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Danielle returns to recap the fourth episode of Pan Am…
Week 4 on Pan Am (titled “Eastern Exposure“) finds the crew ferrying from New York to Burma to Indonesia to Hong Kong, then home again. This is the first time we’ve seen the concept of multiple stopovers explored on the show, and the itinerary certainly seems to be one out of The Points Guy’s playbook! The constantly changing, exotic changing atmosphere makes for an exciting episode, as we watch tempers flare as high as the temperatures in the “Orient.”
One of the main criticisms of the show has been that the youthful members of the cockpit are too green to be believable. Finally we hear an explanation about why, despite Dean’s age and apparent inexperience, he was made a full Captain. After Ted presses Dean the entire voyage about how exactly he managed to “jump the line” of 65 qualified First Officers waiting for their pilot’s wings, Dean reveals to him that he was promoted after a chance encounter with Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am. Dean spent 11 minutes in an stuck elevator convincing Trippe that Pan Am should move away from the WWII aviators that were the status quo at the helm and instead hire younger pilots (as shiny and new as the planes) who would ensure Pan Am’s sparkling reputation as the leader in the Jet Age. Dean is the poster boy for this “new image.” However, Dean doesn’t tell Ted all this until after the two come to blows over a very rough, ill-advised landing in Hong Kong, where the plane was a wingspan away from becoming amphibious after being pummeled by strong crosswinds. Ted finally puts into words the resentment that’s been hinted at for the last 4 weeks – he believes he should be the one in the left seat.
We also learn Ted’s backstory during in this week’s 60 minutes. It seems as though Pan Am stewardesses are the 60’s equivalent of reality TV stars. A group of Naval officers catches wind of the arrival of the girls in a Rangoon hotel and go looking for them. Once there they butt heads with Ted, who Maggie lets on was a former Navy test pilot before joining the commercial ranks. Ted obviously has hard-feelings and both he and the Navy boys posture and exchange unfriendly words. So not everyone thinks the Pan Am pilots are superstars? Imagine that!
To clear his head, Ted goes for a swim, but instead of relief he experiences a post-traumatic flashback to a plane crash he was in while test-piloting new Navy planes that it turns out his father’s company had produced. Ted was called up on charges of disorderly conduct resulting in the plane crash. In turn, he alleges that it was a mechanical fault, not pilot error, that caused the crash. His assertion is backed by his father’s company’s research, but with a huge military contract at stake, Ted’s father sides with the Navy to keep the matter hush-hush and fix the fault, forcing Ted to keep quiet, and thus give up his career as a test pilot. Instead, Ted has to settle for his father calling his cronies at Pan Am and finding him a job there.
As the daughter of a Naval aviator, I found this storyline the most intriguing so far. Especially when it becomes clear that Ted’s true ambition was beyond the skies – he was aiming to visit the heavens with NASA. I thoroughly enjoyed watching men in uniform on display in this week’s show as well as witnessing the sparks fly as Laura joins Ted in watching the historic Mercury IX launch while in Jakarta. Instead of watching the launch, Laura keeps her eyes on Ted, bemused by the mix of childlike wonder and deep disappointment that cross on his face.
Alternately it’s words that go flying between Laura and big sister Kate. During the tour of the Far East Laura’s, fun-loving and childish ways impede Kate’s latest mission, to deliver a camera from an operative in Rangoon to another in Jakarta. Especially when Laura takes the camera without permission to document a crazy night out on the town with new pal Maggie.
Kate and Laura exchange harsh words, revealing Kate’s exasperation with Laura’s immature attitude of floating through life and leaving Kate to watch out for her, and Laura’s frustration with always doing what she’s been told because no one gives her a chance to spread her wings. Maggie gets in the mix by taking Laura out gallivanting (read: gambling, drinking, and table top dancing) in Indonesia. By the end of the hour, Kate comes to realize that she’s fortunate to have her sister’s company and that “Pan Am is the ultimate new beginning” and she needs to let Laura make her own mistakes. But it’s too late. Laura has decided to moved on and move in with Maggie and her roommates instead.
Other period takeaways include: the girls are obviously turned off, but not appalled, by the animal cruelty displayed in a cockfight in Indonesia (this must be before PETA), along with Maggie describing Jakarta as “excitingly unrefined” (wonder what that’s supposed to mean?). Dean and Ted talking casually about the USSR’s first satellite Sputnik and what the Russian’s accomplishment means to the US astronauts was also interesting. And checking out the amazing vintage swimsuits was a cute treat, too!
Overall, I initially thought Pan Am might have clipped wings, but it’s finally proving to be capable of a little high flying drama!
Nauq twe dhe da paw, Danielle!
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