Netflix’s Pine Gap season 1, episode 1 recap


In the premiere episode of Australia-based Netflix series, Pine Gap, mission director Gus must survive escalating tensions between his government – America – and the country he serves in, Australia.

Pine Gap, a spy thriller from Netflix examines the strong alliance between America and Australia through a central intelligence surveillance agency based in the Australian outback of Alice Springs. Even for someone who doesn’t usually venture into political, spy thrillers, Pine Gap’s premiere episode is gripping and suspenseful. If you can overcome the daunting use of acronyms, you will enjoy the show.

The pilot episode begins with the shocking news that there is a growing rift between Australian Prime Minister Philip Burke and American President Larry Kerr during a conference in Myanmar. The A crew agents in Pine Gap are less than impressed by the President’s claims that the relationship remains strong between the two countries, but they have little time to dwell on this.

A rogue vampire missile is seen headed for Myanmar. Despite repeated efforts, mission director Gus Thompson (Parker Sawyers) and his team are unable to track its origin or its intended target. Is this a drill? No, the missile is armed. Gus frantically informs the President’s people of the situation, but the missile turns out to be headed towards a Vietnamese aircraft carrying civilians. Before the Pine Gap team can take action, they lose the video feed – the missile has struck.

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The higher-ups are livid that a missile blew up an airplane with 11 passengers (including four Americans) and three crew members so close to the US President and Australian Prime Minister. They want to ensure the safety of these political heads, so Gus proposes his team look into any similar activity over the last two years.

Moses Dreyfus (Mark Leonard Winter) finds a missile launch from 17 months ago. The telemetry shows that it was launched from the Burmese-Bangladesh border, possibly to test out its video link. The reason Pine Gap missed it was because it was marked as low priority requiring no follow-up. Gus instructs Jasmina Delic (Tess Haubrich) to analyze communications during that period of time.

Jasmina traces comms in Bangladesh that suggest a tiny foreign terrorist group called Swadhinata (meaning Freedom in Bengali) was behind the missile launch. Swadhinata had claimed responsibility for several explosions in Bangladesh, but nothing appears to suggest they have the capability to bring down a plane. They track down a known associate of the Swadhinata head Adib – a woman called Cho Sanda – before leaving the D crew to handle the rest for the evening.

Jasmina goes to her third date with Dr. Adam Francis (Brad Williams) where she reveals to him that company policy requires a background check on any person the employees may be involved with. Adam doesn’t seem to take the news well, especially since Jasmina claims she works as an Admin Assistant at Pine Gap.

The next day, using a surveillance drone, the team observes Cho Sanda. They see her meet Adib and spot three missiles in their vehicles. Gus is about to call an attack on them when Jasmina asks him to wait – the comms she tracked from 17 months ago revealed that Swadhinata had four missiles. Two of them have already been fired, so where did the third one currently in Adib’s possession come from? Gus is not convinced this is a good enough reason for them to stall the hit on Adib; he calls it and the target is destroyed.

While Ethan James (Steve Toussaint) – the American liaison – is content with how Gus has been handling his job, Kath Sinclair (Jacqueline McKenzie) voices the concerns of the Australian government. The Aussies are unconvinced by how a missile attack was allowed to take place and after Gus’ trigger-happy action against Adib they are adamant he is replaced as mission director.

When Ethan breaks the news to Gus, he is understandably upset. Ethan had talked Gus out of taking a promotion in Denver, which would have meant Gus could return home and be closer to his father who is not coping well with the death of Gus’ brother. Now, he is being demoted!

The new mission director (MD) is Jacob Kitto (Stephen Curry), an outsider and therefore impartial. He overhears Gus asking Jasmina to look into who could have shot down the plane since it’s evidently not Swadhinata.

Meanwhile, Kath has had clandestine meetings that have most likely informed the treatment of Gus. She also revealed to Ethan that Zhou Lin (Jason Chong), a Chinese businessman, is vital to the Americans, which is why they are allowing him to buy land very close to Pine Gap.

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All this while, Moses has been secretly investigating the Pine Gap servers on his own. He looks thunderstruck by his discoveries, but when he approaches Gus, Gus is too preoccupied to listen. Finally, Moses meets Ethan. He explains that the cafeteria temperature was stuck at a lower temperature for four hours recently. When Moses looked into this oddly specific glitch, he discovered malware in the Pine Gap servers. This malware can hack into the system and retrieve all the information. But that’s not the worst news, Pine Gap’s servers aren’t connected to the internet, they are air-gapped, meaning whoever placed the virus in the system had to be working there!