Mario Perez/ABC
Darren Franich
October 26, 2012 AT 01:01 AM EDT

On last night’s Last Resort, China invaded Taiwan. If that happened in real life, it would be a cataclysmic event — the rough equivalent, geopolitically speaking, of killing Franz Ferdinand a hundred thousand times. Such an attack would instigate a global chain reaction, immediately erasing the last few decades of relative peace between the world’s great superpowers. It would potentially start World War III. It would make liars out of basically every globalization scholar on the planet. And the Chinese invasion of Taiwan was — by a wide margin — the least important subplot in the episode. The show spent more time on the Tale of Angelic Blonde Wife and the Handsy Judas Lawyer than it did on the breakout of war between the world’s 26th and 2nd Largest Economies. I’m not criticizing, just noticing: Last Resort is basically set at the precise moment that the last century of global history falls away into pre-WWI tribalism, and the vast majority of the characters on the show are far, far removed from all those events.

This is baked into the setting of the show, of course: Sainte Marina Island is a world away from the world, and the gaggle of nuclear warheads onboard the Colorado make the Captain Chaplin a kind of hallway monitor for the nations of earth. But the main plotline of last night’s episode brought the outside world in — and the resulting scenes felt supercharged in a way that the show hasn’t really achieved since the pilot. SecDef Curry arrived on the island, with the White House Counsel and a squad of soldiers backing him up.

Chaplin and Kendal greeted him on the beach, flanked by a waving American flag and a squad of their own. They were nominally meeting to discuss terms, but Curry wasn’t in the mood for much discussion. He gave them the hard sell. Monsoon season is coming soon to Sainte Marina. Scarcity will become the new normal for Chaplin and his citizens. And he brushed aside all of Chaplin’s arguments. “Do not talk to me about your quaint notions of right and wrong,” he said. They were supposed to press a button, and they didn’t. So shall they hang. At that point, Curry referenced Chaplin’s dead son. Chaplin grabbed him and said: “If you say my son’s name again, I will crush the jelly from your eye.” This might seem aggressive, but FDR pulled the same move on Stalin at Yalta. (Churchill was off trying to find the sherry.)

The negotiations were extra-tense, because the Colorado had set off on an emergency mission. One of the radar beacons along the perimeter of the blockade had run out of batteries — they’re usually serviced by the US Navy. That meant that Grace had to take the sub out, all by herself. “Daddy finally let you take the car out of the driveway!” said the COB, oozing with charm. Grace had to bring along Sophie for the little adventure, which had the COB in agony. “Why is there a French person on my boat?” he asked.

Sophie said she knew all about America, with the apple pie and the cowboys. “There’s no such thing as a French cowboy.” Sophie pointed out that Robert Duvall was a cowboy, and “Duvall” is French. “You take that back,” said the COB. (ASIDE: I could watch a whole show about Robert Patrick being a charmingly gruff middle-aged douchebag. He’s like a much older version of Clint Eastwood, who happens to be much younger than Clint Eastwood. END OF ASIDE.)

NEXT: Minefields literal and metaphorical

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