As with season 1, this season’s episode 5 is a game changing episode that reveals what the future world is like, and just how dangerous the 21st is for the Travelers. This time, Travelers inadvertently start a plague instead of preventing one, and realize that they’ve been used by the Faction for months.
Almost everyone’s life is at risk from the new plague. Victims bleed from their eyes before they die, so you know it’s bad. Global pandemic stories are the best.
Part of me feels like this recap should be a transcript of the entire episode. There are a lot of important facts thrown out at a rapid pace, so it’s easy to miss some. I’ll try to control myself.
We pick up not long after 11:27 ended. Jenny commands Phillip/3326 to access memory chain 71985VX and write the information down on her white board. He does so silently, as if he’s in a trance. When he finishes, Dr Derek/D13, the Director’s favorite super doctor, arrives to get a copy of the formula. Jenny told Derek that she would send him a copy, but he was so excited that he wanted to see it for himself. He says that parts of the formula will be difficult to reproduce, takes photos of the whiteboard, and leaves.
Phillip wakes up in his own bed the next morning with no memory of the night before and an unusual headache. Jenny is there, getting ready to leave. She has a new assignment that doesn’t involve him, so they need to break up. She leaves him with a pile of eye drops as a parting gift, saying it’s enough to last for months if he uses it as directed. He will, of course, blow through his supply in a few weeks.
Two weeks later, Trevor tries to get Phillip to talk about the break up on their way into a mission, but Phillip is grouchy. Trevor, good-natured as ever, says, “Okay, good chat!” and moves on.
They are visiting a middle aged couple in an RV who are distributing flu shots to travelers in the region. Our team is one of the last pick ups on their route.
Jeff jr is sick and Marcy is doctoring him as a favor to Carly, then she stays for coffee. They talk about how surprised Carly is that she’s developed maternal instincts, then move on to Marcy’s reboot and how little she knows about the circumstances. Carly explains that it happened faster than they thought it would, while Marcy was still thinking about what she wanted to do. Marcy doesn’t see the problem, because without the reboot she’d be dead.
Kat’s doctor tells her that her latest test results look fine. Whatever was on the last scan is gone, and she and the baby are healthy. (Marcy’s future medicine helped her.) She’s so relieved that she gets teary, while Mac stares at her intensely.
The current flu killed 70,000 people worldwide in the original timeline. According to Phillip, over the next few months an antigenic shift will allow the virus to mutate, affecting more of the population, but it’s eventually gotten under control. The broad spectrum antiviral they’ve been given will prevent the virus from developing each of its mutations. The mission is to save three host candidates who died the first time around, and also spread the virus- a flight attendant, a personal trainer, and a travel blogger.
While the team is inoculating their three targets, two more targets are being inoculated in Shanghai, China and Berlin, Germany. Carly is in the van monitoring Mac as he completes his part of the mission. The radio in the background is reporting on rapidly spreading cases of atypical influenza. Mac is saying “Protocol 5 until further notice,” before he even closes the car door. No overtime expected on his watch. Not even a debriefing.
Grace finds Trevor in the school cafeteria and asks if he’s heard from the Director, because she hasn’t. Trevor say that they’ve gotten missions. Maybe the Director is mad at her. Or has nothing for her to do because she doesn’t have a team. No, she can’t join his team. They both love school cafeteria food as much as they love hospital food. Mmm, fake chicken!
Boyd/2185 shows up at headquarters on a motorcycle with a dying team member, looking for Marcy. Marcy is leaving one of several messages for David when Phillip tells her to get to ops.
Jeff is called into work to cover for sick officers. He forgets to ask Carly if she can drive the baby to daycare, so she has to make sure that he understands that she deserves that respect. Once at the station, he’s assigned to the hospital, where he runs into MacLaren. Mac tells him that he should get the baby and go home as quickly as possible.
On the radio in the background, the announcer says that health officials are concerned with the intensity of the flu symptoms and the speed with which it seems to be spreading.
Marcy and Boyd work on Boyd’s teammate, Heath. The illness presents like the normal flu, but then gets worse. Boyd tested for every known virus, from this century and in the future, but there was no match. Heath starts bleeding from his eyeballs, causing Marcy to panic and call Trevor home.
Trevor is in the school play, portraying Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Marcy contacts him mid death scene and tells him to get out without making contact with anyone, so he doesn’t infect anyone else. He has to vamp to get out, pretending to forget his lines, proving he’s a good actor by pointing, and refusing to kiss the poor blonde girl who’s always the target of bullying. Good thing Grace is the guidance counselor, or he’d be in trouble again. At least the girl doesn’t get knocked on the floor this time.
Boyd and Marcy are further examining the virus. Marcy doesn’t think it even looks like a virus. Boyd says you’d expect something pleomorphic. Marcy adds spherical capsid and radial symmetry to the list.
