In episode 3, Jennifer and Yorick are reunited at the Pentagon, but they struggle to keep Yorick a secret from the other 5,000 people who live and work in the building. With the help of Agent 355 and Christine, they develop a plan for Yorick to work with a geneticist to determine how he survived the Event. Kim becomes more suspicious of Jennifer, while Marla’s mental state deteriorates. Nora and Mack return home.
Yorick’s blue sweater wins this episode. No matter how much he complains and tries to reject his Hero’s Journey, that gorgeous, huggable sweater makes us want to follow him anywhere
and cuddle up next to a warm fire. It looks like everyone at the Pentagon got a practical yet stylish upgrade to their wardrobe this week.
Nora and Mack return to their neighborhood in the dark, a few days after their argument at the Pentagon. The upscale suburb is a graveyard, littered with bodies. Nora tells Mack not to look at them, but she peeks anyway. The dead are becoming another normal part of the natural world now, like rocks and sticks.
When they get to the friends’ house they’ve been staying at, Mack balks at sleeping upstairs with the other kids. Nora suggests she pretend she’s on a sleepover and go along with whatever they want to talk about.
This is probably not the advice Mack’s dad, who did most of the parenting, would have given her, but Nora needs Mack to learn survival through cooperation more than feminism right now.
Nora joins a couple of other moms by the fire in the living room. They were hoping she’d bring them good news after speaking with her government contacts. She tells them she couldn’t get through and it’s bleak out there. It’s bleak in the neighborhood too- they’re almost out of food and once the snow is gone they won’t have fresh water. They’ve been making plans to move on.
Someone named Heidi is leading a group that the other two moms intend to join, but there’s no room for Nora and Mack. Everyone else has something to contribute but Nora. So, even though they intended to stick together, she’s out.
For the second time in a week, Nora isn’t quite part of the “in” group. The popular girls leave her and her daughter to starve.
355 is locked in an interrogation room with the helicopter pilots, who think they’re waiting for a standard debrief. When they complain about the long wait, 355 engages them in conversation, which is actually their debrief/interrogation. They assume she’s a low level flunky and don’t get that their fate is being decided by this conversation.
Even before Yorick turned up, the pilots sympathized with the protesters outside the gates, who think Jennifer orchestrated the Event as part of a coup. Now that Jennifer sent them straight to the apartment where her son was found, they think it’s even more likely to be true. They’re certain that Yorick’s survival can’t be kept a secret. They’re belligerent about their opinions.
They aren’t swayed by the logical facts that 355 gives them and they aren’t bright enough to understand that post Event, Yorick is more than just the president’s son. Nora would have understood all of that instantly, which is why she’s a good person to have on your side- when survival is difficult, strategy is everything and that’s Nora’s game. She told her daughter to talk about horses and be nice to the other girls because they were better off with the group, so they need to show loyalty. These pilots can’t figure out that they are the current threat to Yorick and potentially to the survival of every species with a Y chromosome. They’re disloyal to their boss and government, questioning simple orders.
In normal circumstances, these wouldn’t be major crimes. But these aren’t normal circumstances.
Jennifer and Yorick sleep curled up together, probably the best sleep either has had in months. After all of the angst, it’s nice to see them both be loved unconditionally for a minute.
The spell is broken when Yorick stirs and notices that Amp, his perpetual toddler, is on the loose. Amp is one of those toddlers with superhuman powers, who can slip through any opening, climb anything and sniff out trouble at any distance. (Shout out to my son, who somehow survived being a very busy toddler with a mother who could barely keep up.)
Amp escapes from Jennifer’s suite into the main corridor. He passes Marla’s suite, where she’s dozing to MASH reruns on the TV. Her door must be cracked open, or maybe the former office has a glass panel, because she catches a glimpse of a monkey in the hall and gets up to investigate. Yorick disappears around a bend as she enters the hallway. Slamming doors wake Jennifer up and she joins the chase.
Meanwhile, back in the interrogation room, the pilots become increasingly agitated and confused.
