Oh dear, oh dear! It’s been a long week, so let’s jog our memories, shall we? When last the audience left the Nathan James it had just picked up a Jamaican girl named Patrice (who is immune to the virus and possibly humanities’ last hope). In the process they lost Captain Chandler and Tex, who were picked up by the Russians, although the crew has no way of knowing that for sure. The Russians have a Norwegian scientist with a secret remedy to the virus but still need Dr. Scott to complete a cure. Now that they have real leverage over the leaderless Nathan James the Russians also have a much better chance of getting what they want. Ready to see how this wraps up? With only three episodes left in the season, let’s recap The Last Ship episode 8, Two Sailors Walk into a Bar.
Tex is out of his depth as a Russian captive. It’s hard to work your charm when you don’t speak the language, so the writers quickly shuffle him off screen, separating our two heroes. This act reminds Chandler how little weight he carries now that he’s without support from either his ship or the US government. It doesn’t stop him from being one manly-man when he goes up against Commander Ruskov. The Russian leader, who is perpetually eating dinner with the Tophet family, invites Chandler to join them and sends Dr. Tophet’s daughter, Eva, out of the room. He is now ready to play a game of wits with Chandler, but Chandler is having none of it. Even Ruskov hasn’t asked him for any information, our hero refuses to speak anything other than his name, rank, and serial number. And from our feverish consumption of spy and war movies, we all know this is the only way American soldiers are trained to withstand torture. Meanwhile, the Nathan James can find no sign of either their intrepid leader or Tex and the crew is forced to wait for the Russians to offer a hostage trade or assume their Commander has drowned.
Dr. Rachel Scott gives Patrice a lesson in Virus 101, explaining what makes Patrice’s cells able to withstand the virus’ effects, which lasts just long enough for the girl to meet Comms Officer Mason, who was wounded back in El Toro and who first tracked her radio calls then lobbied for finding her. The writers haven’t been super subtle so far and I’m pretty sure they were trying to hint at something happening there. Since both Mason and Patrice are shy and adorable, I’d ship that. The bridge finally gets a call from Ruskov, who demands Dr. Scott and her research in exchange for Chandler and Tex, which is reasonable. He then continues to threaten to nuke the Nathan James into oblivion, which is less reasonable considering he would also be nuking Rachel, the primordial sample, and now Patrice who is the only immune person they’ve found so far. While Slattery and company try to decide what to do, Rachel’s first test comes back positive. With her vaccine in it’s system, the last of the monkeys survives it’s run in with the virus. Vaccine complete, Rachel offers herself in exchange for the captain and Tex, knowing that the ship’s doctor and Tophet will be able to reproduce the vaccine without her. The crew won’t let her sacrifice her freedom, however, and Lt. Green gets a team together to permanently disable the Russian vessel and rescue their Commander.
The episode goes full-Bond when the crew outfits Rachel’s box of samples with a hidden bottom to conceal a gun and a life vest with a beacon inside. Then they send her on her way to the Russians who don’t bother to adequately check for these things before taking her on to their ship, which seems a little shortsighted. Before beginning her work, Rachel insists on seeing Tex and the captain, the latter of whom she immediately makes out with to Chandler’s confusion, the dismay of poor Tex, and the amusement of Ruskov. No one, however, finds this action suspicious and she’s sent on her way to prove that she can actually do the work she was assigned before they release the prisoners.
In the Russian’s mobile lab, Rachel finally comes face to face with Dr. Sorensen, the creepily breathing Norwegian scientist. We finally learn why this guy’s such a big deal and Rachel swiftly deduces that he was the one who added a human gene to the virus, weaponizing it and causing its swift dispersal around the world. He insists he meant to help everyone and that the deaths of 4 billion people are not his fault, but Rachel recognizes his bluster for what it is: hubris. He believed he was the only person who could save the world and he refuses to believe her when she claims to have successfully created a vaccine without him. Ruskov is furious with Sorensen and immediately tests Rachel’s vaccine on his own brother.
