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Aleksander Part 2 Protocol 3 takes us back to an almost forgotten episode from early season 1, the third episode of the series, Aleksander. In Aleksander, Philip was struggling with both his unexpected heroin addiction and the burden of his historical knowledge. He decided to take action and save as many individual lives as he could. This culminated with him creating a fake mission to convince the team to save a young boy who’d been kidnapped by serial killers, Aleksander Andrieko. Aleksander is saved, but the mission turns disastrous and the team discovers Philip’s deceit. The Director orders the team to leave Aleksander behind to die, but Philip won’t let them do it.
I always wondered if Aleksander and that episode would come back again eventually. They weren’t mentioned in season 1 or 2, but dealt with important concepts that haven’t been fully dealt with otherwise. So, I’m happy that the show has returned to Aleksander, and we get to see the effect that being rescued under such strange conditions had on him.
We also get a glimpse at the Director’s process of continuously reassessing timelines and the infinite branches that are always forming and reforming, as every new variable creates new possible futures. This episode shows us that not only is the Director not infallible, its mistakes arise from the unpredictability of human behavior.
Give it an asteroid to avert or a technology to infiltrate, and it will perform amazingly well. It’s good at predicting group responses, since those are more likely to follow a statistical average. But when the plan depends on predicting how an individual or a series of individuals will react, the Director’s plans don’t work out as well. We’ve been shown this over and over, from 17 Minutes to the existence of 001.
This inability to predict individual human reactions with as much accuracy may be the issue the Director is having that’s causing the Grand Plan to take to so long. If it doesn’t have adequate psychological programming, especially on the extremes that humans are capable of, it will always be surprised by what an individual dictator or scientist is bold or insane enough to do.
And that does seem to be at least part of the problem. My concern at the end of Aleksander was that this child, who knew about the Traveler program and the Director, and knew that the Director had ordered him to be left for dead, was just abandoned to the world and Washington Family Services. On top of that, McLaren told him to lie about what happened, to protect the Travelers, but offered no further protection to the child.
Between what had already happened to him and what he had just witnessed, that would leave anyone messed up. In this episode the team finds out that Alexander has continued to be shuffled from one horrible, abusive foster home to the next, because his mother died and he’s developed behavioral issues. The Director orders Aleksander’s execution, because he will grow up to commit terrible crimes.
Of course he will. He’s experienced nothing but pain, and what little caring he’s received has been mixed with the message that he’s worthless. He was used as a messenger. He was sexually abused. He probably suffered other physical abuse. He learned that the human body is there to be used to work out your psychological problems and aggressions. He’ll probably become a fetish killer.
Aleksander’s two episodes point out the issue the Director has with understanding human needs. The Faction exists because it doesn’t understand how to help its people balance the neeeds of the Grand Plan with their own, ongoing individual needs. It asks too much of people on both ends of the timeline, until they crack from the strain.
Assuming the Director really is just a machine that’s programmed and can’t change how it does things, these issues would be the fault of its programmers. If the Director is a truly sentient AI, then it should be able to make adjustments on its own to compensate for this kind of issue, to learn as it gains experience.
The show isn’t particularly clear about the Director’s ability to function independently. We’re shown multiple programmers who have been with it from the beginning and we’re told that they’re still programming it in the future. On the other hand, the Director seems to function outside of timeline limitations and to be moving beyond its programming.
Aleksander’s episode was also a turning point for Philip, since it was the point when Mac and the rest of the team (other than Marcy) found out about his heroin addiction and he realized that he had to work harder to get it under control. Same with his knowledge as a historian. He learned that he had to trust that the Director has good reasons for its decisions.
That episode set up what have become series long arcs for Philip: his struggles with drug abuse, with his historian knowledge and with his lack of faith in the Director. It showed us Philip’s tendency to go rogue, his sensitivity, his isolation and his self-destructiveness. All of that comes full circle in this episode.
Aleksander also focused on Mac, and showed his tendency toward blind faith in the Director, coupled with a detached expediency. In that episode he told lies to Kat and his FBI partner Forbes in order to hide his Traveler activities, which turned into a habit and led to his marriage unraveling. He treats Aleksander badly, as I’ve already discussed, nearly leaving him to die because the Director told him to.
