Warning: Spoiler Alert
Previously on The Last Ship, our crew encounter their first real action after discovering that Earth is different from how they remember it. We have been introduced to Tex. We are all but certain Dr. Tophet is a bad guy, or at least he’s a mole of some sort. Slattery may have ideological reservations, but he steps up when the job demands it. And now enter, Ghazzi Murad from the 1997 Bruce Willis/Richard Gere action drama “The Jackal” played by the often type-casted Ravil Isyanov. Here Isyanov plays what has to be interpreted as this episodes big bad, Constantine Nikolai Ruscov. The former Russian military officer hell-bent on at the very least separating the primordial strain from the Nathan James if not the doctors as well.
Chandler in this opening scene is classic Chandler. Saying the typical by the book responses to buy time so that unknown to the man on the other end of the line, he can measure up his adversary. Pleasantries quickly become a military officer style pissing contest, until Chandler does what Chandler does. After sending one of the crew to fetch a book (in Russian) from the Captain’s quarters, Chandler quickly makes the connection that the man on the line is the man from the book. Naturally, being an educated and well read officer, Chandler is about to use information from the book to his advantage in a face to face meeting.
Chandler and a team prepare to go ashore to meet Ruscov. Let me just throw one thing out that, for me, is universal in any military drama. Any time the commanding officer is compelled to venture out into the clutches of the bad guy and says, “I just need to look him in the eye” one of two things is about to happen. Said commanding officer is about to die or said commanding officer is a bad ass. As in part of his character makeup. I’m going with the latter of the two.
The decision to bring along Dr. Tophet is an intriguing one. I want to believe Chandler knows and plans to feed him to the enemy. More likely though, is that Chandler doesn’t know and may soon find out. That may prove relevant another time. At this point we are amidst a vintage but well-played officer standoff. I would love to simply include a transcript of this scene. Instead I will only say that if you enjoy this show or think you might, it’s a scene worth watching first hand. Suffice it to say Capt Chandler does not cave to the demands of this Russian military savant.
The one detail Ruscov mentioned though may prove important to the story moving forward. “You are missing an ingredient only I possess”-Ruscov. What is this ingredient? Is he bluffing? And if he’s not bluffing, why would Dr. Scott insist that he is? It cannot possibly be that she is naive to some piece of scientific information that a former Russian Admiral would have at his disposal. Could be Bigfoot, could be nothing.
Looking into a contingency plan, Chandler and his men devise a plan that includes scouting a secondary route out of the harbor. If creating depth for the ship to pass doesn’t work, Tex can get them into Guitmo’s armory. At the end of the scouting run, the small team surfaces. Calling the next part a welcoming would be misleading. The scouts are viciously killed in a matter of seconds. Green is visibly pissed. Chandler is more introverted in his reaction. While his body language gives nothing away, his eyes are screaming.
Personal note. I am comfortable in my own skin. A husband to a wonderful woman. A father to an incredible (albeit loud lately) toddler. All that considered, the part of my brain devoted to man movies/shows that utilize military, explosions, strategy and other such guy stuff is starting to develop a man crush on Captain Tom Chandler. Not Eric Dane, but Capt Tom Chandler. He’s like the result of Jack Ryan, John McClane and John Wayne.
Returning from the commercial break, we catch up with Chandler making a b-line for the bridge. He calls out Ruscov and sends a warning shot to one of Ruscov’s scout boats setting underwater mines around the perimeter. This warning shot removes the men from their boat. Without spoiling the scene for you there is some very persuasive language, up to and including Chandler speaking in Russian (shades of President Bartlet cursing out God in Latin-Season 2 Episode 22 “Two Cathedrals”). However, the new deal is really no better than the old one. 24 hours to turn over Dr. Scott. Which one has to believe is a deal breaker. As dark as it sounds I don’t see this ending any other way than ship vs ship to the death.
In a hastily hatched plan, Tophet reveals himself to Dr. Scott by pulling a gun on her. Threatening her safety he demands she leave the ship, apparently to turn her over to Ruscov without the escort of Chandler. Tophet is on a military ship, surrounded by military personnel, armed with a 6-shooter that might as well be a super soaker in his hands. Cornered in the ‘mess’, Tophet quickly finds himself surrounded by no less than three crew with assault rifles pointed at him (as well as at least 20 others).
