Which is Worse Being in a Massive Earthquake or Being in Barstow?


The miniseries 10.5 begins with an earthquake in Washington State and one of the opening scenes is pretty cool as a bike messenger type guy tries to outride the earthquake as he goes over a variety of structures that then collapse.  What there weren't any solid roads you could ride on? What a showoff. Then as he finally thinks he has managed to outrun mother nature, the Space Needle falls on him. And I thought I had a bad day, at least the Space Needle didn't fall on me.

About five minutes after this miniseries started I switched back to Alias and then was watching the two shows at the same time, so I missed a whole bunch of the set up stuff. Luckily, since most TV miniseries have the same cast of characters you generally can figure out who's who in a matter of minutes. There's the divorced couple with the teenage daughter who is angry at her dad who is taking her on some sort of trip (Sometimes it's a teenage son, but in this miniseries it was a daughter). The dad is played by everyone's favorite Duke, John Schneider. Also in this case the mother is the governor of California. Gov tells her ex-hubby that everything will work out, thus setting them up to be the reunited by tragedy couple of the miniseries.

For the next hour earthquakes just kind of appear randomly. This is believable, because that's pretty much how they happen in real life too. Gov is in her office talking about how they want to help blah blah blah and Rachel, assistant to the Gov, takes time out to have a fight with her husband thus assuring she'll be the tragic casualty to be overcome.

In order to calm the people of California, the Gov decides to have a press conference in San Francisco with the Mayor. This of course shows a high level of intelligence (or stupidity) since of course everyone know that earthquakes never happen in San Francisco and if they did it would be the best place to be during one.

Most of the first half of the miniseries is taken up with Kim Delaney's character being the bitter, driven geologist with something to prove. I think she may have screwed up somewhere in the past or been a total wacky chick, because no one wants to listen to her at first. Most notable of her scoffers is the head of FEMA who, it just so happens, has a son he doesn't talk to anymore.  The son is played by some cute guy I've never seen before. This son, Zach, is a doctor in LA and he glares at the TV during his dad's press conference and tells his fellow doc Owen (Dule Hill from the West Wing) that he just knows his dad is hiding something.

Owen thinks Zach is just bitter, which he is by the way, but since this is a miniseries, we know he's also right. I have to take a moment here to say that I think Dule Hill is way underused here. From what I can tell he's a really good actor, but he never seems to get a job where he has more than a few lines at a time. Even on the West Wing, while he has lots of time on camera, he doesn't have a huge amount of lines. Someone give him a really big role in something please. 

So anyway there's just a bunch of earthquakes big and little in Washington, Oregon and California. Lots of scenes of what earthquakes are like blah blah blah. Lots of falling debris, breaking glass, falling buildings, etc. Apparently some of these are so bad that some cities have lost all communications with the outside world. The Gov of CA goes to San Francisco for the Press conference and is asked about her ex and daughter and gives a moving speech about how lots of people have missing loved ones, blah blah blah and the press gives her a standing ovation because apparently they all wish they could lose their annoying exes, or maybe because she's so selfless and stuff, okay probably not that first thing.

After the press conference the Gov goes into the bathroom and as she gazes sadly into the mirror, probably contemplating why she was dumb enough to divorce Bo Duke in the first place, and a huge earthquake hits, shattering the mirror. This earthquake completely destroys city hall because of course a city hall in San Francisco wouldn't be built to withstand an earthquake.

The other thing this earthquake does is give the Gov's assistant Rachel a chance to heroically save her life and later die tragically from her injuries, but not before voicing her regret about fighting with her husband. Just a note to everyone out there; if there have been a series of huge earthquakes all over the state and you're on your way to the city that has had one of the worst earthquakes ever, don't fight with your spouse or parent or best friend. I know you think you're right, but have miniseries taught you nothing? Obviously you're walking into trouble with that. So seeing Rachel in such bad shape and apparently having watched her share of miniseries the Gov gives up, but don't worry she'll get rescued.

The ex and the daughter are wandering in the woods somewhere in their SUV and arguing of course. So they see what looks like quicksand ahead and because it's a miniseries, they decide it would be a good idea to drive through it. Well, you know what they say about ducks, and apparently quicksand is the same. So halfway through the SUV starts to sink. Instead of getting out, they stay convinced they can make it. This stupidity leads to the best scene in the whole movie. So as the car sinks, Bo gets his daughter out and is trapped in the sunken car. Daughter cries and digs at the sand because sure she can dig up an SUV that's buried in quicksand. Then in the coolest scene of the movie, Bo somehow manages to break through the roof (maybe it was a sunroof) of the SUV and climbs out and then his daughter decides he's a cool dad and that she'll never fight with him again. Okay so maybe not.