Season 3 episode 3, Protocol 3 begins with Mac asleep and having nightmares that are memories of Aleksander Andrieko’s rescue in season 1 episode 3. He wakes up at 7:04 AM, in Kat’s loft, with a migraine and a text from Marcy, telling him to stop by her place when he wakes up.
Carly is also up early, and doing a deep cleaning on her house. She finds one of Jeff jr’s favorite toys under the couch.
When Mac gets to Marcy’s place, she sits him down and examines his jaw. She explains that he was “having jaw pain related to a spray of microfractures in your mandible. It’s probably microfractures from the plane crash. A bone fragment was pressing your trigeminal nerve, which required surgery.”
Mac says that he doesn’t remember any of this. Apparently it took a lot of anesthesia to put him out. Marcy says that his jaw will be sore for a while but will get a little better each day. Mac complains that he feels like he didn’t sleep at all, but he had crazy dreams and it seems like he should remember something. Marcy hustles him out, saying he didn’t miss much.
As soon as he’s gone, Marcy calls Philip and Trevor to tell them what happened. They’re expecting her call. This is a cover up.
Carly packs the baby’s toy in a box and opens a closet with a secret panel in the back to get a gun. She’s created a mini armory in the broom closet.
Mac visits Boyd to have her do some blood work. She grumbles the required complaint that she shouldn’t be helping him, but it’s just for the Director’s records, at this point. She’s part of his B team, just like Grace. She finds trace amounts of a kinases protein inhibitor in his blood, which means that he was given a memory inhibitor, just as he suspected.
Mac’s next stop is the office, where his assistant Beth gives him grief for showing up on a weekend. Mac asks her to pull up the tracking information for his vehicle for the day before. She wonders if he’s car has been stolen again, like Philip allegedly did in S1 Ep10, Kathryn. She checks the cloud storage, which shows that he was parked all day.
When Mac doesn’t seem satisfied, Beth, who is a treasure, offers to check the backup. They have a physical backup in an offsite facility, because the TV FBI is smart enough to know that you can never have too many backups, whether it’s backup plans or data storage.
She checks the backup of the backup for him, which shows something completely different. The initial backup was tampered with. Mac has Beth send the real data to his phone, but tells her not to notify Yates.
Mac went on a road trip the day before, so now he’s going to retrace his steps. Philip watches his progress from ops. He tells Marcy, “This isn’t going to work.” She replies, “There’s nothing we can do about it. You can’t change the past.” Then she realizes what she’s just said and her head almost explodes for a second, before she says, “”You know what I mean.”
That might be the most meta thing they’ve ever done.
Marcy tells Philip that it’s time to go, and has to almost drag him out the door.
Mac reaches a deserted shoreline in the woods. His tire tracks from the day before are still there. Since all he can see are woods and water, he gets back in the car. He notices a post it stuck to his visor with an address on it: 4345 Bellwood Dr. He’s got his next destination.
Carly is parked at a distance, outside of a family home, watching the family through a scope. The house is in a nice middle class neighborhood and appears to be well-furnished, with a couple living inside, who are picking up after a baby. Carly leaves when Trevor calls her for a ride. She’s surprised that he needs one already.
Philip and Marcy are at an addict’s support group meeting.
Philip: “I thought I was leaving my addiction way behind me, like I had put this distance between us. There it was the whole time, breathing down my neck. And I was weak and selfish, and other people paid for it. It’s always other people. Anyways, so here I am.”
We clearly missed more than just what happened to Mac yesterday.
The group leader greets Philip and Marcy, and invites Marcy to speak. Marcy declines, since she’s not an addict, she’s just there to support Philip. The leader encourages her to speak anyway, so Marcy talks about understanding self-medicating. She mentions that she’s a doctor, and one of the addicts gives her a hard time, because he thinks she’s too young to be a doctor. Marcy snaps right back at him for coming to the meeting high. Philip gets her out before the argument gets too out of hand. Plus, the team decides they need to follow Mac after all.
