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Crossbones S01E02: "The Covenant"

There was so much talk of legends and tales in "The Covenant" that I came away feeling like if I don't tell the story of Crossbones, no one will. It's like it washed up on my living-room shore in a TV-shaped bottle and I'm the lone, marooned soul who found it. I like this show, guys! Who knew the tiny island nation of Santa Compana’s main export was DRAMA?! Episode 2 gave us a lynching, a sword fight, another ghost sighting, and some good old-fashioned tropical adultery. Oh, how we doubted this show, but "The Covenant" proved to be a fun ride while introducing glimmers of what Crossbones could be on a weekly basis. I mean, Gilligan’s Island never left the sand and look how successful that was! What I’m saying is, Crossbones is starting to take shape as a study in politics, anthropology, and deception while also featuring scenes where Edward Teach stitches up his own head and prostitutes stuff sea-sponges in their, er, lower decks.  


So, fresh off of recreating the longitudinal chronometer, the Commodore received a visit from an old friend by the name of Captain Sam Valentine (Stuart Wilson, MI-5). P.S. I appreciate that it didn't take very long for James Balfour to rebuild the machine. The last thing we needed was some drawn-out macguffin slowing things down. Not the case here! Valentine's drop-in was a forced sort of scenario, because Valentine and his crew were made to wear hoods during the journey to the hallowed Santa Compana. But you know what it's like to get your spot blown up—no fun at all. 

See, Teach/Not Blackbeard had a pirate scheme: Let his old pal Valentine sell the device to William Jagger (Julian Sands; 24, Banshee). That way, the Crown would see that, since Teach had nothing to do with the chronometer, the legend of Blackbeard was merely a story living long past the dead man. Also, since Jagger is the same dude who assigned Lowe the mission of killing Blackbeard/Teach, Lowe would likely be assumed dead as well. Which wouldn't really affect Lowe's orders, but would buy Teach a little more time to perform all the head surgeries. 


Seriously, this is the second time in as many episodes that he's played doctor with his own troubled pate. What's next week, a tropical trepanation? 

Meanwhile, Lowe began to adjust to life on Santa Compana, coming into a sweet studio hovel as official Island Surgeon. This was definitely a comment on the state of healthcare in this country, I believe. Kate generously offered to furnish the place with a "bed, medical instruments, a chamber pot, a wash basin, roof, and well everything." The deal: Lowe was to have a look at her husband James and his useless, painful legs and see if the spy couldn’t do anything for the poor dope-head invalid. 

As it turned out, Lowe couldn’t, but he did manage to stoke suspicion in James. How did this surgeon know about the travails of a fugitive Jacobite? Earl of the House of Kinross, James was betrayed and tortured, yet never gave up his cause. Now he spends his days consuming rum and opium to numb the pain, and fixing contraptions for Teach. At this early point in the season, I’m fine with Lowe basically being a video game character on this island, wandering up to its inhabitants, pressing X, and learning their various stories. I wonder what Charles’ story is? Ex-chimney sweep? And what of Nenna? Ex-governess?


Elsewhere, Fletch had been tasked by the cheerful island brothel with diving for sea-sponges. Specifically "bastard-thwarting sponges." Seriously, these tropical prostitutes were so psyched to have sex with all the grubby ship rats. Look I’m no streetwalker, but pirates would be the last dudes I’d be enthusiastic about jumping into bed with. Pirates lack decorum and they are prime candidates for disease and violent behavior, and that is all I choose to say about that.

But so yeah, Fletch I actually liked this time around. He certainly toned down his wide-eyed, aw-shucks blimeyness, so his discovery of the dead Frenchman carried with it a welcome reality. The number of rocks it took to sink the body was another story, but whatever. 

It's just too bad that his improvement as a character was all for naught, because by episode’s end Kate had "sent him on his way," and looking at IMDB, I'm not sure he reappears in the future. Bye, Fletch!


In the Smuggler’s Marketplace that looked like a convincing and fun section of Las Vegas's Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, the ruthless Eisengrim (Ezra Buzzington) confronted Lowe about the death of his beloved Frenchman. Spy that he was, Lowe played dumb and was off instead to advise Kate on her husband. Sadly, no modern medicine could save him. Rather, James needed some medicine of the heart, and no I’m not talking about beta-blockers. He needed Kate to be a good woman to him. He needed Kate to tell him, "Look baby, I know times have been rough, but we always got each other. Put down that opium pipe." Kind of like a Patch Adams sort of thing, you know where a patient’s spirits are lifted and then his chances for a full recovery improve. 


