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Background Information for
THE SENTINEL



I write my stories without a lot of background information, assuming a strong fan-based knowledge in my readers. I throw around character names in the expectation that the readers know who they are. For those who don't have that knowledge, here's a thumbnail sketch of the characters and settings.



"The Sentinel" is basically a buddy-cop show. Many of the references in my stories are (a) to the detectives of the Major Crime division of the Cascade Police Department, (b) to the loft that Jim Ellison owns, and (c) to Rainier University where Blair Sandburg is a grad student in Anthropology, and a Teaching Fellow. Blair rents Jim's spare room. They are comfortable as loft-mates and partners, but not necessarily compatible. (Think the odd couple -- Jim, neat and Blair, scattered.)

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Personnel of Major Crime are:

Captain Simon Banks -- Jim's immediate superior
Detective James Joseph Ellison -- 'our hero', a cop with five enhanced senses.
Blair Sandburg -- who joins the group to help Jim learn to use and control his enhanced senses.
Captain Joel Taggart -- formerly of the Bomb Squad, transferred to Major Crime.
Detective Henri (H) Brown -- partnered with Rafe.
Detective (no first name) Rafe -- partnered with Brown.
Inspector Megan Connor -- an exchange officer from Australia.
Rhonda (no last name) -- Secretary for Major Crime in general, and Captain Banks in particular.


Other Characters that might be mentioned are:

Naomi Sandburg -- Blair's mother.
Daryl Banks -- Simon's son, fourteen when we first meet him.
Incacha -- shaman of the Chopec tribe that Jim lived with in Peru.
Carolyn Plummer -- Jim's ex-wife, head of Forensics.
Serena Chang (or Baker) -- Head of Forensics after Carolyn.
Cassie Wells -- Interim head of Forensics for a few episodes.
Dan Wolfe -- chief (?) coroner, a Native American man.


This is enough information to read the stories. However if you want more detailed information, read on...




James (Jim) Ellison is a detective in the Major Crime unit of the Cascade Police Department. He is big and buff, with short brown hair and pale blue eyes. He is ex-Army Ranger and ex-Covert Ops. During a mission gone wrong, he was the only survivor of his team, and spent eighteen months living with the native Chopec Indians in Peru. He has recently developed five heightened senses -- he can see, hear, smell, taste, and use his sense of touch much better than average. (Later, we learn that he had the senses as a child, but repressed them. He also seems to have used his senses in Peru, but repressed them again when he returned to 'civilization'.) Jim is, in the words of his friend Blair, 'a walking crime lab', also known as a 'sentinel'.

However, he has difficulty establishing and maintaining control of the senses -- the sensory input can 'spike', causing him discomfort or even overwhelming pain. At other times, he can focus so intensely on one sense that he becomes lost in a 'zoneout' and needs outside help to break out of it. Jim has not told anyone except Captain Banks about his (newly-awakened) enhanced senses. Jim seldom calls Blair by his given name; he uses either 'Sandburg' or a variety of nicknames -- 'Chief', 'Darwin', 'Junior', 'Buddy', 'Kid', etc, etc, etc.

This "odd couple" initially connected because Jim was seeking help for his senses. When he found Blair, they made a "deal". Blair would help Jim control his senses but, in return, Blair would write about Jim for his PhD thesis. Knowing that he was the subject of a dissertation rankled with Jim, and led to some hard feelings between them as the series progressed. Jim is adamant about keeping his senses a secret; he feels that they make him a "freak", an opinion which Blair disputes. However, the desire for secrecy led to Blair being "undercover" in the police department -- he was allowed to ride along with Jim because he was doing "research for a thesis about Police as a Closed Society" (or several other similarly-named ideas off the top of Blair's head).



Blair Sandburg is an anthropology grad student and teaching fellow at Rainier University. He is supremely intelligent, and has extensive knowledge about a multitude of subjects, which he is ready to share at the slightest hint that it might be applicable -- or even if it's not. He has made a study of sentinels; it is he who first identified Jim Ellison's 'condition', and now helps him maintain control over his senses and use them effectively, functioning as the sentinel's 'guide'. Blair splits his time between the university and the police station; his cover story is that he is writing his dissertation on Police as a Closed Society. This allows him to ride along with Jim, functioning as his partner and backup, ensuring that Jim uses his senses effectively, and helping him to avoid 'zoning out'. Although Blair is the closest thing to a 'sentinel expert' available, he is usually operating on confidence that Jim can do anything, and seat-of-the-pants guesswork. He frequently suggests ways for Jim to use his senses which Jim considers unrealistic but, somehow, it usually works. After the warehouse where he was living burned, Blair moved into Jim's spare room for 'just a week'; he remained there for the next four years, and counting.

Blair stands out -- he is the shortest person in Major Crime (including the women), with shoulder-length curly brown hair, deep blue eyes, and a pair of earrings in his left ear. He dresses in a cross between Salvation Army and Grunge and, at first glance, looks like an out-of-place hippie. He has a fandom reputation for non-violence, possibly based on his background (being raised by an ex-hippie mother) and an early statement he made that he wouldn't carry a gun. However, he will defend himself or his friends with any tool available, such as firehose, baseballs, walking stick or wrench; he seems to be anti-violence in principle, but recognizes that it is sometimes necessary in this bad old world. In later seasons, he did occasionally use a gun.

Perhaps because he stands out, he has a multitude nicknames, some specific to a particular person.

      Megan Connor generally calls him 'Sandy', and is the only one to do so.

      Henri Brown generally calls him 'Hairboy', and is the only one to do so.

      Joel and Rhonda generally call him 'Blair'.

      Simon Banks generally calls him 'Sandburg', frequently 'Kid', occasionally 'Blair'.