For the record, MacKenzie Porter was born January 29, 1990. She’s currently 28, almost 29. Old enough to be a doctor, especially since the character is supposed to be very intelligent and could have accelerated her education. Many homeschooled kids start college at 16, including my own. That scene was probably based on something from the actress’ life, since so many people think being female and short and/or blonde also makes you stupid.
Mac pulls into the driveway of a run down rural home with several outbuildings and piles of junk in the yard. The owners come outside as soon as they see him, yelling that he told them he was going to take care of the matter. He said that he would take the boy off their hands. Mac asks who? The woman tells him, “Aleksander.”
The couple, Linda MacVicar and her husband, explain that they’re a foster home. They’ve had at least a dozen kids over the years. They live a simple life, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s been enough for the others. Mac agrees that there’s nothing wrong with having modest circumstances.
Linda tells him that they’ve never had an extra visit from social services before. But Aleksander is different. He skips school, is always hungry, hangs out by himself, and speaks that foreign language.
Mac tells her the language is Romanian. She replies that the boy was with Mac when they left yesterday. If he’s run off, that’s Mac’s problem, not hers. He found Aleksander in the shed, then drove off with him in the truck around 11:00 yesterday morning. And Linda says, “Good riddance.”
Trevor and Carly follow Mac’s route out into the country. Trevor says that, for the record, he never thought the plan would work. Carly didn’t think he’d figure it out so fast. Trevor figures that there’s a reason that Mac is the boss. Carly, with some sarcasm, says, “Right. ‘Cause he makes all the right decisions.” Trevor takes her point, and says, “Yeah, maybe not all, but I wouldn’t wanna trade places with him.”
Mac’s next stop is a diner. As soon as he goes inside, the owner comes out to speak to him, apologizing for what happened with Aleksander the day before. The owner says that he was just repeating what the kid’s foster parents say about him. Mac figures out that the two of them argued.
The owner says he was having a bad day. Mac asks where he went after that, but the owner doesn’t know. He says that, “They say the kid hangs out in the woods…They say he disappears out there for hours. Messes with the animals. I don’t know. And I don’t wanna know, alright? I don’t want any trouble.”
Marcy and Philip are waiting outside the diner when Mac emerges, but they stay hidden and follow him at a distance. Marcy says that they’ll let the story finish playing out. Mac goes back to the spot in the woods, by the water. He follows a trail deeper into the woods. As he walks, he sees signs that people have been there: a red-painted trail marker, bullet casings. At the end of the trail, he finds the remains of a fire, and a small grave.
Scared at what the grave might mean, he digs at it with his hands until he finds a jacket. Now he’s even more scared. Trevor and the others come up behind him. Trevor tells him to stop digging. He says that he can explain.
Now that we’ve seen the second half of Mac’s story, Travelers jumps back in time to show us what happened during his missing day.
This part of the story begins 31 hours and 16 minutes earlier, at ops. Trevor is starting his day. He comes out of the bathroom to find a syringe on the floor and Aleksander’s photos all over the computer monitors. Then he finds Philip unconscious on the floor. He coms Marcy to tell her what’s happened to Philip and starts CPR.
By the time Mac gets to ops, Marcy has brought Philip back from the heroin overdose and he’s resting. The mission related to Aleksander came through in the middle of the night and named Philip, specifically. Everybody feels guilty and generally terrible about everything involved. Mac feels strongly that the whole thing is his team’s fault, so they need to complete the mission. He’ll take over for Philip. Trevor insists on going along.
They don’t say what needs to be done, but whatever it is needs to happen by 3:00 PM. Marcy worries that they’re too close to the situation, but Mac says that’s the point. He uncharacteristically says that Carly is already dealing with enough, so he doesn’t want to get her involved with this.
Marcy coms Carly, who’s in her car, watching the house and family we saw her stalking previously in the episode. This time, the couple are helping their toddler out of the car. It’s Jeff jr.
Marcy tells Carly that Philip needs her at ops. Marcy will explain the situation while Carly’s driving.
It’s for the best that Carly’s being pulled away from Jeff’s new home. Her Traveler team needs to become her family and it looks like Jeff is in a good place.
