Welcome to the beginning of the end, fellow Travelers! Episode 8 marks the start of the story cycle that will take us through the season finale. These are three exciting, well-written episodes, and I’m looking forward to writing about them. They’re also very emotional and filled with plot and science.
So, rather than spoil anything, let’s get started.
The scene opens on beloved Canadian actor Christopher Heyerdahl, who you’ll definitely recognize from somewhere if you’ve watched any genre TV in the last 30 years. His character, Andrew Graham, is alone outside, in a deserted area, wearing a pair of coveralls and burning the personal effects of Linda MacVicar, who was Aleksander Andrieko’s foster mother in S3 Ep3. He even has her purse and phone.
The phone rings as he’s slowly removing and examining the items in her purse. He gently places a unicorn figure on top of the pile, then answers the phone, but doesn’t speak. It’s Linda’s foster son, Ronnie, who was also shown in episode 3.
Ronnie: “Mom? Mom? I’m sorry about what happened. I, uh, I told the police it’s not your fault. You were right. I shouldn’t have been standing there. Please don’t be mad. Mom?”
He hangs up the phone, throws it on the pile, and lights up the whole thing.
That wasn’t creepy at all.
Graham leaves the scene and drives his pickup truck down a back country road, now in a paramedic’s uniform, after removing his coveralls. He gets a Time of Death Countdown Clock when he goes to light a cigarette and drops the truck’s cigarette lighter on the floor. As he reaches down for it, he swerves into the other lane and almost hits another car. At the same time, the truck’s floor carpet catches fire. Both vehicles pull over.
The fire spreads quickly and Graham is too panicky to undo the seatbelt. He gets the incoming Traveler headache, undoes the seatbelt, gets out of the car, and tries to stop, drop and roll. His pant legs are both on fire. The woman from the car uses a blanket to smother the flames. The man from the car calls 911.
Once the flames are out, Graham vomits up chunks of meat and vegetables. And an intact human eyeball. The couple who helped him are shocked and disgusted. So is the Traveler in Andrew Graham.
Really, really didn’t need to see the eyeball. I stopped watching The Walking Dead when Glenn died so that I wouldn’t have to look at his eyeball. And other reasons.
Anyway, Andrew Graham is a cannibal killer. Another oops for the Director’s record.
Yates corners Mac at the office and asks if he can be an FBI agent today. He agrees. She tells him about a local serial killer, known as the Bellevue Butcher, who’s killed at least 5 women over 12 years. He eats parts of his victims, all mothers who abused their children, before disposing of the bodies.
Andrew Graham appears to be the killer, but he claims to be innocent and has refused a lawyer. He says that he doesn’t remember the crimes. So far, there’s no DNA evidence tying him to the other five women. They’re still waiting to ID the eyeball. He’s been arrested on suspicion of desecrating a corpse and is being brought to them for more questioning.
She asks him, very seriously, if he can handle a case like this.
Mac: “Jo, I haven’t shared a lot of details about the future with you, but trust me, this… is nothing.”
Well, that’s interesting. Just what do they get up to in the future, when they want a break from yeast gruel??? My mind immediately goes to Snowpiercer, and eating human arms vs babies vs cockroaches turned into protein bars. You won’t convince me that the dome doesn’t have mice and cockroaches. And ants. As long as humans exist, those species will exist with us.
Of course, we should never forget that Soylent Green is people.
Hope I didn’t spoil anyone.
Philip wakes up in the morning and finds a naked Carly in bed with him. She gets a com message and sits up, telling him she’s glad they grabbed that coffee. Then she fades away, back into her own timeline, or wherever the alternates go.
Philip looks like he’s seen a ghost. He gets up and sees three different Trevors doing three different things as he walks across the garage. Then he bumps his hip on his desk. A fourth Trevor stares at him.
Philip notes that Trevor is staring straight at him. Trevor says that he does that when he talks to people.
This Trevor would be in the correct timeline, then.
Trevor asks how Philip is going to navigate in the field, when he’s seeing so many timelines at once, if he can’t even walk across the room. Philip is sure that he can do better with time. Trevor encourages him to start taking the yellow pills again, after discouraging them in the beginning. Philip wants to get better on his own, without depending on drugs anymore. Trevor has an idea he hopes will help.
Marcy is training David in hand to hand outside in a park. He’s worried about the optics of him appearing to beat up a tiny woman in public. They discuss whether he should ask the potential onlookers to turn away, and whether he’ll be able to do that before a fight. David wonders for a second if it’s a real option. Marcy just looks at him.
I love it when they do their “crossed wires” humor.
