May 5, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Although IN PLAIN SIGHT was never one of USA’s breakout hits or signature shows like Monk or Burn Notice, it gave the network 5 sturdy seasons, holding down slots on 3 different nights in the course of its run, and tonight it made a dignified exit from the network.
The final episode, written by series star Mary McCormack (she’s been an Executive Producer on the show, but this was her first writing credit) with Producer John Cockrell and William Fredrick, and directed by Dan Lerner, was sedate for a crime series, even serene.  There was a nod toward a procedural story, as McCormack’s Marshal Mary Shannon had to protect a young fashion model who’d witnessed a murder, but after that initial story-setting scene, there was no gunplay in the hour, no attacks or even threats on the witness by the Russian gangsters she’d be testifying against.  Instead, the episode was for the most part concerned with the personal journey of McCormack’s character Mary Shannon toward motherhood (she nurtured the witness and encouraged her to go back to school) and her ability to move beyond the demons of her troubled childhood to achieve her own brand of happiness.

The major decision revealed in the finale was that after 5 seasons of toying with the possibility that the nonstop snappy, affectionate banter between Mary and her partner/buddy Marshall Marin (Frederick Weller) would lead to romance, the show decided to leave them as friends, and even had them take a step back from one another so Marshall would be able to wholeheartedly marry his fiance Abigail (Rachel Boston).  (Unfortunately, the big scene between Mary and Marshall that resolved this was somewhat marred by being shot on an obvious green-screen stage.)  Mary was given the compensation of a new beau, played by a moonlighting Josh Lucas, who’s proven he’s potential husband material on Cougar Town.
The series rewarded almost everyone with happy endings:  boss Stan (Paul Ben-Victor) was promoted to a big job in Washington and his first act was to save the Albuquerque Witness Protection office from being closed; Marshall inherited Stan’s job, to nothing but support from Mary; sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz) returned to town (she was off the show this season) pregnant, addition-free, and committed to raising her baby alongside Mary’s and with the guidance of mom Jinx (Lesley Anne Warren, who recurred this season).  It turned out that the $162K left in an old lunchbox by Mary’s now-dead ex-fugitive dad James (Stephen Lang, who elevated this season with his guest star stint) wasn’t the fruit of any crime,and thus Jinx and Mary could share it.  And Mary even came to terms with James, figuring out that the way he would have wanted to be laid to rest was by having his ashes scattered on a racetrack (although it seemed implausible and somewhat dangerous that she’d be able to do this standing in the middle of the track while a race was going on around her).
Like many USA procedurals, In Plain Sight was more notable for its “characters welcome” dialogue than for its plotting or originality.  Mary herself, seriously abrasive in the original pilot, become far more crotchety-yet-supportive as the show developed.  The show’s strength was its likability, and particularly in McCormack’s complex performance.  But pining viewers may not be deprived of McCormack for long:  she has a sitcom pilot for the fall on ABC (better, at least, than being in the Witness Protection Program known as NBC–once you get on their air, you’re utterly impossible to find).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."