Reed Diamond

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The West Wing: An Oasis From Political Madness

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

The worst kept secret with my affection of television is that I believe The West Wing is the greatest achievement in television history. I would gladly debate that point with anyone brave enough to try. That line in and of itself seems to be a microcosm for the political landscape we find ourselves in. Let’s be clear, the notion that I am right and you are wrong if you disagree with me in the slightest, is not a new idea when applied to political dialogue. For at least the last 50 years (maybe even longer) the two-party system has created a divisiveness among its electorate, suggesting that there is an absolute right and absolute wrong way to see things, depending on which side of the aisle you sit.

At some point the narrative changed. From the ‘I believe this and give me a moment so I can explain that and see if you feel the same way’ that eventually gave way to the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong and until you agree with my stance, you’re an idiot’. We are going to try to use The West Wing as a vehicle to explore what the problem really is at its core while still maintaining some sense that we can always get better. And secondly, that the gold standard of modern scripted fictional television can provide the ideals of government that we should continue to strive for.

The nature of democracy, specifically our democracy is that we are never going to get there. We will never wake up with 100% of the country completely in agreement about everything. So the next most logical goal to reach for is to create a political landscape where we keep talking. Not to slam the other side. Not to create further division. Not to widen the gap but instead, to narrow it. When it comes to politics and the practical sense of the governing of a nation’s people, we should act like intellectuals, not school yard bullies. As articulated by Jeff Breckinridge (a Black Civil Rights Lawyer from Georgia) debating reparations with Josh Lyman (a White jewish man from New England) in the episode, “Six Meetings Before Lunch”.

Jeff Breckinridge: You got a dollar? Take it out. Look at the back. The seal, the pyramid, it’s unfinished. With the eye of God looking over it. And the words Annuit Coeptis. He, God, Favors our Undertaking. The seal is meant to be unfinished, because this country’s meant to be unfinished. We’re meant to keep doing better. We’re meant to keep discussing and debating and we’re meant to read books by great historical scholars and then talk about them.

Sadly, it seems, this 2016 Presidential Election campaigns have been worse than I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following the political process and Presidential Elections specifically since the first George Bush. Every year it seems the popular cliché is that this election is a “lesser of two evils” situation. It’s always been popular to say, but this year I’m afraid the sentiment is more accurate than in past years. For the first time I can remember, there are more people wishing there were other options than those set on who they will vote for. While choosing who to vote for is every American’s right, there is a great deal of vitriol being tossed around from both sides. When the very nature of our system is to keep talking, keep evolving the debate. As opposed to spewing hatred for ‘the other side’.

Disclaimer: If you are waiting for the portion of this article where I divulge my political allegiance. Explain why my candidate is better than the other side. You are misunderstanding the point of this exercise. I have no intention of getting into the meat and potatoes of the political debate. The point to be had here is that neither side is right or wrong, but that the process was never intended to be this angry or combative. Something to consider the next time you get into a political discussion with someone who doesn’t share your view. In the “Game On” episode when President Bartlet faces off against Governor Ritchie of Florida many things are said, but one thing rings out stronger than all the others. A quote I think of every time I hear a politician or pundit drop the “partisan politics” line as a means to create animosity for the other side.

Jed Bartlet: I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they’re tired of hearing career politicians diss partisan politics to get a gig. Partisan politics is good. Partisan politics is what the founders had in mind. It guarantees that the minority opinion is heard, and as a lifelong possessor of minority opinions, I appreciate it.

Politicians will be politicians. In order to be one, the individual has to engage in a game of sorts. This plays out in every election cycle. One elected official cannot possible appeal to all voters. So, they play a numbers game. Using whatever resources at their disposal they will identify trends, tipping points, hot button issues and hopefully present themselves to fall on the winning side of those issues. For the politician, it’s about serving their best interest which generally means doing what is required to get re-elected. The day we discover a politician that is willing to fall on the grenade, throw away his lifestyle, security and career away for standing up for an issue they believe in is the day that politician decided to stop being a politician. My more pressing concern is that of the electorate. The people need not adopt the attitude and persona of the politicians they vote for. And that my friends is the crux of my issue.

I am sure it hasn’t always been this way. I remember watching my grandparents around election time. My Grandmother was a blind democrat. Put simply, she grew up the daughter of farmers and believed Democrats were for farmers. She really needed no other criteria. My Grandfather who did lean Democratic at times was much more open. He took the approach of “Show me what you’ve got, you have to earn my vote” and he would have no problem voting the other way. So by the time I was 10, they would not even speak to each other about politics. If the conversation had the potential of going south, they’d prefer not to talk about it, then vote however they were going to vote. That sense seems to be gone now. They both paid attention, both took in the debates of the issues of the day, but never dug in their heels to belittle or attack someone who disagreed.

Take a step back from the details. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter, Clinton supporter, or even a steadfast Sanders or Johnson fan . Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle. Maybe it has something to do with how social media and technology have made the world smaller. I think the clear takeaway is that no matter who you think you’re going to vote for, it is a lesser situation. Despite popular belief, I do not think Trump’s attack on political correctness would fly 50 years ago. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone 50 years ago voting for a candidate with real trustworthiness issues. I’m not going to so far as to call this a lesser of two evils, but it is less. Less than we should expect. Less than what came before them. We are not raising our expectations for our future President we are diminishing it. We are so used to looking at the landscape and thinking, “That’s the least crappy candidate. That’s my pick. The one I hate the least.” When did we decide this was good enough. Both parties want to believe they are rolling out Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It may not be a choice of lesser of two evils, but there is no doubt the expectation has become lesser.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Idealistic as it may seem, we should expect more. For the moment, forget the issues. Forget the economy, forget foreign policy, forget education reform, forget national defense. We should expect more from the candidates. College educated shouldn’t be enough. Serving two terms as a Senator who took a vulnerable seat shouldn’t be enough. To be completely transparent about it, this aspect of the conversation isn’t left to Trump or Hilary. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but no President I’ve been legally of age to vote for fits that bill. Not Trump or Hillary. Not Obama, not George W, not Bill Clinton. Maybe George Herbert Walker Bush, maybe. Ask yourself if any President in the last 25 years even comes close to measuring up to what you once believed a President should be. The one thing that Herbert Walker on back had (Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, etc not even talking about the Lincolns, Roosevelts, and Washingtons of our history) was gravitas. The moment they spoke there was a reverence. The idea that issues aside, we are in good hands. Intelligent hands. Hands of a leader in control. We can debate the subtle merits until we’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that these candidates in today’s politics lack most of that. The sensibility of intelligence, leadership and gravitas.

Sam: Before I look for anything, I look for a mind at work. No one’s saying a President has to have a tenured share in symbiotics, but you have to have

Ainsley: What

Sam: Gravitas.

Ainsley: And how do you measure that?

Sam: You don’t. But you know it when you see it.

Political correctness made its way back into this discussion.  Again, with no intention of pumping up one or discrediting the other, this needs to be addressed.  When did we decide treating all people with the same level of reverence or respect was a bad thing?  Political Correctness is necessary.  It sets a guideline for acceptable language in scenarios that call for it.  Am I going to request political correctness when I’m watching Monday Night Football with the fellas? No, but I do think it has a place in dialogue by governmental leaders.  And when did we decide telling it like it is was anything other than excusable bad behavior?  To take that further, when did we decide we wanted average Joe’s in positions of power and leadership?  Despite what some said years ago, Joe the Plumber would make the worst public servant imaginable. To quote a completely different Sorkin show, “I’m a fan of credentials”.  I want my leaders to at the very least create the illusion that they are more educated than me, more cultured than me, more aware than me, more adjusted than me, and better at working with people and solving problems than me.  We all really, should want the best the country has to offer.  And being just another guy/girl, ‘being just like the rest of us’, or being plain-spoken are not good things to look for in the leader of the free world.  At the end of the day, if our leaders are just like the rest of us, then get everyone in the mix and work off shear numbers.  If the sample size was larger, maybe the cream would rise to the top.  Barring an asinine theory like that, give me the smartest, most qualified, engaged people this country has.  Or in other words, I want a heavyweight.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

I know that it flies in the face of what we’ve been programmed to believe, politically. We now live in a very divided America. Granted, I could suggest any number of topics from Black Lives Matter to the 2nd Amendment to Military Funding to the Economy. Chances are pretty good that anyone chosen is likely to fall any number of ways on those issues. As if we use the issues to define us. To say, I am different from you because of this. Why has that become the approach we take? Why is our default position to be combative? Black Lives Matter ALONE seems to have divided the nation in half. There is no middle ground. At least 20 years ago, two adults could discuss the issue of Abortion or Gay rights or Government spending and they could have that conversation with it never getting anywhere near the verbal violence such debates incite now. The fact of the matter is and has always been that what we are arguing about are slight. We all support free elections. We all believe that all of our citizens deserve certain rights. We all want our children to grow up in safe schools where education is a priority. We all want a strong America. We just disagree on some of the nuances of how to get there. A sentiment that is beautifully articulated by Sitting President Walken (played wonderfully by John Goodman).

