The fifth episode of The Last Ship starts out with the Nathan James and its crew back to running at full capacity, with all engines going and a full supply of water. In the previous episode Dr. Scott believed she had made a breakthrough in her research for a cure of the deadly virus. She now needs primates to test her vaccine prototype.
Unfortunately where they were originally heading, Costa Rica, has been taken over by civil unrest. There is a small nature reserve in the Nicaragua jungle. It is 30 miles upstream though, and the communications team is unsure if radio signals can even reach that far. In addition they will likely be out of range of radar, so they will essentially be flying blind into the South American jungle. Dr. Scott insists she come along in this mission because no one else can tell the difference between the specific monkeys she wants.
In the fifth episode of TNT’s The Last Ship, Dr. Scott and Tex also begin to blossom their friendship, which could, in later episode, grow to something else. She feels bad for lying to the crew and therefore never shares her meals with everyone. Tex and her have a good talk, which helps ease the psychological burden of being responsible for finding the cure, saying, “it’s not all on you.”
Two boats, consisting of four men each, head down the river while the Nathan James stays in the mouth of the river. Chief Engineer Andrea Garnett is the commander of the ship while XO Slattery and Commander Chandler are off hunting monkeys. When the eight-man team reaches the edge of the reserve they are still in radio range. Chandler insists that Dr. Scott stays at the boats while another team scouts out the area. Tex again talks to Dr. Scott and engages in some friendly flirting.
The scouting team runs into a large group of infected people while in the jungle, and has to hastily put their masks on before they are infected. They fall back to the boats and have to rethink their plan of capturing the monkeys. Commander Chandler orders Dr. Scott, Tex and Burk (Jocko Sims) to head back to The Last Ship, while the five others, CO Chandler, XO Slattery, Lt. Green, CMC Jeter and Comms officer Mason, continue heading up river to gather the monkeys.
When going up river the boat goes off radar and loses communication with the Nathan James. They resort to the universal signals of green flares for “all is good” and red for distress. They see a downed ship named “El Toro,” which is exactly what the infected people they ran into in the jungle were saying earlier. The team then sets off into the jungle, but Comms officer Mason gets hit in the leg by a hidden trap. They are immediately ambushed and taken hostage by men with weapons. Fortunately none of them appear to be sick.
They get taken into a small compound where a man named El Toro is clearly in charge. Commander Chandler tries to threaten El Toro and get him to let he and his men leave with their weapons and suits. El Toro informs them that there is no virus in his village, and they cannot have their weapons because it would frighten his people. El Toro does no buy their idle threats, but does comically call Chandler John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. El Toro then invites them to stay while his doctors treat Mason’s poisoned leg would, but really he is holding them hostage to find out information.
The Last Ship continues with El Toro, Commander Chandler, XO Slattery and the former governor of the local town, all dining in El Toro’s spacious tent. The governor informs them that the village is based on an ancient Incan principle of labor, where El Toro provides the protection, and everyone else provides the labor. The governor’s daughter gets upset, calls El Toro a pig, and implores the naval officers to help the people. Chandler, though wanting to help needs to get his mission accomplished and therefore says they just want to leave with their men healthy.
Eventually El Toro brings in one of the crates for capturing the monkeys. Chandler lies and says it is just for getting food. Once El Toro mentions the tranquilizers they also found Chandler tells them they are looking for monkeys to see if the virus started from them. They are then told that they actually just ate monkeys and are readily available if they had only asked.
El Toro decides to give them the monkeys but also decides to send the governor’s daughter across the river to be infected. Slattery and Lt. Green try to stop them but are outnumbered. The commander demands that El Toro release his men immediate. El Toro offers that they can have their lives and the monkeys, but they cannot have their weapons or suits.
Once they are headed back to The Last Ship XO Slattery asks them to stop they boat. He cannot leave those people to be subjugated to that kind of life. CMC Jeter tries to be the voice of reason, but Commander Chandler with another stoic yet clichéd line says, “We came to hunt.”
A three-man team of Chandler, Slattery and Green go back in at night and take out the perimeter guards. While this is happening the viewer is shown El Toro creepily getting the governor’s youngest daughter drunk and undressing her. Gunshots are fired and El Toro takes the young girl as hostage. Eventually after a series of engagements where the guards are easily taken care of, a standoff occurs between the naval crew and El Toro, who has a knife to the young girl’s throat.
El Toro surrenders easily and asks to be placed in a cell on the ship, where he knows he will be safe from the virus. The governor picks up the knife and stabs El Toro in the back, killing him. Chandler tells the governor that the village is his and the governor says no, the village is ours. As the five men are heading back to the Nathan James feeling satisfied for saving a small group of people, they see the people who are sickened by the virus on the shores of the river. The fifth episode of The Last Ship ends with the men realizing they can only do so much good in the world, which is riddled with evil.
By B. Taylor Rash