And that's pretty much the show in a nutshell: When it comes to the crew fighting against circumstance and the disease, it's a fun romp with inventive problem solving. When it comes to the human villains, it's a cliché-ridden mess. Welcome back, Admiral Ruskov! You're the worst.
The Good: Viruses, Competence, and Chemistry
Last week, the tension on the ship was all about Dr. Scott's failure to actually get her cure going in the right direction and Chandler's decision to hide that fact from the crew. Now, Chandler thought he was keeping morale up. What ended up happening was that, in the absence of actual progress, a credibility gap developed, ably helped along by Quincy, Dr. Russian Spy.
Even though that was resolved, it was a good idea that this week provided progress on the cure front. A distress call from a Jamaican fishing boat reveals a young woman who is the only survivor out of fifty people. Dr. Scott theorizes that she's survived because she's immune, and the crew of the Nathan James sets out to rescue her.
Once again, the show is an exercise in competence porn: The crewmember who recognizes her voice and realizes she's the only survivor. The crew figuring out how to get to her and getting her off the boat. Tex and Chandler's teamwork in taking out the pursuers. And the crew figuring out how to take out the Russian drone.
Also good was Tex and Chandler's banter when they're stranded in the water. I was really dismissive of Tex (or, as I called him, the Yelling American) in his first appearance. But he's actually become a nice contrast to the highly professional naval characters. He's now so likable I'm convinced he's going to be a traitor in disguise. Perfectly in character were Chandler insisting that the ship's mission is more important and immediately ordering them not to go looking for them and Tex's desire to save himself. Although, Tex saying "They need you!" was too saccharine.
"What is your plan? Drown out here? Maybe we swim back to the Octopus and hang out with those fine people until our eyeballs Start bleeding out." You're not helpful, Tex, but you are snarky. And not from Texas at all, but from Reno.
In that same vein, Dr. Scott's conversation with the scared Jamaican woman (Patrice?), was nicely handled, too. She's more compassionate than I thought she would be, AND it makes perfect sense for her to be most excited that Patrice turns out to be immune to all strains of the virus. This is the good news.
The Bad: The Evil Human Element
Everyone say "Hi" to Admiral Ruskov, who we haven't seen since episode three. Did this episode take the opportunity to give him anything more than cartoon villainy? NO. Of course not. The only new thing we learn about him makes him MORE of an over-the-top evil look: Remember the British voices from the second episode, which convinced the Nathan James to stick around to be attacked by Ruskov the first time? It turns out that the woman is Ruskov's prisoner, and it's heavily implied that she's forced to have sex with Ruskov in order to keep herself and her daughter alive. Oh, good. Rape. Dear The Last Ship: Unless next week includes this woman stabbing Ruskov with his own fancy dinnerware and escaping ... I'll still be pissed this was included, but I'll be less pissed.
This show has a giant human villain problem. Ruskov is basically turning into Dr. Evil. The second episode featured Muslims terrorists with the entire motivation of "terrorism." And week five had an evil South American drug-lord-turned-warlord. Who also had a tendency toward rape. Yeah, the writers desperately need to stop using this trope. I mean, everyone does. But this show has done it twice in a month. In different villains. STOP IT.
And the major non-Americans, save Scott and, now, Patrice, they've run into have all been cardboard villains. Those are some unfortunate implications.
Also jumping aboard the camp train is the scientist the Russians have on their ship. We actually start the episode learning that he was a rogue scientist who tested things on himself and, it appears, got involved in this whole virus thing because his wife/girlfriend/something got sick. It's sort of hinted that he may be the man behind the disease's artificial changes.
I think part of the reason for this is that the show's changed the cataclysm from nuclear war to disease, but this means they can have some human element to blame. The other reason we keep running into evil people is that something needs to impeded the ship's progress, but the show needs it to not be the incompetence or failure on the part of their heroes.
That may be a problem this show cannot write its way out of as things move forward. There's only so long Dr. Scott can be delayed before frustration on the part of the viewers sets in. Then the crew has to do some very stupid things to make the conceit work. Like, this week, the fact that Chandler KEEPS GOING ON THESE DANGEROUS MISSIONS. Because he's our hero, so he has to be in the action. On the other hand, he's the CAPTAIN, who, next to Scott, has the most valuable information on the ship. And by going on THIS particular mission, managed to get captured by the Russians. FORCING US TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH RUSKOV NEXT WEEK. I take back everything nice I ever said about you, Chandler. That's unforgivable.