'Pan Am' flies into political unrest with 'Unscheduled Departure'

pan-am-haiti.jpgThe intrigue continues to soar at 30,000 feet on Sunday's (Nov. 13) episode of ABC's period drama "Pan Am." The crew takes off for Caracas but has to make an emergency landing in Haiti while the island is reeling from a devastating tropical storm and in the midst of a brutal political regime.

En route to South America, a passenger suffers a heart attack. There is no doctor on board to help out, so the crew is forced to make an unscheduled stop in Haiti to seek medical attention -- and the gang find themselves in hostile territory.

(Multi-talented Latin heartthrob Aaron Diaz, best known for his lead role on the telenovela "Teresa" -- a remake of the Mexican soap opera that launched Salma Hayek's career -- also guest-stars as Miguel, a suave, jet-setting businessman who charms the stewardesses with invitations to his yacht. More than a few viewers are sure to recognize the silky voice from his 2010 self-titled album.)

"Pan Am" has a knack for incorporating historical events into plot lines while keeping the emphasis on what the main characters are going through -- and Sunday night's episode, "Unscheduled Departure," is no different.

Haiti in 1963 wasn't exactly a pleasure cruise (not that it is today). The county was a hotbed of political unrest and the source of increasing tension with the U.S. government. The financial policies and internal repression of the Haitian people under the regime of President Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier led the U.S. to attempt to isolate Haiti from the rest of the world.

"One of the perks of this gig is that you're forced to study these things you would never study," Michael Mosley, who portrays pilot Ted, tells Zap2it. "Finding out what the political climate was like in Haiti at that time was eye-opening. Papa Doc drained the country of anyone who wanted to be there and turned it into what it is today."

Also that year, Hurricane Flora struck the island and virtually decimated all the homes and buildings near the ocean. An estimated 5,000 people died in the disaster.

So on Sunday night, when "Pan Am's" 707 makes an emergency landing and the lights are out on the runway because of a tropical storm, it's safe to assume it's not a layover where the crew will be lounging by a pool in a posh Caribbean resort, sipping mai tais.

"Each episode has its own flavor and rhythm. But in this episode we had to land because of a sick passenger, it was a matter of life and death and the other passengers had to be reassured," says Karine Vanasse, who plays stewardess Colette. "It was great to have everyone come together to solve this problem."

French-speaking Colette and Ted team up for a dangerous trek across the island, which is filled with downed trees with little to no electricity, to seek medical help. It's sure not to be a stroll through Princess Grace's rose garden.

"The chemistry between me and Michael was great," Vanasse says. "I had never had a scene with him, and we've been shooting for four months. I was like, 'I don't know what it's like to be really looking at you.' It was great."

Adds Mosley: "We were hanging out with rebels in a jeep and did a lot of stunt driving. It was a blast."

"Pan Am" airs at 10 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC. Here's a clip from the episode:

Photo/Video credit: ABC
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