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'The Event' recap: Whatever Sophia wants, Sophia gets

November 23, 2010 |  6:54 am

Not far into its first season, "The Event" continues to try to figure out a formula that will work for it. Monday night, it mostly got rid of the flashbacks and stuff, choosing instead to tell a story that's about as straightforward as a story leaping among four or five wildly divergent storylines can be.

The aliens have a meeting in a hotel somewhere! Sean and Leila run around in a cornfield with one of the old-face girls! Hal Holbrook (the evil version) does some stuff! The vice president wakes up, and everyone wants him to talk, but then his wife is all, "Don't do it, man!" None of these storylines seems to have anything to do with the other and, indeed, seem to take place in different fictional universes. (My reviewer pal Josh Alston pointed out last week that the two major storylines were meant to be parallel but were also taking place at night and day.) But, hey, it was all right, right?

I thought this episode actually started out really well. The aliens are out, living regular alien lives, mostly as civil servants (though we see a few in private industry), when they all get a text message containing a single number. Sophia and Thomas are calling them to what seemed to be the yearly alien convention, held in a hotel. I like the sense of all of these people living their lives, hiding this secret, waiting to get the call and then stepping back into their secret life, and it's just another time when it felt like the show might be about the wrong people. A show about the aliens trying to go about their day-to-day lives and then also having to deal with alien stuff could be a lot of fun, and the scenes at the impromptu convention were all pretty good.

Of course, after that, it was back to everybody plotting against everybody for no discernible reason. It would seem that Thomas has taken a lover from the alien kind, and now, he and that woman are plotting ... something (the answer is always "something" on this show), something that the other aliens wouldn't like if they heard about but will eventually come to appreciate in time. So, of course, they need to keep this from Sophia, and Thomas needs to wrest control of the group from her by killing his own mom in a coup. His girlfriend gives him a gun that should do the trick, so long as he hits Sophia right in the heart. And we're off to the races! Sophia gives a long speech on the plane trip over about how she's a bad mother (making this almost a Sophia-centric hour), and then Thomas pulls the gun in the secret vault where the aliens are keeping the key that will open the portal home. (The key is a long, glowing thingy, which is really what it should be called.)

Of course, Thomas can't go through with it because "The Event" isn't gutsy enough to kill off one of its most interesting characters this early, even if it's the kind of show that would probably resurrect that character in a couple of weeks. So Sophia doesn't die, and, indeed, Thomas tells her enough that she's able to punish his girlfriend for it. But Sophia's not a bad gal! She makes a deal: Either girlfriend spends the rest of her life not having contact with any of her own kind, or she maims herself by shooting herself, thus proving her loyalty to Sophia and the cause. This, sadly, is our big, crazy cliffhanger for the week, and it's kind of a letdown; the last two episodes ended with such completely nutzoid scenes. Hopefully, we get something much better (read, weird and slightly uncomfortable) next week.

Meanwhile, there's Sean and Leila, who spend most of the episode running around, looking for one of the other little girls whose names they found. Their old friend in the FBI (whom the show seems to have forgotten about for a while) confirms their suspicion that the names are all of missing little girls who are around the age of Samantha, and they eventually discover a little girl who's been returned, but she is obviously suffering some health issues, and her makeup seems to suggest that she's one of the premature-old-age girls from a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, an assassin comes after the little girl, because he can, but Sean escapes with the girl, her mother and Leila into a conveniently placed cornfield, and then he takes the assassin out. But when he pulls out the assassin's marching orders, the assassin was there to ... take Leila back again? Buh? This is supposed to be suspenseful? We CARE about Leila?

But, then, the show has always had this problem with immediately reversing itself. Remember the games with whether the passengers of that ill-fated airplane were alive or dead? Yeah, we had tried to forget it, too, but it took up an inordinate amount of time earlier this season. So, sure, the conspiracy wants Leila again. And if they take her, Sean will have to go and find her again. That's a good way to reaffirm your central character's purpose to the show! Sean and Leila are so useless and so disconnected from the main narrative at this point that the show has pretty much nowhere to go with them. It needs to come up with some kind of crazy twist for them, or it needs to kill them, but it's dragging its heels on doing either. And that's unfortunate.

Anyway, the rest of the episode is mostly just there. Dempsey (a.k.a. Evil Hal Holbrook) sends his man out into the field, but the man is terrible at his job (as all of Dempsey's men seem to be). There are plenty of scenes where we get to see the truly awe-inspiring powers Sophia appears to have over her people. We get a little more of a sense of the relationship between Sophia and Thomas. And we continue to have absolutely no idea why anyone thinks it would be compelling to watch a bunch of people doing stuff with little to no purpose. I keep wanting to give this show more of a shot, but this episode has me flummoxed. There's less to complain about, but there's also less to talk about. Honestly, the producers should have just turned the camera on and had Laura Innes and Jason Ritter tap dance for an hour, and it pretty much would have been the same thing.

What happened, in case you made the switch over to "Skating With the Stars" (and why would you?): Dempsey sent a man out, presumably after the prematurely aged little girl Sean and Leila tracked down over the course of the episode. Instead, Sean tackled the guy and knocked him out to reveal he was after ... Leila. Dun dun dun! The vice president was reluctant to reveal what he knew now that there had been an attempt on his life, in a way that mostly made no sense. And Sophia called a meeting of all of the aliens to announce they had a really, really good 2010 (while the rest of us saps were out here stuck in the mud) and would soon be able to open the portal. Then Thomas and his new girlfriend plotted a coup, but he wasn't able to put a bullet in his mom's back. So Sophia talked the girlfriend into shooting herself. Dun dun ... y'know what? It was actually kind of lame.

-- Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) out in the fields. Credit: NBC

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