Medium (TV series)
Basically, Zahn McClarnon and Jesse James Youngblood play two Navajos who have robbed a bank. The episode begins with McClarnon returning to the trailer where he lives. Someone in a flame-retardant suit is waiting for him and demands to know where "it" is. McClarnon tells him but the guy sends the trailer up in flames anyway, killing McClarnon.
In the Phoenix area lives Allison Dubois, a psychic who gets random flashes of the past, present, and future. This time she sees McClarnon die in a dream and wakes up unable to understand anyone. They're all speaking "gibberish" (actually, the Navajo language) as far as she's concerned.
The episode mainly uses Allison's inability to communicate with her husband as a metaphor for, well, her inability to communicate with her husband. Their relationship seems devoid of chemistry, charm, or humor, so it's not very interesting. It's hard to believe this show has lasted seven seasons.
The focus on Allison's family obscures several story problems:
Fortunately for the criminal, the police don't seem to do much detective work. Instead, they rely on Allison for flashes of information. Too bad these sudden insights are dramatically unsatisfying.
Stupid criminal tricks
This is obviously stupid. Criminals are supposed to flee and hide, not offer themselves as consultants.
It's ridiculous for someone to spend years studying a subject he hates for little or no money. What was he going to do if he didn't stumble onto the bank robbers...rob a bank himself? How about quitting the field and going into something else, bright boy?
How Medium handles Navajo
The show handles the language issue by having everyone speak English with Allison unable to understand them. The exception is when she goes to the office and hears everyone speaking in a foreign murmur. I couldn't tell what language it was, but I'm guessing the show didn't hire a roomful of Navajo speakers. It sounded a bit like Japanese to me.
In this scene, Livingston speaks "Navajo" on the phone and we (and Allison) hear it as English. So I'm not sure anyone ever speaks Navajo. Clever of the show to avoid potential trouble, but in a story about language, some actual Navajo would've been good.
Livingston says Navajo is "dying." I think the proper classification at this point is "threatened" or "endangered." It may start dying eventually, but I don't think it's there yet.
Livingston should be upbeat about whatever she's doing to protect and revive the language. Saying it's dying is one step away from lamenting it as dead and thus not worth saving. It's the linguistic equivalent of calling Indians a vanishing breed.
Language issue highlighted?
A few commenters were happy the show raised the issue of endangered Native languages. I wasn't impressed. Zahn McClarnon is Standing Rock Sioux and Irish, and Jesse James Youngblood is Latino, I believe, so the show didn't use Navajo actors. In fact, it didn't show any Navajo people or the Navajo reservation. And I don't think it used any words of the Navajo language.
The show gives us nothing but a couple of flashbacks of "Navajos" robbing, suffering, and dying. The overall impression is that Indians are lowlifes and losers. In that context, mentioning the "dying" language isn't worth much. Viewers will conclude that the language is dying because the Navajo don't care enough to save it.
Normally, I wouldn't mind if the Native characters were criminals. But look at the underlying message. Non-Indian linguists are trying to preserve the Navajo language. Navajos are drinking and committing crimes. Mainstream culture is normal and healthy; Navajo culture is marginal and unhealthy.
How to counteract this impression? Navajo bank robbers are okay, but complement them with a range of Navajo characters. Give us Navajos who are working to stop alcoholism or language loss. Focus on the Navajo world, for once, not the white world. When your plot is white cops investigating dead Indians, it's not much of a Native episode.
For more on the subject, see Adam Beach in Hawaii Five-0 and "Pocahontas" in Parenthood.