I was a little disappointed in this week’s Reaper, titled "Love, Bullets & Blacktop," because the promos (shot on film stock to look grainy and scratched) suggested the episode would be Reaper‘s own version of Grindhouse. And while there were a number of references to ’70s pop culture and a few crashes of classic cars, the episode was pretty tame overall: no flesh-eating zombies or people whose limbs had been replaced by automatic weapons — neither of which would be out of place on this series. Still, gotta give the show props for repeated use of Golden Earring’s "Radar Love," a song that will now be playing on a repeat loop in your head for the rest of the day.
As is more and more often the case, the soul-of-the-week capture was less interesting than the subplots, even though there were actually two souls for the price of one this week. The escaped souls were a couple, Kit and Holly, who patterned their exploits after those of the thrill-seeking pair in a forgotten ’70s movie (also called Love, Bullets & Blacktop), which mainly involved smashing up blue ’70s-model muscle cars like the one in the movie’s poster. Their cage vessel was an 8-track tape of the movie’s soundtrack. Aside from a moment in a body shop garage where Holly (Angel‘s Mercedes McNab) threatened Sam (played by Bret Harrison, far left) with a blowtorch, the couple were surprisingly easy for Sam and the gang to find and capture.
Of course, to get the 8-track to play (as well as the Betamax videocassette of the movie), Sam needed some additional vintage technology. Much of that was available in the living room of co-worker Russ (a droll guest spot by Curtis "Booger" Armstrong), an aging cheeseball gearhead whose fondness for old-school varieties of electronics, cars, and drugs made him appear a cautionary tale of what Sam and his pals will be like if they’re still punching the clock at the Work Bench in 30 years.
More interesting was the prospect of Sam moving on with his romantic life and actually going on a date. With a girl. Who wasn’t Andi. Apparently inspired by the thrill-seeking souls, the Devil urged Sam to give into his impulses and behave recklessly, repeatedly placing in Sam’s path a sexy, aggressive, fun-loving gal named Taylor. Sam ultimately worked up the nerve to ask her out and even found himself taking her into a backroom at the bar to make out (and possibly more), but he suddenly decided those weren’t his real impulses after all, that he wasn’t that kind of guy. Apparently, he’s the kind of guy who’d rather be relaxing quietly on the couch with Andi as they watch old movies and toss popcorn at each other.
Still, Sam seems to be moving forward, at least insofar as he recognizes that truth about himself, not to mention recognizing when the Devil is trying to lead him into temptation. He’s even learning how to push the Devil’s buttons, countering his cynicism about romance with the suggestion that the Devil, being as old as time, must have had at least one experience with love and heartbreak. That morose final shot of the Devil, drinking alone at the bar while a torch song played on the jukebox, suggests that Sam was right.
Questions: Did you miss Ted and Gladys this week? How awesome was Andi’s secret lair behind the boxes in the stockroom (or, as she called it, her Ted-free zone)? Will Sam ever date Taylor (or anyone else) seriously, and will Andi be as cool about it as she was this week? And are you disappointed that you didn’t get to see Sam strip at Taylor’s friend’s bachelorette party?