Life on Mars: “Tuesday’s Dead” (Episode 6)

TV Reviews


If a TV show wants to win me over as a fan, they could do no better than to sing the praises of Tom Waits for its viewers. In Life on Mars, during one of Episode 6’s most memorable scenes, as Sam (Jason O’Mara) and Annie (Gretchen Mol) are held hostage in a mental ward, Annie tells Sam to think about his happiest moment to keep from going crazy. Sam sets the scene for Annie, saying that Tom Waits was playing on the jukebox and asks her if he’s famous yet in 1973. She says he’s never heard of him and he replies, “He’s soon to become the patron saint of the sad and downtrodden New Yorker.” Sam just got a lot cooler by association in my eyes—partially redeeming his attempts last week to rap lines from Vanilla Ice or this week to moonwalk.

The episode meshes catastrophes from the parallel worlds of 2008 and 1973. Sam hears his mother saying they’re going to pull the plug at 2 p.m. unless he can give her a sign. In 1973, a man says he’ll begin killing his hostages at 2 p.m. unless his demands are met. Sam manages to avert both emergencies, but finds out his 2008 girlfriend needs to move on, that it’s time for living. For the first time, it seems like Sam’s ready to live in 1973, and that means letting things develop with Annie. Maybe with Tom Waits on the mind, he’s thinking “Home I’ll Never Be.”

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