Yes, we are having a day. In episode 3, Having a Day, we learn about the two worst days of Owen’s life. They were so traumatizing that the day he attempted suicide was not his worst day. His worst day was when he hallucinated for the first time and ended up in a psych ward. Over the course of the episode, Dr Muramoto’s day goes even worse than that.
On the bright side, Dr Mantleray returns to supervise the project he founded, and he proves to be an inspiring, if eccentric, leader. Annie, Owen and #5 are all red-flagged, but survive the ordeal. Owen and Annie begin to bond as a team. Azumi survives a trip to the real world.
After an episode full of obstacles and trauma, the group forges ahead to the next stage of the trial, the “B” pill, which will hopefully lead to better days.
Episode 3 begins where the last episode ended, with the subjects regaining consciousness from the “A” pill. Owen is awake before the others. The scientists have the subjects’ “reentry” timed down to the second. The subjects are all traumatized as they come to.
One of them, #3, says that the treatment was unethical. Carl the Genie tells her, “You waived ethics in your consent form.”
Isn’t that what consent forms are for?
Azumi asks how the neuromatrices are looking. The scientists respond that Owen, subject #1, seemed as though he was conscious the whole time, and Annie, subject #9, seems as though she’s used pill “A” many times before. “She’s already got the grooves of this narrative” in her brain structure.
Owen is called in for debriefing first. He flicks the “A” pill that he didn’t take into a corner. The subjects are asked to describe their emotional state. Most have trouble, but appear wrung out. Annie is intrigued and can’t wait to try the second pill. Owen is speechless. When asked to elaborate, he repeats that he’s speechless.
Later, in the commons, #11 tells Annie that her dream was about the hurricane that killed her husband in 1999. They didn’t have a particularly happy marriage. Then #11 says, “You know what was odd though? What the pill made me see was not like I remember it. Was that a memory, or was it something else?”
The real question is, which one was accurate- her memory, or the dream? Our minds blur memories over time as we retell the story to ourselves, but chances are the real data is still buried somewhere. Or did Gertie add something of her own to the dream, instead of just monitoring it?
Owen and #5 are also talking. #5 is telling Owen stories about previous studies he’s participated in that ended with the subjects coupling up. He’s noticed Owen watching Annie.
Carl calls #1, 5, and 9 to talk to Dr Muramoto. #5 realizes that they’ve been red-flagged, which means there’s something non-standard about them or their data that’s about to disqualify them from the study. He’s a professional study subject, and has seen this before, many times. Owen worries that they’ll be subjected to enhanced interrogation, cause he’s just a bit paranoid, but #5 says they’ll get sent home without being paid.
Once 5 has been called in, Owen tells Annie that he didn’t take his pill in case she needed to activate him. She confesses that she’s not really his handler. She tells him the truth, that she lied to get into the study and she didn’t want him to expose her, so she told him what he wanted to hear. Everything else was either a coincidence or has a logical explanation. She doesn’t believe that there is a plan or pattern to the universe. It’s just chaos.
Owen is called in to talk to Dr Muramoto. On his way into the office, he apologizes to Annie for the confusion. The doctor has Owen put on a microwave headset and recount what he saw when he took the “A” pill. Owen tells the story of what he considers the worst day of his life.
It was 7 months ago and he’d just switched to a new medication. He was at his parents house for Jed’s engagement party. Jed came up behind him and insinuated that Owen was in love with Jed’s fiancée, Adelaide. Owen asked Jed what he really wanted.
Jed: “Listen, I… I, I wanted to… I wanted to ask you directly, you know, because sometimes… You’re gonna help me out, right?”
Owen: “So long as you didn’t do it.”
Jed: “I didn’t do it. God… It really doesn’t matter what happened, right? I think you of all people would understand that.”
Owen: “Of course it matters. It’s the only thing that matters.”
Jed (laughing at Owen): “Oh, what’s real matters?”
Jed: “Okay. Hilarious, hilarious, but, okay… Can I ask you something? Can you imagine what Mom and Dad would do if they found out you had another incident? Maybe write threatening letters to very powerful people? The mayor, the head of the FBI, Secret Service. Tell them how you see a pattern in the universe and how you have to take them down before it’s too late. Maybe sprinkle a little Anthrax in there.”
Owen: “You can’t do that.”
Jed: (Laughing) “I’m joking, I’m joking. Jesus, lighten up. Who said I’d do that, right? (Serious again) But seriously, someone could do that to you, right? With your history, you’ll end up in the loony bin. It’s the same as someone making up whatever they want about me and I end up humiliated. It didn’t even happen. We’re in the same boat. You see that, right? Anyway. (Loudly) I love you. (Soft, serious and right in Owen’s face, so that the threat is clear.) I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone in our family. (A strained attempt at a normal tone. I don’t think he can actually do normal.) I gotta go make a speech. Yikes! Wish me luck!”
