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Pan Am Recap: Heart Attack in Haiti

PAN AM - "Unscheduled Departure" - As the crew flies to Caracas, a dashing, wealthy passenger, Miguel (Aaron Diaz), charms the stewardesses with invitations to his yacht. Meanwhile another passenger, Henry Belson, suffers a heart attack, but there is no doctor on board to help out. The only hope of saving his life is to land in nearby Haiti to seek medical help. However, Haiti is a hotbed of local political unrest, reeling from tropical storms which downed trees and affected power - including the lights on the damaged runway. Colette and Ted team up to to make the dangerous trek for medical help, on "Pan Am," SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/ERIC LIEBOWITZ)
AARON DIAZ, CHRISTINA RICCI

Our familiar and friendly Pan Am plane crew sure seems to get itself stuck in the middle of a lot of dangerous and critical historical moments, and this week’s episode took things to a whole new level. They think they’re headed to Venezuela, but they end up spending the majority of the episode in the Haiti of brutal dictator “Papa Doc.” It’s pretty stressful. On the plus side: no flashbacks!

The flight to Caracas is expected to be bumpy, because they’re headed into “Hurricane Ginny,” a naming coincidence that Ted thoroughly relishes. Is he one to talk when it comes to judgment in romantic pursuits, all of a sudden? The real Ginny remains conspicuously absent, though — she’s now nothing more than a distant memory and a severe tropical storm, devastating the lives of all she encounters.

Kate spends the early part of the flight making friends with a cute old diplomat named Henry, who’s a first-time flier and taking a trip to commemorate his lost love — his redhead wife Blanca. They talk about their broken hearts and it’s all very sweet until Henry has to go and have a heart attack. The stewardesses rush to alert the pilots, who ultimately decide to make an emergency landing to try to save his life. Substitute second officer Chuck (a real d-bag, by the way) suggests they aim for the Dominican Republic, but the runway was destroyed by Ginny. (The storm, not the person. Probably.) They decide on Port Au Prince, despite the hostile government and a whole host of other complications soon to make themselves known.

So, the landing in Haiti is something that I’ll probably ask myself about forever, or at least for another week. As Colette frantically tries to make French contact with traffic control (“What’s she doing here, she’s a WOMAN!” — Chuck, ugh), Dean flies the plane lower and lower into total darkness. They learn that the airport is closed and there is nobody in the tower to assist the landing. (But … who’s she talking to, then?) They go for it anyway. The lights don’t come on until the plane is literally 50 feet above the ground, and the super-lucky thing is that Dean managed to steer them perfectly over the runway. I underestimated that kid — he’s got an internal navigation system like a hawk, or a GPS.

After a pretty rough landing, the flight is welcomed by a Jeep full of men with machine guns. Dean, Ted, and Colette speak with the men and ask for a doctor, and after being handed a bit of money, they respond that there is a village with a doctor nearby. Ted and Colette offer to go pick him up, as they don’t think Henry could survive the drive. On the drive to get him, during which Ted will not shut up, they come across a couple of dead bodies in the road (ahhh) and a young woman who directs them to a doctor. The doctor, understandably, is not enthusiastic about leaving his room full of patients behind in favor of an American, the assistance of whom would likely get him killed. The amazing Colette gives him a strong emotional appeal, though, and he hands her a nitroglycerin pill to take back. As they drive off with the young woman in tow, their Jeep is sprayed with bullets. This fun airplane show just got real serious real fast, and if even a hair on my Colette’s precious head is touched, there will be hell to pay.

Back at the plane, Dean is measuring the runway with his feet when he realizes that the runway is too short — owing to hurricane damage — to take off from. Dean is worried, but not too worried — when Chuck tries to get all “Pan Am manual” on him, Dean retorts that “manuals are written by engineers, not pilots.” Yeah, Dean! You tell those nerds with their “rules” and their “scientifically backed recommendations.” Still, before the plane takes off, it has to lose a few thousand pounds.

