House of Games
"A Heart For Falsehood Framed" Plot Summary:
Dylan Hunt has offered to oversee negotiations between Mayor Miskich of Pierpont Drift -- which Rommie describes as a "den of thieves" -- and Than general Clarion of a Very Long Name, who accuses Miskich of possessing the Hegemon's Heart, a priceless relic stolen from Than. The general is prepared to send in a fleet of ships to retrieve the gem. In case negotiations don't go well, Dylan has a backup plan in place: he has enlisted Beka, Trance and Harper to steal the Hegemon's Heart from Pierpont Drift's museum and replace it with an excellent fake. During reconnaissance of the museum, Beka stumbles across Leydon -- a thief formerly known as Schrödinger's Cat, now working as Miskich's head of security. She flirts with him to distract him while Trance and Harper steal the gemstone.
While Dylan gets a headache from the recalcitrant negotiators, Beka discovers that the gem they've stolen is just as artificial as the one with which they've replaced it. If the Than receive a fake stone, they'll kill everyone on Pierpont Drift, so Dylan insists that the crew track down the original. Certain that Leydon is behind the switch, Beka seduces him. He catches her hunting for the artifact in his quarters, but claims she stole his heart so he can't shoot her; instead he asks her to marry him and get rich with him off the stolen stone.
Tyr, who has done some negotiating of his own with Schrödinger's Cat, drops in on them in the Maru to call Leydon to the conference room where Miskich is unknowingly about to turn a fake Heart over to the Than. Beka takes the time to record the image of a treasure map hidden inside the original stone. Then she arrives in time to give it to Dylan, kissing him to cover the exchange. Leydon calls Beka a thief and claims the stone is a fake, but Clarion identifies it as the real Heart. A war has been averted, but Beka is upset to discover that a man for whom she considered betraying the Andromeda crew has been playing her. Later, Rommie admits to Dylan that she could tell the fake gems all along, but she was wrong about not being able to trust Beka. Dylan admits that sometimes he has to take risks to tell the real hearts from the fake ones.
Andromeda tries a film noir storyline, not entirely successfully because it's pretty difficult to see Beka Valentine as someone who can be duped so easily by another thief. Sure, she might want to believe Leydon, but she knows better. He's no Dylan Hunt. He's no Tyr Anasazi, despite the latter's shenanigans. Leydon's a glorified cat burglar pretending to have gone straight, and no matter how flattered or even moved she might feel when he professes his love, he's enough like Beka that we all expect her to see through him the way we can.
'A Heart For Falsehood Framed' reminds me quite a bit of Voyager's 'Counterpoint' -- and I don't mean that favorably, even though lots of fans seem to enjoy seeing Captain Janeway sulk over cute criminal Kashyk. It's the same problem with Captain Valentine and cute criminal Cat: a smart, strong character sets a con in motion, then falls for her mark, who is trying to con her in turn by pretending he fell for her first. The real bummer is that in both cases, the episodes could be saved by the simple omission of final scenes showing the women moping over their lovers' betrayals. The confrontation scenes reveal that they expect such twists and have prepared for them. When it's Beka's brother or her father's friend pulling scams on her, it's easy to rationalize that her emotional involvement may cloud Beka's judgment. But Leydon's just a competent crook hardly worthy of her admiration, let alone her adoration.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Beka likes the guy. I couldn't stand to see her using her body purely as a tool for their mission. But love? Every time she touches Leydon, she has an ulterior motive. Her definition of love must not include trust, openness or deep emotional bonding, just sexual attraction and career paths that complement each other. This episode proves she's got those with Dylan and Tyr already -- the latter practically drools over her practical little black dress, and glares openly when she kisses their captain. So he's a snobby, self-centered Nietzschean...is that so much worse than a double-crossing thief? And Dylan's obviously crazy about her. He trusts her when Andromeda's computer doesn't. He thanks her personally for stealing the stone, and has to be reminded to mention the rest of the crew in on the heist. Beka's hard as nails protecting her heart around these nearest and dearest princely hunks, so it's hard to buy that she'd lose it so quickly to a minor con artist like Leydon.
Until the conclusion, however, 'A Heart For Falsehood Framed' unravels its plot very nicely, with a well-paced balance of Mission: Impossible shenanigans and To Catch a Thief intrigue. It's a lot of fun to see Harper and Trance ply their former trades, though the security in the museum isn't all that impressive; anyone who's seen the Pink Panther movies can guess how to get to the jewel. The sequence is well-filmed, though, using Trance and her tail to fine comic effect. It's also fun to hear Dylan complain about his chosen profession, during a hilarious exchange with Tyr in which the Nietzschean offers to kill the negotiators. Dylan says no, but asks Tyr to kill him the next time he offers his services as a peace broker. When he later has to stall so the gem exchange won't take place until they have recovered the real thing, he looks absolutely hopeless.
And until Beka starts falling for Leydon, their dialogue snaps and crackles, particularly when she starts enumerating his crimes and he saves her from a man-eating plant. With Tyr, too, Beka has some great lines as he admires her dress for its, uh, ease of movement, and she asks if he's jealous and wants to join in...on the crime. Nietzschean males are always marking their territory, she warns Leydon, noting that Tyr might spray his trees. Which Tyr does, sort of, though not in the way she means. That man knows how to negotiate: when he's dealing with a Crais-lookalike to get the gem, Tyr offers to sweeten the deal by not killing the guy. This man is never going to escape security by blending into the crowd, so it's a good thing he can outrun them.
'A Heart For Falsehood Framed' suffers from airing a week after 'Exit Strategies'; the filmmaking's more impressive, but it's lightweight on characterization by comparison. As always the performances are excellent, though I'd actually have preferred to see less range from Lisa Ryder. I know she can play wounded and unhappy, I just wish she hadn't this time around. So Beka forges a fake heart, finds a true heart, loses her heart, then comes away with a heart's treasure map that she doesn't have to share with anyone -- except possibly the Than, apparently the rightful owners, though that doesn't seem to be much of an issue for the thieves on Pierpont Drift. All in all, a good take. Too bad Beka won't let herself enjoy it more, either with saintly Dylan or sinner Tyr or both.