have to award 1st to The Sacrifice.


  • [1] Or maybe it was the one where the transporter splits Kirk into passive Kirk and Yeoman-Rand-sexually-assaulting Kirk.
  • A point is made of showing 2 bloody spiderweb cracks in the pickup’s windshield, but a passenger is never mentioned.  In fact, the driver is never mentioned either. Wouldn’t it have made sense to have Brautigan be the driver, fleeing from police?  At least that would have provided some nexus for the body-switch to have occurred.  As is, it is never addressed.
  • Another Star Trek connection: Clifton Collins Jr. was the Romulan to whom reboot Kirk said, “I got your gun.”

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