Tracker Season 1 Episode 12 Review: Off the Books


When you pair up two ridiculously magnetic actors in an action-adventure series, what you get in return is one hell of an entertaining hour of television.

Tracker Season 1 Episode 12 may be the best installment since the pilot.

And I’ll let you take a wild guess as to why that might be.

Whoever decided to cast Jensen Ackles as Russell Shaw deserves their favorite beverage of choice and big ol’ hug because it was a perfect piece of casting.

Tracker has a knack for bringing in compelling guest actors every week, but there was something extra special about Jensen joining the fray, and it probably had to do with the fact his appearance was two-fold.

Not only was Russell a link to Colter’s past and a beacon of information regarding the Shaw Family drama, but he was also a significant player in the case of the week.

Russell came looking to make amends with his baby brother, and things got off to a rocky start because Colter was Colter, and he wasn’t willing to just buy whatever Russell was selling.

And to be fair, although they’re siblings, Colter and Russell have been estranged for most of their lives. It would be hard for anyone to take the word of someone they hadn’t spoken to in so long when it went against something they’d believed to be true since they were a kid.

While no love was lost between Dory and her mother when she and Colter met for dinner during Tracker Season 1 Episode 11, Russell felt much different. He was more understanding than I would be if half my family thought I was a murderer.

Casting Jensen Ackles in a role means two things immediately: you will get charmed, and you will want his character to stick around in any capacity so you can keep being charmed.

Russell was VERY clearly keeping his secrets, and Ackles played him in a cagey but also incredibly endearing way. He was a guy looking to reconnect while also letting that innate sibling rivalry slip in occasionally.

Colter had to slowly coax those secrets out of him throughout the hour, but Russell seemed genuine when he talked about their family.

Colter: Why would Mom let me believe that you did it?
Russell: Yeah, I don’t know. I like to think she did the best she could. But Mom had her secrets, trust me.

Something was very clearly up with Ashton and Mary, and all the kids knew it, but of the three, Colter’s less willing to just chalk everything up to them being “crazy.”

He’s not naïve enough to believe they didn’t have their secrets and whatnot, but he views things differently than them due to the closeness with his mother that none of the others share.

The idea that someone else was in the woods and may have been the one to push Ashton is a theory I’ve seen fans float around, and Mary’s involvement has also been bandied about.

This Shaw Family business may be the slowest burning affair on television right now as we are twelve hours into Tracker and have very little information to go on. I’m not mad about it, but my curiosity is so high, and I’m impatient!

But if continuing to drag this out means we may get Dory and Russell to return in Season 2, I’ll allow it.

While Russell did come to see Colter and give his side of the story, he also had a favor to ask. And when Colter decided to help Russell find Doug, you can’t tell me a part of him wasn’t looking to show off for his brother a little bit.

We’ve established throughout Tracker Season 1 that Colter isn’t solely in the reward business for the money. He does want to help people, and when he makes a promise, he intends to keep it.

But showing Russell what he does and how good he is at it played into his decision to take on the case.

Tracker is going to Tracker, meaning the case got a bit complicated in the middle, but the case was a sideshow to the buddy comedy that was Russell and Colter.

Much like Colter, Russell also presented as a bit of a drifter, but it was apparent that Doug was important to him. And as more of their history unraveled, you could see why.

Getting involved with a civilian contract unit that made you sign an NDA meant that Russell and Doug had to keep many things close to the vest. And for Doug, in the weeks leading up to his disappearance, he was probably dealing with so much fear alone.

There was a great parallel between Colter and Russell, two brothers on shaky ground trying to find their footing, and the Solano brothers, who were close enough for Carlos to bend over backward to avenge his brother’s death.

Getting the Solano name meant that Colter and Russell had to do a lot of legwork across Virginia, and perhaps nothing crazier than breaking into a morgue to examine a dead body.

There were some great scenes between the brothers, especially when they’d both be awed by one another’s skills. And it was funny to see Russell drop into Colter’s world and discover he had a lawyer and a Bobby on standby to help.

It’s been a little while since Colter landed behind bars, but to know Colter is to know he wouldn’t be there for long.

Russell: You saying she’s fair game?
Colter: I’m saying she’s off-limits.

A Reenie sighting is ALWAYS a good thing, and Russell getting a little flirty with her was precisely what I thought would happen. Russell was a pretty flirty guy in general, but who wouldn’t be a little smitten with Reenie?

Colter quickly shut it down, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. The last thing he needs is any drama infiltrating his little team, and Russell may be a nice guy underneath it all, but he’s still trouble.

Maybe the good kind of trouble? But still trouble.

Related: Jensen Ackles’s Inspired Tracker Casting Gives Us Goosebumps

As the search for Doug raged on, it became more and more obvious that the Horizon Group had something to do with paranoia and his fear, and Russell’s commitment to finding Doug was admirable.

When Russell said he owed Doug, he wasn’t kidding. Doug put himself in harm’s way to protect him, and if the Shaw brothers have anything in common, it’s their dedication and follow-through.

Russell wasn’t dropping off the Find Doug train until he found Doug.

There was some action in this one! And it came with the Shaw brothers coming across some bulletproof vests and smoke bombs to penetrate a heavily guarded home to retrieve Doug.  

It would have been cool to see a little more of what was surely an insane gunfight, but I have to remember sometimes this is a network television series, not Tacker: The Movie.

They were lucky to walk away, with Russell only getting a bullet wound to the arm, considering how outnumbered they were. But I guess you never bet against the Shaw brothers!

When the duo left that house with Doug, I wondered if anyone would mention that they never got Carlos. He was still in the wind; in theory, you’d think he’d still be on a mission to get Doug.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when Russell told Colter he was staying behind. Someone had to ensure Carlos wouldn’t continue going after Doug, and Russell took it upon himself to make that happen.

I felt a bit of sadness at the episode’s end, knowing we’d seen the last of Russell for now because Ackles and Justin Hartley made a magical pair.

Their chemistry was amazing; very few words were exchanged between the pair at times, and so much was spoken with their expressions and body language.

Colter’s whole thing is being a lone wolf, and I GET IT, but I would not be opposed if Russell wanted to keep popping up in different cities.

Related: CBS Fall Schedule 2024-25: Tracker on the Move, NCIS: Origins, Matlock Trailers Are Here!

And while that’s not likely to happen, he must return when the family drama ramps up again. We still need our Russell, Colter, and Dory reunion before this series ends someday!

Tracker Notes

  • Tracker has moments of humor, but there were legitimately several scenes that were hilarious and made so because of Ackles’s comedic timing. Flirting with front desk morgue lady Yolanda, even AFTER she got him arrested? So silly but so damn funny.
  • Russell and Colter being so in sync when they took down those scammers at the tattoo shop was perfection. If I hadn’t known there were deep-seated issues between the pair, I would have never guessed it.
  • I love the dynamic between Colter and Reenie, and while I believe Colter doesn’t want drama involving his work, and that’s why he shot down Russell’s advances toward her, I wonder if he was a little jealous.
  • Russell leaving Colter his knife? Stab me right in the feels with that knife, why don’t you?

That was a wonderful hour of television’s hottest new show.

There’s only one more episode this season, so please drop a comment below and let me know what you thought about the hour and what you want to see in the finale!

Whitney Evans is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lover of all things TV. Follow her on X.

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