The Hot Zone (“Expendable”)

Part 4 of 6
Date of airing: May 28, 2019 (National Geographic Channel)
Nielsen ratings information: 1.002 million viewers, 0.23 rating with Adults 18-49, 0.16 rating with Adults 18-34, 0.30 rating with Adults 25-54, 0.62 rating with Adults 50+

This episode was quite the positive surprise. Now that the virus has spilled over to humans, the threat level of the story is more palpable, and the narrative becomes more tense, as the doctors and scientist try to keep Ebola contained to the monkey research lab on two fronts. The first front would be looking at Domanski as patient zero and keeping him that way, although since the janitor of the monkey research lab has been infected with a virus (is it even clear that it’s Ebola? Maybe there was another killer roaming around those halls, which wasn’t as deadly as Ebola could have been), chances are some of the other staff members will be, too. Technically speaking, would they all be patient zero in this case, or will the monkey lab be declared “ground zero,” and there isn’t really a patient zero in the case of an outbreak? The second front would be the lab itself: The soldiers Nancy brought together to get into the lab and turn it into a hot zone is another way to keep the virus contained, and this happens to be the more intriguing story right now. A bunch of soldiers of the young age brought together to fight a virus, and each of them is going to stand against their own depiction of fear, which has already been manifesting in this episode, when one of the guys got claustrophobic in his suit, while the lights were off. I love it how there is a military mission which has absolutely nothing to do with invading a foreign country and try to kill some terrorists. I never even thought that the military could also be used for missions like these, and suddenly I am interested to know whether there have been more military-led missions like this in human history, and no one is telling us, because the end of the world was so damn close. Did a team of about a dozen soldiers stopped another potentially mass-killing virus in the last few years, because it showed up at someone’s front door? This could be a whole show by itself – I didn’t watch more than two or three episodes of CONTAINMENT, so I never knew if The CW show went into that direction, even if the virus already spilled over to the population over in that show.

Before self-exposed quarantine there is a talk in a very public and busy setting.

I also loved how Nancy was going against the entire top brass of U.S.A.M.R.I.I.D., wanting to lead the mission herself (because it’s what she knows she can do, besides it being her duty), but getting kicked out of the team because men once more won over women and decided they should rather stay home and cook meals for the kids instead of saving the world. It was never mentioned like that, but I can imagine that this might have been a conversation Nancy and Jerry may have had afterwards. The two definitely have the sweet life in military brass, being stationed at home and never having to fear to be sent to the frontlines with a weapon in their hands, but that also means when the lives of the Jaax family is suddenly threatened, because one of the parents is about to move to the frontlines (which in this case happened to be a monkey research lab only a few minutes away from home), chances are they will pull rank just to protect each other. That’s what I got out of Jerry pulling Nancy from this mission. And now I don’t know if I should blame him for not trusting his wife, or for keeping the family together, in case the shit will really hit the fan, when the virus not only spilled over to the janitor, but also to all the other Hazleton lab staff members.

Training for the level four newbies is gonna be brutal.

Anyway, the tension has been created, and it’s hopefully about to define the following two episodes. I am interested in the premise again, and how the group of soldiers are going to handle being in the hot zone among hostile monkeys starving to death and ill from Ebola. This better be the entire next episode, since that is a horror film premise on a television show, and after having watched the first two hours of CHERNOBYL not that long ago, I would love to see more real-life scripted horror depicted on television. Nothing supernatural, nothing paranormal, nothing written by Ryan Murphy (nothing against him, I just can’t get into his writing style sometimes). Just some real-life stuff with a danger you never knew you could face, because you don’t know a lot about the world.

In the meantime, the 1976 storyline was solid again. This time around it wasn’t running on empty like during the previous episode, because this time around Carter, Rhodes and Melanie were actually facing the true enemy for a change. Having to treat the pregnant woman, and knowing they can’t do anything to help her, made sense in the story, and I would have wished the writers had chosen to speed the Zaire story up a little, and maybe would not have begun the show with the scene in 1980, instead going straight to the 1976 Zaire story and how Carter and Rhodes were dealing with the first known outbreak of the virus. It would have helped to keep the show’s pace, and it still might have been a good idea to just do four, maybe five episodes of the show, as I think that the previous episode was close to being a filler as it could have been. Besides that, more Grace Gummer is always great, and this time she had a major role within the story, although maybe there was a bit fo a cliche in her character arc that she ended up getting married to Rhodes. I guess the extreme circumstances of their trip to Zaire brought them closer together?

Truth stands in front of a brick wall.

Best part of the episode: THE HOT ZONE comes away better than CHERNOBYL, when it comes to the characters of the story. CHERNOBYL hasn’t shown me much when it comes to that, but this episode of the Ebola virus show depicted Nancy’s emotional distress when she learned that her father might be gone before she has a chance to properly say goodbye. That was a powerful scene, as well as a reminder that THE HOT ZONE isn’t just about its exciting and deadly premise, but that it’s also about the characters in that premise.
Worst part of the episode: Military brass doesn’t give Nancy the opportunity to lead the mission herself. Shame on the military!
Weirdest part of the episode: Damn, Peter and Ben confining themselves to the lab after their ruse for the past few episodes was kind of eaten for breakfast in this episode. Nancy (or the guys, for that matter) could have dealt with the outcome of Peter and Ben keeping their bout with Ebola Zaire a secret, but no, two scenes about that and the story has finished. That truly is weird.
Player of the episode: Ben wins this award for telling the truth and nothing but the truth to Nancy. Although that doesn’t mean he is suddenly a wonderful guy.

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