'Last Resort' Breakdown: Shawn Ryan on Shocking Betrayals, Unlikely Alliances and Deadly Missions

Last Resort Skeleton Crew Shawn Ryan Inset - H 2012
ABC; Getty Images

Last Resort Skeleton Crew Shawn Ryan Inset - H 2012

[Warning: Major spoilers ahead from Thursday's episode.]

Gamechanger is a term frequently thrown around in television, but if there ever was one on Last Resort, this was it.

Negotiations between the top officers from the USS Colorado, Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), and the U.S. government stalled -- with Admiral Shepard (Bruce Davison) pulling the trigger, literally. All to save his daughter, stuck 300 feet below the ocean's surface, on what was originally a repair mission. It's a turn that will have great consequences for the Colorado and the Admiral -- who was under the Secretary of Defense's custody. Halfway around the world, an unlikely team-up between Kylie (Autumn Reeser) and Sam's wife Christine (Jessy Schram) emerges.

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Executive producer Shawn Ryan breaks down the biggest moments from Thursday's episode, "Skeleton Crew" with The Hollywood Reporter in the third installment of weekly Last Resort postmortems conducted with fellow EP Karl Gajdusek.

The Hollywood Reporter: You weren’t kidding. This was a big episode.

Shawn Ryan: [Laughs] We’re very proud of this one. These shows are very hard because there are so many moving parts, figuring out what to do and I think we had some good episodes prior to this but this was where things clicked into the place for the show from a storytelling, directing, acting, editing point of view. Really proud of this one.

THR: It seems like a lot of the episodes leading up served as a precursor to “Skeleton Crew.” Was that always part of the plan to have episode five be a crucial marker for the series?

Ryan: Not every detail was planned. When we first started breaking what kinds of stories we wanted to tell, we did fairly quickly come up the idea of Sam and Marcus doing something on the island while Grace has her first command and James has to fix this underwater array. That was the basis and the writers’ room developed that into, well, if we do it at this point of the season, this could be negotiations to try to settle this [ordeal] and then that led to the various details that ultimately came out on the show. Our writer for the episode, David Weiner, I thought did a fantastic job on the script.

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THR: There were several big moments during the hour, one being Grace’s father going against Secretary of Defense Curry (Jay Karnes) and White House senior advisor Straugh (April Grace), by taking shots – literally – at them.

Ryan: David in the script did a great job setting it up what the stakes were and setting up why Admiral Shepard was there [on Sainte Maria] and why ultimately he turned on his hosts, in Curry and Straugh, and ultimately do what he had to do – in his mind, save the submarine to save the life of his daughter. It’s kind of an impossible choice for a father to be in. He did what I imagine a lot of us would’ve done under those circumstances and clearly he’s dragged away by the end of the episode by the Marines under the control of the Secretary of Defense. When we leave the episode, he’s a prisoner and that can’t be a good thing for him.

THR: Another big moment came when Sam opted to take the U.S. government’s new deal, saving himself, and leaving Marcus behind. That deal didn’t go through, but what should be gleaned from that?

Ryan: This episode deepens the Sam-Marcus relationship. In one way, it’s good and in one way, it’s bad. The good way, Sam sees that Marcus was willing to take all the punishment on himself for the good of Sam and the crew, which is a great, noble gesture. Having said that, Marcus really did betray him and trick him in the process of doing that, and that hurts and that stings. That creates doubt going forward; when is this guy telling me the truth and when is he playing me – even if he thinks it’s for my own good. That brings up those issues. In that way, the relationship between the two men changes from what we’ve seen before and it’s definitely something we’ll play up going forward.

THR: Marcus and Curry's conversation on the beach was interesting as they danced around their beliefs of what truth is.

Ryan: This is a function of power and frankly we’re seeing it in our current presidential campaigns on both sides, where truth is subjective rather than objective – and truth is malleable. Truth is something to be determined by the strongest and the most powerful. This is the attitude that Curry brings to that, an attitude that I think most of us would inherently disagree with. But one that has taken hold in many aspects of our lives, I would say.

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THR: What did you find to be the biggest challenge?

Ryan: Working with David, I would say that the biggest challenge was figuring the right intercut moments between what was happening with the negotiations and what was happening on the sub with James and Prosser, and making sure that going back and forth was heightening the other [situation] without letting the air out of the balloon. If you’re away too long or away long enough, it doesn’t work. There was a lot of time spent with David working on the balance of the two stories and how they relate to each other.

THR: Grace gains the respect of her crew, including Prosser. Is this a step in the right direction for her?

Ryan: It doesn’t mean that there aren’t steps backwards or steps sideways. She certainly has proven something in this moment, if you can earn the respect and salute of Chief of Boat Prosser, that’s pretty good. [Laughs] She did good. It will have an effect going forward, but it doesn’t heal all wounds either.

THR: James’ near-death experience fixing the underwater array below the ocean's surface changed his perspective, as he clamped on to Tani (Dichen Lachman) immediately after.

Ryan: It certainly sharpens the mind and sends one looking for a pretty girl. [Laughs] A lot of stuff has been brewing between the two of them in the previous episodes but I think it sharpened his mind, to the point of saying, “Screw this, I’m not waiting around any longer.” I think it’s understandable. He was pretty close to death and that’s a lonely experience, especially with what he was going through 300 feet beneath the surface. When relieved of that fate, he chooses to share it with someone rather than be isolated again. That’s human nature.

THR: Kylie and Christine finally met. How does their team-up affect future developments?

Ryan: The two of them is worth a lot more than the sums of the two of them separate. They’re two very different women and in that way, it’s going to be interesting to see them rub against each other. Kylie, because she wants to have some substance as a human being after being a shallow, materialistic arms dealer all her life; Christine wants the truth to be reunited with her husband and to help him clear his name. When you share a common cause with someone who’s different than you, it forces you to see something in someone else that you normally wouldn’t under other circumstances. That’s what’s fun to see these two strong women work together to fight this front of the war.

THR: What’s to come with Paul and Christine?

Ryan: We’ve got good stuff for him coming along too. What’s fun about the reversal is for several episodes, we’ve seen Paul be the manipulator and now we see that Christine’s on to him and we’ll see the manipulation turn.

Last Resort airs 8 p.m. Thursdays on ABC.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@thr.com
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