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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"We Are Americans."

Below is an edited compilation of excerpts from Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address. Watch the video, read the words. It reminds us that we are ALL in this together. 

We are one nation regardless of political affiliation, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, etc. Since the Revolutionary Wary, thousands died so we could be free. We have a responsibility to take advantage of that freedom and to help others around the world attain it too. We should not force it on them, rather we should lead by example. 

We must always remember the price that was paid for our freedom and never take it for granted.

"If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price."

"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."

"The sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom."

"Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam."

"Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire."

"We're told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, ``My Pledge,'' he had written these words: ``America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.'' 

"We must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors." 

"As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever."

"We are Americans."

Ronald Reagan
Inaugural Address
Washington, D.C.
January 20, 1981

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.

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'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.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The Last Ship: Dead Reckoning

In this episode we're treated to a standoff between the last remaining warship in the United States Navy versus the last remaining warship in the Russian Navy. I'll admit the thought made me a little giddy. I mean when all is said and done, it always comes down to the Russians doesn't it? They're sort of our go-to foe and their leader is always some crazed madman.

Works for me, I remember the Cold War. Hell I even served in it.

Enter Admiral Ruskov. He wants Dr. Rachel Scott and the primordial strain of the virus. He will not compromise, he will not negotiate. He was so determined to stop the USS Nathan James earlier that he nuked an entire country (buh-bye France!). That is the measure of his resolve. You think he's crazy now? It gets better.

Chandler meets with Ruskov and offers to compromise by giving him a sample of the primordial strain but Ruskov laughs in the face of stupid American!  Besides, he says, the Americans don't have what he has--a little special extra something needed to create the vaccine. He lets Chandler know in no uncertain terms that he does not give a shit about peaceful negotiations. He does not care about the world they left behind.

"The virus spread like invisible fire, bodies piled up sky high, fear spread quickly, pitting country against country, brother against brother. Governments against own people. Sixty million Chinese were murdered in three days. The world is not worth saving." 

This man clearly has no allegiance to any one or any country as we see very clearly when he shoots one of his own officers in cold blood and refers to it as "one mouth less to feed."

Chandler and co. stand around going "Did he just fucking do that?"

He did.

Meanwhile, Slattery is back on the bridge when Master Chief gives him the bad news:  the Russians are laying land minds in the harbor. Slattery's response?

"Oh what the fuck is this shit?"

Okay not really. It was more like:

"Get the hunter in the water, find me a clear route out of this harbor. And spin tomahawaks one through six. If I don't hear from the Captain in one hour we're unloading on that Russian son of a bitch."

I have to admit when Slattery starts talking about spinning tomahawks, I get all excited. I mean, who wouldn't? Renegade Russians. Tomahawks. You get the picture!

Later when the Captain is back on board (don't worry, it ain't over yet with our Russian fella), he asks Scott if the Russians could possibly have someone working on the vaccine and it sure seemed to me like she was leaving something out. When Scott leaves the room, looks are exchanged between Slattery and Chandler. I don't know if they believe her either. Chandler's been supportive of her but Slattery, not so much. And I am not so sure I trust her either.

Anyway, I digress. Let's get back to Chandler because he's just so badass. Ruskov goes a step too far when he orders his men to fire on two of Chandler's men who are scouting the channel in a submersible looking for a way out. Chandler, who has no problem with the use of deadly force orders the five-inch to fire near the Russian patrol boat.

"Consider that a warning, which is more than you gave to my men. Next time I wont miss." 

Ruskov replies,  "I am disappointed in you Captain, you're not the leader I imagined."

And then Chandler dropped the bomb. He responded to Ruskov in Russian, which was for me the best moment of that episode. Ruskov was clearly not expecting that and Chandler sent the message loud and clear that he is indeed a most worthy adversary and should not, under any circumstances, be underestimated.

And that pissed Ruskov off even more.

"I will sink you."

"This is an Arleigh Burke destroyer, it was built to fight. You better know how." 


There was the entire episode wrapped up in one sentence. We can all pack up and go home now. I got up out of my comfy recliner and pointed at the television and yelled, "Take THAT bitch!" 

That said, I'm with Tex when he said they should've just blown the damn Russians out of the water when they had the chance. I've got a feeling I'm going to like Tex.

Not long after this goes down, Dr. Quincy Tophet goes over the edge. He decides to take matters into his own hands by taking the samples and Rachel hostage and threatening to kill everyone on the ship by releasing the virus if they do not let him take Rachel and the samples to the Russian ship.

We soon discover that Ruskov is holding Quincy's family hostage and after the hostage situation ends with Quincy handing the strain over to Rachel. In the next scene, we see Quincy's wife Kelly having drinks with the madman in his quarters. Though it was her voice that helped rope the Nathan James into the current situation, she doesn't look to be enjoying herself. She's likely doing this to save her daughter but you have to wonder if she'll decide to stick with him because she thinks it's her best chance at survival. 

After questioning Quincy, the CO, XO, Green and Granderson meet to find a way out of the mined harbor. They formulate a plan when in comes Foster, nice wholesome farm girl turned Navy sailor who when asked about her expert marksmanship states she can,  "knock the nipples off a chicken from a thousand yards, sir."

I'd hire her.

Chandler wants her on board in their plan to fool the Russians into thinking Quincy and Rachel have escaped and are headed, with the samples, in an effort to serve as decoy so they can blow the coral with torpedos and get the hell out of dodge. Green shocks CO and XO when he announces he wants to ride Alpha with Foster. He uses the excuse that he feels responsible because he's just lost two men but we know it's because he wants to protect his girlfriend. 

