While Without A Trace always delivers captivating stories and outstanding performances by all its actors, the way each episode truly delves into a life gives the viewer so much more than a good story. Each episode is also a clear reminder of the value of life and the right and opportunity each and every one of us has to escape from lives of being lost and find lives of belonging, value, and purpose.

(2004) Film Review by Elisabeth Leitch

This page was created on October 15, 2004
This page was last updated on June 5, 2005

Review by Elizabeth Leitch
About this Series
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Anthony LaPaglia .... Jack Malone
Poppy Montgomery .... Samantha Spade
Marianne Jean-Baptiste .... Vivian Johnson
Enrique Murciano .... Danny Taylor
Eric Close .... Martin Fitzgerald

Production Companies

CBS Productions
Jerry Bruckheimer Television
Jumbolaya Productions
Warner Bros. Television

CBS Television
CanWest Global (Canada)
Channel 4 Television Corporation (2004) (UK) (TV)

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WITHOUT A TRACE is a fast-paced procedural drama about the Missing Persons Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The sole responsibility of the special task force is to find missing persons by applying advanced psychological profiling techniques to peel back the layers of the victims' lives and trace their whereabouts in an effort to discover whether they have been abducted, been murdered, committed suicide or simply run away. The team reconstructs a "Day of Disappearance" timeline that details every minute of the 24 hours prior to the disappearance, following one simple rule: learn who the victim is in order to learn where the victim is. Senior agent Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) heads the dedicated team that knows too well that every second counts when someone vanishes. His squad includes Samantha Spade (Poppy Montgomery), an agent who doesn't let her good looks get in the way of being tough; Vivian Johnson (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a no-nonsense investigator; Danny Taylor (Enrique Murciano), an intense and private agent; and Martin Fitzgerald (Eric Close), the newest member of the team, considered a lightweight by the squad because his only experience involves fighting white-collar crime.

Elisabeth Leitch is a graduate of the University of California San Diego with a BA in Literature-Writing. A person who has always loved movies, she never ceases to be amazed with the way movies impact viewers by both reflecting and asking questions about the culture and world in which we live. Currently, Elisabeth spends her days working in a local bookstore and seeking what God has in store for her future. She has also worked as a reporter/writer for the Los Alamos Monitor and the New Mexico Business Journal.

Joining the ranks of the well-established crime dramas of Law and Order and the soon to be just as popular CSI series, Without a Trace first aired in the fall of 2002 under the name Vanished. Just as CSI took crime out of the courtroom and into the laboratory, Without a Trace brought viewers a new perspective on the crime drama. Without a Trace focused not on the criminal, his/her crimes, and bringing him/her to justice, but on the victims-missing persons, their lives, the circumstances that lead to their disappearance, and finding them.

Since its beginning, Without a Trace has explored the disappearances of people from all walks of life-men, women, young, old, black, white, rich, poor, servicemen, business women, teenagers, children, parents, people from all over New York, who simply disappeared from the map that was their life. In each episode, the missing individual and his or her life become the focus of the investigation. The team interviews everyone they know. They try to reconstruct the hours and days leading up to the disappearance. They attempt to figure out how and why the missing person has disappeared from the routine of day-to-day life.

As the details unfold in each case, the team most often comes to one of two different conclusions as to why the person has disappeared-one, the individual was kidnapped; two, the individual ran away. Greater than just the moment of a kidnapping or the instant the person decides to run away, however, the disappearance of every individual points to the idea of a life in trouble and a person who has lost his or her way even before the actual disappearance. Sometimes it is the abductors who are lost, looking for love, looking for money, or simply trying to find a way out of a desperate situation that they believe should not be their life. Many times it is the missing person themselves. A person whose life has taken a wrong turn, gotten tangled in dangerous situations, gotten complicated, and somehow resulted in his or her disappearance or a decision to try to escape the circumstances. In cases where the victims have run away, their sense of being lost often stems from the feeling of living in a world in which they do not feel they belong.

Throughout the course of each investigation, victims' lives are laid bare before investigators. While some victims do remain "innocent," more often than not, the lives of most victims and those closest to them are revealed to be not quite as perfect as they may have seemed. In each case, however, the team is dedicated to finding the individual and rescuing him or her. Sometimes victims may face criminal charges once they are found, but the team is dedicated to first making sure their lives are safe. Whoever they find the persons to be and whatever circumstances may have lead to their disappearances, the team is dedicated to finding every person and enabling them to return to the lives in which they are not lost.

While Without A Trace always delivers captivating stories and outstanding performances by all its actors, the way each episode truly delves into a life gives the viewer so much more than a good story. Each episode is also a clear reminder of the value of life and the right and opportunity each and every one of us has to escape from lives of being lost and find lives of belonging, value, and purpose. Even after just two episodes of this third season, this point is already being driven home.

In the 2004 season's first episode, a blind teenager and her instructor are kidnapped. Investigators delve into her life and soon find, among other things, that she was having extreme difficulty coming to terms with her blindness and realizing her life still had value. In the end, however, she escapes and is the one who is able to direct investigators back to the cabin where her instructor is still captive.

In the second episode, the woman who goes missing is a burn unit nurse who is quickly determined to be one of the main suspects in abortion clinic bombing years earlier. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that she was working in the burn unit to try to make up for her sins, that she had recently decided to come out of hiding and confess to her crime, and had been kidnapped by one of the other bombers. Although the teams stops an explosion that would have killed her, she still is shot by someone connected to her abductor. As she lies dying, however, her thoughts flash back to a scene several weeks earlier and as she listened to a survivor from the original bombing speak a message of love and forgiveness specifically directed at her and her fellow bombers.

While many of us have never actually been technically missing, the stories portrayed in Without a Trace (including the individual struggles of the investigative team themselves) speak to any and every feeling of despair, lack of control, and confusion that we all face as we deal with life on a day-to-day basis. While those around us may not know how lost we sometimes feel, and there may not be a team of trained FBI agents trying to figure out how we got off track, the truth is that God is aware of what we are going through at all times and is always seeking to restore us to the best life that we can live. Whether we played an active part in getting ourselves into a mess, or we just slowly slipped into a life of despair, or just can't seem to stay where we want to for any amount of time-whether we are rich or poor, black or white, young or old, man or woman-God is there, always valuing us and seeking to find each of us that feel lost.

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