Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Last Ship: El Toro I like to call it The crew of the USS Nathan James kicks ass.

Prepare yourselves. El Toro (translation: The Bull) is a hell of an episode. We wanted more action, drama and suspense and we got it.  

The crew heads to Nicaragua to capture monkeys at a reserve to use to test the vaccine. When they arrive at the reserve where the primates are located, they find sick people begging for help. They encounter a former drug lord whose yacht ran aground, who had moved ashore and set up operations, ruling the people with an iron fist basically employing them as slaves under the guise of protection. The crew struggles with what they should do, if anything. Chandler is faced with the decision of whether to help the people or do the greater good by sticking to their mission and taking the monkeys back to the ship. 

Before I continue, I feel it's important to pay homage to the greatness that is Adam Baldwin's facial expressions aka "Slattery Face".  Basically, there's just one:

With subtle variations like...


You get the point.

"It's not all on you, you know."
"Isn't it?"

The interaction between Rachel and Tex was nice. It felt natural, not forced.  I feel like he's really concerned about her well-being and we see that more than once in this episode. He's a civilian but he's less of an outsider than she is. He asks her why she doesn't join the rest of the crew in the wardroom for meals and she confesses to him it's because she's not well-liked because she'd lied to them for four months while their families got sick and died back home. He tells her, "I think you underestimate people's capacity for forgiveness. Or maybe you just find it too hard to forgive yourself."

Which tells me that there's more to her than we know. There are secrets, things about her yet to be revealed (at least I hope) that tell us why she is the way she is. Is she a reserved loner because of her guilt related to the crew or is it for some other reason?

We also see that Rachel's become attached to the crew somewhat. Her genuine concern, not so much for the monkeys, but for getting the entire crew back safe was evident in the scene on deck when Tex told her he'd gotten word the crew was on their way back.  Her response, "All of them?" and the anxious, frightened tone in her voice spoke volumes. It isn't just about the virus anymore, she's become attached to them. They mean something to her.

Rachel is really starting to grow on me. I her which is in complete contradiction to what I said a few episodes ago. She carries a tremendous burden. First she feels responsible that the crew of the Nathan James did not get to see their families before the outbreak of the virus and second, she is responsible for creating the vaccine that can save the entire planet.  No wonder she feels so guilty. The catalyst I needed to give her a break was in those conversations she had with Tex, especially about Mark Twain.

"I know it's not our mission and I don't care. We cannot leave those people like that."

Again another glimpse into the more human side of the crew. They are sailors in the United States Navy and their duty is to follow orders to carry out a specific mission but that does not mean they don't feel.  And in this episode, they do.
El Toro allowed the crew to take the monkeys and leave the island, leaving their weapons behind. It wasn't ideal but they'd fulfilled their mission. But you could sense the tremendous sense of guilt in leaving those villagers behind under El Toro's dictatorship. How could the crew watch all that brutality and do nothing? How would they live with themselves? Master Chief tried to reason with them, which is something he's rather good at, once again playing mediator and bringing a sense of calm and rationale to things. But ultimately, it was Slattery's appeal to Chandler not as a sailor or as the Captain but as a father.  

"I have daughters, you have a daughter."

That's all it took.  Which leads us to ...

"We came to hunt."

And hunt, they did. I'll admit I yelled at my television when Chandler said those words. In fact, I didn't just yell, I jumped up and down yelling "HELL YEAH!"   Hey, I love it when the crew of the Nathan James get all bad ass.

Someone mentioned in a review El Toro was a bit too Magnificent Seven and I say whatever,  it worked. 

I've got to hand it to Jose Zuniga, he played El Toro perfectly. He was the ultimate evil villian--murdering, rapist, drug dealing crime lord. And did anyone else find it funny that in the end he surrendered and "offered' himself to be taken as a prisoner aboard the ship, by the Americans he despised so much? Coward. He knew he'd be well-cared for on the ship. Beats the hell out of living in a jungle, eating monkeys, getting your rocks off with underage girls, and beating laundry on a rock. Thankfully Delgado saved everyone a lot of time by knifing that son of a bitch in the back. 

In the end

This episode offered a bit of everything...humor, drama, action and suspense. Slattery's attempt to imitate Rachel, the great interactions between Tex and Rachel, El Toro with his hands all over those young girls, banishing that young girl to death, the crew visibly angry and shaken over the things they'd witnessed, the crew's decision to take matters into their own hands, and eventually the dramatic death of El Toro at the hands of a grieving father, were all great scenes.

Alas, after all that action-packed, heart-pumping adrenaline is done, what's left is the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching reality. I cried. How could I not as the crew departed the island? Ignoring the cries and pleas for help, knowing in just a few days, even a few hours, every one of those people would be dead.

These people left behind were mothers, fathers, sons, daughters....and the crew, who you knew wanted to do something, simply could not. They were powerless. Not only could they not cure the sickness, they couldn't even offer a tiny bit of human comfort. At that moment surely they thought of their own families and how they likely suffered the same fate. 

In this episode we saw beyond the sailors who are bound by duty to country, beyond men and women following orders, we saw human beings, torn between giving compassion and comfort to the suffering and the need to survive in order to complete the mission for the greater good.  No doubt the images will haunt the crew for a very long time. Is there absolution? Can they forgive themselves? Perhaps. Only time will tell.

Finally, despite all the great moments in this episode, it was the final scene that moved me beyond words.

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