Episode Title: "Damn the Torpedoes"
Writers: Patrick Massett & John Zinman
Director: Clark Johnson
Previously on "Last Resort":
As much as I’ve enjoyed “Last Resort,” there are certain aspects of the show that are so unbelievably ludicrous that they threaten to drag down the rest of an otherwise good episode. "Damn the Torpedoes" came very close to capsizing over just that issue despite another terrific performance by Andre Braugher and some genuinely surprising turns in the story.
Full spoilers are ahead for the most recent episode of “Last Resort.” So if you’re not current with the series, change course now or the COB will send mutinous crewmen after you… who will all disappear from the episode without explanation.
I’m assuming that the soap opera aspects of “Last Resort” stem from an attempt to pull in ABC’s core audience that can’t get enough of those shows. But the way that the speed with which the narrative is trying to push Lt. Commander Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) and Sophie Girard (Camille De Pazzis) together is almost insulting.
No one who loves his wife as much as Kendal seems to love Christine (Jessy Schram) would be that quick to even talk about his feelings for another woman, much less act on them. New episodes of “Last Resort” have been away for several weeks, but within the world of the show, Christine’s apparent death had to have just happened a few days before the events of this episode. Also, wasn’t it odd that the show recap at the beginning was cut to make it appear that Christine really is dead? She’s actually a captive of Wes "Bullfrog" Porter (Jason Beghe); but that’s apparently not important this week.
Kendal initially pushes Sophie away when she attempts to comfort him, but the way that he did so was a huge “WTF?!” moment as he explained that his feelings for her were more than friendship. There have been occasional moments where the Kendal and Sophie connection has felt genuine, but there was nothing that justified that comment or Sophie’s apparent infatuation with Kendal.
Even Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) called Sophie out about mooning over Kendal. Serrat! The man who barely manages to justify his own presence on this show. "Damn the Torpedoes" attempts to bring Serrat back to prominence by trying to strike a deal with the Chinese ambassador, Mr. Zheng (Chin Han) and by attempting to bribe Sophie into being his conscience. But when Serrat sulked by his car while watching Kendal and Sophie reconcile it was an oddly comical moment that felt very “high school.” Although I doubt that moment was meant to play for laughs.
Back in Washington D.C., Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) found herself as one of the unlikely ringleaders of a coup d'état against the President and his entire administration. Even Admiral Arthur Shepard (Bruce Davison) is mysteriously out of military custody as Kylie lays out the evidence of the President’s falsified nuclear evidence against Pakistan.
The problem with hanging all of this on Kylie is that she is simply not a character I care about… at all. Because of the lackluster performance by Reeser and Kylie’s grating personality, when she spoke to the group what I heard was “If I, a badly conceived character am offended by this, then you stock patriot characters will surely be offended as well.”
In theory, this angle could have been the best part of “Last Resort.” Kylie and her conspirators actually have legitimate reasons to seize power away from an administration that clearly went off the rails. Under their plan, the military would detain both the President and the Vice President in the White House while the Speaker of the House, Conrad Buell (Ernie Hudson) assumes the Presidency in an unprecedented situation. Hudson almost makes it work because Buell looks terrified at the thought of having to go through with it. But the situation starts to slip away when one of the conspirators tries to back out and they shoot him dead to keep from leaving.
No one tried punching or restraining a man in his fifties? Not even a pistol whipping to avoid fatalities? It felt like the conspirators in the room had to act like idiots to make that murder happen and heighten the drama. It just wasn’t as powerful as it could have been.
For a second, I thought that Barry Hopper (David Rees Snell) was having a Han Solo moment with Kylie when he told her that he was leaving. But instead, Kylie ends up back in the arms of her estranged boyfriend, Robert Mitchell (Darri Ingolfsson). If that was an attempt to humanize Kylie and make her sympathetic, it still didn’t play that way.
If anyone has any doubts, there’s almost no way that Kylie’s coup attempt will be successful next week. Because if it worked, the series would be over one episode too soon. And because ultimately, Kylie is not the character who is going to solve this problem nor should she be.
Almost the entire reason that “Last Resort” works comes back to Braugher, whose performance as Chaplin once again dominates the storyline back on the island. There’s never a point where Chaplin isn’t riveting to watch. Throughout the episode, Chaplin drops hints that he knows Petty Officer First Class Pilar Cortez (Jessica Camacho) is the CIA mole who stole his firing key. At the end, there was a beautifully intense scene in which Cortez reluctantly went to kill Chaplin before she sided with him and surrendered her weapon.
I loved the reveal that Chaplin hide his own weapon beneath his Bible and Cortez’s explanation for her betrayal and change of heart actually did a lot to redeem her. Ironically, Cortez may now be the most loyal member of the Colorado’s crew, given the amount of dissention on the sub and the island. Even Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) is weary about Chaplin now after he displayed a willingness to sink the naval ship that was attempting to block a much needed shipment of supplies from the Chinese.
The other great Braugher moment of the hour came when he confronted Grace for undermining his orders. Chaplin’s anger was mesmerizing and Betts was convincingly terrified of her commanding officer. Although even Chaplin had a ludicrous moment late in the episode when the island natives applauded him for getting the supplies to them. You know, it was only three episodes ago that the natives threw a massive riot when one of Chapin’s men escaped justice for raping a woman. And from the natives’ point of view, this whole situation is Chaplin’s fault. And somehow, they’re cheering for him?!
On the island, a disgruntled Kendal stumbled upon a plot to kill Chaplin between some of the disgruntled crew members and the COB, Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick). That led to a fun sequence where Kendal had to run for his life in the rain as the mutinous crew chased him. But somehow, only the COB managed to catch up with Kendal for a rain soaked fist fight
Patrick has been the other really strong acting presence on “Last Resort,” but Speedman has been pretty impressive while holding his own in scenes with Patrick and Braugher. The best part of Kendal’s confrontation with the COB wasn’t the fight, it was the conversation that came afterwards. The COB isn’t wrong when he questions the actions that Chaplin has been taking, especially the alliance with the Chinese.
I don’t know if I fully buy Kendal’s willingness to get rid of Chaplin as long as he isn’t killed by the conspirators. Kendal definitely has reasons to be disillusioned and angry with Chaplin, but the real surprise would be if “Last Resort” actually went through with Kendal’s turn as he seized power from Chaplin. A conflict between those two should be really compelling and it’s a good reason to come back for the final two episodes of the series.
I’m very curious as to where “Last Resort” would have gone if it hadn’t been cut short. Would "Damn the Torpedoes" still have the dual coups potentially in place? Because even the attempt should radically alter the landscape of this series in a way that “Last Resort” shouldn’t be able to easily walk back.