      Jim has a plethora of names for his partner. He is 'Sandburg' in daily conditions, 'Chief' in affectionate daily conditions, 'the kid' when talking about him to others, 'Blair' under intense stressed conditions. He also uses nicknames that change with the situation -- Darwin, Einstein, my little Guppy, Junior, Romeo, Rambo… whatever he thinks the situation calls for.




Captain Simon Banks is the head of Major Crime. He is a very large Black man who enjoys gourmet coffee, chews on cigars (no smoking in the office), and runs his department with a loud voice and firm hand, but understanding heart. He knows about Jim's sentinel senses and Blair's function as guide, but prefers to avoid dealing with it as much as possible. However, he uses Jim's abilities by sending him out on the particularly tough or difficult cases, and expects them to function with magical ease. He expresses irritation with Blair's presence in his unit, but actually recognizes Blair's usefulness to Jim, and to the department as a whole; because of his insight into the human psyche and customs, Blair's observations often lead to clues that help the detectives solve their cases.



Captain Joel Taggart, originally of the Bomb Squad, transferred to Major Crime after he lost his nerve for dealing with bombs. He is another very large (and somewhat overweight) Black man, but very gentle and soft-spoken. He has great respect for Blair and a soft spot in his heart for the younger man, and enjoys Blair's discourse on a variety of topics. Joel is one of the few people who commonly calls Blair by his first name.



Henri (H) Brown is another large Black man. He generally prefers loud floral shirts and often sports a shaved head. He is a jokester, enjoys teasing Blair, and considers himself a ladies' man. However, his lighthearted manner hides a sharp intellect. His nickname for Blair is 'Hairboy', and he uses it almost exclusively.



(no first name) Rafe is often given the name 'Brian' in fanfiction. He is a tall but slender white man with a hint of an accent -- often assumed to be South African. He is a very sharp dresser and apparently a good detective, but we know very little about him; he was in only a handful of episodes.



Megan Connor is a tall Australian woman with long, curly, chestnut hair; she joined Major Crimes midway through third season. Megan comes across as slightly abrasive, probably because she is trying to find and keep a niche among a department full of male coworkers, and because she refuses to rein in her outspoken personality to conform to others' expectations. She is nosy about how Jim manages some of his observations, but accepts the initial explanation that he is psychic. (Later, she finds out the truth.) She dubbed Blair 'Sandy' as soon as she met him. She has a slightly (sometimes a little more than slightly) antagonistic relationship with Jim, but is very friendly to Blair -- perhaps because they are both 'outsiders'. She regards Blair as a true part of Major Crime, rather than 'just a tagalong'.



Rhonda (no last name) is the secretary of Major Crime. She is a tall, blonde woman. Like most secretaries, she is the backbone of the bullpen and very efficient, and keeps the information coming and going and up to date. She demonstrates a cool head in emergencies, but we don't get to see much of her.



Naomi Sandburg is Blair's mother. She is a tall, slender redhead, a flowerchild who never left the 60's and dresses in gauzy, flowing ankle-length dresses. She has an itinerant lifestyle; hints dropped by Blair suggest that she has traveled all over the world, following the latest guru and New Age idea -- sometimes with Blair in tow, sometimes leaving him with a succession of 'friends'. She has never married and either doesn't know who Blair's father is, or has never told him. Again, hints dropped by Blair suggest that she has had a succession of boyfriends for varying lengths of time. She loves Blair dearly, but is somewhat flighty and inclined to interfere in his life and everyone else's. (Mother knows best, after all.)



Carolyn Plummer is Jim's ex-wife; hints are that the marriage did not last long. She is strong-willed and seems dedicated to her job as "head of Technical Support". (More often, she seems to function as chief of forensics.) She and Jim have a mixed friendly / antagonistic relationship. Carolyn left midway through the first season, for unspecified reasons.



Serena Chang (or Baker) is a pleasant black woman. We don't know much about her; she seemed to function as chief of forensics after Carolyn, and before and after Cassie. She's dedicated to her job, but sometimes exasperated when she's expected to perform miracles.



Cassie Welles is an intense, redheaded woman, the "new chief of Forensics" for just a few episodes; she left as quickly as she appeared. She is extremely enthusiastic, and wants to do a detective's job as well as forensics. (She was prevented by her asthma.) Her over-the-top meddling is highly irritating to Jim; he is torn between pushing her out of the way, and protecting her as part of the team.



Daryl Banks is Simon's son; he lives with his mother, but Simon seems to have lenient visitation rights. Daryl is "an impossible fourteen" when we first meet him, and very angry at his parents' divorce, but he develops into a thoughtful, intelligent young man. He and Blair seem to have a special affinity, perhaps because Blair is so used to dealing with young people.



Incacha is the shaman of the Chopec tribe that Jim lived with in Peru, who also seems to be a competent warrior. Blair mentions, "the shaman who guided you", and it is assumed that Incacha helped Jim learn to use his senses in Peru. He is killed during the episode "Warriors", but later returns occasionally as a spirit guide when Jim is particularly conflicted. Before he died, Incacha gripped Blair's forearm with his bloody hand and passed on "the Way of the Shaman" to Blair. This action and statement has led to many fandom speculations and fictional treatments of Blair's shaman powers.



Dan Wolfe is the chief (?) coroner. He is a large Native American man who wears his hair in a long ponytail; he seems even-tempered and good-humored. Jim (with a reluctant Blair) sometimes visits the morgue to find out what insights Dan might have about the victim.





Pictures are courtesy of Rhianne's Hidden Muse (Categories / Sentinel / Screencaps) and StarFox's Mansion (Gallery / Screenshots). Both sites have hundreds of pictures; visit and enjoy.

If you'd like to familiarize yourself with storylines, Becky's Transcript Page has full transcripts of all 65 episodes of The Sentinel.


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