Unscheduled Departure

Posted on November 14, 2011

We found ourselves enjoying this episode somewhat against our will. Just when we thought the show had fully petered out, having never really come to an understanding of what kind of show it wanted to be, along comes this episode, probably the most tightly scripted, cohesive, self-assured episode in the show’s short run. So why did we have a problem with it? Because the show, for this episode at least, figured out what kind of show it wanted to be and … it’s not the kind of show we think we want to watch.

Rather than making the 4 stewardesses and their trials and tribulations the main focus of the show – and it was largely pitched to the public as exactly that when the show was first announced – it seems the creators are determined to make the cabin crew equally as important to the proceedings. And when you make that decision, then episodes like this one, where the entire cast is involved in one adventurous, tension-filled storyline, is what results.

We don’t have too much of an issue with tension-filled stories or adventurous ones. We don’t have an issue with bringing the entire cast in on a story, so that each member gets a moment to shine. We do, however, have an issue with the idea that this crew in particular is going to keep showing up at the historically important events of the day, whether it’s the Cuban revolution, Kennedy at the Berlin Wall, or Papa Doc’s Haiti.

And sure, we’ve said all along that the show should embrace its glossy, even soapy side, but that doesn’t mean all concessions to realism can go out the window. There’s no way there could have been any ending for this episode than having the entire flight crew grounded indefinitely, if not fired outright. They made an unscheduled landing in a politically dangerous country at an airfield with no lights on and no traffic controllers. Two crew members left the plane and wandered around this violent and dangerous country, then brought back a political refugee and untested medication for a passenger. They dump the passenger’s dead body on the runway, flee the rebels shooting at them, and take off with a refugee in the plane after dumping all the luggage of the other passengers. We’re all for adventuring and everything, but this was pretty silly in the end.

And the point has to be made: Did no one in the writer’s room bring up the questionable optics of such a lily-white show depicting the VERY few black people who wander onscreen as thuggish revolutionaries or wide-eyed refugees?

We’re happy that Collette got a couple character-based moments this episode – and they were good ones; well acted and believable – but we really wish it hadn’t come at the expense of a plausible storyline. As each new element unfolded, we were intrigued because we really did think “Holy shit, they’re going to do a story where the entire cast gets grounded this early in the season?” When it got to the end and none of the stewardesses were reprimanded (when they really should have been, especially Colette and Kate) and Dean seems to have gotten nothing more than a slap on the wrist, apparently because he’s such an ace pilot (and that little conceit has gotten well past old – how many amazing flying feats is he going to pull off in one season?), we threw our hands in the air.

But even though there was a focus on people we really don’t care about and a resolution that was howlingly bad in terms of realism, there was an energy to this episode that we haven’t seen since the pilot. Everyone was on their game and the script was tight and told an engaging story. We have a feeling this is what Pan Am’s going to be going forward; more of these “entire cast” plotlines, more historical events, and more adventurous trips. Personally, we would have made it the “Kate and Colette Show” ages ago, but the creators have a different plan, it seems.

Oh, and the kiss at the end. Bleh.

[Screencaps:  tomandlorenzo.com]

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