Warning: Spoiler Alert
Let me preface tonight’s recap by saying that every episode cannot be edge of your seat, action packed epics. Tonight, I abandoned my normal ‘write as I watch’ process I use for The Last Ship. As I write this, I have seen the entire episode. And it was, to put it bluntly, unimpressive comparatively. Now with that said, the episode is not without value and important details. It’s just that after last week’s episode, this was just less.
We’ll Get There starts out with Capt Chandler (as husband and father) in a flashback sequence to the days before the deployment that put him in the situation he is presently in. Nice house, happy family, in order to create sympathy for the Captain’s real tangible pain. I get it. Most people like these ‘human’ moments. I have a conceptual issue.
Screenwriting in many ways is “the art of giving the viewer only as much information as they need in order to figure it out on their own”. I know they are suffering. I understand that each person has many family and friends that could be lost. But I don’t think we needed 3 minutes of it in order to figure out that the bracelet that Chandler is massaging that reads “Ashley” was made for him by his daughter.
By any measure this episode has to be intended to connect with the characters on a personal level. Slattery joins Chandler in the coms room searching for any communications. Slattery is clearly uncomfortable. We find out in short order that his family life was not all sunshine and happiness. As we’ll find out later, Slattery is not the only one.
The Nathan James sets a course for Costa Rica in pursuit of test subjects for a vaccine we don’t have yet (monkeys, they are going to Costa Rica for monkeys). At the same moment in the engine room, there is a problem that escalates quickly. With the Chief Engineer nursing injuries from the Guantanamo Bay episode, an oil leak is discovered. Then Chang (second in command of the engines) discovers that “she’s not purring”.
In the lab, Dr. Scott works solo in her protective suit trying to create a vaccine prototype from all three strains. This is actually a great example of a scene that more artistically gives the viewer “only what they need to figure it out”. The doctor stares at a screen saver pic on her laptop of her and some guy we haven’t met. The guy looks a little like Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner. For the moment I’m willing to concede that he is nothing but background noise. There is a part of me that is trying to remember the infected doctor on the Russian ship to make for certain that they are not one in the same. That may be a stretch though. We then see the ‘analysis complete’ dialogue box on her screen. She then cracks a smile. We can assume the test on the vaccine was successful.
The problem with this progress is that we come to a part of her process that requires Dr. Tophet, who is currently confined to quarters. Scott makes her case to Chandler who is hesitant. A face to face encounter between Scott and Tophet is counterproductive to put it plainly. Counterproductive to the characters involved, but a very nice combative scene for us the viewer to experience.
Tophet wants no part of assisting Scott any further. To this point Dr. Scott has been very monotone. I’d love to tell you that Rhona Mitra carried the scene, but in actuality Sam Spruell steps it up. She storms out past Chandler. Chandler basically says, if you need him you need him, let us try.
Fire in the main engine room. Really never a good thing. Compound that with scientific samples that cannot get warmer than 41 degrees and an engine failure (and all of the essentials that go with it) is a very bad thing. During a situation report, Lt. Chang basically runs Chandler though it all. One generator is working. The Engine will overheat after an hour of activity. More importantly a few minutes later that math says at 1 hour on for every 6 hours off vs the amount of usable drinking water on-board (down engines means the inability to make their own drinking water) and the crew will run out of water three days before reaching Costa Rica.
While Chandler relays the information to XO Slattery, Chandler says, “Good, meanwhile, I’ve got other fish for you to fry.” A smile creeps into the corner of Slattery’s mouth. Up until this point, Capt Chandler has had all of the great military leader moments. The John McClane meets John Wayne stuff. This time it belongs to Slattery. I don’t want to tell you that it’s the greatest thing since whatever. It’s a good scene and should be viewed so I will not detail it. I will say, as solid as it was, it lacks a little of the manufactured gravitas that similar scenes have when delivered by Eric Dane (Chandler). The long and short of it is that Slattery is able to convince Tophet to help willingly.
“In the meantime, you find any source of water, I want to know about it”. This part is actually pretty cool albeit separate from any critical plot point. And source of water means basically anything that has water in it and can be separated. So, when Tex sees cases of Coors Light, he’s naturally disappointed to see them dumping the perfectly good beer (not my beer of preference, but the concept still holds up) getting dumped into a container to be converted back into just water. “That is enough to make a grown man cry”-Tex.
Tophet finishes his analysis of the prototype vaccine. ‘Only what they need to figure it out’. The very next shot is Chandler alone looking up at the stars and is joined by Dr. Scott sans hazmat suit but holding two coffee mugs. My wife has a funny little thing she does with her girlfriends. They say, “only classy broads drink wine from a coffee mug”. So naturally, I was expecting this to be a celebratory drink. Which it was. The vaccine tested out well enough to move to the experimental stage. It was organic tea in the mugs, not wine.
