The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 5

Stephanie suffers through a bout of influenza, which was characterized by fever and vomiting. Proctor nurses her back to health and she recovers after five days. Upon her recovery, she discovers the files containing the details of the plane crash. There is a schematic of the plane that Proctor uses to explain to her how the explosion, which blew a hole in the fuselage, led to the plane’s steep descent and, ultimately, the deaths of all the passengers. Despite this, the investigating team had indicated that the cause of the plane crash was inconclusive. Furthermore, there was a possibility that the FBI had failed to stop the incident before it happened after having received two warnings of a possible terrorist attack. Stephanie analyzes the passenger manifest and finds the seats that her parents and two siblings had been assigned. She, too, was meant to be on that flight, but she had refused to travel with her controlling parents. Therefore, the seat intended for her had been assigned to another passenger. Although she is remorseful for the death of the passenger that was assigned to her seat, Proctor assures her that the passenger would still have boarded the plane if Stephanie had sat next to her parents during the flight.


Stephanie’s influenza is metaphorically used by the author to represent the heroin withdrawals she experiences, alluding to her addictive habit in the previous chapter. This is also emphasized by her insistence not to accept medical care when Proctor offers to call a doctor, indicating that she is in denial. Proctor is portrayed as a supportive and caring character as he nurses her back to health. He even asks her to sleep on his bed while he takes the couch (Burnell, 40). His kindness earns him Stephanie’s trust, which she affirms when she says “[t]here was no chaos around him and, she suspected, none inside him, either” (Burnell, 40). This statement emphasizes the contrast between the male characters she had known as a prostitute and Proctor, who was cordial. Furthermore, this chapter reveals the evidence backing Proctor’s theory that the plane crash was caused by an explosion. Together, with the testimonial of an MI5 agent, Stephanie is convinced that her parents and siblings have been the victims of a terror attack. Although terror attacks usually target high profile individuals, the plane only had a congressman, a diplomat, a Swiss surgeon, and a prominent businessman — all of which that were less likely to be the potential targets (Burnell, 42). She further concludes that her family died as collateral damage when she says “…her family didn’t merit consideration. They were simply there to make up the numbers” (Burnell, 42).

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