Season 1, Episode 9
Episode 9 of 78
Network NBC
Air date March 4, 1994 (USA)
March 12, 1995 (Germany)
Written by Paul De Meo (Teleplay)
Ann Powell, Rose Schacht (Story)
Directed by Danny Bilson
Guest stars: Sam Behrens (Special Guest Star)
Lee Chamberlin
John Pyper-Ferguson
Joyce Hyser
Jimmy Scott (Special appearance)
Episode Guide
Wheels of Fire
Past Tense is the ninth episode of Viper. It first premiered on NBC on March 4, 1994.

Plot Edit

During one stormy night, Joe Astor, Julian Wilkes and Frankie Waters are all at the Viper Lair. Julian is working on the Viper, while Frankie is reading personal ads from a newspaper. Eventually, Frankie and Julian leave, leaving Joe alone at the Lair. Joe then heads upstairs with the newspaper Frankie left him and turns on the radio. As the radio DJ begins playing "Where and When", that a woman has requested every night for the last week, dedicated to Michael, he notices in an ad in the newspaper, with a photo of him from his past life as Michael Payton, with the ad asking: "Do You Have the Other Half of This Photograph?" Joe finds the other half from Payton's wallet, a picture of a woman, and it is a match. He dials the number advertised, only for the number to go into voicemail. The scene ends with Joe staring outside, asking "Who are you?"

The scene then cuts to a dojo, with some karate students leaving. One student then sits on a bench in front of the dojo, where another man in a black coat, Ray Bollo (Pyper-Ferguson) is sitting. The man compliments the student, having seen him as quite sharp in the practice. Just then, a black old car pulls up, and Bollo pulls out a pistol and tranquilizes the boy, before getting into the car with him.

Two days later, Delia Thorne (Chamberlin) is at Julian's house, telling Joe and Julian about the kidnapping, and that 30 similar incidents, going back a decade, have already happened, with the victims all suddenly disappearing, and later reappearing as criminals. The mastermind behind this is Frederick Lang (Behrens), a former Outfit hitman who went independent, and Bollo is one of his recruiters. Joe agrees to help Delia out. After a brief visit to Frankie, asking him to find out information on Bollo, Joe is next seen at the Lair with Julian, looking the newspaper ad, pondering whether to call the woman.

Later, at night, Joe is in the Viper, staking out Bollo as he arrives at a club, taking pictures, and talking to Julian over the car phone. However, just then, he notices Bollo has left, just as Bollo appears behind him, brandishing a gun, and takes the camera, then forcing Joe to walk in front him. However, Joe remotely extracts the Probe, and fires the Probe's laser at Bollo, setting his coat on fire. A scuffle ensues, but Bollo manages to escape.

Later that night, Joe calls the ad again, and gets an answer. The woman asks him to meet her at Belladonna restaurant on Long Street, at 11 o'clock. Joe agrees, and shows up, where Jimmy Scott and the band are playing "Where and When". Just then, a waitress walks past Joe, and Joe asks her to find out who requested this song. The waitress says that she did, and comments that Joe (Michael) looks different, to which Joe says that he has amnesia. The woman says that her name is Claire Malloy (Hyser). Claire tells him that they met in Mexico, when she was on the run from a failed relationship, reveals that Michael had given her his grandmother's ring, and tells him that she's still his wife.

The scene then cuts to Bollo speaking to Lang, who asks him to describe the attacker. Lang then shows Bollo a picture of Joe, and Bollo identifies him. Bollo wants to get revenge on Joe, but Lang forbids him, telling him to stay put.

