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WashingTelevision: Hostages Recap, Season One, Episode Two, “Invisible Leash”

We’re introduced to some secondary characters—but some of them don’t stick around for long.

This Secret Service agent is not asking Dr. Sanders to check his teeth for leftover broccoli but is instead posing another vague threat to her family. Photograph by Jeff Neumann for CBS.

Last time on Hostages: Ellen (Toni Collette) is supposed to operate on the President of the United States, but Duncan (Dylan McDermott) takes her family hostage unless she agrees to kill him on the operating table for mysterious reasons. Ellen’s husband is having an affair, her daughter is secretly pregnant, and her son is in the hole to a drug dealer named Nico. Duncan has a comatose wife, a crew of not-totally-trusting associates, and a face that miraculously always has the same degree of stubble. The President’s chief of staff and Duncan’s father-in-law are in on the assassination plot. Ellen manages to slip the President a blood thinner, delaying the surgery by two weeks. Got all that? Great. To the recap.

We open right where we left off, with Ellen trying to leave the hospital. She’s apprehended by two Secret Service guys, who lead her back inside. On her way she runs into a hysterical nurse named Angela (Toni Trucks), who babbles that she doesn’t know how POTUS ended up with the wrong medication because she’s never made a mistake like that. Ellen reassures her that nobody thinks she’s responsible, and then is whisked away to be interviewed by a different, somewhat scary, Secret Service guy. He asks her whether she knows of any plots to assassinate the President and she seems shady as hell but doesn’t reveal anything, which is good, because as soon as he leaves the room the Secret Service goon standing behind her leans in and asks, “How are Jake and Morgan enjoying their new houseguests?”

Ellen is released and rushes home to find Duncan sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee while the family dog (traitor!) hangs out by his feet. Ellen’s all, “Where’s my family?” so he leads her to the basement, where all three of them are on their knees, gagged, bound, and blindfolded. Duncan tells Ellen because she complicated his plan, one of her family members will now die—and she not only has to choose, she also has to pull the trigger. After about five seconds they decide on Brian (way harsh, Tai), and Duncan shoves a gun in her hand and points it at Brian’s head. Of course she turns it on Duncan and pulls the trigger, but it’s empty. “See, you are a killer,” he says, then loads the gun, points it back at Brian, and shoots us into the opening credits.

Are you surprised the gun was loaded with blanks? No? Good. Now on to the next phase of the dastardly plan: The family members are going to return to their old lives but will be monitored at all times thanks to GPS chips/microphones that Ellen has to implant in all of them sans anesthesia (the invisible leashes of the episode title). The Ski Mask Crew (who grumble that they don’t know enough about this assignment, which is turning into way longer than 24 hours) have also cloned all the family’s electronic devices, and Maria tells Duncan that Brian managed to text someone. He tells her to “take him for a drive,” and we think maybe we’ve seen the last of ol’ Jimmy Cooper, but hilariously she’s just driving him to his regular weekly sex appointment with his girlfriend, who is played by One Tree Hill’s Hilarie Burton, so I’m going to pretend her name is Peyton. Brian seems worried that Ski Mask Lady is going to judge him for having an affair, so he’s like “I love my family,” and she’s like, I’m not a priest, take this Champagne and go bang your girlfriend (seriously, this show is bananas). He completely fails at acting normal, even though he still manages to sleep with her. Then Maria drives him back home, and Ellen hugs him and he continues to lie to her so she doesn’t find out, and then she gets a message that she has to take a polygraph test the next day. Meanwhile, the kids are getting angsty, as teenagers do: Jake is still worried about the $1,200 he owes to Nico, and asks Kramer, who is babysitting him, to grab the money from his dad’s drawer. Kramer won’t, but he does try to pilfer the family pill stash until Duncan catches him, so we find out he used to be an addict. And Morgan literally says to her mom, “Why didn’t you just kill the President?” so she could go back to being a normal secretly preggo teen, because the earth revolves around her.

Duncan coaches Ellen through the polygraph and she passes, of course, but Angela intercepts her in the hallway and tells her the Secret Service still think she’s responsible for trying to kill the President because she’s a terrorist. Duncan tells Ellen she has to convince Angela to confess to giving the President the wrong medication to clear herself of suspicion, and Ellen is like, “But she’s my best friend!”, which is very shoehorned in. Still, she gives it the ol’ college try.

Meanwhile we get a scene where Duncan is being reviewed for his handling of the case in the pilot, where he shot someone presumed to be a hostage but was actually the hostage taker, which is an excuse for him to monologue about how his job as a hostage negotiator is to sympathize with the hostage taker, and to then get in their head and convince them they want what he wants. This is intercut with scenes of Ellen trying to convince Angela she should confess to giving the President the wrong medication. It’s like they’re trying to draw a parallel or something. But in the end it doesn’t matter because Duncan finds out that the Secret Service is sweeping the hospital one floor at a time, and Ellen’s fingerprints are on the door of the medical supply closet that she got the blood thinner from. What does he do in a time crunch? He sends his associate Archer (“the black guy,” as Ellen calls him) to kill her and write a confession about the medication mix-up on her Facebook wall.

And in a hint of the larger conspiracy that’s happening, we also get a flashback scene to when Duncan’s father-in-law first introduced him to the President’s chief of staff six months prior. They both have their reasons for wanting POTUS dead. We still don’t know what they are.

Ellen soon finds out about Angela’s death (which happens offscreen, so she’s probably not really dead), and she’s pissed, but Duncan tells her it’s her fault for not cooperating. “Her death is on your hands,” he says. And scene.


Angela is so not actually dead. But is she in on the conspiracy?

So far the characters are all so broadly sketched, all we have is one identifying detail about them. Kramer is the pillhead. Morgan is the pregnant teen. Brian is the philandering husband. There’s very little shading, which makes it difficult to care about them.

And introducing a new rating scale: Percentage I think Toni Collette should be on a different show after watching this episode: 85. She gets some interesting hints of darker underlying aspects, as when she shows some clinical detachment while cutting into her daughter to insert a GPS chip, and when she jumps almost immediately into Duncan’s suggestion that she ruin her best friend’s career—but everything still feels so paint-by-numbers.

What did you think of this episode of Hostages? Let us know in the comments.

Hostages Pilot Recap

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