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The Pretender
  Season 1
Episode # 1.01
Airdate September 19, 1996
Writer(s) Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle
Director(s) Rick Wallace
Last name (s) Russell
Location (s) Blue Cove, DE; NYC
Every Picture Tells A Story
All The Pretender episodes

Pilot is the first episode of the first season of The Pretender series which first aired September 19, 1996 on NBC in the United States. It was also the pilot episode of the series and was so highly rated it tested higher than ER and higher than any NBC pilot since Bonanza[1].


The pilot episode begins with introduction of Jarod via a DSA dated 2/4/63. He has just been brought to The Centre and has completed his first task ... recreating (using a projected image as a guide) the Empire State

Baby Jarod.jpg

building from an assortment of materials provided to him. The young Jarod stops his sing-song tune of "Cree Craw, Toad's Foot," to call out that he has finished his building. Getting no response, he shows an intelligence that belies his years by walking over to a two-way mirror in the room, cupping his hands to make it possible to see through it and then doing so - saying again that he has finished his building. A man's face appears in front of the camera that is obviously recording the boy's actions. The man says that in less than 36 hours, this pretender has already shown more promise than all of the others. He walks out of the room behind the mirror and into the room with young Jarod. The man bends down, smiles at the young boy and says, "Hi Jarod. I'm Sydney. I'll be taking care of you for a while." Jarod's question relating to the whereabouts of his parents goes unanswered.

Anchorage, Alaska 1996

A chopper lands and a smoking woman comes out of it alongside with an older man. A ship employee says "Ma'am, the materials on board are highly explosive!" The woman - Miss Parker - stubs out the cigarette and replies: ”So am I.” The man speaks of captain Jarod, who helped to unravel a problem with dumping toxic waste into the ocean, than he remarks that Jarod was a kind of odd: “Everything with him was always 20 questions”. Miss Parker finds a red notebook that contains articles on the dumping of toxic waste. Parker sees that as Jarod hurrying away and leaving the notebook, Sydney as a breadcrumb, to keep him close. Sydney also finds a book “Modern surgical techniques”.

In the crowded Queen of Angels Hospital, a man walks in and hears a Greek woman speaking Greek. Her son explains the problem to the doctor who asks the woman to speak English. She does not. Jarod interrupts into the conversation, translating what the woman said. The woman is taken away and a new patient is brought in EMS. Jarod follows the patient and interrupts into her treatment, although the head nurse, Gwen Porter protests against it. She however observes

Jarod, doc, 1x01.jpg

that the man knows what he is doing, and allows him to continue after the security guards arrive. The man saves the patient’s life. Later he is introduced as Dr. Jarod Russell by the head of the hospital, Dr. Miles Hendricks. He is also introduced to the head nurse, Gwen Porter, with the comment that without her, the hospital wouldn’t run as smoothly. As the introduction takes place Jarod notices a nurse, sneaking into the radiology room and flipping the "Open" sign on the door. He also meets with Dr. Alan Trader, chief of surgery, who is very late. Jarod plays a greedy doctor, who wants the hospital’s stock options as the hospital might be purchased by the HMO. After the “meeting” Jarod is invited to a game of racquetball with Hendricks.

Centre, Blue Cove, Delaware

ˇJarod's Centre room.jpg

Parker and Sydney talk of chasing Jarod while walking to the elevators on their way to search Jarod’s room once more. Sydney sees no point in it. They watch Jarod’s last sim before the escape, where Jarod had to find out


what happened in a crashed airplane, to make it crash, in the process becoming every member of the cockpit. Parker finds something interesting afterwards – origami Odysseus, the Greek god of retribution, of which she derives that Jarod sees himself as a vigilante, protecting and helping the innocent.

Jarod’s pretend this time, as introduced by his red notebook, is a 12-year old Kevin Bailey, who is in a wheelchair, because after a car crash in which he loses both his parents and gets seriously injured, he is operated on unsuccessfully at the Queen of Angels Hospital, resulting in him being confined to a wheel chair. The case is tried in court but Bailey does not win against the hospital. Jarod drives to St. Andrews Middle School in Queens, to meet the kid face-to-face.

