You ever had a day just sorta get away from you? (Note, if you’re only here for the Episode 7 review, feel free to skip a bit, brother, down to the bold.) I had all sortsa responsible intentions the night this aired, but dang it if “The Strain” didn’t come on right after and get me distracted. So, fine, I’ll post in the morning. But then the kids had to be driven to 4H day-camp, and after that, well, you gotta get the lawn mowed. But that’s all routine, stuff that SHALL NOT STAND in the way of those clambering for my words.
But then this happened. I was e-mailed out of the blue by a fan of my Daily Science Fiction short story, “The Rememberists” which appeared recently. And this fan had an unusual request. They wanted me to write a super short story as part of this grand online scavenger hunt. Specifically, they needed a published SF author to write an original short story of no more than 140 words that contained the Supernatural actor Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an elopus (which, naturally, is a hybrid elephant-octopus . . . how do you not know these things?).
Well, that’s just ludicrous. There’s no way I was gonna play in that sandbox. I had reviews to write and lawns to mow.
Heh. So, of course, by the time the lawn was done I had the whole story in my head. I fat-fingered it into the computer, spent twice as long editing it down to 140 words, then sent it off to accolades and hurrahs galore. But by the time it was done, I had to leave to host my area writing seminar and there-ya-go, day lost. Soooo, many apologies for the lateness of this review, and if you wanna see my Misha Collins / Queen Elizabeth / Elopus short story, check back here next week when I’m allowed to post it!
Whew! Lemme get my breath here. Building off the acting chops and dramagery of the last “Last Ship” episode, “SOS” had me calling for help at the end. That was some goooooooood naval fiction, y’all, probably the best “thriller” episode yet. This one had it all: high stakes, background info, redemption, sacrifice, combat systems scenarios, and a cliffhanger ending. Lemme tell all-o-youse abouts it.
Plot Summary: We begin with a flashback to our Russian Typhoid Marty, warning a colleague about the incipient epidemic, but saying he has a radical theory about how to treat it. His buddy scoffs, until Marty insists he knows it will work because he has already tested it upon himself. Buddy recoils in horror and flees, whereupon Marty’s wife arrives, coughing cutely, foreshadowing that the virus was not weaponized, but Marty turned himself into an immune patient zero for the altered virus. And now he is aboard the Russian nuclear cruiser, commanded by Admiral Roznakov/Ruskov (I’ve seen it spelled both ways), which is fully repaired and on the hunt for the NATHAN JAMES
Back in the apocalyptic present, in Radio, our young COMMO freaks out about one particular distress call among the dozens they have been monitoring. Seems that this girl had been aboard a fishing boat off Puerto Rico, first with 50 people, then 15, and now she is the sole survivor, out of supplies, but not sick even after being surrounded by the infected. Dr. Hot (sorry) Scott is telling ACTING GOD ERIC DANE / CAPT Tom Chandler that she’s almost outta monkeys. The virus’ tricky human gene mod has proven resistant to all her attempts at vaccination. News of a possibly immune girl gives her hope, however. The Skipper decides he has to risk it, so he calls out as an American fishing boat captain, asking the girl to provide her GPS coordinates.
Of course the Russians hear him and immediately see through the ruse. They set a matching course and the race is on.
NATHAN JAMES and the Russians both remain over the horizon from one another and the girl’s fishing boat, which puts them about 35 to 70 miles from one another. NATHAN JAMES takes two RHIBs over, with two tactical teams containing (of COURSE) the CO, Tex, one of our disgraced Petty Officers who tried to jump ship last episode, and the GUNNO. After an in-depth search, they locate Patrice hiding in a cabin. Patrice is freaked, but they convince her to go with them, just in time for the Zodiacs from the Russian cruiser to make their appearance. The CO and Tex take the Russians on, guns blazing, while the other RHIB zig-zags back to NATHAN JAMES with Patrice. Chandler and Tex take out one Zodiac, while the other makes a break for the fishing boat to see if they can recover anything. The CO’s RHIB starts heading back to the destroyer, but their boat has been shot up pretty damn well and it sinks rapidly, leaving the pair of them in the ocean all alone. Tex asks Chandler to call for help or beacon their position, but the Skipper purposely left their personal beacons behind. As for the radio, he makes one call, telling the DDG to cease all rescue efforts, abandon them at sea, and stick to the mission.
