Well, the Fall Finale of Manifest certainly lived up to its name, Dead Reckoning. There were real and metaphorical deaths, though it wasn’t a Walking Dead or Game of Thrones style bloodbath. I’d like to thank the Angel of the Waters for that. There were a few minutes where that looked entirely possible, but then Grace calmed down. 😘
We learned a lot in this episode, especially about Fiona Clarke. She thinks quick in crisis. She doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. If she wants to, she can provide safe houses, and probably many other resources, for the passengers. She probably isn’t as outraged about the way her research is being used as she should be, if Saanvi’s reaction to Autumn’s injuries is anything to go by.
And she’s very, very willing to take sole responsibility for 10 fugitives who have been declared dead or missing, are severely injured, have no other friends or relatives to miss them, and who have developed psychic abilities from experiments based on her work.
Did she ask Saanvi to meet them at the safe house to provide medical care for the passengers? No. Did she tell Ben she’d text him the location of the safe house? No. Did she grab a big stack of the paperwork that was still in the lab? Yes.
I believe that Fiona has been playing the other passengers from the beginning. Either she was working with the Singularity Project or she was working for another government faction (DARPA), but took advantage of Ben and Vance’s raid on the secret experimental site to screw the government agencies over and kidnap the test subjects. She intends to continue her work on her own terms, completely off the radar. Or, she just helped DARPA steal the experiments from the CIA, because DARPA offered her better terms.
How do I know all of this?
Look at the photo below. This photo is from when the voltage on Marko was turned up to 80%, on the mysterious Major’s order, and EVERY PASSENGER, ALL OVER THE CITY, FELT IT— BUT FIONA WASN’T AFFECTED AT ALL.
I don’t know if she’s behind the time jump. It’s still not clear how or if that’s connected to the telepathy or if they’re two separate events. But she had something done to everyone on that plane, in order to activate their latent telepathic abilities, and she had herself shielded from it.
I’m going to call it now: Danny is The Major. More on that, and on Fiona, later.
There’s an odd little twist in the opening flashback, which is meant to introduce us to the passenger of the week, Autumn Cox, a con artist who was detained at the airport because of outstanding warrants, but who never made it before a judge. Instead, she became one of the missing 11 passengers.
During the initial post-landing interrogations, Autumn tells Vance about the turbulence. We see the scene on the plane (flashback within a flashback) from a new angle, since Autumn’s seat was at the back of the plane. Saanvi’s laptop falls and breaks. Bethany lurches through the aisle. The emergency path lights that line the aisle in the floor are on, and the cabin lights go out for a few seconds, so that the path lights are the only thing that can be seen. When the lights come back on, Bethany is no longer in the aisle.
(If you look closely, she’s actually missing while the lights are out. There’s also a passenger on the floor who’s gone, but he’s next to the seats he’s meant to sit in, so I’ll concede he could have pulled himself into one.)
As part of the airport interrogation, Saanvi says, “It makes no sense.”
And it doesn’t. If Bethany couldn’t make it back to her own seat when the lights were on, she certainly couldn’t do it when the lights were off. Saanvi is theoretically responding to something else, but the writer/director will use this technique at least one more time this episode, so I think we’re meant to notice.
The turbulence has always been at the top of the list for when the time travel or whatever occurred. Now we have evidence that something happened at that point. The turbulence was meant to get everyone in their seats, so they could be rendered unconscious and removed. Then they were returned to the plane in an unconscious state, and woken at the right moment. Bethany probably got close enough to her seat to assume she’d already made it into the seat when she woke up there.
Mick wants to call her
boyfriend fiance fiance-stealing best friend’s husband. Ben refuses to let anyone test his son, who has leukemia (good call).
Vance asks Autumn for the name of her person, so they can be officially authorized to pick her up when she’s released tomorrow. Autumn says that she’s between people, so there’s no one to pick her up. What’s that? No one will notice if she disappears? Well, we just happen to have several arrest warrants in your name. You can be carried out now by these nice, fully armed men.
With the flashback over, we return to the Ben and Vance Buddy Cop movie we’ve been working on. Vance wants to do the op by the book and wait to move in until he knows for sure they’ve got everything right. It sounds like his way could take weeks.
Ben wants to go now, as soon as Vance gives him an address, unarmed, by himself, like he’s a superhero. He’s going to end up dead or added as a test subject. Michaela sensibly decides to go do more research on her work computer, to see what information she has access to.
The passengers are being held in a warehouse that was built for storage before the Civil War. There is some security on the perimeter. Vance flashes a photo of Laurence Belson, the face of the Singularity Project. It’s the man we’ve seen supervising the scientists doing the experiments on the passengers. But all the NSA has on Belson is an office address and an email. They need more info on him.
Maybe Ben can get a job there.
Vance gives Mick her own NSA/Vance burner phone before she leaves for the station. He sends Ben home to be with his family and tells him to stay near his burner, But Vance refuses to go in until he’s ready. “It is my job to make sure this mission is successful. I assure you I will go in the second I can do it cleanly without tipping them off that we’re coming, again, and without loss of life.”
Seems reasonable, unless you just watched your kid almost die from those experiments. There’s no good solution here.
Meanwhile, in Grace’s universe, Ben’s real problem is that he hasn’t spent any time with his old friends, so she decides to throw him a surprise barbeque. She involves both kids in the planning, because what could be better than making Ben the bad guy with his children, over plans he didn’t even know or care about?
Let’s note here that Grace doesn’t consult or invite Ben’s sister, who lives with them, or his dad. Michaela could have told her that it’s not a good time. Grace didn’t have to make this party a surprise. She could have actually spoken to her husband about what he actually wants for his life.
