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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pan Am: Our Motto is "Go Native!"

Pan Am
Episode 104
"Eastern Exposure"

This week's episode of Pan Am reinforced the show's "Kate storyline formula" of a one episode arc mission and continuing exasperation with Laura, but was a nice deviation from the majority of the action taking place on the plane itself.  Also nice, was the shift in focus from what we thought were going to be the 5 main characters (the 4 Stewardesses and Dean) to a nice Ted-centric episode wherein we establish his backstory, his motivations and firm him up as more than just a recurring character. Let's not focus on the space mission continuity error and enjoy the ride.  Let's go native shall we!

Ted:  Tonight was a Tedsposition heavy episode; the bulk of his character's backstory and his place in our show's mythology was explained in tonight's episode.  After he is out pissed in a pissing contest by some current Navy types who are trying to get their swerve on with our bikini'd stewardesses, Ted sits and steams and then jumps into the pool which leads to a flashback wherein we see Ted floating helplessly in an ocean amidst plane wreckage and fire.  Ted is subsequently brought before a hearings committee on the crash where the adjudicators are pretty sure Ted was to blame for the crash but because there is no concrete proof, they simply place him on administrative leave.  Ted believes he discovered a serious mechanical problem in the altimeter doodad and can't believe he's being benched.  You see, it turns out that Ted was a test pilot in the Navy and a good one at that and was this close to joining the space program (which he is still pretty obsessed with, even if its only as a spectator), until he was unfortunately discharged (though honorably) from the Navy under a cloud of suspicion for the crash.  While in Jakarta, Ted spends considerable time and effort trying to fix the only TV in the hotel so that he can witness the Mercury 9 rocket launch (which was a real flight that really did feature the first man in space for more than a day; unfortunately, from a continuity standpoint, this flight took place on May 15, 1963 and not after Kennedy's Berlin speech in the Summer of '63. OOPS).  What a nice hat tip to a generation enamored with the space age and to the fact that dreams never really die, sometimes they just get suppressed or locked away until we let them peek out in brief flashes.  This was Ted’s brief flash.  Through  flashbacks we learn that Ted’s father’s company was the defense contractor responsible for the flawed airplane and even though they subsequently discovered (and fixed) the bug in the gyroscope that caused Ted’s crash, Daddy Vanderway won’t jeopardize his company’s contract renewal with the military just to reopen Ted’s case and maybe save his shot at the space program. Cold Daddy V, real cold.  Instead, Daddy V gets Ted a job flying for Pan Am; he hooks it up through Juan Trippe (the founder of Pan Am) directly.  The whole series of flashbacks play out over the course of the hour while we see “Ted in real time” clearly rising towards a boiling point; aiding to that boil is the fact that Pilot Dean skipped over 65 other first officers to land in the Captain’s seat, including Dean.  Ted, knowing how his own father’s connections have intervened in his career, becomes sadly belligerent towards Dean while trying to uncover the mystery of how Dean was able to make the jump.  During a particularly harrowing, cross wind-filled landing into the Hong Kong airport (which Dean has never done before), Ted escalates his disapproval of Dean’s flying until the point where Dean needs to literally tell him to shut up.  Dean brings the plane down safely (though it looked like hell coming in, almost being perpendicular to the landing strip at one point); however, Ted is at full on boiling and can’t let his second guessing/nattering go.  Dean makes it clear to him that friends or not, in the air, Dean’s in charge.  And, if Ted can’t handle that, he needs to find a new ride.  Ted thinks Dean is showing a fair bit of hubris (I think he refers to Dean as a newly born Sky King, HA!) and finally admits out loud that he thinks he should be in Captain’s chair. When Dean tells him to get over himself OR have his daddy get him a Captain’s job, Ted decks him.  In a classy move, Dean doesn't retaliate. And Ted has a sad.  Two days elapse and on an awkward flight home, Dean is still sporting some black eye causing sunglasses.  Ted feels bad and make a lame attempt at an apology (while not revealing he was the cause of the punch to nosy Sanjiiv; seriously give that guy a spinoff off so we can find out what he does while they’re on the ground). Dean is still pissed but by time they land, he’s ready to tell Ted how he made the jump.  He spent 11 minutes in an elevator with Juan Trippe. Now, you might be thinking this is similar to the “seven minutes in heaven” game you played as a kid but you’d be wrong.  In his eleven minutes, Dean offered Trippe some unsolicited advice that if Trippe wanted Pan Am to be the future, he needed to abandon the seniority system and promote guys like him and Ted who represent the space age and move on from the WWII dinosaurs who sit a top of the seniority list.  He tell Ted it was simply being in the right place at the right time; Ted says you make your own luck. They're in love again. Awww

