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Cult TV: The Master Episode 3 – ‘State of the Union’

July 30, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Cult TV - The Master Image Credit: Kino Lorber

Cult TV Issue #8: The Master Episode 3

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


Okay, so I don’t have much of an intro for this edition of Cult TV, but I am going to do a “What would a The Master reboot look like?” at some point soon. I’ve been thinking about it and, even with the show’s cheesy reputation, I think a series reboot is something that could/should happen and would be a hit (or, if it isn’t a hit, at least something cool). Ninjas certainly aren’t as big as they used to be, but I think, with the right presentation, ninjas could be a pop culture big deal again. A streaming service like Netflix or Disney + could do it and give it the push that would make ninjas a big deal again.

So, you know, be on the lookout for that in a future issue of Cult TV. Maybe in two issues.

Here are the links to reviews for the first two episodes of The Master:

Episode 1

Episode 2

And now, onto the third episode of The Master.


Episode 3: “State of the Union”


Director: Alan Myerson
Writers: Susan Woollen

Okay, so “State of the Union” is yet another Sho Kosugi less episode of The Master, which, at this point in time, is just inexcusable. Why wasn’t Kosugi in every episode of the show? Why the hell wasn’t the show about him? I wish there was information out there about this.

So “State of the Union” starts out with Max (Timothy Van Patten) learning from McCallister, the Master (Lee Van Cleef) how to slow his heart rate down. I’m going to assume that every episode from here on out will start with Max learning a new “ninja lesson” from McCallister. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Max’s ninja lesson will figure into the plot later on. I mean, why wouldn’t it? Why do it at all if the story isn’t going to eventually feature Max using his newfound ninja skill to beat the bad guys (or McCallister will show Max, in a real world situation, how to use his ninja skills)? Exactly. You know it’s going to happen at some point.

Anyway, Max and McCallister are in a new location, with Max entering a big hooha dirt bike motocross race. Max apparently enters this particular race every year and actually won it the previous year. Max is also friends with Hog (the now late but always great Mickey Jones), a local motorcycle gang hooligan or some such. Hog only appears in the motocross race part of the story. For whatever reason he doesn’t show up later on. So Max enters the race (McCallister watches the event while holding Max’s pet hamster, which isn’t a goddamn GIF but it should be), the race commences, and Max ends up finishing second to spunky local Carrie Brown (Crystal Bernard).


After the race, the episode then shifts to the actual main story, which involves the local cannery, run by mega douchebag Chad Webster (that’s one of the greatest mega douchebag names, isn’t it? Webster is played by Cotter Smith), and Carrie’s attempt to unionize the cannery’s workforce. Max and McCallister find out about the union drive after Max tries to get a job at the cannery (since Max basically lives on the road and isn’t independently wealthy he finances his “living on the road” life by taking odd jobs and whatnot going from town to town). Max is sympathetic to Carrie’s plight, partly because Max is always for the underdog and partly because Max has the hots for her.

Now, Carrie’s unionization effort at the cannery is, at best, half popular. Half of the employees at the cannery are for it, while the other half are scared of what might happen if Webster or the cannery manager Ralph (Ritch Brinkley) see them fraternizing with Carrie. Carrie tries to use her personal charisma and family history to get her fellow employees onboard. Apparently, Carrie’s brother, who was also well liked in the community, died under mysterious circumstances while also trying to unionize the cannery. And while no one could ever prove it because Webster essentially owns the town’s cops and politicians and whatnot, everyone knows that Webster had Carrie’s brother killed.

The day of the big hooha unionization meeting, Carrie’s fellow employees ignore her and make Carrie aware that no one will show up for the meeting. Everyone is just too scared of Webster and what might happen. This reality annoys Max, and he uses his new standing in the community to convince people to show up for the meeting. I mean, why not go? It’s just a meeting, right? What’s wrong with listening to what Carrie has to say?

