Eric Dane, you magnificent bastard, this episode is all yours and you owned it. Nice job, Cap’n Crunches!
In what I believe is the second ship-centric episode with the NATHAN JAMES all alone in the big blue, “Lockdown” succeeds in all its major plot and character points, where the previous “bottle” episode “We’ll Get There” failed completely. A number of threads begun in previous eps come to fruition here, as well as a part of something I had been anticipating for several shows now.
Plot Summary: (I’m actually on-time this week, so if you are a West Coaster or you live in Hawaii, you may wanna skip this section until it airs in your time-zone) This episode opens immediately after our boat crew’s return to the destroyer. They all get decontaminated and have to deal with the issue of their condition after tangling with El Toro in the last episode. The XO and CMC advise Captain Chandler to keep the details of what happened ashore as they obtained their test-monkeys on a need to know basis. Ole Tom likes to play it straight, however, so he not only tells the crew about the battle ashore, he tells them about encountering the infected villagers. And then he goes overconfident and he paints their mission in rosier terms than he needs to, saying that with the monkeys for testing, they are only days away from a working vaccine and they are all headed home!
Of course, reality is somewhat less optimistic. While Sexy LT 1 (Danny) deals with his relationship to Sexy LT 2 (Kara) and friendly jabs from Tex, and the crew continues to monitor ever-more depressing distress call, Dr. Rachel Scott kills a passel of monkeys as her vaccine strikes out over, and over, and over again. As she starts to run out of monkeys to test upon, the CO and XO consider that they may have to turn the ship around and return to Nicaragua for more of the little simians, thus violating his promise to the crew, Quincy plants the seeds of doubt and mutiny, telling Petty Officer Bacon (quite truthfully) that the CO is hiding the truth from them and that the vaccine might be a failure. And into this steadily more intense environment of mistrust and worry comes the titular lockdown, as Danny collapses with fever, bleeding at the mouth.
Everybody freaks, certain that either the dead monkeys have infected them, or the crew carried the virus back despite Dr. Scott’s tests, or something else. Dr. Scott assures them it is not the superbug, while Doc Rios arrives in full CBR gear, panicking everyone. Tom Chandler errs on the side of caution and locks down the ship, putting everyone in CBR suits and shutting all the ventilation aboard down, which indicates to Rachel that he does not trust her. Rios takes Danny’s blood for testing, and Kara arrives in the crew lounge with Danny, despite the lockdown. Rumors abound, but it turns out that Danny only has dengue fever — which is bad, but not super-virus bad and not a danger to the crew. Rachel goes back to testing, pissed at the skipper, the crew starts fracturing, and Chandler bitches out Kara.
The final straw is when 16 sailors — spurred on by Quincy — request to be released from the ship since their enlistments are technically up. Should they let them go, or stop-loss them and keep them aboard against their wishes? Chandler then has to face up to his decision-making over the last few days. They gather the whole crew on the flight deck and he comes clean. The skipper admits to screwing up, that he was wrong about the viral-testing process, wrong to get their hopes up, wrong to doubt Dr. Scott, etc., but he stresses that they still have the same mission and the crew deserves to know the true stakes and circumstances, even if it is not the news they’d like to hear. He allows them to listen to some of the distress calls, then even lets the whole crew see the virology lab and hear about the painstakingly drawn-out process of vaccine testing that Dr. Scott has to go through. Chandler also addresses the enlistment concerns, saying if those 16 want to leave, he won’t stop them, but he won’t ferry them home either. If they want to leave, they have to leave the next day on one of the RHIBs. Instead, all 16 re-enlist. It ends with Danny on the mend, Kara standing extra watches for violating the lockdown, and Quincy losing his chess set for trying to incite mutiny.
The Goods: Eric Dane, that’s some damn-fine acting. Kudos. The skipper is shown to be flawed, but he perseveres and actually turns his mistakes into strengths. They stay the hell out of engineering (thank you). They made the Sexy LTs bein’ all sexy together sub-plot semi-palatable and both LTs are shown to be high-schoolish idiots who deserve extra watches for the tediousness of their relationship. They almost killed off Danny, which is not quite as good as killing off both Sexy LTs in a horrifying shark-jumping accident, but it’s better than nuthin’. The plot also shows their mission somewhat losing ground, which is a nice dose of reality. Science takes its time and takes a toll on everyone’s hopes and patience. Use of Circle William as a Damage Control setting. Here’s a big one: enlisted personnel show up in this one and even get lines. If there were a Bechdel test for enlisted personnel in a Navy show, it probably still wouldn’t pass, however, since all their conversations are directly about officers. I loved the NO-SECRETS reveal of the lab and Dr. Scott’s talk. And my favorite bit, other than Eric Dane this week, the show accurately portrayed the only documented phenomenon to move faster than the speed of light in a vacuum: the velocity of a rumor aboard ship. Crazy shit spreads through there like the world’s fastest and most error-prone game of “Telephone” ever devised.
The Less Goods: I think the actors portraying Danny and Kara are very pretty and talented at their craft, but their star-crossed tale still blows and brings the show down. I foresee them getting back together STRONGER THAN EVAR after this. If only dengue fever was communicable through stolen kisses, this shit would finally be over. The show had some enlisted participation, but they essentially portrayed the panicked villagers in a Frankenstein movie, ready to burn down the castle and kill the monster they feared, only calming down when a wise officer counseled them. Are there panicky, selfish sailors? Of course, and that bottom 10% of your crew does indeed take up about 90% of your time with bullshit, but I would have loved to have seen a counterpoint to the 16 guys that wanted to abandon ship, some lower-ranked voice of reason telling them that they were being selfish, full of crap, and cowards about duty. Also, I felt it was cheap when Bacon was so easily swayed by Quincy’s lies and twisted half-truths. I know Bacon was freaked out by the rumor-mill, but he HAD TO KNOW Quincy was full of shite. Final Less-Good: not enough Adam Baldwin awesomeness.
Again, a win for the series, and a particularly good one for the whole cast, especially Eric Dane. Thank you, Last Ship!