VALOR Review: “Full Battle Rattle”

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After last week’s Valor, where the hostage the home team was going to trade for the American prisoners died en route to the exchange, the Shadow Raiders (I don’t know if I’ve called them that yet, but that’s what they’re called, and it’s hilarious) have to figure out in the air how to navigate the trade when they don’t have anything to barter with. They don’t expect the prisoners to be there in person — they’re just expecting proof of life — so it’s not like they can snatch them up at the meeting, but getting some kind of information without getting killed is possible.

In order to solve the problem, Thea calls her boss, Magnus, who other soldiers on the helicopter endorse as some sort of miracle fixer for situations gone bad. Magnus shows up at the Shadow Raiders’ office (headquarters? Whatever it is, for some reason I just noticed this episode how ludicrous it is as a set) to help them navigate the situation. He immediately zeroes in on Porter, telling him off the bat that he doesn’t think Porter will be helpful because he sees Porter as entitled. Although Porter defends himself, saying that his position has nothing to do with his mother, the congresswoman’s, position, Magnus tells him that he probably believes that’s true. I feel a bit bad for Porter, to be honest. He seems hardworking and mostly nice, and his girlfriend is hiding a conspiracy and what definitely will be an affair from him, and the people he wants to impress think he’s an entitled rich kid who was handed his position. Whether or not that’s true… poor Ian.

Magnus’s on the fly plan is for one of the soldiers on the helicopter to pose as the dead brother to get at least part way through the exchange, while a ground team heads their way to provide support. But they need time to get there. Gallo and one of the other special ops guys are the only ones of the approximate size of the dead brother, but Gallo insists he’s going to do it. This is maybe the most absurd thing that’s happened so far; obviously it’s more dramatic if Gallo, one of the few characters we know, as opposed to somebody we just met, has to go into this exchange. But the guy he pushes out has hand-to-hand combat training, and is a ground operator. Gallo justifies it by saying that the other guy is the best shot in the unit, and they can’t take him out of the game. Maybe this makes sense, but it seems to me that if you’ve got an entire unit of highly trained special ops guys, they should all be incredibly good shots, y’know? And maybe this other guy is the best, but the disparity shouldn’t be so large as to make a difference? It seems like a much bigger risk to put a guy with no real ground training of any kind in an extremely volatile situation where he might need it, but… whatever. Drama. CW. Etc.

While Gallo’s walking into the deal with Thea and a few other soldiers, we see a flashback showing Jimmy talking to Gallo before setting off on the mission in Somalia where he was taken prisoner. Jimmy was unsure about the mission — finding it more vague than usual, likely something to do with Gondry — and went to Gallo to follow up with the higher ups and make sure everything was on the level. Gallo basically blows him off, and tells him he’s there for a ball game or some other manly stuff, but he’s not there for feelings. They seem to have made a choice, as of a couple episodes ago, to have Gallo be unemotional and derisive of emotions — we didn’t really see this out of him in the first couple episodes, nor is it really apparent from him at any time where it isn’t plot-necessary to point it out, so it just comes across as a really weird character trait they shoehorned in to give him some guilt.

Back at the swap, they walk Gallo out with a bag over his head so they can’t see that it isn’t the brother. Thea sees proof of life for Jimmy and the other soldier, but the ground team isn’t in place. The goal is to get the phone the negotiator uses to call for the video of proof of life and use it to track the phone’s location. Thea tries to stall, but it becomes pretty obvious something isn’t right, and the negotiator pulls a gun. The special ops guys hanging back don’t have a clear view of what’s going on, and so can’t make the call to shoot because they’re worried about hitting Gallo. Magnus says that Madani has the best vantage point, and she should give the order. She has a PTSD flashback under the pressure, and can’t make a decision, forcing Gallo to put himself in a risky situation by moving toward the negotiator, unsettling him enough and moving enough that the guys can take their shot.

They all get out okay with the phone, and are able to trace the location. Of course, by the time they get there, the hostages have been moved. Luckily, realizing that they’d been part of a negotiation gone wrong, Jimmy knows they’re going to be moving, and so leaves a note scratched into the tile of their cell in English. He leaves three words — “small pearl” and “Tokyo”. He tells his fellow prisoner that “Tokyo” is a message for his wife that means “hope” (this exchange is comically dramatic and the actor should be sued for the long pause he takes before responding to “what does it mean?”) and “small pearl” is what he gleans from the conversation he overhears about moving them. He isn’t sure what it means, but he assumes that Intelligence will figure it out. Why he thinks “small pearl” is an accurate translation and the important part worth writing down is a bit beyond me.

Thea finds the writing when they arrive, so presumably, it will actually be helpful. But while all of this is happening, Gallo is being extremely emotional because who needs character consistency and pouring his heart out to Madani about how guilty he feels, and how driven he is to find the prisoners since he feels responsible for them. They have these conversations throughout the episode on their private radio channel, but this is absurd to me because they’re working directly with the CIA. There is literally a CIA agent in their helicopter with them. Why would they assume that line is actually private? Realistically, it probably is, because the jig would be up — but it’s just nuts, especially since Thea is suspicious of them anyway.

After finding nothing in the building, they go to leave, but Thea spots an IED. It’s set off, injuring one of the soldiers and damaging the helicopter. Madani has to fix the helicopter, as Gallo is busy comforting their injured compatriot. Since she’s been freezing and having flashbacks any time she’s called upon to do something challenging, it’s a tense moment for Madani — and it could perhaps be a nice “she’s going to get through this” signal, except that, like so many things this week, the issue is patently ridiculous. When she goes to look at the part of the helicopter that’s been damaged, she finds one wire disconnected, even though the whole thing has a massive hole in it. All she has to do is tape the wire back together. That’s… literally it. It’s not a difficult, confusing repair. It’s not calling on any special skills. It’s just so confusing because, like, they couldn’t have given her a problem to solve that looked a little more impressive?

When they get back, everybody acts like she saved the world — and she literally just put electrical tape on a wire. But okay. Madani also gives the pain pills she has on her to the injured guy, so we’re getting all the signals that she’s going to come out of this okay, however abruptly. 

Although they don’t rescue the soldiers, and outside of the questionable intel Jimmy scratched into the floor tiles, aren’t much closer to finding them, everybody comes out of the mission okay. We do see that the conspiracy does, in fact, extend to the CIA, which is good information to get. Thea and Magnus discuss Gondry, and Magnus sends Thea out into the field to find him where he was spotted in Berlin. Thea also presents Magnus with a domino that the negotiator handed her, which we’ve seen previously in the hands of the guy who took the hostages, and with Gondry. They both seem to take it very seriously — Magnus marks it as a nine out of ten on the worry scale — but we still have to find out what it’s all about.

Magnus also makes amends with Porter, admitting that he was impressed by Porter, and offering him a with the CIA. Since Thea basically offered him a earlier, seems like this is going to be a decision Ian will have to make down the line. 

TB-TV-Grade-B-Season 1, Episode 5 (S03E05)
Valor airs Mondays at 9PM on The CW

Read all of our reviews of Valor here.
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Keep up with all of Alyssa’s reviews here.

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