He tries to distract her with a fake out comment before making his move, but she doesn’t fall for it, and flips him to the ground. He asks if she heard a bone snap.
I gotta say, that did look terrible for his shoulder.
He gets up again and Marcy tells him to pretend she’s the guys who beat him up. He complains that they didn’t beat him up. They hit him once. Then he realizes that actually isn’t better.
Marcy shoves him and asks him how it makes him feel and what he’s going to do about it? “Wanna get your balls out of my purse?” 😆
Those were the magic words. He grabs her and flips her onto the ground before either one of them even realize what’s happening. When David does realize it, he apologizes and explains what happened to the park onlookers in general. Then he figures out that he really, really flipped her, and they go through another whole process.
Jeff and Carly are having breakfast and being adorable together in an outdoor plaza. He’s teasing her by listing awful 90s slang words that he supposedly learned in training- tubular, rad, fly.
May we never go back to those days. It would totally harsh my mellow.
Jeff gets a couple of texts and has to take off to do something mission related, that he can’t share with Carly. Before he leaves, he tells her that he enjoyed their breakfast.
Mac and Jo join Andrew Graham in an interrogation room. Mac introduces everyone for the recording. Andrew perks up when he hears Mac’s name. Jo gets right to it by spreading out crime scene photos of original Andrew’s victims. Mac tells Andrew that they’ve identified the eye as Linda MacVicar’s and they know that Andrew was one of the paramedics who responded to a call at her home 2 nights ago when her foster son broke his arm.
Jo adds that original Andrew targeted abusive mothers because his own mother abused him. Andrew says, “Life is a gift. I would never do that.” Mac responds, “Except you did.”
Mac continues, telling Andrew that they know he desecrated Linda’s body and they have hospital records to tie him to the other 5 women. Right now, they want him to confess where he put Linda’s body. Andrew has continued to mildly protest that he wasn’t involved. Now he agitatedly asks for a glass of water.
Jo and Mac have a silent conversation to decide who will go get it. Jo is closer to the door, so she loses. As soon as she’s out the door, Andrew’s demeanor changes. “I’m Traveler 7189. If I don’t complete my mission, a lot of people are going to die.”
He recognizes Mac from training, but he couldn’t say anything in front of Jo. He was trained to escape the burning car, but the future didn’t know that Andrew Graham was the Belleview Butcher. The first time, the evidence was destroyed by the fire. This time it survived, inside his stomach. They have to find a way to get him out of custody.
At nearby Humphries University, Samantha Burns and Amanda Myers celebrate their physics theory passing an important milestone (review) on the way to a Nobel Prize. As they share a glass of champagne, they marvel that they could change the world.
Trevor’s idea to help Philip was for them to meditate together. When Philip opens his eyes, he only sees one Trevor in the correct timeline, but after a moment another two Trevors and timelines appear. Trevor holds up his hand and asks Philip to count how many fingers he’s holding up. Philip says 11, if he counts all of them, but only 4 if he goes with just middle Trevor’s hand.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine having too many Trevors. They should add a couple more Philips and everything will be perfect.
They return to their meditating.
Mac informs Jo that Andrew is a Traveler and needs to be released long enough to complete his very important mission, which he of course can’t tell her anything about. All he’ll tell her is that Andrew is highly trained and is the only one who can complete it. He says that she wouldn’t understand the mission, then belatedly says that he wouldn’t either. She refuses to give in.
And they’d been working so well together today. Mac needs a seminar in negotiating tactics along with his sexual harassment training.
Jo continues to try to get Mac to reveal something to her about the mission which would give her grounds for letting a serial killer walk out the door. The police just caught the Belleview Butcher after 12 years of searching and he just murdered someone yesterday. The press already know about him, and her higher ups are watching. It’s not as simple to let him go as Mac seems to think.
Mac has lied to her and tricked her before, so the kind of trust you’d expect between partners isn’t there. He hasn’t put the effort in to build it. He expects to automatically have it, maybe because he did with Forbes, but the real Mac spent years building that relationship. He’s also used to Travelers instantly cooperating because they follow the Director’s orders, but Jo isn’t a Traveler, as he keeps reminding her.
She gives up on getting him to give her any information, and admonishes him not to get in the way of Andrew’s official arrest or transport to jail. Mac has his angry, “backed into a corner” face on.
Marcy and David have gone home to do yoga together. This scene mirrors the scene in S2 Ep2, where Carly and Jeff work out together on floor mats.
Marcy is telling David that yoga is about both physical and mental strength, and is a great stress reliever. He debates for a moment whether he’s good at handling stress or not. Then he gets a message on his phone, letting him know that Jeff missed his AA meeting.
