In the twenty-four hours between a press conference about her surgery on the President and said surgery, a lot happens to Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette). Her teenage son Jake is caught with a bunch of weed money and a pissed off dealer on his tail, and her daughter is pregnant from a boy who drives a pickup truck. Oh, and her husband Tate Donovan is having an affair -- because who wouldn't have an affair with Tate Donovan, he's freakin' awesome -- but either way she knows little to none of this, because she is too busy Leaning In to actually Have It All.
Maybe if she knew how crummy her family is she wouldn't wrestle so much with the position in which she finds herself the night of, taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott, playing the even more ludicrously named Duncan Carlisle) who has a daughter named Sawyer that he calls Soy-Soy (ugh) and a chip on his shoulder in resolving bank heist hostage situations that shows off his penchant for one-liners and assorted dorky hard-to-take Dylan McDermott "bad-assery." On the upside, in his night job as a terrorist, taker of hostages, wearer of balaclavas, he's much more appealing. I like it when my psycho hardened hostage-taking terrorists look at all times like they're about to burst into sensitive tears.
So the family, in the middle of their personal dumb dramas, gets taken hostage and will be murdered if Ellen doesn't slip the President some magical untraceable poison compound that probably exists in real life. Why? We don't know, but seems to have something to do with Soy-Soy's comatose mother, who seems to have been the impetus for Duncan and his father-in-law getting themselves involved with the scheme, which also involves the POTUS's main ass-kisser, Quentin Creasy (!),a mustache-twirler from the word go.
Imagine a taut, subversive, Israeli import like Homeland, but then remember that it is on CBS so really it's not going to be that taut or that subversive, but the background music is gonna be loud as fuck so you feel like you're watching something exciting. Will these CBS terrorists be murdering Ellen's children, or Tate Donovan? No, they won't. They even puss out of killing the dog. So as far as the suspense goes, there is no suspense. Are they even terrorists? Probably not. Probably the President is actually a bad man, and Duncan is a good man pushed to do terrible things. Probably he is also being held hostage by Quentin Creasy (!) who is being held hostage by somebody who is a hostage, in an unbroken line of hostage-taking hostages stretching back to the days of old. Back to when somebody took Cain hostage so he would take Abel hostage, or however that went down.
The good things -- worth watching the show for, frankly -- are the weird relationships the family is building (largely in secret) with the members of their four-man hostage-taking team. They don't really have personalities yet, per se, so it's mostly just interesting to see which family members a given criminal has a soft-spot for, and vice versa. If they're going to spend the next fifteen episodes together in that (gorgeous) house, tracking each other's every move and occasionally helping each other confront life's mysteries, its funny twists and turns, that shit better stay interesting.
In the end, a fairly awesome Ellen figures out a way to give herself two weeks to play with by covertly giving the President a blood thinner that requires two weeks to stop, um, thinning, so he can have surgery. (Her first amazing plan, to cut off her own finger in her bathroom, makes up in full-on crazy what it lacks in long-term, cost/benefit analysis.) She looks right in the camera when she says -- in a coded way -- that Duncan can go eat a dick, which really was great, and so I think what that means is that every episode will be a day?
Because that means "two weeks" from now, right around our Winter break, here in the real world, is when she'll have to try again. If I'm right, that's a pretty brilliant way to structure it and snatch some sweeps, and makes the show make a whole lot more sense than just her fucking it up a little bit every week and Dylan McDermott just rolling his eyes behind his ski mask like, "When is this chick gonna kill this President already?" Which admittedly was not a likely scenario, but it's one I've been enjoying in my imagination.
Next Week: Duncan is so mad at her for thinning that blood! But his empty threats are very empty and seem to continue in that vein. If you had to kill one of her family members, who would it be? Anybody but my Tater. Just don't touch Tate Donovan, and we'll be okay, ya jerks. Oh, and the like slightest inkling about why any of this is happening would be cool too.
Oh, the Sanders family is not having a good night. Seems the last twelve hours started out well -- they were on top of the world, mostly! -- but it all went down the shitter and now they are all on the couch, with three guns pointed at their heads by scary ninjas. Mom, Dr. Ellen Sanders, played by Toni Collette, is making scary faces; Dad, played by Tate Donovan, and therefore contractually obligated to be 100 percent awesome and 100 percent cheating on his wife; Laxbro Son, a drug dealer and constant blubberer; and their Horrible Daughter, who got secretly pregnant in a pickup truck. On the other hand, you have four ninjas: Dylan McDermott, an FBI hostage negotiator or some such; a black dude who has history with Dylan McDermott: and a guy with a beard and a mysterious Asian lady whose personalities are ... pretty elusive.
12 HRS AGO
Ellen was at a press conference giving deets on her tumor-ectomy of the President's left lung, which she is going to be removing using robots. The robots will take longer, but since it's less invasive he will be up and around a lot faster to be the President again. He is played by Granderbilt's James Naughton, which means he is going to come on all innocent and Presidential but eventually turn out to be a very, very bad man. His wife is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. She's not in this scene but I just think that's interesting.
Press: "What's it like to be the doctor of the President?"
Ellen: "It is like being a doctor."
Press: "Will you put magic poison in the President?"
Ellen: "Not for at least fourteen more episodes. Thank you."
President: "I feel pretty good about that, even though she is a lady."
In the car with his creepy aide Quentin Creasy, whose name is literally that, the President doesn't seem to be sweating cancer at all.
Quentin: "I like your cancer because of health care! And also because you are a medical patient, just like Americans with medical problems! Plus, she is a lady."
President: "That's true. I am glad we both care about my cancer like we are real people and not politicians."
Quentin: "Not so fast! I am obviously a terrorist."
The music on this show never fucking lets up. Imagine generic music about things being exciting, but then turn up the volume too much.