But that’s not what Grace or this party are about. This is another of Grace’s attempts to impose some fantasy version of normalcy on Ben. She knows he won’t live up to it, because she’s seen the way he’s frantically busy with other things. And when he fails, she’ll have one more thing to blame him for.
Ben comes into the kitchen. Grace notices the burner, so Ben concocts a story about dropping his old one. His phone rings with a call from his office, but he refuses the call. He knows they’re calling to fire him for “borrowing” Ronnie’s UDS ID card to search through real estate records last episode.
They decide that Ben should take the kids to play laser tag, to get him out of the house before the party. Ben and Cal go out to shoot hoops while they wait for it to be time to go. Autumn stumbles down the road and into the Stones’ driveway. She’s in rough shape, and has round burn marks on either side of her forehead.
Ben catches her as she collapses and brings her into the garage. She tells him that she had a calling that included his full name. Autumn describes where she was and how she was transported, but, conveniently, it’s only information he already has about the farm and the red door. She escaped out of the transport van when the passengers were moved.
Ben calls Mick to let her know about Autumn. Autumn panics because he’s calling a cop. Mick tells Ben to take Autumn to the boiler room, so they don’t get caught at his house.
The scene changes to Cal and Olive playing a game on the couch. Cal says, “Bad stuff is about to happen.” He’s referring to the game, but sometimes Cal makes the right prediction without even realizing he’s doing it.
Ben comes in to tell them he needs to go out for a while. They make him promise he’ll be home by 4:30. He looks conflicted for a moment before he leaves, and tells them he loves them both. Olive is dismissive when she says she feels the same. Cal is matter of fact.
Jared finds Mick researching the Red Hook warehouse, and questions what she’s not telling him now. She continues to not tell him, but he wants to know if she’s in danger. He’s serious, Mick. He can’t handle it if she’s in danger and he’s not there to protect her. But she’s serious that she can’t handle it if the Flight 828 Angel of Death comes after him.
These two will make me cry every week.
Fiona and Saanvi meet Ben and Autumn at the boiler room. Fiona is being uber apologetic to Autumn about the experiments, but her eyes are a bit cold and flat.
Ben: “Are those burn marks part of your research protocol?”
Fiona: “Electrotherapy. To activate mirror neurons in the premotor cortex.”
Saanvi: “Meaning that they need to get at something inside their heads, but instead of picking the lock, they are using dynamite to blast the door down. You had no idea what you were doing. Your research is wildly unethical.”
Ben: “Oh My God.”
Fiona: “It was theoretical. A way to increase human connection. I never intended for it to be used this way.”
Saanvi: “Then you shouldn’t have handed over your research. Neuroscience is an arms race. The government doesn’t care about who gets hurt, as long as they get results.”
Ben suggests that it’s time to bring Vance up to speed on this new development. Saanvi doesn’t want to let him know about the boiler room or give him a chance to put Autumn back in jail, after the way he locked up Bethany.
Saanvi is looking out for the sisterhood, while Ben worries about Cal and Fiona worries about her research.
Autumn interrupts the argument to say that she’ll do whatever it takes to stop the experiments on the patients. They can call Vance.
In Red Hook, the 10 remaining patients are prepped for another round of experiments.
Vance looks over Autumn, and tries to understand why his colleagues would experiment on the passengers. He understands interrogation, but not experimentation.
Vance decides that something doesn’t add up, and he’s not moving forward until he knows what it is. Ben decides to come clean. He begins to explain the callings to Vance, while Saanvi shakes her head at him, signaling that she wants him to stop.
Ben and Saanvi have a moment of connection when their eyes meet and they have a silent conversation. Then Ben does what he wants and ignores Saanvi, but it was a moment. They haven’t been given any time together in a while.
Vance asks Autumn, “How much does Laurence Belson know about this telepathy or whatever it is?”
For reasons of her own, Autumn might be skewing the truth in her answers. So take everything she says in this episode with a grain of salt. I don’t think it’s all lies, but it’s definitely not all true.
Autumn: “The first few days, they just questioned us about the plane. And then, some of us got this vision. We just knew we had to go to the plane. But they wouldn’t let us. The next day they told us the plane had exploded. And then everything changed. They started these experiments. They called them treatments. Twice a day. And everyday, they got more intense.”
Ben starts yelling at Vance that they have to go stop the experiments, now, to protect Cal. He explains to Vance that Cal feels Marko’s pain every time time they torture him. Vance needs time to wrap his head around the whole thing.
Ben: “There is nothing I won’t do to protect my son. We have to go, now.”
Cal is playing alone in his room, and senses that the experiments are about to begin again.
In Red Hook, all 10 test subjects are in the lab and hooked up to electrodes. Belson checks in with a camera to make sure the remote viewers are ready. They tell him the Major is watching. Belson says that they’re ready to progress to Phase 2 of the Mirror Factor Test Protocol.
The scientist explains that they had weak responses in a few others from stimulating subject 3: Marko. So they’re going to stimulate only subject three this time and increase the baseline up to 40%. Marko spasms, and so do subjects four and seven. Belson tells the technician to turn off the charge. He tells the Major that these are the most significant results yet.
The voice from the remote viewer is disappointed that only two of the nine subjects responded. He asks that they repeat the experiment, but double the charge. The scientist tries to explain that they usually let the subjects recover for 6 hours between charges, but the Major and Belson overrule him.
The technician dials the voltage up to 80% and turns it on. This time, every passenger in the room feels it. So does Cal, at home in his bedroom. So does Michaela, at the station. So do Ben, Saanvi and Autumn, in the boiler room. Fiona Clarke does not feel the charge. She tries to help Autumn through it, and asks if that’s what she felt in the lab. Then she helps Autumn onto her cot.