Marcy takes blood samples from the team to compare the viral load in each to Boyd and Heath’s, who got the antiviral injection two weeks earlier. Boyd is in the hundreds of thousands. Heath, who has a compromised immune system, is up over a million. On cue, Heath has a seizure and dies.
Trevor, Phillip and Carly are infected, with a viral load of 500-1000 copies per ml, while Marcy and MacLaren’s viral load is zero, with trace amounts of antibodies. Through the power of his stardom, and her being the doctor who will develop the cure, they are immune. Series producer Eric McCormack didn’t feel like bleeding from his eyeballs this week.
Phillip checks the travelers deep web and discovers that travelers from around the world are reporting the same sickness. Marcy estimates an infection rate of 40% of the people they’ve come into contact with. Do I need to point out that this puts Jeff jr and sr, Kat, and her baby at risk?
MacLaren divides the team up to gather the supplies Marcy needs and investigate the travelers’ antiviral. Carly wants to pick up the baby, but Mac tells her he’s better off with the sitter, since she’s infected.
David calls Marcy back. She warns him about the epidemic and tells him to stay home, so he promptly runs to the hospital to collect homeless people. A nurse gives him a box of flu shots to use on his clients and himself. He hands it off to someone else while he chats with Mac, then goes to his favorite shelter, where he mingles with and hugs people.
Carly and Trevor go through a police checkpoint on their way to the RV where they picked up the antiviral. They are told to go home and stay home. The car radio voice is listing symptoms of the new flu. Bleeding around the eyes is listed as a rare symptom.
When they get to the RV, the antivirals have been emptied and the couple have been assassinated. It looks like they may have been killed by someone they knew- an inside job by another traveler.
MacLaren checks in with Forbes, letting him know that the travelers antiviral seems to be the source of the new flu. Forbes says a few of his teammates are sick. He says that the FBI is coordinating with the National Guard and the CDC to set up shelters and Wakefield wants all agents to report. Mac says he’ll be there soon.
Jenny is sick and finds that her eyes are getting very red. She decides that it’s time to exit and takes a bottle of oxycodone.
Grace shows up at headquarters. She’s sick too, and finds it impossible that the Director is allowing this to happen. Boyd is getting worse. Grace thinks they just need to wait for the Director to send the cure.
Dr Derek comes to headquarters. Grace is sure that he has the future cure. Derek says that there is no cure. Several teams are working on the virus side, but with no success. He’s there to go over the antiviral formula with Phillip. Phillip has no idea what he’s talking about, which should be impossible for a historian. He remembers the formula, but not writing it down. They send him to collect Jenny so they can figure out what she did.
Katherine calls Mac. She asks if he’s seen the news. He says no. She’s feeling shaky and wants him to come home. He tells her to lie down and get some rest, he’ll be home soon. We all know he won’t. Jeff sees Mac and interrupts the call, so Mac practically hangs up on her. She’s definitely getting sick, is probably out of it because she has a fever. Remember the killer stairs I was complaining about?
MacLaren seems to have completely forgotten her and the baby’s existences in the midst of this crisis. Marcy checked in with David, Carly wanted to go to her baby, but he hasn’t been shown even considering Kat or his child.
Now he takes the opportunity to tell Jeff to go pick up Jeff jr from the babysitter so that Carly doesn’t have to worry. Jeff gets a bit territorial, but Mac shuts him down.
Marcy calls Mac back to ops because they know that Jenny is the source of the antiviral and pathogen. As he walks down the hospital hallway, he’s put into extreme slo-mo with ominous sound, and a shot of Forbes at the other end of the hall. He suddenly speeds up and reaches Forbes. Some turning point just happened, probably Mac putting the team’s investigation before his FBI work, and the discovery that Jenny is the culprit. Possibly him not telling Marcy he has to run home and check on Kat first.
Forbes is there to collect Mac for their rendezvous with the National Guard. Mac says he can’t make it, but Forbes insists that they need him. Mac gets a bit intense and says his team comes first before he walks away. Forbes watches him go, looking worried.
Between the police checkpoint, the National Guard, and the CDC shelters, I’m wondering if Kat heard on the news that they were about to declare martial law, and/or start a strict quarantine of patients with the new pathogen, to try to stop its spread. Given the hysteria when people in the US are within 1,000 miles of someone who might have ebola, this virus would cause mass panic and riots.
Boyd is doing badly, but Derek says her vitals are good. Marcy asks if she’s sure about this, before injecting her iv line with something. My guess is an experimental treatment. They watch the monitor for a moment, but her vitals remain stable. Grace watches from the sidelines.
Jeff brings Jeff jr, who is already sick again and crying, home from the sitter. Jeff is coughing and sick as well. He does his best to bring the baby’s fever down, never losing his patience with his son.