At the Lair, Joe talks to Julian, who tells him that now with Bollo after Joe, they will need to be more covert - they'll move in with Viper only if they have solid cause, before Joe leaves to find Claire. After he leaves, Julian calls Frankie, asking him to follow Joe around. At the restaurant, Joe learns from another waitress that Claire quit her job this morning, leaving a call saying she wouldn't be back. He convinces her to give him Claire's address. Joe then rides his motorcycle to Claire's house, and rings the bell, before picking the lock, and letting himself in. He meets Claire, and they agree to meet later. Meanwhile, Frankie is watching, and calls Julian. After Joe leaves, he notices a car pulling up with another man behind the wheel, and Claire getting in the car. Back at the Lair, Frankie, having followed the car, but lost them at the ferry docks, tells Julian that there are no records of marriage for Payton or Claire, but he discovered a woman with the same name born in New York with an approximate age, and was in Mexico about 5-6 years ago, but she disappeared; and the house is registered to Kevin Larrabee.

Meanwhile, Bollo shows up at Claire's house and learns Joe's number. At the Lair, Joe gets a call from Bollo, telling him that he has Claire and wants to meet him. So, in the night, Joe arrives in the Viper to meet Bollo, who reveals that he has Claire tied up on the fire escape. As Joe is about to reach for his gun, Bollo shoots him. From the Lair, Julian and Frankie morph the Viper and activate a weapons pod, to which Bollo takes off running. Firing a missile, they are able to stop Bollo in his tracks, but Bollo manages to get away. When Joe comes to, he climbs up the fire escape, only to discover that the woman is not Claire, but the bartender.

Later, as Joe and Julian talk at the Lair, they get a call from Thorne, informing them that MetroPol found Bollo's body a few hours ago outside his apartment, shot twice at close range with a small-caliber pistol, but there were no signs of a struggle. However, footprints were found in the mud near his body, revealing that the killer was a woman. Claire is then seen talking to Lang, who is dismayed that she shot Bollo, and that despite having had enough opportunities, hasn't killed Joe yet. Beginning to suspect she may have flipped, Lang tells her to kill Joe tonight.

Later that night, Frankie arrives at the Lair, telling Julian that he discovered from MetroPol's Outfit Files that Kevin Larrabee is an alias for Frederick Lang, just as Joe has gone to meet Claire, discovering that she has packed, and wants him to come with her to Mexico. However, Joe has figured out that Claire is collaborating with Lang, and she tells him that Lang wants her to kill him, and she is not Claire, but Payton did marry Claire, after she had left Lang. After that, Lang wanted to kill Payton, but had to wait. Lang had then trained her to act like Claire and get close to Payton. Just then, Lang shows up, intending to kill Joe. However, Claire brandishes a compact gun inside her sleeve and shoots Lang before he can kill Joe, but also gets shot herself. She then tells Joe that she just couldn't kill him.

At the Lair, Joe, Julian and Frankie get a call, telling that MetroPol had raided Lang's office, and had discovered a ranch upstate when Lang had trained the abducted children, who after heavy therapy will be reunited with their families. Also, the DNA profile on Claire discovered that her real name was Holly Sheridan, vanished 7 years ago, and is currently at the County lockup hospital, and will pull through.

Meanwhile, in the subplot, Frankie keeps trying to tell Joe to get a pet. First, he suggests Joe get a cat, or a monkey, then suggests him a ferret, and then a Jack Russell Terrier. In the epilogue, Frankie discovers that Joe actually found a stray black kitten in the brush, and is intending to keep it, until it can get used to being around people. However, Frankie doesn't like cats, and runs off when Joe tries to come near him with the kitten. Julian then also goes to do some work, and Joe announces he'll take a ride to the prison to check on Holly. In the last scene, Joe takes the picture of Claire and his grandmother's ring, and puts them in Payton's memory chest.

Trivia Edit

  • The German title for the episode is "Die Frau aus dem Nichts" - "The Woman From Nowhere".
  • During its first airing in Germany in 1995, it aired as seventh, after Episode 12, Crown of Thorns, and preceeding Episode 8, Wheels of Fire.
  • John Pyper-Ferguson would later return in Season 4's opener - The Return.
  • Jimmy Scott appears as himself in the episode, during the scene when Joe first meets Claire at the restaurant. He sings, "Where or When", from Rodgers and Hart's 1937 musical Babes in Arms.
  • The first scene of the episode is also used as the first scene of Season 1 intro.
  • Michael Payton's grandmother was named Olivia Payton.
  • Claire's address is 1201 Ravenscroft.
  • Joe's phone number is 555-8625.

