“Voluntold” is a mostly strong hour of dramatic television, one I enjoyed but nonetheless left me more nervous about the longterm viability of Last Resort than I had been previously.  But let’s switch things up and start with the good this week.

As per (what is becoming) usual, the main storyline with the Colorado and its crew is very strong.  There was a bit of artificiality with the COB, who enthusiastically passes on a perfect opportunity to hobble the viability of the mutiny he opposes right now, so that he could be the one to personally bring in the ringleaders for court martial at some ill defined point in the future (maybe).  It’s a bit contrived, but the show maximizes its dramatic potential by keeping him involved with but opposed to Chaplin’s regime while still commanding a great deal of loyalty from the crew.  If he, or enough of the crew, take off now, the jig is up, and we’re just getting started on what I assume is at least a 13 episode order here.

The COB isn’t the focus here, though, and neither are Sam or Grace, who are basically along for the ride.  This one is about Chaplin and his control of the crew, particularly Cortez and Brannan, shaken to their cores by the things they had to do to survive their time as hostages.  Cortez is keeping it together pretty well, and rapidly becoming a favorite of mine.  She plays a quietly instrumental role in stemming the tide of deserters, convincing the handful of enlisted women to stay, which has a persuasive affect on the men.  The show doesn’t enunciate to what extent the men are motivated by shame, protectiveness, or simply that the male:female ratio on the island will not be moving any further away from the ideal, which is an ambiguity I like.  It’s probably a mixture of all three whose particulars vary from man to man, so to have one redshirt voice his feelings as a stand-in for the entire group would be a bit reductive.

Cortez is definitely handling things better than Brannan, even trying to offer him sympathy, which of course has the opposite of the intended effect.  He feels weak and pathetic after caving under that terrible pressure, so any gesture that makes him feel the object of pity is just going to exacerbate that.  It’s certainly a factor when he takes drastic, ill-advised measures to wrest control of this entire ludicrous situation away from his commanders. Of course, if you could take Andre Fucking Braugher’s boat from him just by waving a live grenade in his face, then that probably wouldn’t be his middle name.

And shooting at him? Seriously, why even bother?

The twist here is not that Marcus takes back control of the situation from little Josh, it’s that he’s broadcasting the standoff to the whole boat, trying to win back the hearts and minds of everyone at once rather than just this poor bastard.

In winning them back he’s aided by Jay Karnes’s slimy Secretary of Defense, who kindly orders Josh to go kamikaze on his own brothers and sisters in arms, because apparently he has not heard about all the cutting edge prototype technology the Colorado is carrying, like tape recorders or speakerphone.

This is all well played, reasonably dramatic stuff, but the reason why I like the show, and what makes it recognizable as a Shawn Ryan joint, is how it’s not content to just throw out a moderately clever twist and have that resolve the issue.  Many shows would have Chaplin’s piety and Curry’s sliminess carry the day and convince the whole crew to stay on board, just as many would have ended last week’s hostage situation with a close call that did no long-term damage to the heroes. But “Voluntold” makes a point of ending by reminding us that some folks still chose to leave, and that for all Marcus’s lofty talk about duty and honor, there is some personnel, like primary reactor technician Anders, deemed too essential to be allowed the choice to leave.  It puts a darker pall on what would otherwise play as a bloodless triumph of idealistic loyalty and honor.  As long as the show continues to explore these inherently messy aspect of its premise, my name will remain in the “Stay” column.

But the messiness of that premise makes it extremely fragile, and it’s all the stuff seemingly geared toward the longterm plotlines that have me more cautious in my optimism.  The homefront stuff all seemed to be in a holding pattern, with no real progress on the slimy lawyer worming his way into Christine’s trust/possibly pants.  I guess it was a revelation that Kylie’s dad was behind stealing the prototype whatsis plans?  I kind of thought we already knew that, but okay.

I realize clandestine meetings to go over stuff we talked about last week are dangerous, general, but what you have to understand is that studies have shown that even a “regular” network viewer only watches about 2 episodes out of 5…

And apparently while milling around on Lost’s old shooting locations, Scott Speedman and Camille De Pazzis stumbled across a couple pages of one of Lost’s old shooting scripts and shot a minute or two of mumbo about how there is magic on this island.  Whatever.  I don’t know if its piggybacking on the strength of Braugher and Patrick or what, but my interest in Sam as a character plummets when he’s not directly interacting with his shipmates, and Sophie hasn’t moved past “vaguely personable” in terms of definition.  Their sexual tension interests me almost as little as that between the one guy and the multiethnic mannequin at the bar.

Oh, and that one guy is still pretending to be a Navy SEAL, not that anyone cares.  This week he gets punched some by a couple of slabs of wood in tanktops, so…yeah, that happened, and from the music I gather that we were supposed feel something about this.  Perhaps if the show gets picked up for another year we will eventually learn more about this mystery.  I’m much more interested in seeing how long Chaplin can keep this volatile situation and his people in line at this point than any potential conspiracies or romantic entanglements at this point.

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