TV Review: Hostages Season 1 Episode 10 "Burden of Truth"

In true Hostage fashion, "Burden of Truth" picks up right where the last cliffhanger left us.

Ellen (like the rest of us) is trying to find out why Duncan felt like he had to assassinate the president to get a bone marrow transplant. She poses questions such as:

"He's so afraid of a scandal he'd commit murder?"

It's a valid question. Certainly even the most egotistical politician and most powerful man in the world wouldn't let an illegitimate child scandal stop him from saving his own offspring? Initially, we get the same insane responses from Duncan: "only way to get close to him", and "can't stop this thing" like it's some runaway train they can't jump off of. However, an interesting development takes place. Through flashback Duncan attempts to give further detail (and in his mind proof) as to why the President would kill his dying daughter if he knew she was his daughter.

Apparently the President raped Nina's mother back in the 70's, when he was just a Senator. She threatened to go public and he tried to buy her silence.

After that didn't work, he gave the orders to have her killed.

Duncan's father in-law who was an adviser couldn't go through with it and had her smuggled out of the country where she gave birth to Nina and died during it according to Duncan.

So because of this, Duncan says the President is "not a reasonable man".

Now, while this story is very sad, it still fails to rationalize Duncan's plan. To begin with, this is trying to be as politically complex and plot twisty as Scandal, and it just isn't. Scandal provides the plot twists in their show after firmly rooting their characters in truth and understanding. Here we're just getting random rape twists about a President who has only been seen on screen flirting with his sister in-law and talking about some NSA spy program. Not even remotely the same thing.

Secondly, if he has no idea she exists, what is stopping Duncan from hiding her somewhere in some underground bunker and blowing the lid off of this thing? Not even the rape story, just the fact that the President has an illegitimate child who is sick. If the pressure from the public and opposite political party doesn't force him to donate bone marrow, it'll be such a national story that somebody would help her. I don't care how rare her blood type is or how far back on the donor list she might be.

Save a Presidential offspring and gain mass media exposure? There are plenty of people in the U.S. who would do that at the drop of a hat. Hostages, I don't believe you.

Hostages again suffers from bad character development and consistency. The husband Brian who met with the now deceased head of the secret service, berated his wife and daughter this whole episode for not fighting back and going along with Duncan. While I applaud his efforts to point out the weird Stockholm Syndrome that has been taking place, he didn't say a word when he met with the head of secret service alone last episode. Contradictions everywhere.

It's a shame too because he had a point with Morgan, who has completely rationalized Boyd's death and was practically catatonic this episode. Her character this episode baffled me.

Between that and her and Sandrine's hilariously bad text from Boyd's phone to his father so his father didn't go to the cops to report him missing (three month fishing trip, really?) I didn't know what to think.

Also: giving Morgan Boyd's engagement ring he was going to give her was the worst soap opera moment in a drama I've seen in a long time.

Time for a dialogue writing lesson.

There's a scene where the first lady's sister is telling the NSA guy how her sister writing off Peter's death was infuriating because the President is really responsible for it. Her exact line of dialogue goes as such:

"God I wanted to tell her so badly. 'The reason Peter died was because your husband had him killed.'"

The NSA guy responds with "Glad you restrained yourself." Not really, NSA guy. If she had restrained herself, she wouldn't be blurting out exposition like a robot.

When the NSA guy knows that the President killed Peter, the only reason the woman is saying this is for the benefit of the audience.

So they have to mask it as much as possible, otherwise it comes across like it does here: vomiting exposition. A quick rewrite gets you something like:

Woman: "God I wanted to tell her so badly."

NSA Guy: "I'm glad you didn't. She probably wouldn't take the fact that her husband is a murderer very well."

Is that perfect? Definitely not - I just made it up on the spot. It's subtle enough but it makes all the difference in a script.

It says the same information, but withholds just enough to make it sound less robotic.

Since the woman complained about her sister chalking up Peter's death to his own mistakes, we have enough context to know that "the President is a murderer" is referring to the idea that the President killed Peter.

We don't need "The reason that Peter is dead..." Seriously, can you honestly read their exchange without doing a robot voice? Yikes.

Other stories this episode included Ellen and Duncan figuring out that Nina's mother is alive, Logan is planning the President's assassination as well as trying to turn Sandrine into a double agent. The Nina's mother being alive twist was well done and needed for this show. It helped provide a layer of deception between the father in-law and Duncan that made them not so black and white. With a drama, you need that murkiness.

Duncan having to track down this assassin and figuring out he's headed to New York was a nice change of pace for Duncan's character who is always doing things according to plan. Whenever Duncan has to go out and discover things, it's a good thing.

Him just in a house spouting out exposition isn't good - because information by itself isn't interesting.

Sandrine was an obvious (but good) choice to maybe turn because of the leverage that is possible to get over her with her child and the loan shark. I'm interested to see how this confrontation in New York goes down.

All in all, it wasn't completely bad. But the show continues to fail at rationalizing the inciting incident - taking Ellen's family hostage.

Until they come up with a logical explanation (or explain the one they gave better), this show will always be mediocre at best. This issue is hilarious when you think of the episode title.

Photo Credit: Seriable