January 15, 2018
After the heart pounding rescue operation of Jaz in “Desperate Measures,” The Brave throws us right back into the thick of it tonight with “Grounded.” Jaz is forced into some introspection while Hannah gets to stretch her operational legs. And Noah? He gets to play big boss while Campbell remains out on suspension.
Another great episode featuring the crisp dialogue, unexpected humor, stellar action sequences, realistic military presence, and unbeatable character beats and interactions that rival the best things on TV.
If you’re prepared for spoilers, then grab your pork rinds and come with us as we revisit “Grounded,” episode 111 of The Brave. After the jump …
Last chance warning for spoilers … you’ve been warned.
Bogota, Colombia. We open at El Dorado International Airport where a group of terrorists are in the midst of a firefight shooting unseen targets from inside a parked plane. The lead terrorist is a fiery woman named Mari (Vannessa Vasquez). Her action figure comes complete with a sneer and a machine gun she isn’t afraid to use. As if to prove my point and to show the “pigs” she’s not messing around, she places single shot rounds, center mass, into 2 passengers who inconceivably stand up in their seats as if almost volunteering. For the love of Jesus, sit down, turn around and don’t make eye contact. That’s good advice on NY subways AND in a terrorist occupied plane. Elena (Idara Victor), a flight attendant we have seen trying to tend to passengers, jumps in front of potential victim number three but instead of being shot, Mari relaxes a fraction and simply sends her for coffee. It better be the good shit, Elena, not some instant Folgers nonsense. In the galley, Elena tries to convince herself she’s ok but, she’s definitely not ok. Title Card.
SOG 7 Bunker. Jaz, with physical wounds that are healing but not yet completely healed, is awake which causes Preach to be awake. Cost of doing business, he says, when you have 3 daughters. He begins to brew some of “Grandma Carter’s No Fail Naptime Tea.” Now, I am no merchandising wizard but between this tea line (I have just created) and the 365 Preach-a-Day Wisdom Wall Calendar (I also created), NBC could be making a killing on Preach-themed merchandise. I’m just saying, this is a missed opportunity. Preach tells Jaz there is now shame in rotating out … this is important information because he mentions there is only 4 weeks left in the deployment anyway. I mention this only because this timeline matches up, generally, with the end of the show’s first season (renew the show already NBC!). I wonder if the final 2-part episode will coincide with this end of deployment storyline. Jaz says going home is the last thing she wants to do. Anyway, as Preach is in the midst of dropping Preach wisdom, the rest of the team wakes up, one by one and boy are they all grouchy. The chemistry and family vibe they share is not unlike what you probably experienced in your own house growing up. When 1 person is awake, there is a psychic vibe that wakes up everyone. They banter and its a nice moment before the inevitable bullets begin to fly. Last to be roused is Dalton who, according to Preach (who has known him for over 10 years – thank you fr the timing clue on their friendship), only wakes for the phone … which begins to ring, of course.
DIA HQ. Noah, who is running mission control while Campbell is serving out her suspension in Hawaii, tells Dalton & Co that they need to get down to Colombia. Mari Diaz, former commander in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, what we known better in the States as FARC, has taken control of a plane which includes among its passengers, 10 US Exchange Students on their way home. In the aftermath of FARC’s official disbanding, Diaz has fancied herself a Robin Hood type, a murderous, blood thirsty Robin Hood type. Hannah saw Mari’s kind during her stint in South America and calls the “true believers” the worst kind of ruthless. Diaz wants a shit ton of money ($500 million) wired to an account in Cuba and she’s not messing around. Following the botched Colombian Special Forces raid on the hijacked plane (which we saw the end of in the cold open), large special ops forces like Delta and DEVGRU are no goes for infiltration; they need a small, irregular force. They need Team Dalton! Dalton is a go of course but only on the condition that one of their people is there negotiating with Diaz on the line; someone who knows the team and how they operate. Noah consents and, after he disconnects with Dalton, asks Hannah, “you still keep a go bag?” Rivera is going back into the field ya’ll!
SOG 7 Bunker. As the team kits up, Dalton has the super awkward conversation with Jaz we all knew was coming. She’s not ready to get back in the field yet and her “running her mouth” only serves to prove his point. Of course he wants her there but if turns out she wasn’t ready, that’s on him and he’s not prepared to live with those consequences. Jaz, “For the record, this blows.” Well, I think we all agree with you, Jaz.
