"A Single Blade of Grass"

#MLM-205

Written by Erin Maher and Kay Reindl

Directed by Rodman Flender

Edited by George R. Potter

Aired October 24, 1997

Summary:  Frank Black gets himself into some trouble when he travels to investigate a recent murder near an excavation site of Native American Indian artifacts located in the middle of New York City. Here he finds a hidden tribe of men that have come together to pursue ancient prophecies and legends, some regarding a man with powerful visions who will be the one to link the spiritual world with the world of reason.

 

Synopsis:  Several figures wearing false face masks force a Native American man, Daniel Olivaw, to consume rattlesnake venom. As the poison takes effect, one of the masked men, Joe Reynard, asks Daniel to describe what he sees. But Daniel begins to scream and convulse, and falls to the ground in agony. 

Daniel's body is discovered at a Manhattan construction site/archeological dig near the remains of a withered, mummified body. New York City Police Sergeant Manny Walters asks Frank for his help in solving the case. Frank cannot help but notice the similarities between the ancient remains and Daniel's corpse, next to which is a false face mask. Walters explains that a dispute has erupted between a construction foreman, Richard Powell, and the head archeologist, Dr. Liz Michaels. Powell, whose crew is mainly Native American, is under pressure to continue the construction work, while Liz insists the site must remain intact until it can be properly excavated. 

Frank senses that Daniel's murder transpired in the basement of a nearby hotel. After examining symbols painted on the basement wall, Liz notes a common theme: communication with the spirit world. Later, Frank approaches Joe Reynard inside a bar and, using a napkin, draws a symbol that appeared in one of his internal visions. An old Indian Man steps forward and explains that symbol is a warning. When Frank leaves the bar, Reynard tells his cohorts that Frank "is the one." 

An autopsy of Daniel's corpse reveals his appendages were cut from his body and then reattached. Liz explains this ritual was used by the Seneca tribe in attempt to revive the dead after the victim passed into the spirit world and communicated with ancestors. Frank discovers a prayer-stick, a kind of Indian rosary that contains elements of Christianity and Native American religion. On the stick is the same symbol Frank saw in his vision. Later, Frank and Liz are summoned to the construction site when Powell boxes and removes the ancient bones. A fight breaks out between Reynard and Powell and a few moments later Powell dies of a massive heart attack. 

When Frank returns to his motel room, he discovers that someone placed a false face mask on his bed. He shows the mask to Liz, who explains it represents the power to walk between the real and spirit worlds. Frank hypothesizes that, hundreds of years ago, an Indian tribe concealed their existence from the white man by blending into existing tribes. Now, in the present day, they have been told by prophesy to reunite. Frank suspects that the prayer stick is "a blueprint for another culture's apocalypse." One of the symbols represents Daniel's journey to the land of the dead, while another represents Frank, whose death will open a door to another plane of existence. 

Frank is surrounded by a group of Indians, taken prisoner, and forced to consume rattlesnake venom. He begins experiencing visions but insists they are not a product of the poison. He predicts the tribe will reunite and buffalo will return. Shortly thereafter, Liz and a group of policemen rescue Frank and take Reynard and his followers into custody. As the group is being led away, four buffalo that escaped from a rodeo run through the streets.

 

Photographs:

- Frank and Dr. Michaels examine artifacts

- Frank finds himself held captive

- Daniel Olivaw prepares for a deadly ritual

- Frank, Liz, and Reynard on the street

- Frank is forced to consume snake venom

- Reynard and his Native American tribe

 

Abyss Rating:  (2/5)

 

Trivia:  "A Single Blade of Grass" was the first Millennium episode written by the duo of Erin Maher and Kay Reindl. Maher and Reindl would contribute four scripts to the series in total. Kay Reindl once defended the episode from a mediocre fan reaction. "There were a lot of problems with 'A Single Blade of Grass' but, even given that, I will always stand by the script," she told internet fans through the Abyss. "We had wanted the episode to look and feel a bit like Wolfen, with the racy Steadicam shots and eerie modern and ancient juxtaposition but, as you can see, it didn't quite work out that way."

 

During the course of this episode, Frank Black's unique powers of perception, absent since the start of the season, are returned to him. Executive producer Glen Morgan, who had refrained from using Frank's visions, asked that Maher and Reindl reintroduce Frank's gift in conjunction with this story's venom-induced hallucinations. "I felt last year those visions were a cheat," Morgan explains. "The camera would go to a coffee cup and Frank would say, 'The murderer used a coffee cup.'  It drove me nuts. What we were trying to do this year was to elevate Frank's visions to a dream-like state, so he would have to interpret what he's seeing. There would be more mythical, symbolic imagery that might give him more of a sense of what's going on. I had wanted to strip away the gift for a long time and see if the show really played well without it. But we got back into that."

 

The dice bet that proves lucky for Frank Black "eight, the hard way" is a reference to Glen Morgan and James Wong's production company, Hard Eight Productions.  The company's logo was a pair of red dice falling four and four on the green felt of a craps table.

 

Death Toll:  2

 

Title: As he watches Richard Powell die, Joe Reynard declares, "It always starts this way, with a single blade of grass." The title reflects the idea that every event, even the prophesized end of the world, must begin with a single, simple initiation.

 

Soundtrack:

"Hell" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers

"Hand in Hand We Die" by Glen Jordan

 

Starring:

Lance Henriksen as Frank Black

 

Guest Starring:
Amy Steel as Dr. Liz Michaels

Doug Abrahams as Sgt. Manny Walters

Gary Chalk as Richard Powell

Byron Chief-Moon as Fenton

Michael Greyeyes as Joe Reynard

James Nicholas as Ernie

Rondel Reynoldson as Dr. Kathryn Huston

Floyd Red Crow Westerman as the Old Indian

 

Production Credits:

Production #5C05

Music by Mark Snow
Production Designer Mark Freeborn
Director of Photography Robert McLachlan
Associate Producer Jon-Michael Preece
Consulting Producer Chip Johannessen
Consulting Producers Darin Morgan
Co-Producer Robert Moresco
Co-Producer Paul Rabwin
Producer Thomas J. Wright
Co-Executive Producer Ken Horton
Co-Executive Producer John Peter Kousakis

Executive Producer Glen Morgan

Executive Producer James Wong

Executive Producer Chris Carter

 

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