“I just can’t make sense of it. Could you explain it to me please… No! What the f**k?! I want to understand. I do. I just… I mean- How did he survive? Why him?“
And there it is. The reaction of the typical American to finding out Yorick is alive- women who’ve lost every man and boy in their lives, probably several girls and women too. Who’ve lost their jobs and homes and are struggling to keep themselves and whoever they have left alive. President Jennifer Brown, on the other hand, lives safely in the Pentagon surrounded by friends, got a major promotion at work, and now her son has miraculously survived and come home. To the women who’ve lost everything, that “luck” is going to make her someone who can’t relate to their struggles. At worst, they’ll decide no one gets that lucky by chance. Both scenarios are already in play, as resentments inside and outside the Pentagon grow.
355 gets a message from Jennifer and stands up to leave. The pilots complain that she gets to go and they don’t. She finally tips her hand: “We all take our orders from the president. She needs me with her and she needs you to sit tight.”
She locks them in the room, still yelling at her for leaving them behind. Even now that they know she works closely with Jennifer, they show no respect for her or the president. On her way to the residential wing, she crosses paths with a body clean up crew. Jennifer contacts her again to hurry her along.
Amp runs through the Hall of Heroes, a memorial to the recipients of the Medal of Honor. Since the Event, it’s also become a memorial to the beloved dead who were recently lost, with a wall of photos and memorabilia and candles burning on the floor. Yorick stops to take it in for a second and freak out a little, especially when he sees his graduation photo on the wall.
Just in case he hadn’t figured out that he should be dead, this drives it home.
Amp continues into a large office filled with cubes and computers. Marla is right behind him. He catches Amp, then turns and comes face to face with Marla in the dark. They stare at each other in shock until 355 enters and asks Marla why she’s there. When Marla turns her head, Yorick hides. Jennifers comes in and distracts Marla. 355 pretends to search the room, giving Yorick a priceless look when she finds him and Amp, but telling Jennifer and Marla that no one’s there.
Jennifer offers to help Marla back to her room. “Most nights, I see them, too.”
I believe that part.
Yorick doesn’t handle the experience well. When they get back to Jennifer’s suite, he’s angry that the bodies are still at their desks after all this time. I suspect this was also a triggering experience for him, between almost losing Amp and being surrounded by bodies again, like in the subway, then getting caught again, like he did in the dry cleaners, where he was treated like chattel and threatened with being
sold traded. Then there’s the combination of seeing his photo with the photos of the dead and actually seeing the dead as if they were zombies who came into work that day.
It’s a lot to take at once. Then Jennifer tells him that he and Amp are the only Y chromosomes to survive. She notes that men who don’t have Y chromosomes survived- it’s apparently specifically the DNA that was targeted, so this was tied solely to genetics.
The memorial was created using whatever the women had with them. All Jennifer had to represent her husband was a keychain that Hero made. She tells Yorick that she’s been looking for Hero. He says her apartment was looted before he checked it the first time, but he went back to check a few more times. Jennifer breaks down, upset with herself because she didn’t send someone to find Yorick’s body. Yorick comforts her.
He’s okay with his own body being abandoned by his mother, even though he yelled at her 5 minutes ago for the anonymous abandoned bodies in the Pentagon.
He asks about his father’s body. Jennifer says they found it at the hotel where he was staying. Then Yorick brings up Beth. He thinks she left New York to go to her mother in Cleveland, who was on chemo. Jennifer brushes him off with the explanation that there was a subway crash near his apartment. She assumes Beth hasn’t been in touch because she died in that accident and doesn’t want to bother to pursue the subject further. Yorick is aware of the accident, but Beth had her bike, so she wouldn’t have been on the subway. Jennifer says she’ll send someone to look for Beth as soon as she can spare them.
The way she says it sounds like it’ll be years before she can spare anyone. Even after she was wrong about Yorick, she isn’t willing to put effort into saving individuals. Now that she’s got her son back, Hero is forgotten. She’s so used to thinking on the larger scale that governing requires that she can’t pay attention to the needs of her family or to the fact that disasters happen one person at a time.
