Monday, July 14, 2014

The Last Ship: We'll Get There



Last week the Russians were being a real pain in the ass. This week the crew of the USS Nathan James faces an entirely new challenge that is neither human foe nor virus.

It's a race against time.

A mechanical breakdown threatens the mission and the lives of the crew of the USS Nathan James. The plan is to head for Costa Rica because Dr. Scott needs access to primates to test the vaccine. However, things take a bad turn when the engines overheat and have to be shut down. Apparently the seawater system intake filters aren't working properly and with the intakes down, the engines can't properly cool. Engines can only run for an hour at a time followed by a five-hour cooling period. Only one generator is running (before it eventually shuts down) and it's reserved for the CIC and the lab. The shutdown also means no fresh water.  The nearest freshwater source is an island six days away, one that is uninhabited and receives over 100 inches of rainfall per year. The crew plot a course for the island.

Meanwhile...down to six days, two hundred sailors, and three thousand gallons of water, and strains of a virus that must be kept at forty degrees.

Yeah, Ouch!


Let's begin with a few quotes!


"I'm here for a reason"

I can't say enough how thrilled I am Charles Parnell's Master Chief Jeter had more screen time this week. I really like him and as I wrote in my first thoughts on the pilot episode, I think as Command Master Chief, he serves as a valuable liaison between the Captain and crew. He's a man of faith and as we find out his past in this episode, it makes him an even more valuable asset to this crew especially during crisis.

Jeter understands the Captain, he understands making tough choices, and he understands the repercussions of one's actions, probably more than most.


Jeter sees Chandler's frustration and opens up to him about an accident years earlier which due to a grave mistake on his part killed his wife and daughters and left him in the ICU for nearly three months. 

"Why did god leave me here? Why did he spare me? There must be a purpose...some reason. That's what I told myself. That's how I woke up every day and put one foot in front of the other. It was faith that got me through. In these past few weeks this faith as been replaced with certainty. And I am here for a reason as are you as is everyone board this ship. You are here to lead us and we are here to follow, to execute your vision."

To which the Captain, with the most helpless look I've seen him with so far, replies, "I don't have a vision."

Parnell senses his need of a restoration in faith and says, "You do. When you stuck your hand in that engine fuse, when you turned us away from home, when you got us out of Gitmo. There's a voice inside you...maybe ifs your highest self, maybe its’ the voice of God, I don't know.  It's the voice of hope. You've listened to it so far. All you have to do is keep listening. Our journey does not end here."

And to hit the point home, in the next scene Jeter leads a prayer service. As he reads from the Bible, the crew bow their heads. The camera pans to different parts of the ship. We see Rachel watching the temperature gauge on the samples which lay on the bottom of the ocean, we see the Captain, a worried look on his face desperately looking into the sky hoping for wind, and then we see the faces of the crew, who are tired, thirsty and in need of something...anything that will restore their faith.


"Ain't no fat on this bone"

Slatter kicks ass! I'd put it in caps but it would be too obvious! I'm dying to know more about Slattery. While he's CO's right hand man and the two share the same philosophy in regards to their duty to country, they are very different men. Baldwin's Slattery is a perfect complement to Eric Dane's Chandler. Chandler has the persona of cool, calm, collected. Slattery however often times looks one second away from beating the shit out of someone.

So it comes as no surprise to find that Slattery was a homicide cop on the southside of Chicago. He's the perfect intimidator, interrogator, and well...all-purpose asshole. But...he's an asshole we love!

Slattery was the perfect man to send to convince Quincy to go back to work on the vaccine. I laughed out loud when he walked in and started talking about being a cop, pulled out that cigar, and asked matter-of-factly as he lit up:

"Mind if I smoke?"



Oh My God! And he pulled that off with a straight face. I was dying laughing! Because really, how many guys could've pulled off that scene so perfectly?

The conversation about keel-hauling was great. Slattery made it seem as if keel-hauling a guy was the most natural thing in the world. You'd almost think that he'd done it once...or maybe twice.

"Keel hauling. Just off the top of my head I can think of about 200 sailors on board this ship who'd like to try that out on you."

Quincy still doesn't get the hint.

"Remember we got  a hard fast rule on this ship. anything that doesn't serve a purpose is gone. Ain't no fat on the bone here."

Though he is adamant the Captain won't allow such torture, Quincy knows he's in trouble. The crew is under a lot of stress and if they were to find out that he wasn't being cooperative in developing the vaccine that could save them, their loved ones and get them home, there's no telling what they might do. And of course Slattery's plan worked.