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

This brings me to a point that is bound to rub some people the wrong way. The fact that any subject is given the distinction of being an ‘issue’ generally means it is important to enough people who it is worthy of the discussion. However, I have always seen ‘issues’ as rankable and not just some grocery list absent of order. Towards the top, we are always going to have ‘issues’ like the economy, education, taxes, citizen’s rights, foreign policy, right to choose, and military issues. Those and some others have always inhabited the top. In sports rankings we tend to refer to that as the top tier. Grouping certain things of like importance together.

It may not be an important first step, but it seems logical that certain issues should take a back seat. To cite specific instances from The West Wing (just for the fun of it), changing the name of North Dakota to just “Dakota”, Topography Equality, Legal protection against the burning of the American Flag, campaign finance reform, a ‘wolves-only’ highway, all should not be the thing that derails your opinion of a would be public servant. Now yes, some of that is done to make light of the point I’m trying to make. But I have run into many of the “Amy Gardner’s” or “Lt. Commander Jack Reese’s” of the world. Those who will weigh one thing that is particular or special to them allowing them to rationalize the derailing of bigger issues.

Yes, the amount of money set aside for Military spending would be important to someone like Lt. Commander Reese. But should that really be the deal breaker? Reese in the show cites military spending as the end all be all for why he planned to vote for Ritchie (Bartlet’s opponent in the re-elect). Similarly, Amy Gardner. Amy is actually one of only a handful of characters among the 250 some recurring characters on this show I admittedly ‘hate’. Mary Louise Parker is a very attractive woman, but politically speaking, I have a problem with anyone who has that one ‘deal breaker’ issue. In Gardner’s case the ONLY issue that existed was that of a pro-women’s issue agenda. Now that is an important and worthwhile issue to support. However, any deal breaker issue becomes a problem when it derails other positive legislation.

Referencing the show. Gardner does her level best to sink a bill that would provide revenue to the education system along with a few other very important causes because the language of the bill did not advance Gardner’s women’s issue enough. To some degree these deal breakers become weighted just as much as issues like the economy, education and foreign policy. Now I’m sure one could argue they are just as important. I would just politely argue that cannot possibly be true from an objective logical perspective.

Not all issues are equal in weight. That’s factual. How Donald Trump feels about Daylight Savings Time or how Hillary Clinton feels about Congressional Term Limits should not in any way come close to say the economic state of this country. Yet there are people who seem to put too much value in smaller issues. Maybe even issues that aren’t an urgent concern. We should be able to focus on the bigger issues and find ways to seek common ground there before tackling some smaller issues or even issues that really might not be urgent issues to begin with. A notion that was addressed shortly in an episode called, “20 Hours in LA”.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

 

Let’s be perfectly clear, issues are and should be the driving determining factor for any voter. By no means am I suggesting that the issues important to me should overshadow what is important to you. What I am proposing is that we all accept that there are some macro issues that should always take priority. Consider your own financial/bills situation. There’s no one reading this I’m sure that is going to consider their Netflix bill as being more important than their mortgage. Yes after a long and stressful day at work, maybe knowing you can unwind and binge watch a little West Wing is monumentally important. But if you don’t have a home to watch it in, how important really is the Netflix subscription. Yes, I may be underselling the importance of secondary issues with that analogy, but the bigger point should be obvious.

While we’re considering the difference between big universally important issues and those that have a particular significance to an individual, can we also look to shed the combative nature of American Democratic politics? As has been mentioned previously in this article, “the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us”. Using that idea, it’s high time we take a step back and see the bigger picture. Like an artist painting from six inches away, sometimes taking a step back can re-calibrate our perspective.

At times, the electorate are divided among issues like foreign aid, military involvement, economic bailouts for suffering countries, base closings, support of allies and potential military presence in countries that may or may not appreciate our presence. These issues and questions can often be just as divisive as social issues like a woman’s right to choose or gay rights. At the end of each of those conversations, one very obvious question needs to be asked. Are we for Freedom or are we not? Because if we are for freedom, it can’t be limited to…well anything really. The very nature of the concept of freedom is devoid of limitations.

To say that we’re for freedom within our borders or as long as it doesn’t cost us anything is contradictory to the very notion of what freedom represents. So if you think pulling out of conflicting nations is strategically recommended, don’t think we should put troops in harm’s way, or take the approach that we need to completely fix 100% of our own problems before we put even a single resource on someone else’s soil, then you have a fundamental conflict with being the democracy we are. That is perfectly fine by the way, but call it what it is. When you can realistically identify that a person is against those things just mentioned, then that person needs to come to grips with the reality that they are not for an American Democracy.

The fact of the matter is that if America is the leader of the free world. If America represents what it is supposed to represent, then every one of its citizens has to be in support of Freedom. And not just conceptually. You have to be for Freedom everywhere and for everyone. Now that same Freedom that allows us to choose our own religion, where our kids go to school, what we do for a living, also has to extend to less admired Freedoms. Burning of the flag, saying whatever one wants, the freedom of assembly. Freedom only works if its free across the board. It must also extend to Freedom for all of its citizens even if you don’t agree with other citizen’s choices. It must extend to all religions, even those absent of any such a faith at all. It must extend do those who disagree with you. And yes, it must extend to those countries and peoples who are not quite there yet. Those countries that have yet to break free from the oppressive rule of a mightier and less Freedom loving power.

Never has such a sentiment been more adequately portrayed than in the episode “Inauguration Part II: Over There”. In this fictional masterpiece, one very obvious theme is that this particular President does not, will not put American lives in danger lightly. Often there have been points of conflict. The reluctance to put soldiers into the equation almost always is overshadowed by the greater good of the pursuit of Freedom. Which absolutely is a prime virtue of this American Democracy.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

As the episode progresses, it is clear that Jed Bartlet’s epiphany on whether the troops should be used to ensure those that want Freedom can pursue it, is not the end of this motif. While the President battles over to do it and risk lives vs not to and let tyranny prevail, his staff deals with a similar angle. Senior staff being what it is, is naturally concerned with the political fallout of the decision either way. Regardless of what side of the fence you may be on, Aaron Sorkin (as he does often in this series) provides a very simplistically beautiful way to see this issue. Sometimes, you just have to back up and see the whole picture. And sometimes that picture is very simple and lacks complexity.

C.J.: The guy across the street is beating up a pregnant woman. You don’t go over
and try and stop it?

TOBY: Guy across the street is beating up anybody, I like to think I go over and
try to stop it, but we’re not talking about the President going to Asia or the President
going to Rwanda or the President going to Qumar. We’re talking about the President
sending other people’s kids to do that.

C.J.: That’s always what we’re talking about, and in addition to being somebody’s
kids, they’re soldiers and sailors, and if we’re about freedom from tyranny,
then we’re about freedom from tyranny, and if we’re not, we should shut up.

TOBY: On Sunday, he’s taking an oath to ensure domestic tranquility.

