Monte Carlo brings romantic intrigue for Kate and Dean, and some hope for the show's future

By Adam B. Vary
Updated October 24, 2011 at 05:55 AM EDT
Pan Am Coin Kelly
Credit: Eric Liebowitz/ABC
S1 E5
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So is it going to be an odds/evens thing with Pan Am, or what? After last week’s awkward Asian shrug of an episode, which followed a solid sojourn to West Berlin, Pan Am‘s fifth hour trip to Monte Carlo was full of zippy romance, snazzy spy intrigue, and even a twinge of zesty wit. Granted, the two most compelling characters — Colette and Maggie — remained frustratingly on the fringes, and there was still entirely too much energy spent trying to get us to root for Laura and Ted. But with two guest stars launching respective multi-week story arcs, Pan Am finally felt like a show that has a full sense of what it is and where it wants to take us. So let’s hop on board, shall we?

Laura, Ted, and some “Tasty Pudding”

It’s summer in New York, and Laura’s trying to get her engagement ring back. She’d hocked it when she first moved in with her sister, but in order to get a clean break with her ex-fiancé Greg, she was determined to buy it back. Alas, the pawn shop had already sold it. Cut to the soaring Pan Am opening title, and the expectation that Laura had simply given up.

We were certainly led to believe that at first. Laura told her sister Kate that she canceled her rendezvous with Greg due to some “sniffles,” and her demeanor for the rest of the main storyline in London and Monte Carlo remained wanly dejected. Meanwhile, Ted — who wants to be clear that he’s a hard-and-sweet gumdrop, not a limp stick of chewing gum that loses its flavor — kept approaching Laura, seemingly trying to worm his way back to her heart after bonding last week over space travel. “Am I avoiding you or are you avoiding me?” he asked her at one point, adding yet another gem to Ted’s List of Boneheaded Pick-up Lines. But if you intuited that there was more to this story before the first flashback — in which Ted invited himself along Laura’s subway jaunt to Harlem to retrieve her ring — you’re a more astute viewer that I am. Or maybe you just actually care about whether these two crazy-dull kids will ever get together. Me? I was jut aghast at Ted’s hilariously misguided sense of off-hours fashion.

Because just when this storyline showed a glimmer of the unexpected, we were hit over the head with the moment back in the “present” when Ted revealed he didn’t have his Rolex watch anymore. Hmmmmmm. What could have possibly happened to it? But just in case you were fast asleep during that scene, we sat through Ted and Laura’s ride on the cleanest subway car in the history of Manhattan as Ted poured on his usual anti-charm with remarks like this about poor Greg: “What a wuss. You never let the bride bolt on you. You bolt on the bride.” When they finally met the jazzy gentleman who’d bought the ring, and insisted he be called Shoot Man, Ted torpedoed Laura’s negotiation by scoffing at his highball price. But hey, at least she walked away with the Chet Baker record featuring the song “Tasty Pudding.” As Shoot Man said, “White boy blows so smooth, you got to dig it.” You do indeed.

Back in Monte Carlo, Ted waited until the end of the episode trip to reveal he had — shocker! — given up his Rolex for the ring. Although annoyed it took him this long to give it to her, Laura was grateful enough — and distracted enough by the giant string of pearls attacking her neck — that she barely noticed when Ted laid a pearl of his own on her: “The suspense is over. You’re not perfect.” Does this guy know how to woo a girl, or what?

NEXT: Dean and the thrill of banging the boss’s mistress

With Bridget fading into obscurity in Kansas City, Mo., Dean was finally ready to begin moving on, in so far as he was finally ready to be swept into the extravagantly fur-coated embrace of a broad who thinks nothing of bursting her way into the cockpit with a urge for Jujubes and a surprising command of Formula One racing trivia. Ginny Sadler (Erin Cummings, Spartacus) proved so alluring, Dean, Ted, and Sanjeev plumb forgot they were flying a jet airliner over the Atlantic, but thankfully no undue turbulence jumped in their way. In fact, Ginny was so archly over-the-top, her lines in these opening scenes may as well have been, “Hello! I’m voluptuous and out-ray-geous and I wear gor-geous fur coats because someone is always cold, even in July! GIVE ME JUJUBES!”

Of course, Dean — thanks to Ted’s secret stash — gave her Jujubes, and gently flirted with her enough that, once they’d landed in London, she thought nothing of lifting him bodily from the street and pulling him into the back seat of her lustrous Bentley. Cut to the next day, as a Pan Am vice-president named Everett Henson (Scott Cohen, Gilmore Girls) fretted that his “secretary” would be late for the flight to Monte Carlo. And wouldn’t you know it, the secretary was Ginny, fresh with new shopping bags and pretending as if she didn’t get horizontal with the good captain less than a day before. Back in the cockpit, Dean hinted at his liaison, and Ted was blessed with the best line of the night: “Oh my God, you cashed in on the Jujubes.”

