Friday, December 18, 2020

The Quest: Welcome to America Jade Snow

Maybe the Old West wasn’t so different from our current times. Unions were just as violent back then and unchecked lawlessness could destroy a community quicker than anything. That is what brothers Morgan “Two Persons” Beaudine and Dr. Quentin Beaudine learn when they blow into a striking miners’ town. They were the lead characters of The Quest, a series that was like the lite beer version of The Searchers. Instead of their abducted sister, they find plenty of violence and prejudice in “Welcome to America Jade Snow,” which airs Sunday night on getTV.

As a child, Morgan lived in captivity with the Cheyenne, until the Army reunited him with his brother Quentin. Now into adulthood, they are searching for their still missing sister. Morgan retains an affinity for Native American culture, especially when it comes to his wardrobe and he is naturally more inclusive. In fact, we learn in this episode he was formerly in a relationship with a Chinese immigrant, rather unoriginally named “China,” with whom he now crosses paths with again.

She has since remarried and given birth to little Jade Snow. Unfortunately, her husband and the rest of the town’s Chinese population have been scapegoated by the striking union. Load-mouthed Jensen stokes their resentment, inciting the strikers to attack the Chinese laborers recruited by the Machiavellian mining magnate to replace to replace them. The decent Sheriff Bradley understands how this anarchy will rot the town’s character over the long run, but the city fathers don’t seem to care.

Back in 1976,
The Quest died a quick death on network television. It was scheduled against Charlie’s Angels, so no boys between 13 and 21 were watching. Yet, given the pairing of Kurt Russell (who looks like he had Goldie Hawn’s hair back then) and Tim Matheson, it is a little surprising it hasn’t been revived in re-runs more.

Of course, this episode presents the Frontier in revisionist terms. The way it addresses tolerance and bigotry actually ages surprisingly well, whereas, its presentation of mob rioting suddenly looks uncomfortably timely. It is also bizarre to see George Lazenby, the former James Bond, listed as a guest star with absolutely no fanfare (seriously, there were even fewer Bonds back then, but he was one). He isn’t bad either, playing blokey Sydney, an Aussie immigrant, who tries to be a voice of reason among the strikers.

Irene Yah-Ling Sun (who did a lot of guest-star work at the time) is also quite good as China, despite the role being rather thinly written. Gary Collins (who was actually pretty solid playing a psychic in
The Sixth Sense) does great work as Sheriff Bradley, projecting the sort of calm and integrity that would inspire confidence. The chemistry between the two leads is still a little iffy, but Russell certainly looked outdoorsy.

Still, the show was probably better than it is remembered and this episode is arguably even more interesting now than when it first aired. Recommended as a curiosity piece and a competent western TV excursion, “Welcome to America Jade Snow” airs Sunday night (12/20) on getTV.