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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

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