We’re on land with a man who has been out hunting (in a non hunting area, the bad man) to bring back food to a cabin – only to hear the man inside yell that he needs to stay away because Jenny, who is in there with him, has the plague. The hunter leaves them the deer so they won’t starve – and paints a cross on the cabin.
The old man then goes home to his grandchildren and daughter-in-law, Darien Chandler, Tom’s wife. Yes, captain Tom Big Damn Hero. It’s apparent that there’s some tension between Darien and her father-in-law, and he doesn’t like her going too far foraging in the empty cities. She’s more concerned with getting the parts needed to fix their radio and call Tom.
On the ship, Tom and Master Chief are preparing a heroic funeral for Cosetti (I think Tom has the Heroic Guilts) and Rachel is setting up stage 2 of her vaccine testing – human subjects. Tex thinks they may have trouble getting volunteers for that one.
Bertrise spends more time with Mason (one of the comms officer) to listen to the last recording of her family to hear their voices – but hearing them calling for help isn’t very reassuring. She realises how hard it must be for Mason to listen to all the distress calls.
After the funeral, Tom is told about the human testing and the need for 6 volunteers. Of course he decides he has to be one of them. Of course he does. At least then the plot armour will keep him alive when it goes wrong (yes, when). Mike protests how ridiculous that is but Master Chief agrees because he agrees with everything Tom says in between thinking up new cheers and trying to plaster Tom’s face on his pom-poms. But Master Chief has volunteered instead because a) Rachel needs a cross-section of age, gender and race and b) that means Tom isn’t at risk WHEN it goes wrong. Tom puts out the word for more confidential volunteers (so no-one feels pressured). Personally I’d like Mike to be volunteered.
Anyway, after that moment where someone other than Tom may be inching into the limelight we have a scene where Quincy thanks Tom for saving his family. They then go onto the volunteer bit which has a whole crew of people lining up (I think everyone is just really really really bored). Among them is Danny (who only just survived Dengue fever and Rachel has to gently tell him not to be a bloody fool) and Tex (who is loud).
Kara is one of the ones picked so she and Danny have an awww moment. But it is good that he doesn’t try and talk her out of it. Others picked are Master Chief, Tex (I reckon she’s tired of him), Garnett (yes the chief engineer. Seriously? Did no-one think that the chief engineer may be essential personnel?) and the red haired woobie whose name I never remember but seems to get injured and in trouble a lot (hasn’t fate already made it clear he’s gunning for you?) and another WOC I don’t know. Also all of these people are going to be stuck in the same room as Tex for several days and be unable to get away. That’s just cruel.
DRAMATIC MUSIC TIME. The testing begins
Let us now turn to Darien Chandler, maybe so they can dig up some reason for me to care about this random woman compared to all the other desperate survivors out there. She’s searching for the electric part when outside the shop she sees a man shoot an infected woman to stop her approaching him. She quickly hides from the gun toting man who is part of a whole gun toting group. In her rush to avoid him and escape unseen, she doesn’t see the infected body she was near. The gun toting guys paint more red crosses about.
Back to the ship, Bertrise is also watching the testing since her blood is part of the cure. Tex keeps flirting with Rachel. Woobie and Nameless exchange pleasantries and brief histories and Garnett talks about her daughter. General Tom is all helpless and angsty outside the tent.
At dinner some of those who weren’t chosen discuss the possibilities of mass production of the vaccine – where will they go in the US? Danny objects to all this positivity and hope.
In the tent everyone feels the nasty side effects of the vaccine, fevers and tiredness and general ickiness (Garnett is wonderfully reassuring – and she and Master Chief snipe nicely). Tex is a nuisance, Tom is angsty.
And Kara starts seizing. Rachel, Quincy and Dr. Rios rush to help – and Bertrise since she can enter the tent without being infected. They work their magic and after several tense moments, Kara is ok – it’s just the fever. Hmmmm, can’t say I’m loving this vaccine.
Quincy and Rachel then brainstorm what went wrong that Kara could have such a fever – Rachel puts it down to Kara’s medical history but Quincy worries that the vaccine may be flawed. Mike and Tom hover like they can add something remotely useful.
The symptoms of the volunteers keeps getting worse and Tex develops a very plague-looking rash. Rachel keeps up stubborn denial while Quincy points out the obvious – the vaccine does not seem to be working. They become delirious (we also have Tex saying Rachel “makes him want to love again”, he has a locket with a picture in it) and Maya (Nameless) dies (aha, POC with no previous characterisation or mention? Yup, her days were numbered)
Sad pandas all round. Quincy and Rachel argue about whether it was a side-effect of the vaccine that caused her to die (Rachel) or the virus itself (Quincy). His solution is to use Bertrise’s blood to directly put her antibodies into the test subjects and heal them – but that requires so much blood it could risk Bertrise’s blood. Rachel refuses but Betrise steps in – she’s not going to watch them die. Bertise, Quincy and Tom (who acts like he has something relevant to add) all agree. They draw her blood.
Oh, and testing Kara they find she’s pregnant
Through all this Danny has been having angsty worry moments and Tom decides to tell him that Kara’s pregnant because Kara doesn’t get to make that decision herself, apparently. He visits Kara and Tom decides to allow the crew to visit – while there’s still chance.
Rachel takes a moment to cry in a corner and Quincy finds her – he tells her that Bertrise’s blood hasn’t made things better, which means it isn’t the virus killing them, she was right. (Well, for a given value of right). Rachel angsts about her capabilities while Quincy tries to help her morale.
People visit, it’s a lot of painful emotional scenes.
Rachel has a revelation – scienceish nonsense, but basically the human gene in the virus makes the body’s immune system attack itself. Science with the arctic primordial strain follows.
This works and everyone perks right up – Mason let’s Bertrise believe it was her blood that saved them in the end. Rachel also adds that Kara’s baby will be born immune.
Tom and Rachel discuss what they have – they have a vaccine, a cure – the cure for the disease. They can save people who are sick as well as immunise the well.
Which is good because we return to Darien and she’s showing symptoms.
Ok, this is actually one of the few episodes of The Last Ship that actually worked – because it aimed for the real grief and emotion of the dystopia without the massive levels of melodrama and cheesy dialogue and evil Russians that so characterise the rest of the series. It helps that the focus ISN’T on the uber bland BIG DAMN HERO characters and their dull, predictable storylines. If those characters got out the way, this is the show that The Last Ship could have been
The only downside of that is that it grossly stand out next to the cheesefest of the rest of the show.
On that note, I’m not sure I want the story of Darien et al – we can see what the show is like without the focus on Tom, so we don’t need more factors re-focusing on him.