Bogota, Colombia. Dalton is assigning team rolls (Preach and Amir are tasked with prepping a fuel truck while McG is taking Jaz’s spot on overwatch) when their negotiator contact rolls up. Its a great beat when everyone stares at Hannah and you realize this is the first time they have all met in person. “Toughbook cams are a poor substitute for face to face,” Dalton says and McG certainly agrees. Introducing himself to Hannah as Joseph, 1,000 McHannah shippers are born as she certainly seems to reciprocate his looks. Amir also wants in on the action but she shuts him down hard. Humorously but hard nonetheless. When she says she thought he’d be taller, Amir responds that, “height isn’t everything.” Hannah, “no, but its something.” Ha! Hannah will work out fine, you guys. I’ll note that there is a sparkle in Rivera’s eyes in this scene – Sofia Pernas does an amazing job conveying how refreshed and excited Hannah is to be back in the field after her time at DIA HQ. Subtle but well done acting.
Anyway, here is the plan. Hannah will convince Diaz to allow them to refuel the plane’s APU (the plane’s auxiliary power unit) which will give Dalton & Co cover to breach the plane. This all assumes of course that Diaz will agree to the refueling.
Colombian Mission Control. Here are the players Hannah will be dealing with. Lucia Santos (from the Colombian Ministry of Defense and some sort of expert on Diaz) and Edgar Triana (from National Police the man ultimately in charge on the Colombian side) (Edgar is played by Jos Viramontes). Hannah gets down to business and collects all of the missing info. Diaz has 3 cohorts on the plane, 2 of them are brothers, Julien and Raul Yepes, who joined Diaz’s FARC unit as teens and are fiercely loyal to her. The fourth hijacker is Lalo Mahecha (Jonathan Medina, who according to his IMDb is a naval veteran), he boarded the plane as a passenger and seems to be a more recent addition to Diaz’s crew. Hannah thinks this is a favorable point she might be able to exploit. Enter Pablo, a young man full of machismo who’s nose is bent out of joint that Edgar replaced him with some American schoolgirl. Hannah, clearly having understood the conversation in Spanish lays out her bona fides, also in Spanish, and tells him he sounds like a pendejo who grew up in a finishing school for girls. HA! Love her. In English, she tells him to sit down and shut up. Having overheard the whole exchange, its Noah’s turn to say that he’s “not gonna lie, that was awesome.” And he’s right.
The Brave specializes in badass women that can verbally bitch slap stupid men. And I can’t get enough of it. Real Talk!
Back to the plan, the APU is down to 30 minutes of fuel, Which means its time for Dalton & Co to start rolling and for Hannah to start convincing. On the plane, Diaz gives Lalo a wet sloppy kiss before speaking with Hannah. I guess we understand his roll on the team now but for real, that was not a sexy kiss. Revolutionaries, amiright? So much passion.
Hannah adopts a good cop approach,reassuring Diaz that she’s working on her money and in the meantime, she can help Mari by refueling her APU. This way, the passengers don’t suffer any more than necessary and are more apt to stay calm. Mari really wants her $500 million but agrees to 1 man coming to the plane to refuel the APU. As we listen to this conversation, we see Amir driving the fuel truck to the plane with Preach and Dalton hanging off the back. Mari isn’t stupid though and makes the fuel truck do a 360 turn so she can be assured there aren’t 2 highly skilled operators you know, hanging off the back of the truck. Through some precision driving on Amir’s part and some good hustle from Dalton and Preach, they are able to convince Diaz that Amir is really alone. Well done, team. This is why you’re called in for these missions!
Back on the plane, Mari sends Lalo to the cockpit to check out the fuel truck and once alone, she arms what looks like a bomb trigger. Elena, hiding in a bathroom, spies Mari doing the same thing. As soon as Mari goes to join Lalo in the cockpit, Elena springs into action, writing a quick note and sticking it in an airplane window announcing to anyone that may be reading that there is a bomb on the plane. There is a military saying that plans never survive first contact with the enemy. That adage is proven here because a bomb changes everything. Luckily for Elena and the passengers, McG happens to be watching the plane with his high power scope and sees her message. He calls for Dalton to abort the breach, there is a bomb on the plane. The look on Dalton’s face is priceless as we cut to Commercials. To be fair, he might have just been thinking that this would have been useful information before him and Preach had to run around the damn fuel truck like idiots playing hide and seek.
