CBS on Sunday used Super Bowl LVIII as a launchpad for the Justin Hartley vehicle Tracker. The one-hour drama — which is loosely based on the Jeffrey Deaver novel “The Never Game” — casts the This Is Us vet as Colter Shaw, a lone-wolf survivalist who roams the country and uses his expert tracking skills to help private citizens and law enforcement solve all manner of mysteries… all while contending with his own fractured family.
That’s where things get interesting.
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Flashbacks reveal that Colter and his siblings — which include an older brother, Russell, and a younger sister, Dory — had an unusual upbringing. Their parents, Ashton and Mary (played by Oz’s Lee Tergesen and Good Sam’s Wendy Crewson), “were professors at Berkeley until there was this incident with my dad,” Colter explains. “So, he took us to live off the grid at this cabin. It was a compound, actually, by Sierra National Forest,” where Ashton “started to talk about these people that were out to get him and how we all had to be prepared. He taught us how to track, how to hunt, and he taught us to free climb at this place called Devil’s Notch.”
One night in 2003, when Mary wasn’t home, Ashton’s paranoia got the best of him and he made a run for it, leaving his three children behind. Russell went after him, and an hour later, Colter found his father, dead, at the bottom of Devil’s Notch. It appeared as though he’d been pushed by Russell.
In the present day, Russell attempts to make contact with Colter. He says that there’s something Colter “needs to know,” but Mary wants Colter to disregard his brother’s pleas.
“I need you to trust me,” she says. “Block that number. Ignore him. For everyone’s sake, leave it be.”
But will Colter respect Mom’s wishes? Or will his curiosity win out and pave the way for an extraordinarily tense reunion? And what about Colter and Russell’s sister Dory, who was seen in flashbacks but was not otherwise present in Episode 1?
“We have to address that,” Hartley tells TVLine. “When it happens, it will be very meaningful… [but] you won’t see her early in Season 1. I can tell you that.”
We also asked Hartley why Mary thinks it’s for the best that Colter continue to dodge Russell’s calls. Are her intentions pure, or is there something bigger — perhaps even sinister — at play that Colter doesn’t know about?
“I mean, sometimes you protect people from themselves,” Hartley ruminates. “[Mary] knows who Colter is, and she knows that when he’s on a trail, he’s not leaving that trail.” He’s going to stay the course until he finds the answers he needs, and Mary is “desperate enough to lie to her own son” if that’s what it takes to keep him out of harm’s way.
All of this got us wondering: Just how much of each episode will focus on Colter’s day job as a rewardist… and how much will focus on building out the series’ mythology. “It would depend on the episode,” Hartley answers. “We have episodes where it’s 60-40, shifted towards the backstory, some that are 50-50, and some where it’s 70-30, shifted towards the case. There are some episodes where the backstory is peppered in a little bit more, and some where it’s not peppered in so much at all. I will say, though, that every episode has a little bit of Colter’s backstory.”
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What did you think of CBS’ Tracker? Grade the premiere via the following poll, and let us know if you’ll be back for Episode 2 (airing Sunday, Feb. 18 at its regular time, 9/8c).
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