This probably wasn’t the best episode to air after a two-week, momentum-stalling break, was it? Maybe anything would have been a letdown after “Skeleton Crew,” which found Last Resort firing on all cylinders, but “Another Fine Navy Day” felt like the closest this show has come to a filler episode. Yes, the big-picture story did advance a bit, but that happened on the margins of an hour designed to take us inside the heads of our two main characters—a feat it accomplished in only the most superficial of ways.
The major storyline this week concerned an experimental military drug released into the island’s water supply. Called BZ, or Buzz, the drug gives those dosed with it about eight hours worth of delusions, memory blackouts, paranoia, and hallucinations. The episode flips back and forth in time to show us how Sam ends up on back on the island with the NORAD team, Mayor Julian, the SEALs, and some mystery interlopers, while Marcus, Grace, and the COB are trying to keep the sub afloat with a miniscule, drugged crew.
As a hoary plot device designed to explore character psychology, the BZ storyline goes back at least as far as Star Trek’s “The Naked Time,” as an astute commenter here pointed out after seeing the previews. (Although as far as this sort of thing goes, I was always partial to the pot brownie episode of Barney Miller.) It’s not that this sort of thing never works; The Sopranos certainly made effective use of dream sequences to explore Tony Soprano’s psyche over the years. But I didn’t think it worked here at all, for several reasons.
First, it seemed like a missed opportunity to confine the hallucinations (for the most part) to Marcus and Sam. Wouldn’t it have been fun to get inside the COB’s head? I’m not suggesting he should have wandered the Colorado shirtless wielding a dueling sword, but episode writer Ron Fitzgerald could have had a little more fun with the idea. But the major problem is that Marcus and Sam both hallucinate in a way that’s entirely predictable and tells us nothing about their characters that we don’t already know.
After being shown a photo of Christine and Paul clinched in an embrace by a drugged-up Nigel, Sam keeps seeing his wife. And she keeps saying the same thing, over and over: “You’re never coming back. Why are you always leaving me alone?” I think we get it: Sam’s biggest fear is losing Christine, and he’s worried he’ll never get back to her. This isn’t news, nor is the revelation that Marcus misses his dead son. If these fantasy interludes told us something new about the characters, they’d be easier to justify; instead it just looks like the creative team wanted to get Scott Speedman and Jessy Schram into some scenes together.
Other than Christine’s phantom appearances, the Washington D.C. storyline is completely absent this week. The action on the sub is a variation on another old standby (usually used in science fiction stories): The ship running out of oxygen. (In this case, Marcus has turned the oxygen off in order to put out a fire.) This story kind of fizzles out, though, as a mystery guest turns the air back on and gives Marcus an epinephrine shot to snap him out of his haze (all of this happening offscreen).
As far as substantial plot advancement goes, we’re mostly left with unanswered questions. The injured Navy SEAL, Hopper, has awakened, in no mood to cooperate with Marcus. He and James were the presumptive targets of whoever dosed the water supply (in conjunction with Mayor Julian, who was hoping to get rid of his unwanted guests). We now know the SEAL team ended up killing whoever they were sent into Pakistan to rescue, but that doesn’t help much. And someone has taken the nuclear launch key from Marcus’s necklace, leaving the sub and the island defenseless. That’s all set-up for next week, however. For now, we’re left with an hour that mostly seemed to be stalling for time.
- Other developments: When Sam thought he was kissing his wife, he was actually making out with Sophie. I’ll leave it to the shippers to dissect this one.
- Also, there’s a mole on the sub. Because there’s always a mole.
- The COB was a guinea pig for the BZ drug “back when music didn’t suck.” I love that guy.