Original Air Date: Nov 1, 2009
Amanda — Senior Reviewer
Off we go, into the wild blue yonder! This week’s Cold Case spotlights a little-known part of history, the civilian World War II-era WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilot) program, in investigating the death of a top-notch pilot. Also, Moe scores a couple points on Lilly, and Scotty’s still trying to figure out what’s going on with his mother. It looks like all systems are go, and we’re cleared for takeoff!
The case of 22-year-old pilot Vivian Lynn is reopened when her sabotaged plane turns up in a reservoir with her skeletal remains inside. WASP instructor Iris Keening tells Lilly and Scotty that Vivian cared about one thing: being the best. Iris recalls an altitude training session where Vivian opted to set a new performance record rather than help a fellow pilot who’d succumbed to illness. Meanwhile, Vivian’s bunkmate, Betty Joe Henders, recalls an incident where Vivian played dumb and acted impressed when approached by a male pilot named Wolf. She toyed with him mercilessly, and he informed her she’d regret it. The plot thickens when Lilly and Jeffries discover that Wolf is actually Herbert James, brother of WASP commander Frank James, and has several reports for misconduct.
Vera and Jeffries track down Wolf, who hasn’t changed his ways much (he’s been kicked out of four retirement homes for spreading VD), but says they’re wrong about Vivian. He had the utmost respect for her…because she turned out to be his teacher. He also drops another bombshell: his brother, Frank, was in love with Vivian, so he stepped aside. “Bros before hos, right?” he asks, hoping for a Barney Stinson-style fist-bump…but nobody bites. Hee.
Frank tells Lilly and Stillman that he was indeed in love with Vivian, and greatly admired her, but not everyone was as patriotic. He recalls an incident three days before Vivian’s final flight, where Betty Joe caught them together. However, Vivian had caught Betty Joe doing something far more dangerous: stealing ration books, a treasonous offense. When confronted, Betty Joe admits the theft, saying she did it for her babies, but Vivian made her think twice. She recalls Vivian encouraging nervous fellow WASP Edna to think of her brother fighting overseas when flying her mission. The next plane she delivers, Vivian says, just might save her brother’s life. Betty Joe took her advice and quit smuggling, then says she regrets that Vivian never got to live her dream to be the first woman to break the sound barrier.
Lilly and Scotty have a chat with the woman who did: Louise Patterson, Vivian’s main competition. Louise admits a rivalry, but says that changed when they witnessed Edna’s plane crash. Vivian was convinced it was sabotage, and Scotty later learns she was right. The Army claimed Edna’s crash was caused by clogged fuel lines, but those lines had been flushed a mere two days before the crash. Stillman says sugar in the gas tank would cause such a crash…and sure enough, 10 pounds of sugar was delivered the previous day, signed for by Frank James. However, Frank insists he didn’t sign the order. He recalls Vivian telling him she suspected Wolf of sabotaging Edna’s plane and wanted him court-martialed. Frank refused, and that was the end of his relationship with Vivian. He confronted Wolf that night anyway, but Wolf, of course, denied it.
In a clever bit of trickery, Vera and Jeffries get Wolf down to PPD by telling him Frank confessed to Edna’s murder. As he sees Stillman giving Frank a premature perp walk, Wolf’s guilty conscience gets the better of him, and he confesses to tampering with the plane so Edna would get washed out; he didn’t mean to kill her. He says he begged Vivian not to report him, but she already had, so he packed his bags…but the MPs never came. Only one person could’ve stopped such a report: Iris.
When Iris insists that a report was never filed, Scotty puts on his prize-worthy Chauvinist Pig act, and Lilly kicks him out. Having won Iris’s sympathy, Lilly weaves her web, confronting Iris with evidence that includes a scrap of Vivian’s dress uniform found with her remains, and the fact that she wasn’t on the flight schedule for the next month, despite being the best pilot. Iris is unrepentant, saying she had to protect the program. If word got out that men were sabotaging women pilots, the WASPs would be shut down. Iris insists she’s a feminist pioneer, paving the way for women everywhere. “I speak for you,” she informs Lilly. “I speak for Vivian,” Lilly retorts. Oooooh, snap.
Finally, Iris confesses, saying Vivian stormed in wanting to know why the MPs hadn’t picked up Wolf yet. Iris explains about protecting the program, but Vivian’s only concern is justice for Edna. She says she won’t tell about the coverup if Iris files the report that day, and Iris agrees, telling Vivian to fly to Fort Mitchell to speak to General Stockton personally about the incident. “Happy landings…always,” she tells Vivian as she prepares to sabotage the plane.
In other developments, Lilly’s hate-hate relationship with Moe is heating up. After she harasses him at the bank, Moe files a complaint for the boot she put on his car. Stillman gets wind of this and tells her to knock it off, which of course she won’t…and Moe figures this out. In a tense confrontation, he tells her that the more she pushes him, the less he has to lose. I hate to say it, but he’s right. He’s not currently doing anything to her, and she’s resorting to some pretty childish moves. I’m kinda worried about her.
Also worrying me is Scotty’s mother. After receiving a frantic phone call from his father about money missing from his bank account, Scotty tracks her down at a doctor’s office. At first, Rosa claims she was just helping a friend, but Scotty calls her bluff, and she admits to having a bad knee. That doesn’t explain the cash payments she’s making, though, and when Scotty mentions that, she stonewalls him. However, she soon relents and reminds him, rather adorably, of how she used to make everything better with a Rice Krispy Treat. Later, Scotty finds a whole plateful of them on his desk…but I have a hunch that whatever’s going on is something Rice Krispy Treats can’t fix.
One of my favorite things about Cold Case is how it spotlights little-known eras in history, and the WASP program was something I’d never heard of. I, for one, am thrilled that millions of viewers are now educated on the sacrifices these brave women made, and I particularly appreciated learning at the end that the WASPs received the Congressional Medal of Honor this summer. Overall, this case was one of the stronger ones of the season, featuring a compelling victim, lots of twists and turns, and a doer with an actual motive and a creative method of murder. Plane sabotage, I can safely say, is something we haven’t seen before.
So that’s my TwoCents, but I’d love to know yours. Did you know it was Iris from the get-go, or were you surprised at the end like I was? Anybody else completely ignorant of the WASP program until this episode? How far do you think Lilly will go in her vigilantism with Moe? Leave your TwoCents in the comments section!