Now that was more like it. Last night's Last Resort packed more reversals and surprises than the past four or five episodes put together. It was like the show finally decided to stop hoarding plot twists for the winter, and just start doling them out.
And now that all of these characters are taking action and changing, they're all instantly more fascinating people to watch. There was also a bit of a theme running through the episode: in a crew of traitors, everybody's tempted to add personal betrayal to betraying their country. And it's dawning on various characters that the crew of the Colorado are prisoners on this island, just as surely as if they were in a stockade.
The main action of the episode has to do with Chaplin searching for his missing nuclear launch key and the traitor aboard his boat who took it. Chaplin has everybody's stuff searched, but it's not that easy — and meanwhile, Chaplin's not in the mood for distractions. Like the crew's morale. Or Serrat, who's still under the impression that he owns this island they're parked on.
Sam Kendall ends up spending a lot of time interrogating Booth, the lone survivor from the Black Ops mission that dosed everybody — as you can see in the clip above — and Booth tries to induce Sam to turn against Marcus, claiming that Booth represents people who want to derail the President's Imperial ambitions as much as Marcus and Sam do. Marcus can be kept somewhere where he's well treated, while Sam keeps the Colorado on the island, as a symbol of resistance to the President. But they don't want a maniac like Chaplin in charge of 17 nuclear missiles. For the second time in a few weeks, Sam seems like he's genuinely tempted to betray his captain and friend — but he's mostly just playing Booth to get information. (Although Booth is also playing Sam back — it's pretty obvious that Booth's story is a load of bunk.)
Meanwhile, Chaplin is determined to squeeze his own crew until something pops out — hopefully that launch key. He treats all of his own bedraggled sailors like criminals and also institutes a curfew. It's left up to Sam to raise morale by treating the crew to an impromptu (and hilariously terrible) stand-up comedy performance, followed by some brewskis and a screening of an old Army-Navy football game.
Another morale casualty: Grace, who quickly realizes she's not being kept in the loop. Not about Booth being alive and a prisoner, not about anything else. The ultimate good girl suddenly discovers a rebellious streak, first going drinking with the rest of the female crewmembers, and later hooking up with King. (After she and King disarm a bomb together, which everybody who's ever watched movies knows is an aphrodisiac.) King's cheating on Tani, whom he's just started to get serious about — but Grace is fraternizing with a potential enemy. Oh, and King also finds out that Booth is alive, but he decides to let Sam play his hand out instead of interfering.
Besides morale, another minor irritation in the middle of Chaplin's urgent search is Serrat, who is apparently standing in the same relation to Chaplin as Chaplin is to the President — a minor player, who somehow manages to screw everything up. Serrat is annoyed by Chaplin's search for the launch key and Chaplin's threats about unleashing cruise missiles on him. So one of Serrat's men "independently" decides to strap the aforementioned bomb to one of Chaplin's people and send her to the football game to kill everybody — so Chaplin executes the guilty party in front of Serrat.
And meanwhile, during all those searches for the launch key, Prosser found some heroin on one of the sailors. So he first warns and later roughs up the drug dealer who's selling drugs to his men. This brings Prosser to the personal attention of Serrat, who captures Prosser and goes about figuring out what drugs Prosser likes and getting him hooked on them. This turns out to be Fentanyl, which Prosser kicked long ago. Serrat burns Prosser's feet and then gives him a dose of Fentanyl, with a couple more doses for later. (And after that, Prosser will have to come back and ask for more.)
Oh, and Sam is suspicious of Sophie spending so much time with Serrat, after everything that's happened — and the fact that Serrat and Sophie have similar vials laying around. So he keeps searching Sophie's stuff, and eventually discovers the video of him making out with her under the influence of the hallucinogenic last week. To win Sam's trust, Sophie shares the secret about the island being worth a lot of money due to certain minerals being on it.
Meanwhile, back in DC, the new alliance of Christine and Kylie starts to bear fruit — with the result that both of them become instantly more sympathetic and fun to watch. Kylie gets given a picture of the murdered White House aide from a few weeks ago, and she slips it to Christine, who reveals it during a television interview — proof that the White House was negotiating with the Colorado and there was a coverup. And then when Sam's old "friend" Paul shows up to try and pressure her, Christine distracts him while Kylie slips some magic tech into his car that will allow them to snoop on his phone calls.
The most interesting subplot of the episode, though, involves Cortez, who shares a neat scene with Grace during the "girls night out" portion of the story. Cortez says that even though everybody thinks she slept with Serrat while she and two other sailors were his prisoners, she didn't. Instead, she made a deal with Serrat — probably similar to the one that Prosser is about to make. She agreed to be Serrat's spy aboard the Colorado, in exchange for the lives of the three hostages. But that deal was voided when Serrat killed one of them. And then Cortez tells a story about her childhood dog, which bit her one day — and then her dad shot it. Adds Cortez: "Once a dog turns on you, you never trust it again. The only thing to do is put it down. The same with a traitor."
Later, Cortez goes to Marcus and offers him a beer and her unconditional support — "all the way. Whenever you need me." Is there a sexual advance there, or is she just being a really strong supporter? Either way, Marcus gently reminds her that it's improper for her to seek him out alone, because "there is an order and a morality that we both have to follow." Cortez says that now that they're stuck on this island, everything has changed. And Marcus says somethings haven't.
And then, at the end of the episode, we see Cortez burying the launch key in the jungle — because for all her protestations of loyalty, she's the CIA spy on the submarine.
So this was a pretty zippy episode, and by far the closest to what we were hoping for from this show. In particular, the theme of betrayal as a door that only swings one way is pretty interesting. Once a dog has gone bad, it has to be gotten rid of, as Cortez says. But the real question is, what are these people loyal to? And what is this island to them: a refuge, or a prison? What institutions do they still owe loyalty to, if the President is trying to become Emperor Palpatine? Marcus' answer is pretty simple: some things don't change, you still adhere to a "morality and an order" — although that doesn't stop Marcus shooting a civilian in cold blood. Sam's answer is increasingly that he just wants to get home. And Grace seems to be realizing that she doesn't entirely trust people who don't trust her back, chain of command or no chain of command. And Prosser believes in very simple rules and structures — until his one weakness is exposed.
The most frustrating thing about Last Resort is always going to be that we get relatively few glimpses of the chaos and dystopia taking root off the island, probably mostly for obvious budgetary reasons — but meanwhile, the island is offering us a small-scale look at how civilized people can be drawn into taking part in dystopian situations. A dystopia in miniature, in fact.