Ellen Saunders’ bangs are clouding her judgment. Have you noticed? They hang over her eyes in a sheaf, almost obscuring her vision. Even at work, her mop-like hair hangs down flat, in a sculpted blow-out that would make any female hostage immediately jealous. How does she maintain such a stylish ’do? I'm pretty sure that Ellen’s hair represents her inability to see past Duncan Carlisle’s rugged good looks and to the real problem with his personality: his terrible phone courtesy. Duncan is always growling on the phone in a stubbly voice that brooks no negotiation. Then he hangs up abruptly, even when it’s good news. What kind of guy would do that?
I have assumed that Ellen’s hair is a wig up until now. Today I realized that her hair is actually the secret to all of her powers (and also possibly a wig). It’s only when she ties her hair back, in the operating room, that she finally gets that she is a crazy person who has lost her goddamn mind. Over the protestations of a fellow surgeon who seems to hate saving lives, Ellen walks into the gates of hell to bring back a dying criminal from the dead, and then chastises her co-worker for being a bad doctor. She seems to have accepted that from now on she will be a doctor on the wrong side of the law, a doctor who only saves bad guys and punishes good guys, like the angel of death. Ellen Saunders, Angel of Death.
(“It has a nice ring to it,” Duncan says, staring at her soulfully across the room. No, wait, I promised my editors no more fan fiction. I’LL LET YOU GUYS WRITE THE REST.)
It’s taken me this long to realize that one of the things that is so frustrating about the dialogue in Hostages is that it seems like it’s all being shouted on the internet. There is no subtext. There is barely text. There’s just VERY CLEAR EMOTING. For example, Ellen and her fellow doctor: WE’RE DOCTORS. NOT JUDGES, NOT JURIES. Yes! Thank you Ellen! This is an excellent encapsulation of the point of your words! I look forward to your thoughts on peanut butter next. (IT IS CREAMY. NOT CRUNCHY. NOT SMOOTH. CREAMY.)
Nowhere is this caps-lock dialogue more evident than in the conversations the captors have with each other. Last week, Duncan was kidnapped by the group planning to kill the president (he hung up on them too many times). This week, he is quickly released, because there was no danger at all. Now the aspiring president (I don’t remember his name but he’s sleeping with evil first-lady-sister) and Prez and Sandrine and Archer and rookie captor are all on the same team. Except no one trusts anyone else, so they are riven with dissent. Sandrine is playing double agent, but now Duncan is onto her, and sends her on a fake mission with Kramer, just like that thing Tyrion Lannister does in Game Of Thrones that one time, and she totally falls for it! Kramer is heartbroken (sad face) even though they kiss (happy face) and Sandrine put bombs under all the cars (medium face). This doesn’t resolve obviously because Hostages has no intention of letting us off that easy (dead face).
And this is more or less how that breaks down:
“IT’S ABOUT SANDRINE…”
“I THINK SHE’S… PLAYING US.”
“I THINK SHE FLIPPED.”
“IF SHE FLIPPED, WE’RE IN TROUBLE.”
“SHE WAS WITH THIS GUY.”
“WHY IS SHE TALKING TO HIM?”
“I DON’T KNOW.”
“KRAMER. YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL WITH SANDRINE.”
“I’M NOT A KID DUNCAN.” [he is so happy he got laid.]
“I’M NOT WORRIED YOU’LL GET YOUR HEARTBROKEN” [stubbly growl.]
[scared.] “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”
“SHE PLAYS BY DIFFERENT RULES.”
“YOU DON'T KNOW HER.”
“NEITHER DO YOU.”
Credit must go to Jimmy Cooper this week, whose reaction to Ellen kissing Duncan (he finds out in the cold open) is essentially identical to mine: “What the hell is wrong with you?” he says, defeated, resting his head in his hands. Tate Donovan is the acting equivalent of a brick and yet he is my favorite person on this show, because he’s the only one who has normal reactions to things. Yes, Ellen. What is the hell wrong with you? Why do you part your hair so severely down the middle? Why don’t you tie it back when you’re bending over a patient bleeding out on a stretcher? How did you seduce Duncan Carlisle with your shiny, shiny hair, and can you teach all of us to do that, too?
The most confusing thing about the post-kiss Hostages is that the show isn’t, like, ending. It has a few episodes left in its 15-episode run, but it’s still throwing new plot elements in the mix, as if we care. I am truly perplexed. Why aren’t Duncan and Ellen just making out on the couch in the opening scene, while Sandrine and Kramer tearfully confess their love to each other, and then elope to Kalamazoo? The show is still holding on to some semblance of developing story. Brian’s arc makes sense—I can’t believe I just wrote that about this show—because now he’s upset his wife is making out with a murderer, and he has information on that murderer, and he needs a phone so he enlists Morgan. The reappearance of Duncan’s creepy lawyer father-in-law is always unpleasant, but it’s sort of topical, as is the frantic call to Duncan’s wife Nina. (I thought she was in a coma?)
But then there’s the trip into the land of setting up a secret service agent with a hooker (original!) and that going south (even more original!) and a random guy who killed a cop and his son who cause Ellen to have feelings, and a superfluous conversation with the kids about how their parents are nutters. And why all this work on the dynamic between Archer, Sandrine, Kramer, and Prez? Who cares, ultimately? Whose side are we supposed to be on? (Besides Sandrine’s, because, duh!)
And really, why isn’t there more kissing? And more conversations like this:
[Scene: Sexual tension you could cut with a knife.]
“ABOUT LAST NIGHT…”
“EVERYTHING HAS BEEN SO CONFUSING. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO FEEL. I’M SUPPOSED TO HATE YOU. BUT. UH. I DON’T.”
“I’M GLAD TO HEAR THAT.”
[She moves to kiss him. (Help me)]
“ELLEN, WE CAN’T. WE NEED TO FOCUS RIGHT NOW ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS. SAVING OUR FAMILIES.”
[He grasps her hand.]
“WE’RE DOING THE RIGHT THING.”
- Where’s Morgan’s baby bump? WHERE IS IT?
- Remember the bus depot? We’ll always have the bus depot.
- “IT WOULD HAVE MADE ME EXPENDABLE, AND WE KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.” “YOU’RE SMART.”