I was watching the second episode of "Hostages," a "drama" starring Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott, and growing more and more irritated. I couldn't quite figure out what was bothering me about the show, and I was determined not to throw the remote at the television until I had figured out just what was bothering me. Finally, it hit me! And now, one cracked TV screen later, I can share it with you.
"Hostages" tells the story of Dr. Ellen Sanders (Collette), a surgeon selected to operate on the President of the United States, who comes home the day before the surgery to discover that her family has been taken--you guessed it-- hostage by an elite team of--well, I would say "terrorists," but since they're led by the somewhat engaging Duncan Carlisle (McDermott), I'm not entirely sure that they're, exactly, bad guys. I suppose if I were to keep watching, all would eventually become clear. But that's not going to happen. To continue::
OK, so Carlisle and his crew are holding Sanders' family hostage. Their demand? That she take a dive in the eighth--or, rather, that she intentionally botch the President's otherwise routine surgery so that he dies on the operating table. What is Sanders to do? What choice does she have? In order to save her family, she must go against everything she believes! The angst! The drama! The first episode builds to its climax as Sanders heads to the hospital to perform the surgery. We watch, along with the hostage-takers and the Sanders clan, as the television interrupts its regularly scheduled programming with a breaking story from the President's hospital--
--THE SURGERY HAS BEEN DELAYED!
It seems that someone "accidentally" administered a blood thinner to the President, so Dr. Sanders has no choice but to postpone the surgery. Wouldn't want anything to happen to the President, of course. As the episode ends, we see Toni Collette, on TV, explain that of course the surgery will proceed as soon as possible. She looks straight into the camera and says something to the effect of "I don't give up that easily." A grudging smile crosses the face of Dylan McDermott: We can almost hear the subtext: "Oho! Clever girl! You've won THIS battle! But will you win the war?"
OK, yeah, I'm surprised I made it through another half an episode, too.
But here's what ruins the whole thing for me. In episode one, when she first sees the hostage takers in her home, Ellen activates a security device to call for help. Duncan sees this, so he tells Ellen that she'd best be contacting the security company to tell them not to send anyone. Ellen calls, but the company--while glad to hear that it's a "false alarm"--insists on sending someone over to the house to check: Company policy! When the security guard shows up, though, it turns out that he's in on the whole thing! He knows Dylan McDermott and his merry band of miscreants! You see, Ellen: They're everywhere! You can't get away from them! You'd better just do what we say!
And when I say they're everywhere, I mean, EVERYWHERE! Because in episode two, Ellen is being interviewed by the Secret Service about the mishap with the President's meds. At one point, the head honcho steps out, and another Secret Service agent leans over and asks Ellen, quietly, whether her son is "enjoying spending time with her new houseguests"! OH MY GOD! THEY'VE EVEN INFILTRATED THE SECRET SERVICE!
You see the plot problem here? If this shadowy cabal that wants to kill the President is so thorough that it can ensconce agents not only at the private security firm that watches over Dr. Sanders' home but also IN THE FREAKIN' SECRET SERVICE, then WHY do they need to count on the services of a reluctant doctor--who is also just maybe smart enough to figure out a way to thwart their plans? Why wouldn't they just find a different doctor who would be willing, say, to do exactly what they wanted in exchange for something simple, like a tidy cash payout? If they can get to the Secret Service, they could presumably get to anybody, right?
So one of two things is happening here: Either Duncan Carlisle chose Sanders to be the instrument of the President's doom BECAUSE OF her reluctance, because Carlisle--being Dylan McDermott, after all--is actually NOT a bad guy and actually wants to thwart the murderous plans of the actual bad guys; or, on the other hand, the writers have no idea what they're doing. Either way, "Hostages" is not worth the ransom, i.e., the precious hours of my life I would never get back for watching it.