Home > Uncategorized > Profit, Episode 6: Chinese Box

Profit, Episode 6: Chinese Box

Jim Profit lets Gail Koner see what it's like in the Chief Executive's (Charles Gracen's) powerful seat.

In April of 1996, Fox aired the first four episodes of Profit, with high praise from critics.  But the series only went this far because the audiences shied away from this fantastic television series.  According to the DVD package, cliche questions were asked about the show- about the evilness of the main character, about who to root for.  Fox’s stations in the Bible Belt got the most protest.

It’s a shame that this happened.  Whoever had an interest in Profit had no chance to watch the rest.  The show’s initial stages of production were very tiresome.  David Greenwalt and John McNamara worked together on what what be their greatest  script-writing jobs yet.  After finding the help of Canadian director Robert Iscove, actor Adrian Pasdar (as well as the rest of the great cast), scrambling to officially acquire their shooting space in Vancouver, and getting a score from composer from Mike Post, this show was finally made.

But Profit was ahead of its time.  Only after Premium cable channels like HBO brought very dark, twisted, and sophisticated-ly offensive shows to television, could something like Profit be acceptable on something like broadcast TV.   It got cable play on Canadian channel Trio in 2002.  The series was shown in France, and gained much popularity there.  My thorough research has not told me exactly when this happened, but I assume it is before or around 2002.  The show is somewhat mild in terms of onscreen language, sexuality, and violence.  What must have turned viewers off- and what the writers underestimated the power of- was the incorporation of immorality and amorality in every character, as well as mental illness related to family issues.  Profit is shocking, but also sincerely unsettling, provocative, and disturbing.

I think I can get even more out of it than an audience back then would.  I don’t have to deal with the utter surprise of seeing something like this on TV- I can appreciate the messages about psychology and morality, and form attachments to all the depraved characters without much guilt or bewilderment.  It is good that Profit was made available on DVD, and that is has very good reviews from buyers.  It is emblematic of change in television, has a unique story, and is a high-effort production.  With this, I take you deeper into the unaired episodes.

Episode 6 of Profit returns to Jim Profit’s self-challenging gambits at Gracen & Gracen.  A whole lot happens, but it’s still easier to follow than the earlier episodes.  However, the overall plot still confused me somewhat.  I had to re-watch many scenes throughout, although re-watching Profit is fun and interesting.  The episode opens up with Jim’s voice reintroducing Gail Koner- her discontent, her untapped strong will, and what seems to be real nonsexual affection for her on Profit’s part.  Profit gets called into the office of a manic Chaz Gracen, who tells his impressive subordinate to get G&G to break away from their owned-company Wong Industries.  Their warehouse and their head, Mr. Wong, have been featured in Episode 3.  It turns out Wong Industries is selling illegal weapons to China.  When the FBI does their customary check on G&G, much controversy would be revealed.  Profit meets Mr. Wong on his own.  In the secrecy of his car, Wong gives Profit information that convinces him to seize the newest version of the Ultrachip- a state-of-the-art hacking device, from Dr. Jeremy Batewell, a man who was once fired by G&G for sexual harassment.  This is basically a deal by Mr. Wong to break free from the benefits of being tied with G&G. Profit goes to the Batewell’s large house.  He is around thirty, like Profit, has curly orange hair, and a smug but aggressive personality.  Speaking through intercom, it is revealed that that Gail Koner, the “temptress from Hell” was the one that was harassed.  Profit gets accused of scheming by G&G, but explains that Koner wants to make amends.  Batewell accepts.  Then the opening sequence plays.

Gail sees her mother, who appears to be in a coma in a hospital bed.  But it’s said that she can hear what people say around her.  Profit meets with Pete Gracen, who is clearly up to destroying his brother Chaz’s position at the corporation.  Pete’s ambitions are clearly leading to some big events.  It is ironic that he has no suspicion of Jim Profit.  We see Batewell from the darkness in his house.  He wobbles on a rocking horse, which makes him seem like an even match for Profit; they both have odd infantile behaviors.  However, the end reveals that Jeremy is less mature and careful than his enemy.   Pete puts on a charade for his brother.  He says he’s leaving the company for now so he can go to rehab for his alcoholism, which as the protagonist knows, has actually been cured.  Chaz talks to Profit about the cheapness of his wife, which brings back some of the black humor Profit is good at.  Then Profit, with computer, tells us viewers some more about the marriage.  They are bound together by money.  If one divorces the other, the said spouse must give all G&G money to the other.  Mrs. Gracen spends most of her days at lofty resorts, attending literary seminars.  They had a falling out due to a lesbian relationship with a literature professor on her part, but remain married.

