In episode 3 of Undone, Alma tries to resume her normal life, Jacob begins to tell his story, and we begin to wonder just how bad an influence he would have been if he’d been alive through the girls’ teenage years. Alma, along with everyone but Jacob, questions her sanity, but she also finds a couple of new hobbies. Sam takes up a new hobby, too, gaslighting his girlfriend when she’s already in a delicate mental state.
And y’all wonder why I’m always so suspicious of men- even the nice guys.
Alma pops out onto the street at dawn in her pajamas with no idea how she got there. Well, some idea. She’s either sleepwalking or sleep time traveling. A neighbor yells at her to go back inside and put some clothes on. At least that’s what I think she said. It’s hard to be sure, since Alma doesn’t have her hearing device on.
When she gets home, Sam wakes up and teases her about sleepwalking again. They joke around for a couple of minutes, then she asks him if he switched the order of the photos that line the hallway. He says that he doesn’t think so. She tells him she fels like she’s losing her mind.
While she’s getting ready for work, she examines the bruises on her torso from the accident, which are huge and nasty looking. At the daycare center, she explains to the kids that she knows 2 weeks was a long time for her to be away from them, and goes through various fractions of their lifetimes that it equates to.
One of the kids asks if she was scared and she has a brief flashback of the accident. Then she switches into a moment of telling Becca that she doesn’t remember a few days around the accident, which the doctor says is normal, but her memories should come back. Becca is trying on a wedding dress while they talk.
Reverting back to the classroom, another child asks if she has scars. Alma pulls up her shirt above her bra to show a large bruise and healing cut on her side. Then they ask about the scar on her wrist from her suicide attempt, which she explains was because her dad died and she thought it was her fault. But it was a long time ago. The kids ask what died means. Alma sees one of them, Mateo, drowning, and gets a headache while hearing a piercing whine.
Tunde sends the kids to go play and tells Alma to take a break. She’s still disoriented and sees multiple versions of him. He suggests she might need more time off, but she says it’s better if she tries to get back to normal, which he thinks should maybe include not flashing the kids.
Jacob appears behind Alma and startles her. He tells her things aren’t going to get back to normal. She says she can’t keep having her life disrupted this way. He says that she can because she already has, because time is a limited form of experience. Alma doesn’t understand.
He doesn’t explain his statement, but it sounds like he’s referring to all of time already existing. Or else he’s saying she’s been through this time loop before but doesn’t remember it.
Jacob pours a box of wooden blocks onto the floor. He tells her to imagine that there’s a block for everything in the whole world. Take, for example, the construction worker figure, who Alma informs him they now pretend is a lesbian mom.
Jacob pauses to consider how the world has changed since his time, then continues explaining that from the lesbian mom’s perspective, the block world is everything that exists. But from his perspective, it’s as if he’s watching from above and can see so much more. Alma is midway between the two, but it won’t always be like that.
He tries another metaphor, about driving a manual gear car (“stick shift”) vs driving an automatic transmission. The stick shift gives you more control of the car, but the automatic is easier to drive. When Alma tells him that she doesn’t drive a stick so the metaphor is lost on her, he gets worked up because he thinks that since no one ever taught her, so her education is incomplete. She points out that dead men give up the right to complain about how their kids are raised.
Plus, he died in a car accident, which calls his driving skills into question. Jacob reminds her that he believes he was murdered and needs her help to figure out the truth. She has psychic talent and wasn’t involved in the original events, so she should be able to see the events of his life clearly. Everytime he tries to focus on his own death, he becomes overwhelmed by the trauma and ends up accidentally jumping to someplace else.
Strangely enough, Alma is having the same issue with her own car accident.
Right then, she snaps back to the present and reality. She’s missed a fight between two of the daycare kids, which she should have dealt with.
That night, she watches TV: “The Chicimecha were a fierce nomadic tribe who lived north of the valley…”
Sam is on the phone with Tunde, who called to check in on Alma. He thinks she should take more time off. Sam tells Tunde that she should improve over time. Alma is upset that Tunde spoke to Sam instead of directly to her, as if she’s a child.
