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Pan Am Archive Entries

Originally Posted on October 12, 2011

Pan Am
Episode 103
"Ich Bin Ein Berliner"

So, this week Pan Am took its first real foray into incorporating its fictional storyline into the backdrop of a very real and very famous historical moment, President Kennedy's speech at the Berlin Wall in the Summer of 1963.  The real treat in watching period piece television shows is the use of real events to bolster the escapism created by the nostalgic journey back in time. What good is putting a show into 1963 if its only going to cover the corn stalks growing in the bread basket of America?  Since its an important backdrop for the entire episode, lets preface the recap of the episode with an overview of the Kennedy Berlin Wall Speech and its place in history ... after the jump.

On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech full of optimism and good will and a sincere hope for the power of freedom to spread over now divided Germany. If you read the text of the speech here, I think you'll agree its a little slow going in the beginning but really starts pumping away at patriotic heart strings by the middle and ends with a flourish and the now famous line (which serves as the episode title), "Ich bin ein Berliner" (commonly translated as, "I am a citizen of Berlin" but which I have read translates more aptly as, "I am one with the people of Berlin." There may be something about jelly doughnuts too). Its a speech appealing to Americans at our DNA level and is full of American solidarity to our European and more specifically, West German allies.  Its reconciliation of WWII with those on the right side of the wall and repudiation of the Soviets and their methods following the conclusion of the war. 

At the time of this speech, the Berlin Wall was just shy of two years old and Kennedy's words stand out as a clear demonstration of the Cold War, as we would know it for the next thirty some years, as being in fully effect.    Historical records support Pan Am's breathtaking visualization of the speech being attended by hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Germans eager to see the young president.  The speech took place at the Rathaus Schöneberg (the city hall, I guess?) on Rudolph-Wilde-Platz (later renamed "John-F-Kennedy-Platz").  With that in mind, lets delve into the latest episode of Pan Am!

The overview theme of the episode is that the gang of four stewardesses together with Pilot Dean and Horny Ted are flying a group of journalists to Berlin for coverage of the Kennedy speech at the Berlin Wall.  The episode follows the gang as they wander Berlin, get caught up in the rush of people headed to Kennedy's speech (they are even led to an awesome perch from which to view the speech by an old guy that could be Orville Redenbaccher's German cousin) and navigate a US Mission party afterwards.

Colette:  Before we start on Colette's story tonight, let me say that Karine Vanasse, who plays Colette, really knocked the ball out of the park this episode.  She delivered a very real, emotional performance. It made me really enjoy the whole episode.  We open the episode with Colette staring wistfully at the flight board as it rolls over to announce the Berlin flight. She flirty flirts with Pilot Dean some more and she (I think insincerely) tells him that their time in Paris was a nice moment, nothing more.  I call bullshit!!  But thats the end of any happiness this episode with Colette.  Colette struggles the entire rest of the episode with coming to Germany; we learn she was orphaned at the age of three when the Nazis began their occupation of France.  On the way up to the perch to view Kennedy's speech, travelling up among the throng of rushing people, she has a PTSD-like episode wherein she is  flashing back to or imagining the Nazi coming to get her; its very chaotic and the viewer is put in to her point of view for the confusion.  Adding to the uneasiness is the intonation of Kennedy's speech beginning in the background. The whole this is Disturbing. In a good television watching way. Colette never does make it to the window to watch the speech, never getting further than the back of the room where she quietly sobs. Kate sees her but takes it for being moved by the speech.  Later, on the way into the US Mission party, Colette begins a third degree interrogation of Gretta on the role her parents played during the war. Awkward.  Inside the US Mission party, after getting drunk and being less than hospitable to a German aviation official, Colette serenades the official and the entire party with a gritty, emotionally heavy, hate-laden rendition of "Deutschland über alles" (Germany! Germany Above All!) (The German National Anthem which is actually entitled, "Das Lied der Deutschen" or "The Song of Germans"). She's completely fallen apart.  She ends the episode, alone on a plane with Kate sitting next to her and delivers the following line which really sums up everything above, "your president tried so hard to lift their shame ... but the should feel shame.  I came to Germany to forgive but I still hate them and I don't know to stop." And Scene. Wow.

