“One Coin in a Fountain”

Posted on October 24, 2011

As a wise philosopher once said, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life.” So it is with Pan Am. This episode gave us a little bit of both and it’s a bit illustrative of the fact that the creators of this show are taking the “spaghetti/refrigerator” approach of throwing it all with great force, to see which pieces stick, revealing that they don’t really have a firm grasp of the characters, the format, and what to do with it all.

Gosh, that sounded far more damning and serious than we intended. This isn’t trying to be Mad Men and we’re all for keeping the expectations at a certain level here. The goal is more to have fun than to spend too much time dissecting, after all. We have to keep reminding ourselves to think of this more like a glossy Aaron Spelling-style classic; the Love Boat crossed with Charlie’s Angels, in period costumes. But Spelling’s best shows were the ones where he had a rock-solid idea of the concept and the characters. We aren’t really getting that here.

Oh sure, there’s already a formula and it’s simple: every episode involves a flight to a destination, time spent in that destination, and then the return flight home where the repercussions of their trip play out on the flight crew to sometimes vague resolutions, leaving just enough hanging for there to be overarching storylines. And this time around, we even got some movement in certain stories, with Kate getting her most complicated assignment yet and Laura putting a firm close on a chapter of her life while another one (stop us if you’ve heard this before) opens up right in front of her. Also, the captain gets over Bridget with a gold digger.

The Kate stuff we were fine with. We were happy to see her given something to do besides shuttling books and cameras all over the world and the assignment – to get herself invited to a Monte Carlo casino and get the fingerprints of a Russian spy – had just enough of the classic period spy thriller about it to be exciting and fun – with the added bonus of some really gorgeous gowns, to boot. Really, we never could have predicted it, but the spy stuff so far remains the best, most entertaining part of the show. But here’s where we got annoyed, the story was laying some serious groundwork for a potential Maggie vs. Kate showdown, what with the latter making a bold and inexplicable (to anyone who doesn’t know she’s a spy) move on the former’s current flirtation. With the vaguely referenced tension between them over Laura moving in with Maggie, we got the impression that this was going to be adding more fuel to the fire, but one breathless plea from Kate and Maggie almost happily hands the guy over to her. That’s a bit too “network TV” for us. Too “wrapped up.” Why not have a serious falling out between the two characters? You have to add interpersonal drama somewhere in this mix and Christina Ricci’s Maggie remains seriously undefined.

And continuing in that “too network TV for T Lo” vein, we think even the hint of a romance between Laura and Ted is a terrible idea so early in the show. Even if it plays out in that annoying, drawn out, will-they-or-won’t-they manner and nothing happens between them for a long time, it’s still limiting Laura’s character very early on. The only interesting thing about her is that she ran away from the altar. If she’s running into Ted’s arms (even if only in the eyes of the audience), immediately following that character-defining moment, then she’s reduced to the Bad Romance Girl; defined by the men she’s running away from or the men she’s resisting. We suppose it gives Ted something to do, but we remain committed to the idea that people aren’t tuning in because of the flight crew. We would have been happier if everyone flying the plane remain mostly in the background.

Unfortunately, the creators don’t seem to agree because not only did we spend a lot of time with Ted coming to Laura’s rescue, we got Dean getting his freak on with a slightly slutty mistress of a high-ranking Pan Am executive. Whatever. The focus should always be on those four stewardesses. All that time with Ted and Dean left less time for Maggie, who remains maddeningly undefined, and virtually no time for Collette, which is the biggest indicator of all that the creators don’t know what they have and what to do with it. Kate’s spying and Collette doing anything are the two strongest parts of the show. We’re happy that they’re developing Kate nicely – especially now that she’s got a glamorous boyfriend to go along with the glamorous adventures – but they’re not giving the latter anything to do at all. And she STILL steals any scene in which she’s given a line. There’s no reason why all four female characters can’t be given a little something to do in each episode and have their stories – whatever they may be in Collette’s and Maggie’s cases – moved forward slightly each week. Show of hands: Is anyone really all that interested in Dean and his rebound girl? Or Ted and his career/daddy issues?