Now that he’s done threatening to ruin Owen’s life if Owen doesn’t perjure himself in court, Jed’s going to go sing Every Breath You Take to his fiancée, the infamous stalker song by The Police/Sting. Adelaide’s very embarrassed as he threatens her in verse in front of everyone they know. He also tells everyone that she’s his Hempstead hamster in the bedroom, for which he deserves the death penalty.
During the song, Owen goes up to the roof. Without thought or hesitation, he goes straight to the edge and jumps. But he picked the wrong side of the building. He ends up spread out like a squashed bug on the glass ceiling of the room that the party’s being held in, only having falling about 20 feet. His mother screams his name repeatedly. He’s only unconscious for about ten seconds, then wakes up to see everyone staring up at him.
Nothing like an uncalibrated medication dose, alcohol, and a family party to set off your demons. No wonder he’s refused medications since, moved into his own place and tried to support himself. His family was suffocating the life out of him. They still are, given how much we’ve seen of them and Grimsson in the present day.
Dr Muramoto is confused and thinks Sting was at the party. No, just his wife. And Owen’s brother, singing Sting’s song. Muramoto becomes further confused and accuses Owen of making the whole thing up.
Since their readings show that Owen didn’t take the “A” pill, he browbeats Owen into taking it, or else Muramoto will throw Owen out of the study. Owen will have to live with the shame and humiliation of failure, and without his paycheck.
Muramoto is a tad dramatic.
After Owen is done with his drug trip to Hades, he sends Annie in. Owen sits back down on the bench, unable to make it any further.
Muramoto sympathizes with Annie’s addictive use of the “A” pills, calling them a seductive demon. But, he says, most people who want to relive their trauma again and again are unable to move forward because they don’t think they deserve it. Annie says she wants to move forward, and find out what the second pill does. He explains to her that people who feel they deserve loss might seem to reach recovery, but they eventually move backwards again. Annie asks, “Why?”
Just as he’s about to answer her, Muramoto drops dead of a heart attack, face down on his desk. Annie is confused. She’s not sure if this is some kind of test, so she waits. After a minute, she figures out that he’s really dead.
I really wanted to know the answer to Annie’s question. She didn’t deserve the answer to the question, right? Just like she won’t think she deserves the healing, unless she makes deep and significant changes to address that symptom.
Also, Annie’s dealer, Calvin, was Muramoto’s son. There’s a photo on his desk. Muramoto was bringing home whole bottles of “A” to take illegally, and his son stole one to sell.
Annie calls Owen into the office to act as a look out while she searches through Muramoto’s things. Owen asks if she killed him, and she snaps back that she didn’t. “He just died. Sometimes people just die.”
Owen tells Annie that Muramoto made him take a pill. She asks him what he saw.
Owen: “Olivia. We were studying.”
Annie: “Is that your girlfriend?”
Owen: “No. It’s a girl I liked. She asked me to help her with her, uh, history finals. I like, wanted to talk to her all semester. And then I was on my way to the library and I saw him. Grimsson. That was the first time he ever came to me. And he told me to watch out for Olivia. And I just realized she was a plant. My parents had paid her to pretend to like me. They were listening in. My brothers were listening in. They were just laughing at me. My mind kept racing. Like someone had given her information on me. How she was getting paid for every minute she made me happy. And that my parents paid her to marry me, and grow old with me, and have a family and seven kids. I started asking her if her name was even Olivia. And she’s like, “Are you okay?” I said, “No, I’m not okay, none of this is real.”
“None of this is real”
“None of this is real.”
Annie has found Muramoto’s stash of “A” pills and is staring at them. None of this is real.
She realizes that she’s ready to try for reality to make sense again. She looks at Owen and says, “It sounds like you were having a day.” That was her mom’s way of saying she was having a mixed up, very bad day.
Owen: “The doctors called it a BLIP- Brief and Limited Psychosis. I didn’t know that. I just started screaming at her. I just yelled messed up things at her. And other people started looking at me, and I started throwing books at them and screaming at them. And I knew I was right. I was so sure I was right. Have you ever felt so unbelievably sure that you were right and everyone else was wrong?”
Annie: “All the time.”
Once Annie puts the pills away, she starts going through the files on the desk. Now she doctors her and Owen’s files so that they are approved as suitable candidates.
