'Pan Am' Recap: Colette Has No Love for Berlin

colette pan am ich bin ein berlinerTonight's episode of Pan Am might be proof the show really does have what it takes to take off. Up until now, I haven't been all that invested in any of the characters. Their individual plots (Laura and Kate's mommy issues, the CIA situation with Bridget, Dean losing Bridget, a glimpse of Maggie as an artsy West Village feminist, blahblah) have pretty much been fluffy, perhaps slightly fun ... mostly fleeting in their ability to hold our attention. But where's the DEPTH?! Hiding, I guess, in Colette (Karine Vanasse).

The French stewardess was the only one in the crew to seem less than thrilled about going to Berlin, (West) Germany on the same day JFK was to give his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" ("I am a Berliner") speech. And don't mistake her chilly attitude for the fact that he's "not her president," as she puts it later on.


No, when she confides in Pilot Cutiepie Dean that she was a child when the Germans occupied France, all becomes clear why she's never been to Berlin and why she would loathe the thought of visiting the country. The Nazis killed her family. It's no surprise that while lost in the crowds flocking to see JFK, Colette has flashbacks that lead to a panic attack.

Despite being shook up, she manages to speak her mind later on. Pretty amazing. At a party at the U.S. Embassy, being thrown for JFK, Dean introduces Colette to two men affiliated with the West German government, and she doesn't mince words about her feelings, noting that she speaks such wonderful German, because she was forced to learn it. While keeping a "my pleasure" Pan Am service smile plastered on her face, she makes a dig about the U.S. and Germany being "best friends" now. And for her grand finale, she asks the pianist to allow her to perform the German anthem, "Deutschlandied," which we realize she was forced to learn, as well.

She elaborates to Kate, "Your president tries so hard to lift [Germans'] shame, but they should feel shame. I came to Germany to forgive, but I still hate them. And I don't know how to stop."

Wowowow. Now, this is what a period drama should be! A script that brings the world politics of the time to life through the hugely personal story of a character. Seeing Maggie pursue a meeting with JFK was entertaining as well, especially when we learned that she was doing it because she had worked tirelessly on his 1960 campaign but missed her opportunity to meet him back then. That was semi-heartwarming ... but the Colette story was flat-out heart-wrenching. If the series -- or even just Vanasse -- can continue to maintain that level of depth, Pan Am just might have a shot at hitting its stride.

What did you think about Colette's struggle?


Image via ABC

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