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  • Yes! Love your inspirational quote. I should crossstitch that on a pillow or something.
    What is interesting: the stewardesses, especially Kate and Collette, and maybe Maggie.
    What is not interesting: Laura’s love life, the two pilots they focus on, and I guess the Indian navigator dude in the cockpit that no one socializes with outside of the plane.
    I could use less of this Lost/Memento timefuck plotlines. Would the Laura-ring thing storyline be any less interesting if the narrative played out in chronological order? The spy/girlfight and gold digger plots ran forward and the dull trip to Harlem ran backwards, seeded throughout the episode.

    • BuffaloBarbara

      Yes–the time thing is just bizarre.  I ran in to the same thing in “Once Upon A Time.”  Why in the world would you not just do the backstory, then go on and tell the real story… unless you think the real story doesn’t have any interest?  If there’s no legitimate reason to use a weird technique, then don’t do it.  It just detracts from the story.

      • Sobaika Mirza

        Sometimes the technique works – Lost is a great example of how it was useful to the plot and executed well. 

        But I had the same issue with this episode and with Once Upon A Time (which I was prepared to love but didn’t). I think it’s the fact that all the time jumping doesn’t make it a better show. The flashy techniques can’t fill in the holes of what is a pretty empty story to begin with.

  • No, I don’t give a rat’s patoot about those pilots, especially since they only focus on the two bland pale boys and not at all on the cute Indian navigator. 

    • they have a cute Indian navigator and they don’t even bother to explain how he managed to rise to such a position as a minority? FOR SHAME. 

    • Sobaika Mirza

      It’s maddening since the Indian navigator is the only one of interest. How did he get the position? Are there other foreigners in his position? Does he hold a grudge against the pilots, considering he’s left out of everything?

      I don’t care if it’s anachronistic or not, he’s the only male with something worth exploring and they’re not exploring it.

      • Well, I don’t know if we’d ever get any kind of decent story bout the navigator because I see a lot of modern day “sass” (as my mom would call it) coming from those stewardesses mouths. Seems like the clothing and the cars are the only references to the 1960s in this show. I somehow doubt they said “wuss” back then.

      • Anonymous

        I completely agree. I mean they have him there and I care much more about what his story is than the other two.

      • Anonymous

        I agree Sobaika Mirza, but I think you and I have tread down this path in previous weeks! Hopefully, the producers are reading this blog and are seeing that we are interested in him, moreso than the other guys. I suggest this. Dean gets fired for sleeping with his boss’s mistress, Ted becomes the captain he’s always wanted to be, and Sanjeev becomes co-pilot. Or, in a better twist, Sanjeev becomes the pilot and Ted is passed over again. Then we can explore the potential anachronism’s with Sanjeev’s position.

  • Apparently Collette (Karine Varnasse) will not be getting proper billing until the November episodes, which could explain her not getting screentime in the latest two episodes.

  • Sobaika Mirza

    I wish the producers of this show read your recaps. It’s losing my interest very quickly.

  • Anonymous

    I read on the AV Club that last week’s episode was actually supposed to be the second one aired, which would have at least broken up the Colette-lessness.  I think they were aiming for Colette to be jealous of Dean’s new squeeze, but since she essentially didn’t appear last episode we lost the thread.  Besides, she’s amaze-balls and is so much better than Dean in every way I don’t want her to wind up with him anyway.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so confused about Christina Ricci’s character…besides not wearing a girdle and being slightly more outspoken than the other characters, how is she a beatnik? It’s all so unextreme.

  • Anonymous

    Still watching, but getting a little irritated.Ted could definitely go away. That whole ring arc was pointless…now Laura is just indebted to a different guy for the same ring. And Kate doesn’t get paid to be a spy? Anybody that would put their life and career on the line for nothing is a moron. And everytime I see the Pilots 2011 hair I want to scream.

    • MilaXX

      THIS! So much for her gaining her freedom.

