Skeleton Crew – 22

Written by: Donald Bellisario; Watch Now: Link to video of episode on Amazon

[A “cliff hanger” which, because the show was cancelled by NBC, was not aired – until it was syndicated by the USA channel. To date it is still rarely, if ever, shown; and, I’ve just now seen it on the season one DVD. Catherine Bell, who played Lt Shoenke, only had a very brief role – but she was later brought back as “Mac,” who was then explained as “a dead ringer for Diane.” Patrick L. who had been in the pilot but took another position before the show was picked up, is now back in the series as Bud Roberts.]

Lt. Diane Shoenke, Jr. OOD, left the just-returned-from-deployment USS Seahawk (CVN-65) after standing mid-watch the first night back in port. She was pursued by Lt. Lamm who was upset that chief Bannon had let her off the ship in the Officer of the watch, Bud Roberts (B), absence. The next morning, while eating breakfast at a shore diner, B and Bannon found Shoenke shot dead in her car. Brian Turque (Tq) (pronounced turkey by everyone but himself) was the NCIS agent aboard the Seahawk investigating the case when Harm (H) and Meg (Mg) showed up under the JAG, Chegwidden’s (C) orders. Harm was visibly shaken and told Mg that he and Shoenke had been in the Academy together and were supposed to have had dinner together last night except she called to postpone due to mid-watch. Turque demanded H to pull off the case but was told that she had been “like a sister and I’m not leaving the murder investigation to someone who jumps to conclusions as much as you!” Then, to further her own political agenda Krennick (K) devised a plan that she would go be “lead” and H would “be under me” in the investigation. Cyhegwidden agreed and had to tell her that she was “sitting him my chair!”

Immediately upon arriving, H had to tell K that Shoenke had been his academy classmate and their relationship had been platonic. Krennick initiated her customary harassment of him until H finally had to shut her up with a “red light.” Krennick bellowed that any relationship on a ship could NOT be platonic “unless one was gay and the other neutered.” Harm gave her another “red light” but she still continued to wile that she was just trying to help him defend against Tq’s demand to have him removed from the case. Harm told her that the rules at the academy were perfectly clear and that they both “played by the rules so long they might not have known how to do it any other way.” He further told her “I don’t care what you or Tq think about it and if you have any decency you won’t ask me anything personal again!” The executive officer (XO) Commander Hobarth was in charge of the ship while the captain had been called to Washington. He had stood mid-watch himself, as he claimed was his habit the first night back in port, with Shoenke (the Jr. OOD) together on the bridge. Shoenke had only been aboard the ship for two months after she had replaced the former crypto officer who went home after his wife was killed in an auto accident. Lamm was the communication officer for the mid-watch in the communication room and told Tq and Mg that he ran after Shoenke because he was supposed to have a date with her, and that Shoenke had previously told him that “someone was stalking her although she didn’t know who.”

Bud tried to explain the ships deck and compartment numbering system to K but she said “it gives me a headache.” Then K began sensing someone watching her. Turque began questioning Sarah Williams, Shoenke’s roommate, about possible “one-night-stands” in Hs presence. Krennick pulled H out of the room and made a big deal about H not rising to Tq baiting him; because he only wanted to get them pulled off the case. Sarah said that Shoenke loved H like a brother and had gotten hit on a lot because of her looks. She said that Shoenke had given Lamm “red lights” several times but he was “one of the type who doesn’t get the message” so she had had to report him to Hobarth. Krennick then lit into Hobarth for not reporting her concerns and withholding the information from the investigation. Sarah told Mg that Shoenke was not like other beautiful women, she listened as if you were the only person in the room; and, that she really loved H and had saved all of his letters, which Tq had taken out of her lock box.

When Mg told H that Lamm had left the ship for lunch, H tore after him thinking that he was going to run. He found him in the diner and confronted him with his lie about having a date with Shoenke before he decked him. When Bannon pulled him off, H said to confine Lamm to the ship and then report his own assault. Lamm said “what assault… I can understand how someone who loved her feels.” Krennick came after H and began harassing him again. She lit up a cigarette, and when was told “no smoking” by the waitress, said defiantly “stuff it!” Krennick filed charges against H as “damage control” saying she had “to distance myself from you!” “I’m not going to risk my career over your pining,” she told him, and “better your career than mine.” Hobarth was shown watching their discussion through binoculars from the bridge.

Krennick was shown being followed when she got lost on the ship. She called security and was told that she had to go down a level then come back up on the other side. The stalker turned out the lights just as she pushed through a secured hatch. She defiantly blustered at Hobarth and security when they were slow to believe her complaints. Hobarth said that with a skeleton crew they normally cut back lights. While trying to find Lamm, believing he was the stalker, they found him shot in his quarters with a suicide note. Krennick was shown telling Tq that she was wrong about him after thinking that he “was a rent-a-cop more concerned about control than solving murder.” He told her that he had thought she was “just another hot shot female lawyer who thought her sweat didn’t stink!” She replied, “It doesn’t.” Krennick told Hobarth that she didn’t intend to put his “non-reporting” in her report but couldn’t guarantee someone else wouldn’t charge him – just not her. He replied that she must “find me callous with 2 deaths and me worried about my career.” She said, “No, I find it refreshingly honest.”

Bud was told by Tq not to “hand over any more faxes to H” so he “accidentally” dropped a copy of the autopsy report at Hs feet. Meg said she would read it so H wouldn’t have to. Going back to his cabin to shower before he had to go back to JAG for his captain’s mast which K had arranged, he found Tq in his compartment with all of Shoenke’s letters. Turque said that even though they had met like junkyard dogs he hoped they could part like men, and shook Hs hand. But, when Mg told H that the report said Shoenke had been raped, then shot, then moved to the car 2 hours later, he realized that Tq really suspected him of the murder and had been searching his room. He asked Mg to check with all the MPs to see if they remembered Shoenke leaving. After leaving the ship, H was shown being arrested by Tq on the dock, claiming that Hs fingerprints had been found on the murder weapon which they had recovered from the water that afternoon.

[I can see now why this episode is so rarely shown. Before the show was notified that it had been cancelled, this episode had already been filmed intending it to be the season “cliff hanger.” And, although the following resolution episode was most likely already written, it had never been filmed. So this story is incomplete and leaves one hanging in disbelief. When the show was picked up by another network, it chose to continue on as if this episode hadn’t ever happened. Later, because of how well Catherine Bell had been received by the audience, and her chemistry with Harm, they brought her back as Mac – needing to explain that “merely coincidentally” she was a look-alike “twin” of Diane.]

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