Making the only play he can, Tophet opts to pull out a vile of the virus and threatens to kill everyone if Dr. Scott doesn’t come with him. After a long and I hate to say, cliché and predictable few moments, Tophet eventually hands over the vile to Dr. Scott. Now I have not shied away from my affection for Rhona Mitra. The man card-carrying portion of my brain says that I would have caved too, at the request of Ms Rhona Mitra. However the more critical part questions this scene. If Tophet was promised whatever it was, is working for the Russians, and/or is operating under threat the scales would not tip dramatically the other way just because Dr. Scott bats her eyelashes at him. Just a thought.
After a very quick takedown, Tophet finds himself strapped to a chair with Slattery initiating the interrogation. Tophet has enough time to claim there is no relationship with he and Admiral Ruscov and that his daughter and wife are prisoners on the Admiral’s ship. Then the door opens and Chandler walks through. I actually just caught myself making that noise that Tim Allen would make when talking about power tools, when Chandler walks in.
Admiral Ruscov, for the record, has the most extravagant captain’s quarters I’ve ever seen, real or fictional. There he does indeed have Tophet’s wife, so part one of the story checks out. Back on the Nathan James, our crew is devising a plan based on the information Tophet revealed previously. He is expected to sneak Dr. Scott to the other side of the harbor where a boat is waiting to take them to the Admiral. They plan on (with some questionable details) to escape through the narrow and shallow canal. Foster (Green’s undercover significant other) is called in. Chandler explains that he needs a woman for the mission and asks her about her ability to handle a rifle in the field. She responds with maybe the best line of the show to date not delivered by Eric Dane.
Chandler: Lt. Foster, we need a female for this mission. You grew up on a farm. Can you still handle a rifle?
Foster: Qualified as an expert marksman last year. I can knock the nipples off a chicken from a thousand yards.
With no guidance system of any consequence guiding the Nathan James (in an attempt to throw off the Russian radar) they attempt to navigate the canal more or less manually. While the Nathan James counts down to high tide, Green and Foster head out toward the other end of the harbor attempting to impersonate Scott and Tophet. By setting up a rigged stretch of aluminum foil next to the Nathan James, and running silent, the idea is that the Russian radar won’t know the difference between the US Naval Destroyer and a few feet of tin foil.
Ruscov notices a simple blimp on the radar but nothing to that looked out-of-place. “Time to disappear”-Chandler. They proceed silent with the order that there is no explosion before Green and Foster make their destination. Ruscov believes all is going according to plan at this point. Even gives that order that once the package is secure they will sink the Nathan James.
Green is kind of a tool. Trying to suggest his little dainty defenseless (albeit military trained) girlfriend should bail. As they get closer with some sort of warheads or rounds armed, they speed up guns drawn. Taking out watchmen on the deck. They bail on the small boat at full speed allowing it to make impact with the Russian ship at its base. Chandler finally gives the order to blast the coral with literally feet to spare, before clearing the blown coral by mere inches. When the plan unfolds and the next step is to fire on the Nathan James, the Admiral declines. Because he knows the Nathan James is not where the radar says it is.
Sometimes details are placed in the story in order to manipulate if not destroy them later. Why are Green and Foster secretly an item? So that the show runners can let you get involved in that part of the story and then burst that bubble at the right time. Enter Green, the jerk. He throttled down to get her to jump ship so that she wouldn’t get hurt. She didn’t abandon her responsibility. The throttling down caused them to be late, almost missing the window. Green chooses to believe that is her fault. And predictably, angrily dumps Foster because his love for her is compromising his focus. What a tool.
This show has a clever way (or really obvious way, depending on how you see it) of convincing you our guys are in the clear at the :57 minute mark. Almost like clockwork. At this point, Chandler enters the room where Tophet is handcuffed to a bunk. And in the first genuine show of emotion, we see the inner Chandler come out. A literal shouting match between Tophet and Chandler on the choices we have or don’t have. And as has been the case in the previous episodes, just as you think we’re safe, camera reveals Ruscov in the belly of the ship.
There is what appears to be an American scientist in a clean room. His mood is not optimistic and becomes less so with the news that they were unable to secure Dr. Scott or the primordial strain. His relevance beyond being the doctor working for the Russians is unknown. However, the clean room, minus any protective gear, and the shot of him breathing on a mouse leads one to believe he’s infected. The question is who is he beyond what we already know?