Another week, another mysterious outsider on the loose in Forthaven, stirring up dissension in the ranks. It doesn’t say much for Outcasts that it’s already repeating itself, but fortunately, the fifth episode provides a substantially more entertaining variation on the theme than its immediate predecessor did. That’s mostly due to the fact that this week’s mystery guest is quite a bit more interesting and charismatic than the emotionally volatile AC Elijah, who turned up last week.
Played by veteran character actor Gary Lewis—a “Hey, it’s That Guy!” if ever there was one—Pak is a grizzled wanderer from the wilderness who causes a commotion in the bar by tossing fistfuls of diamonds in the air. Pursued into the Closed Zone by Cass and Fleur, Pak eventually gives up his secrets. His full name is Patrick Baxter, and he was the first man to set foot on Carpathia as part of the advanced landing party. Rumor had it that Baxter went mad and murdered his commanding officer before being killed himself in an explosion, but Pak tells a different story (although if he ever denied killing his C.O., I missed it). Apparently the first being to set foot on the planet was actually an AC called Tigger-99, but he died almost immediately because nobody had bothered to update his immune system.
Is that important information? It’s always hard to tell with this show. Pak displays a distinct John Locke influence (the Lost-away, not the philosopher) in leading Cass and Fleur to the ocean, making plenty of vague promises about the importance of what they’re about to see (“I’m taking you to Paradise”). How does he know how to avoid the radioactive zones? “The planet told me,” he Lockes. Back at Forthaven, meanwhile, the populace has gone diamond-crazy in a plotline that goes nowhere in particular—although it does drive another wedge between Tate and Julius, for those interested in such things. The unlikely duo of Stella and Jack sets out after Cass and Fleur (along with a redshirt who takes a bullet from the ACs along the way), and we’re treated to another shrug of a subplot in which Jack suffers a near-fatal bug bite before Stella saves him.
Despite all these shortcomings, I found “Episode Five” to be the most enjoyable of the series so far. The South African locations were used to their best effect yet as Cass, Fleur and Pak made their way through the Closed Zone, with the jagged spires of rock looking particularly otherworldly. And Gary Lewis lent a welcome mischievous spirit to a role that could have been dreary and annoying in the hands of a lesser actor. I still find it hard to care about the machinations of Julius Berger, but for once he figured into an enticing cliffhanger, as he made contact with another spaceship in the episode’s closing moments. Whether this proves to be a turning point for the series or just another false start remains to be seen (for those of us who haven’t already watched the remaining episodes, I mean), but for now, I’ll just be grateful Outcasts spent an hour entertaining me more than it irritated me.
- Was anyone else half-hoping to see a partially buried Statue of Liberty when Cass and Fleur reached the beach? A bunch of gun-wielding gorillas on horseback would really liven this show up.
- It seems like a beat or two was missing from the whole “diamonds are forever” subplot. When Jack discovers the stones in abundance at the shoreline, I figured we were heading for a resolution to the crisis at Forthaven—some sort of “See, they were worthless all along” moral to the story. It didn’t happen, but I’m not too upset about that.
- Tate let Stella in on his hallucinations/visions/supernatural visitations, but she doesn’t appear to be too excited about this revelation. But at least he’s teaching his dead kids to play chess, which is nice.
- Yet another Lost parallel as Stella discovers the skeletons on the beach. If this series ends with the opening of a hatch…well, I'll complain about it here, I guess.