From Philip to Boyd to Hall, the Travelers Don’t Like the Idea of Ending Up Alone
Spoilers Through Season 3 Episode 10, Protocol Omega
Being a solo Traveler or the last remaining member of a Traveler team has come up several times this season. Grace and 5416 are solo Travelers. The Archivist, A-18, appears to also be a solo traveler. Hall becomes the last member of his team when Luca and Kyle defect to the Faction. Hall dies soon after.
The Shanghai historian becomes the last member of their team when the bomb explodes. Both Philip and Boyd face the possibility of being alone, Philip because of the Seattle bomb and Boyd because her historian, Nathan, is kidnapped by the Faction. Even as part of a five person team, travelers face frequent danger, including the possibility of being overwritten by the Faction.
Without a team, Travelers who are either solo or part of a pair usually lose their medical and tactical support, making it harder for them to survive even routine missions. There isn’t anyone to notice that they’re missing when they’re kidnapped, or to notice the personality change when they’re overwritten. 001 exploits this when he kidnaps and overwrites 5416/Jeff in S3 Ep10, and holds Grace hostage in the same episode.
Marcy is temporarily saved from herself in S3 Ep10 because she has a team looking out for her. No one notices that anything is amiss with Grace or Jeff. 001 is able to infiltrate ops easily, because the team doesn’t know 5416 well enough to notice the changes and they’re too distracted by David’s death to notice his similarities to 001.
Over the seasons, Mac’s team slowly collects these lonely Travelers as an extended “B” team who help out in special circumstances and who can call on the team when needed. Despite the existence of Protocol 6 (Traveler teams should stay apart unless ordered to work together), the team and the solo or near solo Travelers quickly find that there’s strength and protection in numbers and wisdom in sharing specialties and resources.
The appearance of so many solo and paired Travelers could be evidence that the Director’s plans were failing and/or the Faction was winning, in the future and the past. It was also foreshadowing that Mac would end up alone, trying to stop 001 from ever coming to the 21st.
In addition to all of the members of other teams who end up alone or almost do, and Philip, who’s isolated outside of the team and would become even more isolated if they died, there’s also Mac’s tendency to keep himself separate from the group during their off times. As I’ve noted before, his habit has been to call “Protocol 5” the moment an op is done and scoot out the door, leaving the rest of the team to do clean up. He tried, and failed, to maintain his closeness with his host’s wife, Kat, to make up for his lack of closeness to other Travelers.
Marcy is the closest thing Mac has to a friend in the team, but they are still only work friends. When he has to shove her aside in “David”, S3 Ep9, in order to tell her boyfriend, David, to pick up the nuclear core of a bomb with his bare hands in order to disarm the device, we see why Mac keeps himself separate. As leader, he has to both care about his team enough to keep them safe, but also be prepared to send any of them to their deaths.
But what’s also interesting is that in season 1, the Travelers were all prepared to blink out of existence if their actions changed history so much that some or all of the Travelers, as individuals, would never be born. It’s part of their sworn oath. Now, when faced with either the prospect of Protocol Omega or simply being cut loose as one of the Director’s orphans, none of them can accept the thought of giving up the fight and simply living normal 21st century lives.
They must have known this would be a possibility, even if they succeeded in changing history for the better, but never seriously considered it. We’ve seen individuals embrace their Protocol 5s, such as Grace, Ellis and Naomi’s mom, Mrs Gillen, but they were all still involved with the Traveler program as well. We’ve seen Travelers ignore their mission and go rogue, hoping to disappear into the 21st century and live normal lives, such as 001/Vincent Ingram (Ave Machina, S2 Ep1) and Donner (Donner, S1 Ep8).
But the vast majority of Travelers are dedicated workaholics who become very close to their team members and don’t have much of a Protocol 5/personal life. Unless their assignments are very stable and routine, the secrets and sudden missions eventually drive away their host’s loved ones, if the personality changes from becoming a Traveler haven’t already, just as we’ve seen with Mac’s team, other than Marcy and David. So the Traveler teams end up being family to each other. Losing each other is like losing family.
Marcy and David are the rare success story between a Traveler and a 21ster. They were able to bridge the divide through emotional honesty and a certain amount of honesty about her situation, coupled with the understanding that her work was classified, so she wouldn’t be able to share much about it. That could work for other Travelers, but not everyone can manage it. Mac and Kat had the potential for the same situation, since he’s an FBI agent legitimately doing classified work, but he chose lies over honesty until he’d irrevocably broken her trust.
Jo Yates is the first present day person we’ve seen who’s had knowledge of the Traveler program and been directly involved with the Travelers. Mac kept her at arms’ length and didn’t give that relationship a chance to evolve, but she was open to a normal partnership with him, including building trust and friendship between them. Every time he gave her a chance, she responded positively. Mac is the one with intimacy, and even friendship, issues.
But even when a 21ster has knowledge of the Travelers program and is open to the Travelers situation, it’s doubtful that they’d be able to supply enough emotional support by themselves. The Travelers come from 431 years in the future, and from a different culture. Unlike refugees from another country, they aren’t supposed talk about their experiences and share their culture with anyone but another Traveler, so losing all of the Travelers they are close to also deprives them of a connection to their past and their culture. Even with Protocol 2 prohibiting much overt discussion, the Travelers still understand each other in ways no one else will.
Protocol Omega should erase the need to follow the numbered Protocols, but people from the 21st century will think they’re crazy if they share their memories of the 25th century openly. No one else can replace what the Travelers are to each other in the 21st.
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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Image courtesy of Netflix.