C.J.: And to establish justice and promote the general welfare. Stand by while
atrocities are taking place, and you’re an accomplice.

TOBY: I’m not indifferent to that, but knuckleheaded self-destruction is never
going to burn itself out, you really want to send your kids across the street into the fire?

C.J.: Want to? No. Should I? Yes.

TOBY: Why? And don’t give me a lefty answer.

C.J.: A lefty answer is all I’ve got.

TOBY: Why are you sending your kids across the street?

C.J.: ‘Cause those are somebody’s kids, too.

Now while that may be a little lefty heavy, the sentiment remains. The very foundation of Freedom suggests that the pursuit is never over, especially when “Someone is getting beat up”. As a free nation of power and influence, we are inherently compelled to assist when Freedom or the pursuit of Freedom is threatened. An idea that is made clear yet again in the same episode. This time President Bartlet finds a way to promote Will Bailey to Deputy Communications Director and drive home the bigger point at the same time.

BARTLET: Will, I think some of these people don’t know who your dad is. Will’s the youngest son of Tom Bailey, who’s the only guy in the world with a better title than mine. He was Supreme Commander, NATO Allied Forces Europe. We didn’t know we were going
to do this. I would have asked you to invite him.

WILL: Well, you got quite a response from him watching on TV, sir. I think he’s going to reenlist.

BARTLET: Actually, I meant he could be here now when I tell you Toby’s asked me to
commission you as his deputy.

WILL: I’m sorry, sir?

BARTLET: Toby wants to make you deputy.

WILL: Pardon me?

BARTLET: I’m appointing you Deputy Communications Director. It covers a wide range
of areas of policy and execution and counsel to me.

WILL: To you… the President?

BARTLET: [to the gang] That’s what you want to hear from your new Communications–
WILL: I-I accept.

BARTLET: There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make. Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. You know why?

WILL: It’s the only thing that ever has.

BARTLET: …and affixed with the Seal of the Unites States. And it is done so on this day and in this place. Congratulations.

BARTLET: [holding a piece of paper in his hand] You know, it’s easy to watch the news
and think of Khundunese as either hapless victims or crazed butchers, and it turns
out that’s not true. I got this intelligence summary this afternoon. “Mothers are standing
in front of tanks.” And we’re going to go get their backs. An hour ago, I ordered
Fitzwallace to have UCOMM deploy a brigade of the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Air Assault,
and a Marine Expeditionary Unit to Khundu to stop the violence. The 101st are the Screaming Eagles. The Marines are with the 22nd M.E.U., trained at Camp Lejuene, some of them
very recently. I’m sorry, everyone, but this is a work night.

The final point I’d like to drive home and reinforce with context from the West Wing is the nature of how we view politics in this country. The founding fathers of this country and the framers of the Constitution had a few things at the forefront of the construction of this country’s government. 1) Most decisions structurally were made in a reactionary manner to reject anything adopted from the British model (let that marinate for a moment-might alter the way you see ‘how this country was made) 2) Freedom of its citizen’s will be paramount to almost anything else. 3) The party system wasn’t instituted to divide the country but to allow the electorate the opportunity to be heard, view or debate the minority idea. Yet in 2016 within this American Democracy, we have grown not only divisive but almost angry and combative. The divisions are stark and clear. With the addition of the 24 hour news cycle and social media making the world smaller, we have taken a structure meant to encourage debate and the sharing of ideas and have replaced it with emotion filled, borderline verbally abusive tactics to convey that I am right and you are wrong.

Cable news might be the worst contributor to this notion. Any number of networks claiming to be fair and balanced or always in pursuit of the truth, when in fact, those ideas are conceptually false. Fox News is not fair and balanced as they admittedly support a strict adherence to the Conservative agenda. CNN is not the most trusted name in news either as they can’t be completely trusted if they are slanting left consistently. Ever want to have a great bit of fun during an election? Watch the cable news coverage of that election based on who is losing. Watching those anchors and analysts fidgeting in their chairs as if they are actually watching the end of the world is entertaining no matter who you are. So instead of shaping our news coverage based on a model that would more likely mirror the sense of the founding fathers encouraging debate and the explanation of perspective…our news media takes sides.

Now the influence of news media may not mean a great deal to each individual’s decision. It is fair to assume that most of the electorate can read between the lines. However, the presentation of this ‘sharing of ideas’ (if we can even call it that anymore) has illustrated just how far we’ve fallen. For me it started with the McLaughlin Group back in the 1980s and it continued from there from everything from Meet the Press to Face the Nation to each and every hosted program on cable news. Go watch Anderson Cooper or Bill O’Reilly (no spin zone, that’s funny) without noticing one person disrespectfully talking over the other. From a tv production standpoint, what we see now unconditionally assists more than anything else into this condition we find ourselves in. My beliefs are what’s right in the world while your beliefs (if they differ at all from mine) are stupid and therefore what’s wrong with the world. The day I hear a cable news anchor/host say, “That is a fair point, no allow me to counter.” is the day I will get off this news soapbox.

The 24-hour news cycle, social media, advances in technology and a society that is often fearful that the world is getting progressively worse and worse with each passing year all contribute to an angrier electorate. Now while I’ve heard “worst election ever” each and every election I’ve witnessed since George Herbert Walker Bush, I do believe that this 2016 election is actually the worst. Now, again, I am not referring to the candidates themselves. Granted, I could make that argument as well, but that isn’t the focus of this piece. The shear vitriol that the voters seem to be throwing at each other is the bigger issue. I am a dog person. However, I can absolutely understand and grant the notion that there are people who would prefer to be cat people. Not my choice, but cat people are not lesser people. They are not heathens for preferring cats. They are not sub-human for not wanting to choose dogs over cats. While the analogy is simplistic is it really that unrealistic? Of course not. It only seems ridiculous because of how we approach political conversations amongst ourselves. We have conditioned ourselves somewhere in the last 25-50 years that those that disagree with us are stupid and a detriment to this country as opposed to viewing the conversation as an opportunity to evaluate all perspectives.

The perspective extends further than conversations at the work coffee machine or the danish cart. It is apparent that the voters are not the only ones taking an adversarial view. The very leaders we elect also subscribe to this idea of Party over Country. At every step we should be asking “is this best for the country” and the sad thing is that question is never asked in all honesty. The question generally comes down to “is this best for the party”? The two-party system has become a contact sport. Democrat vs Republican and there needs to be one clear winner and one clear loser. Thus, is our problem.

I will give one very hot bed example. Apologies in advance, this is not the political portion of this piece either just a random issue that is very divisive and should identify the point. The slight alteration to the second amendment to hopefully decrease the number of mass shootings and violent crimes or refusing to even talk about the second amendment because no one wants to make any sort of legislative compromise even if it means saving American lives. Now I’m not saying that gun control will eliminate violent crimes. I am also not saying that to fix the problem we must remove 100% of guns. However, the bigger point to be made is that even an issue such as gun control that has very clearly drawn lines of support vs opposition should still create some level of compromising discussion. However, I dare you to bring that up in a public forum and count the seconds that pass before people resort to name calling and profanity.

We have become angry and party-centric. The two-party system wasn’t created to inspire adversaries. It was created to appropriate all perspectives into the dialogue. Yet, the government and the people who vote them in all seem to be on the same page. It’s almost brand loyalty at this point. If party A is not the winner, then they must be the loser. That’s where the concept needs to change. We all, from voters to The President need to all get on board with the idea that we collectively should be making decisions that benefit all and not just those that belong to one party over the other. The West Wing has been a beacon for what we should strive for, not what we currently are. And yes, I know, some of what is seen in this series is unrealistic and ideological. However, a great deal of it is not that far-fetched and should be the inspiration for what we hope to be.

Both sides should see ways to identify with the other. We should be able to shed the party-centric mentality and give credit where credit is due. Not everything needs to be an opportunity to advance one party past the other. Never should ‘beating the other side’ be a motivating factor, but it often is. We should in every way, every conversation be trying to advance the country not the party. Anything less than that is irresponsible.

