Airplane! The Sequel

NBC’s The Blacklist: Redemption is on the air for a few weeks now and as I predicted it’s utter dreck. James Spader is missing every second, and the entire premise just feels extremely forced. Tom “I just want to be a dad” Keen suddenly spends all his time at his mother’s beck and call instead of doing that parenting thing he always dreamed of. Liz doesn’t really seem to mind or even notice – and how could she when she’s out chasing bad guys for Reddington in the main series?

Without Spader, there’s no comic relief either – unless the computer nerd counts, but his kind of humor really doesn’t click with me. Or maybe Solomon? He’s cool, but he’s ultimately a bad guy (not unlike Reddington, but Red’s just more charming).

After all, however, Redemption isn’t so different from your standard Blacklist fare: the storylines are ridiculous, the computers can’t be controlled without hammering on some kind of holo-keyboard (ever heared of a mouse, guys?) and Famke Janssen plays every bit as terrible and wooden as Megan Boone. The only upside is Terry O’Quinn, but his character is just not written well enough to be of much interest.

This post is a bit long, read on if you dare.

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Fakesimile

I kinda liked NBC’s Aquarius last year so I was quite happy to see it was renewed. Unfortunately, the three-hour (!) premiere of season 2 was far too slow for my taste and should probably aired in separate episodes so the viewer doesn’t get tired from the endlessly meandering plot. However, this was a problem with the first season as well – it didn’t really pick up the pace until later – so I’ll give it some time.

There’s one thing that bugged me more than the slow pacing, though. At some point, Detective Hodiak gets a message from another Sheriff’s Department. Since it’s 1969, there was no internet or email, so the message is printed on a TeleType Model 33 – basically a precursor to modern fax machines. This is what the thing looks like:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Pretty damn ancient from our point of view, right? These machines could only transmit text at a rather slow pace (about as slow as the story moved in this episode) and they printed the document just like a typewriter.

How come then that the document Hodiak recieves contains two pictures that look just like they came out of a laser printer?

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

To be frank, the entire document he’s looking at feels like it was made in Photoshop and printed on a modern printer. The horizontal lines make no sense – TeleType machines didn’t scan the document, the text had to be entered via the keyboard (that’s why they had one in the first place!) so there would be no graphical features on the transmitted document at all.

To quote Detective Hodiak:

Ah. How’s it work?
A-actually, I don’t care. Do not care.

Neither does NBC by the looks of it.

How to get arrested in Germany

Oh golly, The Blacklist is getting a spin-off series bearing the incredibly original title The Blacklist: Redemption. Ryan Eggold will lead as Tom Keen once again, who will work alongside his – surprise! – mother Susan Hargrave (Famke Janssen). What an awful idea, NBC, and good luck getting more than one season out of it without James Spader because he’s the only actor keeping The Blacklist together.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the latest episode of the original show, 03×22, where Tom Keen once again ventures to Germany to infiltrate the G8 summit. To quote for posterity:

Pruitt’s in Berlin staying at the Turkish Embassy as a guest of the Ambassador. He’ll attend a reception at the embassy for the G8 ministers.

Technically, it’s the G7 summit since Russia got the boot in 2014 for annexing Crimea but who’s counting?

Anyway, a visit to Germany on any given NBC show is bound to be a desaster. Tom has the brilliant idea to get into the country assuming the fake identity of Eugene Pavlenko, an Ukrainian man wanted in Turkey for money laundering. Fantastic idea, really. Here’s Eugene’s passport:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

He likely got this passport from the same forger who whipped up the other terrible fake last season because this one is just as bad! Here we go:

  • since 2007, Ukrainian passports feature laser imprinted black-and-white photographs
  • there’s no bearer’s signature on the passport even though real ones obviously feature one on the lower right side of the ID card
  • the nationality is stated as “Ukrainian” where official passports would read “UKRAINE” instead. Interestingly, the ukrainian text (Україна) correctly translates to “Ukraine”
  • the place of birth simply reads Україна (Ukraine) instead of stating the city and country. Maybe they just don’t know where Eugene is from but that’s quite unlikely.
  • it’s a bit hard to tell from the picture but the passport number isn’t properly replicated in the machine readable part (lower left corner of the page). Also, the line above that should start with “P<UKR”

There’s likely more wrong than that – the dates seem fishy –  but Google Translate only goes so far. If he wants to be arrested, he’ll definitely be just for presenting this obvious fake.

