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Nuke It Out was a vast improvement over the previous episode which served as a lukewarm introduction. Instead of hiding its main storyline, Nuke It Out embraced it with some bold choices and some startling revelations along the way. Instead of staying secluded on the island, the story brought back Washington D.C. which is proving pivotal with the added benefit of being interesting. Unfortunately, by going all out on so many fronts, the show also built on its tendency for irritating local (island) plot lines, but even that couldn't ruin a mostly satisfying viewing experience.
Like they say, there is no rest for the wicked. Over the past few weeks, the crew of the USS Colorado has been through a lot, and we have felt it for some of them a little more than for others. One of those is the XO Sam Kendal, a personal favorite, who was in even more trouble in Nuke It Out. Sam had to lead the search for the firing key without telling the crew why they were being harassed, and as if that wasn't enough, he also had to hide the truth (about the key and the surviving black ops team member) from Lt. Grace, another personal favorite.
The search also pitted Sam against Sophie whom he found enjoying a private show with Serrat, the island crime lord. Here, I liked what the episode did with the lead. Although Sam's anger at Sophie could be considered legitimate (given who Serrat is), the story portrayed it as if it stemmed from more than just concerns for the lady, almost as if it were jealousy, but stopped short of calling it that. The episode also set Sam on track to discover what Sophie was doing with the soil samples, a revelation that ultimately came from the Frenchwoman whose candor was alluring, even more so after Sam stumbled on the video of the kiss he didn't (and couldn't) remember. So far, the show has navigated these waters without a glitch. Sophie is on the fence, seemingly fighting the urge to throw herself into his arms by doing the right thing (including protecting him from the video) which, as it turns out, might prove more alluring than a real attempt at seduction. Sam still has the moral high ground and his attitude towards her can still be understood as coming from his keen sense of responsibility and honor.
That sense of responsibility and honor almost drove a wedge between Sam and Captain Chaplin who was only driven by facts during the investigation, unconcerned by his XO's warnings about crew's morale. After showing the disagreement between the two men, the episode unveiled a divide-and-conquer strategy in a related storyline. Instead of casting the black ops prisoner as an entertaining captive bringing no significant added value, we had a cunning operative who first tried to insinuate that Chaplin was unstable, and when he saw he couldn't drive that home, he used a master strike, Christine Kendal. I liked how straightforward the operative was with information about the plan (including the CIA sleeper agent) and details about what's happening back home. Talking about the attack on Pakistan, he said, "A false flag, to validate the first shot of a man who wants to be an emperor, not a president [...]." I liked how refreshing it was that his cunning ways were surprising coming from someone a little rough around the edges and leading a field operation. It might not be realistic, but it worked well in a story where there's obviously a shortage of refined and polished secret agents on San Marino. Above all, I liked that the show hasn't yet decided whether Sam will stick by his Captain unconditionally. After all, the XO is a man, and a man whose heart might get confused (by Sophie) with an extended stay on San Marino.
Away from the island, back in Washington D.C., the storylines I perceived at first as potentially annoying took a welcome turn. What has now grown into an alliance between the military contractor Kylie Sinclair, Admiral Shepard, and Christine Kendal moved from being an unwelcome break from the excitements of the island to a storyline the viewer follows with anticipation. I didn't care for Washington D.C. at first because Kylie Sinclair and Christine first appeared as caricatures, or even worse, characters without much depth. Since then, it appears Ms. Sinclair has grown a conscience or has something to prove, either way, her actions now throw her into a grey area, something that is good for any story.
Christine has also proved more shrewd than her initial portrayal as the loving, not-too-bright and needy military wife to a more complex and attractive character. After shrewdly describing herself a few weeks ago as "the other-woman", in Nuke It Out, she was involved in a pivotal TV interview and in the most effective delay tactic by a character I have seen in a long time. Typically, in a TV show when a woman doesn't want a man to leave her because say, his car is being bugged while they are talking, she uses her female charms. That of course can be irritating for the viewer, or it can be a clue for the man involved if the show takes itself seriously (as Last Resort occasionally does), so the story had a problem: Christine is doing everything she can to clear her husband against the Powers That Be, so she couldn't possibly throw herself into another man's arms right after her interview. The young woman's handling of the situation made me forgive everything else the writers and producers did wrong this episode, from her touching the lawyer on the shoulders to the faint kiss and her very convincing explanation to wiggle out of the whole thing.
Unlike the above story with Christine which was excellent, the show made a few other choices that were much less attractive. One of those was to throw everyone on San Marino in a relationship. We saw the Grace and James hook-up coming a few episodes ago, but Chaplin and Cortez? Really? I suppose it allows the story to follow a hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned angle with her actions with the firing key, but still. I might have my issues with the episode pulling the Chaplin and Cortez relationship out of a magician's hat, but the real low point was everything around the island's resident crime lord Serrat. He was all of a sudden all-powerful and threatening again. If Chaplin could easily sentence to death the man who allegedly decided alone to turn the female crew member into a walking bomb, why not stop Serrat once and for all? The show is not well inspired to keep around a character that single-handedly breaks storylines consistency.
Nuke It Out was on many points a return to what made Last Resort's pilot into a critically acclaimed premiere a few months ago. It boldly tackled the overall storyline and was ambitious enough to build a growing conspiracy in Washington D.C. on at least three fronts (White House, Intelligence Community, and Kylie/Christine/Shepard). It skilfully kept Sam in a middle of a love triangle that has everything needed to create a rift between viewers (even if at this point Christine's moral high ground would have to make her a favorite). However, in its willingness to have tension and suspense permeate every scene, the episode unwisely put every major character on San Marino in a complicated relationship and over-extended Serrat's stay.