David debates what to do about Jeff, since he’s worried that Jeff has started drinking again. Should he go track Jeff down right now? Marcy tells him it’s not his job, but he points out that, in fact, it is. Marcy says that it’s David’s day off, and he’s allowed to take some time for himself. He can’t believe that Jeff would miss the meeting after David wrote it in his day planner for him!!
Marcy convinces him that there’s another stress reliever they need to try instead, and kissing ensues. Just as Marcy is taking David’s shirt off, Carly coms her to say they have a mission and she’ll pick her up in 90 seconds. Marcy stops what she’s doing and tells a disappointed David that she forgot about an appointment.
Before she goes, she stops to say, “I love you.” David says, “I love you, too.”
Jeff and another man take a break in the middle of loading a heavy wooden crate onto a truck. Neither of them know what’s in the large crate, but the case is lined with lead.
Which stops radiation from leaking out or being detected.
A guard tells them both that Dawn wants to see them.
Jeff/5416 has infiltrated the Faction.
Dawn tells them that she’s noticed how dedicated they are to the cause and she’s going to reward them with more responsibility. The other man tells her that he’s in. She says,”Good,” and points a handheld com signal disruptor at him. His com lets out a high-pitched whine and glows blue, exposing him as a Traveler instead of a 21ster or Faction.
When Jeff sees that the other Traveler is exposed, he thinks quick and jumps on the guy. Then he punches the other Traveler several times, acting like they’re bitter enemies, which is the part he’s supposed to be playing. When he stops, Dawn tells him he’s not finished and hands him a gun. Jeff hesitates, using the excuse that he’s never killed anyone in cold blood.
Jeff asks if this is some kind of test and Dawn says, “Of course it’s a f–king test. That’s obvious.” He shoots the guy in the head.
Mac watches as Andrew is taken out to the prison transport vehicle. He tells Carly that Andrew is on his way. The team is waiting nearby in a couple of vehicles. Philip remotely turns off the van that’s transporting Andrew, then locks the doors on the transport vehicles. The team pulls up behind them when they stop.
Trevor and Carly put on balaclavas and get Andrew out of the van at gunpoint. He willingly scrambles out. Jo knows that it’s Mac’s team and she’s pissed.
Dawn walks and talks with Jeff.
Dawn: “When the Director came back online, we were forced into hiding. Some of us who weren’t overwritten, we came here, living off the grid. We suspected that there was a mole, but we needed to be sure before we entered the next phase. You did the right thing, Jeff. Sir, this is the one I told you about.”
It’s 001, in a new body. He looks like a younger, handsomer version of Vincent Ingram. His favorite identical twin bodyguards stand behind archivist A-18, who was with the historians at the update in episode 6, and has presumably been held hostage by 001 and the Faction since then. She’s tied to a chair and looks like she’s been tortured.
001 greets Jeff and tells him that they’re ready to give him more responsibility. When Jeff looks at A-18, 001 explains: She’s what the Traveler’s call an “archivist”. They preserve important information for the Director. It’s all very secret.
Jeff: “So that’s how the Director sees what’s going on.”
001: “That’s how the Director’s knowledge of the present has grown since the Traveler program began. Unfortunately, our typical methods of questioning don’t work, due to the nanites found in her bloodstream. But she’ll break… eventually.”
Dawn tells Jeff to stand guard over the archivist while they’re gone. Dawn, 001 and the twins walk away. Jeff asks if he has to torture the prisoner. 001 says, “Only if you like. Happy hunting.”
As soon as they’re gone, 5416 tells her who he is and that the Director sent him to find her. She explains that the Faction is after the archive. She doesn’t know how much information she’s revealed, since they drugged her. They need to secure the archive.
Jeff unties her, as she pulls out a dagger 001 had left embedded in her side. She’s so badly wounded that her nanites are struggling to keep up with the injuries. She needs medical attention.
Andrew changes his clothes in the van, as a warning that he’s on the loose and dangerous plays on the radio. He scoffs at the idea that he’s dangerous, then asks if either Carly or Trevor can tell him what prison will be like. None of them have studied 21st century prisons.
Philip blinds the traffic cams for them as they drive, then shuts down the campus cameras when they get to Humphries University. Carly takes Andrew inside to meet with Samantha. She’s shocked to see a serial killer, but they convince her it’s okay and get her to listen.
Back at ops, Jo and a strike team bust through the door. Philip, Marcy and Mac are already standing up with their hands in the air. Jo demands to know where Andrew is.
Philip saw Jo and the strike team coming through the door in a timeline vision earlier this season in episode 2.
