In 17 Minutes, we try something a little different from the intensity of last few episodes. So much so, in fact, that Brad Wright, credited writer on the episode, forgot to include most of the plot. It’s a classic repeating time loop episode, this time combined with the goal of preventing the massacre of the team at the hands of the Faction.
As we begin, Katherine receives a giant, gorgeous bouquet of roses from her mother. It turns out it’s her and Grant’s 10 year wedding anniversary, and he hasn’t acknowledged it yet, even though it’s already 7:00 AM!! She sends him a pointed text to remind him that he’s a lousy husband and that she was bussed in from the 1950s.
Meanwhile. the team gathers for a road trip to a lake in the mountains where a meteorite is about to crash that’s crucial to the science of time travel. While they prep, we get some more misogynist dialogue about the “girl’s” training in “21st Century Female Behavior” letting Mac know that Kat is right, he’s a failure as a husband. It must be 8:00 AM by now and he hasn’t even sent flowers, never mind bought her diamond jewelry.
These writers spend too much time watching the commercials on the shows they write. Pretty sure if he shows up dressed up and whisks her away for a special night out that seems like he planned it as a surprise, she’ll be fine. Especially if it comes with a gift that’s special to her, not necessarily generic jewelry.
At the lake, the gang admires the scenery, which will become a dry lake bed in 50 years. They continue to banter about Mac’s anniversary and the meteorite while they finishing prepping their boat and Trevor starts the engine. Eight minutes before impact, two divers emerge from underwater and gun them all down before the team can even react. The entire team is dead before the opening credits.
The Director is really slipping. I don’t think anyone was keeping watch. If they’re armed, they don’t have heavy artillery. They were surely sent on this mission because either the Faction or Vincent or both want the meteorite, so the team should have been warned to be on the alert because an attack was possible. They, of course, would never bother to think about that possibility for themselves.
After the title card, we get to jump out of an airplane! The skydiver, Carrie, has a countdown clock with more than 12 minutes left on it and quickly turns traveler. She avoids the collision with her brother that ultimately caused the host’s death, then tries to call MacLaren while still in the air. No signal. Then she calls Wakefield at the FBI office and uses the protocol alpha emergency code, but he can’t get a team to the lake fast enough. (Shouldn’t the Director have known that?)
She lands and takes the rescue on herself, commandeering her friend Lars’ car to get her to the lake. All goes well for a few miles until she’s stopped by one of Vincent’s giant deaf-mute goons, who tries to force her to turn around. Instead, she inexplicably drives a few feet past him, stops the car, jumps out, and runs down a side trail/dirt road in full view. He shoots her.
Why didn’t she just run him down, then keep driving down the road, which was clear? The team drove all the way to the lake, so there’s no need to go through the woods, though every time loop will include this.
Wakefield, having had a minute to think about the call he just got, realizes its importance. Let’s let some characters spit out of context scientific dialogue at us for a minute:
Wakefield: Where did the Frasier meteor come down?
Callahan: A dry lake bed about just northeast of here. Why?
Wakefield: It wasn’t dry this early in the 21st. I just got off the phone with a traveler who requested armed assets to the exact same coordinates the meteor was historically found fifty years from now. We got cut off, but she said it was protocol alpha.
Callahan: How is that possible?
Wakefield: What would happen if Robert Frasier hadn’t discovered that element in 2068?
Callahan: There’d be no room temperature superconductor for quantum processing, no leap in artificial intelligence, no consciousness transfer technology–
Wakefield: No Director.
Callahan: Do we know when the meteor came down?
Wakefield: I’m no historian, but I’m about to bet my job with the FBI that it’s sometime in the next 15 minutes and that the Faction is trying to get to it before we do.
Callahan: The Director overwrote all of the Faction members.
Wakefield: Only Faction members it could get to. There could be hundreds still out there. Or worse, somebody else.
Despite being shot in the neck, plucky little Carrie keeps running. She almost gets hit by a truck and keeps going, ending up crawling down a dirt road. She stumbles toward the shore of the lake, yelling for the team to get back from the water, just as the shooters emerge from the lake. Failure 1.
Commence Attempt #2. Out of the airplane she goes again, with the new traveler entering the host slightly later on the countdown clock this time, so that she doesn’t overlap the previous traveler’s jump time. The Director must have put all other jumps on hold until this is done.
Carrie and the other skydiver, her brother Wayne, collide in the air. He’s knocked out and fails to open his chute, dying when he impacts the ground. Lars, their friend on the ground, runs to see to Wayne and takes the car keys with him, so Carrie runs to a nearby pick up truck. When she opens the door, she’s attacked by the dog inside. Failure 2.
Commence Attempt #3. This time, Carrie pulls Wayne’s chute for him after they collide. She grabs a sandwich from Lars car to feed to the dog to get it out of the pick up. There’s a knife in the pick up, which she uses to stab Vincent’s goon in the shoulder, then she takes off on foot, again, even though the GOON FOLLOWS HER IN HIS CAR. WHY IS SHE ON FOOT?
Why didn’t she use the knife to injure him more seriously, so he couldn’t follow, like a slice through the throat or abdomen? This is like watching The Flash, or another DC show. Is it the Vancouver weather that does it? How hard is it to follow a logical progression and have characters make logical choices?
She runs by the truck again, which the goon stares at menacingly, then through the woods for variety. She reaches the lake and starts yelling to the team, but they’re as oblivious as ever, and don’t react quickly enough to avoid being killed. Failure 3.
Commence Attempt #4. This attempt is too late in the timeline to avoid the mid-air collision that killed the host. Carrie only makes it about ten feet toward the car before she collapses. Failure 4.