Owen tells her that he ended up strapped to a gurney in a psych ward screaming for his mom. Annie sympathizes, then looks him in the eye and says they should leave the office and pretend nothing happened.
Owen was so haunted by his dream that I’m not sure he was even fully in his body during that scene. He must have repressed a lot of it so that he couldn’t consciously remember it as his worst day. He looked like he was processing some of it for the first time. This explains why he goes for painfully unavailable women. No chance of a date being set up that could end up in disaster.
Moving on, it’s meal time back in the commons!! Everyone gets a plate full of brightly colored processed food cubes that have been Scientifically Designed to provide them with all of the nutrients they need. They all need to join the Clean Plate Club in order to make Science happy and remain healthy. This is not announced in a remotely demeaning or threatening way at all.
While they’re not eating their Cubes of Science Goodness, Owen asks why Annie wanted to get into the study so badly that she lied and cheated. She tells him about the car accident, which was 5 years ago. The truck driver had been driving for 30 hours and was keeping himself awake by abusing NoDoze. His name was Greg F.U.N. Nazland. She’s highly offended that his middle name was “fun”. The accident was his fault. She goes through the worst day of her life each time she takes the pill, just like Owen, but she loves it, because she gets to see her sister again.
Carl and Azumi find Robert’s body. Azumi looks in Robert’s drawer and sees the freebasing pipe. She tells Carl to leave Robert’s body for now. She has to go up to the 77th floor. She cries for a minute in the elevator.
In “Yoda’s” office. she sits in front of a desk, while a man stands behind a desk holding a TV that emits sound but not picture. Yoda speaks Japanese through the TV with Azumi. She tells him about Robert’s drug use, and refers to the issues earlier in the trials. She believes that in order to finish the trials they need a visionary closer. Yoda knows who she’s referring to, and says he thought “he” was out of the country. Azumi knows exactly where he is.
The visionary who can save their project is currently having computer sex with an animated purple alien while he’s wearing a tentacled avatar. Cartoons don’t do it for me, but you do you, as long as we’re all consenting and fully grown cartoon purple aliens, tentacled men and what have you. And I’d rather not watch Rainbow Brite have sex, so thank goodness Azumi interrupts when she does.
The visionary is Dr James K Mantleray, the former ULP project leader, who we’ve seen in the introductory videos. He lives in a red light district, so Azumi jumps out of her cab, doesn’t make eye contact with anyone, and races straight up to his rooms. She still has a key (hmm, intriguing), so she lets herself in.
She finds him mostly naked except for a short robe, squeezing steel wools pads in place of female parts, which is just insulting, and wearing an intense jock strap/flesh light combo and a virtual reality headset. Unlike what we’ve seen in the ULP videos, he’s bald. When Azumi calls him out of VR, he races to put on his toupee.
And to lecture her on interrupting his “work”. She’s as breathless as he is at the beginning of their conversation. Even with everything else that’s going on, he’s still Justin Theroux, so you can’t blame her much. I think he’s her ex-boyfriend, so she knows what she’s missing.
James assumes that Robert sent her to beg for help. Azumi interrupts him to announce that Robert’s dead. He died from freebasing an A-C mixture, and they want James to replace him. James asks for several minutes to get his affairs in order, but says he’ll be right out.
By the time they get back to the lab, the TV schedule monitors are telling the subjects that it’s time for sleep. The subjects settle into their pods.
James and Azumi reach the locked door the lab, but James doesn’t have a security card yet and has to use Azumi’s. He thanks Azumi for bringing him back on board. She thanks him for inventing the treatment.
Once inside, he goes straight to Gertie, who doesn’t know that Robert is dead yet. James bows to Gertie and greets her. She recognizes him, but won’t show him her face. He rushes into telling her that Robert is dead. She is saddened and surprised.
James decides that he’ll address the subjects tomorrow, in order to provide the smoothest transition possible. A death and a new authority figure can both taint the data. They need their data to be uncorrupted so that they don’t have to start the trial over. Azumi also makes the decision that condoms shouldn’t disqualify #5.
James asks Azumi if she thinks that it’s suicide when an addict dies. Azumi replies that she thinks Robert was optimistic, but made a terrible mistake.
Azumi leaves James to organize his new/old desk. Just outside of his office, she presses a button on the wall which makes a human-sized metal drawer pop out of the wall. It’s like an extra-large human storage drawer. Before Azumi settles in for the night, since her bed is in the observation room, which is right next to Gertie’s room, she stops in for a quick chat with the computer. Gertie’s so sad about her loss that she has all the feels, and doesn’t have any opinions about the next day’s “B” pill experiment. Azumi tells her to get some rest.