SOG 7 Bunker. Jaz is working out when Captain Xander Martin, psychologist, shows up. Jaz is excited to get her reinstatement papers but when Martin doesn’t leave she says, “oh God, is this is a thing? Like, I have to talk to you so I can keep those [her reinstatement papers].” I swear I love everything about Jaz. Every.Single.Thing. Martin is no square shrink though and she doesn’t need to do anything to earn her papers. Martin was an operator, just like Jaz, before he became a counselor. He believes she’s ok but he’s interested in her story of what happened to her. He’s just looking for coffee, maybe a little talk. Her team is already in the field, what else does she have to do?
Under the plane. Dalton is trying to get Hannah to confirm the bomb info because if they breach with a bomb, they’re just as likely to be blown to smithereens. As Noah works the intel at DIA HQ, Hannah spitballs with Lucia on why Diaz would land the plane in Colombia when she wants the money sent to Cuba and Cuba would have also taken the plane in any case, what with being friendly to revolutionaries and all. Lucia contributes that she’s not sure what Mari is up to but be sure whatever it is, Diaz is making a statement because that’s just who she is.
DIA HQ. Noah has identified Elena has the sign maker but is still wrestling on why she might be willing to risk her life to play hero when we hear Campbell over his shoulder extolling the unpredictability of when and where a hero may arise. Noah is dumbfounded as Patricia is supposed to be in Hawaii to which she responds, “you are brilliant but you have to do something about your gullible side.” As she’s still on suspension for 4 more hours, she there more as an advisor. “Pork rind?” Noah is convinced and conveys to the team that they are to proceed as if there is a bomb on the plane.
NOTE: “Pork rind?” was THIS close to being my title for this blog post.
Back Under the Plane. With the refueling done, Amir needs to get the fuel truck out of there or begin to look suspicious. Dalton orders him, Preach and McG to work up a three man breach assuming the takedown of 4 enemy targets in under 10 seconds. Dalton will try to disarm the bomb. Preach and Dalton have some nice pissing contest banter about who the better bomb tech is. The meat and potatoes is that while Preach is the better choice to defuse the bomb given his 10 years experience of disposal operations, he also has 3 kids and Dalton isn’t about getting him killed today. Besides, Dalton is a Master EOD Tech and he’s got this.
Preach reminds him putting their lives on the line is part of the job and not a great reason for Dalton to take lead. Dalton doesn’t disagree but says kids are a good tiebreaker. Dalton further tweaks him by challenging Preach to prove that SEALs aren’t just the water boys for Delta he thinks they are and he should go prove that they are the premier “breachers” they claim. Preach relents. This conversation is not only a prime example of the characteristically great dialogue beats we get on this show every week but it serves as a larger testament to the easy chemistry Preach and Dalton have, born of having worked together for so long.
Hannah chimes in at this point. She’s been chewing on this bomb situation: why land in the capital and why not mention the bomb as part of her demands, and has come to the conclusion that Mari is setting off that bomb no matter what. Its all part of the statement she wants to make; the martyr she wants to be remembered as. Hannah posits they have until the money hits the Cuba account and then boom. Up will go the plane with Mari and the passengers inside.
SOG 7 Bunker. Martin is watching Jaz play some PS4 … this is not the small talk and coffee Xander envisioned but Jaz demurs that there is no way she’s having a heart to heart with him. At least let me play, he asks. She’s amused by Martin but definitely on guard with him all the same.
Mock Up Airplane. Using the back up fuselage that Edgar mentioned earlier in the episode, McG, Amir and Preach are running take down drills while talking to Dalton who is still trying to diffuse the bomb. They are stuck at 23.4 seconds which is far from the 10 seconds that Dalton wanted.
In the cargo hold, Dalton is trying to wrap his head around the bomb, Using a cool CORE fiberscope (which, according to the show’s technical advisor, Mikal Vega, was a real scope loaned to the show for this scene), Dalton and DIA HQ can see inside the bomb casing.
Colombian Mission Control. Edgar questions Hannah about whether she really thinks Mari is on a suicide mission and when she says she does, he advises that she remove her team until they have a “foolproof” plan. Hannah doesn’t have a chance to reply because just then Mari calls and tells Hannah she knows she did. As everyone holds their collective breath, Mari says she knows they only filled the APU for a few hours of fuel which will necessitate more refuelings and more stalling. Diaz tells Hannah she’s done talking and Hannah should stop calling. But Hannah’s not done. She calls right back and gets Lalo on the line and starts working him. He’s definitely vulnerable, his darting eyes and sweaty prow makes it clear he’s in over his head. Rivera plants the seed of trying to figure out “Mari’s escape plan.” Mari sees him still on the phone and freaks. As they hang up, you get the feeling that Hannah’s words are definitely in his head for sure.
