The Last Ship, Episode 9 – “Trials” Review

Here it is — the penultimate episode of the inaugural season of television’s best semi-post-apocalyptic near-future naval science fiction!  How does it measure up with the rest of the season?  How well does it set up the season finale?  Does it commit egregious sins of engineering?  Does it kick ass!?!?

Ha, ha, hee, hee — READ ON, DEAR READER!

Plot Summary:  We start off with the latest episode of The Walking Dead, ummm, sorry (I get confused).  We actually start off in the woods with Tom Chandler’s pop, dragging a freshly shot buck toward a mobile home.  He’s bein’ a good neighbor, trying to share his bounty with the folks down the road, but they inform him that they have the “Red Flu”.  He leaves the deer in order to give them at least a shot and returns home to his cabin with Tom’s wife and girls.  She’s been out foraging, which he warns her to be careful with.  It ain’t Disneyland out there anymore.

Aboard the USS NATHAN JAMES, it is a time of reflection and change.  Physician-of-my-dreams Dr. Rachel Scott is converting her lab over to a testing ward for human trials of her vaccine, of which there has been one positive subject, her Central American monkey.  Meanwhile, we say goodbye to our young sailor killed last episode.  Post funeral, the Skipper vows not to lose another one (proving you shouldn’t give orders you know won’t be obeyed or make promises you know you can’t keep), therefore he intends to volunteer as one of the six subjects of the vaccine trial.  The XO (Adam Baldwin RULES!) shuts him down FAST and HARD, reminding him that they just saved his sorry ass.  But someone from Command needs to go into the trial, so the CMC informs them both that he’s already approved to go.

Hmmmm, one black guy in a medical horror episode, and who already has a demeanor of Christian martyrdom?  I wonder who’s going to be our first sacrificial pathos-building death today?

The six volunteers are the CMC, the CHENG, Kara (Sexy LT 2), Petty Officer Miller (our ginger wallflower from the tactical teams), Petty Officer Maya Gibson (the chick pining for her boyfriend during the candlelight vigil in episode 2), and TEX!  Tex keeps the jokes coming and they all nervously laugh their way through receiving the vaccine (which consists of two parts: a decoy to protect the body from infection, and another component that builds antibodies), and then the virulent virus itself.  At first everything is hunky-dory, and we get a bunch of nice character growth moments for all these characters about to die.

Ashore, Tom’s wife is raiding a Radio Shack for supplies and shortwave radio parts.  But she hears an encounter outside between an infectee and a ruthless survival type, which ends abruptly and messily for the infectee.  Tom’s wife skeedaddles, not noticing that she was hiding out right next to a recently dead infectee.

In the trial, the Skipper and XO can only look on in impotent horror as things begin to go bad.  Fevers, rashes, delirium, hemorrhages, convulsions, etc.  All bad, but also not symptoms associated with the Red Flu, and nothing the monkey ever experienced.  Kara almost dies convulsing from fever and an important detail is revealed that has a huge impact on Danny (Sexy LT 1).  Tex reveals the raw emotion he feels for Dr. Scott, free of any joking.  And Maya dies, breaking Miller’s delirious heart.  Chandler has Slattery invite all the crew down to say their goodbyes, since none of these poor bastards are gonna make it.  He says his goodbyes to the CMC.  Meanwhile, Rachel and Quincy are throwing everything against the wall, to see what might stick.  They practically drain poor Patrice of her blood plasma, hoping it will stabilize things, but no joy.  Then Rachel has a medical techno-babble epiphany.  The symptoms are not of infection, but of an auto-immune response!  The human gene our Typhoid Marty added to the original virus means this foreign human DNA is spreading through-out their bodies, and they are thus rejecting their own flesh.  The vaccine has indeed suppressed the virus, but the piggyback DNA was doing itwn level-best to kill them anyway.  Rachel mixes the primordial strain in with the vaccine, and BANG/ZOOM, it works!  Everyone immediately improves, withe the Sexy LTs bein’ all sexy together appearing to be an item again, Tex telling more jokes, the CMC (almost) dying for our sins (wait just a minute there, Tommy Boy), and the CHENG proving to be a workaholic.  Rachel and Tom Chandler hug (giving more material for the slash fan fiction written after last week’s kiss) and she announces that this is both a vaccine for the uninfected and a cure for the infected!

Ashore, Tom’s wife fixes her family a meal with her own two hands, then begins to feel the effects of the virus.

Dun, dunn, dunnnnnnnnnnnnn!  Dramatic cliff-hanging ending, y’all!

The Goods:  This episode belongs to Rhona Mitra and our character-and-cast “B” team.  It took 9 episodes, but I finally didn’t want to tear my eyes out while spending time with our happy, Sexy LTs.  I reserve the right to hate on Danny and Kara later, but this time they owned their roles and felt like necessary characters.  Burial at Sea!  Yeah, it’s awful, but it’s also a fascinating, exciting, and (thankfully) rare event.  We got off the ship and foreshadowed the events to come (Walking Dead meets The Last Ship), and we see a glimpse of some post-apocalyptic action.  I’m predicting next season will be all about either their efforts ashore, or them ferrying the vaccine worldwide.  No engineering sins today, which I worried about last week, since we spend so much time with the CHENG.  Tex is great, as always, and Quincy and Chandler have a necessary scene about moving forward.  The XO appears to be a Rachel-convert, which is great growth for that character.  I appreciate that my expectations were upset, in that the CMC did not perish!  And I love that they really do have a vaccine and treatment for the virus.  This show makes progress, and we aren’t treading water through the same episode and situation over and over again.

The Less Goods:  Cap’n Crunches and our WARFIGHTER XO largely get sidelined here.  I get it, but i miss those magnificent bastards.  Nothing exploded (which is always lame).  Not enough detail about the goings-on in the outside world.  I need more than a tease, please, but maybe next week.  Too much virology techno-babble, and I have no way of judging if it was nonsensical or not.  Why are dead bodies so uber-infectious?  They aren’t breathing any more in order to spread the virus, so what is it about them that kicks the virus into high gear?  Maya should have worn a red shirt, the poor gal.  She pretty much only had time to remind us of her dead boyfriend, and we knew she was doomed.  Everyone keeps talking about the distance to the CDC, but they also keep forgetting they have a whole helo in one of the hangars, which could, I dunno, maybe  FLY THEM TO THE BEST LAB in the nation.

Soooo, a well-accomplished, necessary story-line. without all the usual fun explosions and stand-offs, but totally enjoyable nonetheless, and congrats to Rhona Mitra for giving me my favorite episode of yours yet.  And I believe this set up next week with perfection.

Vaccines! Cures! Battles ashore!  Family reconciliations!  All this can be yours next week in the season’s ULTIMATE conclusion.  Catch up with you then!!

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