Warning: Spoiler Alert
This week’s episode of Last Ship starts out in a way that almost makes you wish you still had last week’s episode. Or at least that I wish that I still had last week’s episode. We see Jeter and Slattery changing into clean uniforms while they watch someone carry away their dirty ones. It took me a second to recollect exactly how last week ended so I could piece together what’s happening now. Then I remembered the ‘Seal Team 6′ like way the episode ended.
At dinner with just Chandler, Slattery and Jeter, they discuss just how much of the Nicaragua mission the rest of the crew should be privileged to. Seems like a no brainer. Keep moral as high as possible, everything is on a need to know basis. Chandler brings up a great point. If they start keeping secrets now, just how far does the rabbit hole go?
Every time Lt. Granderson says, “Captain on the Bridge” I’m reminded of Star Trek. That’s neither here, nor there, so back to the story. Despite the consensus from Chandler’s command team, he decides to tell the entire crew all that happened in Nicaragua or at least as much as they needed to know. He also managed to raise the level of expectation on Dr. Scott’s monkey trials.
Meanwhile over in Lt. Green’s quarters, which is now also Tex’ quarters making meeting a college roommate for the first time seem comfortable by comparison, Tex finds his way to a sensitive subject. Tex is for lack of a better term, a horn-dog. So naturally when Tex noticed Green’s reaction when around Lt. Foster, we had to know this was coming back around. Tex took what he observed and in a very Tex way all but came out and acknowledged that not only he figured out the Green and Foster situation, but that the secret is safe. Green is still sticking to his stubborn claim that his involvement with Foster compromises his ability to do his job, which is BS.
In Lt. Granderson and Foster’s quarters, Granderson is reading and Foster is doing Pilates. This may seem like a silly observation, but that seems to be a metaphor for men vs women. Men, laying down doing as little as possible. Women, reading and exercising when they don’t have to. So, while exercising and reading, Granderson and Foster are discussing what they can piece together about the mission which is not much.
On the deck Tophet and ‘Bacon’ Cowley (the sailor who drew the misfortune of being forced into chess with Tophet) are basically not playing chess. Bacon is at the board while Tophet is digging about the time it will take to travel home. At this point it should be obvious that they are not going home as of yet. The game eventually does begin but not without Tophet trying to squeeze information out of Bacon that Bacon has no desire to give, even if he could. Right about the time I think these two might become the most unlikely of friends, Bacon reveals his ability to just not care about anything pertaining to Tophet.
Chandler pays Dr. Scott a visit. The scene can’t be more than 3 minutes long but unveils a world of potential hurt. There is a little awkwardness as Dr. Scott tries to explain what’s happening with her process. While Chandler tries to reiterate her tone of optimism a few nights previous when she brought tea to celebrate her progress. In the end, she should-be less enthusiastic when conveying science to a military man and he should not have gotten the crew’s hopes up as high as he did. In the end, Chandler figures that the dead monkeys need to be tossed over and should be done so at night. “If anyone asks, you’re just disposing of hazardous waste.
Here’s the fun part. In the cold open, Chandler told his XO and Master Chief that the only reason morale is where it is, is that the crew believes that they were all in the dark about the virus in the Arctic. And that they can’t start keeping secrets now. Problem is, by suggesting Dr. Scott dispose of dead monkeys overboard at night as to avoid being noticed, we are in fact keeping secrets. Capt Chandler just firmly planted his feet on the proverbial “slippery slope”.
Shortly after, Chandler, Slattery and Jeter walk alone on the deck of the ship. Chandler brings them up to speed on the stage 1 failure. They respond just as you might assume. The plan of action for the immediate future is no action at all. Dr. Scott will be discreet in disposing of the monkeys and they will simply attempt to buy some time in order to figure out exactly what’s happening on the vaccine end.
Back in Tophet’s ‘cell’, he and Bacon play another game of chess. Tophet probing for some sense of clarity on where they are headed. Bacon suggests maybe Brazil or Venezuela. Which triggers Tophet to bring Bacon into the scientific ramifications. As if that wouldn’t be enough good Samaritan work by Dr. Tophet, he decides to paint the captain and the present scenario into a corner. Creating one mind thinking outside of optimistic.
Outside it’s almost dead monkey disposal time. Dr. Scott doing her part as instructed. During a shift change, it should’ve been an easy proposition. However, just at the right moment the watchman’s relief just happens to look over and see Dr. Scott dumping something over the side of the ship. While she’s out dumping cadavers, Chandler and Slattery speak on the ship’s phone about the status of the vaccine. Clearly, Dr. Scott is annoyed by being talked about.
