V Episode Four: It's Only The Beginning

It probably speaks volumes about my attitude toward V that I just now got around to watching this episode, which originally aired the week of Thanksgiving. The first three episodes were so middle-of-the-road -- not bad, not good, not interesting, not evocative, not smart, not funny, not violent, not loopy, not cheesy, not thought-provoking, not anything we haven’t seen millions of times before -- that they weren’t much fun to watch and even less fun to recap. But! This most recent episode was loads better! Stuff happened! It was sort of sexy and sort of exciting! It’s still not there yet -- it’s still missing something -- but this was surely a step in the right direction.

We open with the episode already in progress: Georgie sprawls on the ground beside a car in a parking structure, unconscious and bleeding, while Erica hovers over him. Ryan approaches, gun drawn. He fires in Erica’s general direction.

Fourteen hours earlier: Our newly-assembled team of somewhat-incompetent and disorganized rebels -- Erica, Father Jack, Ryan and Georgie -- meet in the church for a strategy meeting. Erica is suspicious of Ryan, who keeps dodging her questions about how he knows so much inside information about the Visitors. Georgie, who is equal parts bloodthirsty and irritating, decides their best course of action is to kidnap a Visitor, cut it open, and expose its alien nature to the world. Erica and Jack seem to think this is maybe an okay idea, though closeted Visitor Ryan informs Georgie after the meeting that he’s uncomfortable with all this “hey, let’s skin a Visitor!” talk.

Skinning Visitors is an important motif in this episode. Watch and see.

On the Visitor ship, Anna and Marcus look down at Dale’s corpse, peeved about his murder. They mutter ominously about Fifth Column traitors in their midst, while resident Dale-killing Fifth Column traitor Joshua stands in the background and stares at the ceiling, whistling nonchalantly to himself. Let’s see, Marcus and Anna: You told Joshua to analyze Dale, and immediately thereafter Dale winds up murdered in the medical facility… Drawing any conclusions yet?

At home, Erica searches for information on Ryan in the FBI database, but can’t find anything. Tyler tries to tell her the truth about the scantily-clad chick she found in his bedroom, but Erica, distracted by her work (and probably experiencing some antipathy toward the thought of discussing her son’s sex life), blows him off. Tyler flips on the television and watches Chad interviewing Anna about the Visitors’ new human-friendly healing centers.

Ryan's beautiful, bland girlfriend Valerie tries to schedule an appointment with her doctor. She exposits to Ryan about her previously-unmentioned heart condition (ominous!): Her medication has been making her tired, so she wants to change her prescription. Ryan nuzzles with her on the couch while they watch Chad on television yammering on about how the Visitors have developed a miraculous vitamin injection that that can strengthen the human immune system to fight off cancer and slow the effects of aging. As Chad and Anna banter painfully about curing the common cold, Ryan starts to look concerned.

Tyler keeps trying to talk to Erica about Lisa, but she gets distracted by a phone call from Ryan. As Tyler wanders off in a funk, Ryan tells Erica that they need to meet.

Once again, the whole ragtag band of rebels assemble for a meeting. Ryan fills them in on the diabolical truth behind the vitamin injection: It’s part of a long-running sinister Visitor scheme to do something unspecified but no doubt evil. He gives Erica the names of the Visitor sleeper agents involved in the program, which she runs through the FBI database. She locates a chemistry professor named Peter Combs, whom Ryan claims is a sleeper Visitor.

Tyler meets with a psychiatrist, who happens to be Valerie (Valerie is a psychiatrist! And has a heart condition! We have now tripled the number of concrete facts we know about Valerie!). He complains that he has trouble talking to his mom about important stuff, and you know what? I’m reversing my firm anti-Tyler stance. He came across as a champion twerp and a self-involved moron in the first couple of episodes, but they’ve since dialed him back a bit. As a result, he’s vastly more sympathetic and, dare I say it, even sort of likeable. For the first time, it seems as though, yeah, he does have a point about his mom’s job overshadowing him. Tyler babbles on to Valerie about how the Visitors are totally cool and how Erica keeps discouraging his interest in them. Valerie mentions that she wants to visit one of the healing centers, but she’s been unable to get an appointment because of the long waiting list. Tyler offers to use his Visitor connections and pull some strings for her.

