Father-daughter bonding time for Lena and her long-missing dad, Russ, is short and miserable. Worst 'Take Your Daughter to Work Day' ever.

By Christian Blauvelt
Updated February 29, 2012 at 04:03 PM EST
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The River

S1 E5
type
  • Movie

We know that all the best heroes of Lost knockoffs have daddy issues. But so do all the best heroines!

That was the message of last night’s episode of The River, “Peaches,” the first real installment of ABC’s nascent mystery-adventure franchise to have a deep emotional pull. I don’t know about you but I’ve been increasingly impressed with The River over the past few weeks. What started out as a by-the-numbers inventory of Paranormal Activity-derivative found-footage scares somehow turned into a character-driven yarn with “Los Ciegos,” last week’s Jonas-the-Hanging-Man ep, “Undiscovered Countries,” and now last night’s pretty damn devastating What-happened-to-Lena’s-dad? family tableaux. Actually, this may the first time that I’ve been genuinely moved by any of Steven Spielberg’s recent forays into television. The ending of “Peaches” almost reminded me of Empire of the Sun, if Empire of the Sun had ended with Christian Bale’s parents setting themselves on fire in front of their son’s undoubtedly forever-scarred eyes.

It was day 22 of the expedition to find Emmet Cole: April 6. My birthday! Oh, that meant we were in for some freaky stuff ahead, mah friends. Jonas was finally pulling his weight on the crew, rather than auditioning to be the new “Dude, You’re Totally Getting a Dell!” kid. The mission of the Magus crew was to make their way to a waterfall deep inland—four weeks away on foot, to be precise–where the good doctor might still be. Apparently, Emmet had been looking for people who could “show him the way.” Which could literally mean anything. Good for Jonas to be this willing to help out the mission when the guy they’re hoping to rescue was more than willing to let him hang from a tree.

Lena didn’t have a rapt audience of Animal Planet fans waiting for news of her father’s reemergence from the jungle, though. And it was starting to hurt. Looking at all that footage of Emmet, she could sense her camera-operator dad just off screen but could never really see him. To deal with her anxiety and psychically bond with her dad, Lena played her accordion. Apparently, like Joan on Mad Men, Lena’s father wanted her to learn the instrument because no guys would hit on a girl who plays accordion. True!

NEXT: Watch out for these eco-warriors! They may or may not be undead.

But just as we were about to have our second hootenanny in as many weeks, a ship—damn, it looked like an ocean liner—came out of the Amazonian fog, blindsided the Magus and disappeared. Our crew had run aground. But when they turned to look at the ship that had gotten them stuck…it was gone.

Rather than finding a way to get them afloat again, Lena still wallowed in her daddy issues. Trying to impress this possible successor to the Phuket beach babe he mentioned with the glee of a sexual conquistador in the previous episode, Jonas managed to dredge up a clip of Lena’s dad, Russ, from their edit-bay archives. To make it even better, it was a personalized message just for her. “The key is, Peaches,” Russ said, “you just got to find something you love to do and then find someone who’ll pay you to do it.”

Well, it seemed like the Magus crew had come upon just such a happy lot of workers. Four eco-warriors in a skiff pulled up alongside their ship saying that they were going after illegal loggers. Sadly these newcomers—three men and one woman—didn’t know anything about Emmet, but they did have some spare parts that could come in handy. The foursome was welcomed aboard the Magus for dinner—company on the Boiuna being so rare and all that. It seemed like a fun Amazonian tête-à-tête: Sharing memories of the Peruvian dam where these amateur Green Peacers first met. Jonas, meanwhile, grilled Lena about whether Lincoln was her first, um, kiss—this is a family show and a family recap, after all! A hunky Brazilian dude tried to maneuver Jahel to visit his cabin aboard their ship, the Exodus. Undoubtedly to look at his stamp collection. And the one woman from the Exodus had a full map of the Boiuna, catching Tess’ fancy, because cartography is a frequent pastime of eco-warriors.

Unfortunately, that dam wasn’t in Peru—it was in Brazil—and Jahel and Tess were being maneuvered over onto the Exodus, not for Amazonian lovin’ or map-reading, but to become prisoners. Yes, the Exodus was a ghost ship, and its four crew members were undead souls needing to find four warm-blooded replacements in order to be set free. However, their replacements would, like them, be doomed to wander the Boiuna forever—or until they could trick four more unsuspecting souls to take their respective places.

NEXT: It’s a countdown to sunrise.

Lena quickly discovered this herself when she and Jonas boarded the Exodus to get a better look. Who should that shackled soul staring out from inside the Exodus’ porthole be? Lena’s dad, Russ! It’s family reunion time! Well, not quite. Your dad freaking out and screaming, “You can’t have her! You can’t have her!” can have that effect. After Tess came aboard—followed by Kurt who had figured out mighty quick what was happening here—the Exodus took off, leaving the Magus and its crew of the living far behind. The destination? The east, so that the Exodus ghosts could greet the morning sun, which would free them at last!

It was countdown time. Jonas was able to send a transmission back to the Magus edit bay through his camera, letting everyone know where to look for them. As “3 Minutes to Sunrise” flashed on the screen, Russ took this opportunity to tell Tess what he knew about Emmet. “I’m not even sure Emmet knows about Emmet anymore,” he said. “Something got ahold of him. I don’t know what.”

When Lincoln and Co. finally cornered the Exodus and boarded the doomed ship with flares to keep the undead at bay, Russ leveled with Lena. He couldn’t go with her, because, well, he was already dead. He was one of them. As she was pulled screaming off the ship, her father, saying “I love you, Peaches!” one last time, somehow set himself on fire, freeing his mortal coil at last from this accursed imprisonment. He couldn’t wait to engulf himself in flames until Lena was out of eyesight? I guess he really needed to show her he was gone, so she would believe it and move on with her life. Hopefully this will allow Lena closure. Or it will traumatize her for life. The jury’s really still out on that one. Still, this was a surprisingly raw, unsentimental conclusion to Lena’s quest, and it makes me wonder what kind of horrors lay in wait for Lincoln and Tess when they finally encounter Emmet again. Will he be transformed into some sort of supernatural being as well? Will he be psychically crippled and bald-headed, reciting T.S. Elliot’s “The Hollow Men” over and over, like Col. Kurtz? Or will he be merely physically crippled like Bruce Greenwood’s own Captain Christopher Pike at the end of Star Trek? At the rate we’re going, I have a feeling we’ll find out the answer soon.

What did you think of “Peaches,” peaches? And does the fact that next week’s episode is simply titled “Dr. Emmet Cole” get you excited, or what? Sound off in the comments below.

Episode Recaps

The River

type
  • Movie
mpaa
director
  • Mark Rydell

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