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Episode 6, Philip, brings back the special ops Traveler team of Hall, Luca and Kyle, for a deeper look into how historians function, what’s up with the Faction now that 001 is in charge, and how Kyle has changed the dynamic of Hall’s team. We say goodbye to more recurring characters in this episode, as the Director’s lack of sentimentality becomes more apparent with every episode. The events of this episode also give us a glimpse into the current state of the future. Travelers in the 21st aren’t supposed to talk about what they left behind, but it sounds like the people they left behind in the future never forget the reason the Traveler program exists.
Soldiers mirror their leaders, and we’re seeing that reflected throughout this season, in ways large and small, from the Faction using the same violent techniques as Vincent to Philip and Trevor losing their tendency to argue with Mac’s decisions based on whether they think they’re the right, moral thing to do. Mac and his team are moving closer and closer to the behaviors and ideals of Hall’s team. In season 1, Mac and his team were appalled by Hall and his team’s behavior and attitudes. The team doesn’t see it, because their journey in that direction will look different from Hall and Luca’s, but with every episode they fall further into the “ends justifies the means” rabbit hole.
One of the paradoxes of this show is the contrast between the Travelers, who work for a better future based on the logic of a cold machine using rules designed to minimize the effects of their humanity on the equation, and the Faction, who are trying to save the future from the mistakes of the machine and the Travelers who follow the machine, but who are led by a violent man whose main motivator is revenge against the machine and its followers, leading them to place little value on individual life or happiness. In the long run, neither side can succeed, because neither has any passion toward a positive future to rally the people around when things get difficult. And, in the future, it’s apparently always difficult.
The Travelers and the Director have been presented to us as the good guys, while 001 and the Faction are the bad guys. But is this true? Are there any good guys in this story?
001 is leading a movement that’s akin to the French Reign of Terror. He wants blood, but doesn’t seem to have any idea where to take the people after that. The Director doesn’t care when or if it gets to a better future, so it’s in no hurry. It’s akin to a giant corporation that’s bogged down with bureaucracy. The people who trust the Director have lost sight of their own passion and hope, and have fallen into a routine of following orders and endless waiting.
The common people of the future have no agency of their own, no decisions to make, nothing to do but wait and eat gruel. No wonder they are hopeless and restless. No wonder the Faction, which gives them a chance to make a difference and follow a charismatic leader, has become a popular movement. It must feel more real and human to them. But, like the Director, the Faction sees them as disposable. It devalues their humanity in the name of the greater good. But what is the greater good, if it’s not to value and protect all people, in all times, no matter their value to someone in power?
We first met Hall and Luca in S1 Ep 4, when a mission turned into an ambush and Marcy was called in to save Luca’s life. Hall is brash and domineering, while Luca is quiet and reserved, but loyal to Hall. They are the last living members of their original team, and have coped with the contradictions of being Travelers in the 21st by giving up their hosts’ personal lives. Hall strongly criticized Mac and the team for being too attached to their host’s previous lives, and tried to take over the team. Mac had Hall and Luca arrested and jailed instead.
Kyle is a teenager who went to high school and played football with Trevor. In S2 Ep9 it’s revealed that Kyle and Trevor’s hosts were both sexually abused by their football coach. Kyle attempts to commit suicide by drunk driving because he can’t stand the thought of being known as a victim. He’s taken over by a Traveler at the last second and joins Hall’s team as their historian. In Ep9, Hall and Luca have just been released from prison and have been given a mission to rescue Kat from deadly pregnancy complications. In the next episode, S2 Ep10, Hall’s team helps Mac’s team save a girl who is the future president of the US.
Historians, in episode 6, Archivist 18 welcomes you to another historical update. Sit back, enjoy the music, and don’t look away from the screen, even when that guy on the left gets overwritten, mid-update. Try not to think about the fact that the Director will send you to your death by update, and blithely send the next Traveler into your host, while your former colleagues calmly go on with their work for the day, as if nothing happened. There’s nothing you can do about it, so why get upset? Travelers are above all calm and cooperative. We get the job done.