Yorick must recognize her tone, because he tells her that he and Beth are engaged. He wanted to surprise her with some good news. This isn’t true, but being Yorick’s fiance makes Beth more like family and might increase Jennifer’s sense of obligation.
355 considers the angry, unruly pilots; the hostile mob that increasingly blames Jennifer; the close call with Marla; and the need to keep Yorick and an active monkey safe. She decides there’s no way she can protect the last two males at the Pentagon.
She tells Jennifer that the pilots aren’t cooperating. Combined with the 1500 protesters at the gate, who are increasing in number everyday, if anyone finds out that Yorick is inside the building they could have a “Russia situation”. Yorick asks what that means, but Jennifer leaves for a briefing without answering. 355 doesn’t answer at first either.
In the previous sequence, Jennifer tries to control the level of information Yorick and Marla receive and their reactions to it. Yorick is too much of a people pleaser to rebel as hard as Hero did. He only occasionally pushes for more and is rarely given it. Instead he complains using humor and stories, then gives up and quietly does what he wants, figuring he’ll soothe any ruffled feathers later. Action disguised by distraction and banter are the methods of the escape artist.
Nora watches her neighbors drive away to join Heidi. She tells her daughter that the others would just slow them down anyway. Mack recognizes it for the bravado that it is. She offers that they had protein powder in their garage, but Nora has already looked and it’s gone. Mack gives her a withering look, one she’s becoming proficient at, that says her mother is as inadequate as she always suspected. Nora halfheartedly breaks a vase.
Yorick wolfs down a giant plate of spaghetti while 355 tells him the story of the Russia situation.
355: “FSB, or what’s left of it, put out a statement that the Russian leaders survived. 12 men. The big shots. The inner circle… A crowd stormed the Kremlin. They wanted to see the men, but it was propaganda. It was bulls**t. They overran the building. There’s chaos now. We’ve lost contact.”
Let’s note that the White House has also been overrun and the Pentagon is barely holding on. The US is not in much better shape than Russia, even without the propaganda.
Yorick separates out a few bits of food for Amp. He starts to explain Amp’s name, but 355 already gets it. To be fair, it sounds like people are usually confused by the name. She mentions that the government was giving out food in NY and wonders why he’s so hungry. He says that he went to one of the sites once. “It didn’t go well.”
He creates a mini Russia situation wherever he goes. That explains his gas mask and why the gang of grouchy trans men left in the dark of night, which I wondered about.
Yorick: “So my mom, like, won the apocalypse. That’s fun. The top job. She’s not even a Republican.”
355: “Well, the line of succession was decimated. Secretary Abbott would be next…”
Yorick: “Is that Education?”
355: “Yep. Except she was born in Antigua. The only other woman was Regina Oliver, but she’s dead.”
Yorick: “Small miracles. [355 shakes her head in disapproval.] Oh, come on, really? She’s the anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-vaxxer with a twitter following. Didn’t she, like, try and bring her gun to a spin class? She should not be president.”
355: “Well, your mom was Speaker [of the House of Representatives] for an hour, then they bumped her up.”
The women who were left in the federal government did accurately follow the line of succession, which has nothing to do with political parties. Successors must meet the criteria for the presidency, including being a native born citizen. The presidency passes from the vice president to the speaker of the House before going to Cabinet members, so even if Regina Oliver were alive, Jennifer would be in line before her. We can argue over whether Jennifer is the legitimate speaker, since we don’t know how she was elected to the post, but as head of the House Intel Committee she would be more prepared for the presidency than most.
Yorick complains about the dead bodies in the building again. 355 points out that the area is normally sealed off, so the health risk is limited. She defends Jennifer for putting more effort into taking care of the living.
Then she asks about his name, which is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She quotes Hamlet’s most famous line about the character (“Alas…”). Yorick continues the quote: “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
355, who uses a number as a name, realizes, “They named you after a dead clown?”
There’s just no good way to respond to that, so Yorick doesn’t.