As soon as it’s over, Ben calls home and asks Olive to check on Cal. Olive says that she’s ok too, because Ben didn’t even ask about her. No one ever does.
She knocks on Cal’s door and he says he’s fine. Ben asks her to look at Cal, so she opens the door. Cal is laying on his stomach, facing away from her, coloring. He tells her to get lost. The camera shifts and we can see that his nose is bleeding. A drop of blood falls on the drawing. Cal is drawing the Red Hook warehouse.
Vance decides that he has enough proof, and will assemble a tactical team. He wants Ben and Fiona to stay behind because they’re civilians, but obviously that doesn’t fly. He instructs them to meet him at the rendezvous point in 90 minutes and to communicate only through their burner phones. He doesn’t want the Singularity Project tipped off this time.
It’s almost party time, and Ben isn’t home, and isn’t answering Grace’s calls.
Jared questions Michaela about her electrical headache. She gets the call to raid the warehouse as they’re talking. Jared also notices that she’s using one of Vance’s burner phones. He’s very caveman protector this week, and isn’t letting her out of his sight. Guess the jumper and the Angel of Death sign spooked him a bit. He insists on coming with her to rescue the passengers.
Grace’s party is in full swing and looks like it’s a big success, when a couple of goons from JP Williamson show up to tell Ben he’s fired and collect his employee ID and whatnot. Since Grace thinks he’s at work, the news that he’s been unemployed since 8PM the night before is SHOCKING to her. The goons say that it’s imperative that they talk to Ben or his attorney.
Vance and Ben raid the warehouse, but find that it’s empty. Everyone argues about what went wrong, until Cal shows up to save the day. He left a note at home for Grace, and took a bus to get there, finding it on his own even though no one knows where they are. Cal shows Ben his drawing, and points to the drop of blood that landed between two trees. In that spot, the tac team finds an old coal shoot in a wall, hidden behind other junk. The lab is hidden in the forgotten old coal basement.
Vance doesn’t even know what his life is anymore, what with using headaches and crayon drawings for his clues.
Ben wants to take Cal home, but Cal insists that Ben has to help with the rescue, because he’s the only one who’ll be able to do some crucial part of it. And Cal won’t leave Ben, so Mick stays in the car with Cal, while Ben goes into the basement with the tac team.
Olive finds the note Cal left, which says, “Sorry I had to leave Dad needed me”. Grace and Olive are shocked and horrified, once again.
The coal cellar consists of a forgotten network of tunnels that aren’t on any map.
When Belson hears the NSA coming, he yells, “Get the files! Everything you can carry! Erasure protocol!” He tells the scientist and the technician to neutralize the subjects, because they can’t leave any evidence behind. They turn the electricity on every patient, with a high charge. All of the passengers are in pain. Belson shoots at the control panel before he runs away.
There’s a gun battle going on through the tunnels and the lab. Jared is shocked when he chases someone through the lab, and sees what’s happening. Fiona makes it to the control board and tries to turn it off, but as she touches it, the board explodes into flames and throws her several feet.
I don’t think she sabotaged it, but it’s possible she pressed a button that caused the explosion. A tac team member helps her up, then she helps Ben detach the passengers from the electrodes and get them off the beds.
Vance stops Belson and the scientist.
Belson: “You’re way out of your depth, Director.”
Vance: “Who’re you working for? Who has the funding to get all this up and running and keep it all under wraps?”
Belson: “You clearly have no idea who you’re interfering with.”
Belson starts to reach for a gun, but Jared comes out of nowhere and punches him.
Jared: “Neither do you.”
Fiona grabs a large pile of papers. The fire moves dangerously close to oxygen canisters. The number of soldiers seems to be multiplying every few minutes.
As Ben unhooks one of the last few passengers, a woman with curly black hair, he holds the sides of her face, then freezes for a moment, staring into space. Did he just make a psychic connection with her, like Cal and Marko’s connection? Cal stopped for a moment to process after Marko ruffled his hair, too.
Ben, Fiona, and some soldiers lead the 10 passengers out. Ben sees a vision of path lights, like in the aisle of a plane, that guides them along the correct route. They reach the surface and load the passengers into an unmarked delivery van. A soldier asks Ben if he’s getting in, but he can’t. Fiona says that she’s found a remote property that she’ll take the 10 passengers to. Ben tells her to be careful. She says that she’ll keep them safe.
Vance and Jared get lost in the tunnels as they’re leading Belson, the scientist and other personnel out. They are still in the cellar when the oxygen tanks explode and cause a partial cave in.
Michaela and Cal are okay. Cal looks like the continued electrical charges were hard on him. Ben prepares to takes Cal home, while Michaela goes to check on Jared. Before she reaches the entrance to the tunnel, it explodes. Mick and Ben are both thrown to the ground. Cal might be unconscious for a second. As Ben comes to his senses, he sees a vision of a peacock, then it vanishes.
Ben insists that they leave right then, because the area is unstable, with all of the tunnels underneath, and Cal sitting in a heavy car. Michaela screams at him that Jared is still down there and she’s not leaving without him. She wants Ben to get Cal out, while she saves Jared. Ben drives away with Cal.
Michaela searches through the rubble in the cellar for Jared. Belson is there and unconscious. She finds Jared, who is also unconscious, and yells for help. There were several tac team guys still on the surface, milling around uselessly, so they probably followed her and will help get him and the others out.
Ben pulls into the driveway and Grace runs outside to grab Cal away from him and tell both of them more things that they can’t do. She shoves Ben away from Cal as she drags Cal inside the house.