In a rec room of the ship, Tex and three others are about to play a card game. During which time the sailors try to lay out details that could lead them to a conclusion of some sort about exposure. Tex does his best to deflect and get them to ‘relax’. Just then Lt. Green walks in the room drinking from a water bottle looking like he just ran the gauntlet. Without any real indication of anything, my ‘spide-sense’ kicked in. Oh, he’s about to pass out or convulse or something…
Dr. Scott: If he did have the virus, we’d all be dead anyway. So stop panicking.
At present we believe that Green is not infected with the virus, but is clearly infected with something. After applying at mentality better suited for the common cold, Dr. Scott interjects that the spread of this particular virus doesn’t work that way. Chandler asks about the mutating nature of the virus and is it plausible that the Nicaraguan strain may have gone undetected? Not being completely sold on the answer, Chandler calls for Slattery to lock down the ship until someone knows more. Remember that slippery slope? Footing seems to be getting a little shaky.
During the lock-down, Lt. Foster disobeys the restriction and makes her way to the lounge where at least Green and Chandler or sequestered. Despite the initial outrage, Foster reveals that she had lunch with Green. So if he has it, she has it. This is curious, because on the surface it seems like a basic observation. However, the Green Foster storyline just might advance if her display is interpreted as something more than a casual coincidence.
In a room with Chandler, Dr. Scott, Lt. Green, Lt. Foster and three other sailors. The latter three get excused when we discover that Lt. Green’s condition is not the virus responsible for killing 80% of the world’s population. Then Chandler looks to Dr. Scott and says, “Dr. Scott would you excuse us for a moment?” Lt. Foster looks up. She might as well be going to the Principal’s office.
Most normal short-sighted people would start in with, “What the hell? There’s no fraternizing on a military vessel.” Instead, Chandler starts in a way that is pure Capt Chandler. Full disclosure, I would not have fared well if I were in Lt. Foster’s shoes. That was deep-rooted, well thought out and shades of parental disappointment.
I don’t know (in the moment) if these two (Dane and Mitra) have the acting chops for this or if they were just ideally picked to play these roles, but every now and again there is a moment. A moment that brings texture to the scene. This scene is a lovely back and forth where Dr. Scott believes she needs to appeal to Chandler’s sense of logic in order to get the job done. Chandler chooses to share the gravity of the situation. Essentially insinuating that she has done nothing to earn his trust. Neither of them is completely right or completely in the clear.
I am really starting to question the motivation of Dr. Quincy Tophet. When the lock-down was lifted, Bacon looked particularly ticked. So now we find him below with Tophet probing Tophet (a nice change of direction) about what he knows, what he thinks and what it all means. Long story short, in episode 1 (or maybe 2) Chandler told the crew that they were in the safest place on the planet-the ship. Tophet disagrees.
Bacon: But they wore the suits.
Tophet: So did Frankie Benz and he didn’t make it back. Accidents happen. I imagine you’re not the only one feeling out of sorts about all of this?
Bacon: No. There’s a lot of grumbling. A lot of grumbling.
Tophet: At the beginning of this epidemic, your Captain told you all that this ship was the safest place on earth. I’m afraid nothing could be further from the truth. Your ventilation systems, everyone living on top of each other, think about it. This is the strongest, most powerful virus to every hit the planet. Now you have teams going out into infected areas to get supplies every week. A makes-shift lab that was never designed to support production of a vaccine. Dr. Scott playing God down there with no real idea of what she’s doing. This vessel is a death trap.
Later, while Dr. Scott was stewing in her own stress filled moment, Tex tries to lighten the load. There is a great moment that flies under most people’s radar at on the West Wing season 4, I think. (specifics won’t matter if you haven’t seen it yet) Charlie is frustrated with Zoey and the demands his job plus racially motivated death threats is putting on their relationship. Will Bailey says to Charlie, “If I were you, I’d be the one person in her life that his hassle free”. Which may very well describe what Tex may end up being for Dr. Scott. Yes, his motivation to some end involves a romantic relationship of sorts with Dr. Scott. However, in the meantime, he provides the one source of unapologetic support. He doesn’t question her motives, expertise or anything else. He just believes she will succeed. And that little glimmer of optimism might just be what she needs right now.
In typical fashion, they manipulate the emotional spectrum beautifully. After the optimism of Tex, we are greeted by the bad news from MC Jeter. 16 enlisted men want off the ship. Which presents a world of hurt. If they let them leave, it sets a horrible precedent. If they refuse, it could make the situation unimaginably bad. A destroyer needs a minimum crew just to operate. If it wasn’t apparently clear based on previous scenes I’ll just say it, this feels creepily like the handy work of Quincy Tophet.
