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Cult TV: The Master Episode 11 – ‘Failure to Communicate’

June 8, 2022 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Cult TV - The Master Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Cult TV Issue #16: The Master Episode 11

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest issue of Cult TV. I’m Bryan Kristopowitz.

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Well, this is it, folks. The final episode of The Master where Sho Kosugi and his badass ninja bad guy character Okasa figure into the actual plot of the episode. Kosugi, the guy who should have been the total focus of the show as he is, you know, the real deal when it comes to martial arts and the whole “ninja” thing, managed to appear in five episodes total of the show, which is just outrageous. I mean, yes, Kosugi was involved in the show as a technical advisor and would appear as a stunt performer throughout the run of the show, but that’s not the same as being a character on screen. We all love Lee Van Cleef, but he’s not Sho Kosugi, the ninja from Revenge of the Ninja, the definitive ninja movie. Kosugi should have been the focus of The Master, a ninja show about a ninja helping people using his ninja skills.

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

But that didn’t happen. Kosugi only appeared in five episodes. And while I can complain about that until the end of time (and I likely will, in one way or another), I can also celebrate the fact that, on top of all of the great movies Kosugi did we also got five TV episodes where Kosugi does his ninja thing and they’re all awesome. It is a good idea to be positive when you can be. It really is,

Here are the links to reviews for the first ten episodes of The Master, just in case you missed them for some reason (or want to read them again):

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3
Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

And now, onto the eleventh episode of The Master.

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Episode 11: “Failure to Communicate”

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Director: Sidney Hayer
Writer: Michael Sloan

“Failure to Communicate,” the final Sho Kosugi episode of The Master, has our heroes John Peter McCallister (Lee Van Cleef) and his ninja protégé Max Keller (Timothy Van Patten) headed to, I think, a small California town where Keller’s father lives and works as a lawyer. As they drive into the town (it sure is foggy in the morning) McCallister and Keller see a woman (Kathy Hunter, as played by Revenge of the Ninja’s Cathy, Ashley Ferrare) running from armed thugs. McCallister and Keller, being heroes and whatnot, stop and go to rescue her. After a quick fight in a cemetery, McCallister and Keller manage to rescue Kathy and they taker her with them to see Keller’s father. Keller’s father, Patrick (Doug McClure), isn’t in his office when they get there. Instead, McCallister and Keller meet Patrick’s secretary Laura Crane (Knight Rider season 2 KITT scientist Rebecca Holden). We learn a bit about Keller’s family background here as well as Crane being blind. After some arguing about Max’s relationship with his father and who did what to who, Crane tells Keller that she knows where his father is and then takes him there.

It’s at this point that we learn that Keller’s father Patrick is at a local bar, he’s a drunk, and that Patrick is the one who staged the attempted kidnapping of Kathy. It seems as though Patrick Keller is involved with criminals who are blackmailing him. Patrick is also the lawyer for the mega rich guy Jason Hunter (J.D. Cannon), Kathy’s father, and that the whole kidnapping plot has something to do with her upcoming wedding to Paul Stillwell (Mark Goddard), who is involved with the lead criminal Straker (Marc Alaimo). So then a fight breaks out, Patrick Keller gets thrown out a window (like father, like son, as we’ve seen Max get involved in multiple bar fights and thrown through windows throughout the series), Max saves his father, they argue, and we see just how much animosity exists between the two. And then on top of all of that, we find out that Okasa is in town, in the bar, and he’s planning his next attack on McCallister.

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

So then some stuff happens, McCallister walks Crane home, and Okasa decides to strike. A brief martial arts ninja battle ensues (Okasa gives McCallister a sword before the brawl begins), Okasa manages to cut McCallister’s forehead, and McCallister escapes via ninja smoke bomb. Crane, who was in the area the whole time, continues her walk with McCallister and touches his face.

So then some more stuff happens, the Stillwell-Crane wedding takes place, and more thugs appear and, this time, kidnap Kathy (they also kidnap Patrick Keller). What the hell? Jason Hunter calls in the cops (the main cop is Lt. Kyle, played by Edd “Kookie” Byrnes), and McCallister, Max, and Crane try to figure out themselves where Kathy and Patrick were taken. Crane also talks with Lt. Kyle and gives him a description of who the kidnappers were (she obviously didn’t see the kidnappers but she describes just about everything else about the kidnappers via her “blind person” extra sensory perception or whatever). Stillwell is in the room when this happens and tells his criminal buddy Straker all about Crane and what she knows. So then Straker goes to kill Crane in her apartment. In a terrific, suspense filled sequence, Crane tries to gain the upper hand on her attacker by turning off the lights in her apartment and almost succeeds. Straker realizes that Crane is blind and didn’t see him and decides to kidnap her, too.

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Now, while all of that is going on, McCallister and Max decide to go look for Kathy and Patrick. They guess Kathy and Patrick are being held in a church. After a brief scuffle with some Straker henchmen McCallister and Max rescue Kathy and Patrick. They don’t rescue Crane, though, as they don’t know that she’s been kidnapped. When they bring Kathy back to her father, Straker calls Jason Hunter and demands a big pile of money for Crane’s return. Why would Hunter pay a massive ransom for a secretary he doesn’t really know?