    • Anonymous

      Well, I didn’t see her so much as indebted as he owed her. She was going to get her ring back and he F’ed it up, so he had to go back and fix it.

  • Judy_J

    I’m becoming highly annoyed with this show.  I want to like it, but I just can’t; at least, not the way it is currently written.  Maggie and Collette have become background players, which is unfortunate, because I think they are the most interesting.  Kate’s spy adventures are just too corny to be real.  And how did she come up with the cash to buy that designer gown? Did I miss something?  She and her sister are becoming so trite and cliche.  I’d like to see more drama, less fluff.

    • Anonymous

      Kate asked her sister how much money she had while looking at the dress in the window. One assumes that between the two of them, they had enough to buy it….a stretch by any means, but this is TV-land!

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know.  I had the sense that they came from money.  After all, mom was able to hop an international flight just to chat up her daughters.

  • Anonymous

    The answer is “nope” to your last two questions. Don’t care a lick about the cockpit crew. Want more Collette, and at this point, less Maggie…unless they give her something to do besides make those creepy googly eyes at men and/or situations. Seriously, her eyes give me the creepy creepies. Also, kudos to the costumer of this show – pretty much every dress/outfit all those women had on last night were gorgeous and need to be in my closet STAT!

  • MilaXX

    Nope could care less about the pilots. Loved the clothes last night and even though they aren’t a good as Mad Men with sticking to the period, I adore watching them. On an even shallower note, I was drooling iver seeing the beautiful Goran Visic(sp?) back on my tv screen.

  • Anonymous

    You guys definitely got it right. I could care less about the pilots but it doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting any focus pulled away from them anytime soon. I agree about Collette and Kate being not only the most interesting characters but having the most interesting parts. Kate’s spy gig continues to be fun while I just really really wish they would give Collette more of a role in each episode rather than giving her just that one episode of focus every now and then. I know they’ve only got an hour but it would seem that they can at least give main focus to 3 or so characters at a time. Take that time away from the pilots and maybe we could let all the girls have more screentime and thus perhaps more time for character development. I’ll care more for Maggie if they too would just give her something to do (that whole Kennedy thing wasn’t that good though) but from next week’s preview maybe we will finally see more of who she is?

  • BuffaloBarbara

    I’m interested in the pilots, but couldn’t care less about the rebound girl. Previews look like at least Maggie’s going to get an episode dealing with it, though.  I’m, at any rate, as interested in the guys as the girls.  I’d prefer to see them get equal screen time.  I think men can be as interesting as women, with the right writers.  Unfortunately, I am equally interested in the men and women, and that interest level is not all that high.  Wondering where Sanjiv is in all of it.  Are Indian men not interesting?

    I’m actually sort of interested in Laura/Ted.  I think they all thought Dean would be the interesting one, while Ted is in the “kind of a jerk” mode, but it’s turning out the other way.  So far, Dean’s the only one we’ve seen who can’t keep his fly zipped at crucial moments. (One of my great annoyances in network TV.)

    I keep waiting for the spy plot to be revealed as a big practical joke that Bridget is playing on Kate.  There are all these hints about how she’s not getting paid, and can’t get anything done, and only has the two major contacts.

    I agree that they don’t seem aware of what species of show they’ve caught here–I’m not sure I agree about what it ought to be.

    • Anonymous

      YES! Another vote for developing Sanjeev’s character! 

      • BuffaloBarbara

        Heh, yes, I wrote before I read the rest of the comments, and I was so glad to see I wasn’t the only one going, “WTF?  Everyone else gets time.  Why not Sanjiv?” Maybe he could be worked into the Cold War plot, based on India in the 60s still leaning socialist under the aging Nehru.  On the other hand, it would be very refreshing to have them treat an Indian character just as a character, and give him a plot that has nothing to do with his ethnic identity.  Everyone else on the plane seems to be single.  Maybe he could get a plot about the difficulty of being away so much when he has a family at  home.  His wife has suddenly started to be a political agitator, and it starts to come back on him at work, but he doesn’t want to talk to  her about it, because he doesn’t see her often enough to make a visit into a fight…


        I’m a big fan of more Sanjiv.

