Though the show takes place under highly unusual circumstances, "Last Resort" succeeds because the characters are sharply drawn and very real. That realism explodes during "Nuke It Out," an episode in which everyone is spoiling for a fight.
Capt. Chaplin (Andre Braugher) and XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) aren't sparing anyone's feelings over the missing nuclear launch key. Chaplin orders a thorough search of every locker and duffel bag on the ship. Not even Lt. Grace Shepard (Daisy Betts) is exempt from suspicion.
Chaplin attempts to get more information from Booth, the surviving member of the Black Ops team that drugged the crew in the previous episode. Booth reminds him of the rumor that the CIA has placed a sleeper agent on every ship in the fleet. Later on, Booth says the sleeper agent will be making contact with Langley, Virginia, about the missing key.
While supervising the crew, Master Chief Joseph Prosser (Robert Patrick) finds that one of the men has been using drugs. Infuriated, Prosser heads out into Sainte Marina spoiling for a fight. When he spots one of Serrat's men dealing to a crew member, Prosser beats him senseless.
On the homefront, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser) buys surveillance gear and acquires a photograph of the deceased White House Senior Advisor Amanda Straugh. She learns that instead of dying in a plane crash, Straugh was killed on Sainte Marina. Kylie and Christine Kendal (Jessy Schram) then go public with the photo during a televised interview.
"Nuke It Out" rapidly escalates from that point into a game of one-upmanship. Exposing Prosser's addiction to painkillers, Serrat has his men use a blowtorch on the Master Chief's bare feet. Serrat injects him with drugs to ease the pain, but this reawakens his addiction. Prosser may find himself going to Serrat for painkillers.
Kendal organizes a football and beer party to help the Colorado's crew blow off steam. Unfortunately, a crew member stumbles into the party covered with explosives and a ticking timer. James King (Daniel Lissing) helps Grace disarm the bomb, and the subsequent adrenaline rush leads to a passionate encounter between the two of them.
Chaplin, Kendal, and an armed contingent confront Serrat, who produces the man responsible for the human bomb. Capt. Chaplin subsequently shoots the bomber and backhands Serrat in his own compound. Chaplin warns him that if he tries his patience again, he will serve as Serrat's judge, jury, and executioner.
"Nuke It Out" is a powerful episode and one that takes the freshman series to a new level. Everyone in this series is now playing for keeps.