Jennifer is working to stop the nuclear power grid in the northeast from going offline. There is one qualified female nuclear engineer who could help, but she’s taking time off to grieve her sons. They need her, and they’ve all been working without a break, so Jennifer isn’t inclined to care that Sharon Jacobs wants to take bereavement leave. She says to get her on the phone.
Kim pulls Jennifer aside because Marla has been upset since she ran into Yorick last night. But of course Kim isn’t sure what happened and Jennifer isn’t going to tell her the truth. Jennifer asks if Marla takes anything for sleep, suggesting Marla was confused, either from meds, sleepwalking or her deteriorating mental health. Kim gets defensive and says they sleep great, which isn’t true. Kim was sound asleep, but Marla was in and out, using the TV for company. That suggests she has trouble sleeping and might be having nightmares and/or bouts of severe depression during her nighttime waking periods.
Jennifer heads back to her rooms, bringing Christine with her. Yorick ate too much, too fast after going hungry for a long time, so he’s vomiting it back up. 355 says that she tried to warn him that would happen.
There’s another possibility that goes unmentioned. It’s been a day or so since Yorick went for a swim in disease-ridden subway waters. He doesn’t know about the CDC warnings for waterborne illnesses in the subways and they don’t know that he swam in contaminated water, so no one makes the connection. It’s possible his vomiting is a sign he’s fighting off one of the illnesses the CDC warned about.
This is another instance where he and Amp have come through exposure to deadly disease unscathed. Given how run down they both were, including suffering from exposure, they shouldn’t have been able to fight off disease so easily. Just another piece of evidence that they have super healing abilities
(and that Yorick has super soldier serum in him but doesn’t know it yet).
Jennifer warns Christine that Amp bites. And is male. But they can’t bring in a local doctor. The secret has to stay between the four of them. She wants to find a government-vetted geneticist to determine why Yorick and Amp survived and set them up in the sealed off area of the Pentagon.
355 reminds her about the pilots, the crowd at the gate, the 5,000 people who live in the building and the growing resentment toward her. They can’t risk having the general public discover that her son is the only male survivor. She wants to move Yorick out of DC, but she has to do it right away, before the secret gets out. To protect Yorick and Amp, they have to work outside the system. Jennifer resists sending Yorick away after she just found him.
Regina Oliver wakes up from a coma in an emergency hospital tent in Tel Aviv, Israel. When the doctor tells her about the Event and her fractured skull, her first response is, “I’m the president of the United States.”
355 goes through the geneticist files in the War Room and gets caught by Kim, who’s hoping attention on scientists means there’s been a breakthrough. 355 says she doesn’t know anything. Kim chats her up anyway, because she makes friends with all of the Secret Service “girls”. She’s noticed that 355 is one of Jennifer’s favorites and invites her to her regular card game with some of the other agents. “It’s good to have friends here. President Brown can be… tough.”
Both women have their fake game faces on throughout the conversation. Kim may not be formally trained as a spy, but she was raised as part of a political dynasty and instinctively understands how to use espionage and networking.
Kim’s next stop is the Pentagon day care/school, staffed by wives of deceased Republican politicians. She gossips a little about hair dye, then gets to her point- she thinks Jennifer should give her and the other Republican women more of a voice in her administration. The mom she’s meeting with, Elaine, doesn’t buy into Kim’s victim mentality. She tells her that whether or not you like Jennifer as a person, she’s doing her best as president. Kim insults Jennifer and says her main goal is to push Kim and her mother aside. She claims that Marla was one of her father’s main advisors and Jennifer should be listening to her.
Guess Kim isn’t aware that Jennifer and Marla have private late night meetings for drinks and heart to hearts.
Elaine tries to warn Kim that her mother isn’t up for the role of formal presidential advisor, but Kim insists that Marla is fine. She thinks Elaine also deserves a role because she helped with her husband’s campaign. Elaine scoffs at her- as a homemaker, her presence in the Pentagon is already questionable. And they have Lisa in the War Room, even though she’s a moderate Republican who Kim doesn’t respect.
Elaine jumps up to scold one of the children, then turns back to vent her frustration with single motherhood at Kim. After a second she realizes what she’s doing and apologizes. While her back was turned, Kim stole a pack of crayons. Now, she forgives Elaine, but asks if she can count on her, “if the time comes.”