Anyway, Tom’s plan is to get into the Turkish embassy in Berlin by getting arrested for being a criminal. Since he’s wanted in Turkey, he should be brought to the embassy before being extradited, right?

This part of the plot is researched so badly my poor brain wanted to explode while watching the episode. German extradition law simply doesn’t work that way (PDF in German, page 10 is relevant). If Tom was arrested trying to enter Germany, he’d first be handled by German law enforcement and detained in a German prison. A German judge would have to conduct a hearing no more than 24 hours after the arrest and only after hearing Tom out the judge could decide if his arrest was even warranted. If it was, he’ll remain in jail until being extradited straight to Turkey – not in the embassy. Germany doesn’t simply hand over people to foreign countries, and turning Tom in to the Turkish embassy would be exactly that since the embassy is technically on Turkish soil.

But mere technicalities like that simply don’t matter in The Blacklist.

Tom manages to escape the interrogation room by means of force (what else) and quickly dresses up as a waiter. Of course, he speaks Turkish fluently enough to keep up his charade and of course nobody really pays any attention to a waiter who’s wandering aimlessly around the rooms instead of doing his job. He quickly finds his target who’s addressing him in incredibly mangled German for some reason. It’s clearly not his mother tongue which makes the scene a little bit strange since he continues to speak English in all remaining scenes. As an international guest in a foreign embassy, you’d expect the staff to be fluent in English anyway so why bother attempting to speak German if everyone would understand your first language anyway? Oddly enough, despite Tom speaking German in that one short scene, he drops it entirely in later shots and addresses the target in English as if nothing happened, and the target is even confused about his ability to speak English – again, something you should definitely expect in such an environment. That was a long sentence.

Tom and his team escape the embassy with their target in an ambulance. The license plates actually look alright this time, which is definitely an improvement over last time, but the dialogue feels off:

You have Landespolizei units approaching to your south.

Nobody in Germany would say “Landespolizei” – not that the term doesn’t exist, it’s not used in everyday language. “Landespolizei” is just a term for all police forces in a state, not some specific unit of the police. In Berlin, there’s indeed a “Landespolizei” but again, that’s just an all-encompassing term for every police unit except the Landeskriminalamt (criminal investigation unit). The dialogue makes it sound like “Landespolizei” is some special unit while it simply isn’t. The only intention seems to add some locale to the dialogue which just doesn’t feel right given that they could have just said “You have police units approaching …”. Okay, maybe I’m even more picky than usual here but it just didn’t feel right to me.

The operator is directing the team to Wilhelmstraße and while she’s doing that, we can see the map she’s looking at:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

I honestly have no idea which city this map is of but it doesn’t look anything like Berlin (the marker points to Wilhelmstraße which does indeed exist):

Image (c) Google

Image (c) Google

From the grid layout, the map could be of some American city, but certainly not Berlin.

The team runs into some trouble because the target was drugged and his pupils are too dilated for a retinal scan. Tom claims the poor sap was administered 200mg of Fentanyl. So far, so good, although the Fentanyl dose was so high the target could have been killed by it. According to (German) Wikipedia, the effective dosage is 0.01mg per kilogram body weight. The guy looks a bit on the heavy side so I’d say his weight is around 90kg. A dosis of 0,9mg Fentanyl would have been enough to knock him out. However, Tom administered him 2,22mg per kilogram body weight, which is far too much. According to the dialogue, he even gave him Fentanyl twice for whatever reason which would put the dosis way over the 3.1mg needed to kill a rat – for humans, the lethal amount is way less.

