Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Last Ship: Lockdown

Last week, I read a review of "El Toro" in which the reviewer compared the entire episode to "The Magnificent Seven" and my thought was hey, if you're going to be compared...that'd be the one.

 This week we don't have any heroics but we do have...mutiny?  A more appropriate title for this episode would be "Loose Lips Sink Ships" because that's damn near what happened.

"People have no idea what's going on outside this ship. 
Other than what the officers tell them...and that's not much." 

It's one thing to fight a common enemy...the virus, the Russians, an evil drug lord.  But what if the enemy you're fighting is each other? That's exactly what's happens aboard the USS Nathan James. Since the beginning, the enlisted crew has been left mostly in the dark. After departing Nicaragua, they start to talk amongst themselves, comparing things they've seen and heard. Rumors are fueled by a string of errors and not-so-wise decisions made by the officers, which only gets worse when Green falls ill to the suspected virus. Things quickly spiral out of control and Chandler finally realizes the only thing that can stop it is the truth.  

Hopefully, it's not too late.

"The crew needs hope"

Early on, Chandler, Slattery and Jeter discuss how to handle the crew. Chandler does not want to keep the information about Nicaragua from the crew but Jeter and Slattery convince him not to tell them anything, that doing so would cause problems. As Slattery says, it's not the crew's burden to bear.

Now I'm watching this play out and it struck me that for the first time, we see Chandler truly conflicted about something. He clearly wants to tell his men but is convinced otherwise. Chandler shows a moment of weakness here. He generally consults with his XO and CMC but in the end he usually makes the decisions he feels are best, based on his own gut instinct. This is the first time he goes against that and it backfires.

Big time.

Against his better judgment, he decides to give the crew limited information about what happened on the island at Nicaragua but he makes a crucial mistake by getting ahead of himself with his bold statement that Rachel is close to a vaccine and as such they are heading for home. The crew is ecstatic about both (which evokes a lot of anger later about being lied to), but Rachel is not. Rachel knows she is nowhere near a vaccine, especially when the monkeys are dying at an alarming rate.

For the first time, Chandler has screwed up. Big time.

"Your Captain is hiding something from you."

If I haven't mentioned yet that Quincy Tophet is a son of a bitch, now would be the time.


What can you say about a guy like Quincy? He's a smarmy bastard. I know, I know, he's angry over the death of his wife and daughter (who really aren't dead but he doesn't know that) and feeling he has nothing left to lose, why not spend the rest of his days being a miserable, dirty, rotten asshole?

Quincy has one friend on that ship. One. Bacon (played by Amen Igbinosun, who you can't help but like immediately!). And Quincy needs to hold on to that friend (and his chessboard) but instead he uses every weapon in his intellectual arsenal to turn Bacon against the Captain and for a time it works. My jaw dropped so much watching the scenes between them that I damn near needed it wired. I couldn't believe Bacon was eating that shit up! It was this easy:

Quincy: Come to the dark side, Bacon, we have cookies.

Bacon: Okay.

Okay okay it didn't exactly go like that but I liked Bacon and he's a smart guy, and it pissed me off that he fell for that. After only a few conversations Bacon was convinced his Captain was lying to him and that they were all going to die. But as I mention a bit later, it was all about human frailty, weakness, fear. Everyone has it at some time or another. Quincy knew this and played it like a master.

"Sir, you need to lock down the ship."

Green collapses and everyone thinks it's the virus. Rachel assures them it is not the virus and attempts to calm everyone which uh...doesn't exactly go over well when the ship's doctor barrels through the ship wearing protective gear and scaring the shit out of everyone. While they're waiting for Green's bloodwork, Burk convinces the Captain they have go to into full lockdown. He doesn't want to do it and struggles over the decision (for the second time) and finally decides to do it. Now people debated this on Twitter last night...whether Chandler made the right call. When he did it, he wasn't using his gut instinct (his gut told him that Rachel was right, it was not the virus) but pressure made him cave.