Interest of the week.jpg

There he is fascinated by ice cream which he starts to love from the first bite. Jarod observes Bailey in his wheelchair then he leaves. He meets a hobo, in front of an electronic store, watching the TV show, Wheel of Fortune. Again Jarod is fascinated, and gives the correct answer to the current question. He is immediately summoned by another hobo, whom Jarod hired to see if his account has any money. As it turned out, the account in Alaska has been frozen. Jarod pays the hobo the promised 50 dollars and leaves.

Afterwards, in his office, Jarod takes some of his blood. He is interrupted by a beautiful nurse, Nicole, who asks his help with the Greek lady, who yells at everybody in Greek. Jarod gives her the blood, and asks to run some tests, promising to help with the Greek lady. As it turns out, the Greek lady speaks English and is just afraid of the operation. Jarod decides to use a different approach, consisting of different herbal teas and massages, to make the woman relax.

Centre logo.jpg

Back at the Centre, the IT woman, Sandy, informs Miss Parker, that Jarod has checked the bank account, and they have traced it. As it turns out Jarod has scrambled the ATM system, and when the ATM camera surveillance video picture appears in the screen, it shows the hobo, with a sign written by Jarod “Hi guys”.

In the hospital, the head nurse complains about the cancelled operation and the assigned herbal teas, but Jarod calms her down. Then he asks the key to radiology, the guy working there, Andy, was suppose to be in the lunch break, but as Jarod saw once before, he is in the room with the nurse Nicole. Jarod interrupts their rendez vous, and they help him keep the secret, of why he needed to use the radiology room. They watch the x-ray pictures of Kevin Bailey, who was Dr. Trader’s patient, and see no difference in before and after pictures, besides the fact that the latter has been copied with an old machine, that leaves a distinct smudge in one of the corners.


Jarod watches an old DSA simulation, dated 10/31/70, of himself as a child, pretending to be Harvey Lee Oswald and Jarod is reminded that Oswald couldn't have gotten enough shots off, given the time frame and the rifle he used, the result being that the shooter couldn’t have done it alone. So in the current case, Dr. Trader had to have had an accomplice.

After figuring that out, he goes to play racquetball with Dr. Hendricks and Jarod loses the game. After the game, the sit and talk in the lounge, where Dr. Trader takes another drink there, as it is his day off. Jarod notices Dr. Hendricks taking his medicine for his heart as he has had two heart attacks already.

Jarod tries to speak with Kevin and offers him an ice cream cone, but Kevin refuses, as Jarod is a stranger. Jarod tries again, asking if his hands cramp from pushing his own wheelchair. Kevin looks for a moment and moves on.

At The Centre, a secretary tells Sydney that there is a "Shreve Harmon" calling on line 7. Sydney remarks to


no one in particular that Shreve and Harmon built the Empire State Building. He tells the secretary to put the call through and trace it. Sydney tells Jarod that he is very clever and asks him if he is well. Jarod mentions that the Centre has cut off his money line. And Jarod also informs Sydney that he has found out how the sim-s were really used “South Pacific simulation #118, the results were used to blow a ship out of the water while 133 people were on board ... the Outbreak simulation was used in the field and 46 people died of the Ebola virus“. Jarod feels the guilt for all those deaths.

Before the escape, Jarod was working on a Stock Market sim, designed to see if the market could be manipulated. So Jarod pretends to be a stock analyst in Wall Street, locks the Centre employees out of the system, manipulates with the stock market and by doing so gains 5 million dollars from the Centre client, who needed the sim. Parker and Sydney fly to new York, trying to catch Jarod. As they check in at their hotel, Miss Parker finds that their rooms have been pre-paid and that the person who pre-paid them left a half gallon of Rocky Road ice cream in a champagne bucket. The note with the ice cream said, "Welcome to the Empire State." Sydney is amused that Jarod has simulated his way one step ahead of Miss Parker again - but Miss Parker fails to see the humor.