But the target doesn’t die. Instead, the team breaks into a pharmacy to obtain Tropicamide, a drug indeed used by eye doctors to widen pupils (because that’s the only worry the poor sap has right now). The pharmacy really doesn’t look anything like a real one because in German pharmacies, the shelves usually only contain common over-the-counter drugs, not prescription stuff. They would have to rummage around the drawers (of which most are in the back of the store, away from customers) to get eye drops containing Tropicamide. I’m not even sure if it’s even stocked in a pharmacy since it’s a drug not commonly needed by patients. Also, in the only wide shot of the pharmacy interior, it looks like it’s actually a cosmetics store – while German pharmacies do offer a variety of cosmetics, they don’t usually look like this:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The police finally arrives:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Hey, the fake number plates are back! German plates simply don’t look like that, nor do police patrol cars. This is how they look like:

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Image (c) Wikimedia

Geman patrol cars are usually Volkswagen Passat, the cars in The Blacklist look like they could be Toyotas although the logo is really hard to see. Also, the police crest on the cars is all wrong, the real one (for Berlin) looks like shown on the left. It’s also in the wrong place as the crest is usually on the rear passenger doors. EDIT: Not true. They can be on either door. Apologies.

Why do I even bother? They clearly never learn! But then again, what do I expect? Without the brilliant James Spader, The Blacklist would just be another typical NBC show. Like Crisis, for example. Ugh, Crisis.

Double blind

Just a quick two-shot post about the most recent episodes of NBC’s Blindspot.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

First up, some “promotional consideration furnished by Lexus” in episode 12 which would be fine if they didn’t bother to write actual dialogue to help peddle their sponsor’s cars and mess it up in the process.

The team has to search five buildings but they don’t have much time to do that. Here’s a handy map of the five locations they need to check:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

One of these spots is marked at 556 Division (it’s the second from the left). Suddenly, Tasha has a revelation, so to speak:

Tasha (to driver):
Hit the voice command button.

As instructed, the driver presses the button she asks for, and it’s fortunately right to the steering wheel so we can see the Lexus logo. Nice!

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

The onboard navigation system springs to life, as intended:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Lexus voice navigation system:
Please say a command.

Tasha:
Destination, 912 Division Ave.

Well duh, that building isn’t even marked on the map, but I guess in a Lexus, everything’s possible.

Next up is episode 13 where, during the “previously on” segment, they show a driver’s license:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Let’s play “spot the error”, shall we? If we go by the official sample document, there are at least these six mistakes to be found:

  • under the color picture of the license holder, there should be the month and year of the holder’s birthday (in this case, SEP 80) instead of “P 87”. It’s also not centered properly.
  • in the lower right corner, there should be the document number where the “organ donor” sign is, and that sign should be left of the document number
  • the background is all wrong too
  • according to the official DMV website, the photo should be grayscale, not color
  • the small photo to the right is too large, there should be visible framing around it (check the link above for samples)
  • the security feature under the small photo (warped text with the license holder’s name) should not be inside the photo, but below it

Wow, that’s a lot. However, nobody on the crack team of FBI experts around KURT even seem to notice this … nothing to worry about I guess, it’s just the license of a potential russian spy.

Airplane! (Updated)

Note: the original post went up a little bit early. After thinking about the episode more than I should have, I have found other discrepancies worth mentioning. I have edited them into the article below.

Just when I said that current shows just don’t cut it in terms of epic failures, well, turns out Blindspot returned! In the most recent installment (1×11) of NBC’s rather unimpressive tattoo show, there’s just too much wrong to ignore.

It starts with the plot. Now Blindspot was always rather ridiculous in terms of narrative and this episode surely wasn’t the only one with “problems” in the storytelling department, but with so much else going wrong, it felt like they were just taking the piss.

So there’s another tattoo on Jane’s ink-riddled body and of course it’s been decrypted by Patterson, a character that truly annoys me for many reasons. In the puzzle, she found coordinates leading to a tiny island in the Black Sea:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

The map is actually correct, by the way, although the group of islands doesn’t exist in the real world aka Google Maps. No matter, Jane, KURT (sorry for caps but his voice’s too manly to spell his name any other way) and the gang grab their go-bags and off they go to Turkey, where they are greeted by a guy driving an army Jeep.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

With British plates and right-side steering wheel. Huh. Wonder what that’s doing in Turkey?

