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20 March 2016 @ 09:44 pm
Rewatch: S1E07 "False Witness" (August 4, 1992) by Naomi Janzen  
"False Witness" (S1E07) (FW) is challenging, uncomfortable at many points, and dearly loved by FK fandom for tidbits ranging from Myra as Skin Pretty saleswoman to Natalie as vintage film aficionado. The episode notoriously differs in every cut. And, airing over a month after its predecessor, it marked the end of the first little hiatus in what would become a series lifetime studded by noteworthy breaks.

Recap: This is the episode in which Nick arrives on the scene of a murder seconds after the fatal shot. The suspect is a notorious trafficker in underage girls whom the police have been trying to bring down for years. Nick lies that he saw the villain pull the trigger. Remembering a trial that convicted an innocent musician of a murder Janette committed, Nick, on the stand, at length tells the truth, and the villain walks free — until Nick solves the case properly, gets a warrant, and brings in both suspects. Further, this is the episode in which Janette learns what happened to Lacroix, and we get the famous King Kong and popcorn scene.

The episode's title

"False Witness," of course, cites the most famous English translation of the eighth or ninth (depending how your faith tradition counts them) of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." The same phrase appears in many other places, but this is surely the most potent source.

On the surface level, the title resonates with the episode's two trials, present and past, in which well-intentioned eyewitnesses give false testimony, testimony which would lead toward wrong convictions. While the defendant in the present really is a villain, the defendant in the flashbacks is innocent.

On another level, we have the dual challenges from Natalie and Janette to Nick over his identity — his truth. Natalie's question, "Was it a step forward or a step back?" (meaning, "Did you do it as a human or as a vampire?") bookends Janette's dismissal, "You belong to no one. Not us. Not them. ... You're not even true to yourself."

In the end, after the trial, after a few days off work — not a suspension, as such, but surely felt so — Nick comes back and asks Stonetree for a warrant. Not for Kozak. Nick has now solved the case for real, and he's proceeding with truth and honor, inside the lines, according to the rules (although he should have brought back-up). As Nick challenges Stonetree, were people really unhappy with him because he lied, or because he stopped lying?

Separately, there's also the falsity in the role-playing power relationship between Kozak and Dugan. You know that moment when Dugan still believes herself "mistress," but Kozak has stood up straight, resumed his normal voice and cadence, and you can tell he's armed? In that instant, Dugan doesn't yet see it, but the audience does: Kozak has always had the power between them — all else was falseness. (And part of that was Dugan's lie about destroying or turning over the Gilroy tapes. Had she not lied to Kozak, she might have kept her illusion about his subservience longer.)

Ms. Janzen

Naomi Janzen, author of "False Witness," also wrote us the marvelous "If Looks Could Kill," the pivotal "Killer Instinct," and the penetrating "Games Vampires Play," as well as story-editing and producing the glorious first season as a whole.

(She probably wrote more episodes, but I'm still a bit sick, and I'm afraid those are all that are leaping to mind right now. Which am I forgetting?)

So. Many. Versions.

"False Witness" may be the most sliced, diced and reconstituted of all FK's multi-version episodes. And that's saying something.

The original CBS US cut (which much later resurfaced on obscure cable channels), the shortest version of all, lacks many things, most notoriously including the scene in the alley in which Janette learns from Nick what happened to Lacroix in "Dark Knight, the Second Chapter." Yes, that's right: US viewers didn't know that Janette knew that Lacroix was dead.

On the other hand, in order to bridge over some of the other missing footage, that original extra-short CBS cut incorporates a scene seen nowhere else, in the precinct hallway with the unnamed young cop (the one who gives Natalie champagne at the party, attends court, and turns his back on Nick at the coffee machine).

Other footage missing from the CBS cut — and from several other cuts — includes much of the precinct party, the entire "we need more heroes" conversation between Schanke and Stonetree, and both exchanges about "souls."

1828
LACROIX: I should play again, but I'll never compare to them. It's a shame, but music is one of the only things mortals excel at. Why do you think that is, Nicholas? Is it because they have a soul?

NICK: And you do not?

LACROIX: We do not.

1992
JANETTE: Why do you do it? Why does it matter?

NICK: It'll help me find my soul.

JANETTE: Your soul's long gone. You lost it when Lacroix brought you over.


Miscellaneous

  • Nick's protectiveness of Farber, the murdered witness, seems perhaps interestingly tagged to Farber's status as a police informant. Farber was under Nick's protection, even in Nick's service, as it were, and Nick feels more particularly bad about being unable to save him because of that.

  • "Was it a step forward or a step back?" Natalie asks, meaning, "Did you do it as a human or as a vampire?" I love that this question matters — to Nick, to Natalie, to the show.

  • The unnamed young cop is kind of hero-worshiping Nick. I imagine that he feels betrayed by how the trial ends. I wonder how he feels once both Kozak and Dugan are jailed. I also note that "the young cop"/"the kid" is a recurring supporting role in many episodes — FIHS and "Hunters" leap to mind — long before Tracy's promotion.

  • Nick asks Stonetree to let him "videotape" his "testimony" like he "always" does. This implies that Nick has videotaped his testimony many times. Ever wonder what happened to all those videotapes? The ways they might pop up and cause plottiness?

  • Famously, Natalie throwing popcorn in Nick's face isn't in the script! :-) That just happened between Catherine Disher and Geraint Wyn Davies, when he genuinely took her by surprise on the set, and we've treasured it ever since. :-) However, it's not actually true that Nick flashing his fangs at that moment isn't in the script; I've seen a copy of the FW script, and Nick's fangs are there (though the popcorn isn't). Also, in the script version that I got to see, it's Lassie, Come Home, not King Kong. Goodness knows why they changed it, but the story resonance is pretty different, isn't it?

  • The flashback in which Janette murders Sarah Fergus, the violin player, has interesting resonances. Janette's comment that she was "Wrong," that Nick does have "good taste," would seem to indicate that Janette doesn't quite grasp that Nick would have more reason to be unhappy with her for her murder of the innocent, talented musician, than for her impugning of his "taste." This is also the first of several instances in which Janette drains women victims, which perhaps shouldn't be noteworthy, yet I believe that, for whatever reasons, in story or out, canon witnesses Janette biting more women than men.



What do you think?

Next week: S1E08 "Cherry Blossoms" (CB)

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