Jeff has to fight his way out of the Faction hideout, with the archivist in tow. He’s able to single-handedly defeat all of the Faction’s people. Is he that good, are they that bad, or did they let him go?
Jo insists that Mac either turn over Andrew or tell her what’s going on. Mac, Philip and Marcy assure her that Andrew will turn himself in once he’s done with his mission, which won’t take much longer. Philip says that there won’t be a public to protect from Andrew if he doesn’t complete the mission.
Philip: “Twenty years from now a highly advanced alternative energy source causes an unforeseen gamma ray burst that kills 1.4 billion people within hours. Imagine most of Europe being wiped out in an afternoon. Any survivors of the initial burst eventually die off when the ozone layer is stripped away. There is no coming back from it.”
Jo: “What kind of energy source?”
Mac: “It’s called a singularity engine.”
Jo: “What the h–l is that?”
Philip: “A nuclear power plant is .08% efficient. The sun’s core is an order of magnitude greater at .7%. But utilizing the rotational movement of a gravitational singularity, theoretically, provides a power source that’s 29% efficient.”
Marcy: “It’s a civilization ending event.”
Jo asks why today is the day the singularity engine has to be stopped. Mac explains that since they stopped the Helios event, there are people alive who would have died, including the two scientists who will patent the singularity engine in 11 months. Today, their research was accepted for publication. They can’t be allowed to publish.
Jo assumes they’re going to assassinate the two scientists. Mac tells her “no,” they sent Andrew in to show Samantha why her amazing career and fortune making breakthrough can never be utilized. Almost no one, in any time, understands the math involved, so it had to be Andrew, and it had to be today. He’s the only one who could legitimately show her where they got the numbers wrong, or maybe they didn’t take them far enough?
David is reading a science fiction novel (This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin) when Jeff pounds on his door. Jeff has A-18 with him, who’s now unconscious, and he’s looking for Marcy, since she’s a medic. David tells him that Marcy’s out, so Jeff attempts to treat A-18 as best he can on his own. He asks for a towel to use to put pressure on the knife wound, and asks David to get Marcy’s med kit.
David is overwhelmed and easily distracted during this conversation, having trouble concentrating on taking care of the dying woman on his floor. When Jeff prompts him to pay attention, he gets Marcy’s bag.
I wonder if David is having concentration issues because it’s a side effect the memory serum. He doesn’t usually have trouble focusing during a crisis. The novel he’s chosen suggests his memories of the kidnapping might be coming back (more on that below). That could also explain some of Kat’s erratic behavior in season 2, after she was given the serum to cover up the plane crash in S1, Ep10.
Jeff asks David to look for an auto-injector in Marcy’s med kit. The case is the first thing he pulls out, so Jeff grabs it from him and gives A-18 an injection of neurostimulant. David is busy fussing about not knowing that Jeff works with the “FBI” and Marcy.
A-18 wakes up immediately. Jeff tells her where they are and what’s going on. He asks if David can handle a gun. When David says yes, that Marcy taught him how, Jeff recruits him as backup. David wonders why they aren’t calling Marcy or someone else who would know what they’re doing.
Gotta say, I’m wondering that, too. He could have called someone on speakerphone on the drive to David’s house and told them to meet him there, or that he’d call them once he had the address to the archive.
But Jeff tells David that the whole world and Marcy are depending on him to be a hero now, or something to that effect, so David stops arguing and follows Jeff out the door. But first, he throws the bloody towel in the sink and grabs his gun from the drawer. Jeff tells David not to shoot anyone unless ordered to do so. David wasn’t planning to.
I’m really not okay with the sight of David with a gun in his hand, going out to face the Faction. That’s a little to real.
Mac and Jo arrive at the university just as Andrew is finishing ruining Samantha’s career.
Andrew: “Which again leads back to the singularity that’s coalescing and producing a gamma ray burst. It’s outside this collapser model parameter.”
Samantha looks wrecked and has to sit down. Andrew follows her and gives her a huge, long hug. He’s probably the sweetest Traveler we’ve ever met. Samantha says that, once she shows Amanda the correct math, she’ll understand that they can’t publish or produce this theory. But she wonders how Andrew knew about the theory to begin with. Carly tells her it’s classified.
Mac and Jo arrive to arrest Andrew. He understands that he’s on Protocol 5 indefinitely. Since he’s cooperating, Jo agrees to leave the cuffs off.
The archivist is making calls to the other Traveler archives around the world while Jeff drives them to the Seattle archive. None of them are answering on their secure lines. She’s afraid that the Faction kidnapped all of them. Any of them could have talked under interrogation, and she might have, too. She doesn’t know, since she was drugged. She calls in her reinforcements to help move the archive. “This is A-18. I have a Protocol Epsilon emergency at these coordinates.”