Kate:  A subway ride turns into a clandestine meeting for CIA guy for her next assignment. She's to buy a certain book in a Berlin bookstore and bring the book home. She's to say to the clerk "Ich möchte ein Buch kaufen" (which we learn later means, "I've come or I want to buy a book").  The only problem is that before she works up the nerve to enter the bookstore, a frantic East German courier (who IMDB names as Anke but I'll stick with Gretta Mueller, the cover name give her later in the episode), Kate's contact, full on "schnell, schnells"  her into a car and they drive off.  Gretta is being stalked by the Stasi (secret police) and wasn't able to make the dropoff before Kate arrived.  Also, she thinks her life is danger so Kate spends the rest of the episode pulling a "Bridget", i.e., not following her orders, while trying to help Gretta defect and, oh yeah, probably screwing up the cold war in the process.  After Kate sneaks Gretta into a party for Kennedy at the US Mission and hooking her up with a well known journalist who in turn will hopefully help her defect, MI-6 scolds her for messing things up but good. Kate seems to think it was worth it. MI-6 tells her to "just follow order" and that she "has no idea what it takes to keep a cold war cold." I really liked that line.

Laura:  Laura is bedazzled by the enormity of the people and the speech and the scene; she's like every wide eyed twenty something caught up in reverie. Horny Ted is too and they share a nice moment with a brief hand holding as they listen to Kennedy's speech. When Horny Ted makes a move to kiss Laura, the spell is broken and she pulls away. Horny Ted is unrepentant for making a move and at the end of the episode tells her that she's different from other girls. She takes this is as a compliment.

Maggie:  After Colette's emotional journey, this was the most fun storyline to watch. Maggie, an unabashed Kennedy fanatic is super psyched to be heading to Berlin and determined to meet Kennedy. After picking out one particular journalist, Mike (who she insists on calling Michael) Ruskin of the Village Voice, to manipulate into a press pass, Maggie goes into hyper, crazy overdrive to meet Kennedy.  I like the throwaway conversation when Maggie is working Manchester (the same guy that helps Gretta later on) on gaining access to the US Mission party that Kennedy has some peccadillos best not left for public consumption; liking stewardesses being among them.  This leads her to pimp out her fellow stewardesses in order to crash the party at the US Mission (to no avail since Kennedy had already come and gone by the time she got in). As a last ditch effort to achieve her dream, she chooses to blow off her return flight home to NY in order to try and stalk out Air Force One which she learns has not yet departed.  In a hysterical stream of conscious pleading to a secret service guy (it involves a great story about how she was supposed to meet Kennedy because she logged more volunteer hours than anyone else but then an ill-timed bathroom break led to Marcia Phillips getting to meet him in her spot) which ends in an out and out bribe of (Horny Ted's) Cuban Cigars, known to be Kennedy's favorites in exchange for a meeting.  She gets a big thankful wave from a backlit Kennedy on the top steps of Air Force One which she returns with a slight coquettish or embarrassed little wave of her own.  Mission Totally Accomplished!

Pilot Dean: Dean doesn't have so much to do in this episode except to bitch about how hard it is to drink and smoke because it leads to dancing with hot French women (i.e., Colette) in town squares, and play the American pilot ambassador role.  After hearing Kennedy's speech, the effect is palpable on Dean and he is clearly now a "four more years of Kennedy" kind of convert.  Ted is bemused at the change of heart.

Originally Posted on October 4, 2011

Pan Am
Episode 102
"We'll Always Have Paris"

The second episode of Pan Am was a solid follow-up to the premiere. By keeping the core cast to a relatively small size, each character is getting a decent amount of time for development.  It also looks like the show is settling into a  little storytelling rhythm, foundations laid in the pre-flight scenes; the playing out of the action on board (aided by some useful flashbacks); and a varying size of wrap-up, based in whatever city we're flying to. So far, the device works.  Lets get into tonight's action. Buckle up, let's go.

Colette (Valois, we learn everyone's last name this episode as if they realized they forgot to fully name everyone in the pilot): Colette's storyline this week is pretty much to be flirty, flirty with Pilot Dean and to be a sexy French woman. she's very excited to be headed to Paris, to be able to take in the smells of home.  She also has some serious flirty time with Dean, especially after he picks her up on the side of the rode (her taxi had broken down o the way to the airport) and make a deal with him to be his 1950's era housewife (e.g., cooks his meals, bring him drinks) if she gets to drive his sweet convertible.  She also helps Pilot Dean track down the Mysteriously Missing Bridget in a famous Parisian bar, La Palette.  She also is the one that breaks it Dean that Bridget had a whole secret marriage thing going on.  Last scene her dancing very cheek to cheek with Dean in an open square.  Both of them being "lost".