Cargo Hold. Noah is walking Dalton through opening the bomb panel and doing a bit of micro managing to boot. When Dalton makes a funny about the instructions Noah is giving, Noah, the official straight man for The Brave, asks how Dalton can make jokes at times like these. Dalton replies, “because it keeps me from crying.” Fair. We all have our coping mechanisms! Dalton cuts the mercury switch and the front panel is off. Looking into the guts of the bomb, its clear Hannah is right. The bomb is overkill. Mari wants to make a splash. Dalton cuts the remote trigger but it sets off an automatic arming sequence. A mechanical secondary in bomb speak. My understanding is that sure, Diaz can’t use her remote trigger but now the bomb is armed again and can still be detonated manually at the site of the bomb. When Dalton asks Preach if he’s ever seen this, Preach says he’s heard of it. In fact, he’s heard its how the FARC rebels do their bombs. Hmmm, turns out maybe Preach should’ve done the diffusing after all. Ruh Ro. Making matters worse, the breaching team still isn’t down to under 10 seconds so current failure all around.
In the cabin of the plane, Mari takes a call on her sat phone in which she learns there is an American in their cargo hold. She sends Raul to take care of it. “Matalo,” she orders. Best look out Top, you’re about to have company …
SOG 7 Bunker. Martin and Jaz are still playing video games and its Jaz’s turn to ask a question … how was Martin injured on his team. Says he forgot to duck and shows her a gnarly scar on his neck. He talks about how he was lucky to be alive though he didn’t feel lucky for a long time. Eventually he adopted the Shawshank motto of “get busy living or get busy dying.” He decided to become a counselor to work out his own demons. Back to Jaz, he wants to know if they hurt her. He means, he knows what happened to her but he also knows she has to say it loud and deal with it. Better to say it now, to him than, than let it haunt her (unspoken: haunt her down the road and then it appears and paralyzes her at the wrong time). “What is it that is haunting you?” Jaz, “I’m terrified that I could lose them.” She lets her guard down and continues to Martin. The physical stuff, no problem for her but … she grew up not feeling the love, her father hated her for being born a girl so when her “guys” came and rescued her … Martin finishes for her that it was the first time in her life anyone ever came to help her. More on this scene below in my thoughts because really, its the most important scene in the episode.
Cargo hold. While Dalton continues his search to physically disarm the bomb, he hears clanking which alerts him to visitors. A quick close-quarters knife take down and the threat is eliminated. Silent but deadly. Sometimes, a gun isn’t the answer. Peace Raul, rot in hell, homie. More important for the mission is that someone on the ground must be talking to Mari because there is no other way for her to have known someone was in the cargo hold. We’ve got ourselves a mole!!
SOG 7 Bunker. Back in the impromptu therapy session, Martin loses Jaz a bit when he counsels her to look through the darkness and force herself to focus on what she has now instead of what she might lose. Easier said then done, buddy. But then, that’s it. Martin tells her this will pass but if it doesn’t, call him. As he walks out, Jaz tells Xander not to take it personally, pointing at the video game, “no one beats me.” “We’ll see,” is Xander’s reply. Yeah, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about the video game.
Cargo Hold. Having dispatched Raul, Dalton briefs Breach on his status; he’s two minutes away from finishing disabling all of the blasting caps but they’re only 3 minutes away from Diaz wondering why her henchman hasn’t returned. They need to breach now.
Colombia Mission Control. Edgar reveals himself to be the traitor when he calls Diaz and lets her know there is going to be another breach. He’ll call her back with the specifics. When we return from commercials, we see Hannah giving a very detailed breaching plan as we see the breaching team start moving into place.
The Plane. Mari hangs up her Sat phone, presumably having just received the plan specifics from Edgar, and orders Lalo to check the windows for movement. When he finds Elena’s sign warning about the bomb on the plane, he hides the note from Mari and you can see every seed of doubt Hannah planted in his brain click into place. Mari has exactly ZERO time to deal with his bullshit because, she’s making a statement about the power of FARC and how she is awesome!! Its going to be awesome Lalo, just get on board with my murderous suicide plane, bueno? No bueno. She raises the detonator high above her head flips the switch. And nothing happens. I guess Dalton wasn’t completely terrible at disarming the bomb.