Elaine doesn’t understand that Kim is considering planning a coup. Which is reasonable on Elaine’s part, since she just explained to Kim that there aren’t enough experienced Republican women to run an administration. But Kim’s mental health isn’t in the greatest place and seems to be deteriorating, just like her mom’s. She’s putting up a normal front while falling apart inside. The theft, which is the equivalent of shoplifting, all the different ways she denied reality and her obsession with taking down Jennifer all show that she’s in a bad place.
With their other prospects exhausted, Nora and Mack return to their own McMansion. Nora picks up her husband’s car keys from the counter and knocks one of her son’s Ninja Turtle action figures onto the floor in the process. The turtle is missing an arm and it’s the last straw for Nora’s composure. She searches through a basket until she finds the arm and snaps it back into place, breaking down in tears as she does. It’s the last, small thing she can do for Conner, though it’s meaningless to him now.
While Nora is inside with the keys and action figure, symbols of her husband and son, Mack runs outside to chase crows away from their bodies, which are wrapped in blankets in the backyard. She grabs a garden spade and rushes toward the bodies, but trips and falls onto the sharp tool. It creates a deep slice in her lower leg. Nora runs to her and wraps the cut. She wants to leave right away to get Mack help before infection sets in. Mack refuses to go while the bodies are still exposed.
Those bodies are wrapped pretty tight. The birds aren’t actually getting to them. Eventually the fabric will rot and tear, but that will take months. Nora should have been running the clean up crews.
Jennifer, looking at the geneticist files from the National Science Foundation: “We’ll figure out who’s the best suited and bring her here. Figure out how you survived and develop an antidote.”
Yorick: “An antidote to death. Wow. Okay.”
Jennifer: “A treatment, if a male child were born. Frozen embryos might still be viable.”
355 hands Yorick a file. He opens it and only sees one name, Dr Alison Mann, from Harvard. He notes the irony. He’s all about irony in this conversation. I suspect his current choices are to either make jokes or give in to panic.
355 says there were other scientists on the NSF list who were bad choices for various reasons. She decided not to waste time on them. Dr Mann isn’t beholden to the usual corporate or government interests. In fact, she was blacklisted from government projects because she was willing to work with the Saudis. That means her loyalty isn’t compromised, she only cares about the science, no one will be expecting them to choose her and she won’t be watched, so she can disappear with them.
Dr Mann’s work corresponds to what they need done and she’s an independent thinker. As an operative who normally has to work off the books and independently herself, 355 knows that they need someone who’s able to improvise and work outside the system, without backup from a functioning university lab system. Renowned leaders in their field generally aren’t guerrilla scientists.
Yorick figures out that 355 is no ordinary Secret Service agent and asks who she really is. Nobody answers him, but he should get points for paying attention and not underestimating 355. She depends on her ability to blend in and be underestimated until she’s ready to reveal herself.
Jennifer sends Christine and 355 out of the room, then asks Yorick what he wants to do. He knows he’s supposed to be a hero and jump at the chance to save the world, but all he wants is to get Beth back. He feels like the man plague is going to catch up with him sooner or later and he just wants to make the most of the time he has left. He’ll give the geneticist blood and semen samples, even though he can’t imagine how it will help, but first Jennifer needs to help him find his fiance.
After she asked what he wants, Jennifer dismisses his answers. But why wouldn’t he think he’s going to die soon? Why shouldn’t he ask his mother for help finding Beth before he dies? Everywhere he goes, there are piles of dead men and hundreds of women asking for help. If she can spare 355 for a few days to find Hero, she can spare her or another agent for a short time to search for Beth.
But that would go against Jennifer’s ethic of self-denial, which encompasses her family as extensions of herself. She doesn’t ask anything of them that she doesn’t ask of herself. The issue is, she’s practically honed herself into a diamond of self control, based on her own abilities and limits and she doesn’t adjust her standards based on the needs or limits of others.
Jennifer’s question was a set up. She was never going to consider his answer.
