Last Resort: “Big Chicken Dinner” 
C+

Last Resort: “Big Chicken Dinner” 

Watching and writing about a show like this becomes a very different experience now that it’s been cancelled. (I trust that news doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but just in case: ABC has indeed canceled Last Resort, although it will air what remains of the 13-episode order.) There’s no longer any place for ruminations on which new characters are promising and which plot developments might pay off down the line. Speculation about the grand scheme of the series and the possible directions it may go... that’s all moot now. There is only now and the immediate future, which in this case constitutes five more hours after tonight.

On the other hand, a death sentence like this has a certain clarifying effect on the proceedings. It becomes very apparent which parts of the show you care about, and which now seem like a complete waste of time. For instance, the A-plot of “Big Chicken Dinner” is a he-said/she-said rape accusation storyline that has been done approximately 1000 times before on dramatic television. Here, it involves characters we neither know nor care about; it’s merely a plot device used to ratchet up the tension between the islanders and the Colorado crew. And I don’t know about you, but one look at the actor playing Anders, the accused crew member, and I had no doubt that he was guilty. He had the sort of sweaty, weasel-eyed demeanor that telegraphed the outcome of the episode immediately (even if there were a few twists and turns along the way).

In the end, we learn that Serrat has manipulated the trial to fuel the anti-Navy sentiment among his people. But why did we need this trumped-up movie-of-the-week storyline to bring that particular aspect of his character to life? The last episode ended with Serrat torturing and drugging up the COB, but this week, Prosser was nowhere to be seen. Worse yet, no one ever asked about him or seemed to notice he wasn’t around. A continuation of that storyline could have served a similar purpose to this week’s contrived scenario, but instead, we get yet another reason to wonder why Marcus hasn’t just taken this nutjob out into the jungle and shot him by now. “Might makes right,” right?

In more pertinent developments, Sam and his CIA hostage Booth bond over MREs and old war stories, then set out to find the comm station in hopes of learning the identity of the Colorado’s mole. Booth is still trying to convince Sam to turn against Marcus by comparing the sub captain to Gaddafi  and other military leaders gone mad with power. This plot point hits a dead-end when Booth receives orders over the radio to take out Sam, and ends up with a broken neck for his troubles.

Mostly, the episode just feels like a place-setter for next week, when a ship bearing supplies and loved ones is due to arrive on the island. (It has the feel of a Survivor reward, particularly after Marcus asks the troops if they’re getting a little sick of rice and beans.) Back on the mainland, Kylie and Christine are still listening in on Paul’s conversations with Curry, which is how Christine knows Paul is lying when he informs her that she won’t be allowed to be on that ship. Speaking of things I couldn’t care less about at this point, Paul has a whole weepy back-story about being abandoned by his wife and child, which is why he isn’t such a bad guy after all. He really is falling for Christine, which plays right into the hands of the scheming twosome.

Ultimately, I find it hard to separate my reaction to this episode as an hour of television from my feeling that it was ultimately a big waste of what little time remains. If instead of being canceled, Last Resort had gotten an order for a full season, would “Big Chicken Dinner” have felt so frustrating? Probably not. But it still would have been a subpar episode, derivative of so much ordinary television that has come before.

Stray observations:

  • This was the Thanksgiving episode, albeit a week late, as Marcus and crew broke bread with the locals and played a little soccer, just as the pilgrims did with Squanto and company. I did wonder if this was originally slated to play last Thursday, but then Marcus mentioned that “we’ve already missed our Thanksgiving.”
  • Good thing Paul makes all his important phone calls while driving, eh?
  • The cancellation wasn’t much of a surprise, of course, but it’s still a bummer. Shawn Ryan has indicated that the last episode will function as a series finale,so hopefully, we won’t be left completely hanging out to dry.

More TV Club