Laura (Cameron):  As in the pilot, we continue with fallout from Laura running away from home on the day of her wedding.  Momma Cameron is on the flight to Paris this week and she has come to make amends with Laura. After a sweet moment on the plane, she make it clear that she is not mad at Laura and Laura reassures her that she still needs Momma Cameron in her life.  Laura's LIFE cover has also made Momma Cameron the belle of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) ball, figuratively speaking ... I think. Once in Paris, Momma Cameron spring dumped fiance Greg on Laura and ... she runs again.  Greg eventually finds her hotel room and they have a nice heart to heart where he basically tells her to go make her own adventure.  Nice resolution to this plot (and please be over, because if this is all Laura is about, she's going to be a fast forward character for sure).  A hope in this regard is a scene between Laura and Kate where Laura shows her sister a picture she found from when they were kids; wherein the 2 sisters were standing in front of the Eiffel Tower -- symbolic of the two of them starting to live their dreams?

Kate (Cameron):  "Red-headed Cameron" (that made me laugh for some reason) has 2 plots going this week. The first, obviously, is dealing with the Laura/Momma Cameron drama.  Kate is an interesting character because she clearly is equal parts jealous of Momma C's overt affection for Laura but at the same time, has clearly turned the black sheep thing into a powerful self-confidence which allows her to be successful in her own right.  We get some flashback treatment of how Kate, as a running theme, fights Laura's battles as relates to her parents and how, in turn, Momma Cameron explicitly blames Kate for poorly influencing Laura into the reckless, hussy-like lifestyle of Pan Am stewardess.  Momma Cameron shows some love to Kate at the end of the episode; she shows Kate her passport, which was obtained the summer Kate (and not Laura) became a stewardess (a nice callback to Kate's earlier dig at her mother that Momma C didn't even have a passport, while Kate gets to see the world).  Kate's second storyline is her US intelligence mission. She is to deliver a small, wrapped gift-box to a contact in Paris.  She'll know the contact by a series of coded phrases about the wrong time.  Her contact turns out to be Mysterious Bridget!!!

Maggie (Ryan):  We continue to develop Maggie's feisty version of feminism in this episode. First, we see her take on Frau Stickinherass (Miss Havemeyer, the Pan Am den mother that does weight checks) and then, in her main plot line, she is forced to deal with a "boozy jerk." After trying to professionally put of the boozy jerk, she is forced to stab him with a serving fork when he goes in for a grope section in the galley. Maggie also gives us the name of this post when, post-forking, she make it clear she will not be mile high clubbing it with this guy.  Fratboy Ted (Vanderway), who saved Maggie from Frau Stickinherass's retribution in the flight lounge, smooths things over with boozy jerk, calming him down with a free double scotch. Maggie feels like Ted has basically told boozy jerk its okay to continue acting in his boozy jerky self and slams the door on Ted's face at the end of the episode.

Pilot Dean (Lowrey): Spends most of the episode trying to figure out what happened to Bridget; though he does a fair bit of flirting with Colette.    He flashbacks to six months earlier, when he and Bridget went to La Palette and Dean got to act all jealous of the snotty French maitre d'. He also spies a British guy (who we know as Kate's MI-6 contact) arguing with Bridget when she excuses herself for a moment.  That scene will definitely become relevant down the road (presumably when he sees Kate talking to the same guy).  Anyway, Dean gets pretty crocked in the present time after he finds out from snotty French Maitre d', through translator Colette, that Bridget was actually married.  We end with Dean looking like he might want to consummate his flirty time with Colette.

Mysterious Bridget (Pierce, but we knew that from the pilot):  Bridget tuns out to be Kate's contact of the week. When they move into a nearby church for their clandestine meeting/hand-off of the mysterious box (everything surrounding Bridget is Mysterious), we learn that six months ago, Bridget screwed up. In an attempt to correct what she thought was a botched mission, she compromised her secret identity and was sidelines by the US/British intelligence services (that was the chewing out MI-6 guy was giving her in Dean's flashback of the same event).  When Kate asks what in the box (not a head like in Seven when Brad Pitt asks Kevin Spacey the same question), Bridget reveals the documents of a new life.  For her own safety, Bridget is gone and she will now be Elizabeth Reese of Kansas City, Missouri.  God, that sounds awful.  Is this it for Bridget? I feel like we'll see her again from time to time (at the very last in Dean flashbacks).

Au revoir for now. See you next week!