At the Silver Rail, Jarod approaches Dr. Trader, who has just finished a martini. Discreetly pushing the martini glass to the side, Dr. Trader tells the barkeep that he'll have another "ginger ale." Jarod pretends not to notice and launches into a story about a possible botched surgery. Meanwhile, Jarod's friend from the ATM joke is making a phone call to Dr. Trader's service. While Jarod listens to Dr. Trader tell him how to avoid a malpractice suit, Dr. Trader's pager goes off. The message on it reads "Where's Bailey's pre-op film?" Dr. Trader tells Jarod that he has to get back to the hospital and leaves the bar. Jarod waits a moment, and then follows him. As Jarod watches, Dr. Trader approaches Gwen outside the hospital. They have an animated conversation during which Dr. Trader shows her the beeper and then they part.

Jarod begins searching the National Police Information Network, using Gwen Porter's name as the search criteria. He gets an immediate hit on file 78421, which shows her arrest record. There's a knock on his door and Nicole brings in the lab report on the blood work-up that Jarod requested previously. As he reads the report, Jarod's face is hardened by a knowing look and later, he watches another DSA, this one of his first day at The Centre, where he is asking Sydney where his Mom and Dad are.

In the night, there’s a fire alarm at the hotel where Sydney and Miss Parker are staying. One fireman pulls aside Sydney as he is leaving the building, revealing himself as Jarod. He informs Sydney of how the Centre can retrieve the 5 million dollars, and then asks about his past. As it turns out from the lab tests, Jarod’s blood contains a rare anomaly which means that the persons the Centre claims are Jarod's parents, who had died in a plane crash, are not really his parents. Sydney is shocked. Miss Parker tries to light a cigarette at the same time, notices that there is no smoke in the hotel and runs back followed by sweepers. Jarod quickly asks Sydney to give him the tomorrow's code for The Centre's mainframe. Sydney is reluctant until Miss Parker shows up. He gives the code and Jarod escapes.

Jarod confronts Gwen. She tells of her sad story how Dr. Trader blackmailed her to get rid of the pre-op x-rays. She says that Dr. Trader was drunk while deciding to operate on Kevin Bailey, and when moving the kid without stabilizing him, they severed his spinal cord. Dr. Hendricks did the cover up, to protect the hospital. And if Gwen went with the x-rays to Dr. Hendricks, he took them to himself.

Jarod meets Dr. Trader at the Silver Noon, the pub where trader goes to get drunk. He sets up an appointment with Dr. Hendricks to play racquetball with him at noon. After that he sets up hes plan. As Trader waits for Jarod, Jarod playes racquetball with Hendricks. After Hendricks drinks from the water bottle, tampered by Jarod, he get a heart attack. As they arrive at the hospital in the ambulance, Jarod orders OR room #3 made ready and tells the attendants that Dr. Hendricks is having a heart attack.

Parker is still mad at Sydney for giving the main frame code to Jarod, but she was able to tag the file, that Jarod took and trace it, so they know his location. Remembering the gun play of the night before, Sydney reminds Miss Parker that The Centre wants Jarod alive, to which she replies, "Preferably" before walking away.

At the hospital, Dr. Hendricks is being prepped for surgery. Jarod tells him that they were unable to bring in a cardiologist fast enough, so he has paged Dr. Trader. Dr. Hendricks tries to object, but is in too much distress to do a good job of it. Jarod reassures him by saying that Dr. Trader will take care of him ...after all, he was able to take care of Kevin Bailey. Dr. Hendricks begs Jarod to do the surgery, and Jarod says that he will ... but only if Dr. Hendricks tells him where Kevin Bailey's pre-op x-rays are hidden. Dr. Hendricks has no choice ... he tells Jarod what he wants to know. Before Jarod leaves to retrieve the X-rays, he tells Dr. Hendricks that he wishes that he could perform the surgery for him, but it wouldn't be ethical - since Jarod isn't really a doctor and since Dr. Hendricks isn't really having a heart attack.