Once they arrive at the archive, David demands to know what’s going on, threatening to call the police if Jeff doesn’t tell him. Jeff tells him that they’re giving civilization a fighting chance, but that’s as far as he gets before they hear others approaching. Jeff orders David to take A-18 into the archive.
The archive is a freestanding vault, the size of a shipping container, in the middle of an old roller rink. A-18 unlocks the biolock, then opens the huge round door. Inside, the vault is set up as a medical lab, with hundreds of bags of blood hanging from racks along the walls.
I get it now. The future is terrible because they’re all vampires. Wait, that show doesn’t start for a couple of weeks and is on Fox.
A-18 goes to a giant medical procedures chair in the center of the room that’s already prepped for her to extract blood from her arm. When he sees what she’s doing, David tries to stop her, assuming she’s donating blood when she’s seriously wounded.
A-18: “Under the table there are some cases. Pack all the blood you can into them. We have to be ready to move them to the backup site when the reinforcements arrive.”
David: “We’re not moving any blood anywhere until you get some medical attention.”
A-18: “It’s not just blood. It’s genetically stored historical information, encoded into DNA by nanites. It’s how the future receives new information from the past… The faction may have compromised the other archives. If we don’t preserve this one, the Director will go blind.”
A-18 must have assumed that David is a particularly dense Traveler. Several vehicles pull up in front of the old roller rink. From inside, David and A-18 hear gunfire being exchanged. David has been preoccupied with trying to get a phone signal, in addition to dissuading A-18 from doing her part to save the world. When he hears the shots, he finally gives up on pretending this is in any way normal, and puts the blood bags in the cases.
Mac and Jo take Andrew to a diner for a last/first meal before he goes to jail. He has French fries, a milkshake, a hot dog, and several other plates of food in front of him. He’s having the typical Traveler reaction to 21st century food, which is to say, he wants to marry it.
He asks what the hot dog is called. Jo tells him. He assumes he’s eating a dog. She says it’s not dog, so he thinks it’s called a not dog. She decides to give up on correcting him.
Jo looks at Andrew like she might be starting to understand how bad the future must be, and is heartbroken for everyone. Mac is being taken back to his roots and his arrival in the 21st, but retains his professional dignity and doesn’t say much. When 2 agents come into the diner to pick up Andrew, Jo tells them to let him finish his food.
Marcy comes home to an empty apartment.
At the archives, the shooting has stopped and A-18 is done with her current blood bag. David turns to take it from her, with his arms full of blood bags, which he has pressed to his chest. As A-18 holds out the latest bag to him, she’s shot in the forehead. Then David’s shot several times in the chest, through the bags of the archivist’s blood. He falls down on his back, splutters a few times, then lies still.
Marcy tries to call his phone, but there’s still no signal in the vault.
Carly and Philip are out for a walk, making small talk. He takes a chance and asks her out for a coffee, like he did in the timeline where they ended up in bed together. She asks if he’s making it weird again, like she did in S2 when she thought he might have a thing for her. He starts to deny it, but then sees a vision of a nuclear bomb going off between the city’s skyscrapers. Carly jolts him out of the vision. A real nuclear bomb just went off in London.
I welcome explanations, corrections or additions on any of the science. And anything else. But especially the science, since sometimes I feel like I’m playing Mad Libs with astrophysics concepts.
David is just such a “good-natured fish out of water” in this episode that he becomes the plucky comic relief. He and Marcy’s romantic and comic chemistry are also on fire in this episode. Good job all around for that.
I keep forgetting to mention Mac’s veganism and his dedication to it. It’s a complex aspect of his personality, since it represents his unquestioning adherence to what he was taught in the future and his aversion to trying new things, but it also shows his absolute devotion to doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. Mac doesn’t always do the right thing, despite his intentions, but I’m glad the show has let him keep his veganism and continues to mention it.
Veganism (and vegetarianism) is getting heavy promotion in real life these days because it’s a more efficient and less polluting way to feed people than a heavy reliance on animal products. It’s actually been known for decades that eating less, or no, animal products is better for the earth. Now, it’s considered another way to help slow down climate change.
Marcy has had a wardrobe upgrade in the last few episodes. She’s always worn very feminine clothes, with ruffles, scarves and layers that threatened to overwhelm her petite frame at times, and also bordered on being little girlish sometimes. Now she’s wearing more tailored and fitted outfits that look more adult and professional. They hug her frame without being either overtly sexy or overwhelming her. I suspect she was wearing original Marcy’s clothing, and with her FBI consultant’s salary, is now able to afford a new wardrobe in her own style. Carly is also obviously spending more on her clothing this season, but I haven’t noticed her going through such a drastic style change.
