Episode Title: "Big Chicken Dinner"
Writer: Julie Siege
Director: Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Previously on "Last Resort":
I suppose it was inevitable that “Last Resort” would slip up and have a subpar episode. Very few TV series can maintain a high level of quality throughout their entire season. But I had hoped that “Last Resort” would be able to avoid the contrived situations that arose in this story.
Full spoilers ahead for “Big Chicken Dinner.” If you read this review without watching the current episode then Serrat will burn the COB’s feet again and Chaplin won’t even make an issue of it.
The bulk of “Big Chicken Dinner” centers around a crisis stemming from Captain Marcus Chaplin’s (Andre Braugher) attempt to build a bridge between the crew of his sub and the island’s inhabitants by throwing everyone a late Thanksgiving dinner.
Some time during the night, Anders (Michael Mosley) went off with an island girl and the next morning he is accused of raping her and nearly given a harsh dose of island justice before Chaplin arrives in time to demand the release of his man.
It seems that Anders may be the only member of the Colorado’s crew who can handle the nukes on the sub; which makes him especially valuable to Chaplin. But not wanting a conflict with the natives, Chaplin arranges a military style trial with a jury comprised of an equal number of islanders and crewmembers, with Sophie Girard (Camille De Pazzis) as the neutral party.
Soon enough, local despot Julian Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) worms his way into the proceedings as the prosecutor speaking out in favor of the victim while Chaplin orders Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) to vigorously defend Anders.
This is where the episode went off the rails. Upon meeting Serrat at the makeshift pre-court setting, Chaplin shakes his hand while openly saying that Serrat’s fingerprints were all over the accusation. But Chaplin either chooses to say nothing about Serrat badly burning COB Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) in the previous episode... or Chaplin hasn’t bothered to locate the COB and find out what happened to him.
“Big Chicken Dinner” felt like it was trying to have it both ways by having Grace revealed to be a rape survivor who recognized that the victim was telling the truth while also using a lackluster “he said/she said” defense for Anders during the trial to keep him from the island’s justice. Amazingly, Grace’s defence apparently works and the not guilty verdict sets off a riot.
In private, Sophie tells Chaplin that she and three of the Colorado crew members found Anders guilty, but the islanders found him not guilty. Chaplin realizes that Serrat set the jury against himself hoping for the exact situation that unfolded afterwards. It’s the only clever thing that Serrat has ever done on this series, but it underscores once again what a huge mistake Chaplin keeps making by letting this guy strike at him again and again.
I’m sure part of that stems from the creative team of this show hoping that “Last Resort” would run for years and they didn’t want to lose the island’s recurring antagonist. But it keeps making Chaplin and company look stupid for not doing something permanent about a very real threat to them.
In military circles, “Big Chicken Dinner” is slang for a bad conduct discharge... and that’s essentially what Anders gets after Grace gets him to admit to the rape during the riot while Chaplin is in earshot. Chaplin removes Anders from his crew and he will only place him in protective custody on the sub in restraints; which causes Anders to curse his captain as he runs into the jungle.
It felt like the writer wanted Chaplin to have the moral high ground by refusing to let Anders go unpunished, but it just didn’t work.
Part of the reason that Chaplin was willing to let Anders go was that he’s been tutoring Pilar Cortez (Jessica Camacho) to take his place. One problem with that is that Cortez is the one who stole his nuclear firing key and we see that she is indeed a sleeper agent working against the crew as she communicates in code with someone on a mountaintop.
The most effective part of “Big Chicken Dinner” was the budding friendship between Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) and Booth (Gideon Emery), the lone survivor of the force that attacked the island a few weeks back. Both men needed each other for different reasons: Booth wanted Kendal to turn on Chaplin and become a symbol of resistance against the President while Kendal was apparently trying to play Booth to learn the identity of the traitor.
Despite that, Booth and Kendal seemed to genuinely like each other as they traded war stories while traveling to the communications point. And when Booth is informed via code that he can’t give up Cortez, he seems sad when he realizes that he has to kill Kendal or die trying. Even with his hands bound, Booth nearly pulls it off before Kendal gets the upper hand. The performances of Speedman and Emery were easily the highlights of this episode.
Back in the states, Kendal’s wife, Christine (Jessy Schram) tried to get on a ship of family members being allowed to visit the crew on the island. And thanks to the bug on Paul Wells’ (Jay Hernandez) phone, she knows he’s trying to keep her off of the ship because he’s worried that Secretary of Defense William Curry (Jay Karnes) and other shady members of the government may harm the families to get at the crew.
Even with Paul’s motivation for working with the government explained away by his desire to see his son again, his scenes with Christine still felt really flat. But it’s the Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) scenes that really drag the episode down. Kylie is the one who urges Christine to use Paul’s feelings for her against him in an unconvincing way.
But the biggest crime that Kylie commits is her explanation about why she doesn’t have female friends; which was a horribly scripted moment. The development of a friendship between Christine and Kylie almost worked... and it would have if the writer hadn’t felt the need to put those words in Kylie’s mouth.
I still have high hopes for “Last Resort” in its remaining episodes because Shawn Ryan has confirmed that the series will get a real ending that wraps up the story. “Last Resort” had a lot of promise, but “Bad Chicken Dinner” may be the best argument against the premise of this series being strong enough to sustain a multi-season run on network television.