And that was the treatment plan. It was the treatment plan when she locked lips with James. It was the treatment plan as Kate went on to vouch for Lowe during his public execution. The only time loving and supporting her husband seemed to have stopped being the treatment plan was when Kate kissed Lowe at the end of this episode. Yes! I like my romantic complications to show up early in a TV season, and these two actually have some chemistry. This storyline could very well hold water as Crossbones continues to find its sea legs.


Episode 2's sea leg-finding progress included way more of a focus on Edward Teach. More than Tom Lowe this time around, in contrast to the series premiere. Between the Spaniard arriving last week in the dead of night and talk of "hell-burners," the island's non-king is cooking up a scheme. From what we’ve heard and seen, Teach has the smarts and viciousness to pull off something huge, and the details on exactly what this something is are being metered out at a fair pace. I'm okay with not knowing too much too soon. However, Teach is already seeming less mysterious, both as a vulnerable human and a nightmare psychopath. He professed a passionate dedication to Selima, who seems to be a lover of sorts, and a confidante in matters of island politics. He also puzzled over ways to kill Valentine without a public backlash, so he's not all chocolates and flowers. I've got to hand it to ex-Blackbeard, though, for really giving this whole "governed island nation" thing a fair shake. At least on his cunning surface. 


Conversely, letting Valentine go free put the secret island paradise of Santa Compana at risk. To make matters worse, Valentine was ingratiating himself to the locals with tales of Blackbeard's brutality. Would this impressionable crew of salty sea dogs be so inclined to follow the Commodore's plan for "a republic after the Athenian model where the power of the state arises from the consent of the governed"? Knowing that Teach had a capacity for viciousness against his own? As Teach struggled over what course of action to take that pesky ghost reappeared:


Someone should put a sign up: "Warning! Beach Ghosts!" Teach wisely did what anyone does when they see a beach ghost and high-tailed it to a skull shrine later that evening. There, he fended off assassins by using pieces of the shrine as weapons, chucking skulls and swinging bells and slicing open one dude’s neck. Unfortunately the dying dude left our mortal realm before giving Teach the name of the man responsible for the assassination orders, so Teach went with Selima's suggestions: Lowe and Valentine. So those two got locked up and sentenced to slow hanging. Classic island justice. 

While incarcerated (again), Lowe learned about the concept of a hell-burner, which is basically an empty boat full of gun powder and shrapnel with a controllable detonator. SOUNDS LIKE MY EX-WIFE! I kid, though. In exchange for this choice piece of information, Lowe promised Valentine a swift death, meaning Valentine still had to spend the night sleep-hanging in a noose.


Posturepedic that ain’t! And so, with Lowe rescued (by Kate’s claim that he’d spent the day in bed with her and thus was unable to organize some assassins), Blackbeard relayed his scheme all along: He’d paid a prostitute to goad some unlucky saps into taking him out so he could publicly pin the blame on Valentine, AND get the first mate Finnegan, now captain, to do his bidding with the chronometer. Mutiny avoided! I got to say, that's pretty smart, but also this plot recieved a lot of help from some unseen jury against Lowe and Valentine. Although to be fair, court scenes can be a little boring. Even so, Kate really did not have to do much to get Lowe off that stool. 


What did you think of "The Covenant"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/2/2014

Season 1 : Episode 9

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I am getting bored already by the story their is not much of a plot to string out Blackbeard doesn't trust Lowe then why not kill him and then plunder the seas, but sorry he can't because he has to be dead? John Malkovich is a great actor but he is better when he has a decent script. As much as Black Sails was silly and cliched I prefer it to this as it was more exciting and interesting this is just ho hum , I abandon this ship !
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Slight improvement on the pilot - which makes it watchable, but not 'must watch'
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Was it even possible for an island in the Caribbean to be a secret in the early 1700s? With all the exploring, trade, travel, and presence of navies from several European countries, wouldn't every island have been charted? .
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I will watch any show that has richard coyle in it's cast.great actor!
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This episode was worse than the pilot, which was pretty good, but not great. Looks like this will be a mediocre show. But there's not much else on right now, so I guess it will have to do.
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Wow, worse? I am glad I stopped after seeing its pilot. :/
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It had all the same issues, and the plot was both less interesting and less plausible.
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Oh well. I don't feel bad for missing it then. I was going to record, but said meh since the pilot sucked.
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Two episodes in and I'm still hooked. I'm liking this show a lot and I especially like John Malkovich's character, Blackbeard. And it turns out the chronometer is not the main part of the plot! That was very interesting! No I'm intrigued on what's the real scheme.
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I like the show too. Great characters, good acting, and beautiful scenery.
It's just hard to see what it has to do with piracy in general or Blackbeard in particular. It's more of a period drama, where the particular surroundings don't matter much.
Pirates are more like the MacGuffin than the centerpiece of the show.
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Question about the plot. Why would Blackbeard go to all that trouble to attack the ship in the first episode, snatch the chronometer and bring attention to himself in the process? They already knew he was alive, the chronometer was meant to lure him out of hiding, and it certainly did.

But now he wants to put it back in the hands of the English just to make people believe that he is dead? Isn't he concerned that the invention will put pirating out of business, wasn't that the whole point?

Perhaps Blackbeard intentionally put the chronometer back together wrong, so the English will not be able to use it properly (the inventor is dead). Otherwise, the reason he gave for returning it, just doesn't make sense. Also... isn't the chronometer useless without the code book?

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The plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense. All the chronometer needs to work is to be set to the time of a fixed location, like Greenwich. Then you compare that time with your local time. That give you your longitude, 15 degrees per hour.
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This was an actual major problem of navigation of that time. Their accurate clocks of the day could not deal with being at sea. The ship's motions, as well as other factors, made them inaccurate and useless for navigation.
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Absolutely. The actual longitude chronometer was a very big deal at the time.
It's the multiple dials on it and the need for a code book that are unnecessary elaborations.
So, again, if you are going to use historical fact to embellish your story, use historical fact, don't invent silly embellishments.
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Overall, this was a good episode, although shipping Lowe and Kate was too predictable. I really wish they would have stretched it out over a few more episodes to build up a little suspense and anticipation. She saved his life, of course they are going to end up together. The whole husband-who-can't-satisfy-wife-gives-blessing-to-another-man-to-make-wife-happy has been done too many times before. The way it was presented here made it seem too tawdry and despicable, Kate cheating on her poor husband. But Kate and Lowe definitely have some major chemistry going on there.

John Malkovich is a joy to watch, but sometimes the odd accent is distracting. Hopefully over time this will be less noticeable. Also, it is perfectly understandable that Blackbeard would have a gray goatee now that he has aged and his priorities have changed. He seems happy to have evolved into a man who wishes to be called “Commodore,” and not be easily identified by a flowing black beard anymore. I don't know why people are having a hard time with that. It fits perfectly with his preference that the name “Blackbeard” not be used on the island. He is, after all, in hiding

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I'm not at all sure that Kate and Lowe actually spent the night together. I think she was lying to save his life.

Yes, Blackbeard's accent is very distracting. Why is he using it? Teach was an Englishman.
Why are they using him?
The whole idea of using him in this show is silly. He was killed by pirate hunters, his corpse was examined after death, and his head hung from the bowsprit of one of the hunter's ships. There is nothing known about the person that would indicate that he wanted to be the leader of a free nation.
Using his name is a cheap shot.
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Yes, Kate definitely was lying (twice) to save Lowe's life. I was actually basing my comment on that kiss at the end of the episode and the preview clip from the next episode.

Perhaps the premise of this show was just meant to be fiction based on history, and not a factual depiction. I'm enjoying it just as fiction, I don't really expect the stories to be as historically accurate as a documentary. But I can understand your frustration if you expect them to be.

Consider the possibility that Blackbeard did not die. What if Blackbeard was clever enough to use look-a-likes or decoys, men who had black beards and resembled him? Perhaps the man that was caught and killed was not really Blackbeard at all? Perhaps he escaped from his ship in a smaller boat under the cover of darkness the night before the battle? I don't mean to imply that this is what the writers intended (because they still have not given a reason for Blackbeard's survival). It just may be a possible explanation.

It also occurs to me if he was as evil as his "legend," then perhaps he set the whole thing up, knowing he might lose his ship and all his men, and the odds were against him. He may have still chose to desert them, leave a willing imposter behind and escape.
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or perhaps Teach isn't blackbeard but an imposter.
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Excellent idea. That would be exciting.
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I am enjoying it as fiction as well. And since it is fiction and doesn't pretend to be anything else, I don't understand the need to attach Blackbeard's name to it.
I'm not really complaining about it, I just think it is strange.
If it is a network strategy to draw in viewers with name recognition, I think it will backfire.
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You do make a good point. I don't know why they had to use the name Blackbeard, they could have been creative and come up with a nice dastardly pirate name for him, and implied he was a famous evil pirate. I still would have watched because of John Malkovich. And it still is a compelling show on it's own merits, they didn't need to use the name, imo. At least they called it Crossbones, and not Blackbeard.
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(Well, it didn't take long for the TV.com staff to take offense to my comment, and delete it, so I'll post it again!)