She asks what he’d do after they found Beth, as if either marrying Beth or dying aren’t firm enough plans for the apocalypse. Is he supposed to have his new, post apocalypse career already mapped out, like she does? It will probably involve some escapes, so he’s done the training.
She tells him that she loves Beth, too, but that’s not a plan. He replies that he’s not as ambitious as she is, which she takes as an insult, so he has to explain that it’s great that she’s presidential material and all, but he’s just a normal guy. He’s not a hero. He expects someone more suited to this role must have survived. He wants his life back. She tells him there’s no way for that to happen.
At least she’s figured out that much. She needs to get out of the Pentagon for a while and experience the damage for herself, like presidents normally do after a natural disaster, because she doesn’t understand the depth of the crisis and how it’s affecting lives and mental health, including Yorick’s.
Maybe she’s in denial and her brain won’t let her process the enormity of this disaster, given the way she denied Yorick’s fears. Maybe her denial looks like cold efficiency, the same way Marla’s looks like giving up. Whatever the reason, she doesn’t get it, even on an intellectual level.
Because, sure, they need Yorick’s cooperation. But he could be allowed a bit of a nervous breakdown or another nap and a shower before he has to suck it up. He just spent more than two months alone in a horror movie and none of the women who love him cared enough to look for his body.
Now that they realize they need him, they expect him to be self-sacrificing and noble, with no needs of his own. He’s supposed to morph from the family joke (he’s the dead, useless clown) into a secret agent or to follow along meekly after 355, so she can use him to save the world, if he doesn’t get murdered and his brain doesn’t explode first. He’s survived his family so far by being loyal and accommodating. But even the person who bends over backwards to be understanding of the rest eventually reaches the end of their patience. Then they either demand some respect or they are totally, irrevocably done. Yorick is approaching that point.
But never mind, Jennifer has to go be president.
Kim notices an increase in purposeful movement in the halls and pumps one of her Secret Service buddies for information. Word has gotten out that Regina Oliver is alive.
According to the report Jennifer is given, on the day of the Event, a bus crashed into Regina’s hotel and broke a gas line, causing an explosion which leveled the building, killing hundreds of women in addition to the men who died from the man plague. Regina wasn’t found until the next day and she wasn’t identified until she woke up.
The War Room staff argue over the line of succession. From what I can tell, this is a constitutional gray area. The speaker of the House definitely takes precedence over a Cabinet member, but there’s a question about whether a speaker elected to the post immediately following the President’s death would take precedence over a sitting Cabinet member. Generally, an elected official is preferred over one who was appointed, which argues in favor of Jennifer. Also, the combination of Regina having been out of the country for months and unavailable to serve, along with her poor health, seems to disqualify her, based on the legal argument that a stable government is more important during times of crisis than a game of musical chairs with the presidency in the name of bumping lower ranking successors out of office.
Most of the inner circle agree that Regina was unsuited to the presidency before the Event because she’s a fringe lunatic Campbell appointed to appease the Far Right. Now that she’s suffered brain trauma and missed the last few months, she’s even less qualified. They all agree to back Jennifer’s presidency.
Kim gathers the Republican women for a showdown in the hallway. She demands to know when Jennifer and her people were going to tell them about Regina. Lisa, the Republican representative in Jennifer’s administration, publicly backs Jennifer. They tell Kim that they just found out about Regina and haven’t had time to share the news. They’ll keep her updated on the situation. Kim says that her father is the one who was elected and his values matter.
It never occurs to her that Jennifer was elected as well and Regina wasn’t. Or that the federal government will shrink, now that approximately two-thirds of the population is gone. There isn’t a need for as many politicians anymore.
355 argues again that she and Yorick should get out of the Pentagon now. If someone makes a power play, Yorick’s presence will make things worse for Jennifer and endanger his life. Yorick still wants to find Beth, then go to Dr Mann.
Jennifer, ignoring Yorick again: “What about the pilots?”
355: “I’ll deal with the pilots.”
