It’s been some time since I’ve seen a performance of Simon’s that I have not previously seen. But this past week I have at last seen another, an episode of The F.B.I. entitled The Maze.
Simon plays Nikos Capralos, a man grieving over the loss of his daughter due to an overdose of drugs. She gave the name of a man she claimed gave her the drugs, and now Nikos, heart-broken and devastated, wants to see this man pay for it.
A friend of his on the lam from the law, Frank Dixon Wells, stops in to see him and learns of the tragedy. He wants to see justice done too, and offers to kill the guy for Nikos. Nikos is very agreeable and relieved.
But things grow far more complicated. Tina Aliki, a pub owner who is love with Nikos, knows something he refuses to face: his daughter lied. The man who gave her the drugs was someone else. She tries again to get Nikos to listen, but he explodes and says that she’s always been jealous of his daughter.
Meanwhile, Frank is involved in a shootout with the authorities and winds up mortally wounded. With no one to knock off the man Nikos still believes is responsible for his daughter’s death, he decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets out to kill the man himself.
The F.B.I., hot on the trail, find out what’s happening from the horrified Tina. They manage to track down Nikos just in time to save both the man’s life and Nikos’s own. Finally reasoning with the devastated father, they witness Nikos dropping his knife and stepping away from the frightened man.
I was worried wondering what would happen to Nikos. The epilogue is wonderfully satisfying. The real drug pusher has been found and confessed. No attempted murder charges have been pressed on Nikos, most likely because of his mental state at the time. We see him finally beginning to heal. He appears happy again, mingling with some of the people in the pub. And he has asked Tina to marry him at last.
Simon delivers an amazing, thoroughly believable performance, as always. As Nikos Capralos, we see a man utterly torn apart by his daughter’s sudden and needless death. He doesn’t even have the will to dress neatly or, apparently, to comb his hair. Losing hold of all reasoning power, he becomes focused on one thing and one thing only: serving his brand of justice on the man supposedly responsible for his daughter’s death.
The character of Frank Dixon Wells affords Simon with the unique opportunity of interacting with another highly skilled character actor whom we lost far too soon—Czechoslovakian-born Steve Ihnat. Frank is also a multi-faceted person. In the opening scene we see him shoot and kill a man as he and his girlfriend flee. Yet he is not entirely cold-blooded; with Nikos he shows a definite softer side. The two friends even embrace during their meeting. And he is outraged by the death of Nikos’s daughter. His offer to kill the drug pusher, while of course illegal, seems to be born out of his genuine caring for Nikos and the girl.
Also of note is Ina Balin, who plays the pub owner Tina Aliki. She is forced to stand by and watch Nikos descend into hopelessness and despair. It’s even worse since Tina loves Nikos and wants only to see him be able to be happy again. For most of the episode, that seems a near-impossibility.
To see Nikos at last begin to climb out of the pit he fell into is beautiful and inspiring. Some actors would not be able to successfully portray this after having played someone so tortured. But Simon pulls it off perfectly. We believe in the character; we rejoice in his finding peace.
And this episode takes its well-deserved place among my most favorite of Simon’s performances.