is at its best when it takes advantage of the pressures of fleeting time, as it does in Monday's (Oct. 14) episode.
The tension resumes on many levels and this episode leaves two people close to death and three-fourths of the family on the brink of escaping. They will flee if Dr. Ellen Sanders (
Toni Collette) can just board the bus to Canada with her children and leave her husband, Brian (
Tate Donovan), bleeding on the floor.
Brian had confessed to Ellen that he is having an affair -- really, he had to come clean when the family is under siege? Glad his conscience is clear. It's not as if Ellen had anything else clouding her mind -- oh, like whether she was to kill the president of the United States in what should be a routine surgery, or let the hostages kill her family.
Kidnapping ringleader Duncan Carlisle (
Dylan McDermott) shoots Brian, and does it on Face Time on the iPhone so Ellen can see. Brian's bleeding but he can be helped -- if she comes home. Though Ellen is not the only doctor in the metro DC area, she's the only one in the world who knows about the plot to assassinate the president.
Brian, who has supposedly grown a conscience and a spine this episode, is sacrificing himself for his family. Given that flashbacks reveal Brian's relationship to the truth to be casual, it's a stretch to think he's suddenly changed. But being close to death can do that.
His change of heart came just before Carlisle put a bullet in him.
"I am doing this because I love my family," Brian says to Ellen. "Because I love you."
They're getting ready for the day and Ellen has a flashback. She recalls them looking at this house, when they were younger and in love and the kids were young. The house represented nothing but promise.
No one ever looks at empty rooms and thinks, "Oh a decade from now, my teenage son will be dealing drugs, my teenage daughter will be pregnant, my husband will be cheating in business and on me, and oh, yeah, I will have a gun to my head to kill the president and break my Hippocratic oath."
Instead, they look at the sunlight streaming in the windows and imagine beautiful family tableaux.
Brian has hatched a plot for the family's escape. It's either brazen or moronic, considering three of them have GPS chips implanted in them so the kidnappers can track them. The correct thinking was as long as the teenagers, Morgan and Jake (
Quinn Shephard and
Mateus Ward), and Brian have chips in them, Ellen wasn't going anywhere.
Ellen begins by laying groundwork in smart, fast ways. She purposefully burns herself taking muffins out of the oven. Carlisle lets her have her medical kit, and while she tends to the minor burn, she pockets a scalpel.
When Ellen drops off the kids at school, she tells them to meet at the bus depot at 2 p.m.. They will board the 2:45 p.m. bus to Montreal. At school, they are to remove each other's computer chips with the scalpel.
Ellen and Brian stay in touch as she uses purloined phones, and calls his underling's cell, avoiding the hospital and office landlines.
Everyone was go about their usual lives while the president recovers enough for the next (and fatal) operation. It was routine for Ellen to be at the hospital, the kids at high school and Brian at the office. Brian's responsibilities would take him to the bank.
Though Kramer (
Rhys Coiro) is assigned to shadow Brian, he waits outside while Brian takes the family's passports from the safety deposit box. Brian can't withdraw cash; their accounts are frozen.
At school, Morgan proves herself her mother's daughter. She takes charge, tracking down her brother who's hanging out with the stoners under the bleachers. They cut out the tracking devices, but don't destroy them, knowing that would alert the kidnappers. They slip them into unassuming kids' backpacks so the tracking data still reads as if they're on campus.
Ellen hocks her diamond ring, worth about $6,000, to a pawnbroker who gives her $500. When she thinks she's making her big exit, Archer (
Billy Brown), who is shadowing her, intercepts.
Ellen lies well. When he demands to know where's going, Ellen tells Archer the surgery was canceled. He notices her missing rings and she tells him she removed them for surgery. He wants to know where she is going and she says to grab a latte. He warns her to contact him in 15 minutes. She takes off.
The other person hovering near death looks a lot better than Brian. Nina (
Francie Swift), Duncan's wife, is dying of leukemia.
The chemo is not working and she has decided to leave the hospital and enjoy what time remains. As heartfelt as these scenes should be, the sappy background music detracts from the emotional wallop.
Ellen, as always, is determined. She slips out of the hospital and goes to Brian's office to pick up a sealed envelope with their passports and cash.
Brian dispatched his lover, Samantha (
Hilarie Burton), to do this errand. Again, really Brian? You're a boss in this bustling office and you cannot leave an envelope to give to your wife with someone you have not seen naked?
Ellen does not bother to hide her contempt, nor will she give up any info about why the family is leaving. Of course Samantha opened the envelope.
At least when Ellen arrives at the bus station, the kids are there. She calls Brian to say she made it. Duncan calls back and shoots her husband while Ellen watches -- and now we don't know if anyone will make it.
What did you think of "Hostages" this week?