Philip and Kyle sit next to each other at the update and try not to stare at the guy who’s dying, then adjusting to his new host. It’s the first time Kyle’s seen someone get overwritten. When the update is done, the Archivist greets the new Traveler (5782) like this is a normal occasion. She doesn’t acknowledge that a historian just died. The historians do.
Then Dawn and the Faction interrupt the update to kidnap the historians. They want to take the historians somewhere to have a conversation, which I’m sure will be completely cooperative and pleasant.
Hall is alone in the bottom of an empty swimming pool, but then Mac appears. He’s speaking in the annoying way that Kat did when she was a hallucination inside Mac’s mind, while he was dying after the plane crash back in season 1, with all of the “Yes… and no” and “There is no here… only now,” type of answers. After a moment, Mac admits that he’s a figment of Hall’s mind, created because Hall is dying.
The swimming pool metaphor becomes clear. Hall is in over his head. We all ask the same question: Why on earth would he picture Mac as his dying vision?
Because Eric McCormack is the star and they couldn’t afford another guest star. That’ll be answered later.
Out in the real world, Hall is in ops, unconscious and being treated by Marcy. Mac asks what his chances of survival are. Marcy explains that they’re just trying to keep him alive for as long as possible now, not save his life. His injuries are too extensive, even for medical nanites to fix.
Boyd arrives with the neuro-stimulant the team asked her to synthesize. She joins Marcy’s effort to keep Hall alive. Trevor has built a black box, which is hooked up to Hall’s brain, so that he can send them images which they can use in their investigation. The neuro-stimulant will help revive his dying brain enough to send images to the black box. They’re hoping that Hall can show them who shot him and where Philip and the other historians are.
Trevor says that six historians have been reported missing on the back channel. Boyd adds that hers is missing too, making it seven. She agrees that Hall must be involved somehow. Carly wonders which side Hall was on, but Mac is certain of Hall’s loyalty to the Director. He thinks that Hall discovered the perpetrators, so they shot him.
Their only current lead is Philip’s last location, the old high school that Trevor has tracked his com to. Mac and Carly leave to investigate.
Philip’s com has been removed and he’s being held alone in a small room that looks like a cell. It seems like the Faction is holding the historians in an old prison or mental institution. Dawn brings him a sandwich and an offer to join the Faction. She tries talking to him like a reasonable person, but he won’t budge. He’s seen the mass murder that the Faction is capable of, and he can’t stomach it. Dawn tries to explain their philosophy, much as Jenny did, but in a more rational way. Philip won’t budge.
Dawn: “What if one mass culling, right at the turning point, changed everything for the better? Your way isn’t working. How do you not see that?”
Philip: “The Director isn’t giving up.”
Dawn: “The Director, who will overwrite you the moment you are no longer viable? Because that’s what happened to that poor soul at your update this morning. We wanna take the information that you just received about the future and put it to good use. What is so wrong with that?”
Philip doesn’t have an answer. I have an answer for him though. The Director can’t give up. As far as we know, it’s programmed to never give up, until the parameters by which it would determine a “better future” have been reached.
Like any other machine which is stuck in the “on” position, it will keep going until the end of time, unless something interferes with its operation. He’s confusing mechanics with human qualities like persistence and optimism. The Director isn’t making a value judgement. It’s ticking off boxes on a list, looking for a future that ticks off enough boxes to be considered a success. If a scenario is one box short, it will start over. Or so we are being led to believe.
Jeff/5416 meets with Sarge, who tells him that he got the charges dropped on the DUI, but Jeff is still suspended from work until he can prove that he’s working on his drinking problem. Jeff needs to take part in AA, therapy and community service, and needs to work with a social worker who will sign off on his progress. He gives Jeff a list of social workers to choose from.
Mac calls Yates at her office and is all friendly, even calling her “partner”. Do you think he wants something? Jo doesn’t buy his act, and wishes she could fire him. He moves on and pulls the sympathy card, explaining that he needs to use FBI resources because one of his team members is missing. Since Jo is a decent, caring person, she runs the facial recognition search for Philip.
Dawn brings Kyle into Philip’s cell so they can bunk together as a gesture of good will. Kyle admits that he’s been listening to what the Faction has to say. He gave them a TELL, which they can use to save someone and prove that they mean what they say. Kyle figures that when a TELL is messed with, it will also alert the Director that something is going on.