Meanwhile O'Connor and Cossetti are spreading rumors like wildfire and they are fueled by the ship's doctor running around in protective gear and by Bacon who has spent way too much time around Quincy.  Poor Jeter was trying to get everyone to remain calm and orderly and those three kept firing the crew up. And despite the fact that they learn Green has Dengue fever, the rumors do not die down, they get worse and the damage is done.

"You took an oath and you have a duty to your shipmates."

I can't say enough great things about this scene. We see a side of Chandler we've never seen before. We've never seen him angry at one of his crew. Wait, he's not just angry, he's pissed. He has good reason to be pissed off...she broke the rules and it nearly cost them, not just the possibility of spreading the virus when she was running through the ship to get to Green but earlier when they were at Gitmo and Green slowed the boat down to convince her to jump off.  The ship could've run into the coral and all would've been lost. All because of bad judgment.  Chandler's treatment of Foster in that scene was brutal, not in the physical sense but he's a man who commands respect and he gives it when its earned. You could clearly see the shame on Foster's face as Chandler ripped into her. It was almost like a parent scolding a child. It isn't the punishment that hurts, it's knowing you've caused them disappointment. And you could tell Chandler was very disappointed in her. And oh she knew it too.

The good news is that Foster handled herself like a pro. Being truthful, never flinching, never wavering. She made a mistake and she has accepted responsibility for it and understands the consequences of her actions.

The way Chandler handles her at the end is the Captain we've come to know and love. Firm but fair. That was a very pleasing ending to that saga.

Marissa Nietling's Lt. Kara Foster is really growing on me and with any luck, now that this is behind us, we can only hope Foster and Green will realize they can't possibly carry on a relationship on board that ship. These two characters are very likeable and they deserve better.

"I don't know you but I've risked everything for you.  Killed for you. Lost men for you. 
Asked these people to turn their backs on their families...for you."

"Not for me Captain, for the human race..."

Chandler's in a mood. He rips into Rachel but good. This was also a side of him we haven't seen. A momentary lapse in rationale? It's like I don't even know him.Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing because we needed to see the other side of this man. We needed to see his anger, at himself, at his own crew. It reinforces that yeah while he's the Captain of a Navy vessel he's also a man. A man with emotions, an incredible burden and who can hold it in for that long?

When Chandler  says, "I don't know you," to Rachel as he blasted her, it just blew me away. It's like all the trust they had suddenly dissipated. When he lectures her about how much they've sacrificed for her, I felt bad for her because they aren't the only ones who have lost. The more we learn about Rachel the more we see her human side, her compassion and no one is more committed to finding a cure for this thing than she is.

"I made some mistakes the past few days, in the ways I've handed information, kept you in the dark about our mission because I'm trying to protect you from the truth painful. That was a poor decision on my part. I am your Captain, I'm your leader and you have every right to be disappointed in me but that does not mean 
you should give up hope."

Chandler and Slattery get word that sixteen men, including Bacon and the perps Gossetti and O'Connor whose enlistments are up, want off the ship.

My first thought was, Where they hell are they going to go?

These men no longer trust their leaders, they want out. XO and CO finally realize the mistakes they've made along the way, like Chandler not being honest with the crew, Rachel's slip up about the mistake she'd made with the vaccine, the ship stopping without explanation, just...everything. It's was essentially a comedy of errors...without the comedy of course. 

But Chandler, being the true ass kicking leader he is, comes through. A good leader trusts the men and women who work under him. Slattery referred to them as kids early on but these are no children. These men and women each have a job they must do and do it well and when combined with the efforts of others results in the USS Nathan James running like a well-oiled machine. Trust is everthing, especially in this crisis. These people have given up everything for this mission and Chandler and the officers owe them the respect of being honest with them. Chandler, to his credit, gets that. His speech to the crew, his praise of them and of Rachel in her work was exactly what everyone needed.