What’s a man to do? Why, hop in his boss’s red sports convertible, head to the countryside with his boss’s mistress, and let her, ahem, take instant photographs of his feet. (So that’s what the kids were calling it in those days.) When Dean confronted Ginny on the fact that she’s with his boss, Ginny called Dean on the fact he didn’t ask her about her fabulous lifestyle even though she told him on the flight to London that she’s not wealthy. Touché, I suppose, but I don’t quite know where this is going, other than making Dean’s life more interesting than just droopily pining after Bridget. There was some brief tension when it appeared Dean’d left his hotel key back in Everett’s car, but of course Ginny found it in time, and all was well. Upon returning to New York, business cards were exchanged between Dean, the unawares Everett, and Ginny, and Colette, in her one moment of any consequence, warned Dean about walking a high wire without a net. Sigh. Poor Colette. I really hope she’s not just relegated to dispensing ignored wisdom to Dean while pining after him as he fritters away his time with Ginny before the inevitable confrontation with Everett. As it stands now, Ginny’s a pose, not a character; personally, I’d rather spend time with the fascinating Frenchwoman.

NEXT: The name’s Cameron. Kate Cameron.

After weeks of solemnly placing the fate of the Cold War itself upon Kate’s shoulders, it seems the Pan Am writers finally got wise to another paradigm for secret agent intrigue in the 1960s: James Bond. Heck, even her heretofore humorless MI6 minder managed to crack a smile while he condescended to Kate’s lack of salary for her service to her country. The task he handed her even had a flavor of Ian Fleming panache and convolution: Kate was to cozy up to Niko Lonza (ER‘s Goran Visnjic), a U.N. attaché who would be gambling in a Monte Carlo casino V.I.P. room with an old friend, a friend who’s seeing an Italian woman and Soviet agent who goes by the name of Nina Bracca. Kate will need to get Nina Bracca’s fingerprints, but just in case you didn’t catch all that — and I confess I had to replay it to make sure I got it right in my notes — we were treated to a replay of the orders later in the episode, as Kate fretted over how to accomplish her task.

Because, see, the thing is, Niko Lonza was already on their flight from New York to London, and Maggie had already sunk her flag into his dashing, vaguely European profile. And because Kate is about as subtle as a double-decker bus, she’d loudly pounced when Niko announced at a London pub that he wanted to play billiards; Maggie confessed she didn’t know how, and it turns out Kate’s something of a pool shark. At first, Maggie retaliated by banishing Kate to coach for the London-to-Monte Carlo leg of the trip. But Kate was able to negotiate her way back to being Niko’s date by promising Maggie two-and-a-half weeks of making eggs to order in first class. (Maggie, the sly devil, had already spurned Niko in favor of the young and spritely Irish lad she’d met in London who shared her affinity for darts. “There’s a word from the bird,” he’d exclaimed, and…oh god…oh noDAMN YOU PAN AM!)

There was still the small issue of how best to get Niko to actually take her to the casino. As luck would have it, a gorgeous, emerald dress worth 700 francs just happened to be on display in the hotel lobby, and Kate and Laura just happened to have enough cash on hand that Kate was able to buy it. (Or rent it? Or buy-and-return it? This was never made clear.) One “chance” encounter outside the hotel as Niko was leaving later, and Kate was in a high style Monte Carlo casino, scheming on how best to get her Italian mark to remove her long white gloves. Hey, does anyone want some red wine? Whoopsies! Here, let me pour some seltzer water in this glass and hand it to you so I can wash that stain off — oh, you’re going to slam the glass down and storm off instead? Okay, tootles!

For once, Kate managed to pull off her task with a modicum of ingenuity and verve, although proclaiming herself a Pan Am stewardess to her mark while wearing a 700 franc dress wasn’t exactly all that discreet, either. But that barely mattered, since the whole point of this interlude was to whisk Kate off on her international affair with the debonair Dr. Luka Kovac Niko Lonza. Like Ginny, he’s a pretty much a cypher at this point, although his comment that Nina Bracca was “not a good match” for his friend seemed a bit suspect to me. Kate’s MI6 minder even made a point of not pointing out for which nation Niko works at the U.N. Curious. Curious indeed.

What did you make of “One Coin in a Fountain,” fellow Pan Am passengers? Which relationship do you think is more doomed: Dean and Ginny, or Kate and Niko? And are you at all invested in Laura and Ted getting together?

Come fly with me on Twitter @adambvary


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