I could write essays on Amanda Ellis, Jason Hayes, and Ray Perry in Borderlines. Their relationships, their friendships, the job that they do. Instead, I’ll touch briefly on all three, because Clay completely stole my attention this week.
It felt like I held my breath through every second of this episode. Thank God for commercials, or I might have passed out. Borderlines was an unforgiving journey through the jungles of Brazil, and through the final Green Team training exercise.
“Borderlines” – I could talk for hours on how the title was so fitting, for the physical geographic setting, the fragility of human relationships, and the mental agility of one character in particular (how close he must have come to breaking, how tight he held on to his resolve). Every week this show is out-doing itself, and undoing me.
I needed a few hours to breathe before I wrote this.
Clay Spenser is not a character everyone will like, but he’s working hard, and he’s using everything he’s been taught, from life, from his father, from Brian – and from losing Brian – to earn every scrap of respect. And become a Navy SEAL.
The team is off, to the jungles of Brazil, with Cerberus on the scent when technology fails, tracking two missing interpreters and a female CIA agent, all taken hostage. The goal is to get them all back before the bad guys realize they’ve taken a CIA agent – who had been travelling on a basic cover that won’t hold up for long.
“I hate the damn jungle. It’s always trying to poison you, eat you, and then kill you… They have these things called the kissing bugs and they suck your blood, then these little parasites get up and attack your heart… There’s a spider there, okay? One bite will reduce you down to a frothy jelly in one minute. I’m telling you, I saw it on Discovery.”
Sonny’s there to remind us how the jungle is basically one big death trap, serving as comic relief in an otherwise tense episode. I’m not sure I’d be overly excited about going into the jungle (or the ocean, or anywhere, really) with him. “Told you the jungle sucks.” Mr Phobia strikes again.
Mandy’s frustrated. Hezbollah know they’ve got a CIA agent, and they’re on the move, jumping borders. The DOD won’t allow the op to move into Paraguay without getting a lock on the hostage’s location, and they can’t get that lock without going there. “Okay, I got it,” she says, after some thought. Mandy gets to verbally kick butt, and in a brief scene we watch as her and Jason bond a little more, making me think that friendship is probably the strongest relationship she has with any of these people she works with.
“Are we having problems?”
Ray and Naima are having some financial struggles, which Ray’s only just becoming privy to. It’s tough watching these two fight. I just want to wrap them both up and protect them from such things. But that’s the reality of relationships, and this reality sends Ray to Jason for insight about his friend’s separation. And he gets the answers he needs to support Naima in the way that she needs. “We’re family; we’re in this together,” he tells his wife. It’s beautiful.
“Thank you, for telling me about Nate. You shouldn’t have to sit with that alone.”
Jason’s interaction with Laila last week seems to have been beneficial, and he’s opening up to Alana more. It takes some gentle prodding from her, but he gets there. It’s a small, but much needed, step forward for their relationship. I’m 100% Team Alason. I need these two to work things out. They’ve known one another since they were nine-years-old! My heart can’t take that. They have to be okay.
I’m typically a friends-to-lovers type of shipper. Most shows I’ve become invested in has been because of a ship, one that started with a distrust, that turned to friendship, that turned to an inseparable bond, that turned to love. SEAL Team is, from memory, the first show I think I’ve ever watched where I’m invested in current relationships. Ones that are established, but still seem fresh, like Ray and Naima, and broken ones that are healing, like Jason and Alana. And I’m brOTPing a whole bunch of these characters with one another, but I’m not looking into any new ships. I love what’s established, and I love the friendships in this team. There’s certainly chemistry there, room for some UST, but I’m not even thinking about it. This is a strange new feeling for me.
Speaking of strange new feeling, Clay has completely gained my respect.
“The more you put into this training, the more you’ll get out.”
There’s less than two weeks left of Green Team training, and only one major training exercise left. If these boys thought they were going to have a chance to rest in between, they’re mistaken. Their van is rammed on their way back to the base, they’re thrown from their seats, and then hauled out the back – into the most gruelling training yet.
“Welcome to advanced SERE.”
Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Training? “Torture training,” is actually what it is. It’s brutal. Unrelenting. Realistic.
How many different ways can a man drown? Clay’s learning this the hard way, being dunked, waterboarded, and finally sealed in a drum, pushing his body to its limits.
He’s beaten, and interrogated. There’s music torture, auditory overload with loud sounds, and flashing lights – anything to make him crack. So Clay loses himself, in his head, to get through it.
“Some things you can’t fight, so you don’t. Give up…. Give up and say goodbye. That’s what I did.”
Brian’s in his head, a ghostly figure on a beach. He’s speaking of how he escaped his family life, but his words relate to the torture being inflicted on the team. Clay holds on to these hallucinations, he needs something familiar and friendly to cling to while his lungs scream for air.
Through it all, Clay stays strong, even after the imagined versions of his father and Brian both leave him – again. His body weakens, but his mind, his will-power, endures. Clay would rather die himself, even in a training situation, than give up his team, than betray his family.
“You go on without me,” he tells the images of his father during the final torture method. He’s going to get through this, on his own. He will break free of the shadow of his father, erase his footsteps, and embrace his new family. He’s going to be okay.
I want Clay on my side. He’s loyal to the bitter end. His stubbornness, a fault in so many other situations, is a strength here.
The torture ends, with Jason Hayes, pulling him from the water, shaking his hand, welcoming him to the team. Green Team completed.
For me, personally, the hostage story was overshadowed by Clay’s. While the action was intense, and the story gripping, I just wanted to rush through it to see how Clay was doing. Never, NEVER, did I imagine when watching the first episode that I would grow so attached to this character. But I have.
I look forward to watching his journey continue, next Wednesday, 9/8c on CBS.