Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Pan Am Recap: Germany, Divided

So far Pan Am has been trying to manage two tracks at once: a flashy and beautiful nostalgia piece and a serious Cold War drama. This week, the former was largely abandoned in favor of the latter, and it was a major bummer for everyone involved.

On the subway in New York, Kate is confusingly stunned that her boss, who is in the CIA, after all, managed to track her down outside of the Pan Am building. There are lots of things in this episode that suggest that Kate’s grasp of international espionage is minimal at best — this is only the first. He tells Kate that she’ll be picking up a Nietzsche book while in Berlin, and her mission is to bring it home. I know she’s only a courier, but I hope that someday we get to find out what the point of any of Kate’s missions are. Maybe it could be like Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and this is just Kate’s gumshoe stage. Surely it gets better than what basically sounds like a library errand.

The Pan Am stewardesses prepare for their flight, which is a charter plane full of journalists covering JFK’s Berlin speech. Maggie is over the moon about the possibilities — she worked on Kennedy’s campaign and plans to meet him, somehow, while over in Germany. She decides to work the plane, buttering up journalists until she finds one young enough and handsome enough to fall prey to her charms. Mike the softie is won over with a few extra pillows and the idea that someone recognized him from the newspaper and makes plans to tour the city with Maggie.

The show launches into a totally unnecessary flash-forward to show Colette apologizing to Dean for embarrassing him in Berlin and a teary-eyed Maggie standing outside of Air Force One, while her fellow stewardesses struggle to explain her absence from the return flight — Laura is like, “She has a stomachache … of the head. What is that called, anyway? She ate … a bad … streusel. Or something!” Laura is not the brightest stewardess on the Christmas tree.

Back in the present and on the ground in Berlin, Maggie continues to sweet-talk Mike the kid journalist into press access, offering him a first-class upgrade and then, when that fails (and after Mike’s eyebrows suggest that she could sleep with him for it), an “angle” for his story. Though that’s technically his job anyway, Mike thinks Maggie’s dress is awfully cute and so he gets her a press pass. At the first event, Maggie snatches the president’s itinerary off of Mr. Manchester, one of the journalists she talked up on the plane. He lets slip that since JFK loves the ladies, Maggie could probably get into an after-party if she brings her fellow stewardesses with her. A Pan Am uniform is like the Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak of the sixties.

Kate’s mission is, as always, a goddamn mess. As she’s peering into the designated spy bookstore, a young blonde woman drives up and screams at Kate to get in the car because she has the Nietzsche book. The woman — whom Kate calls Greta but who could be named anything, really — claims to be a courier whose cover was blown while trying to drop the book. They pull over and run from the car, and watch from behind a building as the secret police search it. “WHERE’S THE NIETZSCHE?!” is what they growled to each other, probably.

Everyone heads out to see JFK’s speech — Kate, at Greta’s urging, leaves her behind in the hotel — and on the way, an adorable old man hears them yelling in English and sweeps them away into a nearby building for a better view of their fellow American. Colette looks up the many crowded flights of stairs and I at first thought she was afraid of heights, but then I remembered she is a flight attendant, so, probably not. She has a flashback to her childhood, to Nazis and their victims tearing down the stairs of a similar building.

As the others watch the speech, Ted takes Laura’s standing next to him as a sign that he should hold her hand and then try to make out with her, because everybody knows that there is no aphrodisiac like soaring political rhetoric. Though she accepts the hand-holding, Laura turns down the make-out, which leads me to believe there is some small sliver of hope for her yet. I turn out to be wrong about that.

Afterwards, Maggie prods the rest of the group into attending the party — held at the U.S. embassy — and Kate suggests that they go in uniform, so that she can dress Greta as a German Pan Am stewardess and deliver her to diplomatic safety. The girls are briefly held up at the door, but they get in because security is the worst on this show and because Maggie is adorable and spells out “Pan Am” when asked for a guest name. Greta reveals that she’s been to the house before, to deliver bread to the Luftwaffe with her family when she was a child. Colette is furious, which is understandable, though the anger toward a woman who can’t have been more than 5 then seems misdirected.

Colette takes her anger inside and fuels it with a third of a glass of Champagne, which on TV is always enough to take a person completely off the rails. In response to an aviation authority officer’s compliment to her German skills, Colette retorts that she was forced to learn it as a child. She then tells the pianist to play what I assume is the German national anthem, and she sings along. Her voice is lovely, even after she starts to cry near the end of the song. Colette is, to me, the finest part of this show. She is strong but not invulnerable, romantic but not silly. Plus, I seriously cannot get over that eyeliner on her.

On the other end of the most uncomfortable party of all-time, Kate ushers Greta into the capable hands of Mr. Manchester, who hands her off to someone in the State Department, at which point she disappears to an unknown fate. Kate’s German boss pops in to be like, “Hey, Kate, just quickly wanted to stop by to tell you that you can’t actually just trust 100 percent of everybody. That is an important thing about the spy business, FYI.” He accuses Kate of bringing an East German spy to the U.S. consulate, and Kate inexplicably walks away with her spy membership card intact.

A defeated Maggie walks with Laura to their return flight, but they spot Air Force One on the tarmac and Maggie takes off like the adorable little political science nerd she is, telling Laura she’ll be missing the flight. A Secret Service member stops Maggie and she explains that she was supposed to meet JFK when she worked on his campaign, but some bitch named Marsha Phillipps (ugh, she would be named Marsha) took her spot while Maggie was in the bathroom. He’s touched by her JFK enthusiasm, but doesn’t help her out until Maggie produces some Cuban cigars as a gift. The cigars are handed off to another man who walks up the plane’s stairs to give them to JFK, in all his silhouetted glory. (“That looks nothing like him,” said my roommate. “But he’s completely in shadows,” I told her. She was not impressed.) JFK waves to Maggie, and she cries. It’s sweet.

On the plane, disgusting Co-Pilot Ted tells Laura that he cannot be blamed for taking a shot with her because “I mean, look at you.” Sound reasoning! For some reason, Laura finds this charming, and smiles. Ugh, Laura! Ted tells her that she’s “different” from the other girls, and I figure that what he must mean is that she, unlike the others, is too dumb to realize what a creep he is, and he really likes that about her.

After their flight, Colette hangs back in one of the seats with Kate, whom she talks to about her past. When the Nazis came to France, her parents left her with a neighbor and promised they’d return, but they never could. She says that she wanted to go to Germany to forgive, but she still hates them, very much. She cries and it breaks my heart. Colette has had it pretty rough considering we’re only three episodes in. I hope that next week involves a story line in which she wins a puppy.

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/ABC