In The Ghosts of Christmas Future, our characters are living in the shadows of what may be, but changes can be made in the lessons that they learn.
SINS OF THE FATHER
Clay’s dad is in town. Ash Spenser (C. Thomas Howell) hasn’t been spoken of in the most favorable light so far, and from fellow SEALs it’s due to a book he wrote – but for Clay, abandonment is on his mind.
“Your dad is, like, a legend,” Stella tells him. But Clay’s not impressed. Whatever accolades Ash received as a SEAL, to Clay he’s the absent father who’s put a book-shaped thorn in his side.
“Being a father and being a Navy SEAL, that’s a contradiction,” Ash says to Stella, after father and son reunite. It’s in a tone that’s more flippant than Clay likes.
“Doesn’t have to be,” Clay mutters in response. He’s heard all this before.
Ash thinks it’s his fault Clay was bottom fived. Clay admits it was his own. “I just wasn’t performing,” Clay tells his dad. He knows, as does the audience, that it’s been a bit of both, but he can’t change who his father is.
ASH: “Clay, I know it was rough on you after we split up.”
CLAY: “It would have been a lot rougher if you’d stuck around. It would have given you more time to teach me to be like you.”
Clay’s not walking in his father’s footsteps. He’s erasing them. He’s seen what he could become, and he’s determined to be a different man than his father.
“I want to meet the famous dad.”
Like a massive red sign was shoved in my face, I stopped the episode suddenly when Stella (Alona Tal) pushed Clay to go to the Conversations with Authors reading with her, and took a moment to ponder what she’s up to – if anything. There have been things about Stella that haven’t sat right with me from her first appearance. A few little things, here and there, that have seemed off, and this is just adding to my feelings of unease. Maybe I’m just overprotective of Clay (because I’m really starting to like him and I want to see him succeed) and there’s nothing going on here. But, Stella? I’m side-eying you.
She feels iffier to me than Nate’s mystery woman.
Jason and Alana are called into the principal’s office at son, Michael’s, school. Michael has been attempting to solve problems with his fists, which the school disapproves. Jason’s taking it personally. But the separation is affecting Michael, and it’s starting to show.
There are shadows of what may be, in the parallels to Clay and Ash, and they’re a thing of angsty, dark beauty. In Clay, we see the aftermath of a childhood with an often-absent father. We see how Clay’s been affected by this, how it has shaped him. Michael is currently being shaped by his own sense of loss. The separation of his parents is in early – and confusing – stages. It would be quite interesting to see Clay give Jason a few words of wisdom on this subject in later episodes. Even if it’s unintentional, but just a scene, or two, where another man’s son offers insight to an absent father.
Has there been any “further evolution” to Alana and Jason’s relationship? You betcha. Clearly Jason following up on Nate’s burner phone has earned him points with Alana. And by points, I mean sex. I assume this means they’re having dinner together a lot more too…
“I feel like I’m fifteen again and we’re in the back of your uncle’s truck.”
“You still look the same,” Jason tells her.
“Yeah, that’s kind of the problem,” Alana replies. “You look the same too, but you’re not.”
Oh, but the worst is yet to come:
“Jason, when you first started deploying. Hard as it was to have you gone all those months, it was worth it, ‘cause I knew you’d be back. Then somewhere in there, you stopped coming back.”
I just got slayed by the writers, and by Michaela McManus’ heart-breaking delivery of the lines.
I ship these two, but I’m incredibly torn, because right now? They’re doomed to fail. I can see they’re both going to haul me through the emotional wringer this season. Tiny steps forward, and bucket-loads of angst.
IT’S TIME FOR AN INTERDICTION
In 1994, Luka Baljic (Zoran Radanovich), the Butcher of Travnik, executed Bosnian Muslim civilians, and Oliver Carter’s been working towards catching him ever since. There’s intel he’s been supplying the Taliban with .50 cal armor-piercing sniper rifles, so the director’s green-lit the mission to go get him. He killed in Travnik, and more recently in Kandahar, and if they don’t get him this time, he’s going to do it again. The pressure is on.
Oliver’s on Mandy’s case – about her love-life. Because telling a successful, career-minded woman to get out and date is going to earn brownie points? But he’s sniffing around her personal life because he needs to use someone to make this mission a success. She jumps at the opportunity, and it’s on.
Taking Baljic out at the hotel isn’t an option, waiting to get him out in the street might take too long, so they’re going to “hit him in transit, vehicle to vehicle,” Hayes decides.
The team’s impressed, excited to do a vehicle to vehicle interdiction. This isn’t something they’ve had the opportunity to do before. It’s considered “kickin’ it old school” – and it’s hella badass!