AINSLEY: Well, it President Bartlet, I’m on the government payroll. And I believe that politics should stop at the water’s edge. To be honest with you, I think it should stop well before that but it turns out there’s no Santa Claus and Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore. See, I don’t think you think the treaty’s bad, I don’t think you think it’s good, I think you want to beat the White House.

KEENE: Yeah.

AINSLEY: You’re a schmuck, Peter. Today, tomorrow, next year, next term, these guys’ll  have the treaty ratified and they’ll do it without the reservations he just offered to discuss
with you.

Every now and then, there is a moment where the above is not the sentiment shared. Go to any travesty, any devastation that befalls this country because it befalls all of it equally. 9/11, mass shootings (at least before they became so frequent that we are almost desensitized to it), or any natural disaster. Americans come together. Without hesitation or qualification. Why does it take tragedy to bring out the inner American in most Americans? Well, the artistry in some of what Sorkin creates is Art imitating Life almost literally. We won’t even mention how the young, engaging minority democrat wins in a Presidential election over the old white republican Congressional stalwart and go straight to a story line commonly referred to “The 25th”.

In “the 25th” we discover the President’s youngest daughter has been kidnapped. The President is so beside himself over the issue at hand that he acknowledges that he is unable to preside over the country objectively. He does what he must and invokes the 25th Amendment turning over the office of the President to the next person in the line of succession. In this case, that would involve turning over his office to the highest ranking official on the other team. Yet, Sorkin again finds another way to articulate the approach we should have and not the current approach we cling to.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

The West Wing on its own, in a vacuum is the greatest achievement in television history. Beyond that simple idea it continues to breed more than that. New information presents itself with each viewing. It may have you question your convictions or maybe it will solidify them. It is more than a show. I could go on and on about the genius of Aaron Sorkin, but that’s not what this is about. Ask me later, I have no hesitation in discussing the West Wing on any level relating it to any topic, but for another time I guess. Beyond the obvious form of entertainment which it swings for the fences at every turn, it is the ideology of what we as Americans engaged in the political process should constantly strive for. Even the show is not perfect. It is not a documentary about political utopia. But it does consistently show how people of differing perspectives can come together for the greater good. Or put in other words, “The West Wing can serve as an oasis from our own political madness” or at least the current level of political madness of the 2016 Presidential Election seems to be.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Courtesy of Warner Bros Television

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The FOX Network mini-series “Wayward Pines,” has set the table for a truly spectacular finale, with a taut and exciting  penultimate episode entitled “A Reckoning.” Finally, the entire population of the small town in Iowa, are discovering the truth about their situation, however an ominous final montage leaves one wondering if the truth and  the residents of Wayward Pines, will survive the final episode? The town’s sheriff Ethan Burke, averted a crisis early in the episode, but that threat was back in play at the end.

Our first image’s a wide-shot of a neighborhood at night, suddenly phones start ringing all over town and we see the lights getting turned on in the houses. We move to the town square, the spotlights on the platform where they perform reckonings, come on. Then we watch Ethan walking onto the platform holding a knife to Kate Balinger’s neck and asking the crowd if that’s what they want to see. The crowd cheers lustily, but there are 14 residents who are allies of Kate and although undetected, they’re holding weapons.

We then go back several hours, to see the events that lead up to the reckoning, starting minutes after one of Kate’s crew drove through the electric fence with a 30-foot dump-truck. The driver left the cab with the body of a comrade who died on his way to the fence. Seconds later they got devoured by three Abbies, one eating the corpse the other two killing then eating the driver.

As they finish their meal, one of the Abbies realize that the fence’s disabled. He crawls underneath the truck to the other side of the fence, then crawls back to signal his mates. However he’s killed by Ethan slamming into him with his jeep. The other two Abbies attempt to escape by crawling under the truck, but Burke shoots out all the tires and the truck falls on them and crushes them to death.

Back at Burke’s office, Kate’s in one cell while Franklin and two other members of their team are in another. Franklin’s not the guy I’d want to be spending my final moments with, as he’s the voice of doom and gloom. He keeps repeating their dead, that Burke’s going to come back and then have a reckoning for each of them. Kate says that Ethan’s not Pope and they’ll all be fine. She says she knows Ethan and he’s not going to kill them. Franklin counters with she used to know him before they got to him.

Ethan’s secretary Arlene’s sitting at her desk playing solitary, when three teenaged boys walk into the station and demand to see Sheriff Burke. She tells them he’s not at the station, then asks them what gives them the right to demand anything? The loudmouth of the trio, flashes his school ring and says he’s a member of the first graduating class of Wayward Pines Academy.

He then says that Wayward Pines has rules and punishment for breaking those rules and he wants to know when the sheriff will hold reckonings for the guilty. Arlene says that’s none of his business and tells them to leave, one of his buddies tells the loudmouth Jason that they should leave. Jason says tell the sheriff if he doesn’t want to do the reckoning he knows people who will gladly take care of it. Then they leave.

Ethan’s got a construction team repairing the fence when David Pilcher arrives. Burke says he’s got the situation under control and Pilcher responds that the rebels won’t stop. Ethan says the reason that they drove through the fence was Pilcher’s fault for not leveling with the residents. The creator of Wayward Pines blames his sheriff’s leniency as the problem, telling him he must kill Kate Balinger.

The doctor says that the rebels will fall apart without her leadership. He then asks Burke if he could have killed the Easter bomber, before he killed so many, would he have done it? He says to Ethan it’s one life for the safety of the whole town.

Burke drags Harold Balinger into an interrogation room and shows him pictures of the remains of the two guys who crashed through the fence. It’s clear that they’ve been eaten by some monster, but Harold asks Ethan what he did to them? Burke looks him in the eye and says if he killed them, he’d have shot them instead of eating them. He then tells Balinger that he needs the names of the other members of their team, or this will happen to all of them.

Pamela’s sitting in her office and going through some books, when she finds a picture of David and her when they were children.  She smiles at the memory at first, but then she gets up from her desk and leaves her office. Pamela believes her brother’s lost his way, a rift formed between them over Reggie Hudson and her days of unquestioning loyalty ended.

Theresa Burke steps out of Ben’s room at the hospital and Pam asks her how Ben’s doing. Theresa says that Ben slept through the night and Pam says that’s great. She then quietly asks her if Ethan told her the truth about Wayward Pines and Theresa uncomfortably nods yes. Pilcher asks if she believes him and Burke responds she doesn’t know what to believe. Pamela says that’s a good attitude, to question everything.

She then tells Theresa to go home and get some rest, that they’ll take good care of Ben. However, she tells Theresa not to take Main Street, instead to take the route that passes Lot 33 and see what you find. Theresa smiles weakly and leaves the hospital she looks at the pass that Pilcher slipped into her hand, granting her total access to the town.

Ethan goes to the surveillance center of the complex and tells Pilcher that he’s got 14 names, they are the rest of Kate and Harold’s team. The surveillance operator says that they’re all together at the Bier Garten, but when they pull up the video feed the bar’s empty. A call by Pilcher to the bartender, reveals that all 14 tracking-chips are in a beer-mug.

Ben’s in his hospital bed when he starts hearing these codes alerting doctors to  a crisis in Amy’s room. Ben unhooks  himself from the monitors and walks into the hall and sees Amy’s mom and dad leaving her room crying. He tries to go into the room when Pam stops him, she tells him Amy’s developed a swelling of the brain and she needs surgery. Ben breaks down crying and Pam hugs him.

Theresa heads to Lot 33 and knocks out the surveillance camera with a steel pipe. She then heads into the shack on the lot and quickly realizes that the rickety wooden floor boards, hide a metal trap door. She opens it and sees a ladder heading down to the basement. She takes the ladder down and uses a flashlight at first but the lighting system senses her presence and starts lighting the hallway. She comes to a door that reads passes and it says total access granted and the door opens.

Megan Fisher comes to Ben’s room at the hospital and asks about Amy’s condition, he tells her the surgery’s completed and it will be a couple of hours before the doctors know anything. She then asks if he thought any more about their conversation the previous day, when she said that Ben needs to share his thoughts publicly. She then tells him about the crashing of the fence.

