The prisoner release is off. Apparently the President has decided that if the detainees have the power to vanish entire airplanes, maybe it's not the best idea to just send them off into the general population. We do learn something about the detainees: they age very slowly. So add "Well, maybe they're Highlanders!" to the list. And the ones that aren't in a secret Alaskan prison have the power to vanish airplanes, but I think we learned that last week. And Sterling says they're aliens, but he might be guessing.
A bit of last episode's back story gets explained here and there. Michael Buchanan was forced to fly the plane by a mysterious organization that kidnapped Leila off that cruise. It looks like Vicki was involved, but Dude wasn't. That skeptical security guard was totally involved, incidentally.
Sean continues to be a frantic ninny who's terribly at convincing people to do things. After the plane pops back into existence over the Arizona desert, he runs away from the other passengers just because a squadron of ominous black helicopters were showing up to kill everyone. Then he wanders through the desert until he collapses. Your hero, ladies and gentlemen!
Sean comes to in a hospital outside Yuma and promptly gets picks up by the cops because he's wanted for the murder of Greg "Dude" Kervin back on the cruise. He begs a pair of detectives to listen to him, but they are sarcastic jerks. I hate people like that!
With a nonlinear show like this, it's hard to make sure everything gets summarized. But I think that's everything ... oh! Except that Simon Lee turns out to be a double agent! He's one of the long-lived detainees (except that he's not a detainee, if you get what I mean; he crash-landed with the rest of them in 1944, but he got away before the Feds showed up and locked 97 of them up) and he became a CIA agent by hiding a fake vein in his arm. And Sterling has just put Simon in charge of the search for more of these mysterious people who are almost (but not quite) indistinguishable from regular folks. We're going to need a better name for that. And I think "Cylon" is already taken.
Welcome back! Remember that time that a plane vanished clean out of existence? Well, it pops back into reality over a desert. Which is probably one of the best things to pop into existence over. If you're going to be making an emergency landing, a desert has to be better than the ocean. Or a volcano. This particular desert isn't perfect, since it has those big stones so popular in John Ford movies and cartoons about roadrunners. The plane clips one of them and doesn't get its landing gear down, but it seems to land basically all right. So everyone's fine, I guess. That was fun!
Inside the plane, things get bounced around a bit, but not as much as you'd think. Sean, the air marshal, and the flight attendant aren't even wearing seatbelts, but they seem basically fine. But there's a fire in the back of the plane! Oh no! Sean tells everyone to stay calm and get out of the plane. There are professionals who could be telling people what to do, but Sean seems to be in charge. I guess there are probably flight attendants somewhere doing crowd control, but we don't really see them. Soon, everyone is jumping out the door and sliding down the inflatable slide. So far, this looks like a fun plane ride. Much more eventful than usual.
Sean seems to be left alone on the plane, presumably due to the well-known rule "the protagonist goes down with the ship," but he runs to the back of the plane (where all the fire is) and saves the air marshal. Once they go down the slide (whee!) and jog a safe distance away -- well, they're actually right next to the burning engine, but at least they're not still in the plane itself -- the flight attendant points to one last person who has managed to stagger out: Michael Buchanan, the pilot. He seems disoriented. I know the feeling.
And that's probably enough linear storytelling for now, because it's time to throw us FOUR DAYS EARLIER, when Michael has just been kidnapped. I can tell he's just been kidnapped because he's got a bag over his head. It's a good look for him. A creepy guy yanks the bag away and Michael defiantly says that he won't do it. He doesn't say what "it" is, but as we've already seen him try to fly a plane at the president, I have a feeling I know anyway. Creepy Guy tells him, "You know what we're capable of. You will fly that plane. Say it. Say it." He then drags Michael to a peephole, on the other side of which is his daughter Leila. This seems like it's about to take a weird turn, so I'm actually glad that all that happens is that someone holds a gun to her head.