You’ve got to hand it to Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott). He seems to have taken hostage the only family in America selfish enough to put their own needs ahead of those of their nation. In episode 2 of ‘Hostages’, Duncan continues to tighten his grip around Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) and her family, while still showing that he might (possibly) be the only person in this series with a moral compass.
After making sure that the President was injected with blood thinner in last week’s episode, thus delaying his surgery for two more weeks, Ellen returns home to an understandably upset Duncan. Duncan leads her down to the basement, where Ellen’s husband, son and daughter are tied up on their knees with blindfolds on. Duncan says that one of them must die for Ellen’s actions, and that she must choose which one it will be. Then he puts the gun in her hands and says she must perform the execution herself. Naturally, Ellen points the gun at Duncan and fires – and naturally, Duncan has removed the bullets. “See,” Duncan says, “you’re a killer after all.”
One of the things we learn in this episode is that the team that has joined Duncan in his hostage/assassination plot had no idea that Duncan was gunning for the President of the United States. While the female of the group has reservations (yes, these supporting characters are so poorly-established that I have no idea what their names are!), the African American male says that he doesn’t really care, as he knows that Duncan is a stand-up guy. What, what, what?! I don’t know about you, but if even my closest friend told me he was plotting to kill the leader of the free world, I might have a moment of pause. Mark this down as Stupid Moment #1 of this week’s episode.
Stupid Moment #2 comes when Duncan notes that Ellen’s husband, Brian, is receiving continual texts from the woman he’s having an affair with. So he assigns his female partner to drive Brian out to the woman’s house to have sex with her, in order to keep her from suspecting that anything odd might be going on. Once there, Brian fakes that everything is normal, but he goes ahead and has sex with her anyway, even though the girl waiting in the car can only hear them and not see what they’re doing. Does Brian make any attempt to write a note to his lover to give to the police when he leaves? Of course not. The characters in this show (other than Duncan himself) are too dumb for that.
Stupid Moment #3 is brief, but worth noting. During a conversation, Ellen’s daughter Morgan asks her mom, “So, why didn’t you just kill the President?” Yes, Ellen, that’s a fine family you’re raising there.
Then again, it’s not like Ellen’s morals are rock-solid, either. Although she’s already shown that she wants to figure out a way to save her family without harming the President, she has no problem throwing her best friend under the bus when asked to do so. One of her female colleagues at work is investigated by the Secret Service for the blood thinner that was injected into the President. (Ellen herself is also being investigated… and while she has to take – and passes – a polygraph, those running the investigation are too stupid to come and search her home). Duncan tells Ellen that she must talk the friend into admitting guilt. Ellen does so, but Duncan has a back-up plan to get rid of the problem – sending out his African American partner to pick up the woman at a bar. Ellen’s friend disappears, and there are reports on the news later that night of her suicide, with a note left behind saying that she was responsible for the blood thinner incident. Now, did Duncan really kill her, or just arrange for her disappearance? I’m guessing the latter, since actually killing anyone (at least anyone he deems as an innocent) doesn’t seem to be in Duncan’s M.O.
Finally, one point of clarification for this week’s recap: Last week, I identified the character of Quentin Creasy as the Vice President (his actual job was a little vague in the pilot). In this week’s episode (during a brief flashback), it’s firmly established that Creasy is the President’s Chief of Staff. We don’t learn much more about Creasy this week, other than the fact that his reason for wanting the President gone may be slightly different than Duncan’s reason. In other words, Creasy may be the real bad guy here, and Duncan may be going along for more justifiable purposes. (Could Creasy be blackmailing him?)
Despite the idiotic things that characters often do and say on ‘Hostages’, this remains a highly-watchable show, largely due to the Dylan McDermott’s performance. The big question now – thanks to less-than-stellar ratings – is whether the series will complete its 15-episode run before CBS pulls the plug. I’m guessing that, at the least, we may see the show moved to another night soon, where its lower ratings might be more acceptable for the network.