        • Anonymous

          That would be good, but they have a guy with an American accent. So maybe an alternate frame would be that he’s facing a marriage he doesn’t want to get into? Or when his family moved to the US (as opposed to Britain during the period). There’s so much THERE to work with for his character!

          • BuffaloBarbara

            I’d definitely rather see him in a happy marriage–just to contrast with the rest of the romantic shenanigans on the show.  There aren’t enough good marriages.  But yeah–I’d like to see her as a political agitator not related to Indian issues.  Maybe she’s in the early feminist movement.  Maybe she’s involved in civil rights stuff in the south and rubs an exec the wrong way.

            The American accent is an interesting point (it doesn’t mean there aren’t any relatives in the old country, or that there’s no interest in Indian culture, but it does suggest a certain level of assimilation).  It’s not an often-explored immigrant group, in mass pop culture.

      • Anonymous

        Absolutely! I’d much rather they follow him.
        You know, for all its warts, I’m loving this trashy pulpy show. I needed trash TV last night, and Pan Am delivered.

    • Sobaika Mirza

      Funny how a few random commenters on a blogging site can come up with more engaging storylines for a tertiary character than the writers were able to for their leads, one of whom is a movie star who probably took a big risk and paycut in order to do the show. There is so much that could be done with the Sanjeev, along with Colette and Maggie, that all the wasted potential is really irritating to me.

  • Anonymous

    Well, they lost me with this episode, I actually shut it off and went to bed. The problem for me is the two lead actors who play the pilots are not interesting or charismatic enough for me to care who they end up with. The ladies are more interesting but the sub-plot with  Laura pursuing her ring in Harlem was just lame and annoying which only served to  highlight the lack of chemistry between those characters and the limitations of Kelli Garner’s acting ability. Sigh, cross another new show off my list.

  • Logo Girl

    I wanted the mistress to turn out to be the spy. That would have been creepy, with her flirting her way into the cockpit.

    • I thought that was what was going to happen. Kate infiltrating the pilot’s boan session.

  • Anonymous

    Show of hands: I am NOT AT ALL interested in Dean as a character…too shallow. Believe it or not, I am interested in Ted, especially given his storyline last week, and I STILL am interested in Sanjeev (maybe because I have the hots for him doing all that navigating and stuff).
    But, I did not like last night’s episode. I missed Colette, though it did seem that they’re laying groundwork for her, in that with her eyes I felt she was telling a story about some kind of emergent jealousy about Dean….Unfortunately, I think she can do much better than him. Nevertheless, I think it’s obvious that there is some attraction on her part and she’s paying close attention from the distance. But dammit, producers, I WANT MORE!
    I’ve pretty much given up on Maggie as a character. Unless they start to play up her Bohemian qualities, she’s lost to me. She’s so obviously faking her flirting with her big doe eyes and acting all stupid. If anything, the story should play up how she’s not really cut out for the Pan Am thing because she’s not good at faking it. Then we have an even better juxtaposition between her and Kate.
    I love Kate, but I don’t want this to turn into a show about sisters only. I hope it can be about the sisterhood of the travelling Pan Am bag, though.

  • Absolutely agree, couldn’t care less about the boys. Laura is maddeningly annoying, if it was just Kate/Maggie/ Collette as the main threesome I would be fine with that.  As a fellow Croatian, I hope Kate’s squeeze G.Visnjic sticks around a while longer 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I found Dean and the rebound cringe worthy and Ted seems so boring. I vote for more Collette!

  • tylka5

    Agree! Drop the flight crew story lines, more Maggie and more Colette please.

  • Anonymous

    It seemed better than the last two episodes but I would enjoy the show a more if they were to switch in different crew members — wow, “Kate” has a killer bod! 

    • Yes, I had no idea she was hiding that until this episode!