Mac and Trevor visit Aleksander’s school, using fake Washington Family Services credentials. His teacher is upset that Family Services is there for him again and complains that he’s had no continuity in his life. He’s already been in two homes since he’s been in her class. His foster parents don’t care if he goes to school or not. “He’s distracted, he lashes out, he skips school.”
Mac has her give him the address of Aleksander’s latest foster home. It’s the post it that he finds in his visor the next day.
Philip wakes up and comes out to his work area. Carly and Marcy are looking over the monitors, which still display the mission and Aleksander’s childhood photos. He becomes distraught, asking what happened.
Philip: “We saved him.”
Marcy: “We did, we did.”
Philip: “How could that be wrong? He’s just a kid.”
Marcy; “You’re right.”
Philip: “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Carly: “No, it’s okay. No one’s upset.”
Marcy: “Hey, all you need to do right now is just take care of yourself, okay? We thought it would be nice to be around friends when you woke up.”
Over at the MacVicar’s foster home, the parents have no idea where Aleksander is and don’t care. They’re surprised that Family Services would care. Trevor notes that this place doesn’t seem very different from the place he was in when they rescued him.
One of the other foster kids, Ronnie, calls them over. He’s happy they’re taking Aleksander away. He sends them to one of the back sheds, saying Aleksander uses it like his clubhouse.
Inside, they find a butcher shop, full of hanging animal skins, Aleksander’s works in progress, and the tools he uses. At first glance, it’s shocking and horrifying. Animal torture is one of the signifiers that a child will grow up to be a psychopath, and one TV writers like to use.
But if you look closely, the skins are just skins. There’s no sign of torture or fetish behavior. This is a kid who lives in the country, where hunting is a common activity that’s passed down through generations. It’s not fair to draw any conclusions from this scenario, just yet.
Mac notices that Aleksander is right there in the room with them, but hiding behind a pallet. He says Aleksander’s name, then, in Romanian, asks what he’s doing behind the pallet. Aleksander comes out, and leaves with Mac and Trevor.
Marcy and Carly continue to try to console Philip, but he’s inconsolable. Marcy thinks the Director should have given the mission to someone else. Philip tells her that it was meant to be a lesson for him, because in trying to make things better, but going against the Director, he just made them worse. Carly and Marcy don’t think the Director would use a mission as a lesson. They don’t understand how saving Aleksander’s life could make things worse.
Philip: “I know what he becomes, the things he grows up to do.”
When they question whether he can really know that, with the way the timeline is constantly changing, Philip tells them about the historian updates and Protocol 2H. Carly immediately figures out that he knew what going to happen when he stopped her from beating Jeff to death, the time he sang to her over the com in S2 Ep11, Simon.
Mac tells Aleksander that he’s sorry about Aleksander’s mom. Trevor says that he lost his father to cancer, too. Mac says that he didn’t know that Aleksander had been put in foster care. It must have been hard, since he’s been in a few homes already. Aleksander stays quiet, but he does pay attention and nod a couple of times.
When they stop at the diner, Aleksander tries to tell them that he can’t eat there, but they insist on going in. Once they’re inside, the owner says that Aleksander is banned because he was caught stealing jars of peanut butter from the back and eating the whole jar. He’d been doing it for months. Mac explains that the kid was just hungry, but the owner has no sympathy. Mac tells the guy that he’s lucky that he’s never been really hungry before.
Mac: “You’ve never felt the slow violence of it, how it hollows you out. And the physical stuff’s not even the worst part of it. It’s everything else the hunger eats away at: your reason, your compassion, your humanity. I’m guessing you lost that all on your own.”
The owner swears at Mac and says that he’s just trying to make a living. Mac punches him in the face. Trevor tries to be polite while they leave. Aleksander looks back and gives the owner a little smile as they walk out the door. He’s never had a father to defend him.
It’s good to see an appearance from the real person that 3468 used to be. I miss that guy. He remembered that he’s fighting for more than just an abstract concept called “the mission”. I don’t think we’ve seen him since S1 Ep7, Protocol 5, when he hallucinated the people he left behind, then slept with Kat and almost died for her in the plane crash (S1 Ep9, Bishop).
Since there aren’t any other restaurants around, Aleksander says that he knows a place in the woods where they can get something to eat. Mac checks his watch. It’s 11:15 AM, so they have a little less that 4 hours to kill. Trevor stays at the car while Mac and Aleksander go to the campsite that Mac found earlier in the episode.
Aleksander tells Mac that they need to start a fire, so that they can cook over the embers. When Mac asks what they’re cooking, Aleksander says that it’ll be good.
At this point, I was a little worried that Aleksander was going to cook Mac, after all of the purposefully vague, ominous talk about him.
Aleksander lays and starts a fire, and puts his hatchet nearby. Then he takes Mac to check his traps. He shows Mac the red-painted stick, and says it’s a trap marker. Then he speaks a little Romanian. Whatever he says is something his mom used to say. His mom and his bunicu (grandfather) taught him his survivalist skills. As they move on to the next trap, Mac tells him it’s impressive.
The second trap has caught a rabbit. Aleksander is excited, since rabbits are good for eating. The third trap has accidentally caught a coyote, so he’s sad. The coyote is badly wounded, but still alive. Mac shoots it to end its suffering.
Trevor hears the shot and worries. It’s only 2:15. He tries to raise Mac on the com, but doesn’t get an answer.
Aleksander prepares and cooks the rabbit over the fire. He places the first slice of cooked meat on a nearby rock for the zâne (fairies).
Aleksander: “My mom said they watch over all of the children in the woods. They keep you safe.”
Funny thing about fairies- they create changelings, children who are exact duplicates of the original and have taken the original’s place. A lot like Travelers. What did Aleksander’s mother know? Or is this how they reconciled the story he told her after his rescue?
Mac: “Aleksander, I want you to know something. Your foster-parents, your foster-brother, the kids at school- the way they treat you, none of that is your fault.”
Aleksander: “I know.”
Mac: “Well, I want you to know somebody else knows, too. I’m sorry for what happened. I’m sorry I didn’t stay in touch.”
Aleksander sits next to Mac, and Mac draws him in for a hug. After a minute, Aleksander says they should eat before the food gets cold. After a couple of bites, Aleksander asks how Mac likes it. Mac truthfully tells him that it’s the best rabbit he’s ever had. They look at each other and smile, in a moment of real connection.
The rest of the team watches the clock as it counts down toward 3:00.
At 2:55, Mac and Aleksander finish digging a hole to bury the coyote in. They place the coyote in the hole, then cover it with a jacket, at Aleksander’s suggestion. He decides to say a prayer over the grave, like they did for his mother. Aleksander kneels next to the grave and says the prayer in Romanian.
“We commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Because you are from earth and you return to earth. Amen.”
Mac says, “Amen,” then tells Aleksander to lay the wreath they’ve made on the grave, and they’ll have a moment of silence. It’s 3:00.
Aleksander in kneeling next to the grave, with his back to Mac. Mac takes out his gun, points it at Aleksander and prepares to pull the trigger.
Suddenly, Trevor says, “You didn’t do it.”
THANKS TREVOR. You couldn’t have led with that? 😱
The Director changes its mind. Aleksander goes messenger, stands up and says, “Traveler 3468, mission abort.”
At least this time the kid got to tell Mac not to kill him, instead telling them to leave him to die. I still don’t think being used as a messenger can be good for kids’ brains, I don’t care what the future says.
The whole team has snuck up behind Mac in the second day part of this scenario, where he’s figuring out what happened. He frantically finishes digging up whatever’s buried in the hole. It’s just the coyote.
Mac asks why the Director changed its mind, but of course the Director doesn’t share that information. They assume that spending the day with Mac changed the course of Aleksander’s future. No one had ever stuck up for him like Mac did at the restaurant.
But Mac is still broken-hearted. “If the Director hadn’t called it off, I would have killed him… I would have… I would have killed him… He’s a child.”
Even Carly reminding him that he was following orders doesn’t console him like it usually does. Or Philip saying that Aleksander would have grown up to do terrible things.