Kyle is having second thoughts, in part because now it’s been driven home to him that the updates will eventually kill them.
Philip: “You know what you signed up for. We took an oath.”
Kyle: “Do you regret saving Aleksander Andrieko? A lot of people agree with what you did.”
Philip: “You mean, create a monster? I put myself and my team in danger.”
Kyle: “It was the right thing to do. You know it was.”
Marcy and Boyd continue to work to keep Hall alive until they’ve rescued the historians. Inside Hall’s head, he processes what’s happening to him, through his conversation with fake Mac. He can also hear the conversation going on around him in the room, so he knows what the team is looking for. But he still has to come to terms with being discarded by the Director, the same way all of the dying Travelers do.
Hall: “You think the Director’s just going to let me die, with all the time I’ve put in? I was… I was the Director’s top guy. You know the missions I’ve put in.”
Mac: “There are lives other than your own at stake.”
Mac and Carly find the room where the historian’s update happened, with the projector still in place. Carly turns it on, and Mac fixates on the screen. By the time Carly can snap him out of it, his nose has already started to bleed, the universal sign for using your brain too hard. They figure out that one of the historians must have either been followed or turned by the Faction, who used them to kidnap the rest of the historians from the update.
Jeff visits David at his apartment. The last time David heard from Jeff, he was drunk and leaving crazy, threatening voicemails on David and Kat’s phones. Or was it when Jeff yelled threatening things to get David in trouble? Doesn’t matter. 5416 doesn’t know anything about this, and doesn’t understand why he makes David nervous.
This works out fine, because real alcoholics blackout and otherwise dismiss their own erratic behavior all the time.
David begins to catalogue Jeff’s sins, but Jeff stops him, and asks David to think of him as a new man. Jeff hasn’t had a drink in a whole week and considers himself cured. David congratulates him on making progress. He admits that he’s been making changes himself. They agree that the kidnapping served as a wake up call for both of them.
David asks Jeff how he can help. Jeff explains that he needs a social worker.
Hall has to concentrate hard to bring back his memories from just before he got shot. He remembers driving up to an abandoned building with Luca, and expecting Kyle to be there, waiting to be picked up. Hall is impatient that Kyle isn’t already there waiting, and tells Luca that there aren’t any acceptable excuses for being late. He and Luca go inside the building to look for Kyle. They find a bloody com sitting on a chair, as if it’s just been removed from someone.
Hall assumes that the com belongs to Kyle and that he’s been kidnapped by the Faction. He reminds Luca that Protocol 3 has been suspended for Faction. It’s shoot first, and shoot to kill. Luca thinks that they should try to talk to the Faction. When Hall refuses, because the Faction kidnapped their historian, Luca says, “You’d do the same in their place.”
A couple of Faction members appear behind them. Hall shoots at them, then he and Luca escape.
Dawn visits Kyle and Philip again in their cell. She brings a pad so they can watch the TELL that Kyle gave her play out. At the last second, someone pulls a man out of the road who’s about to be hit by a car.
Dawn says, “But instead we changed history. A man would have died but instead we saved his life. We’ve already erased the traffic cam footage. Working with us, historians don’t have to carry the burden. We can act on it.”
Philip: “Until you get caught or overwritten. You can’t outrun the future.”
Dawn: “We managed to get you here.”
Dawn leaves them with a parting shot: “We can force you to tell us what you know. We’d just prefer it to be of your own accord.”
It must be comforting to know that torture is only used when necessary. As long as you’re one of the good prisoners of war, you’re ok.
5416 has told Jeff Conniker’s story to David, but it sounds like he left a few details out. David says that it must have been really hard, to lose his job and his kid, at practically the same time. 5416 says, “It just put me over the top.”
There is no acknowledgement that those events didn’t just happen to Jeff. He brought them on himself with his drinking, neglectful parenting and violent temper. He received less punishment than he deserved for the DUI. Losing his badge and his child were appropriate punishment for his actions.
