Revolution "The Love Boat" Review: Steamboat Charlie

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Revolution S01E16: "The Love Boat"

The best part about Revolution is not knowing AT ALL what kind of episode you will get from week to week. Last week's "Home" was a lovefest of sorts, with an old girlfriend of Miles and Monroe coming between the two and causing quite a mess. Last night was a complete shift in tone as the ironically titled "The Love Boat" was overflowing with hate. Not that tone is a big issue with Revolution, especially when every episode ends with a rootin' tootin' bullet-wasting shootout, but there was something particularly different about "The Love Boat," as though there were orders from above. I did some investigating using my background as a skilled journalist, and when that didn't pan out, I made up this fake letter from NBC bosses that I think may have led to what we saw in "The Love Boat" (coffee ring = legit):

And it worked! Everyone was acting SUPER TOUGH and every three seconds someone had a gun drawn on someone else! This was like The Expendables 3: Still Expendable! Do you know why? Because this is WAR. All that stuff before was just a tickle fight compared to what is going on now. Revolution came out guns-a-pointing-and-sometimes-shooting in "The Love Boat," but unfortunately for Revolution, that doesn't necessarily make it better. It makes it a lot more of an entertaining mess, however.

Following last week's change of alliance, this week Tom Neville joined Miles' Power Rangers without so much as a telegram warning Miles he was doing so. Georgia Federation President Kelly just sent him to Miles' door with a note, not even another officer to confirm Neville's new position. Clearly the idea here was to dismiss the pleasantries and get right to basking in the tension formed with Miles and Neville working side-by-side, and the writers found the perfect way to get on with it without question. Ladies and gentlemen, the most eloquent piece of argument-annihilating dialogue ever crafted:

Neville: "If you don't work with me I'll take it all back, and you can go back to being the general of my nuts!"

I think Giancarlo Esposito found his tombstone epitaph. Seriously, Esposito said that line. Gus Fring said that! I rewound it about 15 times (not exaggerating) because I couldn't believe it's what he actually said. Neville would later go on to call Jason a "selfish little prick," pretty much covering the anatomy of the male crotch area. Why stop there? Why not call Charlie a "stinky taint"? I will say one thing, though. Esposito is handling his material like a pro. Though not creative or particularly nasty, the lines he says carry some extra oomph simply because Esposito knows how to deliver them with maximum effect.

Neville also came with word of their next mission: they were to kidnap a scientist who was making Anthrax for Monroe and get him to work for the peach eaters of The Georgia Federation. And we knew they would be successful doing so, because "The Love Boat" opened with one of those action-packed flashforwards showing them kidnapping the scientist before jumping back in time with a "Two Days Earlier" reverse. But that technique of starting ahead in time, called In Media Res for "In the middle of things," only works when it adds something to the story. Usually the In Media Res itself is cut short of the result of the sequence to build tension. But nope, not here. Here we saw them walk out with the scientist before the credits ran. A few minutes later we found out that they had to kidnap the scientist. And by the time the episode caught up to them trying to kidnap the scientist, which was a mere 12 minutes into the episode, we knew what was going to happen. Instead of building tension, it deflated it like a sad week-old birthday balloon. This was a lesson in exactly HOW NOT to use In Media Res. Clearly the producers weren't happy with the original opening (which I assume was that weak firing squad bit) and cut and pasted the scientist rescue onto the beginning. 

Scientist Dr. Ethan Camp (played by Timothy Busfield, who is always welcome on my screen) in hand, the real drama of "The Love Boat" was then free to play out. The group used a steamboat to go undercover and sneak across borders, which was the best creative decision this show has made since showing Daniella Alonso in her underwear. First, it looked fantastic. Kudos to the location scout for finding some good Carolina river that looked like war-torn turf to boat up and down. Second, the containment of a boat turned it into a compressed box of tension, instigating the characters to interact in close quarters with no escape. Great!

But like a horny teenage boy making his first visit to the Bunny Ranch, Revolution didn't know what to do with this great situation that fell into its lap. In order to get Dr. Camp to comply, Neville kidnapped his family. Charlie, Norah, and Jason were morally opposed to that, while Miles and Neville felt it was a necessary act, this being war and all. Never mind the fact that Charlie, Norah, and Jason have no problem murdering tons of people. Remember, Charlie almost stabbed an innocent man in the eye with a chopstick shank once, and that was before her transformation into the bad dude she is now. It seemed to me like taking the scientist and his family away from madman Monroe was actually a GOOD thing no matter what, considering Monroe would hunt Dr. Camp's family down and slaughter them if he didn't work for him. It was hard to get into the debate when I felt that one side (Charlie) was clearly wrong, but "The Love Boat" was all about full-steam-ahead pacing, even if it didn't make sense.