Yates isn’t completely wrong to wonder whether Samantha and Amanda will be assassinated. While the Travelers only assassinate people as a last resort, the Faction follows along behind them, and makes its own decisions about how to save the future, which frequently involves a permanent, foolproof solution. The archivist and the Traveler who’d infiltrated the Faction with Jeff are both executed in this episode. Death is one of 001’s favorite tools, and it’s understandably impossible for 21sters to tell Travelers and Faction apart, when the Travelers and Faction can’t even tell the difference.
But Is It a Perfect Day?
The novel David is reading when Jeff comes to his apartment, This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin, is a dystopian work along the lines of Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, which was written by the author of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. Ira Levin also wrote a Kiss Before Dying.
The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society. Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called “The Family.“ The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp that has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. even the basic facts of nature are subject to the UniComp’s will―men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. — Amazon
Everyone wears a permanent identifying bracelet which interfaces with access points that act as scanners which tell the “Family members” where they are allowed to go and what they are allowed to do. Around the age of 62, every person dies, presumably from an overdose of the treatment liquids; almost anything in them is poisonous if an excess dose is given. Now and then, someone dies at 61 or 63, so no one is too suspicious of the regularity.
Those few who happen to be resistant to the drugs, or who purposely change their behavior to avoid strong doses of some of the drugs in the monthly treatment are dealt with by the programmers of UniComp. These long-lived men and women, in their underground hideaway, constitute the real, albeit invisible, world government. They live in absolute luxury and choose their own members through a form of meritocracy.
In part, people who choose, through evasion and modifying their own behavior, to leave the main Family are subtly re-directed to “nature preserves” of imperfect life on islands. These, however, have been put in place by the programmers as a place to isolate trouble-making Family members. The top minds among the outcasts are further manipulated into joining the programmers to help them maintain the equilibrium in the “perfect” world of UniComp and The Family. — Wikipedia
David has never seemed like the science fiction type before. Is he reading this because his memories of the kidnapping and what Perrow/001 told him are filtering back into his consciousness?
The Director and the Unicomp have a lot in common. Understandably, the Director probably doesn’t want to improve the world to the point where the Director itself blinks out of existence or becomes unnecessary. It wants to see itself as necessary in the next stage of human development.
Is this the kind of future it’s aiming for? A future in which the Director keeps a tight lid on everything, in the hope that it will stave off entropy/ a return to disorder, indefinitely? But nearly everything else that makes life valuable and interesting is also gone.
This brings up the age old argument between safety and freedom. The followers of Unicomp have chosen to make security and physical safety of the group as a whole the most important value. They’ve done so by eliminating individuality in physicality, thought and action. There are no personal choices, so no one makes bad choices that lead to destruction.
This is enforced through the use of regular, required drug treatments, which brings up some possibilities in the Traveler program. Medicine is one of the areas in which the future has advanced far beyond our capabilities. The potential for mind control and mind wiping have already been shown, when Jenny used an eyedrop overdose to make Philip compliant in S2 Ep5, and every time the memory serum has been used, most notably in S3 Ep1.
Are the Travelers’ memories of the future even real, and are they all individuals who’ve only been sent once? Or could their minds have been repackaged many times, for use all over the world, for many years? This would explain the unreasonable protocols that keep Travelers from communicating with each other. The programmers don’t want Travelers to stumble onto other versions of themselves. (The Duncan Jones/Sam Rockwell film Moon provides some food for thought in this vein.)
The amorality of the Director has been emphasized this season. In This Perfect Day, Unicomp turns out to be run by greedy programmers who make all of the decisions. In season 3 of Travelers, we’ve discovered that the Director was supposed to have programmers helping it make decisions, but the programmers have abdicated this position, except for Grace, who now has limited access.
What does it mean for the future of humanity and the Grand Plan, to have the machine assuming complete control? How does the Faction fit in, long-term? Who will turn out to be the one who ultimately destroys the machine, if that’s the direction this is headed in? Are we watching Mac’s slow re-education from favorite son to rebel leader?
Support Your Friendly Neighborhood Archivist
The kidnapping of the historians by the Faction/001 in episode 6 was a distraction. They’d already turned Kyle, so they didn’t need historians, though recruiting more couldn’t hurt. The real target was the archivist, A-18. By leaving Hall to die a slow death, and making every Traveler team panic at the thought of losing their historian, who is often their source of income, the Faction was able to get them to forget that there even was an archivist at the update. It’s possible that no one but the historians even knew that an archivist attends updates.