She says the town’s coming apart and he needs to be a leader and talk to the people, telling them he doesn’t approve of the leniency the rebels are getting. She says you’re not alone and suddenly there’s a sound outside Ben’s window that  sounds like marching. However it’s all the students from his class standing outside his window, slamming their fists into the palms of their other hands, a gesture that looked like they wanted revenge.

The surveillance operator sees the commotion outside the hospital and pulls it up on the giant monitor and calls for Burke and Pilcher to check it out. Just as they walk over, they see Megan and Ben come outside and Ethan asks the operator for audio. Fisher tells the students to let Ben talk and he thanks them for coming and tells them about Amy.

He then says that Amy’s a really good person and whom ever was behind hurting her deserves to be punished. He then apologizes for his father letting the town down. Jason and his two buddies are in the crowd and Jason asks Ben when his father’s going to have a reckoning, Ben replies he’s not having one. Jason and his buddies turn around and storm off, then the rest of the students leave soon after.

Jason and his pals head back to the sheriff’s station, Arlene tries to lock the plate-glass door, but Jason bashes through it. He then tells Arlene to give him the keys and she spits in his face, he picks her up and throws her against a wall. Then he handcuffs her to a filing cabinet and takes the keys, he opens the rifle rack and starts loading three with ammunition.

Kate recognizes him, he was in their toy-store when he was just eight-years-old and he bought a wooden soldier that Harold had carved. She says she remembers it like it was yesterday and says he was a really good kid. She says it doesn’t have to end like this and one of Jason’s buddy’s says she’s right, we’ve made our point. Jason screams at him this isn’t about making a point, then asks if his pal was deaf throughout their school-years.

First he opens the cell with Franklin and the other two men, he tells them to come out and get on their knees. He then opens the cell with Kate and Harold and she tries to grab him to ask for sympathy and he responds with the butt of his rifle to her head. While she’s on the floor he tells Harold to get out and join the other men on their knees.

He then makes all four men repeat, “Work Hard, Be Happy And Enjoy Your Life In Wayward Pines.” He then takes his rifle and puts it to the back of Harold’s head. Harold mouths I Love You to Kate then we hear the rifle fire and we see Harold’s blood and tissue all over Kate’s face. He then shoots the other three dead and heads into the cell and points the rifle at Kate’s head. However Ethan comes in right then and kills Jason with one shot, then tells the other two teens to drop their weapons.

Ethan brings Kate into an interrogation room and says that the only way the other 14 people will be safe, is if she tells him where they are, so he can protect him. She responds like you protected Harold? Then she says the only way he can protect them, is by stop protecting her. He says he won’t do that and she says if he doesn’t kill her, another Jason will.

Arlene runs into the room and says she thinks more vigilantes are there, she just heard something. However when he goes out front, it’s Theresa and she says she needs to show him and Kate something. They head to Lot 33 and Theresa sits down in front of a computer containing video archives and pulls one up and starts playing it. They soon see Adam Hassler who says the date’s September 15, 4020 and they’ve finally reached the city, but have found no survivors.

He then says a band of Abbies are following them and he believes it’s the same group they saw earlier in the trip. He then turns the camera to the Golden Gate Bridge and its either in pieces or partially submerged. The video then cuts out. Theresa says there are hundreds of video journals from cities all over the country, nothing’s left.

Ethan looks over at Kate and asks if she believes him now and she asks why Pilcher hid this from them. Burke says Pilcher’s a control freak but they have to tell everybody. Theresa asks how they’re going to tell people without Pilcher finding out? Ethan says just show this to as many people before midnight as possible, he’ll take care of Pilcher. She asks why midnight and Kate and Ethan say in unison there’s going to be a reckoning.

Burke heads over to Pilcher’s office and the surveillance operator tells David that the sheriff’s in his office waiting to talk to him. When the doctor enters his office, he sees Ethan sitting there drinking liquor, Burke says he decided that reckoning Kate Balinger’s the only solution. However he needs all the residents at the reckoning, Pilcher gives him a remote control which controls all the phones.

Which brings us back full circle to the opening scene as Ethan and Kate walk across the platform, while Burke asks the crowd if they want Kate dead. He then lets her go and puts down the knife and tells the crowd he’s not going to kill her, instead he’s going to tell them the truth. The world they know is long gone, Wayward Pines is it. He then says they’ve been ruled by the man they know as Dr. Jenkins, who in reality’s David Pilcher. He says he’s ruled through fear and violence for too long.

Somebody screams from the crowd that Burke’s lying and then Kate says he’s telling the truth, that she saw it for herself. She says all these years she’s just wanted to know the truth, but she never expected that they were the last surviving people. Then Theresa says she saw it as well, then Arlene says she also saw it, followed by some other residents.

Kate says that Pilcher thinks they can’t handle the truth and will turn on each other, but she says they can show him he’s wrong. Suddenly Megan Fisher steps forward and shouts Kate down, asking how she dare talk about Dr. Pilcher. She calls Kate a terrorist and Theresa steps up and slaps Fisher across the face. Megan’s shocked and then she asks if they’re all going to just stand there and everyone remains silent. Then the lights go out, first in the square then all throughout Wayward Pines. We see its Pilcher turning off the power via a keyboard and then we see the electric-fence power down. Our last image’s the hand of one of the Abbie’s starting to scale the fence.

The Season Finale Airs Next Thursday Night at 9:00 pm on FOX.

Courtesy of FOX

Courtesy of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The townspeople gather on main street. A reckoning is afoot. Ethan marches Kate to the platform, knife pressed against her throat. Some of her supporters are amidst the crowd with small weapons, seemingly prepared to respond. Flashing back to sometime before the reckoning, there is a much larger problem descending upon the fence. It takes one of the Abbies seconds to deduce that food very well could be on the other side of this large metal box that breached the fence. Luckily, Ethan arrives in time to introduce this Abbie to the grill of his truck. He then quickly smashes two more crawling under the dump truck by shooting out the tires.

In their holding cells Franklin begins to freak out a little while Kate remains calm. Franklin anticipates Ethan doing his ‘job’ like Sheriff Pope. Kate disagrees. Her previous experience with Ethan would seem to dictate just the opposite. Franklin insists they are already dead, it’s just a matter of time.

The apparent spokesmen for the first senior class of Wayward Pines abruptly pay the Sheriff a visit. Even though Ethan is not there, they are less than polite about their agenda. The children, even the old ones, take the rules very seriously. Their point of contention is that Ethan is holding terrorists with no intention of a reckoning. Arlene does her very best to stand strong between these kids and the detained. They reluctantly leave.

In what I at least I see as an underwhelming follow-up to a significant cliff hanger, we find Ethan and David Pilcher observing the repairs on the wall. One Abbie got through and Ethan killed it. Two more attempted to get through and Ethan smashed them with a parked dump truck. The gist of the collective fanbase’s anticipation for this episode in particular had to do with how much damage the Abbies would cause and is Wayward Pines equipped to fight them off. Taking three of them out before they could organize and fixing the fence is extremely underwhelming.

Ethan and Pilcher debate the causes of the predicament they find themselves in. Ethan believes this happened because Pilcher won’t tell them the truth. Pilcher believes this will only get worse the longer the rules violators go unpunished. Pilcher suggests that without Kate, there is no rebellion. Reckon her and everything goes back. A notion, that for now, Ethan refuses to get on board with. Then Pilcher does something that might be ill-advised. He threw the Easter Bomber in Ethan’s face as a cautionary tale before the dramatic walk away.

Ethan forcefully escorts Harold into the interrogation room…for the second time now. Harold tries to resist Ethan’s approach until he sees Kate. Ethan shrugs that off and drops two 8×10 photographs of Allen and Eric. Or what’s now left of them. As predicted, Harold is having a difficult time accepting the evidence in front of him. Ethan wants names.

