Sophia and Thomas reunite, but given a chance to start fresh, Simon Lee makes a surprising decision

By Jeff Jensen
October 26, 2010 at 02:50 PM EDT
Chris Haston/NBC
S1 E6
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  • TV Show

My favorite scene in last night’s installment of The Event was The Great Cream Carafe Getaway, served up by Whatchamacallum double agent Simon Lee. Sophia Maguire—free at last, free at last—hopped a subway and made a beeline to her Whatchamacallum co-leader (and former lover?) Thomas. Which was exactly what President Martinez and intelligence honcho Blake Sterling wanted her to do. They had spiked her Fruit Loops with a non-toxic (and apparently totally tasteless) radioactive isotope and were tracking her subtly nuked 1%-less-than-human body in hopes of nabbing Thomas, and of course, recapturing her.

Simon Lee needed to find a way to get his maybe-alien liege out of this jam, and I, for one, was rooting for them. I wasn’t relishing the prospect of being made to watch another five episodes of Laura Innes trying desperately to make incarceration look interesting. And so Simon directed Sophia to meet him at a coffee shop, where he demonstrated the kind of quick-thinking ingenuity that made him “Barista of the Month” three months in a row on his home planet of WaterlessWorld… although since they have no water on WaterlessWorld, they don’t have coffee, so he couldn’t have been a barista. (Dammit! I hate it when my jokes fall apart like that!) Simon spiked all the creamers with the same radioactive marking liquid in Sophia’s bloodstream. Back at Mission Control, Elias and Blake watched as their computerized map started quickly filling up with more and more dots, to the point where Sophia’s got lost in the cream-loving crowd. Man, does that coffee shop do brisk business or what?

It was a clever scene, and it got the episode, entitled “Loyalty,” off to a strong, promising start that it couldn’t completely sustain… but I’m not going to dwell on the negatives this week. I’m also not going to give you the usual full-length write-up: I’m feeling a little under the weather, as well as feeling very jetlagged from an assignment in London. (Big thanks to Darren Franich for filling in last week—I really appreciated his fresh, insightful take on the show.) I’ll be able to come clean on my English adventure later this week here at the website and in the pages of our magazine. I hope you’ll enjoy it enough to forgive me for slacking off. Since “Loyalty” seemed to mark a new phase in The Event’s season 1 storytelling, I thought I would use this space to single out a few things that struck me as particularly promising—things that I hope the show will continue nurture in the weeks to come.

Sean and Leila

I was surprised that The Event decided to reunite the young lovers so quickly. Yes, I had been complaining about Leila’s abduction storyline for weeks, so hooray for her liberation! But what I was expecting–what I was privately rooting for, really–was that she would find a way to escape and then spend some time on her own, perhaps investigating a different angle of the mystery-conspiracy while trying to get back to Sean and home. Still, I’m not complaining. My favorite parts of The Event’s pilot episode were the cruise ship scenes between Sean and Leila. The actors demonstrated winning chemistry, and I immediately became invested in their characters.

NEXT: Shades of Lost in one character’s story arc?

I have not especially enjoyed their respective stories since the pilot—but I do like them as people. And I think I like them even better when they’re together, even though last night’s storyline didn’t exactly flatter their relationship. It bugged me that Sean had to struggle to convince Leila to buy his freaky Flight 514 tale. Sure, it’s a tough sell, but in general, I’m done with seeing Sean in these “I know this sounds crazy but you gotta believe me!” situations, and I was a little disappointed by Leila’s incredulity in light of her own recent mad trials and tribulations. Regardless: Sean and Leila are together, and I look forward to seeing them push forward into this journey into mystery—together.

The Simon Lee Flashbacks

The most Lost this Lost-wannabe has ever been. Simon’s storyline, which culminated with his decision to not abandon his life and follow Thomas and Sophia down the hatch/rabbit hole/wormhole of that now-imploded building, was juxtaposed with a flashback storyline set in the past in which he made a different choice in a similar situation. We learned that about a decade after The Whatchamacallums landed in Alaska in 1944, Simon was living in Venice Beach and madly in love with a woman named Violet. Thomas showed up and told him he had to give up his bliss for various spoken and unspoken reasons. Thomas’ big pitch: Inevitability. It was only a matter of time before Violet realized there was something peculiar about her ageless boyfriend (whom she knew as Mason), and Simon would have to break up with her, anyway. In a coda set in 2000, Simon visited Violet, now elderly, afflicted with Alzheimer’s and fading away. He said: “If it was up to me, I would have stayed.” She said: “It was up to you.” Ouch.