Kate:  While waiting outside for Laura to finish packing for Iceland, Laura get a visit from CIA guy who, once he’s done trying to scold her for the Germany mishap (which she is unapologetic for), tells her to keep her eyes open in Rangoon. Kate takes the message that there’s about to be a flight change and yells up to Laura to pack a swimsuit.  While she and her friends are lounging by the pool in Burma entertaining some Navy men, Kate is waved over to some toothless Burmanese man who gives her a camera and tells her to get it to Jakarta.  I need to stop a minute and say that I am completely okay with Pan Am only flying the ladies to tropical locations because, wow, they all look very good in their bikinis.  Once in Jakarta, Kate dashes to the Kantor Kabar Kawat (the cablegram office) and sends a message, “Mitchell, one souvenir. What destination? Kate.” After bribing the cablegram man to stay open well beyond normal closing hours, Kate gets a return message that the camera is to be dropped off basically next door to the cablegram office.  Oh, that’s just an inefficient use of people’s time CIA (which Kate points out to CIA guy during her debrief).  Anyway, Kate hoofs back to the hotel only to find the room ransacked  (from the salamander attack) and Laura and the camera missing.  Waiting in the hotel room, waiting in the hotel room, waiting in the hotel room. Laura finally returns and yes, she has the camera.  Kate grabs the camera and runs off (luckily Laura already thinks Kate’s a rude bitch or else she might be offended at her behavior).  Kate takes a super speedy rickshaw back to the drop off spot (hours after she was due to be there) only to find no one home. She decides to walk down an creepy alley where a strange man approaches her. Bracing herself for a mugging, the man simply grabs the camera and tells her she’s late.  By the way, Kate is wearing a smoking black dress and looks very good for middle of the night espionage.  When she finally catches up with Laura, they have a knock down drag out fight about how Laura is immature and if she wants to be a grown up, she has to act like one.  Laura counterpunches with a nice line about how Kate was lucky because no one ever expected anything from her.  That she was free to make her own way. As only Laura can, Kate is deeply stung.  In the debrief with the CIA, CIA guy shows her some pictures that Laura used while out on the town with Maggie, including a nice reflective picture of Kate.  CIA guy tells her that they are going to remove Laura from the flight team as she can’t be allowed to distract Kate from her missions; Kate stands up for Laura and tells him that Laura is capable and she won’t be a problem.  Well, she certainly won’t be a bad roommate anymore. After buying a camera as a means of mea culpa, Kate returns home to find Laura moved out.  Kate has a sad.

Laura:  Laura spends the episode being led around by Maggie. Once in Jakarta, after being attacked by a killer salamander and toilet snake, she and Maggie engage in very Maggie like activities such as playing dominos with foreign men; attending and betting on cock fights; eating the loser of the cock fight; and dancing on tabletops.  Maggie encourages her to “Go Native”. Indeed!  After a fight with Laura about being an adult and responsible and wearing Bunny Slippers!, Laura wanders down to Ted in the TV room. He makes fun of her curlers and she helps him watch the space launch by holding the rabbit ears up into the sky (god, I hated pointing rabbit ears).  She definitely likes something she sees in Ted’s boy like  wonder as he watches the launch. Yeah, she won’t be restricted airspace for much longer.  As the episode ends, we learn that Laura has moved out of Kate’s apartment and in with Maggie and her hippy boyfriend. She’s about to go off the rails on a crazy train, I can feel it.

Maggie:  Maggie spends the episode being a bad influence (or a liberating influence, depending on your point of view) on Laura. She’s also the one that tells Kate that joining Pan Am is the ultimate new beginning so let Laura begin. Oh, we also learn she can order beer in 15 languages.

Colette: Frenchy is completely invisible in this episode, except to drop some French wisdom about how the sisters are lucky in that they get to travel the world together as a job.


  1. Uh - Ted is arguing with the current Navy types because he was a former **Navy** test pilot. I mean - the US Navy uniform wasn't a dead giveaway?

  2. You are right that he was a Navy test pilot, not Air Force (corrected in the post now) but I think he was initially arguing with the current Navy pilots because of his bravado towards the sunbathing stewardesses. I think the flashbacks were triggered afterwards.