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TV Review: Last Resort – “Voluntold”

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Voluntold is neologism meaning to be volunteered. It is the opposite of volunteering. And in Last Resort everyone on the crew of the Colorado has been voluntold. None of them want to be there, and morale is fragmenting under the strain of their exile. “I didn’t sign up for this,” says one non-com officer.

None of them: from Captain Marcus Chaplain (the wonderful Andre Braugher), to the Navy SEALS, to Kendal’s wife Christine (Jessy Schram, who I interviewed earlier today), to the crew, to the residents of the island, volunteered for what they’re now a part of. But very few people on this planet would choose to place themselves or anyone else in this situation. And in the episode “Voluntold,” we continue to learn the personal costs of this standoff between the crew of the Colorado and the U.S. goverment. 

Last Resort is unfolding like a classic Ludlum novel (in the best sense of that image). Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. They unravel emotionally (or physically),  and ultimately, some of them find the strength within to prevail against an enemy against whom they never sought to fight. 

In this week’s chapter…er…episode, the morale of the crew is unraveling quickly as many of the submariners only want to go home, facing whatever consequences lie ahead. Many of them (among them, Chief of the Boat Prosser, played by Robert Patrick) truly believe that Chaplain is guilty of treason with which he, XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) and Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) have now been charged by the U.S. government. 

But the government as it now stands (and it is not all clear as to who exactly is in power), has no interest in capturing any of them alive; the powers that be want the sub at the bottom of the sea, dead, and along with it, her crew. That becomes clear by the end of “Voluntold.”

We learn this week as well that the Perseus device, an experimental cloaking device that renders a submarine invisible even to sonar also has embedded in it a tracking device. The device had tracked the Colorado in the moments leading up to the attack on it by the Illinois, and the archived data pinpoint exactly where she was at the time. And this is one little fact the new U.S. government does not want to go public.

Exactly why had the Colorado been ordered to nuke Pakistan in episode one? And what is the connection between that order and the Navy SEALs taken aboard her. Grace confronts one of the SEAL team, James King (Daniel Lissing) about the reason they were in the vicinity of the Colorado just half an hour before the entire thing started to go to hell. He says nothing, but it is clear that King has been affected by the events that followed. And despite his cavalier attitude, his conscience is clearly bothered by the orders given to him and his colleagues.  

With morale in a tailspin, Chaplain offers the crew a choice: they can stay with him or surrender themselves to the military forming a blockade off the Island’s coast. It is up to each individual sailor. Chief of the Boat (COB) Prosser (Robert Patrick), who, if he decides to pack up and go home, is likely to take a significant number of crew with him, is too anxious to give up his front row seat to the “end of the world” to go home, and looks forward to personally delivering Chaplain, Sheppard, and Kendall to their treason trials.

Tensions further increase when a crew member takes a shot at Chaplain, and it’s eventually revealed that there have been orders given to five crew member to assassinate him as their patriotic duty. Chaplain takes it, as he takes most things, with a resolute calm; he is neither afraid nor deterred by the new threat.

Back at home, we learn that the Bolton Doctrine, which allows for pre-emptive nuclear attack (I wonder if that’s deliberate, considering how neocon that sounds) has been condemned worldwide, by allies and enemies alike in the aftermath of the unprovoked U.S. nuclear attack on Pakistan. And, arms dealer Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), who managed the development of the Perseus device is stunned to learn that her father is somehow involved in the conspiracy of which she is slowly becoming aware. 

Sam’s wife Christine (Jessy Schram) has become collateral damage as Sam’s pay, their credit cards, bank accounts, and everything else is frozen, leaving her literally with nothing. After all she has already gone through at the hands of intelligence operatives (or whomever they are), she’s had enough. When hordes of news vans and reporters descend upon her lawn, she confronts them, furious. Screaming at them that they need to investigate the truth of what has happened to the Colorado and to their country. 

It is our duty, not to owe blind allegiance to a particular government or to the military that protects it. Allegiance is to an ideal represented by the Constitution. That is the oath the military swear; that is the responsibility of a free press. We are reminded both by Christine’s actions, and the crew of the Colorado that it is our duty to stand up and say “no” when something’s rotten.

It is, says Chaplain, our “moral obligation to stand up to authority when it acts against the best interests of our nation.” Sometimes the only choice, the brave choice, is to do what seems at the time to be just the opposite of the right thing, even as we observe that choice turn the world as we know it upside down. It isn’t something for which we readily volunteer; our ideals compel us to act. 

Last Resort continues to impress me: tautly written, well acted, and about as intense a drama as you might find this side of cable. If you are not watching it, you should be if you’re a fan of excellent, serious primetime drama. There’s a bit of soap and as we go on; the characters are being fleshed out bit by bit. If you need to catch up, you can do it at ABC’s website for the show.

Note to my readers: I had the opportunity this afternoon to interview the delightful Jessy Schram by phone. My interview with her will appear over the weekend. We spoke about Last Resort, Falling Skies, and her recurring role on as Cinderella on ABC’s Once Upon a Time; she will also be making an appearing on an upcoming broadcast of Let’s Talk TV Live. So stay tuned.

Last Resort airs Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.