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Dr. Ellen Sanders is in the business of saving people, not killing them. But would she kill to save her family?

That's the central question in CBS' Hostages, a drama filled with dark secrets and nefarious political agents and enough plot twists to warrant a comparison to Fox's notorious roller-coaster series 24.

Here's the initial setup: Ellen, a respected surgeon in Washington, D.C., and her family have been taken hostage by rogue FBI agent Duncan Carlisle and his crack team of accomplices. He tells her she either has to kill the president of the United States (whom she's scheduled to operate on in a matter of days) or watch her husband and two teen children die.

It's an impossible choice, of course, which is exactly the point for Hostages as it teases and chases the moral quandary. An example comes up when Ellen finds herself sympathizing with Duncan's plight and his purpose. The president, she tells hubby Brian, is a horrible human being. "That doesn't mean that it's OK to kill him," Brian reminds her. "And Duncan's wife being sick doesn't entitle him to commit murder. Life isn't fair, OK? Good people die. Bad people live. … That's just the way it is."

But before we can think about that too much, we're off to watch Duncan's team kill another group of assassins, or a half-clothed governmental attaché climb into bed with an NSA agent.

And so we're left not with a high-brow examination of situation ethics, but rather with a TV-typical mess of bloody shootouts, gangbuster special ops and moaning hookups.

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Episode Reviews

Hostages: 12-9-2013

"The Cost of Living"

Ellen has begun to feel sympathy toward Duncan. Perhaps egged on by earlier revelations that her husband is carrying on an affair, she's shared an illicit kiss with her captor in a previous episode (we see a picture here), and she seems resigned to help Duncan fulfill his dastardly plan. But a conversation with Brian and some hospital drama help Ellen see the error of her ways. "I'm a doctor," she says. "What was I thinking?"

A surgery scene saturates the screen with gaping wounds, seeping blood and stitches. We see a police officer get shot. A double agent plants bombs on the underside of her cohort's vehicles. We hear a lot about people plotting to harm and kill others. Brian hits Duncan, and the two struggle in the kitchen. "I hope you burn in hell," Brian says. "I probably will," Duncan says. "But that won't change a d‑‑n thing."

We see a man and woman in bed after sex: The woman's bare back is visible, as is the man's chest. The two kiss and snuggle. A prostitute is paid to get in a car with a Secret Service agent: She tries to seduce the man, but the agent says he loves his wife. We hear "h‑‑‑" nine or 10 times, and "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n" pop up once or twice each.



Readability Age Range


Drama, Crime, Medical



Toni Collette as Dr. Ellen Sanders; Dylan McDermott as Duncan Carlisle; Tate Donovan as Brian Sanders; Quinn Shephard as Morgan Sanders; Mateus Ward as Jake Sanders; Rhys Coiro as Kramer Daly; Sandrine Holt as Sandrine Renault,; Billy Brown as Archer Petit; Brian White as Col. Thomas Blair; Jim True-Frost as Logan; Larry Pine as Burton Delany; James Naughton as President Paul Kincaid






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Paul Asay Paul Asay