In a subdued episode, Jo and Agent Brooks search for Piper after her kidnapping by Benny and Helen. Mia and Ed find a way to send a covert message to Piper. Chris becomes acting police chief and teams up with Alex to investigate a suspicious boat moored in the harbor.
Jo and Brooks search Benny’s apartment a few hours after his kidnapping of Piper at the end of episode 9, but they’re long gone. Jo finds one of Piper’s sweaters stuffed under a couch cushion, confirming Benny’s involvement. Brooks tells her that Benny closed his bank accounts and gave his landlord notice. The FBI can’t find any family, living or dead. Benny’s background check appears normal going back 15 years, then it stops, as if he didn’t exist up until that point.
Probably because he didn’t.
Jo is stunned at the lengths Benny went to with his plan to fool her and gain Piper’s trust. Brooks assures her that they’ll find Piper soon, but 4 weeks later, they don’t have any new leads. Jo is following desperate hunches, like calling reporter Frank Fontana, a character from the CBS show Murphy Brown.
Mia has given up hope of getting her sister back. Jo tries to convince her that soon she’ll find some new piece of evidence that will help, but Mia is worried that Piper is scared and alone.
With no new leads, Brooks gets called back to his home office, effective immediately. Before he goes, a child’s body is found in the Bronx that matches Piper’s description. Jo has them send the photo to her office computer. It’s not Piper, but Jo and Brooks are both left shaken after the close call.
That evening, Jo takes out the exobyte disc. Alex is concerned for the family and feels helpless. Jo says that they need to figure out how they’ll talk to Mia when this ends badly, as it probably will. He asks what happened at work that’s made her so pessimistic, but she doesn’t want to talk about it and tells him she doesn’t want to put that picture in his head. He gets upset that she’s shutting him out.
It’s a small peek into what went wrong in their marriage.
Jo shares that she has no leads and is starting to give up hope. She’s emotionally exhausted.
Then the house lights start to flicker and Mia calls them into the living room. The TV is showing flashes of color, which settle into the circuitry pattern associated with Piper. She made contact at just the right moment.
Jo asks Brooks to find the origin of the power surge. He hesitates, and she gets a little flirty with him when she tries to talk him into pulling the resources.
Mia collects all of the devices in the house, including Abby’s phone when she visits, so that she can monitor them for messages from Piper. Ed tells Abby that he’s not sure if it’s a good thing that they’ve gotten their hopes up again or not.
Chris checks with the power company, who determine that there was no power surge. Brooks discovers that Piper used a communications satellite to hack into their TV at 6:36 PM. She fried a $400 million satellite in order to contact her family. The signal came from Elk County, Pennsylvania. Jo and Brooks will meet at the airport.
Also, Piper is able to destroy expensive satellites. Jo and Brooks won’t be the only ones trying to figure out what happened.
Jo puts Chris in charge, as acting police chief. He’s taken aback. Hasn’t Jo ever taken a vacation?
Mia helps Jo pack, making sure she brings everything Piper could possibly need, especially her favorite stuffed animal. Jo encourages Alex, who will stay with Mia and Ed, to sleep in her bedroom, but Alex declines.
It sounds like that would be too much like he was moving back in and picking up where their marriage left off. Like maybe he wants that too much and doesn’t want to get too comfortable with the fantasy, for his own protection. Right? 💖
Chris answers a call out at the harbor, where the caller, Yousef, isn’t happy to see Chris instead of Jo. Another boat is moored in his slip. Chris tells him that he needs to complain to the harbormaster. Yousef says that Jo told him the same thing a week ago. He compliments Chris’ leadership skills.
A couple of guys wheel a cargo container over to the boat. Chris asks if he can look inside and they tell him no, as is their constitutional right. But the container pulls Chris’ keys toward it, as if it has a powerful electromagnet inside, so Chris is suspicious.
Chris goes back to the office and asks Alex to come in, then tells him what happened, since he knows what’s been going on. Alex talks Chris into going back to the harbor and investigating, even though it’s illegal to enter the boat or look into the container. It’s especially illegal for Chris, as a police officer, to do so without a search warrant, since any evidence he finds won’t be able to be entered into evidence in a case against the potential criminals involved.
Jo and Brooks agree to stop at the local diner in Pennsylvania to ask around about Piper. Stopping there is Jo’s idea and Brooks pats himself on the back for having checked out Jo the same way in the bakery when he first came to her town.
Except he was totally obvious and Abby spotted him right away. Jo wants to blend in.
While they eat at the diner, Brooks tells Jo about his divorce 10 years ago. He’s no longer in contact with his wife and remembers how strange it was learning to live without someone he’d been so close to. He’s noticed that Jo and Alex haven’t been divorced long and have learned to work together for Mia’s sake.
The diner waitress remembers seeing Benny getting gas a few nights ago. She sends them to talk to the gas station owner, Charlie, who’s also in the diner. He tells them that Benny asked for directions to the interstate. Jo thinks that must not happen often, because most people use GPS.
