Hostages 1×02 ‘Invisible Leash’: The plot thickens somewhat


This episode of Hostages deals with the immediate fallout of Ellen’s gambit to delay the president’s surgery. Though I wouldn’t call it a taut thriller yet, the series does take a few steps towards addressing my concerns from last week while creating new ones. Let’s see how it did, after the jump.

The opening sequence, wherein Ellen returns home directly after delaying the surgery to find her family gagged, blindfolded and apparently awaiting execution, shows Duncan’s mind games at their fullest. When Duncan loaded the clip into the gun and fired it toward one of the family members, my mind reeled with the possibilities associated with that choice by the writers. But immediately after the opening credits, it becomes clear that no one was shot. It’s then that it occurred to me that there’s a significant structural problem here with threatening Ellen’s family. If one of them is actually killed, no one would expect Ellen to do the surgery 2 weeks afterward. Another surgeon would be assigned, and the death would no doubt be investigated by the Secret Service, especially after the blood thinner incident. Killing anyone in the family is way, way riskier for the conspirators than keeping them alive. While she certainly doesn’t have carte blanche to foil the plot at every turn, as long as Kincaid is alive and Ellen is still his surgeon, her family is safer than she thinks from a logical perspective.

The show also stumbles into another structural problem in this episode that I hope they resolve. Depending on the writers’ goals, they can easily make Ellen’s captors either all-powerful or completely hamstrung by the president’s protectors. While that’s great for the writers, it makes the plot feel a bit contrived. The conspiracy is everywhere – even a member of the Secret Service is able to intimidate Ellen before she can tell the lead investigator about the plot, and the same rogue agent fills Duncan in on the problem with Ellen’s fingerprints in the pharmaceutical locker. But the rogue Secret Service agent chalks up his inability to fix the problem to the fact that “security’s too tight.” So it’s easier to kill the nurse Angela and frame her for the mistaken blood thinner dosage than to have a Secret Service agent sneak into the locker and wipe Ellen’s fingerprints? I’m a little dubious. Either the conspirators are well-positioned to address every contingency or they aren’t. Hopefully Ellen pries some freedom from Duncan et al. in the next few episodes, or their omnipotence is going to get old real fast.


Source: CBS

Enough about my nitpicks though. There were elements of this episode I did like. Our good friend Quentin Creasy is indeed the White House chief of staff, and he makes clear to Duncan in a flashback that the plot is larger than just the Kincaid assassination. In fact, he actually likes the president! It doesn’t seem like this is motivated by purely political factors or personal hatred on Quentin’s part and I’ll admit it, that’s intriguing. Meanwhile, the Duncan-as-a-hostage-to-Quentin theory is a bit bruised after that revelatory flashback, but time will tell. Hopefully the writers follow up on both of those threads soon.

I also continue to enjoy the battle of wits between Ellen and Duncan, and really want that to be brought to the fore as the series progresses. Ellen clearly knows she’s the only one who can outsmart the conspirators. The rest of her family have an “invisible leash” – GPS trackers implanted in their backs. Ellen needs to make a big move toward getting a few steps ahead of Duncan next episode and I’m interested to see if that comes to pass.

Overall, this episode answered a few of my questions and addressed a few concerns from the pilot. It became slightly less “textbook thriller,” as I complained last week, and that’s all I can ask. What did you think, dear reader?

J.P. Laub

is a pop culture connoisseur, politics wonk, sometimes gamer and consummate nerd. To give you some idea, he is an avid reader of Wikipedia entries about fictional and theoretical faster-than-light drives. Seriously, he once saw a random Dune reference on a website and spent 45 minutes reading about the Holtzmann effect and related entries.


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  • Kendra Beltran

    So mad at myself for forgetting this show was on…

    • J.P. Laub

      It’s early days yet. Still time to catch up!