Being kidnapped is rough. His reaction to it was over the top, and reflected the ways that he’d already descended into darkness. It didn’t cause the darkness. This show does a disservice to victims and addicts who need help if it pretends otherwise. If an addict is going to overcome their addiction, they need to admit to themselves that they are responsible for their own actions.
David thinks that Jeff seems calmer now, so Jeff asks him to sign off on his form. David refuses, because he knows that Jeff isn’t over his addiction after one week. He’ll guide Jeff through the process if Jeff wants to actually work on his addiction, but he won’t lie for Jeff. Jeff agrees to do rehab with David. They start by going for a walk.
Back at ops, Boyd is worried about her historian, Nathan, who is the last living member of her original team. She wonders what will become of her if Nathan dies. Protocol 5 for the rest of her life? Reassignment to a new team? Marcy is sure that the Director has a plan for Boyd, but Boyd is worried that she’ll have to continue on alone. Marcy reassures her that she’s not alone.
Marcy feels no hypocrisy concerning her treatment of Grace when she says this.
Faction members find Hall and Luca, so Hall starts shooting as they run to escape. Outside, Hall climbs a chain link fence to get out of the school yard, but he’s shot while he’s climbing. He hangs from the top of the fence for a moment to look back at Luca, who’s watching him and making no move to help him or escape. Luca has gone over to the Faction. Luca’s betrayal made a strong enough impression that this image shows up on the black box.
Once Hall remembers Luca, he no longer needs Mac. Luca appears in the pool instead, saying, “It wasn’t me.” In Hall’s memory, Luca walks toward him and reveals that Kyle was the shooter. Hall also gives the team a black box image of Kyle with the gun.
Luca tells Kyle to go, then stays with Hall for a moment. Even after the betrayal, Luca is all Hall’s got. He grips Luca’s hand and says, “The Director’s gonna find you.” Luca replies, “Lucky you taught me how to hide.” He pulls his hand from Hall’s grip and walks away, leaving Hall to die alone.
It’s not clear whether Hall said that last line as a threat, or because he was still worried for Luca. Luca was done with Hall, that was clear, and tragic, despite Hall’s harsh demeanor toward everyone.
I would like to register my objection to Luca becoming Faction. I know the foreshadowing was there, but I still don’t like it. He was a stable, strong, steady presence for both Hall and Marcy. Losing that is hard enough, but losing it to this kind of betrayal is devastating.
Kyle was always a flake, whether he was a high school kid or a Traveler. It’s not a surprise that 001 would zero in on him as the historian they could turn.
Kyle decides to break Protocol 2 to tell Philip about the future. It’s not getting better, despite Mac’s team’s heroics, which are so famous that future Traveler candidates study them. Philip talks about the historian who died and was overwritten, as if he’s also having doubts about the Director. Then Kyle brings up Aleksander again. Philip pounds on the cell door and says that he’s ready to talk.
Mac and Carly have hit a dead end, so they return to ops. Mac asks Hall if he can give them an idea about where Luca and Kyle are, since they think the historians are with them.
Hall talks to Luca about a mission where they had to destroy a bridge before it collapsed, then lay low so the cops wouldn’t find them. They hid out in an old juvie hall. He realizes that he’s there, and wanders outside, where he takes a good look at the sign showing the building’s address. It shows up on the black box. Real and not real Mac both thank him.
Hall’s not sure how to die. Mac suggests taking a walk. Hall tells Mac to keep saving the world for him.
Once they have the address, the entire team takes off to rescue the historians. Boyd stays behind to sit with Hall.
David takes Jeff down to the alley where the homeless people live. He wants Jeff to do his community service with these people, so that Jeff gets to know people who are worse off than him. A messenger, in the form of a little girl, finds Jeff while David’s back is turned, and orders him to join the team on the rescue operation. He makes his excuses to David and leaves.
Dawn brings Philip into an observation room. They appear to be intending to record him and monitor his vitals, but he starts a fight and escapes before it gets that far. Luca and Kyle cut him off in a hallway. Philip tries to convince Luca and Kyle to leave the Faction, but they tell him that the Director is failing and there’s no Grand Plan any more.