"Whatever we will do from here on out, we will do together."

And they did. On the flight deck of the USS Nathan James, sixteen sailors took the oath once again to serve their captain and their country.

I cried. Who didn't? If you didn't, don't talk to me!  It. Was. A. Moment.

"I hear you and Bacon have been doing quite a bit of talking. 

No more talking."

I rubbed my hands together in pure glee during this scene. Chandler was on a mission. One more "loose end" to tie up.

Now let me preface this seems every week the show gives me a half dozen or more reasons to jump out of my recliner and yell profanities (that only a former sailor like me could come up with) at my television. Last week I was jumping and cursing and doing things I'd probably be arrested for in a dozen states but this week I was more subdued..though only slightly. (Of course my Twitter fans might disagree!)

I kept hoping beyond hope that Quincy would get his comeuppance. I was okay with keel-hauling but sadly that didn't happen. But I knew something would. The universe had to right itself.

And it did. 

When Chandler went to see Quincy, I was like "YES!!!!!" because frankly he looked like he wanted to throw that asshole overboard. Instead though, he's taking from him two things he desperately needs.

Human contact.

His chess board.

Looks to me like Quincy is going to be a very bored and lonely man on this trip.

Some favorite moments:

The vision of those dead monkeys in their cages. Rachel whispering "I'm sorry" to the monkey as she injects it with the virus.  That choked me up. Hard thing to watch.

"I know I'm not your mother but you've gotta eat, Mike.
I think I'm becoming a vegetarian.
Did you inform the galley?
I'm hoping to get over it."

(BTW, every reference XO makes from here on out about having eaten a monkey will be pure gold!)

"Okay everybody let's put our panties back on" --Tex to everyone

"I will follow you to the gates of hell." --Tex to Chandler

Tex giving Rachel a pep talk.

Oh and we missed out on Slattery's facial expressions this episode but hopefully they will be returning next week. 

All in all...

Another solid episode. It wasn't fast-paced adreline pumping action and it wasn't supposed to be. It was an insight to human behavior and it was welcome.

Chandler is a man who has a strong gut instinct and knows how to use it. He can and should seek advice and guidance from Slattery and Jeter the end he needs to stick with his plan because so far, that's the one that works.  His ability to be a firm but fair leader is admirable in my book. (Those were the kind of leaders I respected when I served).  Even when Chandler lit into Foster, it wasn't personal, it was purely professional. Her and Green's actions could've gotten everyone killed...twice. He was also angry because she knew better. She took an oath. But he surely understands human frailty and weakness because eventually he had to publicly admit his own. I think owning up to his own mistake made him realize that what Foster did was just that...a mistake and just as he learned from his, she learned from hers.

Chandler's actions here prove he is once again, the epitome of leadership and he's also a guy we love to root for. He makes a mistake, owns up to it, moves on. He serves as an example to his crew. And because of that they will follow him as Tex said so the gates of hell.

We learned something about this crew tonight. We knew at some point that all this madness had to take its toll on them. I'm glad we got to see it because we've been asking the question since day one, what would happen if...well...this happened? These may be highly trained men and women but they are not robots. They think, they feel, they hurt, they fear. Fear is a natural emotion and a very powerful one at that. Every one on board that ship has it, it's just a matter of taming it.  What we saw tonight is how mutinies begin. People talk, they lose faith and trust, become suspicious, and then each begins acting in their own best interests. On a United States Navy warship, no one acts in their own best interests, they act in the interests of the entire crew and...their country. They are not individuals, but rather members of a team. One team. One mission. That's all. One weak link is all it takes to destroy it and the mission. In this case, the stakes are so high that one weak link can contribute to destroying the human race.

We're six episodes in and while it's been a wild ride, the crew of the USS Nathan James hasn't seen anything yet. Things are going to get worse and what they needed was one thing....hope. 

They got it.

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