Meanwhile, via the hidden camera in Tyler’s Peace Ambassador jacket, Anna and Lisa observe this whole conversation. Anna asks Lisa to bring Tyler to meet her.

Chad and his news crew, escorted by Marcus, tour the healing center. Like all things Visitor, it’s very calm and clean and Zen and New Age-y. Impressed, Chad watches as Visitor technology heals a woman’s badly burned arm.

Anna questions Joshua about Dale’s murder, then orders him to gather his medical staff. Joshua has a hushed conversation with a fellow Fifth Column member, who is extremely earnest and extremely cute. Unless I’m totally misreading the vibes here, he and Joshua appear to be very much a couple, and that alone automatically raises my interest level. If I’ve learned nothing else from multiple seasons of Sailor Moon, it’s that hot gay aliens are always a welcome presence. Seriously, if Heroes were to suddenly introduce a subplot involving Hot Gay Alien Rebel Spies, maybe I’d start watching it again. Anyway, Joshua’s friend, who does not appear to have a name and thus will be henceforth referred to as Hot Young Thing, urges Joshua to get off the ship before Anna discovers he murdered Dale.

Erica and Jack loiter outside a parking structure while Georgie and Ryan hide inside, waiting to nab Professor Combs. Georgie accosts Combs at gunpoint and tells him he’s going to cut him open and expose him. Always with the skinning, Georgie. Combs ducks into his car, so Georgie starts shooting at him. Ryan books it through the parking structure, and we finally catch up to the events of the opening scene, in which a gun-toting Ryan comes across Erica standing over Georgie. (By the way, did we need to kick off this episode with that little flash forward? I don’t think any viewers have been sitting on the edge of their seats for the past twenty minutes, horribly worried that Ryan might kill Erica.) Ryan shoots… and hit Combs, who was sneaking up behind Erica. Father Jack drives up and hauls injured Georgie into his car, then drives off. This leaves Erica and Ryan stranded in the parking structure with injured Visitor whom they’re trying to kidnap, which maybe doesn’t seem like the best possible plan, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.

While Erica watches, Combs calls Ryan a filthy traitor and ingests some sort of capsule which, improbably, makes him burst into flames. In seconds, he’s a pile of ashes. Wow. Plain old cyanide capsules are for weenies. Erica pulls a gun on Ryan and accuses him of being a Visitor. Ryan points out that he never explicitly said he wasn’t a Visitor (true enough, but maybe missing the point a little) and assures her they’re on the same side.

Chad and his camera crew continue to tour the healing center. On camera, Chad submits to a Visitor medical scan, which he blushingly describes as “kind of pleasant.” That might have been an overshare, Chad. When Marcus comes to check on him, Chad complains that he hasn’t been given enough unfettered access to the place. When Marcus politely brushes off Chad’s concerns, this awesome “this deal with the Emperor keeps getting worse and worse” expression crosses Chad’s face.

Father Jack patches up Georgie’s gunshot wound and explains that he was an Army chaplain in Iraq. Georgie tells Jack he’s going to have to decide between being a priest or a soldier. I’m going to put in my vote for “soldier”, just because the other option limits the chances of him ever hooking up with Erica, and this show really needs all the sex it can get, from as many directions as possible. Sure, Lisa and Tyler are making a game stab at sexing things up, but those two plucky kids can’t shoulder the burden all by themselves, and apart from that, we’ve had to make do with Chad and Anna flashing their dimples adorably at each other. It’s just not enough.

Ryan and Erica rifle through Combs's briefcase while Ryan fills her in on the Fifth Column. They find paperwork from a shipping company and decide to investigate.

