Last updated : 27th January 2002

Episode 'Choice Cuts'
Story SynopsisWhen a friend of Malone's is killed, the CI5 chief brings his team across the Atlantic to catch those responsible for stealing human organs for transplant.
WriterSteven Whitney DirectorColin Bucksey Sweden Tx Date12th November 1998
Dave's Comment

Actually based on a true story, this ep veers away from the normal Professionals path and works quite well. Indeed for me it represents the best of the 'overseas' episodes.

The pre-title sequence is deliciously chilling.

For the first and only time we get an episode that contains some funny AND natural banter between the boys. Check out Keel explaining the Texan "Y'all" and Curtis' response to Keel's astonishment at how good the FBI agent’s unsolicited surgery was: "Can't have been that good – he killed the patient!". More is to come after the prostitute's repeated "Oh my God!" proclamations: "You're a really religious person, aren't you?" Curtis notes. "Hallelujah!" Keel agrees.

We also get some revealing character interplay between Malone and Backus: he admits that he is taking on the case almost purely out of personal interest and Backus is quite clearly put out about it but remains quiet. Nice little scene that for Edward’s fans.

However, although Malone posing as the billionaire in need of a kidney transplant gave Edward the opportunity of playing out of character, he overacted the part somewhat.

We get a few pleasant musical themes, most notably that of Curtis in the bar and continuing into the scene of the lads interrogating the prostitute.

But it's not at all clear (to me, anyway) how they manage to track her down. And later, on the hunt for Keel, Backus just happens to find his mobile phone while cruising the dark streets? Come on!!

But the action is pretty good and the violence quotient will satisfy the old fans to a degree. The killing of the prostitute, on the other hand, is suitably grisly without having to resort to on-screen violence: we simply see her blood blast across a wall! You can imagine the rest!

Actually the final shoot-out gave me a bit of a jolt: even more violent than the original series! I wouldn't mind betting that gets cut in some countries.

The one big problem for the ep, however, is that, yet again, it's pretty slow-moving for much of the time.

Overall, though, a good one!

Ann's Comment

This is an odd episode. I like the basic idea and the personal involvement, and the plot works well with a little twist here and there. Whether this really is CI5 business or not becomes irrelevant as Malone makes it their business. So maybe it's just me, but there's like a (deliberate?) strange moody, almost chilly vibe about it.

Malone is quite naturally upset and in a less than cheerful mood, while Backus once again objects and disapproves, complete with small head-shakes and an irritatingly pursed mouth. (While I understand the drawbacks of getting emotionally involved, why is this always such big deal for her? I'd very much like to see her reaction if there was ever a case in which she would be personally involved!)

Keel seems at times strangely unhappy while Curtis tries to lighten things up, mostly to no avail. In fact, whenever any of them tries to joke the others seem oddly unresponsive. Hmm. This is one episode in which I definitely think Keel and Curtis work better on their own than together.

This oddly moody vibe is particularly apparent in one scene where the solitary Keel walks around a really seedy part of town at night. This is a very good and interestingly filmed, yet decidedly offbeat and vaguely unsettling part.

Malone is particularly worth watching as he goes undercover. As is Keel as a vagrant: apart from gait and build, he looks like he could've come straight from the corner of 1st and Pike in downtown Seattle, complete with woolly cap and a cig tucked behind his ear. He even smokes briefly on one occasion! (I've always wondered if he or Wells do for real – if so, it would at least explain one question mark in 'Tusk Force'! ;-) But while Keel looks oddly at home in that derelict look I'm happy to say his special ops training shows, not least in the way he fights (nice moves, those).

Another odd thing in this episode is the pacing. While there's (relatively) quite a lot of time devoted to Curtis and Backus doing a search by car (with, oddly, first her driving, then him, then her again with no sign of stopping in between – did they switch places while on the move?), the ending seems somewhat abrupt.

Question: While seemingly insignificant to the plot, who removed the telephone from that bathroom and why? And how did that anaesthetic really work? The victim is first knocked out, then wakes up, goes under again, and then wakes up anew for quite a long period of time before finally collapsing. But maybe that's quite natural when combined with a heightened flow of adrenaline and a determined enough mind?

Jack's Comment

'Choice Cuts' starts promisingly, with a brutal murder that pushes the boundaries of what one normally sees on television. Fantastic pre-title sequence and although the score didn't build the tension, the script, dialogue, acting and camera work did. Despite being set in Virginia (and filmed in North Carolina), was a gritty Professionals-style story back?

Like 'Back to Business', my expectations were misplaced. The story idea is strong enough – the selling of human organs – but the American setting seemed unnecessary and served to spoil the execution. Too many unexplained bits here: sulphuric acid apparently melts keyboards and telephones but not monitors in Malone's temporary office, and how did the villains find the "secret" CI5 premises anyway to mount such an assault?

After Keel goes missing, Curtis and Backus are cruising the streets (unnecessarily dragged out), with the former driving. But when Backus finds Keel's missing cellphone on the ground, she is in the driver's seat. A very bad slip-up there. We only got to see one CI5 car in Virginia, which leads me to conclude that Malone and Backus are speeding away to the clinic at the end in the same car that Curtis and Keel drive.

Cars are a major downfall here. The lads in a Mercury Grand Marquis? If Telly Savalas were still alive and Kojak were remade, it's what he'd drive. Matlock drove a similar car, an older Ford Crown Victoria, when that aired. Professionals = Matlock? A lazy Yank Tank with suspension like a lemonge (notice the suspension when Curtis and Keel race to the homeless shelter) made for very unconvincing driving scenes. In short, it made this more like a very bad American cop hour. We got to see precious little of the scenery, which was one thing that distinguished The Professionals from most British fare in the 1970s. Slow and dull.

Redeeming aspects include the amount of screen time Lexa Doig got (at least she wasn't an updated Betty here), improved interaction between the lads (I mean, the new lads), humour in the form of y'all from the Deputy, and, despite being penned by Stephen Whitney, there are no real BUGS to this story. (Thank you for sparing us a bloody countdown!)

Rating: 4/10

CI5 vehicles: Mercury Grand Marquis

Cast List Dr Elizabeth Shepard – Kathryn Leigh Scott
Matthew "7:12" Hall – Nick Searcy
Blonde – Amy Parrish
Peter Morgan – Hank Troscianiec
Bartender – Gray Sibley
Louis Dupree – Mark Joy
Deputy Big Jim Conroy – David Dwyer
Pig farmer – Gene Dann
BTWAlthough the story takes place in Richmond, Virginia, it was actually filmed in North Carolina.

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