Azumi gets in her drawer. She’s smokes her last cigarette of the day, while James gets into the drawer above her, accessed from the office side of the shared wall. They say goodnight.
Gertie, who prefers to keep her room bathed in pink light, finally has the privacy she’s been waiting for to truly mourn Robert. The lights on her front panel form the face that she refused to show James. She cries a lake of lighted tears that create a river of light across the floor and ripple into the connections that Gertie will use to monitor the subjects during their “B” pill experience.
The light somehow translates into a small vial of brown liquid (lubricant for the system?) which drips like a real tear onto the jacks that connect Annie and Owen’s headset cables to the computer. The interior area where the jacks are connected must beair conditioned, because the connection sparks, then the liquid solidifies, creating a connection between Annie and Owen’s headsets, #1 and #9.
In the morning, while the subjects are consuming their ritual nutritional cubes so that the science gods will spare their health for another day, Azumi introduces them to Dr Mantleray, in the flesh. He explains that Robert has been called away on a “family emergency”, so he’s taking over this phase of the study. He goes on to give an inspirational speech:
I believe in this treatment. And I believe in the idea that we can all be…uh, fixed. Pain, can be destroyed. But, it can’t without trials like this. So, I guess I want to thank you all for being the brave explorers that you are. Great adventurers on the precipice of mankind’s last, great, hidden frontier: Mindlantis.
The subjects have all stopped eating and paid close attention to James’ speech. Now, Owen begins clapping, and the rest join him in a round of applause. Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as a hero? And it’s just what Grimsson told Owen he would become.
Immediately following, it’s Odd Experiment Time. The control room is noticeably more relaxed with James at the helm, maybe simply because he’s sober. He and Azumi make eyes at each other when he tells her he wants to administer the “B” pill.
With Gertie confirmed to be in the proper emotional state, James instructs the odds to ingest their pills. Owen looks like he’s stoically headed to his execution. Annie looks intrigued but nervous. As the connection to Gertie is turned up to full strength, the spot where cables #1&9 are now connected flames, sizzles and sparks. There’s a lot of chemistry happening between those two, some of it nearly explosive.
Owen zips right into a dream state. He wakes up to the sound of Annie’s voice calling him “Brucie” and telling him to wake up, because he fell asleep in front of the TV again. He’s in a modest family home, wearing a Warren Moon football jersey and denim shorts.
He wanders into the kitchen and finds a curly-haired Annie in tight jeans and a sleeveless top, at the kitchen sink trying to decide whether to keep or throw away the dinner leftovers. They chat for a moment, and Owen/Bruce’s eyes shine with love for his wife, Annie/Linda. Their life appears to be a completely normal, middle class life.
Warren Moon played football for 23 seasons in the NFL and CFL during his career, which ran from 1978-2001. But he never played for a NY City or NY state team, so why is Brucie wearing his shirt? This is the only reference I can see that makes sense: “Warren Moon also held individual NFL lifetime records for most fumbles recovered (56) and most fumbles made (162).” You’ll get it after you watch episode 4.
Or maybe Annie is the sun and Owen is the moon who revolves around her and reflects her light, and it’s as simple as that.
Did Owen’s parents pull some strings to keep Olivia’s family from taking him to court for harassment, or to keep him from being committed for a long time? Jed seems to think that Owen got away with something. Maybe Porter paid off someone who Owen doesn’t know about.
This is someone who feels remorse and wants to be helped:
This is a desperate psychopath who will do anything to avoid the consequences of his actions:
I will never be able to watch Billy Magnussen again without fearing for my life.
Jed has probably used Owen for his own gratification for their entire lives, whether it was as a target of bullying, blackmail or humiliation. Since Jed is clearly the good-looking, charismatic star of the family (notice how the other 3 brothers barely have names or lines?), his parents have indulged him. Jed is an instinctive manipulator who knows how to keep his worst traits and activities away from his parents’ eyes.
Owen is quiet, fair-minded and easygoing, all traits that work against becoming a ruthless businessman, so it’s no wonder that’s he’s shunned by the family. With no parental support or other allies in the family, a mild-mannered person like Owen didn’t stand a chance against someone as ruthless and unscrupulous as Jed.
Owen’s BLIP left him uncertain about what’s real and what isn’t, and unable to take a stand on anything, for fear that he’s hallucinating and paranoid, or he’s hallucinating and it’s too good to be true. His family has encouraged him to feel embarrassed and ashamed of his illness, rather than accepting it as part who he is. Psychosis is a difficult diagnosis to accept anyway. Having an overbearing, judgemental, demeaning family must make it nearly impossible to face.
