Thursday, November 12, 2009

Surface, Episode 2


Where last we left off … eh. It was the pilot. We met people. There are sea monsters. They don’t eat people … yet.

The show opens at a lighthouse near the Cape of Good Hope. Inside, an old guy watches rugby on the TV. Little does he know that he’s about to die. Or, if he were on any other show, about now is when he would die. Lucky for him, he’s on Surface, where nothing actually happens. The old guy sees his water glass rattling on the table, and even he thinks he’s in a better story, because he looks like he knows he’s about to bite it. No good comes of water glasses rattling. He goes to the window, peers into the fog, and hears a roar that blows out all the glass in the lighthouse. And then … that’s it. We see the sea monster dive below the waves, satisfied with his destruction.

Really, people? We’re in the second episode and no one’s been eaten by a sea monster yet? These sea monsters kind of suck. Apparently, they’re more into property damage than actually being threatening. What are they going to do next, egg a house?

The episode picks up where it left off last week, with everyone except Aleksander Cirko being remarkably uninteresting, despite having alternately wacky hijinks and perilous government run-ins. We’ll get to them later. Let’s check in with Dr. Cirko.

Dr. Aleksander Cirko, dramatic Serbian evolutionary biologist, is en route to see a fully-grown mystery creature when he’s stopped by a handsome Asian man in a suit. You know he’s evil because he’s really friendly and amicable while throwing around his power. Government agents are never that friendly unless they have some serious power over you.

He’s overseeing the examination of the mystery creature’s corpse. We don’t get to see the whole thing, just the inside of the mouth and a really bad computer generated shot of hagfish eating the creature’s gills. Remember that last part: the creature’s gills. Why? Because next, they find lungs, and Cirko’s assistant says he was right. Right about what? you and the friendly government agent may ask. Right about it being a mammal. Yes, a mammal. With gills. Not a reptile, not an amphibian, not even a new Class. No, this is a mammal that defies all the standard rules of the class Mammalia. But sure, let’s call it a mammal, because mammal sound scary.

Later, they use a glowy red science laser to burn through the massive flank of the mystery creature. Yes, this is the same massive flank that Rich’s brother managed to puncture with a spear. Don’t ask questions.

The computers start malfunctioning, and Cirko’s assistant tells the scientist operating the laser to stop. The red shirt keeps going, and he will pay for his arrogance, as the flank explodes and flings all the lab techs backward. From behind the safety glass, Cirko dramatically whips off his glasses, which seems like it might be a little counterintuitive, given that he could probably use the good vision right now.

The assistant Singh is laying in a hospital bed with his entire head bandaged, hiding the three inch flap of skin that the monster hide ripped off. Singh’s cheek oozes green goo and his heart rate hits 250 beats per minute. Somehow, it doesn’t explode in his chest. Then he swings to the other end of the spectrum and goes into hibernation, until the last act, when he awakes with a start. He unwraps his bandage and starts to break things when he looks in the mirror. Why? The better for a dramatic reveal.


As for the other characters … they do stuff.

Dr. Daughtry is en route to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, where FEMA is evacuating the entire island because of a red tide. It’s about as organized as one might expect from FEMA. Daughtry drags her son up to the front of the crowd and says she’s from the Monterey Oceanographic Institute, as if this will give her free run of the beach. When it doesn’t, crazy Rich the southerner pushes his way to the front and tells the guardsman that he just drove all night to get to the island, which – way to not come off as crazy, bubba. He doesn’t help his case by starting to leave, then charging back, yelling about how this is America and he’s free to do what he wants, and then making a break for it. That works just about as well as you’d expect.


Daughtry and Rich end up in quarantine together, and Daughtry starts talking to him, proving that doctorates don’t require common sense. She reveals that there’s no red tide, since the seagulls are fine. Judging from Rich’s head tilt, he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit on the crazy train, so he gives her his notebook, full of drawings of the mystery creatures.

On the road back, Rich sees a boat for sale. It’s already been sold, and I bet you can’t guess to whom, so I’ll just tell you: Laura Daughtry. She’s fitting her son with a life vest and setting out to go violate a quarantine, because this woman has already given up on winning the parent of the year award. She and Rich split the cost, and it’s not long before they’re all suiting up in forest-camo ponchos to go out on the water. As one does.