On the way to the Russian ship Green tells Foster to keep her head down and she argues that's kinda defeating the purpose. I'm already rolling my eyes and cursing at my television screen. I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Dump. This. Storyline. Please!

More on this later because right now I have to ask a more important question:

Which one of the writers came up with the tin foil idea?

The Master Chief devises a plan in which the Nathan James powers down completely and at that moment, they set up a ten foot strip of tin foil in its place to reflect the Russian radar, thus allowing the Nathan James to attempt to escape. Master Chief insists it's all about reflectivity and that the Nathan James has low reflectivity and using tin foil pointed in the right direction will work.

I'm fairly certain had I come up with this during my seagoing days, my crew would've have thrown me overboard.

Okay so it's slightly MacGyveresque. It's artistic license. I know, I know. But still...tin foil?

I digress.

Remember Ruskov? Madman? Psycho? He's baaack! As Green and Foster speed toward his ship, Ruskov, thinking that Quincy and Rachel are headed his way, is busy telling his men that they will "walk the earth as gods" likely thinking once they have the vaccine, the world will owe them. Then he orders his men to blow up the Nathan James once they get the goods. Because...that's what Gods do right?

The countdown is on. Green and Foster and their bomb-laden small boat head straight for the Russian ship. Green picks up speed, our adrenaline is rushing and then...

He slows down.


At that very moment onboard the Nathan James, they have ten seconds before the ship hits the coral. They need to blow through it so they don't rip the ship to shreds but they can't until Green and Foster complete their mission. I like Green, but I wanted to throttle him when he told Foster to bail. I was like:

What? You took an oath! Blow the hell out of that ship man, the hell with the girl! 

Any delay in the mission will sink that ship! Thankfully Foster convinces Green to speed up and do what they set out to do. A shootout ensues between them and the Russians and the two bail just in time to avoid exploding along with the boat as it rams the Russian ship. At that moment, the Nathan James fires torpedos into the coral and they barely make it through. We know of course they do because there's a fourth episode.

BTW did anyone notice the bird? Yes, the bird? And need to call PETA because it was just special effects but where in hell did the bird come from? 

Unfortunately the Russian ship has only slight damage that can be repaired and they only lost a dozen men.  Ruskov decides not to fire on the Americans, in fact, looking at the blip on the screen, he knows they are no longer there.  Does he know about the tin foil trick too?

The unfortunate thing about not sinking the Russians is that we know this psycho will be back.

Back on board the Nathan James (how on earth did Green and Foster escape that explosion?) we have Green bitching at Foster (dude, chill!) blaming her for the delay in their mission. He says she was the reason that he lost his focus and nearly compromised the mission because he was trying to keep her safe. He says he can't do his job because he's trying to protect her. So like a men eh? Then, he tells her he loves her and to add insult to injury he tells her to stay away from him.

Oh Foster, I just wanted to smack you and say "SNAP OUT OF IT!"

I mean here we have Green blaming her because he can't do his job? Huh? How is that her fault? She wasn't asking him to worry about her, she didn't even want him on that small boat with her. This is crazy because she of all people should understand the complications that will arise, not for him but for her in that relationship. Being a female sailor and an officer, she has to prove herself worthy. Yes, I know in a perfect world....but still, being a woman in her position requires her to have to go the extra mile to prove her worthiness to her male counterparts. Being in a relationship with another officer on the same ship = disaster. I could like Foster....but not like this.

And the fact that I just wrote an entire paragraph on this nonsense is the reason the storyline has to be dropped. It just doesn't fit!

Finally, we're taken back to the Russian ship. Guess who we thought was dead but isn't? That's right---Quincy's buddy Sergei. His lab is a mess though, I mean the guy is a complete disaster. He tells the Admiral he needs Scott and the primordial, no excuses. Next thing you know he's yelling and chasing down one of his lab mice which crawled under something. He catches it, holds it up in front of him and....he breathes on it.

And then it hit me. Ruskov does have a secret weapon. Remember what he talked about earlier? That he had something the Americans didn't have?
Could it be that the secret weapon is Sergei? What if he's infected with the virus but is somehow immune?  He's part of the vaccine but he needs Scott, her equipment and samples to create it. Is an immune human the key to making the vaccine? Remember, the Russians wanted to capture the Nathan James so they could get their hands on Scott and the primordial strain but what if now the Nathan James will have to get their hands on Sergei? 

So there you have it. The episode in a nutshell, from my point of view. Not that you give a damn but...

Now, where does this episode stand in comparison to last week? I'll admit it had its moments where I was on pins and needles though the action this week was far more subtle. Chandler & Slattery never disappoint, we finally got to see that weasel Quincy in action, and well...I like Green but his interactions with Foster made me almost wish one of them would just die of the virus so we could all move on. (Okay not really!) There were a few cheesy lines of dialogue and eye-rolling moments like the impossible feat of Foster and Green surviving that explosion not to mention the now fan-favorite WTF! moment:

Tin Foil.

I have a feeling that last one will inspire a new episode of Mythbusters.

That said....though lacking the thrill-packed action of Welcome to Gitmo, Dead Reckoning was a good episode and there's promise for more greatness if they can stick to what brought in the viewers in in the first place---the action and suspense. I mean this is TNT and their motto is... "We Know Drama" and we know they do.

Keep bringing it and I'll keep watching..