Even if the historians had remembered to mention A-18, 001, who we didn’t see in episode 6, probably spent that day getting her securely hidden, drugged and through the first round of interrogation. By the time the historians were rescued and could have told anyone she was still missing, it was too late. Then the Faction had days, maybe weeks, more to torture and interrogate her, 001’s specialty. (I have no idea how long it’s been since Hall died.)
Imagine how differently this would have played out if all of the Travelers in a region were encouraged to get to know and support each other. You’re not as likely to forget the existence of an archivist who’s your friend. The Travelers could have been searching for A-18 as soon as they’d found and rescued the historians. 001 once again figured out how to masterfully exploit a weakness in the protocols.
Cannibalism Makes for Great Social Commentary
My favorite cannibal episode ever is season 1, episode 5 of The Rain, which portrays a cult of gentle, spiritual cannibals. Just don’t visit the kitchen.
Travelers tosses in the cannibal killer, but doesn’t directly address the issue of cannibalism. Thematically, Andrew Graham’s history brings in abusive women to match the abusive men we’ve seen all season. This doesn’t call the men on their behavior, it just says, “See, women behave badly, too, and drive men to behave badly.” Which is an opinion the show has already shared, by having other violent men blame the women in their lives.
Andrew was repeatedly acting out his revenge on his mother with every murder, destroying her face and by consuming parts of her, exerting extreme control over someone who’d abused the power she had over him. Linking Andrew to Alexander and Ronnie hints at the generational cycle of violent abuse, where children grow up to do the same things that were done to them, because that’s all they know.
This episode shows that Aleksander really needed to be removed from that foster home, since the parents were even more abusive and neglectful than it first appeared. What was the husband doing while Linda was hurting the kids? Did she abuse him too, or was he also an abuser?
The cannibalism theme fits the overall idea that the 21st century is over consuming and over polluting itself toward the end of the world. In other words, we are a cannibalistic culture, using up resources now and stealing them from our descendants. Metaphorically eating ourselves alive now and our children later, because they’ll either never be born or they’ll die young in a ruined world.
Andrew Graham’s solution was the same as the Travelers’ solution: Remove the obvious, immediate threats to the future children, but don’t address the underlying issues that caused the threats to begin with. Nationwide, the social services system is underfunded and understaffed. Killing Linda might get her foster kids sent to a better home or it might get them sent to a worse home. It definitely destabilized their lives, and, as the teacher pointed out, that’s an issue all on its own. But Andrew Graham killed Linda for his own reasons, not to help the children, just like the Travelers change history to help their future, not to save people in the 21st. They’ve made it clear that we don’t matter, except for a few they’ve personally grown close to. But the mission, and the murder, come first.
Archivists, Blood Donations and DNA
Epsilon= 1- the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet 2- an arbitrarily small positive quantity in mathematical analysis (Merriam-Webster.com)
Protocol Epsilon refers to relocating the tiny nanites and blood cells which contain the DNA that’s used for data storage.
DNA turns out to be a great place to store data. In fact, DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room:
DNA has many advantages for storing digital data. It’s ultracompact, and it can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. And as long as human societies are reading and writing DNA, they will be able to decode it. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” says Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University. And unlike other high-density approaches, such as manipulating individual atoms on a surface, new technologies can write and read large amounts of DNA at a time, allowing it to be scaled up.
Scientists have been storing digital data in DNA since 2012. That was when Harvard University geneticists George Church, Sri Kosuri, and colleagues encoded a 52,000-word book in thousands of snippets of DNA, using strands of DNA’s four-letter alphabet of A, G, T, and C to encode the 0s and 1s of the digitized file. — Sciencemag.org
And blood is a good place to keep DNA safe, if you either freeze the blood or add a stabilizer to keep it fresh for longer at higher temperatures. The blood in the archive wasn’t frozen, but I’m willing to bet it was refrigerated. The study I found used a chemical stabilizer. The Travelers use the nanites to produce whatever’s necessary to keep the blood viable for as long as they need.
Most of the medical nanites that are produced in the 21st must be for the archivists and the family members of future descendants. The nanites must encode data into the archivist’s DNA, but I don’t think we were given any idea of how the nanites receive data. Probably through a light encoded update similar to the historians’ updates, if I were to guess. But the nanites or the DNA could be injected straight into the archivists with the data already encoded.
Somebody, probably the archivists, collects data for the Director, then it’s translated into a form that the archivists can absorb, which the nanites then encode in the archivists’ DNA, within their blood cells. Either an archivist or a programmer would convert the raw data into the program needed for the archivist to absorb the data.