Commence Attempt #5. Even worse. Carrie dies within moments of reaching the ground. Poor Lars has to watch her die again. You have to wonder why the Director kept trying with Carrie when she was no longer viable, instead of giving those moments to Wayne. Failure 5.
Meanwhile, the team relives their mission prep through each loop, with slightly altered dialogue. This time around, they marvel that seeing the lake before it goes dry is like seeing Niagara Falls before it goes dry, or the Great Valley before the domes were built. Marcy is unimpressed, because she thinks Grace removed her capacity for humor, joy and fun, leaving her
the perfect hipster disdainful of anyone capable of those emotions.
Commence Attempt #6. Against all logic and reason, the Director tries again with Carrie, who is unconscious, possibly dead, before she reaches the ground. Failure 6.
Commence Attempt #7. The Director has figured out its mistakes, and switches over to Wayne, the guy who caused all of those mid-air crashes.
Wayne safely lands, gets Lars’ keys with a stern demand, drives to the pick up truck while eating the sandwich, then puts on his helmet and drives the dirt bike away. He somehow ends up on foot in the woods, and this time the goon loses patience with the truck driver and murders him.
Katherine leaves multiple haranguing messages for MacLaren, because, as always, she expects that he have no life outside of her. At least she didn’t also follow him to the lake.
Marcy is pouting over being reset and losing memories, possibly more. Mac follows her and describes how he got through his near death experience by finding shelter in his host’s life and memories. He vaguely suggests that pre-reset Marcy may have been doing the same thing, since she had a lot to cope with. MarcyBot has a hard time even understanding what he’s saying, since she’s used denial and dissociation as her coping mechanisms since the reset. Turning toward the host’s life and allowing herself to be open is the last thing this Marcy wants.
Wayne doesn’t even make it to the point of yelling to the team before goon, who’s followed in his vehicle, shoots him down, just before the underwater shooters rise and kill the team. Failure 7.
Commence Attempt #8. We go all the way back in time to the team’s stop at a gas station early that morning, where they run into the skydiving gang. Carrie and MacLaren chat briefly as they pump gas into their cars. MacLaren’s phone gets enough of a signal to receive Kat’s angry anniversary text.
This time, the truck driver becomes a traveler. Good call, as it seems clear that it’s a two person job, though it would have made more sense to use both sky divers seven attempts ago. Then they could have given us a real plot for half the episode, maybe shown us who’s after the meteor, where it’s going from here, given us something more than dry exposition about the element’s uses. They could even have tied in a near death experience that affected Marcy in an unexpected way. But, no.
Instead, let’s finish this loop. Wayne the supertraveler does everything right while Mac counsels MarcyBot on becoming a real girl. Wayne gets to the beach and is about to be shot down when the team rises from behind fallen logs and shoots at the underwater shooters. The trucker turned out to be the key to the whole thing. They just had to run the loop until they pushed goon into killing him, then they had a host close enough to the lake to make it in time.
The meteorite comes roaring into the atmosphere, and lands in the lake with a splash, rather than a large wave, just as Trevor predicted. Trucker says he’ll keep watch while the team recovers it. Marcy says she’ll patch up Wayne. Trucker says there’s one more thing. They also have the team’s new mission instructions.
Brad Wright and Amanda Tapping, I salute you. I just finished complaining about the overuse of deus ex machina as a way to get the characters out of trouble this season. Not only is Travelers doubling down on the use of deus ex machina, they went with the literal ex machina of dropping the deus/traveler in from the sky/from an airplane, just like the Ancient Greeks would have, over and over and over, no matter how many times it didn’t work. That takes some guts.
Brad Wright is ripping himself off with this race to save the world using time and team members sacrificing themselves one by one. The Stargate SG1 episode 2010 ended with a memorable struggle to warn the past as the entire SG1 team died to get a note through the alien-controlled Stargate of the future. That was preceded by an entire complex storyline. This time, we don’t get a plot centered around the meteorite and its importance. We get, as usual, throwaway dialogue references, while the characters obsess about their personal lives and almost blow the mission.
Wow, I’m starting to feel sorry for Katherine, the character, as the repository of every 50s stereotype of womanhood the writers can come up with. She has no life of her own left, now she just sits around all day figuring out ways that Mac has disappointed her or that she can make every situation about her. She’s been an FBI wife for 10 years. You’d think she was the one who lost her memory.
Plus, aren’t they separated, by her choice? Now the marriage is important, but only important enough to turn the anniversary into a test, not important enough to give the guy a reminder or make plans the night before? Kat’s always been OTT and fickle, but this is ridiculous. Please, give her a real hobby or job. Or friends. What happened to them?
Speaking of misogyny, that’s been much better overall this season so far. Until this episode. Every woman I know who’s watched the episode was as offended as I was when Carrie made the same stupid mistakes over and over and over and over, but her brother jumped right on that dirt bike and stayed off the road.
Before the new glaciers reached southern Canada, major bodies of water were drying up. Was that because of the Helios 685 meteor and the resulting geological disturbances, because of the weapons used in the antimatter wars, because of climate change, all of the above, or something else?
Carly’s instincts were right in U235 when she wondered if the Director could make it so that the plague had never happened, so long as no time travel had happened. The Faction had made that option impossible, but this episode proves that a do over is a short term option if the Director realizes the mistake quickly enough.
Wayne and Trucker are travelers 5008 and 5009. Those numbers are rising fast. Then again, we’ve watched dozens get killed.
The Great Valley doesn’t seem to be called that in our time, other than the place where the dinosaurs of the Land Before Time series live. Guessing it was revealed when water dried up, leaving a deep “valley” with steep sides that could have a roof built over the top relatively easily.
The best time loop episode of any show, ever, is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Cause and Effect.
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.
T.E.L.L.: The Time, Elevation, Latitude, and Longitude of what would have been the historical death of a Traveler’s host body.