Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer DVR Dump: The River 1.04: "A Better Man"

“Death needs dignity, not ambition.”

So I’ve been looking forward to this episode ever since I decided to cover “The River” this summer because it is the first appearance of Scott Michael Foster in the series. I’ve been a fan of Scott Michael Foster since his “Quarterlife” and “Greek” days, and I was really excited to see him in a television show again. Unfortunately, this episode didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, Foster’s performance was very good. It was more the plot of the overall episode that didn’t work for me. It feels like the show is becoming very formulaic. The crew does something to piss off the local spirits, somebody risks their life to apologize, and all is well again. I was especially disappointed at the beginning of the episode when it seemed like Foster’s character, cameraman Jonas, was dead, because I thought I had been anticipating his arrival for so long just to have it only be in flashbacks. Thankfully that wasn’t quite the case. Still didn’t love this episode, though, because I think it stuck too much to the formula.

The beginning of this episode was a bit of a change-up from the usual. Instead of a clip from “The Undiscovered Country,” we get a clip from the footage Emmet shot just 4-5 months ago. Jonas and Emmet are trying to clear the Magus of vines that just keep growing back. Cutting to present day, the group on the Magus is kind of in a lull, and they don’t really know where to go next. Compounding the problem is the fact that they don’t have a real leader like Emmet used to be. There’s a serious power vacuum. Clark is trying to stir thing up even more, probably partly because it’s good drama and partly because he might be able to grab some power. He starts interviewing everyone on the team and asking them who they consider to be the leader. Let’s just say that the entire team is not on the same page in that department. Meanwhile, Lincoln and Lena are trying to keep things bright and shiny, leading a little indie folk rock-style sing-a-long on the deck of the Magus. It’s seriously out of place, but Joe Anderson has a nice voice, so I went with it. The warm fuzzies come to an abrupt end, however, when they discover Jonas’ body hanging in a tree.

At first, Jonas appears to be fairly newly dead, but all of a sudden, he starts breathing and moving again. He is most definitely alive, although not in very good shape. Lincoln does his best to treat Jonas’ many ailments, such as malaria, dehydration, and infections. While this is happening, we learn a little more about Jonas by seeing his audition video and interview. He appears to have been quite the daredevil- his audition tape involved jumping off the roof of a building into a swimming pool. The actual interview was a lot of showing off scars to impress/flirt with Lena, who we later learn actually hired Jonas. Cleary there’s a bit of a connection between Lena and Jonas, which means there’s going to be another love triangle and a disturbance in Lena and Lincoln’s happy folk roc paradise. We also get a little hint of what Jonas did to end up in the tree, courtesy of some found footage. The Magus came upon the funeral of an Amazon elder, and Emmet tells Jonas to stop filming it. Jonas is determined to win a Peabody, however, so he starts filming the funeral with his cell phone.

Elsewhere on the Magus, there are several arguments going on. In the engine room, Emilio and Jahel are arguing about something in Spanish, and Clark and A.J. are watching this on the monitor. Later, we learn that Jahel was saying that Jonas is El Colgado, the Hanging Man, and they need to get rid of him or the ship will be cursed. A storm is brewing, and Jahel thinks it’s because of Jonas. Lincoln and Tess are also arguing about Jonas, but their argument is whether or not they should backtrack to get Jonas some medical attention. Lincoln feels a moral obligation to help Jonas, but Tess thinks it will take too much time away from the search for Emmet. They don’t have a chance to finish the argument, though, because dead birds start falling from the sky. Seriously gross stuff.

Inside the Magus, Jonas is conscious again. He stumbles his way into the editing room, and he steals a tape with some important footage related to what happened after he filmed the funeral. Lincoln finds Jonas in the editing room, but he doesn’t know about the stealing. He’s mostly concerned with Jonas’ health. He leads Jonas into the main cabin, and Jonas’ reunion with Lena (which involves a big hug) is a little too comfortable for Lincoln’s taste. Jonas is surprised to see that there is a completely new crew aboard the Magus. He didn’t realize that his crew had all gone missing. Tess tries grilling him about where Emmet went, but Jonas genuinely knows nothing. The storm’s still brewing, so everybody naturally wants to go outside and check it out. That’s just as brilliant as that time in grad school when tornado sirens were going off all over campus and I got to my school’s building to find my classmates outside looking for the damn tornado. Anyway, the dark cloud that is approaching the Magus isn’t the storm. It’s a swarm of locusts.

When the locusts approach, everyone rushes back inside the Magus. Jonas is in trouble, though, and he collapses. He’s overdosed on the quinine Kurt insisted they give him for malaria. So Lincoln is once again occupied with trying to treat Jonas. Tess decides to get Jonas’ phone that she found and check it for clues. To make her point about what she thinks is behind all of this, Jahel has Lincoln draw from what looks like a deck of tarot cards. Every time he draws a card, it says “El Colgado.” In the editing room, Clark shows Tess the footage from Jonas’ phone (of the funeral), while back in the main cabin, Kurt tells the story of the Condemned Man who was cursed to hang from a noose while still alive for all eternity. Clark barges back into the main cabin and gets the stolen footage back from Jonas. It shows Emmet leaving Jonas in the noose where the current Magus crew found him.

After learning the whole El Colgado story, the Magus crew starts voting for whether or not to leave Jonas behind and ditch his cursed ass. Lincoln is the only voice really against abandoning Jonas. I guess moral to a fault is Lincoln’s defining characteristic. Tess is slightly hesitant to vote in favor of abandoning Jonas, but then she asks Jonas what he knows about Emmet’s disappearance. Jonas says that Emmet was looking for the source of all magic (aka the Source), but Tess doesn’t think that’s enough info. She orders him off “her” ship. Jonas goes back outside and stops on his cell phone, trying to destroy it. Then he gets in the noose and starts screaming an apology to the spirits. The soul of the elder escapes from Jonas’ cell phone, and all of a sudden the storm stops and Jonas is freed from the noose. Once the Magus has been cleaned up, Clarke gives Jonas a job as his new number 2 cameraman. Lincoln and Tess watch the video of Emmet abandoning Jonas again, but this time they see that that footage is followed by a lengthy apology video from Emmet. The apology makes them even more determined to find Emmet.

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