"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eleventh Hour: Containment

It’s a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, and a building is being destroyed. Construction workers putter over the site, and one breaks away to call his family. It’s his son’s birthday, you see, and as he walks into an excavated cave to hear his wife better, you can tell he wants nothing more than to be home at his son’s birthday party.

That was my first clue that something’s going to go very, very wrong. Ned the construction worker’s call breaks up in the cave (duh) and he finds himself in what looks to be an old Native American burial chamber. A bunch of skeletons lie in alcoves in the wall, and one not-quite-skeleton lies on the floor and grabs at Ned. He’s still alive, but he’s covered in pustules. Eww.

Jacob to the rescue! Rachel summons him out of a very important meeting to tell him he’s needed. This time it’s an old friend who needs him – Calver Rigdon, from the Pennslyvania Health Department, happens to be the man who introduced Jacob to his wife. He also happens to be in charge of what’s happening at the demolition site. Jacob and Rachel hurry out to meet him and see what’s up.

The pustule-y man turns out to be Christopher Fisher, a licensed mortician who was brought in to look at the skeletal remains. He is fast on his way to becoming a skeletal remain himself, as he has died from some sort of hemorrhagic fever. Jacob and Cal discuss it a bit, tossing around ideas. Some sort of ebola? Nope. Maybe there is radiation lingering in the rocks of the cave! But no, the radiation levels or normal. Jacob examines the full list of symptoms – rash, fever, blistering, pustules – and comes to one conclusion: smallpox. The disease may have been eradicated, but somehow here it is, all the same.

Hazmat teams start to pour in, scientists and construction workers alike are given vaccines, and Jacob and Rachel set about to finding out where Fisher could have contracted the disease. It’s some sort of genetically engineered hybrid. They head to his apartment to search for environmental causes. Nothing seems too dangerous, but a wad of money hidden away is a bit suspicious. A second job, perhaps? Jacob picks a speed dial number at random and finds that on the side, Fisher works as an embalmer for a funeral home. Now it’s time to track down the bodies he’s recently worked on to see which one could have passed it on.

Meanwhile our construction worker Ned seems okay, until he starts coughing and demanding that he be let out to see his family. Somehow he breaks away, and that’s when the real trouble starts. He begins coughing up blood, but he’s determined to see his family. Jacob manages to trap him in the hallway before he reaches his family, and a hazmat team drags him off.

It is soon determined that a cold storage maintenance man by the name of Jack Ruddick is the best bet for the body that infected Fisher. Ruddick died from a fall, and Jacob and Rachel go to investigate the death. Alan Pulido, the manager of the storage facility, gives them a bit of a tour. Perhaps Ruddick didn’t contract the disease from anything in the facility. Perhaps he caught it from a fellow worker.

It turns out that there are a bunch of workers recently from Guatemala. After a bit of questioning, Rachel finds out that most of them are at home, too sick to come to work. Jacob and Rachel head to the Guatemalan’s apartment to see what’s up. It is a very sick apartment. One of the men in bed bolts for the fire escape when he sees them coming, and Rachel takes off after him. He is hit by a car in front of her very eyes, and she just reacts – she stoops down to check on him and gets covered in his blood. Wrong move, Rachel.

Preventative measures are put in place to stop the spread of an epidemic. The Guatemalan home village of the workers is put into quarantine. So is Rachel, who is lumped in with the storage facility workers and Ned. She tries to do some good on the inside by comforting Ned, but more importantly, she wants to help Jacob. She tries to convince him to call the FBI and get a new handler, but he won’t listen. He in turn goes to try to have Rachel moved to solitary confinement, just in case she’s not infected, but Cal won’t listen. He’s starting to seem suspicious. So Jacob goes to concentrate on the virus, discovering under the microscope that the virus isn’t brickshaped like smallpox usually is, but round like… chicken pox! Rachel and all the storage workers rejoice and are set free. Ned… dies. Poor Ned.

One of the storage workers leads Rachel and Jacob to a crate in the storage facility that until lately contained samples of smallpox, but the samples are gone! The facility manager is starting to show symptoms, and he has the samples. He wants $75,000 from Cal for them. After all, the virus was Cal’s making, in a misguided effort to further science. However, not such a great idea to store them in public, buddy. Jacob and Rachel go after Pulido, who runs into a restaurant and threatens to kill everyone if he doesn’t get his way. Rachel’s done messing with this stuff, so she shoots him and recovers the virus. But one vial is missing! Jacob knows where to look – Cal has locked himself in quarantine and injected himself with the disease. Very noble, if depressing.

Towards the end of the episode we have a touching moment where Rachel says despite all the dangers of her assignment, she likes working with Jacob because he does a lot of good. Aww. Let’s hope their mushy moments don’t extend much past this.

I promise I wasn’t hoping Rachel would die. In fact, I was really pleased that they didn’t make her get sick at all. It would have been so tiresome had they had her get sick and then have Jacob swoop in and find a “cure” or something. The less chance they have of getting more emotionally attached to each other, the better. I’d hate to see this professional relationship turn into something romantic.

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