Profiles in terrible leadership, on The Event

With last night's episode, the main theme of The Event became clear: Some people just should not be in charge of anything. Spoilers ahead!

Seriously, have there ever been worse leaders, in the history of the universe, than either President Martinez or Sophia?

Take President Martinez. Last night, he continued his strategy of charging around, interrogating everybody himself, and writing checks his presidency can't cash. How can you tell when President Martinez is bluffing? His mouth opens and closes.

First of all, he confronts the Vice President, who's stonewalling about the whole "assassination plot" thing, and even though the Veep is A) injured and B) utterly feeble even on his best day, the Veep still manages to shrug off Martinez's threats and counter with an impressive reverse-blackmail-somersault maneuver. Then it turns out that some teeny fictional country has a missile that could reach the U.S., ready to launch, and Martinez charges around trying to find someone he can make unconvincing threats to.

At this point, it really seems like Martinez should get better at delegating, and the point that Blake Sterling (the guy from Heroes) made back in the first episode is looking truer and truer — the president shouldn't know about all the terrible things that his underlings are doing on his behalf. Because if the president does know, he'll insist on micromanaging them and turning them into a collossal bluff.

Then there's Sophia — so how did the "making people shoot themselves in the leg" leadership strategy work out? Apparently not that great, which is too bad: I was about to get a book deal for a management textbook called Don't Fire Them, Make Them Shoot Themselves In The Leg!. There were going to be quizzes and charts showing just how much loyalty you can engender by having people shoot themselves in the left leg, versus the right leg. And when to go the whole hog and get people to wear wooden peg legs, for that pirate glamor. Actually, I'm not sure what Sophia's plan was — she found out that her son Thomas and his girlfriend Isabel were betraying her, but instead of bringing the hammer down on them, she decided to maim Isabel and then make them drink tea with her reeeeeeeally slowly. Is it surprising that Thomas and Isabel go on the run soon after (when it's clear Sophia knows about their secret bank accounts) and initiate a plan to launch that missile? (The one the president is busy making blustery threats about?) Oh, and she let them take the Key Module, too.

Actually, my favorite Sophia moment is when Simon Lee asks her whether they should confront Thomas and Isabel about their secret accounts, and she says "They'd only deny it." And? If people have already betrayed you and you have reason to believe they're betraying you again, you probably shouldn't let them run around (well, hobble around, in Isabel's case) while you assemble proof.

And then there's the third study in crappy leadership, Dempsey (Hal Holbrook!) who really should be tearing his hair and shouting at the camera, "Why am I surrounded by imbeciles?" Or words to that effect.

Dempsey's no-account underlings include 1) Leila's dad, who already spilled his guts. 2) Vicky, who let that kid live, shot a cop for no reason, let Leila escape, let the Veep live, and probably botched a dozen other things. 3) The Veep, who's only been kept from spilling his guts by the fact that the Prez is the Bluffmaster. 4) Bald enforcer dude, who got injected with his own rapid-aging serum. And 5) Evil Nurse, who cleared out the hospital full of kidnapped little girls, but made sure to leave a BILLION CLUES laying around, including a huge pile of barely singed manila folders that scream "IMPORTANT SEEKRIT DOKUMENTS." When every single person you delegate to turns out to be incapable of getting anything right, maybe it's time to start looking in the mirror.

So we learned a few more pieces of the plot puzzle last night, which left us even more baffled. Or as random Crazy Lady would put it:

So what did we learn?

Well, the rapid aging exhibited by those little girls does appear to be caused by that injection — and just one dose is enough to turn Incompetent Henchman #7 into David Tennant at the end of "The Sound of Drums." Does this have something to do with how Hal Holbrook is staying young? Except that the injection is going into the girls, not taking some kind of youthiness out. (Unlike in that Fringe episode a while back.) And Samantha is responding "better than expected" to the treatment, which means there's a standard against which the treatment is judged.

Meanwhile, at least two of the girls' dads haven't aged since the late 1940s — including Leila's dad, Michael. So are these dads some of the alien sleeper agents? Or are they hooked on some kind of eternal-youth drug? As Leila says:

The question was so pressing, she even tweeted it in block caps, in a giant font.

The Key Module is needed to construct "the interface," which is something like the portal that zapped the airplane that was about to crash into Sophia in the first episode.

Thomas and Isabel have squirreled away loads of secret money, and their missile turns out to be a satellite — and it's aimed (duh duh duh!) out into space. Apparently, it's sending a message to their own people, who do indeed seem to come from space, rather than the future or whatnot. (Of course, the satellite's message could be going into a wormhole — in fact, it pretty much has to be, since otherwise the message won't reach anybody for millenia.) And whatever they're up to, it'll cause a lot of people to die. Oh, and when the message is played over the speakers in the White House Situation Room, it makes everybody clutch their heads, except Blake Sterling, who looks sort of bored.

We also learned that Crazy Lady thinks testicular cancer would be a bummer.

All in all, this was a solid enough episode, but a bit choppy — the jumps between the different storylines were sort of weirdly paced. For example, we saw Incompetent Henchman #7 get injected with the rapid-aging serum, then went to commercial, and it was about 10 minutes before we got back to him. The major characters still aren't much more than ciphers — and in the case of Thomas and Isabel, their dynamic was the opposite of what it was last week, with Thomas suddenly being the one who's sure about his plans. And given that this was the last episode until late February, it felt weirdly leisurely, and the final cliffhanger felt just like another episode ending, not a dramatic raising of the stakes.

At the same time, I liked some stuff — Sean and Leila were making a fun team, and the mental hospital infiltration was both tense and creepy, with the weird unexpected bits of humor in the mix. Leila's freak-out over Samantha slipping through her fingers felt realer than most character bits on this show. The "OMG they're going to nuke the U.S." fake-out did give us a few moments of awesome tension. (Although wouldn't a nuclear missile look rather different than a satellite-launching rocket?) And the layers upon layers of conspiracies and mysteries are continuing to be sort of fun.

But it's still all a bit baffling rather than mystifying. You're left sort of dazed and scratching your head. We'll let Crazy Lady have the last word: