Security was tight for the pilot screening of NBC's conspiracy thriller "The Event" at Comic-Con International. The mystery of the pilot coincided with the reality of men in black suits and infrared scopes searching the room for any hint of a recording device.
The episode unfolds asynchronously, with dates and events jumping around, leaving the viewer to determine the order. This summary attempts to piece together the various threads, which involve a mysterious group of prisoners, the President of the United States, a young couple on a cruise, a plane that's about to crash, a man trying to stop that crash, and the relationships between all of these people.
Who are the prisoners? We don't know yet. We're told there are 97 of them, kept locked away in a secret prison in Alaska. Their leader is Sophia (Laura Innes), who debates with her only outside contact about the dilemma they face regarding the upcoming mysterious Event. Her contact tells her that their secrets may be about to slip out, as a long-pursued man has been found in the open in Los Angeles. This man, once captured, offered to trade information about the Event in exchange for his freedom, thus their secrecy is no longer secure.
Sophia's contact advocates telling the new President, whom he feels will be more open to hearing what they have to say. Sophia disagrees, arguing that they've never needed any help before, and tells her contact that he needs to control the situation by any means necessary. We see them both later in other threads.
Meanwhile, President Martinez (Blair Underwood) has learned about the secret prisoners, and asks his staff and the CIA why he wasn't informed earlier. His staff first encourages the President not to tell the world about the prisoners, as they do not yet know the ramifications and nature of the threat they face. The President disagrees, saying that the information is already getting out. Barring non-disclosure, the CIA urges the President to not release the prisoners.
Rejecting that advice, President Martinez meets with Sophia, who reveals parts of their mystery -- although the audience doesn't hear the conversation. Whatever the information is, the President is now about to introduce Sophia to the public when they are interrupted by what seems like an earthquake. Objects fly in odd directions, and a plane appears to be heading their way. The President, his family and Sophia are evacuated by the Secret Service, but it appears like they may be too late to escape the incoming plane.
That leads us to the primary thread of the story, involving a man named Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), his girlfriend Leila (Sarah Roemer) and her parents. This portion makes up the bulk of the pilot episode; presumably Sean Walker is the principal protagonist. We see him asking Leila's father (Scott Patterson) in private if he can marry his daughter. Permission is given, and eventually Sean and Leila depart on a Caribbean cruise for vacation.
Sean is getting set to propose to Leila during a lonely beach hike. Just as he is about to pop the question, the two hear a cry for help from the cliff's edge. Running to investigate, they discover a man, Greg, with a broken arm, yelling to a woman named Vicky (Taylor Cole), who appears to be drowning in the water far below. Greg cannot save her due to his broken arm.
Sean dives into the water, and saves Vicky. Later, as a thank you for the rescue, the four have drinks, and too much alcohol is consumed. Their new friends seem a bit odd, but friendly enough, and they convince Sean to accompany Vicky on her dive the next day.
While drinking on the beach, Leila makes a brief call to her parents. She can't talk due to the music in the background, and ends the call quickly (an occurrence notable only in that it comes up again later). A bit too drunk, and without a marriage proposal, Leila stumbles back to their room on the cruise ship.
The next morning, Sean goes diving with Vicky because Greg is laid up with a broken arm and Leila is recovering from a night of drinking. The trip seems to be uneventful.
However, upon his return, Sean finds that his room key no longer works, Leila is not answering his knock, the ship front desk has no record of his name, and ship's security thinks he may be a stowaway. He calls Leila's number only to find it's been disconnected. He tries to contact her parents but get an answering-machine message.
The scene cuts to Leila's parents not too long after they received the call from their daughter on the beach. As she leaves the house to retrieve her bike, Leila's little sister is grabbed by mysterious assailants who then break into the family home and shoot the mother. Later, during the second call from Sean, we see the mother's lifeless arm strewn across the floor, in a pool of blood. The status of the sister and father remains unknown.
In a separate story thread at an airport, a mysterious man named Simon (Ian Anthony Dale) chases a plane with Sean aboard, at some point well after the events on the cruise ship.
First Simon tries to get air traffic control to halt the plane by phoning in a bomb threat and a terrorist on the plane. Just as air traffic reluctantly believes him and attempts to turn back the plane before take-off, they mysteriously lose all instrument readings, and the plane taxis down the runway.
Next, Simon drives onto the runway in his SUV, but still fails to halt the plane as it takes off. He gets a call from a mysterious source, and explains that he failed to stop the plane. He drives off to race to the house where the President and Sophia are located.
Finally, we follow a nervous Sean through the airport and onto the plane, where enters the restroom and retrieves an object from the trash bin before quickly finding his seat. Watching out the window, he sees armed men and, eventually, a car (Simon) unsuccessfully trying to halt the plane.
Once in the air, Sean pulls out a gun and demands that a flight attendant open the cockpit door. She refuses, and Sean hammers on the door, calling to the pilot as if he knows him, and explaining that it's not too late to call things off and turn back. The pilot seems to be Leila's father, apparently on a mission in hopes of saving the lives of his family.
The plane's air marshal arrives and gets Sean to drop his gun. Just then they hear a gunshot from the cockpit, and they both know something more is going on. Sean persuades the marshal to let him enter the cockpit, however the pilot blocks access. The plane starts to shake, and they can feel that it's about to crash. A fighter jet hovers nearby, but veers off, as its instruments are mysteriously jammed, and it is unable to shoot down the crashing plane.
Finally, back on the ground with the President and Sophia, we see the plane coming in for a crash. Objects at the party are being tossed every which way, as if something is wrong with gravity, or an odd earthquake is occurring. Then, at almost the last moment, the plane is enveloped in a white light, a bright hole in the sky opens up, and swallows the plane whole. The President is saved, and Sophia says "They saved us." President Martinez asks "Who?", and Sophia says, "Mr. President, I haven’t told you everything."
The episode ends with "To Be Continued."
Kristin Dos Santos of E! News moderated the 10-minute discussion that followed, taking up much of that time introducing the large number of panelists (few of whom would speak): creator and co-executive producer Nick Wauters, executive producers Evan Katz and Steve Stark, producer Jeffrey Reiner, co-executive producer and writer Jim Wong, and stars Blair Underwoood, Jason Ritter, Sara Roemer, Laura Innes, Zeljko Ivanek, Ian Anthony Dale, Scott Patterson, Tayler Cole, Lisa Vidal, Bill Smitrovich and Clifton Collins Jr.
With so little time available, Wauters and Katz fielded most of the questions.
Asked "What is the Event?" or, more specifically, what questions can they producers answer for us, they replied, "The most obvious questions, like who the prisoners are and what happens to the plane, will be answered in the second episode. ... Everything is designed to answer questions, make you feel not ripped off or like we don't know what we're doin g… but still spool out some mystery. We're just trying to be smart, and good to the fans in the audience, and keep you guessing in sort of a fair way."
Regarding the flash of light that makes the plane disappear, Dos Santos asked whether there's a supernatural element to the show, or if everything is based in reality and science.
Wauters replied, "It's really a thriller, a mystery, and, yes, it does have an element of science fiction on top of it."
Asked if there is sort of one event that this show is about or if there will be different events, Katz responded, "We can't ruin our surprises."
Letting at least one member of the cast answer a quick question. Underwood was asked how it feels to play the first Cuban-American U.S. President. "The Cuban side, when we first spoke they talked about how they wanted to have a Latin president ... it's sort of nice and sassy ... and, yes, I do know how to salsa," he said.
"Salsa is not the Event" laughed Wauters.
"The Event" premieres on Sept. 20 on NBC.