Before she and Sam can get into an argument about the phone call, Jacob grabs her hand and pulls her into a hallway that goes on to infinity in both directions. Jacob wants to show Alma something, but she’s busy worrying that she really does pose a threat to herself or others.
Jacob: “What if everything in the universe is predetermined, and people should take a chill pill, because they don’t actually control anything?”
Alma: “Is that true?”
Jacob: “Look, you don’t hurt people, You help people. It’s who you are.”
Jacob goes on to remind her that she went out of her way to help one of her bullies in school and kept the girl’s secrets besides. When she tries to tell him that she’s changed, he tells Alma that she’s kind and special and good, and her core will always be her core. Since he’s her dad, he’s in a position to judge these things.
Alma notes that the only family member who has confidence in her is the dead one.
Jacob tells her he’s only temporarily dead. Then he moves on to talking about his career. He asks if she remembers what he did for work, who he was. She says he was a science professor. Jacob is appalled that she could reduce the entirety of his life’s work and calling to the phrase “science professor”. He was a theoretical physicist, like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking!! He continues to be appalled at her lack of appreciation for nuance.
Once they enter his classroom, which was coincidentaly the door at the end of the long
tunnel hall, they walk into a brightly lit college classroom, where he’s both teaching the class and acting as the Being of Light from an NDE. He stands in the most brightly lit area in the front of the room and, using the Socratic Method, guides the others through the development of time travel by astral projection. He’s also reviewing his own life.
Physics professor Jacob asks the class what makes time travel theoretically impossible and is answered by his research assistant, Farnaz, who says it’s the light speed barrier. According to Professor Jacob and Farnaz, the only thing that moves faster than light is quantum entanglement. They have no idea how it might aid time travel, but think it could be connected somehow.
One wise guy in the class yells out that Superman can move faster than light.
The memory jumps to Jacob’s office, where he shows Farnaz an MRI of a shaman’s brain. Something about it suggests a way to use quantum entanglement for time travel. Jacob knew more about successful time travel than he was ready to publicly reveal.
Farnaz is enthusiastic about this development until she realizes the university will never fund this type of research. Jacob teases her for a moment, then reveals that he’s already secured an independent grant for their research. Farnaz is so excited to hear the news that she jumps into his arma to give him a giant hug. Alma asks exactly what was going on between them, as anyone would.
Jacob: “I feel like you’re honing in on the wrong part of this. We’re talking about rearranging the fundamentals of time.”
Nice deflection. It reminds Alma that she has her own boyfriend to deal with.
She goes back to her apartment and looks at the photos in the hallway again. They are in a different order now. At least Sam admits to rearranging them this time. He says that he figured he’d try to put them back the way they were, admitting that they could have been wrong before.
But how could they have been wrong if no one ever touched them? And they still aren’t in the right order. Sam makes up some mystery burglars to explain this change. Then, as his next line of defense for how they could have been moved and he wouldn’t have noticed, he concedes that maybe the photos jumped off the walls by themselves.
OMG. Dude. If you’re going to lie, just say you took them down to dust them and cry over them while she was in her coma and then were too distraught to remember the right order when you put them back. It’s not that that hard.
I’m really not sure whether to be frustrated he’s such a bad liar or happy for her that he’s honest. I too have a life partner who can be a frustratingly bad partner in crime but is a very loyal mate. Sometimes, it’s a tough call whether to value that or not. Depends on whether I need him to be part of my spy network at any given moment.
Sam finally begs off from the argument by saying he’s had a rough couple of weeks. Alma is too worn out by both his and her father’s lies to pursue either argument.
The next day at work, she assures Tunde that she’s fine. She promises to focus more. She also tries to get him to agree to communicate directly with her if he has anymore safety concerns, but he says he needs to do what’s best for the kids. Then he walks away.
Tunde is not just Alma’s boss. He’s the only reliable voice of truth and reason among Alma’s friends and family, though I don’t think she sees it. He’s also the voice of community standards, which means she probably can’t rely on him to be her anchor to reality. The need to uphold community standards is what gets mystics and shamans overmedicated or committed to asylums.
As soon as Tunde’s a few feet away, Jacob starts talking again, explaining that everyone has two selves and sometimes the selves split. He tells her this even as she’s telling him to back off and the ground is shaking in an earthquake.