Mac returns to headquarters with the Ethidium Bromide that Marcy needs. He mentions that the doctor really likes her. 😉 He asks how Phillip knows Jenny. Marcy makes an awkward face, and Mac gets the idea. So, he doesn’t know about the eye drops, or the girlfriend Phillip’s had for months. Protocol 5, people! FBI agents can’t be seen with lowlifes like you!
Marcy is figuring out the pathogen’s reproductive number based on stuff on the internet. She uses the garage door as a whiteboard to make diagrams that I’m not going to get into. Basically, typical influenza has an R𝜃 of 1 and an incubation period of 1 day, so you would probably infect 1 person during the 1 day that you were contagious before you got sick.
This pathogen has an R𝜃 of 2 with an incubation of 10 days. 14 days ago, 10 travelers were infected with the pathogen, which means it’ll take a lot of multiplication to figure out how many have been exposed. Marcy has done it for us, because she’s a future doctor and really smart. Over 4 million people are currently infected, and tomorrow it will be 10 million. Most of them aren’t even showing symptoms yet. The death rate will start to climb in a couple of days.
Phillip finds Jenny unconscious on the floor of her bathroom. He rushes her back to ops, where they quickly inject her with adrenaline, Narcan, or whatever else is required to pop her awake immediately. Phillip tells her she’s at ops and safe, and that the mission is in trouble. She gives the chilling reply everyone has been dreading:
Jenny: No, Phillip, the mission went exactly as planned… My team, they tried to record messengers, but any incoming signal caused static on our devices. We needed a historian and someone to synthesize the catalyst.
Looks at Derek, who says: No. I was directed to create an antiviral.
Jenny: Actually, you were directed to expedite the genetic recombination of the historical pathogen.
Marcy: He created the new virus.
Grace: No, she’s delirious. The director would never order that mission.
Jenny: Who said the mission came from the Director? The future I left was divided between those loyal to the Director and the faction, both sides fighting for control, back and forth. When you reset the Director, we lost the ability to access the 21st. We lost the past, we lost everything, so we had no choice but to shut down the reactor.
Carly: We’ve had missions. We’ve received messengers.
Jenny: And that’s all. Only messengers. Without the Director’s processing power, consciousness transfer is impossible. So, before power was cut to the Director, in our last moment of control, we sent everyone we could to the 21st, all at once.
MacLaren: Into the Quantum frame.
Carly: How many?
Grace: The frame is capable of receiving and storing thousands.
Mac: So Forbes, all of those people with the FBI…
Trevor: Are all Faction.
Carly: Every mission we done since then…
Phillip: Has been for them.
Jenny: The faction has our own plan. Overpopulation is the single greatest threat to the 21st century. The Director wasn’t capable of seeing the natural solution.
Marcy: How many people are going to die?
Jenny: The virus is genetically engineered to preserve 70% of the population. The future will survive. And those who die, including me, will have made a great sacrifice.
(Grace is nodding her head in understanding during this.)
Phillip: 70%? Jenny, you’re murdering over 2 billion people.
Jenny: The mission comes first.
Forbes directs the National Guard soldiers into the room where the quantum frame is now up and running again, ordering them to surround the device. Within moments he’ll have his own army.
Oh My God, They Killed Jenny!! (Actually, not yet. She was alive at the end of the episode.)*
So, Trevor and Phillip were assigned to work with Abby because they’re the science and hacker guys who would naturally discover everything there is to know about Seed C589. The Faction was able to acquire the genetic specifications thanks to them, extract the worst genetic characteristics and insert them into the flu virus, and then have their own scientists create a serum that told the extant flu virus to mutate into a virulent plague. They had Chloe turn messenger and relay the formula for the serum to Phillip, then Derek got the formula from Jenny and Phillip, but he thought he was creating an extra-potent flu vaccine for the travelers. Once the serum was distributed, it had a long incubation period of 10-14 days, during which the travelers were contagious, but didn’t show symptoms. The plague virus has an expected mortality rate of 30% of the population.
Have I got that basically right?
I predict a lot of people yelling at Grace in episode 6. Did y’all notice her face when Jenny said they’d lost the ability to transfer consciousnesses?
She doesn’t want anyone to figure it out, but she did that on purpose. Probably because of the new and dangerous two way travel/communication capability she and Ellis invented, which she took advantage of to reboot Marcy and the Director, and the equally dangerous ability to use any computer to transfer consciousness. I was wondering why those hadn’t come up again. Without her or Ellis there to protect that information she must have decided it was safer to shut the whole program down so that it didn’t fall into the hands of the Faction. It seems she was successful in that sense, because the Faction don’t seem to know about those possibilities. On the other hand, Grace didn’t know about the quantum frame in time to predict how it could be used and to prepare for it.