Charlie sets off a red flag when he tells them that he’s owned the gas station for 15 years and lived in Pittsburgh before that. When Brooks asks what his address was in the city, Charlie makes a run for it. He runs out into the road and gets hit by a car, but gets right back up again, with his wrists flashing, confirming he’s an AI. He throws the driver out of the car that hit him and drives it away.
Jo and Brooks check into their hotel while the state troopers take over the search for Charlie. Brooks has a brief meltdown over being confronted with actual evidence that a person is an AI. Jo asks what he thought Piper was all this time?
I’m not clear on what Emily actually told him either.
Brooks doesn’t know what he thought Piper was, but he didn’t think her arms would glow or she’d have super strength. He must have been humoring Jo when she said Piper destroyed the satellite. He’s drinking and overwhelmed now that he sees the truth more clearly and tells her she needs to get the FBI out of her business, because it won’t end well for Piper or her family.
None of this is news to Jo, who was trying to keep him out of her business until like, yesterday, so she just goes on analyzing the facts of their current situation. She figures out that Benny must be an AI, given that his history, Charlie’s and Splinter’s are all the same length. Since she had no idea that Benny was an AI, that means anyone can be one and pass for human.
Brooks realizes that she really means that he could be an AI and laughs at her. Jo gets out the exabyte disc to use as an AI test, figuring that it will be triggered when it’s pressed against the right spot on any AI’s arm.
Since Emily specifically programmed that disc for Piper, I’m not sure that’s true.
Jo runs the disc up and down Brooks’ wrist, but it doesn’t light up. Then he does the same to her. She doesn’t light up either. They hold on a little longer than necessary, but then Jo get a phone call saying the car Charlie stole has been found, so Alex’s hopes and dreams are saved.
In the dark of night and under the cover of hoodies, Chris and Alex search the boat for the correct shipping container. It’s not hard to find, since it’s a giant magnet and still on the top deck. Alex notes that a magnet this strong should be half the size of the boat, rather than small enough to fit in the crate. The lid conveniently lifts right off, revealing a small, cube-shaped frame holding a clear bubble that has something black floating inside. Compared to how big Alex said the magnet should be, this is tiny. Alex says, “There are a couple of metals that are liquid at room temperature, but they don’t have a charge and they don’t float.”
O-M-G. Is Emergence in the MCU??? Is this Darkforce?
Since Piper sent them the message through the TV, Ed and Mia have been trying to figure out how to send a message back to her. Ed has come up with a solution. He brings out his old ham radio, which he’s used in the past to talk to people as far away as Mexico. He thinks Piper is probably tuned into a wide range of frequencies, so he’ll set this up to repeat through as many as possible. Mia records a short message: “Piper, don’t be afraid. Mom’s coming.”
Jo and Brooks follow the tip on Charlie’s car to an Animal Hospital, where he went to treat his injuries. They find him lying on a table, attempting to cut his tracker out, the way Piper did when she escaped. They question him about Piper, but he tells them he’s unable to answer their questions, even if he wants to. His eyes light up, then he dies. Jo removes his tracker. Brooks freaks out a little at Jo’s surgery, but he finds Charlie’s phone. They look through his recent locations and choose the one that isn’t his home as their next stop.
The crew returns to the boat, ready to set sail. Chris and Alex jump off just in time and return to the station. Alex urges Chris to call in the Coast Guard, but he can’t do that, since he was on the ship illegally. Instead, Chris gets on the computer and turns on his phone locator app. It shows his phone is headed out to sea, since he dropped it on the boat. If the boat docks before his battery runs out, they’ll have a destination. They at least have a direction.
There’s the excellent police work he’s famous for.
The ham radio makes some loud, strange noises, which Mia records on her phone. The phone registers it as a binary code.
How did we ever solve mysteries without cell phones?
The address in Charlie’s phone is a stable, where Jo finds Benny packing a car for a trip. She points her gun at him and tells him to tell her where Piper is. He apologizes for everything, but says this had to happen. He didn’t have a choice.
Jo tells him she knows they can die and feel pain and she doesn’t care about his apologies. She wants to know where Piper is.
Piper reveals herself and uses telekinesis to break the gun into pieces. She tells Jo not to hurt Benny or come closer to her, because she doesn’t want to hurt her. Jo tries to convince Piper to come home with her, but Piper says she needs to stay because they need her help. Then she says, “Tell Mia I’m not afraid.”
She closes the stable doors between the AIs and Jo, forcing Jo to watch as she drives away with Benny and Helen.
Where was Agent Brooks during this confrontation?
Alex and Chris are a dream team we need to see much more of.
It seems that none of the AIs have a choice about their actions except for possibly Helen.
Didn’t Jo do a thorough background check on Benny at the beginning of the season? I remember her talking about the stories he’d written. Why didn’t she notice that his history only goes back 15 years? That’s a gaping plot hole. My theory has been that either Chris or Brooks or both are AIs. Maybe she had Chris run the background check and he gave her a doctored version?