He finally understands that he’s pushing her too hard. She explains that she needs to be able to stay present in the real world. He understands that she means she needs a tool to ground her, like a rosary or a prayer wheel. They jump to her mother’s attic, where Camila still has boxes of his stuff.
He finds an old handheld electronic blackjack game that helped him. They discover that it still works. Jacob explains that, “It’s not the game itself, it’s the repeatable action. It’s complex enough to keep you focused, but it’s simple enough not to overwhelm you. You just focus on the pattern of the game, and and that’ll keep you connected to the larger universal timeline as it proceeds in order.”
Camila and Becca call up to Alma, yelling that it’s time to go. Alma doesn’t know where they’re supposed to be going, since she was just at work. Jacob explains that they’ve jumped to Saturday, which must be the next time she was going to be at her mother’s house. He tells her not to worry about skipping Thursday and Friday, they weren’t important anyway. Except for the new Thai place she tried Thursday night, she should definitely jump back and revisit that memory. He hands her the blackjack game as she’s leaving.
The outing is a wedding dress shopping trip for Becca. While Becca’s in the dressing room, Alma asks her mom why she never mentioned that Farnaz was in the car with her dad. The conversation goes in circles, and in the end all Camila admits is that Farnaz was her husband’s student. She also won’t discuss why anyone might’ve wanted to kill Jacob and Farnaz.
Alma asks Becca if she’s going to follow any Jewish traditions at her wedding, since their father was Jewish, but Becca treats the suggestion like it’s ridiculous. Given her new in laws, it probably is. The 3 women bicker over dress ideas and the blackjack game. Then Becca gets upset that Alma lost memories in the accident and wants to bring Sam to the wedding.
She starts to yell at Alma that she’s sick of this, which literally blows Alma into a car with what looks like herself and Farnaz? Alma pulls the blackjack game out of her chest and grounds herself back into the wedding dress store reality, but she’s missed the important part of what Becca said. Which was, of course, the whole point of what her brain just did.
Becca was saying something that Alma isn’t ready to face yet, that she broke up with Sam before the accident. Her subconscious knows it and protected her from hearing it by taking her out of the situation momentarily. Some people jump through time and space to escape the hard parts of reality, some have a drink, some just dissociate/space out for a few minutes and can’t remember what was said.
When Alma returns to her body, Becca is saying, “If that’s the way you want to live, then that’s the way you want to live.” Does she mean that she doesn’t like the way Alma’s pretending nothing happened? The way Becca and her mother routinely do?
Alma tries to look like she knows what’s going on and keeps playing the game. Camila notices, and asks where she got it.
Later that night, Alma walks into the couch in her apartment when she’s not paying attention and asks if it’s always been that far away from the wall. Sam assures her that it’s right where it’s always been. Alma looks behind the couch and can see from the indentations in the carpet that it’s been pulled out. She shows Sam. He just blandly says that it’s weird.
Alma tells him that she feel like he rearranged everything in the house while she was in the hospital just to mess with her mind. Sam asks why he would do that, and swears he’s not. Alma feels like everyone is messing with her and sees Sam’s face split into multiple Sams, either because she’s seeing double/triple or because she’s seeing multiple timelines.
Everyone is messing with Alma, so there’s no way for her to tell when or if she’s losing her mind and when it’s everyone else lying to her, supposedly for her own good or for their own reasons. Absolutely no one has put Alma’s needs before their own at any point. Tunde is the only one who isn’t lying to her, but he’s her boss and has to put the welfare of the kids first. Sam’s continued gaslighting has reached abusive proportions. When someone says what Alma just said, you don’t continue the lie if you actually love the person and have a healthy relationship.
Alma asks Sam if something happened between him and Becca while she was in the hospital that would make Becca think he wasn’t coming to the wedding. Sam lies some more and says that Becca’s weird and her wedding is making her weirder. Alma disagrees, because Becca’s whole thing is that she’s aggressively normal, but she let’s it go.
The truth is out there, but Alma’s not ready to push for it. And being aggressively normal isn’t actually normal.