The breach begins and Mari and her 2remaining baddies, Julien (as Raul is dead in the cargo hold below) and Lalo, open fire out the doors and windows of the plane in the galley area. As the terrorists engage the breaching team, Dalton enters the cabin through a trapdoor below and stalks down the aisle, weapon at the ready. In a slow motion scene that is very cool, you should watch it, Dalton skillfully takes down Julien. Lalo, seeing what just happened to Julien, essentially surrenders but there is no surrender in Mari’s world and she kills her own man, calling him a traitor as she does. As she turns to face Dalton, he takes her down with two easy bullets. “All right Hannah, threat is neutralized.” Knowing a mole was feeding Diaz information, the detailed breaching plan was announced, thus allowing the breach to cause a distraction while Dalton eliminated the threats internally.
As the wrap up begins, McG checks out Elena’s head (she was cut in a brief struggle for the detonator) while Elena checks out some mini vodka bottles. In the parking lot at Colombia Mission Control, Hannah approaches Edgar who is getting ready to bounce and thanks him. You see, the mission wouldn’t have been the success it was if he wasn’t feeding Diaz their plans. Unclear how she determined it was Edgar (and not Lucia or the young punk Pablo who was my bet for a mole originally).
At the base of the plane, Dalton tells Rivera she’s earned a full fledged spot on the team, complete with a plaque and everything (there is no plaque but that would be awesome if there was) , and she indicates its back to DC for her … for now. Yeah, she’s got the operator bug.
DIA HQ. Campbell asks if Noah wants her job now and he reminds he has her job for about another 5 minutes. He does think he needs a raise.
SOG 7 Bunker. The team is reunited. McG, for one, is excited to have Jaz coming back because he was nervous with Amir being on overwatch rotation next. After some more team jokes and poor sports bets, everyone makes themselves scare allowing Dalton and Jaz to get into it. Yes, Dalton knows Xander. He says they are well acquainted.
After a brief pause where he makes a decision to open up to her, Dalton tells Jaz about his time Fallujah in the Fall of ‘04. He references how their “Op tempo” was so high (which is absolutely true) and how he felt like he had just spilled so much blood; they couldn’t even keep track of their numbers. He says that after awhile, “you get a taste for it.” He goes on to say that his CSM (command sergeant major) had to physically pull him off an an asshole who’s throat he had just slit. You see, for Dalton, it wasn’t enough he killed the guy, he wanted to mount his head on a wall. He had lost site of what made him better than “them.” He finishes his story, “I don’t know if, um, if we have to have a dark side to do what we do, Jaz. But I know that I met mine. And, uh, no matter what I do … that guy never goes away.” That 90 second soliloquy resonated with so many veterans when it aired, Twitter just about exploded.
Thoughts. The Brave is outstanding. This is just objective fact but its outstanding, not because of the action, which is great, or because of the acting which is exceptional but because it tells a story and humanizes an extremely important aspect of our current American lives that for too many in our country exists as an abstract. The job our military does, the job we ask them to do so that we may sleep peacefully in our beds, is extraordinarily difficult and probably too much to ask another human to do on our behalf. But they do it and they do it without question and with relentless honor and excellence.
When Jaz confesses to Martin that she’s terrified of losing her whole team, that’s pure guilt she is carrying around. At least from her misstep in Desperate Times. The improvised sniper shot that missed Jarif which led to her volunteering to kill him as “Aida” which led to her capture. As Dean Georgaris explained after the episode, these were predictable occurrences to a solider who knows they are putting their life on the line every mission. But what wasn’t predictable, to Jaz, was that the team would risk their lives and careers to come save her. That guilt is all bound up inside of her. And for someone who has never had a traditional family, she cannot bare the thought that she was the reason any of her operational family was at risk. In harms way. No more so than Dalton, against his training and better judgment, could accept a path that left Jaz to rot in an Iranian torture room. These are more than work colleagues, this is family.
The final soliloquy, delivered brilliantly by Mike Vogel, is a dark truth experienced by so many of our fighting men and women when they have returned home from deployment. That dark side is there with you and once you’ve allowed it out and to roam and breath, its very hard, so hard, to lock it back up again. Its why we have such chemical and pharmaceutical dependency among our veterans when they return home. Its one of the reasons that suicide is so high among veterans. They cannot cope with a “normal” existence after having danced up to that line of darkness for so long.
Learn more about veteran recovery and treatment by going to http://www.vitalwarrior.org/, a not for profit organization created by Mikal Vega, the military technical consultant on The Brave. These brave men and women deserve all the help and love and support we can give them; for all they have done for you, for us, without us having even known about it.
Two more episodes of The Brave; and then hopefully NBC grants it the Season 2 it deserves. See you next week, friends. Join us!