Anyhow Bo and his daughter wander through the woods on foot now and we find out Daughter had asthma and forgot to take her inhaler when she escaped the car. Of course they did remember both the cell phone and a transistor radio, but heck who needs an inhaler. After a bit of aimless wandering they find a road and a truck filled with people who are more than happy to scoot over and let them on. That guy must be getting horrible gas mileage, and gas is so expensive. You know I paid $2.12 a gallon today. What is up with that? Apparently the truck is on it's way to Barstow where they built a tent city for all the people fleeing the whole California falling in the ocean thing.

Back in LA Dr. Zach decides to go yell at his estranged father for being a jerk. Okay right there he's asking for it. Someone's not going to survive this one. Lots of yelling about dad not telling the truth. Dad begs Dr. Zach to leave California but Dr. Zach is determined to evacuate all the patients from his hospital as is the impressive Dr. Owen. The trouble with this is that Dr. Owen has a family. So he calls his wife and tells her to evacuate and she's all but aren't you going to come home and he's like no I'll meet you in Barstow. This is one of those things that works in TV miniseries land, you know dedicated Dr. won't leave his patients etc. I don't know if I would want my husband to be noble or help me get my kids to safety. It's one of the great  in theory vs. reality questions I guess.

While all this other stuff is going on Dr. Kim Delaney - Geologist is on the scent of 'gasp' a new fault line. They go out to get soil samples and find  a bunch of dead animals. Dr. Kim realizes that of course, 'of course' it's poisonous gas from underground. Luckily they have gas masks with them and apparently this proves her theory of something so they decide to get nuclear weapons and use them to fuse the fault lines together. Just smile and nod, it doesn't really make sense, but it's TV. 

The president is obviously a little nervous about this, but it is an election year so he decides to let her try it. Beau Bridges plays the president in this and he's really good at wandering around looking concerned and compassionate. Sometimes he gets tough with his apparently heartless advisors. 'But sir we can't save everyone' 'Sure we can this is TV' that was unsaid, but implied.

Dr. Kim picks some spots and they use some nuclear weapons  to do the aforementioned fusing, and an earthquake causes a crane to drop a bomb which luckily doesn't go off. Unfortunately now it can't be remote detonated. Luckily FEMA guy, Dr. Zach's dad, decides he will be a hero and enter the code and detonate the bomb. Because a bad day only gets worse, another earthquake hits and the bomb roles trapping FEMA guy underneath. I've been in some crappy places before, but trapped underneath a nuclear bomb is way worse than any place I've ever been.   So the President calls him on his headphone mic thing, apparently they're buddies from way back. Pres asks if he can do anything and FEMA guy responds, 'yeah get this nuclear weapon off me.' No just kidding, he of course wants to talk to his son.

We flash to Dr. Zach in Barstow who is trying to save lives and Dr. Owen who is trying to find his family. Dr. Zach gets on the phone and tells his dad he loves him and dad says 'wow really, cause I love you too.' I never understand why people on TV never say the love stuff before one of them is about to die, but whatever. Anyhow, they have their moment and in a burst of strength FEMA guy manages to arm the bomb and it explodes.

But of course everyone doesn't live happily ever after because we haven't had the 10.5 earthquake yet. And a movie called 10.5 has to have a 10.5 earthquake. It turns out that the nuclear bomb that killed FEMA guy wasn't in the right place so the coast is still going to fall into the ocean. Luckily everyone is in Barstow. How often do you here the words luckily you're in Barstow.

So Bo and Daughter get to Barstow, not before having  heart to heart talk so we can be informed that he's still pining away for his ex the Gov. They find a phone and call the hospital in Carson City, Nevada where the Gov is recovering. They have a little bonding moment and the viewer is assured that they will once again be a happy family even if their house falls into the ocean.

Dr. Owen runs screaming through the tent city trying desperately to find  his family. Luckily he finds them and his wife tells him to go help Dr. Zach in the surgery tent. I would say the same of course, but then I would sit outside the surgery tent. What if the ground opened up and swallowed him?

So we end up with everyone except the Gov in Barstow. All of a sudden the ground shakes and people start frantically running everywhere. I think this is like the dumbest scene ever. First of all they're in what's basically a tent city. Even with that title, it's mostly just open space. So when the ground shakes and everyone starts running it's kinda dumb. I mean the ground could just as easily open up where you run to as where you are. It's all theatrics, but then it is a TV movie aimed mostly I'm sure at people in the Midwest.

Although in TV miniseries world the running is not without purpose because the characters apparently sense the ocean is coming to Barstow. Dr. Kim and her erstwhile friend run frantically from the spot where the ocean was due to arrive. Dr. Kim's friend falls and hurts his ankle. She manages to pull him  few feet and the ocean chasm opens up just behind them so instead of dying a horrible death, they are standing on the banks of the Barstow Straight.

As the movie ends with apparently no more earthquakes in the future, the camera pulls away we see that part of California is now an island and all the people who were living in the cheap crappy inland areas are now sitting pretty with beachfront real estate.



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