“Revolution” 11/12/2012 (spoilers): Charlie vs. the Annoying Little Sister

David Meunier, Sgt. Strausser, NBC, "Revolution"In this week’s new Revolution episode, “Ties That Bind”, it’s finally Nora’s turn in the flashback spotlight. Intense situations evince memories of her post-blackout childhood in Texas. Her mother was murdered by home invaders in San Antonio; her father was last known to be in Galveston; and her younger sister Mia was close by her side. Throughout the ensuing years of chaos after the blackout, the two orphans would learn to rely on each other and no one else, not unlike last week’s gaggle of gun-toting independent orphans.

(Incidentally, said orphans are nowhere in sight this week. Presumably Our Heroes inspected the abandoned half-building where they were dwelling, deemed it safe enough for them to raise each other, and bade them a hearty farewell with no fear whatsoever that the Monroe Militia would come mow the rascals down.)

Whatever the orphans’ fate, it’s no longer our concern, as the party is now far away from Martins Ferry, Ohio, which we’re told this week was the location of the lighthouse that Aaron inadvertently lit up like the Castle Rock Entertainment logo in last week’s episode. The show has carefully evaded any place names these past few weeks, so I appreciate their returning to form this week with a few cities we can pin on the map. You’ll recall episode five (the train job) left them in Noblesville while Neville absconded to Philadelphia by rail with Charlie’s captive brother Danny. Episode six (the poppy plantation) was Address Unknown, but we now know that episode seven was in Martins Ferry, a good 313 miles east of Noblesville. That’s average walking mileage for our characters, nothing new there. Surprisingly, it’s also a straight shot on I-70 from Noblesville to Martins Ferry, meaning the route from episode five to episode seven was perfectly logical. Kudos!

However, week eight sees them detouring off I-70 somewhere in Pennsylvania, northeast through Pittsburgh without incident (kind of a large city to have absolutely nothing happen, but I suppose it could have devolved into miles of uneventful wilderness) and on to Freeport, one of the few places where they believe they can cross the Allegheny River. Freeport is less than ninety miles from Martins Ferry, so they should be relatively refreshed this week with such a short stroll under their belts. Alas, Miles tells us that bridges across Pittsburgh’s own Three Rivers are few and far between because the Monroe Militia bombed most of them and took over what few they spared. The next closest bridge is supposedly in Morgantown, which is 100 miles south of Freeport, down in West Virginia and next to the Monongahela River, which connects to the Allegheny in Pittsburgh. And of all those hundred miles, there’s not one spot fit for wading, swimming, or borrowing one single, lousy, discarded rowboat to fit the four of them for fifteen minutes. As we’ve seen in past episodes, this show clearly hates the boating industry.

Rather than lash several small trees together and try their hand at rafting, Miles insists they all take this out-of-the-way detour so they can cross the river via a Militia-controlled bridge…straight into a trap! Naturally lying in wait for them is the nefarious Sgt. Strausser, allegedly the only man in the entire Militia that scares Miles. Strausser isn’t just mean — he’s mad. He has a wicked knife and no fear of setting an example for his men with a round of Stab the Messenger when Our Heroes get away.

They very nearly don’t get away, though — a key part of Strausser’s ambush plan was his choice of a particularly meaningful hostage: Nora’s sister Mia, now all grown up and played by Alyssa Diaz (As the World Turns, the upcoming Red Dawn reboot). Fortunately they free Mia and make their getaway with the help of EXPLOSIONS! Which they create using…something?

Strausser had hoped his plan would net him possession of not only Miles, but also of Aaron’s pendant, which he now knows about thanks to Jason Neville, whose morality switch was set to “Evil” for that half-a-second revelation to his superiors, then flipped back to “Good” as Monroe orders him imprisoned and beaten for asking too many nosy questions about where Strausser’s plan would be put into play. Neville is understandably not happy about his son’s compulsive betrayal disorder, but he’s even less happy about President Bass’ ultimatum of a punishment for Jason for his act(s) of treason: either Jason accepts reassignment to a trip with smarmy Colonel Faber (Ric Reitz) to the faraway California Commonwealth (whom Neville despises as brutal “heathens”), or they execute Jason. Neville has much thinking to do.