What transpired next was nothing short of very entertaining total chaos, so buckle up and get ready for a bunch of run-on sentences. Monroe guards came on the boat for an inspection, but Miles, who is the most recognizable person on the planet ESPECIALLY to the Monroe Militia, didn't even go below deck. The guards got bribed away with diamonds, because everyone has diamonds, and one of them gave Miles an "I know you" look that would come back to (almost) haunt them. Charlie started a mutiny by locking Miles in a cabin below deck, Jason chloroformed his dad, and then all of a sudden their boat was side-by-side with the boat that held the Camp family (that wasn't explained). Neville woke up and picked Revolution lock number 1,000, Miles just exited the cabin through a hatch in the ceiling that was there all along, and everyone drew guns on each other. At some point Miles changed his mind about the kidnapping and punched Neville, and just when the boat captain was going to shoot Miles and his crew under orders from Neville (now Neville has more authority than Miles? That's not right...), the guards who came on the boat before started shooting Neville's boat crew from stationary guns on the shore that were there the whole time! You'll have to ask them why they waited until that moment to start shooting and how the managed to shoot JUST Neville's men when it was open season on everyone, particularly Miles. Then, in the middle of the firefight, Miles and the good guys took the scientist and his family onto the other boat and just putt-putted away while the Monroe gunners ignored them. It made absolutely no sense. This script was clearly written on the fly with no thought to anything except filling it with action. If they hit a road block, the writers just wrote in someone else to shoot at something or came up with a handful of diamonds or picked a lock or made a hatch appear. And it was kind of glorious in that way. At least it wasn't boring. The hardest part was keeping track of what side everyone was on. People changed their minds more than a cat in a doorway.

In one final unnecessary time jump two days later, Neville came back to Miles' camp, pointed a gun at him, and threatened to take back the men that President Kelly gave him. All that so Miles could say, "At the end of the day, what do you think President [Kelly] cares more about? Your pride, or a win?" Did Neville really think he could just take "his" men back because he wanted to? Does anyone here know how war works? Did they have to make Neville so unbelievably petulant? Does this show equate drama with the drawing of guns and third-grade name-calling? What is the damned chain of command here!?!?

Then Norah randomly had sex with Miles.   

MEANWHILE (yes there's more), Rachel and Aaron were traveling across the Great Plain Nation to The Tower. We saw another glimpse of post-power America, and it was even worse than Monroeland. Kansas was full of savages! It was like a huge encampment of homeless people in tents cooking rats over coals. Rachel and Aaron hadn't eaten in four days (nice planning there, guys, couldn't you have traded some diamonds for Chex Mix at least?) forcing Rachel to STEAL food from a grizzled hobo. The hobo busted them, so Rachel turned all awesome and shot him dead, starting a chase with some other hobos in pursuit. Then Rachel fell down a hill and broke her leg, so they hid out in the back of a van. The hobos caught up to them, but Aaron saved Rachel's life then Rachel saved Aaron's life because Lord knows that Aaron can't walk half a block without needing his life saved.

It wasn't until the final minutes that this silly storyline finally got to the frickin' point and Rachel showed Aaron that book of Tower secrets she had. In it was a newspaper clipping of a younger Aaron and the groundbreaking software he created, indicating that his research was key to the blackout. It was supposed to be a mind-blowing moment, but my mind is still in mint condition. Why did Rachel wait until now to tell Aaron? Didn't she shoo him away in a previous episode when Aaron tried to help her figure out the secrets inside? Must all network serialized sci-fi dramas play this game of holding secrets until the end of the episode when it makes no sense to do it that way?

BUT WAIT! There's more! Back at what I assume is The Tower, super computer genius Grace (remember her?) was reduced to elevator repairman and fixed the lift. Her guard decided to go down to the mysterious Level 12, but he only made it to Level 7 before some mystery thing cut out the security camera footage and shredded him to bits. It had a cheesy knock-off Lost feel to it, and potentially opened up a whole new layer of Revolution that I'm not sure anyone wanted. It's a little too soon to care about this other than the potential addition of an out-of-place monster because The Tower seems so far away from where the main characters are, but I'm all for it. The more ridiculous this show gets, the better.


NOTES

– Charlie got smacked!

– Neville did have one actually good line of dialogue when he summarized the letter from President Kelly for Miles: "I hate to see your lips move while you read, so I'll paraphrase."

– Neville also calling Charlie "the most irritable pain in the ass I have ever known" was pretty spot on, too. That means Neville covered "nuts," "prick," and "ass" in this episode.

– So some guys can make sonic guns and nukes in this post-power world, but a presidential wax seal can't be duplicated and is automatically official? I like that the world is between technological and Stone Age, but there has to be a bit more of a rule drawn up between the old and new.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom