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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