Michaela stands watch over Jared in the hospital. Captain Riojas joins her, and wonders how they got mixed up in an anti-terrorist op. She tells him they got a tip. He says that Director Vance is dead, even though Mick says that she saw Vance being loaded into the back of an ambulance. Riojas says Vance didn’t make it. But, he tells her, she shouldn’t give up hope on Jared. He needs her.
Michaela goes into Jared’s room to sit with him. She prays to whoever is in charge of the callings and begs them to save him.
Okay, it’s time for us all to face the music, meaning Grace’s psychological breakdown, disguised as a tirade against her husband.
Ben: “I know this all sounds crazy.”
Grace: “No, not crazy. Horrifying. There were assault weapons? And explosions? What were you thinking?”
Ben: “I didn’t bring him, Grace, I was shocked when he showed up.”
Grace: “Then why didn’t you bring him home, immediately. He could have been killed, Ben.”
This exchange tells us that Ben told her everything, off camera. Whatever misconceptions she still has are there because she refuses to believe him, ask questions, corroborate his story with Saanvi, Mick or others, or even talk to Cal himself.
She’s already rewritten the events of the day in her mind. She thinks Ben and Cal’s participation in their own lives is somehow optional, that they can somehow just walk away from these events and it will all go away. She only heard the parts of the story that she wanted to hear, the parts she can use to make Cal an innocent victim and Ben a reckless parent who endangered his son.
Ben: “You don’t understand. You weren’t on the plane. But you have to trust me. Everything I am doing is to protect Cal. After all we went through, with his cancer, I can’t…”
Grace: “You can’t what? You can’t lose him? 760. That’s how many days I watched cancer consume my little boy. 8 months. That’s how long it took me to file the death certificate after the plane disappeared. 1,430. Know what that was? The cost of my son’s gravestone. So please don’t ever tell me that I don’t understand, because you don’t know what it’s like to have your child die.”
No, but he knows what it’s like to lose 5 1/2 years, to have been kidnapped and experimented on, to know that you almost died, and to have no idea what really happened. He knows what it’s like to know that those things also happened to your child, but there is a cover up that’s willing to kill people to make sure no one ever knows about it, and that the organization who orchestrated the whole thing is still kidnapping passengers and experimenting on them. And he also went through the 760 days of watching his son consumed by cancer. Cal is their son, not her son.
Ben: “You’re right. I’m sorry. But don’t you want me to do whatever it takes to keep our son safe?”
Grace: “Is that what you call what happened this afternoon? Keeping him safe?”
Does she think Ben’s taken up assisting the NSA with their black ops as a hobby and Cal wants to tag along? Grace has been through a lot. And Cal shouldn’t be where there are weapons and explosions. But denying the existence of the people who want to hurt him isn’t going to help him.
Olive comes out to the side of the house. She hears her parents arguing, and stops to eavesdrop.
Grace: “I thought I could just forget the last 5 years of my life. That we could just start over, right where we left off. Because you were the same, even if I wasn’t. But you’re not the same. I don’t know you. I don’t think this is right anymore.”
Ben steps away from her and tears up.
Ben: “You’re right. I can’t give you what you need right now. What you deserve. I’ll go. But I need to take Cal with me.”
Grace: “How could you even suggest that?
Ben: “I’m the only one who can keep him safe right now.”
Grace: “I mourned my son for 5 years. I will never, never let anyone take him away from me. Not ever again. You should go.”
Ben walks away.
Olive has already walked away, once she realized that, as usual, no one was fighting over her. Only Cal. I’m sure Ben would fight for Olive, if he thought she’d want to go with him, but she’s given him the cold shoulder most of the time he’s been home. He’s not going to force himself on her now.
Michaela’s prayers are answered, and Jared wakes up. She tells him she’ll go get Lourdes, but he stops her. He holds her hand and says, “No. Please. Stay with me.” She stays.
The montage is brief tonight. Julien Baker’s “Turn Out the Lights” plays over the scene of Ben saying goodbye to the kids and leaving home. He hugs Olive, then she runs upstairs. Ben and Cal do this man to man thing, where they look each other in the eye, silently communicate, then nod their heads at each other in understanding. Ben caresses the side of Cal’s head with his hand. You can see how deep and unique their bond is. As Ben prepares to walk out the front door, Cal slides Art the Dragon under his arm, to help keep him safe.
Grace stands in the kitchen, looking all teary eyed and tragic, and watches the rest of her family be torn apart because of her.
Ben takes one last look at Grace, who doesn’t react, then he leaves.
Josh Dallas and Jack Messina earned their keep again in this scene. They had entire meaningful conversations using only subtle facial expressions and a few gestures. Their chemistry is amazing. It’s hard to believe Jack Messina is only 10 years old. He channels some very mature emotions as Cal.
Michaela finds Ben alone in the boiler room. He’s had a heck of a day. He tells her that he had nowhere else to go. She suggests that they find a place together.
Michaela says that it’s too bad about Vance. Ben says that he read online that Vance’s friends called him “Bobby”. They agree that “Bobby” doesn’t suit Vance at all.
Ben asks about Jared, to make sure he’s okay. Michaela is worried that something could still happen to him, because he knows about the callings. She notes that Vance knew about the callings, and he died. Ben says that Vance died in a large explosion, not because of the callings.
It’s like these guys refuse to understand how death works. There is no “Cause of Death: The Callings” that’s going to be obvious and leave a tag on the bodies. They will die of something that could have been prevented, and whatever causes the callings will also have orchestrated the death. That applies to every passenger and person close to a passenger who’s died or come close, so far, including Kelly. It would also apply to a shadowy government organization killing off the passengers one by one. I don’t know what’s causing the deaths and near fatal accidents, but there’s too many for them to be accidental.