But Ray’s missing out because he’s high-viz in a low-viz hit area, and I’m gutted for him. There’s epic tactical driving, gunfire, hauling targets out of cars through broken windows, throwing them into unmarked vans, and aiming to get it done in under twenty seconds. I am living for these adrenalin-pumping run-throughs.
I’m also living for Ray’s quips. “I can do better.” I don’t doubt him.
Once in Tallin, nothing quite goes to plan. While tracking Baljic, Sonny loses him in the crowd after being asked for directions by tourists, and then Jason spots a familiar face on Baljic’s team. He and Ray used to work with one of the bodyguards, Jakub Kowal (Gil Darnell).
Our highly-trained team puts plans in place to evade Kowal, with a bit of nicely-played airport evasion, the interdiction takes place. And yes, it’s hella badass, despite the fact Baljic has escaped on foot. Still, they get their guy. Alive.
Mandy’s no fool though, and as pieces of Oliver’s story fail to make sense in her mind, she puts it all together: Oliver made up the source so the mission would be green-lit.
“It’s our careers. It’s their lives, remember?” Mandy reminds Oliver.
But the personal cost, to Mandy, to the lives of the team, is less important to Oliver than catching Baljic.
“The world is a safer and more just place than it was yesterday,” he tells her.
No, sir. I don’t like him.
LIES, DAMNED LIES
“I don’t know why lying gets such a bad rap,” Ray tells Jason. “I mean, you want to tell me something that I can’t change? Something that’s gonna cause me hurt? Lie to me, baby.”
Lying is quite the theme in this episode.
Jason thinks it’s best to, “Smash Nate’s burner phone, let all his secrets just die along with him.”
Funny, Ray’s pretty sure he gave Jason that same advice quite recently.
Nate was a good man, in his friends’ eyes, and the sheer amount of mystery around the woman on the other end of the burner phone leads me to suspect it’s all a hell of a lot more innocent than it’s being portrayed to be. We know very little: we know that she and Nate were in contact, often, and we know that in 2016 she was in Afghanistan. I’m so invested now that the time between episodes is d r a g g i n g in the wait to find out more about her, and her relationship with Nate.
But I’m feeling more positive about her than I am about Stella.
Read into that as you will.
It isn’t just Jason lying to Alana about what he knows about the burner phone, or what Nate himself was keeping from his friends, his family, there are also lies in the interactions between Oliver and Mandy. Oliver falsified intel, and Mandy won’t want to be used like this again. She’s already quite closed off in what she gives away. Her internal struggles might briefly flit across her face, but she won’t share when Jason prods her. Whether she puts up a stronger wall, or allows herself moments to let out her frustrations and isolation will be interesting to watch. Note to the writing team: I’d love, love, love a scene with her and Lisa (or anyone, really) in a bar, bonding.
SA-7 – Shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.
PNG’d – Persona non grata. Essentially, someone who has been ostracized.
APC = Armored personnel carrier
Klick – a Kilometer (1 klick = 0.62 miles)
Indig – Indigenous. Ie: local transport, peoples.
THE MOTHERTRUCKING VEHICLE TO VEHICLE INTERDICTION PRACTICE RUN (and also the actual interdiction that included Ray!)
Which brings me to…
RAY: “Boss, I’d like to register a grievance. It’s kind of a human resources thing.”
JASON: “Yep, I’m all ears.”
SONNY: “This should be good.”
RAY: “I’ve let it be known for some time now that I find vehicle to vehicle interdictions pretty damn badass, and if we ever got to do one for real—”
JASON: “Ray it’s a low-viz hit in an area where you’re not low-viz.”
Another engrossing mission with our favorite SEAL Team, and the home scenes have me salivating for more.
With each passing episode I’m feeling more protective of Clay. And suspicious of Stella.
I am both loving Alana and Jason stumbling through their separation, and hesitant because I think they’re both about to break my heart again soon. And the parallels between them, and Clay’s family, just makes me want to sit them all down in therapy and help each other out.
Davis had a few scenes, but I still consider her underutilized week to week. So I suppose that’s one of my only negatives (the other was the lack of Dita).
David Boreanaz is killing it as Jason Hayes; Neil Brown Jr. is a scene-stealer extraordinaire (and Ray in glasses is my new aesthetic); Michaela McManus is destroying me with the glorious angst. GUH, show, I love you so much.
Finally, if you haven’t heard, CBS has given SEAL Team a full-season order! Congratulations to the entire cast and crew! Much deserved.
And also, wishing a very happy, very belated, birthday to Max Thieriot.