Safely locked away in their cell once again, Tex laments Rachel’s choice of make out-buddies but Chandler reveals she passed him a note and a teeny, tiny knife blade. They have been instructed to meet in the ladder room (not that they know where that is on the enormous Russian vessel) and begin to plan their escape. Although Tex still thinks Rachel could have passed the note to him. They escape with ease, cutting quietly through the guards on their cell and meeting up with the extraction team right on time. They move back through the ship, dropping strategically placed explosives on the way. Chandler stops to pick up Tophet’s wife and daughter, then sends them ahead to the extraction point while he, Tex, Green, and a few others go to pick up Rachel.
Commander Ruskov quickly realizes his prisoners have escaped. He seals the ship’s hatches, lays a trap for the extraction team, orders radio silence to keep the Americans from listening in, and sends for Dr. Scott. She hasn’t been slacking in this time either. Dr. Sorensen taunts her as they wait to see if Ruskov’s brother will contract the virus or not. When Ruskov’s officer comes for her, she distracts him long enough to get the gun from her case but struggles to put the suppressor on. He notices her strange movements and begins to check, but she abandons the suppressor and shoots him anyway. The first shot hits his arm and he lunges for her, but the second shot goes through his head. She then turns on Sorensen. She doesn’t say anything, simply aiming for his head as well. Sorensen reminds her that if she breaks the plastic seal on the lab, she will expose everyone on the ship (including herself) to the virus. She might have shot him anyway, but the extraction team comes through just in time. Chandler takes the gun away and pulls her from the room while Tex checks the body of the man she killed and is impressed with her accuracy.
As they head for the pick-up point, Chandler realizes they should have heard alarms by now and that their position has most likely been compromised. They meet up with the Tophet women and find an alternate route, blowing the first set of explosives as they go, leaving the ship without propulsion. The extraction team successfully meets with their escape boat and get off the ship with a little gunfight, which ends when they blow the last of the explosives. Ruskov sits on the bridge of the his stranded ship, painfully aware that he’s been defeated. Among the Russian soldiers fleeing fire, Sorensen wears a stolen uniform and in his own escape infects everyone else on board.
The extraction team celebrates briefly on the boat and Green congratulates their explosives guy, who was one of the mutineers a few weeks back. Just as it looks like everyone’s gotten out okay, explosives guy collapses from a gunshot wound in his stomach. They make it back to Nathan James but the death has damped the spirit of the rescue. Green bears his man-pain across the deck once again, this time physically carrying the body of his team member. Tophet is tearfully reunited with his family, which is great but I struggle to feel happy for a guy who tried to undermine the captain’s authority for no reason just two episodes ago.
This episode finally seemed to hit all the right beats, a feat which has proven a struggle in the previous episodes. It had a solid balance of action to dialogue-heavy scenes and managed to grow some of the characters and their relationships. When Dr. Scott offered unflinchingly to sacrifice her freedom for Tex and the captain, I actually believed her. And when Slattery sent her off and then greeted her again, it was clear he had a newfound respect for her and might even have been concerned about her safety. That’s a friendship I’d like to see. The episode was paced well and even managed real tension in moments, particularly in scenes between Sorensen and Rachel, which the season has struggled to do since the pilot. And although the loss of a crewman is hard to take, it still seems like a small price to pay to have destroyed their biggest threat and saved their commanding officer. However, between the crippling of the Russian ship and the development of the vaccine, this episode marks the end of the season’s two major conflicts which begs the question of what’s going to happen in the remaining two episodes of the season. Ideally we’ll see the mass production of the vaccine and maybe they’ll even take time to show off the growth of the characters over the season, but we’ll probably just have to stop for supplies and fuel again…
What do you guys think? Does this episode mark a turn towards improvement for the show or a preemptive season finale? Now that the vaccine’s been completed do you have any theories about the plot of the recently picked-up season two? Let me know in the comments!
New episodes of The Last Ship premiere Sundays at 9/8CT on TNT.
Photos: TNT/KAREN BALLARD