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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iHostages/i: “Fight Or Flight”
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Nina: "I don't want it. This has to stop now!"
Duncan: "It's not that simple."
Nina: "Sure it is."
Duncan: "What are you doing?"
Nina: "I'm getting the hell out of here."

Faithful readers, we finally have an audience surrogate: Nina Carlisle. Like us all, she is the illegitimate daughter of a philandering president who enjoys napping and last-minute international flights. And so, bravely, she does what we are all trying to do: She tries to leave the show.


Let's take a look at the life of Nina Carlisle, plot device, as it has unfolded in just this past day. Nina woke up from her drug-induced coma to a ringing phone. On the phone was a man who claimed that her husband had taken her family hostage. Nina was understandably concerned. I imagine that a part of her was absolutely incredulous, rejecting the reality as too absurd (because it is too absurd). A part of her too, may have known all along that Dylan McDermott was capable of making such a bad casting choice. And a third part of her may have detachedly wondered if the purpose of her whole life, up until this moment, is to be just an empty vessel of a person, a cipher used by others to justify their reprehensible actions.

There are many things that are just laughable about Hostages, but the way it victimizes its female characters drives me absolutely nuts. Nina in particular has been very badly used by the show: She matters less as a character and more as justification for other characters' actions. Duncan, Kramer, her mother, the President—to them all, she is more a symbol than a human being. Hostages wants Duncan to be noble, but after "Fight Or Flight," I truly do not see how that is possible. In his illusion of chivalry he's denied his wife any agency and put their child in danger. He is dumb. Do not listen to Duncan.


And naturally, now that Nina isn't in a coma and so can't be a convenient cipher, the show moves rapidly to the next most-helpless cute thing: Sawyer. The number of times that Sawyer is used for justification for terrible things in this episode is equally reprehensible as the way Nina was used before. Now Duncan and Kramer are using Sawyer as an excuse to keep Nina under control, just as Nina was used to keep Ellen (and her family) under control. I HATE THIS. THIS IS THE WORST.

Look: It's one thing to have a nonsense plot that is so excruciatingly boring that I consistently watch the commercials more intently than I watch the scripted programming. It's one thing to just suck. It's one thing to be a stupid procedural show that's poorly conceived and poorly acted and poorly written and poorly cast. But, for the love of God, it is quite another thing to be a show that actively pins female characters into positions where they are trapped by men who are supposed to love them—and then, throughout the course of the plot, to have those same women forgive those same men, or sympathize with them, or then have romantic or sexual feelings for them. (Or all three of these wonderful options.)


Sawyer asks her grandfather: "Why did you lie to the doctor?" "Sometimes, we have to say certain things that aren't true to protect the people we love." Which conveniently reads as: Sometimes, we know better than the people we love. And that's why we lock them into their bedrooms!

Naturally, this is all going in one direction—Morgan's unborn baby is going to become the cipher-iest of ciphers in about, oh, two hours. It seems like they've forgotten about it, but no—I am certain they have put it in their back pocket as an instant plot device.


Because the other thing that happens in this episode—by far the dumbest plot this show has come up with yet!—is that Ellen, Brian, Duncan, and Kramer fake Jake's death so they can keep him safe in a random cabin somewhere. A clever ruse! It totally looks like Duncan kills him at first, and I was like oh snap, this show actually just did something!—but they actually didn't, so don't worry! Everything still sucks. The death was faked for Sandrine and Archer, oh god, I don't even really know why, and it doesn't matter. The important thing here is that apparently everyone in the family is a convincing actor, leading me to believe that Hostages is not a documentary about the war on terror. (I'm so confused!)

Morgan is the only one who thinks it's real, and to her credit, Quinn Shephard the only actress that sells that faked-death thing. Ellen tells her they got rid of Jake first because Morgan is "stronger." But hello, she is pregnant with their grandbaby. Do they not, like, remember? Or care? Or were they both, like, wait a minute, do you know what would be a convenient late-stage plot device? A fetus! (Then they hugged.)


I don't know what on earth Hostages wants from me anymore. Duncan is on everyone's side, and Jake is in a cabin now, and Ellen is talking up Lady Marian from the Kevin Coster Robin Hood about getting bone marrow, and the president's sister-in-law is angling for his job. Sandrine and Archer might both be conspiring against the rest of them and there's a box of explosives in the garage with the Christmas decorations. And yet with all of this, it is quite boring.

Stray observations:

  • Have these people never watched The Wire? Don't they know that snitches get got??
  • "I'm stressed. I can't turn it on and off like you can." So, that's a lot of information about Kramer and Sandrine's sex life.
  • "Have you gone out of your mind?" Nina, echoing us all.
  • At least Hostages has figured out that Sandrine is the best, highly well-written, most complex character.
  • That very handsome oncologist looks like he got lost on the way to federal-agent casting, doesn't he?
  • Archer plans to buy a boat. Good for you, Archer!
  • This is Hostages’ last episode in 2013. I hope you're looking forward to the last two episodes, which will air sometime in January (maybe even back-to-back). Your holiday gift is a reprieve from this show. Use it wisely.

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