Secretly infusing the blood into family members probably isn’t hard. When the person is having a medical procedure, they send a Traveler in, dressed as a nurse or doctor, to give them an injection, like Hall did when he saved Kat in S2 Ep9, so that she wouldn’t die from pregnancy complications, and like D-13 gave to Grace after she was shot in S2 Ep1. If the person gets the nanites, too, then they’re more likely to survive.
I have no idea how the DNA and the nanites get passed down through the generations. Does the DNA become part of the family’s DNA? Wouldn’t that mess them up genetically? Or is the data stored in empty spaces on the DNA? Would they come through in breast milk? Would the Travelers teach the family members some traditions to pass on, like becoming blood brothers, to give each other nanites? I don’t think we’ve been told.
I also don’t understand how they’d safeguard against shifting timelines causing changes in the list of survivors. I guess if they use enough family members, a few are bound to make it.
Singularity Engines, Gamma Ray Bursts, Mass Extinctions and the Future
If there’s one thing I’d like to see more of, or at least hear more about, in future seasons, it’s the Travelers’ future. We’ve learned a little more this season, but I want some real questions answered. Is the dome the only place that humans are left alive in the world? Does anyone or anything live outside the dome, or ever go outside? Do they even know for sure what’s happening on other continents?
Why is there such an imbalance between the level of technology and the standard of living in daily life? Why don’t the people put their resources into improving their future, such as working on their infrastructure? They could have the Travelers hide resources and materials for them to find, like they were doing with the uranium to fuel the Director in S2 Ep6.
The singularity engine, which was to blame for the most recent future version of the apocalypse, is a concept that comes from the realms of theoretical physics and science fiction. The most frequent use for it is to power long-range starships. Almost everyone agrees that it’s a bad idea to bring even a small black hole
home onto your planet, since black holes eventually disappear in massive explosions. Which is what Amanda and Samantha’s singularity/baby black hole was fated to do as well.
So why wasn’t it obvious to them from the start that this is what would happen? This season is showing us many good ideas that go wrong. This is another one that was created with the best of intentions, but caused the end of the world.
In space fiction shows, the singularity engines used to power starships include an agent that binds the black hole so that it doesn’t get out of control or explode. This is purely fictional, so I’m not going to explain it further, but the links do. Samantha must have thought she’d found a binding agent that would contain the energy and allow them to harvest it safely for the long-term. Philip said they were planning to harvest the singularity’s rotational energy, rather than its Hawking radiation, but the dangerous radiation would still have to be dealt with.
All we know is that the singularity engine worked for a few years, then went very wrong, leading the singularity to gravitational collapse and an explosion which produced a gamma ray burst. If you understood Andrew’s math, please translate it into something non-mathematicians can understand down in the comments!
Gravitational collapse occurs when an object’s internal pressure is insufficient to resist the object’s own gravity. For stars this usually occurs either because a star has too little “fuel” left to maintain its temperature through stellar nucleosynthesis, or because a star that would have been stable receives extra matter in a way that does not raise its core temperature. In either case the star’s temperature is no longer high enough to prevent it from collapsing under its own weight. — Wikipedia
The gravitational collapser modeler parameter would be the mathematical equation that Andrew uses to predict the singularity’s gravitational collapse (when it collapses inward on itself, to become smaller and denser), which precipitated the explosion and gamma ray burst. Samantha and Amanda must have thought that keeping the singularity stable within certain parameters would avoid gravitational collapse, but either it proved impossible to keep it within the parameters or it proved unsafe in the long run, even within the established parameters.
Babylon 5 Tech Manual- Controlling a Quantum Singularity Power Source
Physics.stackexchange.com- How Would a Black Hole Power Plant Work?
BBCFuture- Could We Harness Power from Black Holes?
Quora.com- Is It Possible to Use a Quantum Singularity to Power a Starship?
I had already predicted that a gamma ray burst might be what causes the future ice age in Travelers, so it’s cool to see my limited scientific understanding play out on screen. In my Hard Sun episode 2 recap, I explained how a GRB would affect the earth and result in a mass extinction similar to the other mass extinctions earth has experienced, which some species would survive, and which the earth would eventually recover from, after millions of years. I was working with the idea that the gamma rays would come from space, rather than a black hole on the surface of the earth.
The PBS Space Time videos are great for explaining tough concepts in astrophysics. They also like to talk about the end of the world and the solar system, constantly and gleefully, so if the idea of the sun someday swallowing up the earth upsets you, avoid this series.
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.
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Images courtesy of Netflix.
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