'Hostages' episode 3: 'Power of Persuasion' raises questions

hostages-power-of-persuasion-hilarie-burton-tate-donovan.jpgWhen are people going to learn to stop underestimating smart women?

That's the main takeaway from Monday's (Oct. 7) episode of "Hostages." Well, that and some true leaps of faith the show asks of viewers.

Dr. Ellen Sanders ( Toni Collette) is exceptionally smart, calm and calculating. So why don't people recognize that? 

Why doesn't FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle ( Dylan McDermott) realize she is way smarter than he? Sure, he is better armed, and is holding her family hostage. But never is her brain sharper than when she is cornered.

Carlisle and the people he works for spent ages devising a plot to kill President Kincaid ( James Naughton). Sanders foils them at every turn.

Since this episode begins by referencing online conspiracy theories about the nurse who allegedly committed suicide in the last episode, we have a few of our own questions to ask.

Is Carlisle a rogue FBI agent as he's been presented -- and as we have seen in his day job -- or is he simply a mercenary terrorist? 

Are those plotting to kill the president anarchists intent on taking down the government? Are they in cahoots with another government? 

Or, is this the ultimate husband/wife betrayal? Is it possible that the first lady ( Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio) is the power behind the throne, and wants her husband dead? 

Even if that were the case, of course the vice president would assume the presidency, and even if he were killed, then it would fall to the speaker of the House of Representatives. Maybe it's a much larger coup than we know.

Maybe the first lady plans on running after this term, and being the grieving widow of a popular president would be terrific political currency. We're suspicious that she's not quite the loving wife she seems.

Carlisle and his two henchmen and one henchwoman warn the Sanders family to go about business as usual. For Ellen, that means going on her rounds at the hospital.

For her husband, Brian ( Tate Donovan), that means watching more real estate deals circle the drain and carrying on an affair with a colleague, Samantha ("One Tree Hill" and "White Collar" alum Hilarie Burton).

For her daughter, Morgan ( Quinn Shephard), it's telling her older boyfriend that she's pregnant.

And for her son, Jake ( Mateus Ward), it's trying to figure out how to pay back his drug dealer because his dad seized the wad of cash he found. The drug dealers beat him up.

Twice this episode, the hostage takers become more involved with the family than they intended.

Kramer ( Rhys Coiro) pounds the drug dealers in retaliation for for Jake's beating. When Morgan's boyfriend professes his love for her, Carlisle sends him away.

The family is under constant surveillance, so Ellen borrows phones around the hospital. That morning, she overheard Carlisle talking to his daughter. Ellen figures out what private elementary school the girl attends.

Forget the assassination plot and all of the psychological hoops through which viewers jump. The plot strains credulity here. Ellen Sanders saunters into the school. True, it would be easier than usual, during an art fair. But she's led to the little girl's class? 

And once the hostage takers figure out Ellen is in the school, Kramer, the creepiest of them, shows up? No one stops him?

Since 9/11, particularly in areas that are high alert, no adult wanders into schools. You could be a class mother, carrying cupcakes, and you sign in at the office and show ID. If school personnel do not know you, you are escorted to a class.

A private elementary school in the metro DC area, where government officials' children would attend, would have tight security.

Sanders not only gains access, but is led straight to the Carlisle's daughter. They chat as if visitors were always allowed in classrooms. She quickly gains the child's trust, which isn't too hard given that she is a mom and knows how to talk to children.

Another eyebrow-raising scenario has Quentin ( Jeremy Bobb), a top adviser to the president who's involved in the assassination attempt, meet with a reporter to leak the story that POTUS is going to switch hospitals.

Now we we're trying to not be too insulted that the reporter is a sketchy-looking guy with greasy hair -- we all know how much everyone loves the press. But why didn't the reporter ask just a few more questions?

Finally, Dr. Sanders is summoned to the White House. The president and first lady meet with her to explain that he will switch hospitals for the surgery. It's the first lady's idea, and the president asks Sanders to announce the switch.

"Of course," she answers, calm as always. "But you are making a mistake. I have never lost a patient in surgery -- ever. And I don't intend to."

"If this were my husband," she says to the first lady, "I would want a surgeon with the confidence to say to the most powerful man in the world, 'You would be a fool to choose someone else.'"

The overriding question here, though, is that Ellen is in what must be a safe place. One would think the Oval Office is swept for bugs constantly. Why doesn't she tell them that her family is being held hostage because she was supposed to kill the president?

What did you think of "Hostages" this week?
Photo/Video credit: CBS