Fandom is a strange thing. I think it enhances one’s experience. So if you’ve been fighting your inner fan girl or fan boy, stop. Give into it. And a great example of this is that I am a “shipper”. For those new to the game, that means that I am often inclined to want and pull for two characters to ‘end up together’ if the scenario could possibly allow it. Naturally, there is a part of me that really wants to see a romantic wrinkle in the plot developments effecting Capt Chandler and Dr. Scott. The truth of the matter is that we are lead to believe Chandler’s family is safe and healthy. Which should be the ideal scenario. Anything beyond that would have to include them perishing. Which probably does not put Chandler in a very romantic mindset.
At this moment what little power they have is getting diverted to the bridge and Dr. Scott’s lab. Which has been fine with just one generator. However, when that third generator blows, a contingency plan must be created to save Dr. Scott’s samples. “We can throw it overboard”.
Following a lovely and quick series of deductions of what can and cannot be done, Lt. Chang lowers the samples into the water. Dr. Scott freaks out each second until the internal temperature starts to fall. Its slow going, which makes it worse, but thankfully, eventually the temp falls below 40.
Chandler has a backup plan in mind to regain some time lost. The winds. Slattery is not optimistic about this new plan. “If the winds don’t blow our way, we kill our crew.” The following morning, uncharacteristically for the Caribbean, no wind. Everything is ready to go minus the wind.
In every show, there are favorites. The favorites need not be logical, it is completely subjective. In this show one of my personal favorites is Master Chief Jeter. He has had some moments to this point, but not like this. This Jeter moment is his biggest admission to date.
Chandler: The wind’s gotta come, right?
Jeter: I’m guessing the Navy told you about my car accident?
Chandler: Yeah. Yeah, they did.
Jeter: Well, there’s something they don’t even know about. It was my fault. Tried to pass a car on the curve, didn’t see the oncoming truck. I killed my wife and my girls. I was in the ICU for 82 days. 7 times I coded. 7 times they brought me back. In between I had plenty of time to ask why did God leave me here? Why did he spare me. There must be a purpose, some reason. Well, 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 it. In these last few weeks that faith has been replaced with certainty. I am here for a reason. As are you, as is everyone aboard this ship. You are here to lead us and we are here to follow. To execute your vision.
Chandler: I don’t have a vision.
Jeter: You do. When you stuck your hand in that engine fuse, when you turned us away from home, when you got us out of Guitmo. There’s a voice inside you. Maybe it’s your higher self. Maybe it’s the voice of God, I don’t know. It’s a voice of hope. You’ve listened to it so far, all you have to do is keep listening. Our journey does not end here.
I don’t want to incur any negativity from the steadfast religious types, but, are we about to venture into a Supernatural-like flirtation with a religious element that ought to be reviled by a number of religious authorities? Did Jeter just call Capt Chandler Moses? I assure you I won’t go down that path until such a time as any religious implications are a certain and intentional device.
Moments later, the winds came. As predictably they would have. Earlier they mentioned “chutes”. I was hesitant to whether they were actual parachutes or some term given to big stretches of a tarp like material. Turns out they were actually parachutes. Loaded into a gun and attached to the ship’s deck. FIRE! And just like that, the Nathan James more resembled a contemporary ship operating with 18th century technology. The three parachutes were used as sails.
After the break, we find our crew suffering the effects of rationed water. Everyone is sluggish and a fair amount incapacitated to minimize body function. After a MUCH longer than necessary montage of crew members doing nothing. Hoping to hear good news, and shortly after Chandler apologizes to Slattery for failing, Lt. Granderson spots something. Seagulls. Seagulls are birds and birds mean land. With the ship dying, land ho. Slattery gets on the horn to address the crew, “I believe all of you have earned a little R&R”.
Aside from another well crafted moment from Capt Chandler to Lt. Chang for a job well done under duress, the rest of the episode slows to a convenient and uneventful conclusion. Green sees Foster and visibly seems to be regretting his forced breakup just in time to see another man sit next to her. Previously Tophet demanded sunlight and someone to play chess with. Not exactly a friendly encounter. And even a ‘shipper’s tease’ with Chandler and Scott. It ended up being a professional moment nonetheless.
There is one thing I’d like to seriously criticize. I am not a music head, aficionado, historian or expert. In my car, I listen to sports talk and standup comedy. But I do know what I like. Just like a great deal of people older than me, I like music from a previous time. There are certain songs that have a special place for me. One example of which is, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. I really do enjoy it. But I only really enjoy it if Sam Cooke is singing it. For some reason, and The Last Ship is not the only show or movie to use it, that song has been coming up repeatedly. In my old man way, I just don’t want people trying to sing that one.
Lt. Granderson, who has a voice and can sing on some level, spends the last 3 minutes or so singing it while the previously mentioned small scenes took place. I just found it incredibly cheesy. Recognizable, sure. Topical, sure. Maybe something a little less obvious though. There are 200 military personnel trying to have a good night on a beach together. Why not go a little more light-hearted? Something more upbeat? I’m just saying, five more minutes of brainstorming and we’d go from predictably depressing to not predictable at all and maybe even slightly uplifting.
Just a head’s up for those who missed tonight’s episode. All is not lost. I believe you could read this recap and not need to watch the episode. However, make sure your DVR is ready. Next episode looks dramatically more intense. And what would a Last Ship promo be without at least one Capt Chandler, McClane/Wayne-esque one liner. “We came to hunt”.