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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Last Resort: “Cinderella Liberty”

Illustration for article titled Last Resort: “Cinderella Liberty”
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“Seventeen nukes and a microphone. What more do you need?”

Well, that was a head-spinning episode, no? There was more plot and backstory downloaded in the first 10 minutes than in the past two or three episodes combined, which makes you wonder if Shawn Ryan and company had already seen the writing on the wall by the time “Cinderella Liberty” was in production. I’m sure the show hadn’t been cancelled yet, but an inner clock might have started ticking a little faster after the first few weeks worth of ratings came in. Or maybe this was always planned as a turning point in a much longer story we’ll never see play out.

Let’s start with the biggest reveal of the night: the story behind the Navy SEAL mission and the reason for the nuclear attack on Pakistan. The SEAL team had gone into Pakistan to extract a nuclear inspector prepared to give the nation a clean “no nukes” rating. But someone back in Washington didn’t like that answer much, so the mission was changed on the fly. Instead, Hopper was ordered to plant mini-nukes and take video of them with his helmet-cam. The inspector would then be killed, reportedly by the Pakistanis, but actually by the SEALs.

This was a pretty solid explanation, I thought. It didn’t feel like it came out of left field; in fact, it’s probably pretty close to what most of us had already pieced together. Yet it feels big enough to have sparked the events of the series so far, and it’s at least plausible enough to fit in with the reality established by the show. If a president (presuming the conspiracy goes all the way to the top) is crazy enough to plant nukes in another country, he’s certainly crazy enough to fire nukes at that same country. The timing of the reveal feels right, too, even given the fact that we now know there will be only 13 episodes. In a theoretical version of Last Resort that lasted for years, it still would have been the right timing, because keeping the back-story a secret much longer would have inevitably made the eventual reveal feel like a letdown.

This week was supposed to be the family visit, just like it was last night on Survivor, but the ship carrying the loved ones was attacked and taken over by the Pakistani Navy, which is not something Jeff Probst ever has to deal with. With an invading force from India set to cross into Pakistan, now unable to defend itself after the American attack, Admiral Ahsan and his men plan to execute a hostage every 30 minutes until Marcus fires one of his nukes at India. Of course, Marcus is still missing the second launch key, which means he can’t cave to these demands even if he wants to.

But because Marcus is still Marcus and Andre Braugher is still Andre Braugher, he can still try to talk his way out of this mess. In fact, in a neat bit of irony, it turns out that his gift for gab is what got him in this situation in the first place, as Ahsan was so impressed by the stand Marcus took against his government, he realized one man truly can make a difference. Of course, it helps if that one man has 17 nuclear missiles at his disposal. When the second key mysteriously turns up hanging from a hook (returned, offscreen, by a conscience-stricken Cortez, who can’t bear to see the family members slain no matter what her CIA orders may be), Marcus turns the tables and threatens to fire on Ahsan’s hometown in Pakistan.


That proves not to be necessary when the SEAL team takes out the Pakistani force on the ship (with an assist from Sam, but not before he sees Christine kissing Paul again, definitely for the last time). The firefight on the ship capped one of the most thrilling episodes yet, give or take a scene or two at Kylie’s Christmas party. And the final scenes set the stage for a number of promising storylines (to the extent that the word “promising” applies when there are only four episodes left). Marcus puts Grace in charge of finding the mole, which is awfully generous of him, considering that she’s the one who suddenly turned up the key. Sam is leaving the island to find Christine, who was snatched off the deck of the ship by the second SEAL team (in one of the episode’s few clunky developments). James and Hopper appear ready to turn over the video footage of their mission to Marcus. It still remains to be seen whether the creative team can wrap all of this up in four more hours, but if they pull it off, Last Resort may turn out the be the best miniseries in years.

Stray observations:

  • The COB is still missing. At least someone finally noticed, but still, two weeks without Robert Patrick is two weeks too many.
  • In a more welcome development, Serrat was also missing tonight. I’m pretty sure there’s a direct correlation between his screentime and the quality of an episode… and it’s not a positive one.
  • Paul is dead. Sam didn’t seem too broken up about it,
  • So after all that, I guess people finally did get to see their families? It might have been nice to get a glimpse of that, but maybe that will happen next week.