‘Pan Am’ Recap: Eastern Exposure

Pan Am ABCS1E4: My prayers have been answered. After last week’s time-jumping, history-dependent episode, I feared that my desire to see Pan Am change up the prep/flight/location formula was a mistake. However, this week “Eastern Exposure” proved that they can shake things up a little without driving viewers crazy. This week, things got a little deeper without losing the allure of international travel and cute blue uniforms, which is exactly what you want from a show like this.

“Maggie said Jakarta is wildly unrefined.” -Laura

While the crew was supposed to be heading for Iceland, Kate’s CIA contact, Richard, insists that she get her flight changed to Rangoon, Burma. She’s being sent to do some recon after her stunt in Germany went too far off book. Somehow, she gets the entire crew rerouted to Burma — which isn’t an unwelcome change. The ladies leave their fleece and opt for bikinis while they lay poolside. (Remind me to search for those fantastic 60s bathing suits later.) While the girls giggle and sip cocktails, Kate steals away to speak to a man in the bushes. He hands her a camera and tells her to go to Jarkarta. In an instant, the entire crew is rerouted to Indonesia. I’m not sure how airlines work or used to work, but can someone tell me if rerouting your whole crew at the drop of a hat is really that simple? Or perhaps the CIA is consistently pulling strings. I’m still not quite sure how Kate always ends up flying to the exact place they need her to be.

When they get to Jakarta, Laura is still acting like a wide-eyed little girl which needs to change soon before she permantly becomes a walking cliche. The “I’ve never been anywhere” routine is starting to become pretty obnoxious, but her latest friendship within the crew is one that promises a certain level of change. When Kate goes to send a telegram to Richard asking what to do with the camera, she’s gone all day so Laura ends up buddying up with Maggie. They’d bonded at the pool in Burma when Maggie encouraged her to race one of the Naval officers and when they find critters in Laura’s room, Maggie insists they go out on the town and explore. The duo play black dominos, eat street curry, watch a cock fight, and dance on tables until the wee hours. There’s one little snag: Laura borrowed the camera thinking it was Kate’s personal one which earns her a tongue-lashing when she gets home. Kate tells her to grow up and stop trying to be her; her argument is a little off, but pretty characteristic of most sibling squabbles. And it makes sense since she’s more upset that she may in trouble than she is that Laura is a Pan Am stewardess, though the conversation eventually wanders there.

By the end of the episode, Kate meets with Richard who found the photos Laura took with the CIA camera. He’s going to pull Laura off of Kate’s crew, and while she’s been annoyed with her sister, she knows how much the job means to her and refuses to let him take Laura off. Instead, she buys her sister a new camera and goes back to their apartment to give it to her — only she’s moved out. We see her moving into Maggie’s Village apartment, filled with smoke, beat poets and musical instruments. It seems that Kate really screwed up this time, and Laura’s so fragile I doubt this issue will be resolved soon.

“No really, how did you jump the line?” -Ted

“Why didn’t you?” -Dean

I really enjoy that the series is attempting to keep some cards close to its chest throughout the episode instead of laying everything out right away. We see Ted and Dean slowly building into a conflict, but it starts as a simple question. When an older pilot teases Dean about being the youngest pilot at Pan Am, Ted starts wondering just how he managed to surpass the unspoken rule that you have to be older to be a pilot. Dean refuses to speak about it, but the question is already festering in Ted’s head. We start witnessing flashbacks to when he was in the Navy as a test pilot. The first happens when the Naval officers flirting with the stewardesses in Burma tease Ted for being a commercial pilot. While Laura swims with one of them, it seems he’s jealous, but we see his memory: a firey ocean crash. Later, when Ted presses Dean for information about how he got his job when Ted has more experience, he asks if Bridgette got him the job. The pushes Dean further away and send Ted into another memory: the hearing in which he was told he’d be suspended from the Navy for crashing the plane we saw earlier. It turns out since he was a test pilot, the plane was faulty, but when it crashed all evidence was lost. The only thing they have to go on is the fact that he was at a bar the night before (his dependence on alcohol is slowly creeping into focus) and even though it was 12 hours prior to flight, it’s enough to ruin him.

When Kate rushes to make her camera drop — six hours late — Laura is left still stinging from their fight and joins Ted in the bar. He’s there trying desperately to watch the space shuttle launch, which luckily isn’t shoved down our throats as “this week’s history lesson because it’s the ’60s, guys!” They bond over her fight with Kate and his despair over his ruined past without actually explaining anything — and like the moment when JFK’s speech moved him to try and kiss her, the historical significance of the space shuttle launch sends them into a bout of meaningful glances. Of course, for Ted, his expression is also full of pain. Through another flashback we learn that his father built the plane that crashed and his company found out what went wrong, but they wouldn’t clear Ted’s name with the Navy because it could mean losing their government contract. The reason the shuttle launch means so much to Ted is that when his father’s selfishness killed his Naval career, it also killed his shot at the space program, which is the only dream he’s ever had.

Later, on the next leg of the trip, Dean takes a risky route landing the plane in dangerous crosswinds, which causes Ted to argue with him the whole way down. They land safely, but it’s a close call and when everyone’s off the plane the pilots have it out. Finally, Dean tells Ted that if he’s jealous he should just have his dad pull strings to get him promoted — the same strings his father pulled to get him hired in the first place. This strikes Ted’s final chord and he punches Dean. When they finally make up at the end of the episode, Dean confesses that he got the job because he ended up with the head of the company in an elevator and gave him a speech about the youthful image of the Jet Age.

While Dean’s lovesick routine made sense, it was nice to see a little depth added to our pilots. Besides, the stewardesses are beautiful and fun, but you can’t run the show with the men stuck in the background. They started giving Ted a bit more of a character when he had the conflict with Maggie, but I’m really enjoying the fact that he’s got such a turbulent backstory. It will lend more depth to his eventual relationship with Laura, because we all know that’s going to happen.

Celebrity Editor Kelsea Stahler was born in a pile of dirt. Okay, she was actually born in an old Naval hospital in San Diego, which then became a pile of dirt and remained as such for a number of years before becoming a parking lot perfectly sized for circus tents, and finally a museum. She eventually left San Diego to attend New York University, where she studied Journalism and English literature — two less-than profitable liberal arts degrees about which guidance counselors warned her. Against all odds, she now resides in Brooklyn, where she fights the constant fear that the locals will soon discover she isn’t quite cool enough to live there, and makes a living writing absurd, pop culture features about Batman, zombies, vampires, funny people, and Ron Swanson.