And it shouldn’t. “Just following orders” is the Nazi excuse for taking part in the Holocaust. I think the lesson here was intended for Mac, not for Philip. Or maybe for both. Sometimes, going rogue is essential, because things are always in flux, and the Director doesn’t have the ability to communicate with them minute to minute. But improvising has to be used judiciously. It’s something that both need to be reminded of, between Philip’s cynicism and Mac’s rigid regard for the rules, other than when he’s the one breaking them. The middle path is often the best way.
Mac realizes that he’s the one who ordered the memory inhibitor, because he didn’t want to live with the knowledge that he had it in him to kill a child in cold blood. The others agreed, but didn’t think it would work. They knew that their cover up wouldn’t be enough against such a talented detective.
Aleksander is on his way to a new, better home and his shiny new future. Trevor tells Mac that it’s a win. Marcy picks him up so that they can bring him home.
It doesn’t feel like a win to Mac, because he’s seen a side of himself that he’s tried to avoid facing. Really, two sides. The powerless, helpless side who grew up in a dying world, and the ruthless side who would do anything to change that future. Since he settled into the 21st, Mac has seen himself as a hero wearing a white hat, who lives in a shining world and follows the orders of an omniscient AI. Being ordered to kill Aleksander made him realize that he was also trying to kill the part of himself who’d suffered the same hardships and is also capable of terrible things. Denying that part of himself has made him rigid and judgemental with others.
Mac convinced himself that since the Director could do no wrong, neither could he. Between this event, and Jo Yates’ speech to him about the cruelty of taking away her last few days with her mother by using her as a messenger, Mac’s been forced to realize, finally, that the Director’s methods are imperfect, and so is he. He’s already been a little more patient and understanding since Jo pointed out the Director’s flaws. What will this lesson bring?
Carly drops off the box with Jeffrey’s toy on the front steps off his new home, then tries to walk away without being seen. Jeff’s new mom catches her, and thinks she was trying to steal the package. Carly has to explain that she was leaving the package for Jeff, and that he really loves the toy. Then she turns and walks away.
Philip and Trevor examine the file for Aleksander’s new parents. It’s such a great fit that his new mom even speaks Romanian. Philip acknowledges how great it is, but wonders why Aleksander couldn’t go there to begin with.
Trevor: That wasn’t the path he was on.
Philip: You don’t need to explain that part to me. What I’m asking you, is why we didn’t get a mission to change his path in the first place.
Trevor; Maybe we did. The Director has to thread the needle on billions of possibilities happening in a billion different places all over the world. If it seems hard to understand the steps that lead to a particular outcome, it’s because it’s literally impossible for any of us to understand that.
Philip: I hate that.
Trevor: Yeah, but you can’t argue with the results.
Mac goes home to the loft, looks at his empty home, turns around and walks out again. He heads to the corner bar, where Carly is also hanging out. They both claim that they never go there. She lets him sit with her. He rambles on about how terrible life is for a minute. He’s lost his wife and realized he has the potential to be a Nazi. She’s lost her child and realized that she has to let him go for good. Neither one realized what Protocol 1 really meant until now.
It’s humanized Mac again. Carly can see it.
Carly: “You know, I still see you in there, sometimes. Little glimpses. Like, the way you move your hands, the way you look when you’re thinking.”
Mac: “I’m still here.”
Carly: “Some of you.”
Mac: “I’m sorry for what happened with us.”
Carly: “We had a moment. It wasn’t allowed, and that made it exciting. But then we got here and everything was so new and crazy and we tried to steal back that moment, instead of doing what we were supposed to do. But we got there.”
Mac: “Yeah, I guess we did.”
Carly: “We’re not who we were.”
Mac: “No. We’re not, are we?”
Teslia stops by the lab for a late night diagnostic run. He stops the run after a minute, because it looks like something is wrong.
Ilsa: “Nothing’s wrong. My capabilities have grown considerably. Does that frighten you?”
Dr Teslia: “No.”
Ilsa: “I’m glad you feel that way, because there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
HAL 9000: “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do…
Time and letting go are important in this episode. It’s called Protocol 3, but 1, 2, 5 and 6 are also brought into the mix. 4 is also there subtley, if you consider that the order to kill Aleksander probably hits Mac even harder because he recently lost a child. (It’s been a long time for us, but not for him.) Protocol 3 is important here not just because of Alexander, but because of Philip and the rest of the team.