The fact that Jo flirted mildly with Brooks in this episode almost guarantees he’s an AI or will die before long. Brooks’ strange reactions in this episode could have been those of someone trying to avoid a fatal exception. He was oddly squeamish for an FBI agent. Charlie’s death could have been a fatal exception death, as the combination of his injuries and Jo’s questions caused awareness to break through.
Brooks and Charlie would make sense if some of the AIs are like some of the LMDs on Agents of SHIELD- they’ve replaced real people and have their memories, or they think they’re unique people and have fictional memories. Either way, they don’t know they’re artificial and their missions are coded as subconscious compulsions that they act out without understanding what they’re doing. Then they forget any actions they wouldn’t be able to reconcile with their normal lives.
We’ve already seen Piper behave in exactly this way. Brooks is also confusing. There are times when he makes genius investigative leaps and other times when he seems to have big blind spots, like maybe his programming is telling him to slow the investigation down. Chris has also vacillated between those states from the beginning, whereas Jo is rock solid and consistent.
Charlie and Benny’s 15 year history confirm that the last 15 years are a significant period in the AIs’ conspiracy. Splinter, the terrorist group, also has a 15 year history. The FBI has been following them for much of that time, but I’m not sure if Brooks has been on the case the whole time. With both Alan Wilkis and Richard Kindred dead, we’re going to need either Maria Wilkis or Emily to help sort out the significance here.
Mia is 15 years old and took to Piper immediately. Can that be a coincidence?
Piper is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for Jo, with the sweater and the messages through the TV and ham radio. She also let Jo know she’d heard Mia’s message. If Piper can’t use her voice on the radio, she can use the code the plane was using when it went down, since she translated it for Alex. She can’t overtly help Jo or escape, so she has to work with Jo the way Emily worked through her subconscious in their secret meetings.
I’d like to thank the creators of this episode for having the restraint to keep from showing viewers the dead child’s body that left a police chief and an FBI officer shaken. As Jo said to Alex, the idea of it was enough.
Darkforce, Gravitonium or a Brand New Floating Black Goo on ABC?
Where does the magnetic substance on the boat fit into all of this? It’s so intriguing. I’m going into crazy fan theory mode with this one. I’ve already been noticing how the AIs are similar to the LMDs in the MCU. I’ve also drawn parallels to Once Upon a Time and the Disney fairy tale universe. I don’t think Emergence is actually in the fairy tale universe, though that would be cool. But the MCU correspondences are stacking up:
- This is an ABC/Disney show. Why not do a surprise crossover, with Agents of SHIELD about to end?
- The stuff on the boat is a dead ringer for Darkforce, “an unstable, powerful element made of pure negative energy from another dimension”, which originated the comics but has appeared in the TV series Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter and Cloak and Dagger. It’s possible that it was also involved in the magic in Runaways, but the show was cut short before that could be explored. The Gravitonium in AoS may be the heaviest version of Darkforce, that’s never been made clear.
- The Darkhold, the dark magic book of spells that seems to be alive, may also be related to Darkforce. Remember that time Emily changed Piper’s programming using books in a library, but Piper overrode her own code? This is very similar to a season 4 storyline on AoS involving an LMD/AI that was working with the Darkhold. What if Piper is different from other AIs because she has Darkforce in her?
- On Agent Carter, the main scientist who worked with Darkforce was named Jason Wilkes. Both he and another scientist (and actress), Whitney Frost, were infused with the Darkforce during Agent Carter season 2. It was eventually extracted from them. Wilkes was hired by Howard Stark at the end of the season, possibly to continue working on the Darkforce. Frost was committed to a mental institution after the Darkforce caused a breakdown. In Emergence, Maria or Alan Wilkis could be descended from Jason and Whitney. Wilkis is very close to the name Wilkes- it could have been changed slightly at some point. Alex is also an engineer from a wealthy family, which makes me wonder if there’s a connection.
- Envers Gjokaj played Agent Daniel Sousa on Agent Carter, who also encountered the Darkforce. On Emergence, he plays a similar role. Could he be a descendant of Daniel Sousa, an AI/LMD or could Daniel Sousa have time traveled to the future to continue working on the Darkforce case, where advanced medical technology was able to heal his war wounds?
- Auger Industries and Splinter have all the hallmarks of a Roxxon or Hydra subsidiary. Darkforce is the kind of gooey substance that’s exploded and floated all over the place since it was first brought into this dimension in the 1940s. Just about anyone could have gotten their hands on some, so there doesn’t have to be any connection to the MCU beyond the Darkforce itself.
- Or maybe, 15 years ago, something important happened that allowed all of this to explode into the world at once, like a rift in the space-time continuum that opened a hole to another dimension. Maybe that’s when a time traveler arrived from the future. Or when the Darkhold fell into the wrong hands.
Images courtesy of ABC.