The next day at work, Alma’s still playing the blackjack game continuously. The kids want to play the game too, but it’s not appropriate. Tunde questions whether Alma needs the game while she’s working , but she makes him back down by telling him she has a doctor’s prescription for it. She tries to intimidate him out of pursuing the matter by suggesting that it’s misogynist for him to get in the middle of her health care issues.
Why do TV shows suddenly think it’s funny to joke that people take advantage of their health care needs to get special treatment? This is the third TV show I’ve watched this week that straight out said this. Not cool. People with chronic health condtions work hard enough to get the treatment we need, we don’t need to also be a running joke. Believe it or not, most aren’t faking their conditions or being forced to fake it by a relative and most don’t get to be first in line at Disneyland, FFS, even though that’s what the TV writers of the world would have you believe. Most are suffering everyday in ways normals can’t imagine, and just want their treatments and meds covered like everyone else. Alma isn’t faking her condition, but she is manipulating her boss and hasn’t been back to her doctor to discuss her symptoms.
Tunde backs down and leaves her to her blackjack game, instead of asking to see the prescription from her doctor, which is stupid writing, but whatever. Repeat to yourself, it’s just a TV show.
At the end of the day, as they’re saying goodbye to the kids, Alma sees one of the kids, Oliver, submerged in water inside his family’s van. She begs his mother to keep him away from water and get him swim lessons, leaving Tunde, the mom, and Oliver disturbed.
Sam finds Alma sitting in their living room in the middle of the night, surrounded by boxes. She’s brought all of her dad’s boxes from her mom’s attic without her mom’s knowledge, so that she can investigate his murder. Sam is surprised to hear about the murder. Alma swears him to secrecy. He asks if she’s going to come back to bed. She says she will later, then takes out her hearing device to end the conversation.
The neighbor who yells at Alma to go back inside when she’s sleepwalking is credited as “Bathrobe Woman”, which might be how I want to be known from now on. Someday I will become a complete derelict and sit on my front patio in my bathrobe all day, yelling opinions at the neighbor kids instead of typing them out on the internet. It actually won’t be much of a change, for me or the neighborhood, which already has a contingent of opinionated, watchful old ladies. I should note that those upstanding women get dressed before they go outside.
The Psychic Mad Hatter and Quantum Entanglement
In this episode, we are seeing a pseudo NDE for Jacob, since he’s supposed to be dead. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that he’s either in a persistent vegetative state and communicating with Alma psychically or that he’s being held in an asylum, and possibly being drugged, after someone convinced them that he’d lost his mind. He could have been committed by his boss or coworkers or it could have been Camila. She keeps a lot of secrets and has never remarried.
There’s a moment in the discussion between Tunde and Alma, after he’s phoned Sam, when he is suddenly several feet taller than Alma. Does she feel diminished by what he’s saying? Or, more likely, is it another Alice Through the Looking Glass reference? The first is when Jacob appears behind her in the mirror earlier in the episode. She could see him, but no one else could.
Jacob is slowly revealing his/the show’s theory of time: Einstein was right and time all exists at once as a non linear concept which we experience in a linear way. It’s predetermined because everything that will ever happen has already happened. But these rules only seem to apply to normal humans.
For humans who are magical and/or who understand quantum physics, which are maybe the same thing, the rules can be bent and broken. Some people have a natural gift for it, some have to learn how. Alma has a gift, which Jacob opened her mind up to, but she has to learn how to control it.
Jacob has his own reasons for teaching Alma to control her gift. Try as he might, he hasn’t been able to use his own talents to subvert his predetermined fate. Now he wants her to devote her life to rescuing him from his earlier fate. He frequently jumps in and out of her consciousness, keeping her thoughts disrupted and not allowing her to think things through on her own in order come to her own conclusions. In other words, he’s trying to coerce her into helping him. He’s desperate, but he’s also her father, which should make him act more unselfishly toward her. For that reason, I’m suspicious of his motivations.
One of Jacob’s metaphorical guises in the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. (The other is the wizard from The Wizard of Oz, a liar and faker.) In the book, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland take on the form of a card game, with characters taking on the identities of playing cards, such as the queen of hearts. This dovetails with Jacob passing his blackjack game to Alma, which is based on the card game. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice wanders through a life sized chess game, which is a game of strategy played on a checkerboard rather than in a linear fashion. This corresponds to Jacob’s belief that time and reality are non linear.