Michaela explains to Ben that she prayed to the callings to save Jared, and he was saved. Ben doesn’t believe that anything supernatural intervened. He thinks that people either get better or they don’t, and Jared just got better. Michaela reminds him that he’d pray for his family members, too, in the same situation.
Saanvi brings Autumn back to the boiler room, then leaves for work. Autumn thanks Ben and Michaela for saving her life. They tell her she’s one of them. She seems really moved. Michaela and Ben leave to get Autumn something to eat.
Flashback to Autumn and Belson sitting in a van. He hands her the encrypted burner, then tells her to get them to trust her. She can give out vague, non incriminating information. He shows her a picture of Ben and tells her to find out why he’s investigating the Singularity Project, what he knows, and who he’s working with. She puts the phone in her sock and shoe, messes up her hair, and limps down the street to Ben’s house, where he and Cal are playing basketball.
Autumn didn’t tip Belson off about the raid on the Red Hook warehouse, and he’s dead or seriously injured, so she’s not working for him any more. So, who did she just text? Fiona? The Major? Powell? An unknown player who found the phone Belson receives her texts on? To be continued…
I’m going to assume that Lourdes was visiting relatives in Florida and spent the day flying back to NY. Otherwise, there’s no excuse for bringing in Captain Riojas, but not paying Victoria Cartagena, the actress who plays Lourdes, to do a couple of scenes. Unless she’s become so busy that she was unavailable the week of filming? IMDB lists her as being in two different films that are currently in production. She’s recurring, so she doesn’t have to keep her schedule open for Manifest.
Autumn could have used her burner phone to warn Belson about the raid, but she didn’t. Vance mentions tipping Belson off, right in front of her, so she has no excuse for not doing it. Did Fiona flip her when they had a moment alone in the boiler room? Is that who Autumn texted at the end of the episode?
Fiona spent extra time with Autumn after the 80% charge. She could have promised to help her escape from Belson then, and to actually pay her instead of just threatening her. Fiona’s rich, after all.
At the beginning of the episode, I got all excited because Autumn said that her calling was specifically Ben’s name, and we’ve never heard of a calling being so exact before. In fact, I’m surprised none of the characters picked up on it, because the vagueness of the callings has been such an issue. But then it turned out to be a lie. It shows that whoever is overseeing Belson doesn’t know as much as they think they do. I wonder if it will eventually become a plot point, like when Saanvi or Michaela find out.
The coal cellar is a very interesting venue. Now that everyone knows about the boiler room, our team is going to need a new hideout. Ben was the only one who could find his way through the tunnels. The way they were described makes me think of smugglers’ tunnels.
The warehouse is supposed to be on the water, built in the mid 1800s, with all of those maze-like tunnels underneath that confuse anyone who doesn’t belong there. Sounds like an excellent place for the passengers to get to know better. Only one part of it collapsed and only one other part was the lab. Maybe the angels would help Ben find a cosy new hideout down there somewhere, along with a better entrance. They can go all Les Mis and find a network of old sewer tunnels to use to get around unnoticed.
Olive could feel through the twin bond that Cal was alive for 5 years. Why can’t she tell that terrible things are happening to him now? You’d think she’d have some sense when the voltage is turned up to 80% and his brain is scrambled. Or when it’s so mixed up that he’s speaking another language.
If Danny isn’t the Major, is his assignment to monitor Olive and the twin bond, to find out how she perceives it as Cal’s telepathy grows?
“Bobby” is a clue. Vance had an “in case I don’t die a natural death” code planted in his obituary, like all good spies. They need to find someone or something connected to Vance with the name “Bobby”. Maybe something left from his early childhood, when he was called Bobby, like an old photo album, that could have information hidden inside.
The path lights are a clue as well. Autumn remembered them right after being released, and Ben remembered them when he was put back into an experimental situation. The experimenters kept them in the dark and used path lights to guide them, or did maze experiments and used path lights in the maze, or something.
And the peacock is probably also a clue or a calling, or else Cal was telepathically signaling that he wants to go to the zoo. I think the peacock will be a clue that helps them figure out where Fiona took the other passengers. They’re at a farm or estate upstate that has peacocks. Or has a peacock as its symbol, like their home network, NBC. They’ll need to follow the peacock, anyway.
Grace may think that she’s going to keep the kids away from Ben, but we’ve already established that she treats Olive like another adult in the house who’s able to come and go as she pleases. And Cal has shown that he’s fast and slippery with both parents, able to get away from them and go wherever, whenever. She’ll have a hard time stopping them from slipping out now, when it’s already established that they can climb out of windows and lie about it, and when it’s well established that Olive can act as a third parent to Cal.
Grace had a lot of nerve, blaming Ben for Cal showing up at the Red Hook warehouse, when she was the one responsible for him at that point. She’s the irresponsible parent who got caught up in her party and didn’t keep an eye on her kid.
Why are Jared and Saanvi so perfect?
I am loving the spy vs spy and MKUltra aspects of the story, as well as the human drama, so much. Totally here for government conspiracy theories that blend with the supernatural and the characters home lives. But they need to either tone Grace down or use her less. She seems to be an almost universally hated character at this point, and Danny hasn’t even moved back in on her and the kids yet.
