Outside the way too quick resolve to last episode's cliffhanger and either a continuity gaffe (or a lousy narrative choice), nothing is wanting about this episode. However, given its simplicity, it should be a slam dunk. And it is a slam dunk. It's maybe just not an exciting slam dunk. But, given the setting, the actors, and the character dynamics, our three heroes stuck together on a tropical island while angry at one another and having to work it out… it's going to be successful. It's got to be successful. There are the right amounts of drama, danger, and friendship, and then good acting.
Of course, it's going to work.
However, the episode's got more than just the tropical island castaway plot; it's also got a London plot. And the London plot is unexpected and ambitious from a character perspective.
Okay, the main plot is David Tennant, Ibrahim Koma, and Leonie Benesch stuck on a tropical island. The continuity gaffe involves how far they were from Yokohama when they went off-course. The end of the last episode suggested it was all immediately following the main action, so there were no two days to play with. Unless Tennant moped around the bar for forty-eight hours straight, which is possible, actually.
Given their close proximity—and Tennant beating himself about getting Koma and Benesch stranded in the middle of the Pacific—pretty soon, Koma breaks down and tells Tennant the truth about some things. I don't think even all the things, though some of the confessing happens off-screen, but enough Tennant's outraged. Tennant and Benesch take one part of the beach, Koma takes another. Only Koma knows how to survive, and he's trying to make amends, so he's always present in one way or another. Even if it's just Benesch considering the situation and how hard to try to influence Tennant.
There's excellent acting from all the actors, but no clear best. Tennant gets a great monologue, but his character would be a partial fail overall if it wasn't a great monologue. Koma gets some excellent scenes but not the arc. Benesch primarily supports the two men but does raise some of the more challenging questions. For example, she and Tennant have a great scene talking about privilege, mirroring the one they had a few episodes ago. In that one, Tennant did the talking; in this one, Benesch does it.
The main plot has a good resolution, the right amount of gentle humor, and some burgeoning character drama (but positive drama).
The B plot, with Jason Watkins and Peter Sullivan in England, has character drama but all negative. Even when it seems optimistic—against all odds—it's actually harmful. Because the heroes are castaways long enough to be reported dead. So Watkins thinks daughter Benesch and friend Tennant are dead, while Sullivan thinks he's indirectly responsible for the deaths. I mean, he'd be directly responsible for it, but Sullivan's not going to take on that kind of guilt.
So it's this very British mourning stuff, which then gets referenced in the A-plot when Koma and Tennant have it out over British friendships and French friendships.
Superb acting from Watkins and Sullivan. There's a chance Sullivan will have the second-best character arc in the show. There's the potential for it. And then Watkins is mired in regret. Very, very heavy stuff, even knowing the characters are alive (for now).
Excellent direction again from Brian Kelly and another good script (credited to Peter McKenna). This episode might be "Around"'s most straightforward—or at least its most traditional—but they do an exquisite job with it. Thanks mainly to the actors, sure, but the production's marvelous as well.