Anna interrogates the medical staff, including Joshua’s Hot Young Thing, about Dale's murder. She informs them that unless the guilty party takes responsibility, she’ll make an example out of one of them at random. Joshua looks about ready to confess, but HYT nobly steps forward instead, proclaiming, “Long live the Fifth Column!” Anna asks Joshua to carry out HYT’s sentence. Smiling nastily, she orders, “Skin him.” (See? I told you it was a motif.) Aw, not the cute one, Anna!

Lisa takes Tyler onto the Visitor ship to meet Anna. Tyler, naturally, is flabbergasted to discover that Lisa is Anna's daughter. (He refrains from pointing out that Lisa and Anna appear to be approximately the same age, which is probably for the best.) Tyler stammers and blushes his way through the meeting (Lisa: “Don’t worry. She doesn’t bite.” Heh. Good one, Lisa. Just a little bit of Visitor humor) and is pretty charming, actually. Damn it, I’m starting to like this kid. The world’s gone mad! Anna takes Tyler on a tour of the Visitor ship’s engine room, which is a huge space filled with cool swirling blue light, and tells him he’s the first human to see it. Tyler looks appropriately awestruck.

Joshua has a nice moment with Hot Young Thing, who insists that he had to take responsibility for Dale’s murder to protect Joshua. Distraught, Joshua picks up a curved knife and starts to skin him. Bloodcurdling screams ensue. It’s effectively ghastly.

Erica, Ryan and Jack invade the warehouse of the shipping company listed in Coombs’ papers. Ryan uses the computer to instigate something he calls Protocol 9, which he claims will cause the Visitors to evacuate the building. They find some burned corpses on gurneys in a makeshift laboratory in the warehouse, along with boxes filled with vials of something labeled R6. They originally speculate that the R6, whatever it is, will be added to the Visitors’ new super-charged vitamin shot, but Ryan figures out that it’ll actually be added to the human flu vaccine. Erica goes on a bit of a rant about the media and the predictability of human nature, then pockets a vial and orders them to destroy the rest.

Valerie visits the healing center, Tyler having managed to get her an appointment. A Visitor doctor tells her she can heal her heart condition. She also mentions that Valerie’s scan turned up something else. Everybody who has ever watched a television show at any point in his or her life immediately guesses that Valerie is pregnant with Ryan’s half-Visitor spawn.

A scary bald dude (who, strangely enough, is not played by perennial scary bald dude Željko Ivanek) and a bunch of armed goons swarm the warehouse. Ryan secretly hacks into the warehouse’s cool holographic computer system and instigates what looks like a countdown, with the numbers flashing in the Visitor language. A goon sneaks up on him and tries to strangle him. Erica kills his attacker, and Ryan and Erica exchange one of those testosterone-charged meaningful looks of silent mutual respect. The scary bald dude attacks Jack, who fights him off, then Ryan and Jack and Erica all hoof it out of the building just as it explodes. By gum, this rag-tag band of scatterbrained rebel fighters actually did something, like, useful and proactive! There’s hope for V yet!

As Chad and his news crew leave the healing center, Marcus detains Chad for a brief word. He informs Chad that the medical scan revealed that Chad will die in three months from an aneurysm. The Visitors can heal him, though there’s a mighty long waiting list. However, it’s possible they’ll be able to work something out to bump him up the list… Okay, it’s going to turn out to be something extremely boring, like they’ll force Chad to do more pro-Visitor news stories in exchange for saving his life, but wouldn’t it be awesome if Marcus suggested trading sexual favors instead? A Chad-Anna-Marcus three-way would go a long way toward making this show more memorable. (I have decided: V needs more sleaze! That’s the missing component!)

Marcus fills Anna in on the warehouse explosion. Ryan even sent them a nice message before blowing it up: “John May lives.” Anna decides to take action, which (oddly) involves doing some naked yoga while broadcasting soothing New Age music and messages of peace and love to all Visitors. (Poor Joshua, who is glumly wandering down a hallway with a soiled medical cart, fresh from skinning his lover, tries mightily to resist the soothing, spacey vibes, but eventually succumbs). On the Visitor ship, Lisa explains to a confused Tyler that this is called The Bliss, which she describes as “a gift” from Anna.