Pam feeling nostalgic or fearful, finds Theresa and pulls her aside. This private conversation begins with the importance of questioning things. This is either Pam opening up or setting Theresa up for something bad. She suggests Theresa take Boxwood instead of Main St home. Just to see what she’ll find. Pam was touchy/feely for a reason. When Theresa reaches the elevator she discovers a key card in the sleeve of her cardigan. They same type of key card that unlocks the cryo-chambers.

All of the names Harold gave Ethan are conveniently in one place. Or so it would seem. Surveillance puts them all at the Biergarten. Which at the moment is virtually empty. The barkeep gets a phone call from Pilcher. No words are heard, but upon hanging up, the bartender finds all of their tracking devices at the bottom of a beer glass. The 14 dissidents are off the grid.

Amy develops a swelling in her brain. The commotion draws the attention of Ben who is under the impression that she is recovering just fine. Like any caring person in a hospital scene of this type, Ben almost cannot be contained by Pam. His emotions run over. Pam eventually convinces him to trust the staff.

During the painful time that Ben must wait to hear back from the hospital staff on the progress with Amy’s swelling, Megan Fisher re-enters Ben’s hospital room spewing her tired rhetoric. She stops speaking to let the student body’s fist pounding outside can be heard. Fisher is a rabble-rouser. She has collected the children and lobbied for Ben’s involvement to create added pressure for reckonings.

During the surveillance to find the dissidents, HQ’s staff finds this temporarily non-violent protest outside the hospital. Ben speaks to the crowd. At first it’s somber about the situation with Amy. But then it transitions into the same lines about rules and the safety of the town. Even including an apology for his father’s failures. This prompts one of the seniors to demand an answer.

Jason (senior): So when is your Dad going to reckon them?
Ben: He’s not going to.
(the senior storms off)

Naturally, the key card in Theresa’s possession would lead her to plot 33. What Theresa finds looks more like a bomb shelter than anything else. Once below, one swipe of the key card and ‘level 13 clearance’ appears and the door opens.

The Dead Poets Society rejects (seniors) return to the Sheriff’s office. This time with a bat and less calm. Jason subdues Arlene and handcuffs her to a filing cabinet before breaking into a weapon locker. At this point, Kate tries to reason with Jason by recalling a story involving Jason and a toy soldier about ten years earlier. The story only causes him to hesitate momentarily. At gunpoint, Jason forces the group out of their cells. Harold tries to retaliate after Jason strikes Kate but it doesn’t work.

Jason begins reciting the motto. He stands behind Harold, gun pointed. Then in a cinematically dark turn of events, shoots Harold in the back of the head sending blood all over Kate’s agonizing face. He continues to take out the remaining men with no abandon. Just before he shoots Kate in the head, Ethan arrives and shoots Jason.

Once moved to the interrogation room, Kate is tight-lipped. Almost catatonic. She eventually gives in. Ethan can’t protect the dissidents as long as Kate is being protected. Her plan is to reckon her to prevent others from dying. Before they can decide on this, Theresa comes in and tells Ethan she has something to show him, and Kate should see it too.

Lot 33 seems to have a library of videos of some specific relevance. The first of which shows Adam Hassler in the year 4020. He has found the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s half-submerged in the bay. He also references the Abbies and how they have been tracking him. This is another source that confirms what Ethan has said. Ethan has decided these videos need to be shared with the town. But it has to come before midnight. That’s when there will be a reckoning.

Ethan has invited himself into Pilcher residence. He tells Pilcher he plans to reckon Kate. Ethan will reckon Kate, but that’s it. No more killing. Pilcher gladly agrees. Ethan’s one other stipulation is that everyone, and he means everyone, has to be there. This brings us back to the reckoning scene from the cold open. However, he does not kill Kate. It was all a ploy to get everyone within earshot of Ethan to hear the truth.

Pilcher watches on a monitor as Ethan uncovers Dr. Jenkins as Dr. Pilcher and the man behind the curtain. The world they know no longer exists. Kate chimes in supporting Ethan’s claims. Then Theresa. Then Arlene and so on. Fisher interjects to push back and proclaim David Pilcher the savior deity she believes him to be. Megan rants on demanding Kate be reckoned. That’s the precise moment that Theresa slaps the gumption out of Fisher’s rant. Then…Pilcher cuts the power to the entire town. Including the electricity to Amy’s hospital room. And for what? To show them the horror he has been protecting them from. The final frame shows an Abbie grabbing the fence with no consequence for doing so.

Photo: Courtesy Of FOX

Photo: Courtesy Of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

“Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

For What It’s Worth-Stephen Stills

Utopia: The perfect society; a place devoid of all the troubles that plague humanity; a land of contentment, free from  want and hardship and filled with friendship and love for each other. People have strived to reach or create such a society since the dawn of creation, but they never last for long. Are imperfect creatures capable of building a perfect society?

With just two episodes remaining in the FOX miniseries “Wayward Pines,” we’ve become aware that a sizable segment of the town, don’t truly feel they reside in “The Friendliest Place On Earth.” During episode eight, viewers found out that characters such as Ruby from the coffee-shop and Tim Bell the manager of the Wayward Pines Hotel, aren’t the compliant and passive people we assumed they were. Both were actively involved in the plan designed by Kate Hewson, to disable the electric fence surrounding the town and escape.

Dr. David Pilcher, the architect of  the ark that contains the only remaining humans in the year 4028, now finds himself fighting twin battles. The first being a growing segment of the residents of Wayward Pines that want answers. However the more pressing problem’s the one he’s not aware of yet, the fence has been breached and it’s just a matter of time until the Abbies cross that divide.

Pilcher realized that humanity would cease to exist within the next few hundred-years, back in the nineties and he set a plan in motion to repopulate the planet in Wayward Pines, Idaho. He then spent the next 15-years kidnapping people  and then putting them into a state of suspended animation, so they woke up over 2000 years later without physically aging a day. The new residents thought they’d been unconscious for hours, or perhaps as much as a day and most of them believe they still live in the 21st century.

When the residents awoke they found themselves with new lives and a fresh start, a needed second chance for many of them. They got new homes, new careers and even in some cases new significant others. In many ways it was a paradise, as long as the resident followed the rules, prominently displayed throughout the town:

Do Not Try To Leave.

Do Not Talk About The Past.

Do Not Discuss Your Life Before.

Always Answer The Phone If It Rings.

Work Hard And Be Happy

And Enjoy Your Life In Wayward Pines.

Those rules were not part of David Pilcher’s original vision for Wayward Pines. The current residents of the community, are referred to as “Group B,” because the people from the first group that got revived, couldn’t accept their new realities. The knowledge that they were the last survivors of humanity and the world they knew, ceased to exist two-thousand years earlier, created mass-panic. Residents either fled in panic and quickly became meals for the Abbies, or took their own lives. Determined that the second control-group not suffer the same fate, Pilcher established his wall of secrecy and eliminated anyone who threatened to peek behind the curtain.

There’s a different set of rules in effect for the children of the community, known as the First Generation Of Wayward Pines. They’re informed about their new realities by the Director of the Wayward Pines Academy, Dr. Megan Fisher. A hypnotherapist in our era, Fisher’s masterful in her ability to connect with disaffected teens such as Ben Burke. A young man that spent his lifetime on the outside looking in, he now feels loved and popular. There were no smiles for Theresa or Ethan Burke from their son, when they visited him in the hospital, however he met Megan’s arrival with an ear-to-ear grin.

Ben’s not only accepted his new life, he’s embraced it joyously. He’s got an adorable girlfriend named Amy and Fisher told him in the last episode, that he’s a hero having survived a terrorist attack and people are going to want to hear his opinions.

It’s further reinforcement of the bond she’s creating between the children and the state, further alienation of the child from the people who raise them. Your parents can’t handle the truth, we have your best interests at heart, the state in effect becomes the parent. It’s the same principles used in totalitarian societies throughout history, the Nazis, Stalin’s Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution in China utilized the same tactics. If the people raising you are enemy’s of the state, then turn them in.

