Maria Gonzalez sits back in her car and takes another drag on her half-smoked cigarette. Anything, she reasons, to cloud out the terrible smell of failure coming from the schoolyard. Next to her the rookie kidnapper—whatever his name is—coughs at the smoke, shifting in his seat, but Maria doesn’t care. What does she look like, some sort of regular person with compassion for other people? Come on, now. This is CBS, and she’s wearing leather. She’s only after one thing, and that’s being a bitch for as long as possible before she’s inevitably slaughtered. You think it’s easy being this detached and disaffected?
She smiles to herself coyly as she watches Dr. Ellen Saunders’ son get beaten up by a trio of laughably bland-looking hoodlums. “We don’t interfere,” she reminds the rookie partner, and the viewers at home. “It’s not our problem.” Maria is very confident in her role in life as a Bad Guy. Actually, as she is the only female in the group of Bad Guys, she’s been upgraded to Bad Bitch. It’s not the best you can get in this life, but it’s not the worst, either. And what, do you think it’s easy, looking this stony-faced and disaffected all the time?
She throws her cigarette stub out the window just as the Saunders kid runs crying toward his father, a plot device for a plot device. How typical, she sneers. Rich preppy kid can’t even land a punch. Who are these monsters, who raise their children without teaching them to fight on the streets? After all, you never know when an absurdly aggressive weed dealer wearing leather and studs will lend you hundreds of dollars worth of drugs and then hound you for the money with a smile on his face. Maria Gonzalez knows all about illegal drugs. Weed? Grass? Pot? THC? Little bit of ganja? All the same drug. Little known fact, but Maria’s well-versed in the ways of the world, hard and knowing despite her perfect complexion and model-sized physique.
Next to her, the rookie kidnapper is having a feeling. Just a little bit of one, but it’s an uncomfortable occurrence, and he’s mostly squirming to try to emote without hurting himself. Rookie cop has a tough life. His entire raison d’etre in the cruel world of Hostages is to have inconvenient emotions about the Saunders boy, feelings that are along the lines of “brotherly” or “paternal.” He’s just looking out for the kid, that’s all. “Just” being the operative term, here, as he has no other characteristics of note. He might not even have a name, and if he does, it doesn’t really matter. Rookie cop flexes his fists as he watches the boy gets beat up. He plans his obvious, inevitable plot twist, the only thing his character knows to do: finding the gangsters and beating them up later. He’s good at that, right? That’s why he was put on this earth. To hit things, with his fists. And to say supportive, gruff statements, like “He’s with me, now.” He wishes he could practice it on Maria, but she just wouldn’t understand. She’s so cold and hard! I wonder what her motivations are?
The Saunders boy runs past them and back to lacrosse practice, limping and panting and trying to escape scrutiny. His father runs towards him with the easy lope of a treacherous real-estate mogul, clad in casual-seeming sweatpants that were carefully chosen by a wardrobe consultant. (“Something bland, but not too bland. Like, Wal-Mart, but not the Wal-Mart brand at Wal-Mart. We don’t want people to feel like Brian thinks he’s better than them.”) Brian Saunders hugs his battered boy and closes his eyes and the injustice of a world where a weed dealer would just hand out a bunch of weed to a kid who didn’t have the money to pay him back, while the boy manfully tries not to cry so the viewers at home don’t think he’s “girly.” Maria snorts in disdain. “Too little, too late,” she says to no one in particular, complaining about Brian’s ineffective parenting. Rookie cop agrees: Brian is a bad father. On the plus side, he just remembered his name: Kramer.
Earlier in the day, Maria had been throwing some important looking props from one side of the room to the other, prepping herself for a long day of looking hard and emotionless, when Archer came into the room. Thank goodness. “I’ve been throwing things back and forth all morning, waiting for you to show up. I need you to say some exposition real fast, because after this, I need to go to the bathroom.” Archer eyes her balefully. “Maria, I fake-killed a woman last night. You could at least have some sympathy for my feelings.” Maria looks at him. He looks at her. And then, from the base of his belly, a deep laugh roars up, and a few moments later, they are whooping so hard, they are in tears. “Feelings,” Maria gasps. “Sympathy!” “I know,” Archer says. “I just had to, for the look on your face.”
Maria stands up and composes herself, shrugging on her tough-girl persona like a well-worn leather jacket. “I didn’t sign on for this, Archer. I don’t do charity work. I need to get paid.” Look at her, with her eyes on the prize! Mother would be so proud. If mother was still alive after that horrific oil tanker explosion that Maria had rigged herself, with her bare hands. Archer gets stern, looking back at her. “I’ll take care of it,” he says levelly, inspiring confidence with his swagger. Before she can respond he says again, quickly: “I said, I’ll take care of it.” Maria raises her hands in frustration. “Who is this guy, anyway?” “I’m so glad you asked,” Archer says, “because I’ve been meaning to tell you how I ended up working with Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent.” “Great,” Maria says. “I’m going to the bathroom.”
The camera pans up to reveal Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent, eerily suspended from the ceiling, glaring at Maria with ill-disguised hatred. How dare she go after the coveted hard-ass role when it was the one he had wanted all along? Now they had stuck him with this daughter, an elementary-schooler who drew pictures in crayon and inspired all kinds of confusing feelings in him. He’d even sent the rookie over to her school to check up on her. He’d asked Sawyer to call the rookie “uncle,” because nobody could remember his real name, anyway. She better watch her back. They all better watch their backs. Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent, hears and sees everything that happens in this house. Even outside the house. In the whole world. Someone tried to shoot him today and he dodged it with his bare hands. He only has one blind spot, and that’s his adorable, innocent daughter. Fortunately, no one knows about his daughter. Nope, no one at all. He’s such a good former FBI agent.
Then his spidey sense tingles: An intruder, at the door! With catlike agility he flips down from the hallway and unholsters his gun in one swift motion, leaping to the French doors, casually surveying the hoodlum trying to get inside. Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent, knows how to hide a gun from a perp, so he angles it behind his body slightly as he opens the door to confront the hood. The kid is trying to find Morgan, the other Saunders kid, because he’s the one that knocked her up. Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent, is unimpressed by the kid’s attempts to be a good partner and father. Imagine if it was his little girl, knocked up by a high-school dropout? He’s not having it, not today.
And that is how Duncan Carlisle, former FBI agent, found himself sternly reprimanding a teenager about premarital sex, right before the director yelled, “Cut! Okay, now let’s do the scene where Brian tells Ellen he’s having an affair, and then uses that as emotional blackmail to get her approval for his stupid escape plan! From the top!”