As the passengers start to panic about the whole hostile-rebel-takeover thing, a few men with guns board the plane. Laura, whose eternal calm comes in handy here, offers them some food. Meanwhile, Maggie scolds Mr. Ortiz, the suave yacht-owner who only wanted to party with some stewardesses, for inciting panic among the first class. They even give her some snappy “funny girl” music while she does it, too.

Kate nurses Henry and tells him about her love for Croatia, but even post-heart-attack Henry totally knows that she’s talking about her love for a Yugoslavian MAN, not a country. He asks “Who was he?” and she says, fondly, “He was my redhead.” Kate, you cannot just compare your short-term Communist boyfriend to the 40-year love of a dying man. In fact, her comment killed him. Or maybe it was the heart attack, I guess. In any case, he basically made everybody go to Haiti for nothing. Thanks a lot, Henry!

When Colette and Ted arrive back to the plane, they are, of course, too late. Still, Colette tries to talk Dean into allowing the young Haitian woman on the flight with him, and he protests owing to the political complications and the plane’s weight. Colette guilt trips Dean a little by reminding him that she, too, is an orphan. She tells him that she believes in him, and she believes he’ll come to regret it if they leave the girl behind. Because he looks into her eyes when she speaks to him, Dean relents. How could you not? There’s magic in them. She’s all eyelashes.

Chuck the asshole is, as expected, not too thrilled with yet another code violation and is like “Ew, saving a refugee’s life?” The snotty first-class passengers protest, too, but Maggie tells them all to can it. Dean takes a more diplomatic approach, telling everyone that they’ll head home as soon as the plane burns off some fuel and they dump their luggage on the tarmac. Mr. Ortiz tries to hang onto his, but Maggie and Dean team up to tell him that it’s either him or the luggage staying in Haiti. Even Mr. Ortiz knows when he’s been defeated. He can’t stay in Port Au Prince, anyway. It’s too dangerous. He wouldn’t have his hair gel with him.

Kate offers to leave Henry’s dead body behind so that the Haitian girl can fly with them, which is a compromise that I feel like she’s not allowed to make. (“Hello, is this Henry’s daughter?” “Yes!! Where is my father??” “Oh, welllllll we just left him in a body bag on the tarmac in Port Au Prince, ha-ha. Our bad.”) With that, the plane is ready to head back to safer territory, despite idiot Chuck’s insistence that they burn off more fuel even as the plane is being literally surrounded by rebels in armored trucks. Even Ted tells him to shut up, because Ted is not comfortable having a bigger creep than him around. They take off anyway, and it goes smoothly. I was worried for a bit there. What if they all crashed and we had to watch some other stupid crew fly around all over the place?

In the Miami Pan Am office, Kate uses her CIA connections to arrange a green card and a foster family for the Haitian refugee, because Richard “owes” her. That’s so weird, because I remember it being sort of the other way around. Richard is a swell guy. Colette thanks Katie for the favor, but doesn’t question how she made it happen. Smart girl.

After brokering their immigration deal, everyone heads to the disciplinary offices. Dean gets a stern talking-to for the whole “landing in a warzone and dropping a dead American there” thing. He had it coming, especially after seemingly getting away with Hurricane Ginny — for now, anyway. The ladies are in trouble, too. Colette confesses to taking on the refugee girl, but so does everyone else. The previously enraged administrator drops the issue in a moment because she’s like “Fine, you’re too pretty to fire all of you at once.” As the ladies walk out feeling all pleased with themselves, Colette stays back to wait for her precious Dean. When he gets out, she just strolls right up and kisses him on the mouth. I was really excited for a second there, but if this show has taught me anything, it’s to not hope for a nice, immediate follow-up to a romantic story line. ( … Joe?) It’ll be at least two weeks, in fact! See you in December.

Photo: Eric Liebowitz/ABC