Now, the connection between Simon’s flashback storyline and his present dilemma wasn’t as clean and clear as it could have been. I don’t mean to sound critical; actually, the murk worked for me, because it drew me into thinking about Simon’s character. He regretted his choice to leave Violet decades earlier. What would he regret by choosing to follow Thomas again? Answer: Loss of self-determination. Yes, Simon blew his cover by attacking Murphy. His life as a CIA agent and his function as a Whatchamacallum mole are shot. All of this had provided him an opportunity to begin anew, on his own terms. Still, we’ve only ever seen Simon make extraordinarily risky sacrifices for his people; why bail on them now? Unless, of course, Simon’s sacrifices haven’t been so much for his people as much as they’ve been for Sophia. And again, we wonder about the true nature of their relationship…

Regardless: I like the intent behind Simon’s flashback-enhanced arc in “Loyalty.” We got a storyline that was more than just the sum of its plot. We got a nice chunk of character development, and we got an attempt to riff on a thematic idea. I hope The Event does more of it. Anything that can add more interesting storytelling and emotional richness into this show, I totally support.

Sophia and Thomas

The two Whatchamacallum leaders have finally been reunited. I look forward to the revelations—or at least more cryptically phrased morsels of intrigue—that will come from their conversations. And in general, I look forward to seeing Laura Innes be given a more dynamic range of scenarios to act.

NEXT: You’re going to be pondering about the show for the next two weeks, right? Here’s some additional fodder!

Some questions I’m pondering and some ideas I’ll be mulling during the two weeks between episodes:

*Simon told Violet “Where I come from, there wasn’t any [water.]” So The Whatchamacallums are refugees from… Dune? But let’s take note of Violet’s fondness for sunflowers. According to Wikipedia, the sunflower is a symbol of The Green Movement. Do I dare make too much out of what was probably just a sentimental storytelling device? Should we wonder if The Whatchamacallums hail from a land of environmental ruin? And is that place really another planet… or is it a parallel reality… or is it our future? (A small tangent: The Simon storyline did remind me of the recent Fringe episode, about the shapeshifter from the imperiled parallel world who was forced to abandon the life he made for himself in this world to serve the cause of his people. Are you watching Fringe this season? Great stuff, folks.)

*When he was with Violet, Simon said: “For the first time in my life, I’m free of [my past].” Later, when Simon visited Violet on her proverbial deathbed, she asked him if he was an angel, and he replied, “I am so far from that.” So that means he could be… a demon? Might The Whatchamacallums be criminals of some sort, dumped on Earth by a civilization that views our planet as some kind of global penal colony or deluxe Phantom Zone?

*The Journalist. Wow. Her name: Madeleine Jackson. She’s a conspiracy theory-chasing muckraker, prone to saying radically cynical things about the media, about the church, about consumerism, self-perpetuating ignorance and delusion, about “lies that keep the construct going!” Do I love or loathe this character? I can’t wait to see more of her to find out. She dropped a bombshell in the Sean/Leila lap. Michael Buchanan, Leila’s father, knew about — or learned about — the Whatchamacallum prison at Mt. Inostranka. Was this why Michael was targeted to fly Avias 514 at President Martinez and Sophia — because he was the proverbial Man Who Knew Too Much? “He brought this on himself,” Toepick told Agent Collier…

*The Journalist also told Sean/Leila that The Whatchamacallums were aliens. She used the term “E.B.E.s”—extraterrestrial biological entities. FUN FACT! There was a classic episode of The X-Files entitled “E.B.E.” — the very episode that introduced those conspiracy theory-chasing muckrakers The Lone Gunmen into the show. Coincidence? I think not!

*Thomas opened another wormhole. (I think.) How can he do that? Or is he even responsible for these anomalies? He definitely led us to believe that once they’re initiated, they can’t be stopped. Oh, and how irritated were you by the fact that the previews for upcoming episodes spoiled the cliffhanger regarding Simon’s fate? Feel free to discuss and grouse — and cover all the beats that I’m neglecting in this skimpy recap — in the message boards below.

LOVE TO TALK ABOUT TELEVISION? Then don’t miss this week’s TV Insiders podcast! Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, Michael Ausiello, Michael Slezak, Missy Schwartz, and our resident TV critic Ken Tucker weigh in on the best show on television right now, and dish the latest happenings on Project Runway, Survivor, and Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

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