  • The female characters on this show are sooooooooooo much stronger than the male characters (including Kate and Laura’s mother) that in answer to your two questions, I’m not that interested in what happens to Ted or Dean.  However, the slutty mistress of the Pan Am exec IS way more interesting than Ted himself and I couldn’t help wishing she were one of the stewardesses.  I like the chemistry and I do find it fun waiting for them to get caught.  Plus, the writers are sooooooooooooo gearing toward a reunion between Bridgette and Ted.  *sigh*  Sad that the plots for hunky pilot Ted are so predictable.

    While waiting for a breakout plot for Collette which never came, I kept feeling like I had seen her before.  I IMDBed her to no avail.  And then I realized she seriously reminds me of Madeline from the “Madeline” books I had when I was a child.  Seriously!  With her hair the way she wears it, she looks like a grown-up Madeline…http://www.madeline.com/   Can I get a witness?

    • Anonymous

      I am not sure why you were unable to IMDB the actress.  Simply type “Pan Am” in the search box and go to the show’s page.  Then scroll down the cast list and click on her name.  You will then be able to read her biography and see her filmography.  From reading her message board I gathered she was a breakout star as a teen in French Canadian film and television with some quite juicy roles.

      There is a thread on her board about her temperment or some such.  I thought, “Oh, no, please don’t tell me she’s difficult to work with” because I just discovered her on “Pan Am” and I think she is so wonderful — has the acting chops and is adorable, and has a certain je n’est c’est quois sexiness with those Bambi eyes so clearly taking in everything from under the fringe of her bangs.  (Sorry if my French spelling is incorrect.)  Well, maybe the OP of the thread had a negative comment but then voila!, the man who played piano while she sang “Deutchland, Deutchland” actually posted and said she was a pleasure to work with, that she asked his opinion, couldn’t have been more polite and pleasant, etc.  I basically gave you the goods here but I would encourage you to read it for yourself because I didn’t quote verbatim and it was such fun to read.

      Witness here.  Yes, she looks a bit like how Madeline would as an adult.  I love the depiction of the nun/teacher in the illustrations of the Madeline series.  Did Collette not say in this last episode she was going to a church?  That’s how I heard it.  She’s been almost quiet as a mouse and keeping to herself it seems.  My imagination and perhaps an instinct is compelling me to think that Collette is contemplating the contemplative life as a nun; or there is just something going on with her internal life for which perhaps she attends church to help with those internal struggles.  If I’m right this could be why her character is for now quiet and will make for an interesting story arc to come.  But I could be wrong. 🙂  I have a thing about nuns.  I’m not Catholic but I find them fascinating and lovely.  Think Audrey Hepburn in “A Nun’s Story.”  Anyway, I started to make all these associations because you brought up “Madeline.”  I’ll stop now before I make too much a fool of myself if I haven’t already.  I hope I helped on the IMDB thing.

      • I phrased that incorrectly.  I DID indeed find her on IMDB but none of her previous roles I had seen.  So I kept pondering where I may have seen her and realized she reminded me of a grown-up version of Madeline from the “Madeline” children’s books…

        THANK YOU for your opinion. Seriously! You are NO fool! 🙂

        • Anonymous

          Aw, that was kind of you to say.  I’m too self-conscious for my own good.  Thanks for clarifying about IMDB.  I just had to respond because I really enjoyed learning about her and wanted others to know about some of the info I found (the piano man).  Just to vent:  I have a love/hate relationship with IMDB.  There is some interesting and intellectual discourse and then there are the juvenile posts where, no matter what, someone turns whatever the subject into slime and sleaze.  And the insults!  If there were a computer program to count how many times posters call each other “idiot” and if I had a dollar for each of those times I’d have enough to pay both Mondo and Jay to be my, and mine alone, personal couturier for life.  My dream team.  

          • YOU sound like a youngin’.  I am what they refer to as “mature”.  Who are Mondo and Jay?

          • Anonymous

            They are past Project Runway contestants.