So the meeting happens and, amazingly, an overwhelming majority of employees agree to the idea of starting a union. Webster, pissed off about what has happened, decides that Max and McCallister are directly responsible for giving people hope, and he puts together a gang of goons to go after Max, McCallister, and Carrie. As you would expect, it doesn’t end well for Webster and his goons.

When this episode started I really thought the story was going to be about corruption in the local motocross scene. Plenty of TV shows in the 1980’s had a “racing” episode, and I figured that “State of the Union” would be that episode for The Master. The actual motocross scenes are pretty good, featuring exciting, close racing and a spectacular finish. When the story then shifts to a cannery and Carrie’s unionization drive, I wondered if the show’s producers decided to combine two different scripts into one story (a “corrupt motocross league” racing episode and a “local factory wants to unionize but the owner won’t let it happen because the owner is a piece of shit” episode). Because there’s no real reason to start the episode with the motocross race and then shift to the unionization story other than someone in charge of the show deciding that they had two ideas/scripts that aren’t quite good enough to be standalone episodes but if they were combined somehow it might work. And while it does kind of work, I really do wish the show had done two different episodes with each story.

I mean, think about a “Max and McCallister have to stop a corrupt motocross promoter from running away with all of the money” episode with Lee Van Cleef competing in a motocross race with a ninja dirt bike. How would that not be ridiculously awesome? And a complete “Max and McCallister have to stop a corrupt cannery owner from stopping a union” episode could have led to insanely ridiculous ninja fight scenes inside of the cannery. If that had happened we would likely still be watching those fight scenes on YouTube. Unfortunately, with the combined stories, we get the pretty good opening motocross sequence, an okay car chase at the end, and a sequence in a cemetery that has everyone believing McCallister is dead but, of course, he was actually controlling his heartbeat and fooling everyone into believing he was dead so he could surprise everyone when he eventually springs into action. The cemetery scene is okay, but it isn’t as spectacular as the car chase that precedes it.


The guest stars are the best part of the episode. Crystal Bernard is perfect as the spunky union organizer Carrie Brown. Carrie is funny and charismatic and that’s why just about everyone in town loves her, but at the same time she doesn’t take any shit from idiots and you want to root for her as soon as you see her. And Cotter Smith gives one of the sleaziest performances in TV history as cannery owner Chad Webster. He just oozes douchebaggery from the second you see him in the motocross race, and you absolutely despise him when he runs over Carrie after she wins the race. When you find out that Webster owns the cannery and spends most of his time being an asshole you hate him even more. If there was ever a guy who needed to be dropped into some sort of machine that smashes fish into goo so the goo can then be canned, Webster is that guy.


Ritch Brinkley does a fine job as the cannery manager Ralph Carter. He’s a conflicted henchman, sure, as he doesn’t have a problem doing most of Webster union busting bidding, but he doesn’t want to get into killing people (at least this time). Ralph’s leather vest is also one of the greatest pieces of character costuming I’ve ever seen. As soon as you see him wearing it you know that Ralph is a guy that will do whatever his boss tells him to. Yes, he might complain about it, but in the end he will end up doing whatever his boss wants him to because… it’s all in the vest. Trust me. It’s all there on screen.


And, as I said earlier, Mickey Jones shows up at the beginning of the episode and then, after the motocross race sequence is complete, disappears. Why isn’t Hog working at the cannery, or operating some sort of bike shop in town that Max and McCallister can hang out at? It’s a shocking missed opportunity.


“State of the Union” is, at best, an okay episode of television. It has some good things going for it, especially its casting, but the story seems like a thrown together affair and isn’t as engaging as it could have been. On top of that there isn’t enough ninja action in it. There’s nothing insanely ridiculous like in the first two episodes. “State of the Union” is just okay. Solid stuff but nothing spectacular.

And I say again: why isn’t Sho Kosugi in this episode? My God, he could have been in the motocross part with his own ninja dirt bike! Think of how cool that would have been!


Rating: 2.5/5


Next issue: The Master Episode 4: “Hostages”



The Master Episode 3: “State of the Union” IMDB page

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