Meanwhile, Mia sort of tries to be helpful. Since crossing the Freeport bridge is a no-go, she says she knows a ferryman in Ford City, another ten miles northeast of Freeport, even further out of the way from Philly. She seems to have an ulterior motive: she wants Our Heroes to cross but wants Nora to walk with her back to Texas, where she says she’s found their long-lost dad. Nora declines because she made a promise, and a promise is a promise, and also there may or may not be certain burnt-out sparks between her and Miles that may or may not have more than a 0% chance of being rekindled. Sadly, they find the ferryman dead and his boat burnt to a crisp…but still visibly floating. I suppose using its charred husk as a flotation device is out of the question?

Mia’s whining escalates as she insists they go see Daddy because they’re family and they’re supposed to look out for each other and Nora should really leave them all behind and totally separate from them and then just the two of them can hang out and it’ll be just like old times and they can braid each other’s hair and play Mystery Date and let Daddy read them bedtime stories and it’s partway through one of her happy-sister hard-sell pitches that I’m thinking it’s a trap. Emotions blind everyone else on the show, especially Charlie, who ultimately convinces Nora it would be a terrific idea for them all to split up like they’re in a bad horror film, and also they should let their guard down and forget about the part where Strausser is a master tracker and not too shabby at ambushing.

As it so happens: trap. In her spare time without sisterly guidance, Mia has become a bounty hunter in the Militia’s employ. Not only does she lead them straight to Miles, she also nabbed the precious pendant out of Aaron’s overprotective clutches. Either this pickpocketing feat happened offscreen or I was just as fooled as everyone else. And worst of all: THE DAD WAS A LIE. A shame for Mia that her master plan to rejoin Mia and give up Our Heroes to the Militia has one fatal flaw: Nora is not okay with betrayal for reunion’s sake. Nora shoots herself a few henchmen. Miles has a showy but inconclusive round of melee with Strausser, fancy knife versus empty rifle. Charlie and Aaron kind of hang out together behind a car. The scene ends with the outnumbered party making their getaway Butch-‘n’-Sundance style — they jump into the Allegheny and let the rapids carry them downstream and presumably to the other side. If only they’d been crazy enough to take that plunge at the top of the hour, this episode would have been much emptier and they could’ve jogged those last 290 miles to Philly by now.

Later, while they lollygag around the east bank of the Allegheny and dry out their clothes in the midst of this utter failure, Strausser zips across those same 290 miles and shows up in Philly to hand the pendant to a bedazzled President Bass, probably giggling like a schoolgirl on the inside. “So much fuss over such a little thing,” he says in his worst Boromir impression. With that, he hands the pendant over to his star inmate Rachel and demands she make with the electro-magic Or Else.

In a feat of evil multitasking, Bass also revises his decree about Jason’s fate when Neville (acting on a hot tip from his loving, scheming Lady Macbeth of a wife) informs him that Col. Faber, leader of the proposed California Commonwealth expedition of doom, has a son with close ties to the Rebel Alliance. Sure enough, li’l Faber Junior and his seven friends are caught red-handed with Rebel Alliance hardware and summarily executed. For the crime of Spawning a Rebel, Col. Faber takes Jason’s place on the torture block to pay for the sins of his son. Jason, of course, is free to go recuperate for the next several months, or at least until next week. Neville is meant to take this as a warning to get his own parenting issues in order. After receiving an evil pep talk from his wife about how much less insane he is than Bass, and how he’d make an awesome dictator, Neville instead has a faraway look in his eyes that suggests he’s this close to breaking out in song, maybe with a lively rendition of “If I Were King of the Forest”.

The episode concludes with a two-minute scene between computer lady Grace and her ostensible jailer Randall Flynn, who both seem to have moved on to the collaborative phase of Stockholm Syndrome. The duo stands together in a massive, fully functional science-fiction factory full of gears and circular machinery, watching a very tall monitor tracking the locations of several precious pendants, including Our Heroes’ pendant that originally belonged to the late Ben Matheson, which has now sped across the length of ex-Pennsylvania in record time. They correctly guess what’s become of it.

To be continued! The next-episode promo shows us scenes of Matheson staring down his old pal Bass, and the announcer proudly boasts that next week will feature the music of Led Zeppelin. (This had better not be a crossover with The Voice.) The announcer has to shout this at us over the familiar riffs from “Kashmir”, a famous song about “a traveler of both time and space.” It’s the perfect theme music for any hero who can strut across hundreds of miles every week like it’s nothing.

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