Why there’s an airport on such a small island is another question entirely – according to the narrative, it was built by a mining company in the 80s, so maybe. Anyway, the team finds a MD83 airplane sitting in a hangar – and not just any plane:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Sure enough, the tail number is fake as N-numbers can’t have a zero after the N, but the team still recognizes the plane as Pan-Asian Flight 921, a “commercial flight between Istanbul and New York”. Now I’m certainly no aviation expert but it seems kinda wrong to use a MD83 for such a flight as the distance between Europe and the East Coast is way over 3,000 miles and the MD83 can only go 2,350 miles without refueling.

The team quickly gets caught by – you guessed it – terrorists who have an especially devious ridiculous plan: they want to use the plane to get into Earth’s orbit by using a Pegasus rocket attached to the aircraft. Up there, they want to release 3D printed micro-satellites to disrupt the GPS satelites by means of EMP. Yep, it’s buzzword bingo time alright, and if this doesn’t sound like a plot straight from a James Bond movie I don’t know what would.

Because terrorists aren’t usually the brightest tools in the shed, they don’t really have the first idea on how to carry out such a plan, so they also forced an aerospace engineer who was on the abducted flight to do their bidding. Smart idea! However, it would have been much smarter to ask said engineer if the plane would be even able to reach Earth’s orbit in the first place, because, as she tells us way too late, the plane would break apart way before reaching such an altitude. Not to mention that the mere idea of flying into the orbit, opening a door and tossing out the satellites is utterly ludicrious. There’s no oxygen at such a high altitude and it’s really fucking cold, so whoever opens a door would be asphyxiated and frozen solid in no time – and also likely orbiting Earth very quickly thanks to the pressure drop in the cabin.

Also, the GPS satellites aren’t all stationed on the same spot, but are spread around the globe – with the micro-satellites having no way to move on their own, how would they even get close to their targets? Just tossing them out in almost-space would not achieve anything except for polluting Earth’s orbit even more.

So the plan sounds ridiculous and wouldn’t work anyway, but that doesn’t stop the common terrorist. The engineer telling them about the risks probably didn’t convince them to abandon their foolish quest. So what did the abducted passengers do? Well – they built a satellite telephone from scraps laying around the satellite factory. It’s a bit rough and doesn’t transmit audio – just morse code – but it would work, if only they could find a battery. However they came to the conclusion that their design was functional without any way to test it is beyond me, but KURT and the gang quickly decide they’d just need a battery from a cattle prod the terrorists are using and they’d be out of there in no time. Since cattle prods seem to use normal batteries, that might work – except that a satellite phone also needs some kind of SIM card to actually connect to the network, and I highly doubt they also got their hands on one of these. If they did, the card was likely already inserted into a satellite phone, so why not steal that instead and actually call somebody instead of resorting to morse code?

Anyway, of course it works, and of course they are able to call Patterson, and of course Patterson instantly deciphers the morse code in her head and of course she instantly recognizes where it originates from. She may be annoying like hell but she sure is smart! Doesn’t really help KURT much because suddenly the aircraft is on the airstrip and lots of shooting ensues. While the plane is being fueled, we can spot something decidedly odd:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

On the … thing … below the fuel port, we can clearly read “OPERATED BY AMERISTAR CHARTERS”. Ameristar Jet Charters is a real company that operates executive charter jets in, you guessed it, the USA. And considering that the episode was sponsored by exactly that company:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Suddenly it all makes sense. They didn’t use a proper plane that could actually fly the distance between Turkey and the USA because they got the MD83 for free. Who cares for all these logical fallacies if you can stay on budget! Do you know what renting an Airbus would cost?!

No idea what Ameristar Charters got out of that deal – you can hardly see their company name and the jet itself doesn’t sport a logo or anything. Lending their jet to be used in context of a plane hijacking and a terrorist plot also doesn’t scream “great advertising” to me.