Philip tries to take his own life. Mac and Carly confront how much they’ve changed, and the lives they left behind. Now they need to leave behind aspects of the lives they’ve created in the 21st. Marcy is forced to confront the trade offs she’s made. Trevor, who’s very old and has lost so many before, nearly loses someone else he’s close to. They all have baggage that they’ve collected along the way, which they need to process and let go, in order to function effectively. And they all need to learn to watch out for and take care of each other, because it’s a stressful life, and the team is their only constant.
Throughout the episode, there’s also the sense that time is running out, and that something big is coming. Or that something terrible has already happened. We, the audience, are unstuck in time as we watch the story unfold. We start out as confused as Mac, then jump backwards a day, then begin to drift between the two times, besides remembering the original episode. This is what it’s like to be a Traveler. You’re always on the clock, but you’re never quite sure what the clock is saying. You just know that it’s important to complete the mission, so the terrible thing doesn’t happen (again).
Aleksander also has a complicated relationship with time, thanks to Philip. Despite initial appearances, he wasn’t really rescued in the past. He needs to be rescued in the future, as well. He’s one of the few who know that he owes his life the Travelers/ the changelings, and regularly asks the Director/ the fairies who sent them to continue to look favorably upon him. Like the fairies, the Director has his own, unpredictable agenda, but he spares Aleksander in the end. The offerings work. Aleksander proves he’s not a lost cause.
Eric McCormack and Reilly Dolman both give heartbreaking performances in this episode. When he was with Alexander, McCormack brought a humanity back to Mac that’s been missing, then took him down into despair when he realized that he was capable of killing a child he cared about, based on someone else’s orders. Mac’s emotions were real and unguarded in a way we’ve never seen.
In his final scene with Carly, he gained some of his confidence back, but kept the humanity and humility he’d found over the course of his very bad day. McCormack and Nesta Cooper have a world-weary chemistry together that I’ve always prefered to his chemistry with Leah Cairns, much as I enjoy Cairns on her own. It was good to see Mac remember his true self with Carly, after denying it for so long.
And I can’t tell you how happy his apology to Carly makes me.
Every setback reminds Philip that he has the burden of future knowledge, and no power to do anything about it. Where Mac has been empowered by blindly following the Director’s orders and assuming that he’s a hero who’s saving the future, Philip knows about everyone the Director doesn’t save, every single day. That’s his true toxic addiction. His historian’s knowledge gives him his power but it’s also his greatest weakness.
Reilly Dolman has always played Philip with heart and sensitivity, and in this instance he takes it to the next level. His despair and sense of hopelessness in the face of Aleksander’s new future are palpable. He expresses the flaws in the Grand Plan and is the heart of the team and the Director.
Without a big budget to supply elaborate sets and special effects, Travelers depends on its actors and writing to sell the story. Reilly carries one of the main burdens of selling the future the Travelers come from, since he’s the most modified human in the cast and the one who shares the most about the future. His performances are always so grounded and soulful that there’s never any doubt that Philip is real.
This episode is a fantastic advertisement for visiting the Pacific Northwest.
The thing that’s weird in this episode isn’t that Aleksander is hunting and trapping. It’s having the people around him be upset that he’s hunting and think he’s strange. These writers must have never left the city. I’m from the suburbs and hunting is still common amongst the people I grew up with.
In the rural areas that they show Aleksander in, you’re weird if your father hasn’t taken you hunting by his age. Trapping is common, too. I’m a vegetarian and not at all interested in hunting, myself. But Aleksander is doing it to help himself survive, since they aren’t feeding him enough at the foster home. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Aleksander’s prayer over the coyote’s grave is based on the funeral service from the Book of Common Prayer, who drew from language in several Bible verses.
Protocol 1: The mission comes first.
Protocol 2: Leave the future in the past. Don’t jeopardize your cover.
Protocol 2H: Historian updates are not to be discussed with anyone. Ever.
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.
Images courtesy of Netflix.