HAHO, let’s go – into SEAL Team’s second episode, Other Lives.
As was the structure of the pilot episode, Tip of the Spear, Other Lives is bookended by the home scenes, the family interactions.
Jason is helping Alana pack up Molly and Nate’s home. There are too many reminders here for the widow who just wants a fresh start. There’s still a spark between Alana and Jason, as Jason suggests they have dinner. Alana knows dinner leads to sex, so she puts her foot down and declines. “Look,” she reminds him, “if we’re taking a break then we’re taking a break from all of it.” The sex included. Like Ray, I’m rooting for them (no pun intended). But they’ve got a lot to work through before getting back together is even a consideration – and most of it’s on Jason.
“The problem was I was never here. That was the problem, right?” Jason asks.
“No,” Alana replies, “our problem is you not here even when you’re here.”
We get a flashback then, to when Nate was alive, of Jason admitting during a summer BBQ that he and Alana are taking some time apart. These little moments, of Jason interacting with Nate, Nate’s family, their belongings, all gives us insight into Jason’s PTSD. Nate wasn’t just a member of the team, he was a friend, almost family. The loss is hard for everyone.
After the mission Alana and Jason are still packing items away, but they’re joined by their son this time. He’s distant, vague, laconic, when replying to Alana. He won’t talk about the young Syrian boy who died in his arms, just like he won’t talk about Nate’s death. As Alana said, he’s not here even when he’s here. So he attempts to connect with his own son instead but it’s stilted. Forced.
Cocky Clay ruffles feathers during Green Team training. He’s determined to get through the obstacle course fast – but in doing so he’s making it all about himself and not stopping to help a team mate when one is struggling. He sees those who require help as a weakness. With the team ranking the top and bottom five members, he should listen when a fellow team mate says, “No one’s crazy about guys flying solo.” Because the lowest ranked member is instantly cut.
Of course, Clay ends up in the bottom five. He’s cocky, but he’s smart, so this should resonate with him in following eps, and hopefully we’ll see some growth.
Ray and wife Naima are having their 36-week ultrasound, showing everything to be progressing as normal. He feels confident he can join the mission without missing the birth. The audience, of course, knows better. Later Jason tells Ray that his biggest regret was missing his children’s birth.
In the conclusion to this scene at the end of the episode we see Ray with his new baby – having missed the birth.
Now, I’m not saying I want to see conflict between husband and wife over missing such an event, but realistically issues could easily arise. And despite their seemingly easy-going relationship, it’s clear when Ray gets the news of the mission during the ultrasound that Naima is growing weary of him missing milestones.
I enjoyed this week’s mission more than those of the pilot. While the two separate missions were necessary last week, as one was backstory, I preferred the focus being solely on one mission.
A bunch of dead cattle have turned up in al-Hool, Syria, possibly because of a chemical leak from a nearby abandoned hospital that’s being as a static site for bioweapon production.
We meet Doctor Lucien – aka Doctor Death – from the chem-bio desk. They need physical evidence of chemical weapons. Definitive proof. But they can’t get a drone up or chopper in.
It’s time for a HAHO! And guess who’s joining them…
Oh, and Lucien too. But can we focus on Cerberus for a moment, all geared up, oxygen mask and all. There’s no extra attention placed on his gearing up (except for the snarling snout painted on his mask). It’s just another one of the team getting ready. I know he’s a VERY SERIOUS WORKING DOG, but I still had an ‘aaww cute’ moment.
On a related note, Dita has her own Instagram and if you haven’t checked it out yet, do so. It’s worth it, I promise.
So, Lucien’s getting ready for the jump and Sonny’s there to calm his nerves. As only Sonny can. More on that later though.
The team jumps. They infiltrate the hospital, take out a few guards on the way, and find the lab. Lucien sets to work gathering samples, while Jason gets called up to the second deck – to be met by sickness and death.
Syrian families lay dying, women and children who were kept as workers while husbands, and sons old enough, were enlisted to fight. It’s a heartbreaking sight, watching them gasping for breath as the effects of VX take hold.
