'Last Resort' Breakdown: Karl Gajdusek Dissects Sam's Sudden Move and Aftermath of the Attack
"Self-knowledge is a double-edged sword, but you could say the drugging to Sam and Marcus brings a dose of self-knowledge and that has a good side," the executive producer reveals in THR's weekly postmortem.
[Warning: Major spoilers from Thursday's episode.]
As it turns out, it wasn't another fine navy day.
Captain Marcus Chaplin's No. 2, Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), often sides with his superior, but as the latest Last Resort showed, Sam is very much able to act for himself. Against the backdrop of a chemical attack on Sainte Marina, Sam's subconscious took over and produced the episode's biggest moment: a passionate kiss with islander Sophie (Camille de Pazzis). Though his actions are much more complicated than that, their shared moment brings up possible repercussions for Marcus' (Andre Braugher) right-hand man. And what exactly happened to Marcus' nuclear fire key?
The episode was marked a change in format. As executive producer Karl Gajdusek shared, the Memento-inspired hour was something the writers were eyeing to do around this point in the run. He explained: "This was a big swing to do something different and anchor an episode into one character’s mindset and to do a formal switch in style, which we’ve never done before."
Gajdusek breaks down the biggest moments from Thursday's episode, "Another Fine Navy Day" with The Hollywood Reporter in the fourth installment of weekly Last Resort postmortems conducted with fellow EP Shawn Ryan.
The Hollywood Reporter: This episode is in a different format than the previous five that have aired. Why differentiate now?
Karl Gajdusek: It felt to us like it was time to stretch our muscles formally and to see what else we could do from a storytelling perspective. We knew this would be the sixth episode on the air and we would have, by this point, established our characters and the major dilemma that our show was facing. We wanted to make something unusual and make it clear that we were saying all bets were still available as far as our ability to tell story, the style, the way we were going to approach it -- how subjective or objective it would be. This was a big swing to do something different and anchor an episode into one character’s mindset and to do a formal switch in style, which we’ve never done before.
THR: What, then, was the most challenging aspect to solidify and formalize since it’s such a big swing for the show?
Gajdusek: This episode is formed in a similar model to the movie Memento in some ways. It’s incredibly difficult to keep the moments of story straight and logical when you’re dealing with jumps in time and characters’ amnesia. What does someone know? What has happened and what hasn’t happened yet? There’s a science to it. In the creating of it, you have to be very precise and the presenting of it, you have to be very clear or at least give markers lest your audience spin off and get confused.
THR: The method of skipping back and forth following the chemical attack seemed like something that was high up on the “to-do” list, it seems?
Gajdusek: We wanted to alternate time. We pop back and forth during the course of the episode; we start forward and we pop back and then we go forward and then we pop back again. For us, beyond the formal exercise and an interesting way of revealing story, it’s very much a way of looking into Sam’s life and his memories and his guilt and what he’s carrying around. It was a way of, on the one hand, building his experience and his disorientation, and on the other hand, it was a way of centering the episode on a moment that we play at the very end that is pivotal. But this way, we wouldn’t have to pay it at the end as you normally would. You see the repercussions of [that moment] even though it comes at the end.
THR: Now that we know Sam’s hallucinations of conversations he was having with his wife, Christine (Jessy Schram), weren’t actually in his mind but rather moments – most notably the kiss at episode’s end – shared with Sophie, that will surely raise major questions for the XO.
Gajdusek: It’s the case of the subconscious leaving the conscious. As far as someone kissing someone outside his marriage, he is perhaps forgiven or cleared of fault because you can just say, “You know, he was just hallucinating. He thought he was seeing his wife.” But the id gets a role in that too. We all know that what you do, even though you’re hallucinating, still matters, and who you choose to hallucinate towards, matters. It all matters. It’s a way of creating a transgression he’s going to have to live with. Even if he can clear himself intellectually, he’ll know in his heart that he’s not totally clear.
THR: So Sam will, in the very near future, find out about his actions?
Gajdusek: Yeah. In the future, he will come to have to face the events of this episode.
THR: How does he react?
Gajdusek: He’s stunned. At first, he’s confused and then he’s a bit guilty.
THR: On the other side of the coin, there’s a moment with Sophie watching footage of Sam’s transgression and a faint smile forms.
Gajdusek: For her, a lot of things go on with Sam in this episode. It’s tricky because, perhaps more visceral than the kiss, she sees this guy beat up this other guy quite severely. It’s a revelation. She always knew she was growing close and friendly with Sam but she never really took that to heart. This episode, she has to face the fact that there is a violence and a dark side to this man she didn’t know about. At the same time, there’s this kiss and like Sam, she can certainly shrug it off: “OK, crazy stuff happens when you’re attacked by chemical weapons,” but you can’t shrug it off completely and it lingers in your mind and it lingers in your heart. She’s going to have to live with that – even if intellectually, she says, “Gee, that was crazy.” Emotionally, can they shrug it off?
THR: Serrat (Sahr Ngaujah) always seems to wiggle his way out of touchy situations, and that continues this week. Will his involvement in every Colorado matter catch up with him?
Gajdusek: Definitely, big time. Serrat is a guy who is constantly getting involved in situations like this that put him at more odds with the crew of the Colorado. The question with him is how does he manage to always find his way out and find a way to create a moral equivalency or somehow force them to not take him out? He’s at war with a force much stronger than himself, although he has certain powers and influences and arguments that protect him.
THR: The scenes with Marcus and a young Jeffrey were quite touching. Important to include so that it amplified the significance of the situation he faced with?
Gajdusek: 100 percent. I’ve always felt, and I don’t think this is a stated theme on the text of the show, this season of Last Resort is the cost of grief or the cost of not grieving correctly. Marcus is carrying around grief and he’s suppressing it, thinking he can handle both the pressures of the situation [on the island] and the pressures of the command; somehow he’s going to be able to balance all these things. Like any strong man, he’s going to be able to come out on top of this. But I don’t think he’s entirely capable of that, I don’t think any human being is; in most of the episodes, the cost of grief on Marcus is on the backburner because [Andre Braugher] and the character are very good at keeping it hidden. In this episode, with the drug opening them up, it was a chance to show what he’s holding inside.
THR: In a sense, one could argue the town being drugged was a good thing.
Gajdusek: Self-knowledge is a double-edged sword, but you could say the drugging to Sam and Marcus brings a dose of self-knowledge and that has a good side.
THR: It was fun to see James (Daniel Lissing) and Sam teaming up, even if it was brief. Will we see them partnering on future missions and tasks?
Gajdusek: That’s something we hope to play some more with. James and Sam started off in opposition, not liking the other’s style. Throwing them together is nice.
THR: Favorite scene from this episode?
Gajdusek: I like the reveal in the last scene. It brings a whole poetry of this whole episode together in a great way. I have to put that as my favorite.
Last Resort airs 8 p.m. Thursdays on ABC.