Did any of us think it wouldn't? 

 
"I'm sorry. I thought we'd make up more time."

I chose this quote because it is a poignant moment in the episode when the man who has made bold choices  based on faith and instinct believes he may have made a choice that killed his crew. The choice in this episode was a catch-22 situation. If the ship continued to the island with no way to cool the samples, the vaccine would be lost. If they stayed put, they could cool the samples on the ocean floor but because they could not move would surely run out of water and die.

Chandler weighed his options and made the choice to stay put and cool the samples based purely on faith that the wind would come along and help them power the ship long enough to get them to the island. After two or three days without water, most of the crew were spent.   


The Captain, pale-faced and exhausted himself, realizes he may have made a grave error and bows his head in shame and apologizes to the crew on the bridge, telling them he thought they'd had more time.  It was an incredibly humbling moment and your heart broke for him because he’s always tried to do the right thing and he's always tried to do right by his crew.

As it turns out, the Captain had made the right choice. The wind picked up and they were able to deploy the chutes that helped them eventually get to the island.

There's a difference between good leaders and great leaders. One example of that is a good leader gets people to believe in him while a great leader inspires people to believe in themselves. A fine example of this is Chandler's interaction with Andy Tran's Lt. Chung who was in charge of the Engineering room while his superior was in sick bay. Chung blamed himself for the reason they were stranded but CO would have none of that. To him what mattered more than the mistake was how it got fixed, that's all he cared about. In the end, his faith in Chung helped that young man have the confidence he needed to do what needed to be done.

Because Chandler is a great leader, his crew believes in him. They haven't second-guessed his decisions nor bucked his authority, and they have been supportive of the man who has led them. This is evidenced by what is in my opinion the best line of the episode, when they'd spotted the island and were coasting toward it.

Chandler:  "You see, piece of cake."

Slattery:    "Never doubted it sir.”

Slattery spoke for the entire crew. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they knew something would happen, they would get a break, their Captain would see them through this. And he did. And when Slattery made that comment, you could tell he was being honest. The look on his face was one of utter respect and admiration for his Captain. Slattery is in pain, a great deal of pain due to his strained marriage and the devastating loss of his son, Lucas. And still he perseveres and even when he disagrees, he follows Chandler not only because of the oath he took, but because he believes in him.

Most of the difficult choices Chandler has made aren’t based on evidence or mathematical equations or logic, they are based on instinct. Pure gut instinct.  In this case, instinct proved right once again.



Random thoughts.

The interaction between Quincy and Scott was telling. We know now that she has no family or friends and she sucks at relationships. But why? Something tells me that Quincy wasn't shouting all of that just to be cruel. I mean yes, he's angry because he believes his wife and daughter are dead but there was something more to his words, perhaps a bit of truth? What does he know about Scott? What have we yet to find out?

Does anyone else sense a budding closeness between Scott and Chandler? I don't want to think it will happen because he's a devoted family man but...the regular rules of society are thrown out the window when eighty percent of the world's population is decimated nearly overnight.

Love the teamwork of this crew. They all pitched in, though they were tired and weary. Time and time again they come together and work as one. In the military it's one of the things you learn is that there are no individuals, you work as a team. One falls, everyone falls. 

Slattery is a man who goes by the book but he's also a man on the edge. His relationship with his wife was already strained when he deployed but now with the loss of his son...what's left for him? As he said, it's one thing to lose a son, quite another to go through it alone. I want to see how the stress of this affects him.  I want to see him crack because damn it will be so good!

Green and Foster....it's not working. Instead of this sham of a relationship storyline, let's focus on the individuals in it. Travis Van Winkle and Marissa Neitling have real potential here, let's showcase it not bogging it down with a storyline going nowhere.

Since when did Tex become a pervert trying to get down the pants of every female on that ship? By the way, did anyone else notice that Tex noticed the looks passed between Green and Foster? He knows.

I hate Coors beer but no self-respecting sailor never wastes a beer, period. Okay okay if we're dying of thirst...maybe!  

Christina Elmore (Lt. Granderson) has a beautiful voice.



All in all, this was a good episode. There was no adrenaline rush, no clear enemy to run from or shoot at and that's fine. The series got off to a fast start and it needed to slow down a bit and pace itself. We'll Get There gave us an opportunity to gain some insight into some of the lead characters. In order for them to survive this thing, they need to have faith in themselves and their leaders and they have to learn to survive together as a team. Their ability to do that will surely carry them through the worst which is no doubt yet to come.

This episode was aptly titled We'll Get There. They did.

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