QUESTIONS, DECISIONS, AND THE LIES WE TELL FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Questions are posed. Who are the good guys when the UK and the US have also made these nerve gasses in the past. “We are the god guys,” Jason tells Ray. “Because we’re not using them.”
For Jason, there’s only one decision to be made regarding the workers: put them through decontamination and get them the Hell out of there. But for Sonny there’s a whole lot more to consider. Who are they to decide what’s best for other people’s lives? They evac them, and then what? Maybe they end up in Europe. Or they might go into refugee camps. Should they be the ones to decide their fate, or has it already been decided?
Whether the viewer agrees with Sonny’s words or not, the courage to speak them, to offer up divisive what ifs to the leader, reminds us that, while not every member of the team agrees with Jason all of the time, ultimately they will follow his orders when the decision is made. It’s sometime Clay needs to learn – that you can have individual ideas and still be part of a team. You don’t all have to agree, but you must work together on fulfilling the mission – however the objective changes.
The brass declines Jason’s request to evacuate the workers – until Jason’s quick thinking allows him to extract them. He lies, and Mandy passes the lie on. The doc thinks the VX was diluted and they need the contaminated workers as evidence. Since they don’t know how many have been contaminated until they get them into a lab they’ll just have to evac them all.
Another decision is made by Jason that affects the team – or one member in particular. Lisa – who I really hope gets a good backstory episode soon because I need to know more about her asap – has passed on the information to Jason that Naima’s gone in for an emergency c-section after her baby’s heart rate dropped. He opts not to tell Ray during the mission. It’s hard for Jason, but he knows how distractions, especially emotional ones, can affect a team.
The team entering the Syrian hospital is simply stunning. Score + night-vision + alternating POV shots makes this moment effective and beautiful. Never have I watched a TV show that has drawn me in so completely before. The viewer is engulfed by the action and becomes one with the team. These scenes are entralling and tense thanks to the masterfully-used documentary-style.
I want Sonny giving ALL the pep talks to first-time jumpers before HAHOs.
“Okay, look, we are jumping almost two miles higher than the top of Mount Everest. You don’t pre-breathe you run the risk of passing out, which means you lose body-position, start to spin, and that chute right there is gonna wrap around us tighter than a cigarette roll. Hey, look at me, relax. Silver lining: if that were to happen to us, you and I are both gonna be unconscious when we burn in, okay? That’s a good thing.”
Green Team – Extremely demanding training process, of which typically only 50% make it through.
Static Site – is a fixed site, versus a mobile one.
EOD – Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Basically, the bomb squad. The guys who go in to handle and disarm the explosives, or aid in chemical decontamination.
Decon – decontamination.
The Brass – the unseen, high-ranking officials making the decisions that trickle down to the team.
TIC – Troops In Contact. A firefight, an IED, or suicide attack.
Klick – a Kilometer (1 klick = 0.62 miles).
Sarin and VX – Colorless and odorless gases (liquids at room temperature). Nerve agents that paralyse the lungs, leading to suffocation.
HAHO – High-Altitude High-Opening military parachute jumps (and yes, the dogs do it too).
ODA – Operational Detachment Alpha. Small, versatile special forces teams. The primary fighting force of the Green Berets.
Indig – Indigenous. eg: local transport, peoples.
CENTCOM – United States Central Command. Part of the DoD, CENTCOM protects US security interests in the Middle East, parts of Northern Africa, and Central Asia.
Frosty – to be alert; to stay on one’s toes.
SITREP – a situation report.
Exfil – extraction.
Clay’s making mistakes, and this episode’s lesson was a tough one for him. He has the opportunity to grow and become a solid member of a SEAL Team one day – once he shakes off some arrogance.
I’d like to see more time dedicated to Ray and his family in the bookended home scenes. And what of Lisa’s home life? Mandy’s? Sonny’s? etc. I hope as the season progresses we start learning more about these other characters.
But this was a solid, second episode, beautifully scored and shot. Every week feels like a mini movie, and the documentary-style scene in each episode so far is well-placed. Tough questions were asked, and from these questions we learned a little more about this team.
Episode three, Boarding Party, airs October 11th at 9/8c on CBS.