Wow, this is frustrating. After last week’s stellar excursion to West Berlin, this week Pan Am hit a patch of unstable, stagnant air on its journey through the Orient. I can understand how a show with this many moving parts may take some time to find its footing, but with ratings in a bit of a free fall of late, I’m concerned if Pan Am doesn’t figure itself out soon, the show could be in for a rough landing.
Horrible aviation puns aside, “Eastern Exposure” made the unfortunate decision to bench one of the show’s most compelling characters — Karine Vanasse’s Collette Valois — in favor of focusing the spotlight on one of its least — Michael Mosley’s Ted Vanderway. Meanwhile, the Cameron sisters continued their wearisome sibling squabbles, Kate continued to prove herself a singularly horrible secret agent, and Maggie continued to be saddled with lines like, “Bob Dylan is an artist! I bet money he’ll be famous.” But I think Dean took the prize for the Pan Am Groaner “Period” Dialogue of the Week: “Have you read a paper? It’s 1963. A new generation leads.” Who talks like that, in any time period? Anyhoo, let’s get to it — warning, this is going to be a swift journey:
Ticked-off Ted and his traumatic tenure as a test-pilot
I think we can all agree that Ted is kind of a jerk, and the character who seems the most like he wandered out of a rough draft of an early-season Mad Men episode, what with all the forward womanizing and penchant for knocking back a few. But what made him a boozy, entitled twerp? Daddy, of course!
Ted was already on tilt before even leaving for the Far East, thanks to an obnoxious older pilot back in New York who told Ted point blank he was surprised Ted didn’t use his family connections to leap-frog seniority like Dean somehow managed to do. Things only got worse when, during their poolside layover in the Burmese capital of Rangoon (more on that far-fetched locale in a bit), some Navy flyboys taunted Dean’s vocation as a lowly commercial airline co-pilot. And before you could say “I feel a flashback coming on!” — in the way that you totally could have said that, several times over, in fact, since it was so flipping obvious we were headed for a flashback — we were plunged into the ocean crash site of Ted’s Juno V-3 Interceptor. Turns out Ted was in the Navy, as a high-stakes test pilot, but at the inquiry into the crash, his claim that the altimeter was faulty fell on deaf ears. “Your bar tab the night before is evidence the navy got less than your best that morning,” barked one of his superiors. Ouch.
Back in Jakarta, Ted obsessively tried to watch the launch of Mercury 9, the first manned American space flight that lasted for more than a day; with Laura’s help positioning the antenna of the hotel television, he was finally able to see it happen. (Neither Laura nor Ted seemed all that impressed, however, that their hotel’s TV was also a time machine: Mercury 9 launched on May 15, 1963, some six weeks before President Kennedy gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech on June 26.) Ted’s interest in space flight wasn’t just as an awestruck layman. His time as a test pilot was in service of his dream of joining the space program. But the Navy wasn’t budging on its ultimate finding that pilot error caused the crash, and Ted was offered an honorable discharge. As luck would have it, Ted’s father owned the company that built the V-3, but even though his dad was happy to use the back-slapping good ole boys’ network to get his disgraced son a job at Pan Am, he wasn’t about to jeopardize his contract with the military by volunteering to the Navy that his plane was indeed faulty, even if it would save his son’s career. Double ouch.
NEXT: Ted’s fist, meet Dean’s face