The story splits into three parts, one with the CO and Tex sharing some nice character moments as they futilely swim toward a distant reef, aboard the NATHAN JAMES as XO Slattery (Adam Baldwin RULES!) considers whether to follow the Skipper’s final directive or to disregard it since he is now in command, and finally aboard the Russian cruiser, where Ruskov continues to act like a creepy megalomaniac, threatening Quincy’s wife and kid, as well as his own men. Everyone is soon enough searching over the horizon for the Skipper and Tex. NATHAN JAMES uses their helo, the Russians use a UAV (which the Amerikanskis promptly shoot down, comrade), and Dr. Scott discovers that Patrice has a natural immunity to all strains of the virus.
Soon enough, Chandler and Tex get fished out of the ocean, but this is a cliffhanger rather than a happy ending, as he finds himself hoisted aboard Ruskov’s helo, held under gunpoint! Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnnn! What’s gonna happen next week!?
The Goods: Answers! The virus was not weaponized. Instead it was born from the hubris of a benevolent Dr. Frankenstein. Damn you, Science, and your cautious insistence on following protocols! Tex is from Reno! He and Chandler have some great character moments while they float around (kudos to Eric Dane for week number two), and I love the glee the Skipper had as Tex revealed he was all hot for Ms. Rhona Mitra. I don’t blame you, big guy, I don’t blame you at all. Ruskov is an unapologetic BAD GUY, and that is campy, but fun. I like the progression of the plot, even if the situation with Patrice came about was very, very convenient. Danny (Travis Van Winkle) did a great job this week, and he had a great scene with the XO (Adam Baldwin RULES!). The aftermath of his relationship with Kara is a hell of a lot more interesting than the relationship itself ever was. The RHIB on Zodiac battle was some exciting action and a lot of fun, as well as the UAV vs. SM-2 scene. The challenges of over-the-horizon search and targeting were handled well, even if the details were not quite correct. I liked that they addressed it as that is how the modern Navy does business. I appreciated the nod they gave to the challenges of finding someone lost at sea. And I really like the surprise of the wrong helo picking Chandler and Tex up (though it wasn’t that surprising of a surprise, it was handled well).
The Less Goods: I asked for more focus on the enlisted side of things. Pity they could not have found a better story than this one sailor dealing with his rejection after essentially being a selfish, indecisive prick. Protocols for dealing with infection on this show REALLY need a good reality check. The CMC and Dr. Scott greet Patrice with absolutely ZERO barriers: no clean suits, gloves, or masks. Kiddies, that chick has been living in a virulent disease-ridden environment for a couple of months. Even if she is immune, she might either be a carrier, or at the very least be contaminated internally and externally with fluids rife with the virus. That girl needs some extensive decon before she is not a danger to them all. Then there is the CO’s breaking of EMCON. He gave a nod to maintaining subterfuge, but he could have done a LOT better. Mask your voice and accent! Tell everyone you’re a Panamanian trawler! Have someone with an accent speak for you! Next, the XO’s indecisiveness. I get that he is in charge now, and he has to balance loyalty and honor against the mission, but the character is very wishy-washy about the choice. This is not a dig on Adam Baldwin, because that guy RULES, but the writing here for the character could be more in keeping with what has been established before. Helo’s have special maneuvers for providing data to their mothership without giving away where that ship is, so it would have been nice for them to handle that better. And, though I love having an SM-2 surface to air missile blast away a UAV, energizing the SPY radar is a horrible move if you want to remain unlocated. It doesn’t matter if it was only up for 30 seconds, that thing is like a beacon and there is no way the Russians could not have counter-targeted them.
So, a GREAT episode with the promise of even more next week. This is a fine follow-up to the acting high-point of last week and I grow as a fan each episode. See you next time, and don’t forget to check out “The Rememberists” (it’s only 1000 words).