ETA: I should note that memory erasure is not science fiction. It’s a side effect of electroconvulsive therapy or ECT (Mayo Clinic), which is the basis of the experiments using electrical charges that the Singularity Project is doing on the missing passengers. In other words, they’re already set up to use ECT for memory wipes. ECT has been used as a psychiatric treatment and as a method of torture for 80 years, since 1938. Primitive forms of electrotherapy go back to the 19th century. It is still in use today. Given the the history of experimentation on torure methods by the CIA and other security agencies and the existence of DARPA, it’s not farfetched to consider whether the amnesia-producing aspects of ECT might have been researched and perfected in the real world, just as the psychiatric uses have evolved over time. Either way, using ECT to erase 5 minutes or 5 years is not a huge fictional leap.
What’s Wrong with Grace?
I think the question we’re all asking now is, “What’s Grace’s medication situation?” Her grip on reality has been tenuous since the plane went missing, and now she flat out refuses to accept it. She’s living in a world she’s constructed around herself, and even looking at her twins everyday, who appear to now be 5 years apart in age, doesn’t break through to her.
If you read through Grace’s arguments, they are consistently centered on herself. She’s worried about Cal’s safety so that she doesn’t have to suffer through losing him again, not for his own sake. She’s not concerned about Olive at all. She shows no concern for her husband, the father of her children, the man she spent 15 years with, who at least deserves to be treated like a friend, if only for her children’s sake.
She has built a fragile mental construction that allows her to be right and Ben to be wrong, all the time. If she allows reality in, her house of cards collapses. Given how submissive Ben is to her neediness, it seems as though him propping her up emotionally was always a component of their relationship, until Cal got sick.
She knows to the day how many days Ben paid more attention to Cal than her, and just how long she had to spend putting Cal’s needs before her own. Then, when they disappeared, she had no one to prop up her fragile ego, so she found Danny, who lied to her to make her feel good. Turns out lies are even better than honesty for building a shell of delusion around yourself.
When Ben and Cal came back, they ruined the supposedly perfect life Grace had rebuilt, with no sick child or distracted husband involved. She couldn’t resent Cal, who she’d idealized into her lost angel, so Ben gets all the blame. With Saanvi’s cure for Cal, Grace sees a new chance at a perfect life. She just has to keep Cal and get rid of Ben.
If she really was focussed on Cal and his needs, she would be wanting more information from Ben, trying to understand what happened to the plane and passengers and what it means for Cal, a child who hasn’t grown in 5 years. She should be pounding down the doors of the investigators, scientists and doctors, looking for answers.
She should be acting more like Ben, Saanvi and Jared. Or even Vance, who has no personal connection to the passengers. All of them are acting like normal people who want to understand this situation and protect themselves and their loved ones from whatever ongoing dangers might arise from it.
Instead, Grace actively refuses to be informed about what happened. She acts as though the entire disappearance was Ben’s fault, and at times she acts like it didn’t happen at all. She pretends that Cal died and Ben abandoned her, then they both separately came back. She’s becoming scarily possessive of Cal.
It’s obviously dangerous for Grace to have full custody of Cal, since she doesn’t know what’s going on with him and doesn’t listen. She made the wrong decision about Cal’s treatment at the hospital because of her delusional thinking. She’s going to continue to make bad decisions for Cal. She’s not going to understand the symptoms she sees. She’s not going to respect his callings. And she’s going to let the wrong people get close to him, because she’s easily taken in by con artist techniques.
I hate that I have to say this, but right now, Ben isn’t equipped to keep Cal safe any more than Grace is. He’s hardly ever home. He takes off to do dangerous spy work at a moment’s notice, and both parents have depended on Olive to pick up the parenting slack for them. The only way I could see Ben having enough backup at home to take proper care of a very sick 10 year old who needs frequent, regular chemo treatments and has other odd health issues, would be for Mick and Ben to move in with Grandpa Steve.
Grace is obviously going to call in Danny to replace Ben as the other backup, which is wrong on so many levels, but it’s been clear for weeks that she was building toward that. She’s got the house, the business, the established relationship, and the established record as a single parent. She’s framed every situation with Ben as him being irresponsible or crazy.
She’s been building a case for custody of the kids, and Ben hasn’t done anything to help his case. Of course, he didn’t know he was going to need to make a case for himself. When Grace tried to throw him out, he should have slept on the couch or moved into a different bedroom, but refused to leave the house. His name is on the deed, too. She doesn’t automatically get it or the kids, and this isn’t the time to be a martyr.
Grace has been making her list of all the things that Ben has done wrong, probably since before they went away to Jamaica, and all of the things she’s done right. She’ll present that list to the judge, along with everyone who’ll testify on her behalf, in the custody suit, where she’ll go for full physical custody, with supervised visitation for Ben. She’s a viper, and she’s turned Olive against Ben, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that Danny has been coaching her.
If Ben gets some kind of job, and keeps it, moves in with his father and Mick or back into the house, and tries to look stable, he can call on his pre Flight 828 record of stability. He just needs a good lawyer.
What worries me the most is that Grace will let Danny and others have access to the twins. Someone will be from the Singularity Project, and will harm, or even kidnap, Cal or both kids. I think that the time will come when Ben and Cal both have to either leave their regular lives behind and go underground or learn to keep their 828 activities very secret.
I think that Olive may turn out to be the key to keeping Cal safe. She sees and hears much more than people ever realize she does, and she’s a smart kid. If she figures out that Danny’s been using her, and realizes just how obsessed her mother is with Cal, she could turn back to Ben. She could also notice everything that’s going on with Cal, now that Ben can’t run interference for him.
Once Olive has a chance to figure things out for herself, instead of accepting what Grace and Danny tell her, she’ll be on the side of the passengers. She’ll want to help protect Cal. And if they keep increasing the strength of those charges, she may start to feel them herself.