So, all three of them sneak through the swamp, and Daughtry’s precocious son doesn’t understand the concept of “stealthy,” because he keeps talking. They’d totally be caught, except the US Government didn’t put the carcass under 24-hour surveillance. It’s probably a union thing.

Rich goes ahead to scout it out, and Laura stays behind with her son, which I guess is a point for her, because I figured she’d leave him to stand guard. She still manages to traumatize him, as he realizes they’re surrounded by hagfish, and he totally freaks out. She takes some home in a cooler and cuts one open on the table right in front of her son. He asks if it’s rubber, and rather than saving him from further nightmares and saying yes, she tells him it’s a stomach. So, to recap: this kid has been dragged across the country, taken into a quarantine zone, had blood drawn by a scary government agency, trekked through swampland, been surrounded by creepy-looking hagfish, and then watched his mother disembowel one on the table at a Motel 6. He can’t catch a break, can he?

But it’s not until returning home that it all really goes south. Rich’s wife is less than thrilled to hear he’s been running around with a foxy marine biologist. Meanwhile, Daughtry returns to the lab and finds out she’s been banned by the US Government. It surprises her to find out that the government knows she went to South Carolina. I wonder however they figured it out, what with the CDC taking her blood and asking her for her name. She throws a tantrum about how she needs a job, and we get another Daughtry rant.


Back at Miles’s house, Miles has wrapped the mystery creature in a shower curtain and is hiding in the garage. Logically, he stuffs the wild animal in a cooler (did Igloo sponsor this show?). Because if there’s one thing a wild animal loves, it’s being stuffed into a cooler. Miles and Phil try to figure out what to name the mystery creature. Phil suggests Cornelius, which is probably a better option than Nimrod, the name they settle on. The two boy geniuses think that the mystery creature is an iguana. Miles can’t figure out why Nim’s sick, because I guess his book on iguana’s doesn’t include anything about plastic coolers not being their natural habitat.

Stoner ginger Phil hides the cooler in a gigantic playhouse in the backyard. Where it will be totally safe, until Miles’s sister throws a huge houseparty while his folks are out of town, and she goes in there to make out with a toolbag she’s been seeing. Nim takes that opportunity to escape. He hops into the chlorinated pool before running back into the house – and, naturally, into Blair’s room. She sees it and freaks out. Miles snags it and throws it into a bathtub, which seems to make it happier. Well, that’s just downright crazy – what animal would rather live in a bathtub than a closed Igloo cooler? Either way, he keeps Nim in the bathtub and gives him live goldfish to hunt – which he does, using zaps of electricity. I’m just wondering how they still haven’t noticed that this isn’t actually an iguana.

So we’re at the end of the second episode, and the sea monsters still haven’t done anything. At least, not on screen – there’s a big board in Cirko’s office that marks all the potential and confirmed deaths by sea monster. Oh, and they have a big skeleton suspended in the middle of the warehouse, but that’s not particularly scary looking, and I doubt it’s going to eat anyone. And just when I’m about to abandon all hope of the monsters being more interesting than any of the main characters, we cut to the Great Barrier reef, where a douchey Australian holds up a dead alligator and dubs it “Australian for shark bait.” They catch a great white within minutes, but when they reel it in, all they have is a head. They don’t really have time to process that, though, as their boat is bumped, and a sea monster swims up from below and swallows the boat whole.


Finally. That’s what I’m watching the show for.

ARBITRARY POINTS SYSTEM:

Introduction of stock character, “friendly but mysterious government agent”: +14
Continued dramatic line readings by Dr. Aleksander Cirko: +22
Cirko’s dramatic glasses removal: +8
Accurate depiction of an incompetent FEMA evacuation: +4
Laura Daughtry’s repeated attempts at child endangerment: +17
Miles being too stupid to realize Nim’s not an iguana: -16
Rich’s attempt at sprinting past the barricade: +9
Going a full 41 minutes without a sea monster eating a single person: -27
No, really. You think I care about the characters?: -12
Finally seeing a sea monster eat not just a person, but a whole boat: +14

Total: 33 out of 100

Best Exchange:
Rich: How’s he doing?
Laura Daughtry: Alright. I think. “Goodnight, sweet prince, sorry about the creepy dead hagfish and the felony trespassing.”
Rich: The sooner he finds out what the world’s really like, the better.


Surface, Episode 2

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