However, while we are at it, there’s another company logo in rather plain sight while all the kerfuffle at the airport happens:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

That’s the logo of Atlantic Aviation, a company specializing in aviation services at many airports in the United States. It makes absolutely no sense on an abandoned airstrip in  Turkey. Sure, the set dressers made sure to put up a few signs in turkish, but that doesn’t fool anyone if the rest of the airport isn’t transformed to look the part.

Oh, and when the plane starts and lands, things get even more obvious:

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

I have no idea what airport this may be, but it’s kinda unlikely to be a small abandoned airfield on an island because it’s simply far too big. There are multiple runways which a mining company would never need because how many planes are going to start or land there per day? Exactly. There’s also a rather large terminal building visible, something you’d not expect on a private airfield.

But before KURT and the gang (hey, this sounds like a really cheesy band name!) are getting back down to earth, they need to somehow stop the terrorists, right? First, we are treated to an exterior view of the plane ascending rapidly.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

There’s a good reason passengers and crew are required to sit down and fasten their seat belts while ascending – it’s a bumpy ride and people would fall all over each other because they wouldn’t be able to keep standing at that angle. However, when we see our heroes inside the avionics bay they don’t seem to be bothered by gravity at all. None of them is even trying to hold on to something in order not to fall, and there’s barely any movement either.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Maybe the plane isn’t ascending as rapidly as they think it is? Well, the altimeter surely tells us different – it’s going up at a brisk pace alright. But when we get a view over the pilot’s shoulder, there’s something we shouldn’t be able to see at all: the ground.

(c) NBC

(c) NBC

Hey – all things considered, this episode wasn’t so bad! Except for the story, the “acting” and all the other nonsense, of course.

Back to the old school

Hey, look, it’s Sergeant Odelle Ballard from NBC’s American Odyssey! In episode 7, she’s making a tape to prove she’s still alive!

Picture (c) NBC

Picture (c) NBC

The arrow points at the important bit: there’s an icon showing a SD card, so the camera is likely one of these cheap digital camcorders that are common now, as opposed to one that uses real tape, like a MiniDV cassette for example. From the display it’s pretty clear that we are talking about digital storage since the run time of tape cassettes used in handheld cameras don’t really exceed 90 minutes.

Begs the question why the resulting tape is shown to be stored on exactly that: a MiniDV cassette. Oops.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

The bigger question is this, though: if it’s so damn important that the tape gets out, why not upload it straight to Youtube instead of calling a New York Times reporter to come out to Mali? I’m pretty sure they can manage to find an internet connection that works, and given that the video isn’t that long, the upload would only take a moment (at the very least it would be faster than to wait for the reporter to arrive). Once the video is on Youtube there’s little chance for anyone to get rid of it and news would spread like wildfire, so why take all these risks?

Bonus! Our two hackers are searching the internet for information about Amir Alamra, and they even find something:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

That URL format sure is odd! It’s not an IP address, doesn’t bother to mention the protocol (http or https) and simply doesn’t look like an URL at all. For reference, here’s how the search results should be formatted on the search engine they used:
americanodyssey107-realbing

But how do I know what search engine they used? Well …

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) NBC

Oddly enough, the episode credits do not mention any “promotional consideration” by Microsoft – instead, it’s sponsored by Apple, but barely features any Apple material.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white

While the world internet is discussing whether Stana Katic is going to renew her contract to play Detective Beckett or not, let’s give that latest Castle episode, “In Plane Sight” (7×21) a thought.

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) ABC

The plot has Castle and Alexis fly to London (on an Oceanic Airlines flight no less, fortunately not 815!), when the air marshal on the plane is found dead in the cargo hold. Castle is authorized to investigate and is quickly led to suspect a passenger who’s traveling using a fake passport. The guy definitely looks shifty and supposedly has – you guessed it – ties to the terrorists of ISIS. Oh, and he’s on the no-fly list too! Here’s his sweaty face:

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) ABC

“Sure”, you’ll say, “these terrorist types all look the same anyway”. So it was probably really easy for him to get on an international flight using his stolen passport, right? Right?

Image (c) NBC

Image (c) ABC

What a striking resemblance! Well, at least he stole a man’s passport …