A few notes about Dr Mantleray’s fantasy: He waits for the woman to come to him, and then waits for her to give verbal consent. She’s a powerful woman, a high priestess of Atlantis, the lost city. They’ve only met recently, but have an instant connection because they are reincarnated soulmates, separated by the treachery of others. He makes sure that their encounter is as good for her as it is for him.
All of this suggests a lonely, touch-starved man who’s looking for connection and a romantic relationship with a woman who’s his equal. He wants an equal relationship and will treat his lover with consideration. And he prefers a woman who has a unique type of beauty and brains. And he’s Justin Theroux.
No wonder Azumi wanted to get him back so badly.
In his fantasy, he also has tentacles, a symbol of sensuality and clinginess, while his partner has wings, symbol of independence and freedom. He wants to accept his partner’s independence and power, but he’s been burned before. And they’re on a cliff’s edge, which is a motif in this show. James stays on the edge and doesn’t fall off, unlike Owen and Annie. That’s what makes him qualified to treat them. 😉
Just as an aside, Azumi stays inside, generally underground, well away from the edges of heights, or even windows to the outdoors. The closest she comes to an edge is taking elevators. James comments multiple times that he appreciates her braving the outside world for him. Azumi is as stable as a rock, with hidden depths, but is, perhaps, playing it too safe. She’s buried herself in her work, literally, in order to avoid being hurt again.
When Azumi finds James, he’s immersed in his VR simulation and is surrounded by floppy disks with other simulation programs, but he chooses Azumi, the real woman, and the project, the real world. This fits with the theme of the episode, Is this real, and does reality matter? Everyone but Jed and possibly #5 is able to tell the difference, and comes down on the side of yes, it matters, and yes, they want to live in reality.
The other VR programs may not be so politically correct.
Robert died from too much escapism, but his conversation with Annie tells us that he knew that his visions weren’t a replacement for reality. It’s telling that he skipped the “B” pill in his cocktail, the part of the process that highlights blindspots and defense mechanisms, which gives the road map for how the subject can approach their attempt to change and grow. His blindspot was his refusal to see his own blindspots. His defense mechanisms were his refusal to change and his need to hide in fantasy and escapism.
Since he was using “A” and “C” together, he must have been confronting some issue over and over, but never moving beyond it. There was something in his past that he resented so much that he wanted to not just relive it, but to confront it, obsessively. So obsessively that his brief moment of fake triumph killed him.
This coat deserves its own Emmy. Azumi’s so morally pure and virginal that nothing sticks to her. She has to be kept isolated from the sinful world, so her coat is made from an impermeable material that repels most substances. She doesn’t have a cigarette here, but she’s generally breathing fire as an additional protection beyond her impenetrable armor.
Annie’s trenchcoat and Azumi’s raincoat, not so different.
The doctors and subjects sleep in their pods/drawers, in their clothes. We don’t see where the lower level staff go for the night. Each sleeping space only has room for one person, and even that person can’t fully spread out and relax. The subject’s pods are big enough to sit up in, and to fit another person in, if they wanted, even though it’s against the rules. They open up onto the Commons, which has a tiny bonsai tree forest and makes science happy every day with nutritional food cubes. The subjects aren’t stuck in the lab forever, so there are controlled reminders of the outside world.
Robert had his son’s photo on his desk, and food from the outside inside his desk. He read poetry to Gertie, and went home often enough for his son to have access to the “A” pills. With as many problems as he had, he did have a better work/life balance than Azumi and James.
Just like Azumi apparently rarely leaves the lab, it looked as though James rarely left his apartment and virtual reality set up. It’s not clear if he was improving the programs or just using them, but there definitely was more using than necessary going on.
Now both have sleep drawers right in the control room, which means they never do anything but work. Their drawers barely fit their bodies, and have to be opened from the inside using the clapper. They are buried alive in metal caskets, having given over their personal lives to the observation of others. Like they (sorta) say, if you can, do; if you can’t, hide in your lab and set up a study to figure out what everyone else is doing.
Dr Mantleray’s Secret Study Parameters from the episode 1 opening video:
Hypothesis: All souls are on a quest to connect. Corollary: Our minds have no awareness of this quest. Hypothesis: All the worlds that Almost Were, matter just as much as the world we’re in. Corollary: These hidden worlds cause us great pain. Camaraderie, communion, family, friendship, love, what have you. We’re lost without connection. It’s quite terrible to be alone. Put simply, my goal is to eradicate all unnecessary and inefficient forms of human pain. Forever. We must evolve past out suffering. My research into this matter is, of course, ongoing.
Images courtesy of Netflix.