Colin Cunninham’s John Pope is my favorite thing about Falling Skies, so when I saw the previews for “Search and Recovery,” I squealed with fangirl delight at the prospect of seeing John Pope and Tom Mason duking it out in the wilderness. “Search and Recovery” did not disappoint, and went much further than I was expecting. I think it’s probably my second favorite episode of the season, right behind “Badlands”.
Tom escapes a burning airplane with an unconscious Pope as Hal, Ben and Matt find out about the disappearance of Anne and Alexis. Col. Weaver wants a search party, but Tom’s second-in-command, Peralta, says she can’t spare a single man. Col. Weaver explains that all 2nd Mass has been through has created a family, and “when one is lost, we find them.” He is given 24 hours. When Pope awakes, he saves Tom from getting nabbed by aliens. “One thing I know is how to hide from the authorities,” he says.
Col. Weaver sets out with his daughter Jeanne, the Mason boys and Hal’s girlfriend, Karen. When the search party finds fresh blood and a body that isn’t Anne’s, they give it a proper burial and remember their own mothers. Tom is still trying to figure out why the plane crashed and how the aliens found it, but Pope barks, “You are the king of chaos, Mason. Just own it, don’t try to explain it.” The men keep squabbling, and when Tom wants a fire, he discovers that Pope never learned how to make one. Pope ridicules Tom for his Boy Scout, Norman Rockwell background as the fire is made, and Tom retorts back that his father wasn’t the outdoorsy type, he was a mean drunk. “There was nothing idyllic about my childhood,” he says quietly, “except maybe that I survived it.”
Marina Peralta goes to visit Dr. Kadar and shows him a picture of the machine the Volm are building. “Search and Recovery” is the first episode we’ve really had a good look at the machine. Kadar agrees to look into it after learning Tom wanted her to find out what she could.
And this is where we learn more about Pope’s background. At the campfire, he grudgingly opens up and tells Tom about his two children, who he hadn’t seen five years prior to the invasion. He was helping his son with a bike, and after a near collision with a Cadillac, Pope knocked the driver down for almost running over his son. The man died, and the look on his son’s face was something Pope never forgot. “I was just trying to teach him how to stand up for himself, that’s all I was doing,” he explains.
Pope startles when Tom goes for the shotgun (he’s just taking first watch), and in the morning, he drops a dead snake on Tom, resulting in another fight, until they hear skitters approaching. They are surrounded on three sides, and Tom throws himself at a horrified Pope as they plummet down a waterfall. When they reach shore, the fight’s over, but Tom’s ankle is too injured for them to keep going.
The search party recovers a blanket but Anne and Alexis are still nowhere to be found, although there seem to be a large number of skitter and human tracks. Col. Weaver decides to check in with Espheni spies to see if they can learn anything of Anne and Alexis’ whereabouts. Tom is still talking through the possibilities of a mole and the airplane crash as Pope wraps his ankle, but can’t stand up. He angers Pope in order to make him leave, calling him a phony and a coward.
Marina Peralta visits Dr. Kadar to hear the update on the Volm technology. Dr. Kadar guesses correctly that Tom didn’t ask Peralta to find out about the device, and that the Volm have never said what they’re building. Tom is alone, having nightmares about his sons needing help. He gets up, only to meet a duo of skitters. They’re shot through their heads, and Pope reappears. “One thing I can’t stand more than you, and that’s skitters.” Pope gets Tom to a truck with enough fuel to get them near Charleston.
Tom and Pope arrive back in Charleston and Tom awakes in the hospital. He’s been out for two days, and Pope’s been by his side the entire time. They’ve saved each other’s lives and now they’re even, according to Pope. Col. Weaver comes in and says there’s been no word from Cochise. Tom’s sons arrive, but then Col. Weaver must tell Tom that his new wife and child are missing.
While the search and recovery for Anne and Alexis was fruitless, we still got some useful information, or at least hints of what’s to come for them.
The theme of “Search and Recovery” is regret, as we see Pope and the search party deal with survivor’s guilt, the resurfacing of old memories, anger, and grief at the thought of their lost loved ones. It speaks volumes when a sci-fi show takes the time to address such a real issue, one that we don’t see portrayed much, and I deeply appreciated the sensitive handling of this difficult subject.
I do think we need to see more of John Pope, although I’m really afraid he might be the Charleston “mole.” According to Tom’s thinking out loud during “Search and Recovery”, the coordinates for their meeting place were given after they got in the plane, and Pope seems to be heading off any thoughts as to the mole. Tom does ask a great question when he wonders why Pope doesn’t leave, seeing as he possesses so many fine vehicles, and Pope can’t give a satisfactory answer, although I think he really doesn’t like being alone, despite his pretending to be a one-man army.
Next week’s episode also looks promising, with Tom searching for his missing wife and daughter, Hal exposing what’s been happening inside his head, and possibly the reveal of the mole.