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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Last Resort: “Voluntold”

Illustration for article titled Last Resort: “Voluntold”
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Should they stay, or should they go? That’s the choice the crew of the Colorado faces, as Marcus decides to allow those who don’t agree with his course of action to leave the island and return home. Of course, since he comes to this decision in the first two minutes of the episode, and there are still 58 to go, we know it’s not going to be quite that simple.

It’s still too early to accuse Last Resort of settling into any kind of rigid formula, but it’s probably safe to assume more than a few episodes will follow this pattern: A moral dilemma is introduced. Complications ensue. Marcus is put in a situation that allows Andre Braugher to speechify in an emotionally persuasive fashion. The conflict is resolved. (Of course, that’s assuming Last Resort actually lasts for more than a few episodes, which I wouldn’t bet the house on at this point.)

Although Marcus outwardly makes the decision as easy as signing one’s name in the “Stay” or “Go” column on a whiteboard, behind the scenes, he and Sam are scrambling to ensure there are more names in the former column than the latter. Sam recruits Cortez to keep the women aboard, figuring that will shame the men into staying. (He didn’t put it quite this way, but I’m guessing Sam reasoned that a fair number of men would rather stay where they don’t want to be than leave and risk looking like pussies.) And although everyone ostensibly has the choice of staying or going, there are certain sensitive positions—for instance, the chief in charge of the Colorado’s nuclear functions—that aren’t easily replaced.

In essence, Marcus and Sam are only concerned with creating a simulation of free choice convincing enough to make those crew members who decide to stay believe it was entirely their own decision. Hence all the otherwise unnecessary drills Marcus keeps putting them through; it’s a kind of brainwashing designed to strengthen the bond of the Colorado crew and keep them thinking they’re part of something bigger. This is not only a step Marcus had to take—it’s a step the show had to take, in that it had to find a way to solve certain plot issues related to the crew. Why did the crew members keep going along with the fiction that they were all still in the service of the Navy under Marcus’s command? Why wasn’t there a full-blown mutiny? Why didn’t someone just shoot Marcus in the head and be done with it?

Secretary of Defense Curry had obviously asked himself these same questions, and confronted the matter head on by sending video messages to several crew members, ordering each of them to terminate Marcus’s command (and by extension, Sam’s) and either destroy the sub or deliver it home. This leads to Braugher’s big moment of the week, in which he is confronted by a grenade-wielding Brannan, still wracked with guilt over his betrayal of Redshirt last week. He gives a speech about standing up to authority and determining the honorable course of action, and since it’s Braugher, it doesn’t come off as phony flag-waving. But it’s a performance just the same, and not just by Braugher; it’s also Marcus’ performance to his captive audience, a winning of hearts and minds that tips the scales in his favor and convinces a number of his crew to change their minds about leaving. In a way, it couldn’t have worked out better for him if he’d planned it. (And in truth, part of me cringed, expecting a revelation that he had worked out the whole grenade scenario with Brannan ahead of time. This is what bad television has trained me to expect.)

As far as other developments go this week, some were more intriguing than others. I like the suggestion that the Colorado may not have been attacked because Marcus defied his orders, but because of the Navy SEAL team he’d picked up 30 minutes earlier. (So maybe the fire order was sent on a back channel in hopes that Marcus would carry out the attack, at which point, the U.S. government would deny he had the go-ahead and fire on him anyway? Maybe no matter which decision he made, his fate was already SEAL-ed?) On the other hand, Kylie’s story didn’t progress much beyond the revelation that her father was behind the theft of her Perseus data (although we did get another meeting with the Admiral in the Deep Throat Memorial Parking Garage). And my interest level in the skeezy lawyer’s attempts to get in Christine’s pants is barely detectable. (And Jessy Schram wasn’t entirely convincing in firebrand mode when Christine ranted at the press to uncover the truth.)


Despite the nagging flaws (I’m already kind of done with Mayor Julian as a viable villain), I still think Last Resort is a pretty decent thriller with a handful of intriguing elements and a rock-solid lead performance. There’s certainly room for improvement, but at this point, I’m still hoping the show gets the opportunity to hit its stride.

Stray observations:

  • I might have missed it, but I don’t think I heard this week’s title, “Voluntold,” in the episode itself. Either way, the meaning is pretty clear—it’s military slang for being volunteered for an unpleasant task by your superior.
  • Sophie takes Sam to Hurley’s golf course and tells him there’s magic on the island. A smoke monster, perhaps?
  • It appears that my request for more Jay Karnes will be answered next week.