Sue Thomas FBEye

“Let’s not tell Grandma that we like the show. She might get cocky,” my granddaughter said after watching her first four episodes of Sue Thomas FBEye.

I laughed when my daughter told me that. Me? get cocky about someone liking a show I recommended? Hardly, I am just glad someone actually tried my suggestion.

The real FBI agent, Sue Thomas, serves as the basis for the show. After Sue lost her hearing as a toddler she learned sign language, lip reading and speech. She learned well. Watching an interview of the real Sue Thomas, nothing hints she cannot hear a word of the conversation. Sue worked three years as a special agent with the FBI providing lip readings of suspects.

Having watched the real Sue Thomas in the interview, I recognized her in a couple of cameo appearances on the show where she talks with the deaf actress who plays her. Each woman has a hearing dog. In the show, the yellow retriever’s name is Levy. When  he hears the phone or doorbell ring, he touches Sue and indicates the source. When someone calls her name, Levy hears and touches her leg to tell her. He reacts to keep her away from noisy, dangerous situations.

I recommended the show to my daughter as a family friendly show. While the show emphasizes the crime of the week and interplay with the other agents, it also provides a glimpse into the challenges of the hearing impaired and their history. One show focuses on a deaf Holocaust survivor who sees a former prison guard. Working with her, Sue realizes that just being deaf placed the woman in the death camp, It would have been Sue’s fate if she had lived under the Hitler regime.

In another show, while listening to a brief about a case, the presenter turns to look at the board. Sue whacks his arm, 

He turns around protesting.

She says, “You turned around. I can’t see you speak.” All the agents learn basic signs, but they sign slower and lack the fluidity and ease of the lifetime deaf. Naturally the show briefly touches on the barriers when only deaf or hearing friends are in the room with the opposite.

One memorable show begins with Sue’s co-worker, Lucy, suggesting they go to a club for the deaf. 

Sue looks skeptical, “You know it is sign language only? You can’t talk.”

Lucy shrugs confidently, “No big deal.” She has learned a lot of sign language. She knows how to finger spell.

However, it became a big deal when everyone around her rapidly communicated using American Sign Language (ASL). Her signing drags the conversational flow to a stop. With a flurry of hands, the hearing impaired speed on ignoring Lucy, leaving her alone in a crowded room of animated conversations.

Later the flip side happens with Sue. Sitting at a table with fellow agents, she finds it impossible to read everyone’s lips as they interact in a vigorous repartee. Suddenly, the sound ceases for the viewers who experience the perpetual silence of the deaf as they watch others laughing and talking around them. 

  Sue does not hear anyone walking behind her. She does join co-workers in teasing each other about their foibles. She may not know every word she reads on lips, but she can repeat what she has seen or declare, “they are speaking in another language.”

I discovered the show recently on YouTube. Other online video services offer reruns of this show from the early 2000s. Several online stores offer the series on DVD. I do recommend it, and I promise I won’t get cocky if you enjoy it.