Quotes Edit

Frankie: "Single female, 24, seeks sensitive, emotionally secure man." Okay, so far alright, then, "likes sunsets on the beach, cozy nights before the fire, candlelit dinner for two." What, no balloons in the park?
Julian: Hey, I thought you were going to give us a hand with the transmission.
Frankie: Oh, pardon me for having a life. Who delivered the case of fluid? Lousy family paper, you know, you get more exciting personals in the convent newsletter?
Joe: Frankie, you shop for women like you shop for tires.
Frankie: You gotta sift, Joe.
Joe: Sift?
Frankie: Exactly. Separate the chaff, as it were, from the wheat. Hey, listen, why don't I find a couple of likely prospects and you and I, you know...
Joe: No, no, no, I don't think so.
Frankie: Yeah, well, the female thing can get complicated. Hey, maybe you're better off with a pet? You know, for companionship.
Joe: I don't want a pet.
Frankie: You mean you never pine for the simple love of a dumb animal?
Joe: (whispers) No.
Julian: (chuckles) Thought we had that one covered.
Frankie: Hey, my friend at the pound can get anything, fur is his world. (pause) I'm heading out. The rain gets any worse, I can swap the Cuda for an ark.
Joe: Do me a favor and leave that paper? I could use some word from the outside.
Frankie: Yeah.
Joe: Thanks.
Frankie: Okay, ciao, boys.
Julian: I should be going myself. Joe, this big place ever get... spooky when you're here alone on a night like this?
Joe: No, actually I... kinda like it.

Radio DJ: Well, it's 10 o'clock, the city's dark and the night is young. We're gonna play a request, or should I say, the request. The lady's called in every night for the last week, the song is "Where or When", and it's dedicated... to Michael.

Bollo: You got your first lesson, kid: never let your guard down.

Thorne: He disappeared night before last. No ransom demands, no contact at all. We've traced 30 similar incidents going back a decade, not including missing street kids, who may be a part of the pattern.
Joe: That's if there is a pattern. I don't mean to sound heartless, Delia, kids run away all the time. Unhappy at home, abused...
Julian: Or snatched by divorced parents. It's a sad thing, but I'm not sure how Joe and I can help.
Thorne: These are abductions, with specific purpose. (Shows a picture) This child disappeared 10 years ago. His parents never found him. Last October, on the news, they saw an aide to a Senator. Now the aide was about the same age as their son would be now. With a similar birthmark. Oh, the couple tried to contact the aide, who seemed to deliberately elude them. They came to us, we did a computer aging on the boy's photo. Once I began investigating, all other cases came out. (Shows them photos of the children) Vanished at 10, dead at 20. Found in an alley, an assassin. (Next photo) Kidnapped from school, arrested 7 years later in a weapons hijacking. (Next photo) Presumed drowned, later a junior partner in a law firm, indicted for jury tampering. And all Outfit-connected.
Joe: Sounds like a finishing school for killers and thieves. Do we know who's behind this?
Thorne: Well, we believe it's Frederick Lang, a former Outfit hitman who went independent and underground. (Shows another photo) This is one of Lang's recruiters, Ray Bollo. Now the last victim's karate teacher saw a man sitting on the bus bench just outside the school. The description fits.
Julian: Pulled off the street, robbed of your own life, forced into another.
Joe: I can relate.
Thorne: Imagine that happening to a child.
Joe: Okay, Delia, we're in.

Frankie: (Reading the personals) "Single female, non-smoker, non-drinker, non-gambler." Boy, she sounds like a real riot. "Seeks same," Yeah, good luck. I must be grazing in the nun column!
Joe: All chaff and no wheat, huh?
Frankie: Geez, will you warn me when you come by? Joe, our relationship has to remain discreet!
Joe: Relax, Frankie, no one saw me, they're all at lunch.

