Above a beach on Oahu's North Shore, what looks like Navy personnel in blue digi-camo are lounging around among the trees and munching on snacks from the craft services tent. It's Monday morning, and the cast and crew of ABC's Thursday submarine drama "Last Resort" are staging a battle on the white Hawaiian sand.
Officers of the ballistic missile submarine USS Colorado, decked out in dress whites, are negotiating to return home. By the time the scene is over, Rear Adm. Arthur Shepard (recurring star Bruce Davison) and the secretary of defense (recurring star Jay Karnes, who starred in "The Shield," an earlier show from "Last Resort" executive producer Shawn Ryan) are a little the worse for wear.
"Last Resort"Airs 7 p.m. Thursday on ABC
In the show's pilot, Capt. Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) questioned an order -- sent through a secondary channel -- to fire nukes on Pakistan. That made his nuclear-armed boat the target of friendly fire, so he took it to a remote island and established a perimeter to keep his crew alive until the truth can be sorted out. Chaplin's currently juggling the conflicting emotions and agendas of his executive officer, married Lt. Cmdr. Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman); Chief of the Boat James Prosser (Robert Patrick), the highest-ranking enlisted man; and conflicted Navy SEAL James King (Daniel Lissing).
Back home, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), daughter of a leading defense contractor and designer of a prototype device installed aboard the Colorado, is leading her own investigation into why the boat carrying her "baby" has gone rogue. In the shade of an island forest, Braugher considers whether Chaplin is the demanding Captain Bligh or mutineer Fletcher Christian of the famed HMS Bounty.
"The Captain Bligh that we have today," he says, "is the ultimate form of anti-Bligh propaganda rolling round, but Bligh was a fine naval officer. I consider Chaplin to be a fine naval officer as well, but also misunderstood.
"Because when you fire nuclear weapons at your own country, you're going to be misunderstood."
One person struggling to understand Chaplin is Kendal, whose wife back home (Buffalo Grove's Jessy Schram) is facing pressures of her own.
"Here's the thing -- he's a long way from home, and he has something valuable there in a wife and a career," Braugher says of Kendal. "I don't, having lost my wife and son.
"I seem like a man with nothing to lose, and consequently I seem like a man who is potentially out on a limb, freelancing. ... We're Americans, so we gotta get back home. That's our primary goal."
Kendal has his doubts about that. "They really do love each other, in this very father-son way," says Speedman. "But they are starting to have these little fissures here and there. It's not an all-out 'I'm on this side; you're on that side' thing, not even close, but it's starting to get intense that way."
Prosser, on the other hand, is quite sure what he thinks. Speaking at the show's Honolulu studios the following day, Patrick says, "Marcus Chaplin is a traitor. He is the antagonist of the story. I went in to Shawn, and I said, 'I'm not the bad guy in this show.' And he said, 'No, you're not.'
"I'll tell you what I am. I am the guy committed to only using the military if it's justified. I will lay my life on the line for you, if you're telling me this is what you want me to do, and it's justified. That is my oath. You're telling me now that the captain, when he's given an authenticated order, is not going to fire? It went through a secondary channel, but it's still proper protocol.
"If anybody watches this show and thinks that Joe Prosser is a bad guy, they're dead wrong."
The key to unraveling the mystery may lie with someone like Kylie, whether she wants it to or not.
"She finds herself wanting to do the right thing in spite of herself," Reeser says. "She's not even sure why she can't let it go, why she's finding this moral center that she never needed before.
"Now that the world is in this state of war, World War III, on the brink, she finds herself drawn to doing the right thing, and it's very confusing for her."
Or it may lie with a Navy SEAL who's gone way off mission. "He's a patriot," says Lissing of King. "But at the same time, he's wondering what is happening back in his country. Is this the same country that he left and that he's fighting for? Is the crew of the USS Colorado making the right decisions?
"He's got to make a decision. He can't sit on the fence forever."