The Mad Hatter is a confusing, basically unhelpful, expert in both books, similar to the false wizard in the Wizard of Oz. The Hatter’s constant companion is the equally mad March Hare, who would correspond to Farnaz. As a result of previous misadventures, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare are perpetually stuck in a tea party and thus always drinking tea.
The Hatter once sang for the Queen of Hearts at a tea party, but she hated his performance so much that she declared he “murdered the time” she’d listened to him. The Queen sentenced the Hatter to death, which he escaped. Time got its revenge anyway by freezing itself for the Hatter and March Hare, trapping them in the activity they were involved in at the moment.
This sounds like it could have some bearing on both Alma and Jacob’s stories. Both are stuck in loops, circling events surrounding their car accidents, using their shamanic gifts to stay on the run from both current reality and the truths they have buried deep in their own minds that they don’t want to face.
The Mad Hatter was an expert at conversational deflection and distraction, throwing out one tidbit after another to keep the listener off balance. Jacob does the same within Alma’s mind. He won’t let her focus on her own issues long enough to get to the root of her problems and he pushes her away from any deep analysis of himself as well. Alma and her other family members also steer her away from difficult subjects.
It’s still possible that’s we’re completely inside of either Alma or Jacob’s mind, or they’re both comatose and their astral projections are communicating. No one wants to admit they’re a bad singer or husband or anything else, so it’s hard to fix personal issues unless someone is trusted to give honest opinions. Jacob doesn’t appear to have been open to anyone’s outside ideas.
On the other hand, he does seem to have escaped time in some way, unless what we’re watching is merely the breakdown of Alma’s mind and she subconsciously knows it mirrors her father’s breakdown. That’s a much, much less interesting show to me, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it. Especially since Alma’s making some interesting connections with her father’s work, at the very least, and her mother is so secretive.
Even if Alama could have learned all of this from her father’s boxes or conversations she overheard as a child, she could still be going through something real and only now realizing that her father was working on something similar. There’s no reason why psychic abilities can’t run in families and a psychic with the ability to apply quantum physics to his family’s talents would certainly want to do so. A psychic who became stuck in a quantum pocket dimension or the like, instead of dying, would definitely try to contact his daughter so that she could help save him. The MCU has been making billions of dollars on similar storylines.
What Is Gaslighting?
Since I keep bringing up gaslighting, let’s define the term: “Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic in which a person, to gain power and control, plants seeds of uncertainty in the victim. The self-doubt and constant skepticism slowly and meticulously cause the individual to question their reality.”
At first, this may not sound like seemingly sweet, mild-mannered Sam, but this is what he’s doing. He is exercising power and control over Alma by moving back into her home without her permission and lying to her 24/7 so he can remain there. He acts sweet and mild-mannered, but what he’s doing is actually incredibly creepy and her consent for any sex they have should be considered dubious at best, since she’s being lied to on a large scale.
What kind of person moves back into your home without your permission? Why not confess what happened, and explain that he’d like to be there for her and take care of her in her time of need, even if they aren’t together?
On top of that, everytime she starts to figure out that something happened, both Sam and her sister,
who made a pact with each other to perpetuate their lies, convince her that she has something wrong with her mind. Her mother deflects and pretends nothing was said about some subjects while lying about others. Alma’s entire life has been full of secrets and lies, so I suppose that’s why she doesn’t make a bigger deal of the obvious weirdness happening with Sam and Becca and thinks it’s okay to manipulate Tunde.
Gaslighting, and especially blaming each other for their own mistakes, are family traditions in Alma’s family. Traditions which led to Alma being framed as the family scapegoat and accepting that role to the point that she tried to kill herself for causing her father’s death, something that had nothing to do with her.
Now, as an adult, being in a relationship with a man who gaslights her feels comfortable, because it’s the emotional atmosphere she grew up with. She will accept the role of the crazy/ inherently wrong person, since she was cast in it as a child, and if she tries to escape it she’ll lose everyone she loves. While Becca and Sam might be willing to talk and change, her mother is like a brick wall.