The Implications of the Experiment
The experiments in Red Hook were specifically inducing pain, not any other form of telepathy. Just like torture does. They were testing to see how efficiently they could spread pain and control a population. The torturers can send most of the subjects out into the field on an assignment, but keep one subject behind (Marko). Then they can use Marko as if he’s a shock collar, by sending jolts of pain through him to the rest, to force their compliance. This is a very efficient and effective way to enslave people. It can be done in secret, with no visible results from restraints or punishments.
This is ultimate control, with no need for anklets, cattle prods, or shock collars, and no way to remove the torture device and escape. As long as someone has Marko, they have control of the other ten missing passengers, Saanvi, Cal, Ben and Michaela, at a minimum. Possibly they have control of all 190 passengers, minus Fiona. Fiona currently has Marko. She’s in control and we don’t know where she is.
We don’t know how far the signal travels. And we don’t know Fiona’s true intentions. But we know she grabbed the passengers and the files, and ran. We know that Saanvi disagreed with her methods, strongly, and Fiona’s defense was that it was theoretical. Previously, she said that she’d experimented on rats. Which was it?
I find Vance disingenuous when he can’t understand why a government agency would do unethical experiments on humans, but I will blame the writers and not the character. If his statement were true, he’d have lived a mighty sheltered life.
Torture methods are developed through experimentation. Unethical human experimentation has been done in this country since forever, particularly on minorities and particularly by government agencies. The CIA has a history of calling torture experimentation. MKUltra and many other unethical experimental government programs are widely known in the general population. If spies and security agents don’t know about at least the most famous cases, then I have to wonder how they ended up working in law enforcement, with so little interest in True Crime.
But, what was the purpose of this experimentation? What assignments does the Major have in mind that will require torture levels of motivation? Or is this experimentation meant for eventual use on enemy captives, to get them to cooperate with US purposes for them?
Is Danny the Major?
We know almost nothing about Danny’s life, other than that he met Grace at a bereavement support group meeting and he has expensive, high action sporting equipment in his storage unit. He took Grace scuba diving and is training Olive to go rock climbing in a spot that’s a harsh environment, but does have some easy pitches. He’s able to drop what he’s doing, day or night, for whatever Olive needs, whether it’s someone to get her out of a shoplifting bust or someone to pay attention to her.
He’s refused to stop seeing Olive, on the basis that he doesn’t have his own children, so he can’t give her up. Which is hella creepy when you think about it. He forgot to have his own kid, so he’ll just take Ben’s, because he’s given her a spin and likes her. And now Grace is being possessive with Cal, because she missed him while she thought he was dead, and she wants to punish Ben. Wonder where she got the idea that you own your kids, and can just treat them like objects, from?
Danny is probably a military psychiatrist or psychologist in charge of an entire MKUltra style program. He knows every manipulation, brainwashing and interrogation technique there is, and he’s used half of them on Grace, but he didn’t really need to. He encouraged her to hate Ben and to blame him for everything that went wrong. He encouraged her to keep Cal’s memory fresh, and to feel possessive of her children.
Grace seems to have been selfish and needy before the flight disappeared, but she’s obsessively so now. Before, her narcissism was on the level of a tendency. Now, it’s full-blown and destructive. As in, she’ll destroy anyone who gets between her and what she wants. Danny coached her to that place. He wanted her to be ready to toss aside her husband in favor of him.
He’s deeply embedded in Grace’s family because the project knew the Stones would be important, especially Cal, and they knew they’d need to have Cal’s mother on their side to experiment on him. It’s already established within the family that Olive is safe doing things alone with Danny, and that it’s okay to keep secrets in any configuration of the family members. It’s also established that in the minds of Grace, Olive and Danny, Cal and Ben are mentally unstable since they came home, and nothing Cal or Ben say can be trusted to be reliable.
Thus, you have the perfect set up for Danny to “get close” to Cal, when he’s actually doing experiments on him. Or on him and Olive. Twin studies are a huge thing. Olive is the control group, and as such she’s also very important.
Grace is so desperate to be lied to and told that everything is FINE and NORMAL and that she’s PERFECT and BEAUTIFUL, that Danny doesn’t even have to do any convincing to make her sell out her family. All he has to do is whisper a few sweet nothings and tell her he’ll take care of everything. She’ll think he’s the perfect man, while he’s torturing her children, and threatening that he’ll hurt them if they say anything. Or he’ll make Cal and Olive forget the experiments, using whatever mindwipe technology they used on the passengers to make them forget what happened during the 5 1/2 missing years.
What nefarious purpose is the Acadia trip really code for?
*I love Daniel Sunjata. I have a fantasy that Danny is sincere and harmless in his familial love for Olive and Grace. I want him to realize what’s happening with Cal and decide to help Ben in any way he can. Then Ben and Danny are the buddy cops who save the day. But there is no point to Danny as a character if they do that. He’d be Ben 2.0. So he’s in the mix to do something else, not to be the guy who will fight to the ends of the earth for those kids.
Fiona and the Collective Consciousness
My current theory is that whatever experiment was done to the passengers while they were missing, it was based on Fiona’s work and done with her knowledge and consent. The experiment hasn’t only created the various forms of mind to mind communication that we’ve seen, such as the pain transference that starts when Marko is hit with electricity. It’s created a collective consciousness among the passengers, which is taking on more and more of a life of its own, and making more connections between them.
The collective consciousness may be able to function as a separate entity, which torched the plane, has a limited view into the future and the past, and can follow tendrils of consciousness from members of the collective to connect with others, in order to gain more information. The collective consciousness creates the callings and gives Cal his intuitions.