Frankie: Oh, Joe, about the pet issue.
Joe: Oh, it's an issue now?
Frankie: Personally, I despise felines, but I'd peg you as a... a cat kind of guy, am I right?
Joe: Frankie...
Frankie: Better yet, remember the back of the comic books "Monkey in a Teacup"?
Joe: I'll pass.
Frankie: My cousin had one, it bit off his index finger right down to the first knuckle. And get this, the monkey liked it. It kept following him around like a...a Captain Hook and an Alligator sort of thing.
Joe: I don't get it.

Julian: You're right, it's a perfect match. You gonna call her?
Joe: I did.
Julian: And?
Joe: Hung up. Who is she, Julian?
Julian: Could be just a casual thing of Payton's.
Joe: No, no, they each kept a part of the photo, she had to be important to him. I just don't know if it's smart to open this thing up right now.
Julian: Yeah, if you're not sure, don't do it.

Frankie: I had a brainstorm, what about a ferret?
Joe: A ferret?
Frankie: Yes, like a weasel, but with a better attitude. They got a cute little face... (Joe hangs up)

Bollo: I don't believe I sold you the movie rights, scarecrow. May I see the camera? Please. (Joe hands over the camera) Get out of the car before I mess up that nice upholstery of yours. Come on! (Joe gets out) You a cop?
Joe: I might be, what's it to you?
Bollo: You might be? Why don't we just take a walk and see if we can make up your mind.

Bollo: Who's paying you, scarecrow? Is it local or federal? Maybe you're just a member of a camera club, is that it? Well, you picked the wrong subject, cracker. Think a straight answer from you is gonna require motivation. Start with the knees. (Joe activates the Probe's laser) You sure there's nothing you'd like to tell me?
Joe: Yeah, your coat's on fire.

Julian: Joe! The camera's dead, you okay?
Joe: Yeah, I'm swell. He took off.

Claire: I thought about placing that ad for a long time, since the day I moved to the city. I remembered you said you came here a lot on business. You never really told me what your line of work was, but I suspected it was something dangerous and probably on the far side of the law.
Joe: Not any more, sort of the opposite.
Claire: You're a policeman?
Joe: More like a... a night watchman.
Claire: So, a new life, even a new name. This was a really bad idea, I... trying to find you after all this time I just... I just should have let it go.
Joe: Why do you say that?
Claire: Because I... I really hoped that you'd finally tell me what happened. Why I woke up one morning and you were just gone.
Joe: I can't, I don't remember. I'd like to, it was important enough for Payton to keep your photograph.
Claire: Payton wouldn't have... you keep talking about Michael like he's another person, like you're dead or something.
Joe: He is, in a way. I keep trying to piece him together, but I still have to figure out where I'm going before I can see where I've been. That's why I called you, Claire, I have a lot of questions.
Claire: Ask me, then.
Joe: Uh... where was the photograph taken?
Claire: Mexico. I had gone down there from New York, I was on the run from a relationship that had gone to hell and... I guess you were just on the run.
Joe: If you thought I was a criminal, why did you get involved?
Claire: I'm attracted to the type, it's a problem I have. But you were... different.
Joe: How do you mean?
Claire: There was this old jukebox in the hotel bar and you heard this song; and you just kept playing it over and over. You said it was about fate, how if two people were really meant to be together, that they would be, no matter what. Do you still feel that way?
Joe: I don't know. I'd like to, but I don't know.
Claire: You told me this belonged to your grandmother. (Hands him a ring)
Joe: Probably just stole it.
Claire: No, there's a name. Name inside.
Joe: Olivia Payton.
Claire: Well, I guess you should have it back.
Joe: No. Keep it. We obviously meant something to each other.
Claire: Meant something? My god, you don't understand, do you? I was... I still am... your wife. (Gets up, leaves)

Lang: Each of us here has a function, Bollo, an orbit. A proper dependable course, precisely regulated by me. Now, do we know how the asteroids were formed? One planet strayed into the path of another and it was destroyed. You see my point?