Ryan returns home. Valerie tells him, yep, she's pregnant. Beautiful, bland Valerie hugs her beautiful, bland fiancé, who looks sort of confused.

At the church, Father Jack removes a box containing a gun and his old Army medals from a locked drawer. He investigates a noise in the chapel and discovers a man in shadows, who sobs that he needs to talk to someone. Jack tries to get a look at the man and discovers it’s the scary bald dude. Scary bald dude stabs Jack and scampers off. Jack bleeds and stares up at a crucifix.

Erica returns home to find Tyler gone. She snoops on the computer and sees a message from Tyler’s friend Brandon, expressing his deep jealousy that Tyler was invited onto the V ship. Alarmed, Erica calls Tyler, but Tyler, still on the ship, ignores her call.

Meanwhile, in the fringes of the solar system, an enormous fleet of Visitor ships hover in silent formation.

This was a huge step forward. Huge. If they can shoot for (and hopefully exceed) this level of action and intrigue while they retool the series during this extra-long winter break (new episodes won’t resume until late March), this has a chance of shaping into a pretty good hour of television.


Ingrid Richter said…
Dang! I wish Blogger had a "Like" comment on it. Haven't seen the episode, but love your recap...
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, sister of mine. You might like V. It's got enough potential Richter-bait (cuties Scott Wolf and Morris Chestnut, sexy evil aliens... okay, that's about it for the Richter-bait, but that's probably plenty) to make it worth viewing, even if it's still not living up to its promise. This episode left me considerably more optimistic about the show in general.
Ingrid Richter said…
I'm a not-so-secret Scott Wolf fan (ever since Double Dragon and Go), but am still holding off, for now.

How strange and sad is it that I'd rather watch V once it comes out on video?

As a former reader *and* memorizer of TV Guide's upcoming seasonal shows, I hang my head in shame.
Morgan Richter said…
There's something nice about blasting through an entire season of a show on DVD over the course of a night or two, so I understand your reluctance to watch V first-run. Especially since they've got this weird four-month break after the first four episodes before new episodes return. Makes it hard to build up any momentum.

Aw, Double Dragon! A fine, fine movie, and Wolf and Mark Dacascos are so very believable as the twins...
Dan said…
So will you be continuing with the V recaps or has its overall, general blandness sucked all recapping energy out of you?

We just watched this episode and the one that followed it last night. It's still all kinda meh.

Despite everybody continuing to take turns at nuding up.

I dunno. FlashForward. V. Both disappointing. Makes me kinda wish I'd stuck with Fringe. Especially after getting some general vibes about some of the later plot elements there.

Six weeks until Lost ends. Something's got to come up soon or else what will I do? Read? Exercise? Socialise with people??
Morgan Richter said…
I've given up on V, Dan. Blame FlashForward, if you like -- there was only room for one lackluster ABC sci fi series on my agenda in 2010, and I'd invested more time in FlashForward, so it won the toss.

Fringe, on the other hand, is going great blazes. Well, the most recent episode wasn't anything special, but the whole cool parallel-universe plotline really picked up speed (you'd've liked the episode before last, Dan. It was set in the parallel universe... in 1985. What does this mean? Theaters showing Back to the Future, starring Eric Stoltz. I mean, c'mon. That's awesome.)
Dan said…
Indeed. That's pretty much the most awesome thing ever. Annoyingly, Fringe Season 1 DVDs have not only disappeared from local DVD-selling shelves, but even when I search at local DVD online outlets, they're being sold at ridiculous $50+ prices.

I could go the Amazon route, but I don't like doing that *too* much. You never know when you're going to upgrade your DVD player to one that actually pays attention to the stupid region codes.

Sigh. I'll just wait.

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