So McCallister, pissed off about just about everything, talks with Hunter and gets him to agree to pay Crane’s ransom, and then goes to talk to Patrick to tell him that he knows he’s a scumbag and that he was involved with Kathy’s kidnapping. Patrick then vows to help McCallister and Max rescue Crane even if it means he will go to jail for collaborating with criminals. So then McCallister and the Kellers team up and go rescue Crane.

The final ten minutes or so of the episode are devoted to the Crane rescue operation as well as Okasa showing up one more time to try to kill McCallister. The final fight between the two ninjas ends in a bit of a stalemate, with McCallister tricking Okasa and getting him to flip into a body of water and Okasa vowing that he would return. The Kellers also manage to rescue Crane and reconcile.

“Failure to Communicate” is a weird episode because of the way the kidnapping plot overlaps with Patrick Keller’s family issues with his son Max. The whole scheme seems way more complicated than it really needs to be and it’s difficult to follow. And then when you add in the whole “Okasa” part of the story, the episode becomes overly muddled. The animosity between father and son is interesting but it isn’t the full on main plot of the episode, which makes Patrick and Max’s interactions not as meaningful. It would have made more sense if the “crime” aspect of the plot was more along the lines of “Max’s father is a mob lawyer, he’s working for a big time criminal, and Max has to convince his father to stop representing that big time criminal while McCallister personally dismantles the big time criminal’s next big hooha criminal scheme.” Why couldn’t Okasa have been a part of some other episode, like the thirteenth (and final) episode of the season? And, heck, why couldn’t Okasa have been the focus of that final episode?

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

At least the fight scenes are badass. The first McCallister-Okasa fight, where Okasa gives McCallister a sword before fighting (to make the fight fair?) is exceptional. The way Okasa attacks with a spear weapon is a thing of ninja fighting beauty. The second fight, which takes place on a big boat, comes out of seemingly nowhere and feels a bit bittersweet when you realize that it’s the final time the two ninjas will fight one another in the show. We do get one truly epic sequence where Okasa breaks McCallister’s sword, so there is that. But Okasa telling McCallister “I will return, master!” kind of pisses you off because it never happens.

I also want to mention the truly great sequence towards the beginning of the episode where McCallister and Keller rescue Kathy in the cemetery. For absolutely no reason, at the very end of the sequence, McCallister does a series of somersaults just before they all leave the cemetery. It’s amazing to look at, but it just boggles the mind as to why director Sidney Hayers had Lee Van Cleef’s stunt double do those flips instead of just having Lee Van Cleef’s McCallister run out of the scene. I mean, sure, it’s more interesting and visually exciting to see McCallister does a series of flips in the moment, but it just makes no sense. Why the hell did McCallister do those flips? Why?

This episode also contains one of the cooler “ninja lessons” of the show, with McCallister teaching Keller how to sense a sword in a swordfight without seeing it (Keller is blindfolded during the lesson). The idea is called “sensing the sword without seeing the blade,” which is so incredibly badass. It also comes off as one of the more practical ninja lessons in the show, as it would be a good thing to be able to sense a blade in everyday life. You never know when you’re going to be attacked by a ninja, so why wouldn’t you want to develop a sort of “sixth sense” about a potential sword attack?

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Rebecca Holden does an exceptional job as Laura Crane, the blind legal secretary. When she’s onscreen she exudes a natural charisma that you just can’t fake and you can’t take your eyes off of her. Ashley Ferrare also does a nice job as Kathy, but since the episode isn’t about her she’s just sort of “in” the episode, which is weird. Kathy knows martial arts and manages to fight off multiple attackers. Why isn’t she a bigger deal in the story?

Doug McClure does an okay job as Patrick Keller, Max’s father. He has a nice argument sequence with Timothy Van Patten, but other than that he isn’t very memorable. The same goes for Ed Byrnes. He’s a star and he’s in the episode as a cop but he doesn’t really do anything. Marc Alaimo is a great bad, though. Alaimo’s Straker may be a run of the mill TV show bad guy, but Alaimo gives him an edge that will make your skin crawl when he goes after Crane in her apartment. My God, I’m getting the willies right now just thinking about it.

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

And be on the lookout for stunt performer extraordinaire and modern horror icon George P. Wilbur as a random thug. This is his second appearance in the show, as he also played a thug in episode 8.

I wish “Failure to Communicate” was a better overall episode of The Master. It stinks to think that Kosugi went out on a mediocre episode, but then we do get those two fight sequences, so it’s not like we don’t get anything with this episode. I just don’t want this to be the final one with Kosugi. Okasa’s “I will return, master!” stings way more than it should.
Oh, and the meaning of the episode’s title, just in case you didn’t pick up on it, is in reference to the Kellers and how they don’t get along. I just wanted to make sure you understood that.

Rating: 2.7/5

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Next issue: The Master Episode 12: “Rogues”

Image Credit: Kino Lorber

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The Master Episode 11: “Failure to Communicate” IMDB page

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