This clarifies which messages were from who at the end of season 1, for anyone who wasn’t sure. Ellis was unwittingly building the quantum frame for the Faction. The Faction was sending all of the messages to kill MacLaren and his team. Trevor’s text and the message that used Ellis as a messenger were both from the Director, who did indeed want the frame destroyed. When Ellis thought the Director was coming, it was actually thousands of faction consciousnesses, who are stored in the frame and being deployed into bodies in the 21st when needed.
Grace was right that the plan assigned to Ellis came from a corrupted part of the Director. She was right to act alone. Either the director was more corrupted than she knew and gave more access than it should have to the Faction, or they found ways to gain access that she didn’t predict.
The assassination attempts on Grace and the team in S1 Ep12 stopped because the Faction gained full control of the quantum frame. They were trying to stop it from being destroyed by the team, and keep Grace from figuring out their plan. Keeping her on the run and arguing with Ellis distracted her so she couldn’t think about possibilities she might be missing.
If I understand Jenny correctly, the consciousness’ of thousands of Faction travelers are stored in the quantum frame. The Director is shut down. The future is mired in civil war. The messengers are also coming from the quantum frame, though I’m a little confused about that. The messages might be coming from a Faction computer in the future, or a part of the Director that’s been left running.
I’m also not clear on why the Faction was trying to record messengers. So that they could fake them somehow? (ETA: Jayeffaar explained it to me in the comments. The messengers were bringing the long, complicated pathogen formula to the 21st and the Faction members must not have been able to keep up with just writing it down as the messenger delivered it. They needed a way to accurately record it and put it in writing for Derek/D-13 later.)
Grace isn’t as upset about the 30% death rate as the others. She’s used to working with these kinds of numbers in her conversations with the Director. Deciding that the population needs to be reduced is a reasonable goal to a statistician. In the original history, the Helios event, and the arms race and wars that followed, reduced the population, but also made the earth uninhabitable, so the people now live in underground shelters that barely keep them alive.
The goal would be to reduce the population through methods that don’t set off wars over resources or political differences. Killing everyone at once, then having the plague die out on its own, is fast, so it appeals to the Faction because they know that someone will fix the Director sooner or later. They want to take bold steps that can’t be undone by someone else.
But plagues work quickly and indiscriminately, so they’re very disruptive to society, especially if they’re on a global level. There aren’t unaffected countries available to step in and offer support. Wars could break out when leaders die and countries, corporations, warring tribes, and criminal organizations can be left with a power vacuum.
Real life and science fiction have shown us other ways to reduce population through attrition, such as China’s one child policy, making having kids unfashionable, and secret, forced or voluntary sterilization of significant portions of the population. When you tragically take people’s families away from them, instead of letting it be their choice, the 70% that are left are likely to create a baby boom to make up for the relatives they lost, filling in some of that missing 30%, unless the government also creates rules about family size.
I also think Grace is fatalistically accepting that she’s responsible for all of these deaths. We haven’t seen anything make her feel guilty yet, so she’s due for something to crack her confident facade.
I’m going to say this as calmly as possible:
TREVOR IS NOT ROMEO. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.
Unless they’re referring back to the bullet Grace took for him in S1 Ep12, and the nanites she gave him. Ugh, he’s due to sacrifice himself for Grace anytime now. Then she’ll actually take the metaphorical bullet, again, and really die this time, or go back to the future to take care of the Director.
What is the deal with the memory chain Chloe and Jenny had Phillip access? Was the trance normal or because of the drugs? We need to know more about how historians are modified, and how their consciousnesses work. And how it is that the modifications survive the time transfer. Also, the formula is still on the wall of Jenny’s bedroom, should anyone need to check it, which is weird.
Let’s talk about the implications of this episode for Vincent. Now we know why he’s germophobic and doesn’t leave the house. He knew that the plague was coming, and he may have known that MacLaren was immune, so he allowed Mac into his house. But he still keeps Taylor separate from almost everyone. How much more does Vincent know, and how is he getting his information? Or is he still just using his original knowledge of history?
The messages at the end of episode 3 telling Vincent and Mac to stand down came from the Faction, who wanted to keep Phillip safe. Is Phillip now expendable, and did they somehow make sure that Mac and Marcy got a version of the flu shot that made them immune to the pathogen? Or did people randomly either get infected or have immunity?
*Mr Metawitches made me use this joke.
Protocol 1: The mission comes first.
Protocol 2: Leave the future in the past. Don’t jeopardize your cover.
Protocol 3: Don’t take a life. Don’t save a life. Unless otherwise directed.
Protocol 4: Do not reproduce.
Protocol 5: In the absence of direction, resume your host’s life.
Protocol 6: Traveler teams should stay apart unless instructed otherwise.