Head of Security Joanne Meltzer and Sykes meet in the middle of a street.  Sykes is a little embarrassed that this brief meeting was about their problems with Profit, and not a date caused by his charms.  He is scared to talk because of what spying there might be about, but they do talk.  She has found a newspaper article that reveals something very big about Profit’s past- which she tells Sykes to read and then shred.  But the audience does not get to know what this information is.  This makes the suspense about the next episode greater.

In her office, Jim lectures Gail about how good she can be- “you are definitely executive material.”  Jeremy plays darts and thinks aloud about Gail.  Then he throws a dart at the camera.  With all the serious business going on, this is actually a clever fourth-wall-softening bit that makes his character more silly and more intimidating.

Profit talks a little to his mother about the current situation, but we are unsure of what she will do.  But in a scene not long after, she goes to the resort where Chaz’s wife, Constance Gracen, is, and pretending to not know her, befriends her.  His voice over refers to her, for being so conniving and crude, as “stepmonster.”  Gail visits her mother in the hospital as usual, but Profit is there to her surprise.  We know that Profit has paid her medical expenses, so the two have a deal to fulfull.  He explains a lot about trust in a very sincere way, and gets Gail to agree about their trust’s strength.  Jim, conversing with Gail again, reveals to her in vague terms about his mistreatment in childhood.  He explains the mission- she will go into Jeremy’s compound, get him knocked out by rigging a drink, and engage in Ultrachip thievery.  He tells her she looks beautiful.  She half-enjoys the compliments.  The acting gets very good here.  I am unsure about what these two people feel for each other.  They quickly form a tense sort of trust, but one strong enough to get Gail to agree with the mission to infiltrate Batewell’s home.  I thought Gail might be a sacrifice.  But it looks like Sykes is spying from behind window shades!  They are a very useful tool for anyone in the workplace, at least throughout this series.  Jim offers mom a drink, but she retorts with her charming attitude- “I’m sorry, was I speaking Turkish?  I said I don’t drink.”  After some flirting, with her taking the dominant side, they kiss violently into a commercial break.

Gail comes to the house of her mildly deranged ex-lover Dr. Batewell.  She is awkward as ever, and he is suspicious but soft.  Yet Gail does have support with her new and innovative cellular phone, which allows contact with Profit, who is watching nearby.  The offering of a drink fails.  Batewell makes personal criticisms of her but clearly longs for her.  It is a mix of hatred, fear, and sexual tension that is rarely created in a scene so brief in movies or television.  She lets him steal a strong kiss, and uses passionate language just before knocking him out by hitting him over the head with an object.  Gail now has to maneuver his computer-laden room to accomplish a few things.  A loud shake scares her, that is actually a cat, amusing the viewer and Profit on the other wireless end of the phone.  And alarm sounds but Profit tells her the proper action to turn it off.  This scene is like a thriller; we are scared for Ms. Koner’s getting caught.  Her efforts eventually allow Profit to figure out that the new Ultrachip model has not actually been made.  Batewell was going to give the U.S. government an inadequate model, for some sort of personal gain.  I did not expect this embarrassing secret from someone who was previously established as a super-genius with an I.Q. near 200.

Sykes, looking at the house, makes a call to some unseen authority using his giant but effective cellphone.  Pete and his wife Nora discuss “rehab.”  She will miss him but hopes for his success.  Walking through the street, Jim’s voice says, keeping most of its cool, that he has to improvise for his crisis.  He goes to see Mr. Wong again.

Bobbi and Constance have been relating to each other about about the hardships of marriage in the upper class.  Constance reveals something about her legal husband with some dark sense of humor- “His father beat him.  Apparently not enough.”  In the evening in a later scene, they get exceedingly intimate, and open about their life experience- though Bobbi’s is mostly half-truths- and appear attracted to each other.  We the audience know that Bobbi knows about Mrs. Constance Gracen’s apparent bisexuality.  But I couldn’t tell if it was a setup, actual romance, or a mix of the two on Stakowski’s part.  Either way, I thought, as their faces got closer, they were going to kiss right here.  But this was not so.  “No.  I can’t.  You’re a married woman” explains Bobbi with pity and sympathy.  Profit succeeded in making me and anyone else who finds themselves attracted to women guilty about looking forward to the act.  The scene cuts off there; real resolution is left to the next episode.