Jarod turns Dr. Hendricks over to Dr. Trader and leaves the room, just as Miss Parker, Sydney and the sweepers are pulling up to the hospital. As he walks down the hallway toward Dr. Hendricks office, Jarod calls Nicole over and asks her to page security to stop Dr. Trader from operating on Dr. Hendricks, since Dr. Trader is drunk. Appalled at the implications, Nicole rushes off to do as she was asked. Jarod retrieves the X-rays from Dr. Hendricks' office and leaves the red notebook he used for the pretend on Dr. Hendricks' desk. As he is leaving, Sydney sees him down the hallway and calls out to him, alerting Miss Parker and the sweepers to Jarod's presence and forcing him to run. Jarod enters The Greek lady's room, moments later, Miss Parker hears a woman scream from down the hallway and runs toward the sound. Entering the room, she finds Mrs. Nikkos in bed, apparently hysterical because a man has climbed out of her window and onto the roof. After Miss Parker, Sydney and the sweepers have climbed out the window and to the roof, Jarod comes out from under Mrs. Nikkos bed. They speak a few affectionate words in Greek ... Jarod blows the grateful woman a kiss and is gone out the door. Miss Parker, Sydney and the sweepers look down from the roof to see Jarod jogging over to a waiting cab and leaving.

Jarod leaves the cab and drops the X-rays into a nearby mailbox. As he walks down the streets of New York, Jarod finds himself in front of the Empire State Building. He looks up at it, smiles, and blends into the crowds on the street.

At Kevin Bailey's home, his grandfather shows him the set of x-rays that he has received in the mail. And at an airport somewhere, as Jarod reads about the Bailey settlement fetching millions for the boy, the PA system announces that a flight to San Diego is ready to depart. A stewardess comes up to Jarod and tells him that he'd better board or he'll miss the flight. Jarod stands and says with a smile, "Don't worry, they aren't going anywhere without me" and puts on the "captain's" hat that goes with his uniform. As Jarod walks down the access tube to the plane with his one piece of luggage, the screen fades to black.


Main Cast

Guest Stars

  • Stephen Tobolowsky as Dr. Alan Trader
  • Peter Michael Goetz as Dr. Miles Hendricks
  • L. Scott Caldwell as Gwen Porter
  • Lilyan Chauvin as Mrs. Nikkos, The Greek Lady
  • Jeffrey Shepard as 12 year old Jarod
  • Dylan Provencher as Kevin Bailey (uncredited)
  • Scott Gibson as Radiology Technician (uncredited)
  • Lynley Swain as Nicole (uncredited)
  • Alex Wexo as Young Sydney (uncredited)


  • Ship captain
  • Doctor at Queen of Angels Memorial Hospital in New York City
  • Fireman
  • Pilot

Jarod's Discoveries

  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Ice Cream


Narrator: There are extraordinary individuals among us known as Pretenders. Geniuses with the ability to insinuate themselves into any walk of life, to literally become anyone. In 1963 a corporation called the Centre isolated one such Pretender, a young boy named Jarod. Locked in a controlled environment, they exploited his genius for their "unofficial" research. Then, one day, their Pretender ran away.
Sydney: The Centre wants him alive.
Miss Parker: Preferably.
Miss Parker: Hell of an environment you keep him in, Syd. And with input like this, maybe we'll find him masquerading as a postal worker
Sydney: He doesn't masquerade. He's a Pretender. He becomes anything he wants to be.
Miss Parker: Well, the Centre should have stuck to computers for their simulations. They don't run away.
Sydney: But they're not human. They can't tell you how the crew was feeling as the aircraft lost power; how their emotions contributed to their fate. Jarod can.
Jarond: (in Greek) Good morning, Mrs. Nikkos. How are you today?
Mrs. Nikkos: You a doctor?
Jarod: I am today.


  • The Centre logo is different.
  • Jarod's fascination for ice cream begins here.
  • Jarod speaks fluent Greek.
  • Sydney appears to be a Yale alumnus.
  • This episode premiered on Thursday instead of Saturday.


Related links

Pretender Pilot Episode 1 (The Daily Planet)