Joe: You know, you should have been a lawyer, Julian.
Julian: If I were I'd sue you for aggravation.

Joe: (Reading Frankie's fax) "I have two words for you: Jack Russell." Who the hell's Jack Russell?
Julian: It's a breed of terrier.
Joe: Swell.

Julian: Frankie, I got a job for you. Actually, make that two jobs.

Claire: You don't remember me.
Joe: I know. But I'm here now. No matter what happens, I promise I'll never forget you again.

Frankie: Julian, I followed him to a house on Ravenscroft, the home must be the girl's. And may I add a footnote? If Joe finds out I tailed him I fear for my carefully pressed wardrobe!
Julian: Look, something about this situation makes me uneasy, we're just watching his back. How long has he been in there?
Frankie: Long enough to make it interesting for him and a real snore for me. Hold the phone, he's coming out. (Joe leaves) Okay, he just took off, alone. Now do I have to keep on him? I missed lunch, you know.
Julian: Just stay with him, Frankie.
Frankie: Okay, okay, but can I tell you something? I feel like such a voyeur. (A car pulls up) Hang on.
Julian: What is it?
Frankie: Oh, man, will you poke out my eyes? The plot just thickened, Julian. Big time. (Sprinkler goes off)

Julian: Well, why didn't you chase them down, Frankie?
Frankie: Who am I, Steve McQueen now?

Julian: I better handle this.
Frankie: Fine. And may I remind you that following him was your idea?

Claire: It's Lang. He wants me to kill you.
Joe: Kill me? Why?
Claire: Because of her, because of Claire.
Joe: Claire doesn't exist!
Claire: You're wrong, she's real and you did marry her. After she left Lang.
Joe: What?
Claire: He was desperately in love with her, but she couldn't take his abuse anymore, she went to Mexico and she met you. And then you dropped her and went back to the States. Lang tried to get her back, but she refused to see him and then she just disappeared. Lang swore he'd kill you after that.
Joe: That was years ago! Why did he wait?
Claire: As long as Michael Payton worked for the Outfit, he couldn't touch you, he'd risk losing his contracts. As soon as you became Joe Astor, you were fair game. And that's when Lang put his plan into motion.
Joe: And you were part of his plan?
Claire: He chose me because I resembled Claire. He had the ring, the photos - she had left them in the hotel room after you took off.
Joe: You could have pulled the trigger half a dozen times since we met.
Claire: I know. But something happened, something Lang couldn't have seen coming. It had to be perfect, he wasn't sure how much you'd remember. A hundred times a day, we'd go over the story, every detail. Lang taught me to speak like Claire, to move like her. I cut my hair the way she did, wore her clothes. And then I started to think the way she thought and feel what she felt. Whoever Claire really was, I got swallowed up inside her. Right now, I can't even remember my own name. I became someone else, just like you did. Do you believe me?
Lang: I'm certainly convinced.

Lang: I do appreciate the irony in this, Payton. You've taken Claire from me twice now. It all evens out in the end, you see, because I'm going to kill two men - the one you were, and the one you are now.

Frankie: (Drinking coffee) Geez, can I tell you something? You make this stuff strong enough to strip paint! You got any half and half?
Joe: No. Sorry. Fresh out.
Frankie: (Sees a black kitten by his leg) Whoa, what the hell is that? You took my advice after all.
Joe: Actually, I found him in the brush. Stray, I guess.
Julian: You gonna keep him?
Joe: For awhile, least till he gets used to being around people. Then you can give him to your kids.
Julian: Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.
Frankie: Good, because you know, I loathe cats. 'Specially black ones, no offense, Julian. Very bad mojo, if you know what I mean.
Joe: Aw, but he loves you.
Frankie: Joe just keep that thing away from me. C'mon now. They go right for the hair. JOE!