The team arrives just in time. Carly comes up from behind and shoots Luca and Kyle, just as they are about to shoot Philip. Carly gives him a gun and tells him to find the other historians. He chases down Dawn and demands the keys to the cells. She tries again to turn him. First she asks if he’s going to kill her.
Philip: “You’re going to face the Director.”
Dawn: “Yeah, cause that’s somehow different? Look, how you reconcile my death is up to you. But I meant what I said. The future needs us to work together. No, don’t!”
Dawn had her hands up to show she wasn’t a threat, then put them down when she was halfway through, to look like a friend. When a Faction member came around the corner behind Philip and tried to shoot Philip, she was frantic to stop the shooter. The shooter misses, then Philip turns and shoots him. Dawn has escaped again in the tumult. Philip gives chase, but she’s gone for real this time.
Philip and Dawn seemed to have a real connection, one which overcame their loyalties to the Director or the Faction. That could be interesting to explore further. She’s like a version of Jenny who’s being straight with him.
Mac, Marcy and Trevor are pinned down in a doorway, exchanging fire. Mac asks Trevor to cover him, but Trevor is frozen in place for several seconds, almost like a small seizure. Eventually they escape and continue taking out Faction members.
Carly and Jeff move through the building together, taking out Faction members. The two Travelers make a great team. Jeff discovers that his anti-Traveler support group leader is there, and is Faction. The leader is just as surprised that Jeff is a Traveler. When he goes for his gun, Jeff shoots him.
When the op is over, Mac calls Boyd to let her know that they found all of the historians, including Nathan, and they’re all safe. He asks her to let Hall know that he helped save them. Inside his head, Hall lies down on the grass and looks up at the trees. His vitals and the black box fade until he’s gone.
Jeff drives Carly back home. She notices an unopened gift for Jeff jr in the back seat. The baby’s birthday is coming up soon. Original Jeff must have gotten it before he died. Carly tells 5416/Jeff that she met the baby’s new mother and it seems like he’s in a healthy environment now. They’re both happy for him.
When Trevor and Philip get back to ops, Trevor offers to make his spicy vegetable stir fry for dinner. Philip goes into the bathroom to clean up. As he goes, he pauses to look at the med bay, where Hall’s body has already been removed.
In the bathroom, he looks in the mirror. He sees himself as a company man, the guy who follows orders without question. He’s been trying to make up for going rogue with Aleksander and with Jenny by being controlled and what he considers mature.
Philip takes out his yellow historian pills and prepares to take them, but then thinks better of it. He throws them all away. He wants his head clear of both the Director’s and the Faction’s manipulations from now on.
He takes out his pony tail and lets his hair down, then splashes water on his face. When he looks in the mirror again, rogue Philip, who thinks for himself, is back.
Does he believe in free will yet?
At the end of season 1, episode 12, Mac’s team was ready to fracture. They had orders to shoot each other, conflicting orders about the quantum frame and resentments that had built up over the season. Their arrests and Trevor’s shooting brought them back together and they worked out their issues, so that they’ve become a close team.
In this episode, Philip saw how badly that could have gone, with a team turning against itself, leading to betrayal and murder. The rift between Luca and Hall feels especially huge, because they were as close as brothers. But, like brothers sometimes do, they ended up with very different ideas about things, which they couldn’t reconcile. The civil war that was going on in the future in season 2 is still happening, both in the 21st and in the future, but the Travelers aren’t being told about it. It’s escalating, and tearing teams apart.
In season 1 episode 10, Kathryn, Mac spends the episode unconscious and dying while Trevor grows a new heart for Mac inside his own body. Mac sees visions of Kat that deepen his understanding of his host’s wife and anchor him to the 21st century. In this episode, Hall is unconscious and dying, while the Faction tries to remove the heart of the Traveler teams, the historians, and his own heart has already been ripped out, in the form of Luca’s betrayal. Hall sees visions of Mac and Luca, which deepen his understanding of himself and his relationship with both of them, in addition to allowing him to complete his final mission. Once the historians are safe, he passes on peacefully, knowing he’s protected the Traveler program one last time.