After the most recent round of cullling by TV networks, I refuse, point-blank, to watch ANY and ALL new shows, until they have been renewed for AT LEAST a second season!!

The entire concept of cancelling shows, should be non-existent: Networks should be run the same as real life: If you make a mistake in the process of completing a task, you apologise, BUT YOU GET ON WITH THE JOB UNTIL IT'S COMPLETED - You DON'T just stop the job, and move on to another task!!!

The same should apply to networks: If they launch a show that does poorly or even averagely in the quote-unquote 'ratings' (Don't get me started on the system that yanks use to determine said 'ratings'!!), they should have to stick to their guns (pun intended), until such a time as the writers of the cancelled show, have been allowed to close off their story.

Leaving cancellation notices until the last possible moment, is not only bad for business, but it's bad for continued quote-unquote 'ratings' as people will become discouraged from watching ANY new show that they might premiere.

The entire system of television is fundamentally flawed, BUT, it also explains why American corporations are hell-bent on piracy in all its forms: ALL American companies refuse to 'grow up'!!
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However, don't forget, if they didn't cancel many of the bad shows then we never would have gotten some of the best shows because at the end of the day there's only so many hours and days in a week. So the concept should exist, they just seem to have a bad habit of cancelling better show. That said this show can go.
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I completely agree with you. TV networks don't want to face the fact that a vast amount of viewers do not watch shows live anymore, they record it then watch it later. It's impossible to watch all shows live these days.
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I agree, they should at least give the show that they want to cancel a couple of episodes that wrap up the story and give it an ending.
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I still like the concept so far, but the series was not served well by that second episode. It just didn't quite come together. It made more sense on second viewing, but most will only give it one.

Perhaps the episode could have been great with 5-10 minutes more. There were so many scenes yet most were poorly transitioned. The worst, I think, was Blackbeard escaping the hallucination at mid-afternoon by entering trees, straight into Blackbeard entering the tree-surrounded shrine at nighttime. The instant jump of 4+ hours was a jarring contrast to the visually continuous action. I won't go all "poor imitation of FILM CRIT HULK", but I do weep for all the context consigned to the editing room floor.
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Okay, so, in the first picture, why is John Malkovich wearing mickey mouse ears? Go look........
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I laughed, too. At first I saw it as a beret, then as a sort of black halo (religious iconography). But yeah, if they're ears they better match his smile. Well spotted!
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I went back and looked again - you were right, halo too; perhaps it's a black halo because it's over 'Blackbeard'.........I know, I know; I'll get my coat. ;)
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Now you've done it... every time John Malkovich smiles from now on... I'm going to be looking for mickey mouse ears.
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It's compelling isn't it? ;) Blackbeard isn't so scary now, right?
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It was a good episode, but I got lost along the way. Even when I played the episode again, some scenes did not make sense and the editing and transition of the scenes was not smooth or sensible. Hannibal this is not. John Malkovich is brilliant and plays Blackbeard well, but o.k. his name is blackbeard and he is bald with a white goatee. History says Blackbeard often used scare tactics like lit fuses in his hair and an inflated reputation to get capitulation. His crew willingly sailed with him and he apparently was fair and did not abuse any of his captives. I know that television takes creative license with history to make the show more interesting to viewers but on one hand he is trying to build a democratic republic and on the other he kills on a whim and with impunity. In his utopia the people hold court and decide guilt or innocence and as commodore he has no veto power? Yet, he seems to be above the law himself.
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If this show gets a second season, I'll pick it up then.
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At least we find out who Oswald (Oswald??) is. He's the guy who likes to dress up for Halloween when he attacks enemy ships.
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"and looking at IMDB, I'm not sure he reappears in the future. Bye, Fletch!"

He's been contracted as a series regular. I wouldn't trust IMDB.
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agree with this comment- "I wouldn't trust IMDB", they do not even have Tom Lowe listed in subsequent episodes
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I always find it interesting when tv.com staff don't rely on TV.com listings for cast and crew.
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I didn't like the pilot. Based on this review, I think I won't bother.
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