  • BerlinerNYC

    I thought the episode was a bit on the boring side, but the editing was hilarious, when Kate, vexed at the KGB agent wearing those Miss Piggy gloves, says, “I’d prefer something red,” and it immediately cut to her frantically apologizing and fetching the club soda. I was still chuckling about that this morning. Other than Maggie’s little trick to get Kate to do work for her (after already having punished her by banishing her to economy) when she didn’t want the Yugoslavian in the first place, there wasn’t much else memorable last night.

  • Anonymous

    Here are my random ramblings. Okay, who cares about Laura’s love life? Not me. She’s dull and, as you say, is becoming defined by the men in her life. Dull. I couldn’t care less about the pilots although I’d like to know something about Sanjeev. It’s 1963. How did he land this job? Kate’s spy story line is interesting enough I suppose and so far I’ve found Maggie to just be annoying. I want to see more Collette.

    Bottom line: the cars were the best part of this episode. I had to wipe the drool off my keyboard! 

  • Anonymous

    I did catch one error that kind of niggled at me. When Kate said she would like wine, her beau asked if they would prefer “Chardonnay? Sauvignon Blanc?”  Back in the early 60s, in Monaco, wouldn’t it have been more like Chablis or Sancerre?

    • I objected to the use of the word “wuss” in the dialog. Urban dictionary backs me up; it was possibly coined in 1964 by a schoolkid so it’s doubtful that it would be used in conversation by a pilot the year before.

      There was another word they used too. It’s not that I’m trying to be nitpicky, but the modern day hair really takes the show out of the early ’60s, and the language and attitudes of the characters places them in the mid-’80s.

  • This show needs to figure out what it is and commit. bleh.

  • I’m dropping it. I might go back to it once the season is over but not now. The absolute best character is Colette and I’ve had to watch two episodes with barely a glance at her.

    I have enough shows to watch already and this isn’t really interesting anymore. :/

  • yuju ti

    This show keeps disappointing me. They will lose me if they don’t give me more Maggie next week.

  • I kind of liked Dean’s rebound girl (she was sassy!) but I don’t really care about the flight crew either.

  • Anonymous

    Frankly, the only interest I have in the pilots is if they are:
    in a bathing suit
    only wearing a towel.
    The less said by them, the better. Give the show back to the women and get on with it. Colette is a treasure and they obviously didn’t catch it in production or are just stupid(which I think is probably the case given the poor writing of 99% of network television).
    Oh, and I want a Pan Am blanket now. Stupid show! lol.

    • Anonymous

      I’m craving the flight bags.

      • Anonymous

        Me too! I had one as a kid, it was ancient and I played with it until it completely fell apart.

  • I don’t care about Dean, but I do like Ted.  I think they could use him sparingly, though. I agree there should be more Collette, but I am really disappointed in Maggie.  I hate to say this (because i love Christina Ricci), but I don’t think it’s the character, I think it’s the acting.  It is really overdone.  Even the way she walks is overdone. Even though it is pretty frothy, I find myself able to get lost in the show until Maggie gets involved, then it loses all believability to me.

    • Yeah, Ricci is the weakest link in the whole show.  And before viewing it, I was convinced she would be the reason it was actually WORTH watching.  What a disappointment she is.  Contrived and annoying.  And do her ‘bug eye’ expressions get on anyone else’s nerves???  She does it all the time and it’s just unbearable!!!.

  • I love Goran Visnic SOOOOOO much. The show scored major points from me just for having him as the guest star. sigh. Did I mention I love him. Cause I do.

  • Not me. Not at all. I’m all for Collette and Maggie getting their share of story.

  • I just read that Pan Am has a new show runner.  Hopefully he will tighten up the show by giving it a vision instead of it being all over the place.

  • Loved seeing Goran Visnjic on my television screen!

  • I actually like Ted’s career/daddy issues, especially because he seems suited to be Laura’s boyfriend. It adds a great dimension to that relationship, as she has mother issues and was expected to not have a career.
    The pilot’s plotlines piss me off. Everyone’s tuning in to see these 4 awesome women, and his plots are like opening scenes to porn. That is not their target audience.
    I want them to write more for Christina Ricci! She has a bitchy/party girl streak that is fascinating.