Luca’s betrayal is part of the reason why Hall’s mind conjured up Mac instead of him. It also chose Mac because Hall works best with an antagonist to push back against. He needs someone to challenge him and his ideas, so that he has to defend his reasoning and think deeper. That can be difficult to live with, but it can lead to greatness. Hall would never admit that out loud, but it’s shown by the way he wanted to combine with Mac’s team right up until the end.
Lol at Jeff being surprised that David expects him to actually work at recovery.
Dawn and the Faction want historians, but they seem to want Philip in particular. Dawn tries to stop the other Faction member from shooting him. Do they want Philip because they think he’d be easier to turn, since he already has a tendency to go rogue, or because of knowledge they have about his future?
Remember that time, in season 2 episode 3, Jacob, when Mac decided it was a good idea for the team to slaughter 001, and at the same time 001 decided to slaughter the entire team? They were all stopped at the last minute because 001’s son was used as a messenger and a messenger showed up at the door of ops. At the time, we thought it was the Director, and that it just didn’t want all out war, but it was still confusing. Later, we discovered that the Faction was in charge of messengers at that point. It’s obvious now why they’d save 001. But why save Mac’s team? Was it for Philip? Does the 001 of the future know that Philip is important in some way?
Where is 001? I don’t think we saw him in this episode. Dawn doesn’t speak deliberately enough to be 001, and they wouldn’t risk their leader’s life again so quickly by putting him in the middle of another shoot out. Not when they need him to make it to the distant future.
On the other hand, 001 would love the idea of waltzing into ops unrecognized. So, 009, as we saw her in episode 6, with her suit that matches Perrow’s, is still my choice for 001’s current host during this interlude. I think it’s possible that he’s decided to jump hosts frequently, so that the Director doesn’t get a chance to figure out who he is before he’s moved on to the next body.
How sweet of Marcy to jump in and offer support to Boyd when she’s worried that she’ll be left without a team. Boyd is likely worried about being left without a team because she’s worked with Grace a few times now, who has no team and little support from Mac’s team. Definitely no support from Marcy. But Marcy has things in common with Boyd that she doesn’t with Grace. Boyd is deserving of her sympathy, right? Unlike the woman who saved her life?
This would also be an issue with the writers, who are emphasizing the male friendships, but have largely forgotten the female friendships this season. Marcy and Carly’s scenes generally revolve around David and 5416/Jeff/Jeff jr or being strict professionals. They aren’t getting the rich character development as individuals that we’re seeing with Trevor, Philip and Mac.
It’s striking that these seasoned Travelers have no idea how Boyd’s potential situation is generally handled. It can’t be all that uncommon, given the death rate among Travelers. We’ve seen Travelers operate on their own, operate as satellites to another team, be assigned to teams that have lost members, and be retired, either temporarily or permanently. All of those options would be possibilities for Boyd. Why doesn’t she know that?
Because of Protocols 2 and 6, of course. The Travelers aren’t allowed to mingle or share information, so they have no idea what’s going on with other Travelers. This policy helped keep Travelers from realizing that the Director was allowing 001 to kidnap and execute thousands of Travelers, for years. It allows the Director to get away with almost anything. Between timeline changes altering memories in the future and the lack of communication in the present, no one notices or can share enough information to put clues together. The Faction has used this to great effect, and, with 001 in charge, it can only get worse. So why do the programmers continue with this policy? It also allows them to get away with almost anything. Should we be suspicious of everyone?
The writers are emphasizing the male friendships this season, but have largely forgotten the female friendships. Marcy and Carly’s scenes generally revolve around David and 5416/Jeff/Jeff jr or being strict professionals. They aren’t getting the rich character development as individuals that we’re seeing with Trevor, Philip and Mac. And Trevor and Philip are getting wonderful, rich character development. I love the direction their stories have been going. The overall story arcs of the season are exciting and fast paced. I love the addition of Dawn and Magda Apanowicz. She’s had good chemistry with the cast and created an intriguing character. Jo Yates has been kept one-dimensional and has been underused, but I like the actress, Kimberley Sustad. In so many ways, this has been a fantastic season, so far. I just wish they weren’t being so misogynistic and unfair to the female characters.
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.
001 5692 Katrina Perrow-001
Images courtesy of Netflix.