Originally Posted on September 26, 2011

Pan Am
Episode 101

The opening scenes of Pan Am make it very clear that we are in the 1960s and that Jackie Onassis has influenced the style sense of every American woman (the title card that tells us its 1963 helps).  Say whatever you want about this show, its effing beautiful.  The set directors and cinematographers deserve Emmys based on the Pilot episode alone.  Moving on.  The premise of the show is pretty straightforward. We will be following the professional (and personal, duh?) lives of 4 stewardesses employed by the eponymous Pan American Airways Incorporated in the golden age of intercontinential jet travel; when flying was fun and luxurious and no one though putting bombs in their underwear for Christmas funsies.  The historical accuracy of the show is not necessarily something to get hung up on since its a good story they are telling in any case, but I will brush up on my Pan Am lore and its place in history as the show progresses. Their mission today will take them on the inaugural flight of Pan Am's latest Clipper Jet, the Clipper Majestic, from NYC to London.  There is also a newly promoted Captain, a fratboy-esque first officer and a mysteriously missing stewardess named Bridget.  Let's figure out we are ... after the jump.

This show isn't so big on last names so I will forgo them unless the show indicates we should care.

Collete (played by Karine Vanasse):  An experienced stewardess who inadvertently sleeps with married men during layovers in romantic European cities like Rome.  She is entirely professional even when confronted by one such married man's family and directly confronted by the wife said married man at the conclusion of the flight.  Stay French Colette!

Kate (played by Kelli Garner): An experienced stewardess; the kick ass older sister to new stewardess Laura (she helped Laura escape her wedding in an awesome red convertible, while causing property damage in the process); AND the newest spy/courier for the CIA and MI-6 intelligence services. While having to deal with being on the same flight team as her baby sister (who has been christened the face of pan Am much to older sis's chagrin), she also has to carry out her first espionage mission; switching out the passport of a German passenger so that he is detained at customs ... she successfully completes her mission though it takes the entire intercontinental flight to do so.  Turns out, it was a test. The German passenger was in fact her new MI-6 (the British CIA for those that don't ready spy novels) handler.  We'll be seeing more of him.

Laura (played by Margot Robbie):  The newest Pan Am stewardess, she's only been flying 3 weeks.  Upon graduating from stewardess school, her picture was snapped by a photog for LIFE magazine and she was pictured on the cover of the magazine's latest issue about the ushering in of the "Jet Age".  She is clearly self-conscious and embarrassed by the attention this garners her but she is a natural beauty and fits right in with what the Pan Am stewardess should be.  She's going to be the Peggy from Mad Men and the show seems set up to really follow her as a central character. She's also the younger sister to flight teammate Kate and a runaway bride he was being shoehorned into a stereotypical 50's era wedding scenario by her close-minded mother.

Maggie (played by Christina Ricci):  An experienced stewardess who clearly has a rebel streak but also is clearly valued for her skills. She is sitting at home in the Village with her hippie dippy boyfriend (though those labels are so 1950s man ...) when she gets the call that Pan Am needs her to cover mysteriously missing Bridget's Purser spot on the Clipper Majestic. She hightails it (in a great old-fashioned NYC cab) to the Pan Am building in Midtown where she is helicoptered to the runway and boards just in time.  Maggie, I'd like to point out, was in the Bay of Pigs extraction flashback so she's clearly been around the block.  By the way, a Purser is the head stewardess on a flight and is like the boss of the flight cabin.

Dean  (played by Mike Vogel):  The newly promoted Pan Am captain and not secret paramour of the mysteriously missing Bridget.  Dean is piloting his first flight on Clipper Majestic run.  His maybe best friend is the frat-boy like Ted (played by Michael Mosley), a guy who clearly digs the new woman that the Pan Am stewardess represents and would like to sleep with as many of them as possible.  Dean is no stranger to danger, having been the first officer on an evacuee flight of Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs affair.  When Dean finds out that Bridget has resigned from Pan Am, he thinks its because she's decide to accept his proposal of marriage ... he's wrong.

Bridget (played by Annabelle Wallis):  Bridget is the not so secret lover of pilot Dean. She was also due to be the Purser on the Clipper Majestic flight but has seemingly disappeared.  We find out that she has in fact quit Pan Am.  Through flashbacks and some exposition (that you could have figured out from the flashbacks if yo knew where to look), we establish that Bridget was the previous "spy/courier" for the US and British governments and that she was the one that recommended Kate as her replacement.  We see her at the end of the episode spying on Dean in a bar and then we see her jumping in a car and speeding off.  We haven't see the last of Bridget but I have to imagine her clandestine role increased exponentially.

Pan Am is going to be a hit for ABC and it should be. Its fresh, engaging and has a great story to tell.  The flashback device was a little clunky in the Pilot; I think mainly due to its use for over the head exposition. That being said, I can see it being a great aid in the storytelling device, just as the "whoosh" flashbacks were in LOST -- they really help in understanding a character's motivations.  So buckle in, adventure calls. See you all next week!