That would fit with the way mirror neurons have a domino effect in people, with each person’s actions and emotions stimulating the next person’s empathy and reactions. If there’s a collective consciousness that can jump through mirrored neurons, it can find out what’s happening in a large group of people, look through each mind for behavior patterns, and extrapolate potential scenarios. Then it can create the callings in the most receptive minds. Some particularly receptive minds are responding to the collective consciousness, even though they weren’t on the plane, like Jared, Olive and Vance. The white light outside of the plane may have been a manifestation of the collective consciousness that was being created by the minds of the passengers.
When we met Fiona, she was excited about the prospect of the collective consciousness, but I don’t think this is what she expected. She did have a purpose in mind for her research though, to counter an eventual attack by out of control artificial intelligence. (People with telepathy wouldn’t need to tip their hands to the computers by using technology to communicate.) So she may be more benign toward the passengers, or she may want to develop them into a private army.
But Fiona left herself out of the experiment, or it rejected her, so she has no direct idea of what’s happening. Explanations by informants and readings from machines aren’t going to cover the fullness of what’s happening to the group. They are creating a synergy that she won’t be able to keep up with, and neither will government agencies. However, the government can keep
kidnapping arresting passengers and experimenting on them. It’s easy to drum up terrorism charges on someone who went missing for 5 1/2 years with no explanation.
Fiona was quick to jump into that van and appoint herself the rescuer of the prisoners. She picked the exact right moment to tell Ben that she was taking them away, when he was too distracted to question her decision to take the passengers and run someplace unknown. And the tactical team had no problem following her orders, which suggests to me that she’s more of a government insider than she wants us to believe.
I think Fiona will try to take Cal next, and might try to lure the others to her secret lab to convince them she’s on the up and up before she finds a way to directly experiment on them.
Or maybe the passengers will catch a break and she’ll be a good person, who’ll only do benign experiments to help them explore their new powers. I’m sure that’s what it says on the spa brochures.
Vance and Diversity
We also say goodbye to NSA Director Robert “Bobby” Vance in this episode, at least for now. When the building collapsed, he was standing next to Jared, but we didn’t see him lying unconscious in the rubble. We saw Jared and Belson, and weren’t told whether Belson survived.
I can’t help but notice that taking Vance out of the equation will put Powell, the plant, in charge of the NSA’s Flight 828 case. Vance also knows things about the case that no other agent knows. It’s in the best interest of the various security agencies and UDS to keep him alive, for now, to interrogate him.
Whether he’ gone for good or for a few episodes, he’ll be missed. Vance was the everyman, with no personal stake in the game, who could look at events with an unbiased eye. And he had NSA access and training. He was an amazing asset to the team and a decent man.
He was the only regular black character, who went from evil, to good, to sidekick, to dead(ish). This show isn’t having a great track record with diversity. They frequently hire diverse actors, but the characters die or leave the show again just as quickly. Vance appears to be replaced with Powell and/or Belson, and Fiona has taken Saanvi’s screentime in the last two episodes. We’ve only seen Daniel Sunjata sparingly. JR Ramirez is the one person of color to survive the curse and to make it through the first half of the season with his screentime and plotline intact.
Manifest does at least have female characters, but the positions of power are generally filled by men and many of the women are emotionally compromised in ways that the men are not. The three lead women, Michaela, Grace and Olive, rely on their emotions to make decisions to an unhealthy extent. These three women have unspoken agreements with the men in their lives that they’ll prop up the women’s emotions and save them when their emotional recklessness backfires.
All three have been acknowledged to currently skate the edge of mental illness, and to have been worse in the past. None of the men are or have been mentally ill. None succumbed to deep depression because of Flight 828, the way Grace, Karen and Olive did. Ben and Michaela’s dad, Steve, appears to have come out of the 5 1/2 years as simply older and wiser. Five years which also included the loss of his wife, the mother of his children. He’s rarely seen, but he’s a rock when he is. Jared spent some time drinking in bars, made detective, and moved on with his life.
Lourdes, of all people, is the most well-rounded and functional woman, but we rarely see her. Saanvi spends so much time on exposition that she hardly gets to have her own storylines, and none of them are about her. The character, herself, notes that she doesn’t have a personal life. Fiona is likely a cloaked villain, which always gives a character complexity, but we don’t know much about her for sure yet. She’s basically Tasteful Scientist Barbie™. And she had to leave the normal power structure to gain any success. Evie’s mom, Bev, pops up occasionally, as does Michaela and Ben’s mom, Karen. Both do little more than be mothers or be ill. Dr. Williams does nothing but be Cal’s doctor.
Moment of silence for the interesting characters who came into the Manifest world in the first half of the season, and were quickly disposed of: Kelly Taylor, Christine the very odd housekeeper, Radd Campbell, Adio Campbell, Thomas, Bethany Collins, Bethany’s lost cousin, Saanvi’s supervisor Dr Cardoso, Cindy Im as an unnamed DARPA scientist (If there’s one government agency I want to see, it’s DARPA), Isaiah the Believer (remember when they were a thing?), and Saanvi Baahl, who is still there but has lost her screentime. And Robert Vance, who seemed like he was going to make it, but couldn’t beat the curse. Only Grace and Jared have that kind of Plot Armor.
[MINOR SPOILER] Next episode, when Ben discovers Danny in his home, with his children, playing house with his wife, he should pull him right out into the garage and tell him EVERYTHING about the callings and every other unusual thing about the flight. Doesn’t matter if Danny thinks he’s crazy. Let the Flight 828 Curse do its work. Ben’s garage could turn into The Ring for Grace’s new boyfriends.
Manifest returns from its winter break on January 7, 2019.
Images courtesy of NBC.