Megan quickly turned Ben against his father partially by picking at an old wound, surmising that Ethan may have been less lenient, had the suspect not been married to Kate Hewson. Fisher realized that Ben felt his father chose Hewson over his family when he had his affair with her. Fisher inferred that Ethan’s feelings for Hewson, nearly cost Ben his life.

We’re aware that Pilcher and his associates care deeply about the town’s children, but how much do they care about the adults. Pilcher wants compliance and things to run smoothly, his concerns with adults seem to be less about happiness and more about acceptance. To keep the placidity he’s trying to maintain in his town, he’s shown us that no measures are too extreme.

David’s sister Pamela interviews the staff of 24 volunteers that regulate the surveillance feeds. Although 23 members of the crew have no problems with the concept of eavesdropping, one man named Reggie Hudson admits to erasing comments that he attributed to fear. Then he looked Pamela in the eyes and said.

“These people are scared. I see them sobbing in their rooms, holding each other. They just don’t understand what became of their lives. It’s just human nature to ask questions.”

Surprisingly, the ever loyal Nurse Pam didn’t share that conversation with her brother. While she’s the first to call for a reckoning, she thinks it will send a bad message to the other volunteers if Reggie gets punished. David ignores her advice and buries the man, filling the tube he’s encased in with soil.

Whether Pilcher wants it or not, that wall of secrecy has collapsed now that the fence got disabled by the 30-foot dump-truck. It appears that the residents of Wayward Pines are going to find out the truth about their situation, sooner than later. Can they band together and defeat the Abbies, or is humanity doomed once again?

The Story Continues Thursday Night at 9:00 pm on FOX.

Courtesy of FOX

Courtesy of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Ethan frantically carries his injured son into the hospital. Pam greets him and tries to put his mind at ease by reiterating that the children are their most precious resource. Shortly thereafter, Pam escorts Theresa into Ben’s room. The prognosis is better than expected, but they’re not out of the woods yet. Dr. Pilcher runs in and Pam intercepts him. He is understandably irate. Pam’s solution to the fallout is to have a ‘celebration of life in Wayward Pines’.

Harold and some of the dissenters are in the woods with an injured man. Assumption being the driver of the delivery truck. Harold gets the news that Kate is in jail and others are in the wind. One of them, while sympathetic has to leave to save himself.

While Kate sleeps, we see a flashback dream sequence of her in a padded room with Dr. Pilcher. She seems crazy, but really is having a difficult time coming to grips with the situation. With the limited truth the adults are given, it’s not far-fetched that she still believes this is a government program/experiment.

Pilcher attempts to quell the rumors being discussed in the coffee shop when Ruby gets a phone call. A gathering tonight, attendance is mandatory. Pilcher surveys the room after this news. Ruby looks awkward and removes something from her left ear. They appear to be pine needles. Her chip indicates that she’s at home in bed. Pilcher wants to look deeper to see how many other chips suggest they are at home in bed.

Ethan visits Kate demanding to know where the others are. He tells her about what happened to Ben and when she shows sincere concern, he lashes out. Then Kate brings up the question that we haven’t seen posed on-screen. Why did they choose Ethan to be Sheriff? Was it really just because he killed the Sheriff and then must assume his responsibilities? Kate believes that when it comes right down to it, Ethan will always follow orders.

Pam meets with Pilcher in his home to update him on the status of Amy and Ben. He interrupts her to tell her that he believes Ruby is ‘one of them’. Pilcher believes there is someone on the inside helping them to evade surveillance. Pam’s suggestion of conducting a security review doesn’t seem to do much for his concern.

Pam begins her questioning. She leads them down standard questioning then throws each one a curve ball. Thus far, they are giving all the right answers. Until interview #3. He is skeptical about how much he should be hearing. He believes she’s opening up for him to be honest. In turn, he gives honest answers. Not the best idea. “It’s just human nature to ask questions”.

Ben wakes up with Theresa bedside. His first concern is Amy. As Theresa leaves the room to check on Amy, Mrs. Fisher sneaks in to speak with Ben. After the initial small talk, she begins to plant the seed that this all happened due to Ethan’s poor choices in letting people go. She’s clearly doing damage control. She continues putting more thoughts in his head as to the severity of the situation. Up to and including the suggestion that he was a survivor of a terrorist attack.

The group of dissenters in the woods discover that their driver has died. They begin to dig a grave for him when one of them stops. He refuses to bury this man inside the fence.

At the gathering, amidst the side conversations, Pilcher suggests that the Mayor say some words to bring the people together. The Mayor doesn’t get three sentences out before Ethan asks to address the crowd. His message is just the opposite. Ethan thinks this gathering is a bad idea. Ethan gives details to what happened last night, which is exactly not what Pilcher wanted.

Ethan visits Ben and tries to make light of the situation. Here’s where Mrs. Fisher’s words influence Ben’s thinking. Even when Ben mentions the notion that Ethan let Harold go because he’s married to Kate. Bringing up previous issues they dealt with in Seattle over two thousand years ago. But, Ethan lets him speak. Saying to Theresa, he can say whatever he wants. Ben is clearly angered by this. Theresa tries to suggest that Mrs. Fisher is filling his head with this, and Ethan cuts her off. Then Amy walks in.

Pilcher and Pam meet again. It seems no one is intentionally breaking any rules. He says that it would be a tough line to cross if they had to punish someone on the inside. Pam claims they won’t have to. This grabs Picher’s attention. He grows a devious smile. It seems he is becoming suspicious of his own sister.

Letting the man go that would eventually cause a bigger problem would not be the first time it’s happened with Ethan. Ethan tells Theresa about the ‘Easter Bombings’, the previous example. This is the incident that lead to his infidelity with Kate.

Theresa confronts Mrs. Fisher. Theresa is not wrong, but squaring off with the Principal and residential hypnotist is probably not the best direction to take. She suggests that the best thing Fisher can do is to stay as far away from her family as possible.

Ethan gets a call about a stolen truck. In their effort to open the fence, for freedom or burial opportunities, Harold and the other man from the woods have stolen a 30 foot dump truck. Instead of assuming that there will be another bomb, Ethan thinks that the truck may be the bomb. Or at least the tool to open the fence.

Our second flashback of the night shows a more compliant Kate discussing her progress with Dr. Pilcher. She compares the difference between the same questions here and there. Wayward Pines provides a place where the imminent fear of terror is dramatically minimized. She feels safe regardless as to the answers. She can live moment to moment. Her compliance of course is only an act. Pilcher visits Kate in jail. They discuss the balance between risking loss of life for the truth. Both stand firm on their convictions. Despite that, Pilcher will not tell her what the truth is. Even after she reveals that she knows his name is David Pilcher and not Dr. Jenkins.

Pilcher: It’s not a question of keeping people in the dark. It’s a question of keeping people alive. Freedom or safety. Not both. (Pilcher walks away)
Kate: And who anointed you to make that choice?
Pilcher: I did.

Pilcher returns to his study where Pam pours him some tea. She leaves to get him some pie. Pilcher picks up the phone and quietly asks for security. The first stop is interview #3. Pilcher informs Pam of the interviewer. Pam is resistant to the idea of punishing him. Pam’s own humanity is showing through despite Pilcher’s panic. Pilcher gathers all of those ‘on the inside’ to witness what he thinks will be the last killing. With Reggie (interview #3) in cryo-stasus, one of the workers walks up and pushes a button on the panel and the unit fills with dirt. With Reggie still in it.

Harold tells his associate that he cannot continue without Kate. As he tries to walk off out of view, Ethan spots him from his truck. After a short chase and a few rounds shot in the air, Harold stops. Harold won’t give anything up and tells Ethan its too late.

Pilcher gives a Pilcher like speech to his team about vigilance. Meanwhile the man in the dump truck rams the fence. Successfully enough. He grabs his dead friend and ventures into the other side. He has a moment reviling in their success. Believing that they’ve made it. It only takes a few moments for the Abbies to find him. His moment of success becomes his moment of realization, just before they eat him.