Can we get a Tom Chandler save the day speech maybe…?
Chandler: I’ve made some mistakes the last few days. In the ways I’ve handled information. I kept you in the dark about our mission because I’m trying to protect you from the truth. Which is painful. That was a poor decision on my part. I am your Captain. I am your leader. You have every right to be disappointed in me. But that does not mean that you should give up hope. Because this mission’s not about me. And it’s not about you. It’s about them (signals to Slattery). (Lt. Granderson in the ‘searching for survivors room’ turns up the volume on the board to broadcast).
Survivor 1: My name’s Henry, I’m up in Portland, Maine. We’re not sick, but we’re running out of food. If anyone knows any good hunting grounds in the area, we sure could use a tip.
Survivor 2: I’m calling out to anyone in Georgia, if you’re healthy, there’s a safe haven up in Dalton. There’s only 19 of us but we’re making it day by day.
Survivor 3: I am Juan from Ohackah, we are very sick here. Does anyone have the cure?
Chandler: That is our problem. In there is the solution. (Jeter opens a lift gate to reveal Dr. Scott working) Come with me.
(Chandler escorts the entire crew into the lab)
Chandler: You all have seen Dr. Scott, but you have no idea what it is she’s doing here or even who she is. She has dedicated her life to research on treatments and vaccines for Malaria, Ebola, and half a dozen other viruses. But she wasn’t chosen for this. She fought to be here. Fought the politicians and the bureaucracy and convinced them to take a chance on her. And she was right. When all of the scientists were failing, she knew what had to be done. Just so we all understand who we’re working with here, Dr. Scott can you explain what’s happening?
(Dr. Scott tells a nice story about Yellow Fever and claims she does not have the answers, but nothing will stop her until she does)
Chandler: It’s easy to believe in people when they are succeeding. But that’s not what we’re about. We have to believe in each other when we fail. If we have to go back to Nicaragua for more monkeys we will. If we have to go to Puerto Rico we will. If we have to go to Bangladesh to find a Bengal Tiger, that’s what we will do. Now what I can promise you is that whatever we do from here, we will do together. And the Chiefs and Officers of this ship will share with you what we have, good or bad. Now it has come to my attention that there is a group of you who may no longer want to continue on with this mission. Your enlistments are up, I will not hold you here. As a matter of fact, you have our gratitude for your services. And we have calculated what you are collectively entitled to in back pay. $148,673. Enough to buy you one used rig with a full tank. Plus food, water, and medical supplies. We have determined to set a course for home. Again. But for those of you who still wish to leave us, report to the focsul at 0700 and your boat will be waiting.
(That will probably be the longest transcript I will post, but the scene carries a certain tone and may signal a shift of direction. Important when detailing the what before analyzing the why.)
In a short follow-up scene we find Tex approaching Chandler. Tex being the ever-present voice of optimism, logical or not, tries to put Chandler’s mind at ease. Side note, has anyone else noticed that NO ONE accepts a Cuban cigar from Tex? Tex’ approach is very much, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it”. Chandler’s concern is, “If they leave (the 16 mentioned earlier), hope leaves with them.”
Chandler makes his way the deck where the 16 may choose to depart on the vessel he claims they are entitled to. As all 16 have served their term of service, they are free to leave. As he makes his way onto the deck, this viewer was hoping for an empty deck. However, once again, they are a step ahead of me. All 16 men are present. The instigator of the gaggle that brought us to this point, turns and marches a folded American flag and presents it to Capt. Chandler, “Sir, we all respectfully wish to re-enlist”. Then they all raise their right hand and ‘pledge to protect the constitution of the United States of America’ as they did when they first enlisted and the country was still intact.
Chandler walks into the room where Green is recovering. He excuses the medic and is left with only Foster in addition. He looks at Lt. Green and says, “He’s one of the best I’ve ever served with. A true leader. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going him his ass when he’s well enough”. As many father figures do, he asks Lt. Foster what her punishment should be. She responds with something in the four-week duration. He smiles and says, “two weeks ought to do it”.
Chandler leaves Foster and heads directly to Tophet. “I hear you and Bacon have been doing some talking. (He picks up the chess board) No more talking.”
Make sure to tune in either to the show or my recap of the show next week. Promos are designed to bring you back, and this group is very good at that. Although I don’t believe it’s true, “cease all rescue attempts, this is my final transition” from the Captain almost demands our attention.