Beware and make use of the window shades when you work at a huge corporation.

Profit tells the audience that we should never be afraid to improvise in a tough situation like his.  He meets Mr. Wong in his car.  He explains that the Ultrachip will get outdated quickly, and implies that he can get Wong Dr. Batewell.  Briefly there is a cut to Sykes spying.  In the morning after the infiltration, with a fake flirty attitude, Gail tells the doctor that he’s lying down in pain because of a mishap during sex the night before.  He is clever, but too confused and exhausted to put it together, so she leaves easily.  Sykes talks in his office with some tough-guy detective about how they will catch Profit doing an illegal delivery.  Profit and Gail are in Profit’s office.  The leader tells his subordinate to lock the Ultrachip in a compartment shelf.  Batewell storms in with his lawyer, and asks for this key to where the Ultrachip is.  Gail freezes up, but Profit tells her it’s no big deal.

After a cliffhanger commercial break, she obeys.  But then Profit says that it doesn’t even work- and whispers- you’re a fraud and don’t even have a new Ultrachip made.  Batewell calls off his lawyer.  Profit tells the exposed genius “you’re working for me now.”  They meet in Profit’s office and start to talk about new forms of servitude.  He is humiliated.  Jim says, “makes you proud to be a taxpaying American citizen, doesn’t it, Gail?”  She agrees- “mm-hmm” with a nod.”  He is still funny, though.  “And people wonder why I never got married.”  Sykes, with police on his side, assaults Profit, who is delivering the Ultrachip.  Before any conflict ensues, however, the detective who “knows this guy” talks to Profit with good regard.  Profit, with a government-man named Larry Sun on his side, has made it look like he is intercepting an illegal item.  Sykes’ pursuit fails, and he is left disappointed, told off by his detective friend,  and ashamed more than enraged.

Batewell’s cynical optimism is made tragic when it turns out this Profit gig was a setup.  Thinking he must merely do some work for Wong, as Gail and Jim have took him to the Wong warehouse for, the Wong workers immediately grab him.  He gets strapped up and sealed in a giant wooden box, to be shipped out overseas.  He screams for Gail’s help, even after being injected with a sedative.  Gail stares in horror but does not act.  Koner is proud of herself and her partner in crime, but still uneasy about her brutality.  Profit reassures her that what they did was in her best interest, and made her a better person.  Jeremy was going to cheat the government anyway; now he is likely just being forced to do computer work in China.  Profit’s last line ends with, “to make the world”- then talking verbally- “a better place.”

That awkward gloomy track from the pilot is nowhere to be heard.  It is more suspenseful, mystical, and fear-and-awe-enhancing than before.  Every episode is like a damned movie, with maximum effort by the writers, actors, and filmers.  The offices we already know of are becoming more comfortable settings, yet unfamiliar ones like Batewell’s lair also get a sense of intimate space.  Despite being very fast-paced and having a story that could easily stretch to three hour-long episodes, scenes no longer feel like they under-stay their welcome.   Funny content and disturbing subjects play well together.  I am confused about whether to even analyze this episode or not.  Batewell was a cool fellow, and accepted mercy from Jim Profit.  But our villain protagonist put such enormous effort into helping Gail and Charles.  It is as though Jeremy’s loathsome fate was caused by his own destiny and personal problems.  It’s hard to imagine Jim pulling off so intense a gambit again, but I think I might succeed in being shocked.  Either way, I am more curious than ever about the fates of Sykes, Pete, and Joanne, and the true character of Jim Profit.    The sheer density of Profit’s episodes have given me the experience of sorts to feel more comfortable with any other dramatic television show.  I recently caught two episodes of House and My Name Is Earl. Since they feature only two or three scenes between commercials, they are very easy to watch.  I could probably watch many episodes in a row without getting exhausted.  I doubt I will get confused when watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit again.  I am no longer intimidated by the vast world of quality scripted TV.  This will help me learn more about my TV/Radio major.   Next up is Episode 7- Security.

Good quotes-

“Revenge is pointless.  It’s a tool for the weak.  You’re not weak.  Not anymore.”- Profit to Koner

“Now I’m a kidnapper.”- Gail, stunned at her serious actions

“It’s nice to watch people struggle, and grow.   And discover who they really are.” – Profit voice-over

watched- March 17, 2010, in my room

Overall rating- 5/5

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