Courtesy of FOX

Courtesy of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Ethan spent the night contemplating what he now knows. In the morning Theresa comes downstairs to find him in the kitchen still pondering what he discovered the night before. Despite instructions from Pilcher, Ethan decides to gradually tell Theresa enough to get her to stop considering a move back to Seattle. As we’ve discovered from ‘group A’, she just can’t wrap her head around the idea. She predictably thinks he’s been somehow brainwashed. He tries to explain that what he’s telling her came from what he saw with this own eyes and not a drug induced haze from a treatment at the hospital.  He mentions the ‘creatures’ and even the bombshell that it’s not the 21st century.  The number ‘4028’ is actually the date.  Shortly thereafter, they all get in Ethan’s truck and he notices something peculiar.

Ethan suggests they start walking. In short order, Ethan finds the culprit under the hood. Ethan takes the metal cylinder to his new office and discovers what looks like a small amount of C4. Pam walks in after Ethan pulls a file from the hiding spot in the floor.

On the walk to school, Theresa clings to Ben as she has since they arrived. Ben, unlike Theresa knows and has embraced the truth. He has accepted this fate and is good with it. Theresa’s mind can’t seem to get past the Seattle that no longer exists. Theresa tries to follow Ben inside the building but Mrs. Fisher won’t permit it.

On her way back from the school, Theresa again stops at Lot 33. Despite its plain appearance, she finds what appears to be a trap door in the ground.

Ethan meets with Franklin (the man from the file). He finds a way to bring up Franklin’s previous experience with explosive demolition, which prompts Franklin to leave abruptly.

Mrs. Fisher begins their Biology lesson by encouraging the children to open their text books and snicker if they’d like. This appears to be a lesson in sex education as procreation is the most important job the kids of Wayward Pines have. Reliving a sex ed class is very awkward to relive. The creepy factor rises a little when Mrs. Foster suggests that part of her job is to help them find their eventual mate.

Ethan finds Harold meeting with Franklin shortly after Ethan’s meeting with Franklin. After some small talk, Ethan asks Harold why he found a bomb in his truck then ask Harold to accompany him to the Sheriff’s office. Once outside, Harold tosses a pedestrian towards Ethan in the hopes of escaping. Harold doesn’t get very far.

Behind closed doors Ethan and Harold chat. Harold doesn’t admit to anything but does suggest that taking down the wall wouldn’t be a bad thing. “Don’t you want to get out, anywhere?” Ethan turns it back around to the ‘group’ of those trying to take down the wall. Specifically asking for names. Harold predictably jumps on the grenade taking credit for everything. Ethan writes a note intended for Kate, adding further confusion for Harold.

Clearly the note was to meet with Ethan as soon as possible. Kate is absolutely the leader, but we already knew that. We flashback to one of if not the first meeting of this clandestine group, then Ethan asks her to stop. Then she asks the magic question. “Why would I stop?” Ethan explains just enough. It’s not the 21st century out there. Kate seems to take this as more lies and she gets distant quick. Ethan gives her the ultimatum to cease and desist, but one must believe that’s not going to happen.

Amy catches up with Mrs. Foster to discuss Ben. Not as an assignment, but that Amy is legitimately falling for Ben and is considering taking their not quite relationship to the next level. Or in other words adding a level of physical intimacy into the equation.

Kate returns to the toy store and heads to the back. She and Harold believe ‘they got to’ Ethan. As we learned in the flashback episode, the adult mind refuses to accept the new reality. Kate decides to advance the time-table. They take the wall down tonight. But before that, its their turn for their annual fertility assessment. It’s obvious that the powers that be are intent on progressing towards that first completely original generation. Kate and Harold play the part well, but at the very least Pam is becoming suspicious.

Theresa and Kate accidentally meet in an elevator. After a short uncomfortable pause, Theresa asks to talk. About Ethan. They share what they know and accepting the truth is not on the table. To further complicate things, Kate tells of the only phone call she was able to successfully make to an outside like. There was a message from Ressler. Kate was entering a governmental program and would be severely tested. Possibly from another agent. And that her good-bye felt final.

Ethan pulls up right as Amy outlines her plan for her and Ben’s romantic evening.

Kate’s group attempts to set their charges when Ethan breaks up the party. Franklin disarms the bomb and Ethan accompanies them all to their respective holding cells. Kate doesn’t back down. She let’s be know very clearly that whatever this is, it’s only just begun. Once Ethan deduces that Harold is in charge of the backup bomb, she stands even more firm.

Ben makes his escape from the house (quite nimbly I might add) to meet up with Amy. They wait for the delivery truck to pull up. The same delivery truck that possesses said backup bomb. With the assistance of Pam and a very Dark Knight-esque surveillance system they locate Harold and the delivery truck driver passing a package. That package is in the delivery truck currently. Which is where Ben and Amy are. Amy finds the package and opens it. Another Ballinger original music box, which Amy uses as ambiance. Amy pulls Ben down behind a stack of sand bags and the kissing begins.

Ethan pursues that lead, but a group of Kate’s followers set up a roadblock to slow him down. It did, but just enough. Just as Ethan arrives on foot behind the delivery truck the little ballerina stops and the back-end of the truck blows up before Ethan can get there. After the explosion, Ethan finds Amy. Then shortly thereafter an unconscious Ben.

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Fans of the FOX network miniseries “Wayward Pines,” witnessed back-to-back mind-blowing episodes in chapters five and six, of this ten-part production. The fifth episode entitled “The Truth,” revealed that the town of Wayward Pines, existed in year 4028 long after humanity had ceased to exist. Episode six explained in detail how Dr. David Pilcher and his sister Pamela, put together his plan to restore humanity in our planet’s distant future.

Pilcher along with a security guard he employed Arnold Pope, turned to kidnapping to populate humanity’s new home, starting with a brilliant physician that lost his medical license for prescribing too much Oxycontin. Pilcher tells Pope that he’s giving second chances to people who deserve them, including Pope himself.

The kidnappings seemed to have gone on for 15-years, as we know Beverly got kidnapped in 1999 and they were still occurring in 2014. That was also the year that Pamela, Pope, Megan Fisher and Pilcher put themselves into suspended animation through the cryonics process. They were the first revived and then decided who would become members of their first control-group to populate Wayward Pines.

After watching the fifth episode, I was convinced that there had to be a bridge that connected Wayward Pines to our era. How else could Pilcher have had two conversations with Ethan Burke’s boss Adam Hassler in 2014? How could Sheriff Arnold Pope have gotten Burke’s wife Theresa and his son Ben into Wayward Pines. When Pilcher tells Ethan that he underwent the cryonics process in 2014, my first thought was perhaps those events took place before Pilcher took his 2000-year nap.

However about 24-hours after watching the telecast Thursday night, I realized that the David Pilcher that had those two conversations with Adam Hassler, wasn’t the shaggy-haired younger version of Pilcher that went to sleep in 2014. In both those conversations, Pilcher appeared as he does in 4028 losing his hair and with far more lines on his face. Which leads me to the conclusion that a bridge from Wayward Pines to our era, does indeed exist and possibly hiding out in plain-sight.

A new element to the story got introduced in “Choices,” the existence of “Lot 33.” To the naked-eye “Lot-33” looks like a plot of undeveloped land with a chain-link fence around it. However the plot’s right in the middle of town and we find out the victim of the last reckoning Peter McCall thought there was more to the lot than met the eye. Could “Lot 33” be where that bridge to our era exists and if so, how does one utilize it?

To be certain, a bridge from 4028 is a far-fetched notion, but this is a series that’s based on far-fetched notions, that humanity will start it’s fall in just 80-years and that our species has been supplanted by the mutant Abbies. So accepting all that, would a bridge between eras be that much more of a stretch?

We’ve seen the older version of David Pilcher in 2014, the question remains how did he get there. I’ve not read any of the novels in the series and have steered clear of any spoiler-articles, so this is pure conjecture on my part. However until given a better explanation, I’m thinking this is indeed a credible theory.

The Story Continues Thursday Night at 9:00 pm on FOX.