The Sandbaggers: Decision By Committee
April 22, 2016 6:21 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Burnside receives his annual report and finds that his career prospects have suddenly dimmed. Willie Caine and Karen Milner returning from a conference in Sri Lanka when their flight is hijacked by terrorists and forced to land in Turkey. Burnside struggles to put together a rescue mission when the rest of the government has decided not to act.
posted by Grimgrin (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Burnside is increasingly on a ragged edge. After everything he's done in the name of the Service and the special relationship he finds himself staring at a future with no prospects at all. I think what Diane said last episode about the Sandbaggers last episode, and what Bob Ross said about Burnside this episode are both very true. He's put everything he has and is into this job. He has absolutely nothing else. Now he might loose that. It's an interesting point about this show that while it's not serialized, actions do have consequences.

Karen Milner is great in this episode, even if she has the same weird pseudo-American accent thing that Jeff Ross seems to have going on sometimes. The moment where she faces down a very nervous hijacker by threatening to piss on the floor made me think about this series and how it portrayed it's female characters. While you could never accuse it of being progressive with it's women, they are all portrayed as competent, intelligent, and above all, distinct characters.

The ending is characteristically brutal, as they saved a VIP at the cost of an old man getting shot in the back and a young girl getting shot in the head. Oh, and there was no bomb. I don't know any other shows that undercut themselves so ruthlessly. The scene where Karen and Willie take back the plane was the climax of tension that had been being built all episode. It ends with them having to walk away uncomfortably while a woman who's husband they got killed calls them bastards.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:11 PM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

But that was a bit facile on the writers part. Terrorists take control, issue demands, don't refuel, and there was no bomb? What was their end game then?

Backing up a bit, the British government doesn't want to send in the SAS because it fears a botched rescue will make them look bad--and I think this was before the botched rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages which doomed Carter's reelection, so the writers were prescient there--so the government is shifting the blame to Turkey. No one wonders if Turkey will go along with this, such arrogance.

To me, the brutal part was Burnside having to lie to Willie that the SAS were being mobilized.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:44 AM on April 24, 2016

Why did Willie open the bag that might contain a bomb? Surely a better option would be to quickly get everyone off the plane and leave the bag for an anti-bomb team to deal with.

Stiff upper lip and all, but I find it unbelievable that the passengers stayed sitting in their seats after the terrorists were all dead.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:16 PM on January 5

Eh, the plot of this episode fell a little flat for me. One thing I like about the show is its diverse locations. And we're in Sri Lanka, that's something I've never seen on TV before! Lol no, of course they didn't film in Sri Lanka, nor is the story about Sri Lanka in any meaningful way. Every South Indian extra in the BBC stable got to be in a shot though, hope they got paid.

OTOH someone I know was on a plane that the PLO hijacked and held for two or three days. His story is amazing. And part of this episode felt true to that. Not the shootout at the end, no. But the banal tedium and staticness of just sitting there on the plane, frightened and exhausted and worried and bored.

I appreciate grimgrin's comment above about just how bad the stakes are for Burnside. That's what I like about this show, the dismal conflict between someone trying to do their job well and the smothering of the bureaucracy. Marsden is very good at conveying that. For me the scene this time was when he's home at the end of the day, sitting alone on the floor of his flat listening to music and smoking. Just waiting for the call from ops, leaping eagerly back to work. The only thing he has.

I had a hard time with his moral calculus to risk his entire special projects team's lives in a badly planned raid on the plane just to save Willie. Everyone he talks to tells him it's a bad idea, including the SPT head. But it's the only idea he has. Maybe Willie is actually all he has left and he's still thinking about how he lost Laura Dickens.

(An aside, but I love all the James Bond jokes they make. This one features Willie doing a Sean Connery voice impersonation.)
posted by Nelson at 7:00 AM on September 5

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