Instead of giving us the usual set-up, Pattern of Life, an episode occurring in real time, pulls us in blindly, opening without any information, and leaving us as bewildered as the family whose home the team has just breached.
“Why are you doing this?”
As we watch the team enter the Yemeni home, accidentally shoot the teenage daughter, and question the family on the whereabouts of the cell phone they’ve pinged to the building, we find ourselves wondering, along with them, if they have breached the wrong address.
The team has burst in, separated the family, zip-tied their hands, rifled through their belongings, accidentally shot their daughter – but TOC, with incorrect intel, has sent them to the wrong address before. Could that be happening again here?
And wouldn’t that have been a brave choice? What an episode that would have been, had Clay accidentally shot an innocent girl, had they interrogated an innocent family, had they traumatized a young son for life.
When SEALs breach a location, the judgement calls they make, the split-second reactions, the civilian casualties, are all things that follow them home, that they must live with, work through, somehow deal with. But what if it all ends, not with success, but with incorrect intel in the wrong location.
For a few moments in this episode, I almost believed SEAL Team was going there.
It’s too early in the show’s run, I think, to add such weight to characters already haunted by past and recent events. But having had a taste of it here, I hope the writers will be brave enough to tackle such outcomes in later episodes.
Luckily for Clay, who fired off the shot that shattered the daughter’s clavicle, they’re in the right location, but we won’t find that out until much later. The guilt is played quietly by Max Thieriot, it’s subtle as he silently broods in front of a window, but the team knows, and Jason is quick to force his head back into the game with some words of wisdom.
They work to save the daughter, while separately interrogating the father, the mother, the son. The team is relentless, and the question lingering, that this might be the wrong house, adds to the tension, because the answers given by the separate family members all seem genuine.
Sonny has separated the boy, far from the trauma of his sister’s injury, and the violence of his parents’ interrogation, and he does his best to bond with the kid, bluffing his way through football talk after finding a trading card with a German player on it…
Another suspect enters, fumbling through the front door with a gun he isn’t used to handling. It’s Naseem, wife Reema’s cousin, home for morning prayer. His treatment by the team is just as harsh as when they first burst into the home, but his answers all make sense, and it’s getting harder to believe this is the right house. Not a single cell phone they’ve found has proved to be the right one, and the family’s believable in their replies.
“We lose that girl it’s gonna affect Clay.”
Jason’s constantly looking out for his team through this mission, but it’s Clay that he’s most concerned about.
We’ve seen plenty of parallels – and hints of parallels – between Clay and Jason, and it seems the younger man reminds Jason a lot of himself. We see it again in this episode, when Ray questions why Jason’s so concerned about Clay when this likely isn’t the first time he’s hurt someone he didn’t intend to. Jason struggles with his emotions when he admits the girl they shot reminds him of his daughter, and it’s almost as if Jason himself was the one to take the shot.
There’s the sound of water dripping in the background as Jason speaks to Mandy via radio in the bathroom. I took notice of it in my first viewing of the episode, because it’s difficult not to, but still not being convinced this was the right house, didn’t pay as much attention to it as I should have. Jason’s foot’s on the tub, he’s staring down into the water, and I forget in that moment that everything is intentional. I briefly considered the phone could be in the teddy bear Sonny held up earlier. I own an iPhone – I didn’t think about the water.
Sonny, building on his tentative bond with the son, manages to convince the boy to reveal the location of the phone to save his sister’s life – and he leads Sonny straight to the bathroom, where the phone’s hidden in a plastic bag down the drain of that very tub Jason was standing over.
There’s the cell phone version of the “I’m Spartacus” moment, where first son, and then mother, try to claim ownership. Ultimately, thanks to the trading card of the German football player, the team suspects it’s the daughter’s finger print that will open the phone. It does, she confesses, and the episode ends with mother, father, and son, left alone to pick up the pieces of their lives.
“It is a lot easier if you think about her as a number.”
Lisa and Mandy have another opportunity to bond a little more this week. Davis quietly watches as Cook and Blackburn discuss the time restrictions they have on getting the phone, the owner of it, and getting out of there. She mentions to Mandy that she’s surprised Cook isn’t more concerned about the daughter dying. Mandy boils it down to numbers, statistics, dollar figures. It’s during this conversation that Lisa realizes Sonny’s told Mandy about her plans to apply to officer training. Mandy’s excited for her, but Lisa’s keeping it somewhat quiet because she hasn’t been accepted yet, and because she knows how the people they work with feel about officers, she sees it every day. And while Mandy may say Davis will never be the type of officer who thinks of people like the daughter as nothing more than a number, the look on Davis’ face makes us wonder if she believes that herself.
It’s nice to see Mandy’s encouragement, her being supportive of Lisa’s plans. And I’m excited, hopeful that this could be something Lisa takes part in during the season, allowing us to watch a little of her training and give the straps more attention now that Clay’s out of Green Team. Or it may even occur in a small time-jump over hiatus so that she comes back in season two as an ensign. I look forward to seeing how this plays out, and the result of it, no matter how the writers choose to handle it.
The show slips in its lack of focus on the straps, and I understand it’s difficult to fit too much into an hour drama, but Toni Trucks shines when Davis is given more to do, and week after week I come away feeling they’re under-utilizing this character. Having said that, I did appreciate the screen time she got this week, and the slight forward momentum in her plans to become an officer.
Mandy’s going to need some fleshed out backstory soon too, because some weeks it just sort of feels like she’s there, giving support, but not growing in any way. I feel where this show is weakest is in its decision – so far – to focus more on Jason and Clay’s home lives, and the parallels between these characters, than on these strong supporting female characters we still know too little about.
I love Jason, and I love Clay, and Sonny, and Ray, and all our boys. I give a damn about Alana, and Naima, and okay, not so much Stella but only because I don’t fully trust her yet. But there’s another show on CBS right now giving us backstory and showing us the home lives of people in a high-stakes job, and I feel like it’s coming out as the stronger of the two in its ability to balance the storytelling and shift focus between characters. I’m ready now for SEAL Team to up its game a bit.
This was a strong episode to come back with, even though it didn’t take the big risk that I quietly hoped it might. But I think there’s so much room for this show to be stronger still, especially when it comes to the straps.
I liked the team a little less this week, and while it was very much about the events that occurred within the house, I’m the kind of person who now needs to read ALL THE FANFIC about the family dealing with the aftermath – and whether they received any support and from whom?
SEAL Team airs 9/8c on CBS.