355 provides her with plausible deniability. Jennifer didn’t give an order and doesn’t know what will happen to the pilots, but an understanding passed between her and 355.
Jennifer worries about the level of violence in Boston. 355 assures her she can keep Yorick safe. They discuss getting out of the building, since security has checkpoints every 50 feet. 355 already has a plan, but they need to go soon. Yorick protests the whole thing, pointing out that he just came from the outside and it’s worse than they realize. It does nothing to change their minds. He’s cargo (or like a woman with no status in the patriarchal world). Jennifer does at least emotionally exclaim that this isn’t what she wants either.
355 goes back to the pilots with a motivational speech and two bogus Medals of Honor in hand. She tells them that Yorick is the key to solving the man plague and they were the ones who found him, then gives them the medals. Then she explains that he isn’t safe at the Pentagon. He needs to be taken to a scientist at Harvard. The president has chosen them to fly this important mission.
Yorick asks again who 355 really is- he’s being sent away with her, so it’s a reasonable question. He’s figured out that she’s a secret agent. All Jennifer will say is that she’s trustworthy and works for her, two things Jennifer took 355’s word for when she revealed her identity. Jennifer doesn’t actually know if they’re true, because she knows nothing about the Culper Ring and can’t vet 355. All she knows is that so far their interests have aligned.
As Alias taught us, there can be conspiracies within conspiracies within lies about the nature of an organization and parents who fibbed for years. This is why I have trust issues.
Yorick asks if he’s been reduced to one of his mother’s employees now, expected to follow orders without question. Jennifer sounds exhausted when she tells him that she can’t keep him safe in the Pentagon, so he can’t stay. He says again that it should have been someone else who survived instead of him. Maybe his dad. She reassures him that he’s enough. He finally accepts it.
That might be the first time she’s ever told one of her children they’re good enough. She’s a woman with high expectations.
Christine interrupts again- they’ve found Sharon Jacobs, the one nuclear engineer who can save the New England power grid. 355 returns. As Jennifer walks out to take the phone call with Sharon, she hands 355 a sat phone and reminds her that Yorick is all she has left. 355 promises to keep him safe.
Nora stabs at the frozen ground with a shovel in a futile attempt to dig a grave for her husband and son. When a vulture lands next to her on the fence, she takes it as a sign that it’s time to quit and drops the shovel. She gets Mack in the car and tells her to think of it as another vacation, not as the last time she’ll see home. Mack turns on the radio and finds a single working station, playing the song After the Gold Rush, sung by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. It cuts out after a minute, but it’s enough to give them a little hope.
355 sneaks Yorick out disguised as a corpse. It’s the only cargo that’s not checked as it leaves the building. Yorick argues, but gives in when 355 tells him Jennifer’s life is at risk if he’s caught.
His day keeps getting worse.
They meet the pilots in a parking garage and take a jeep to the two helicopters they’ll be flying to Boston. 355 says she flew supply runs in Iraq, so she can pilot one of the helicopters. The second helicopter, with the two female pilots, acts as a decoy.
Jennifer gets on the phone with Sharon the engineer, who gives her a firm “no” on returning to work. Jennifer asks about her sons and commiserates with her about their losses. Then she says she wishes she could do more to help people, but she’s useless. It’s the people like Sharon, who were often the only woman in the room in the past, who are vital now. She asks Sharon to put aside her grief for the moment in order to save the living who need her help. Sharon agrees.
Jennifer deserves the credit for that win, but her empathy rings a little hollow.
Later, she stands in the Hall of Heroes and looks at Yorick’s photo. Kim accidentally startles her, then apologizes for the confrontation earlier in the hallway. She tells Jennifer about some of the photos on the wall and how proud the women in the building were of their men. She considers how much they’ve all lost and how it’s affected them, suggesting it’s affected some more than others. They stand in solidarity for a moment as mothers who both lost all of their children. Oops.
Kim remembers Yorick when he was a child at an Easter Egg Roll and he practiced tying knots instead of participating. Taking Jennifer’s hand, she wonders why it was Yorick that Marla hallucinated last night.
This seems innocent, but it felt like a performance. I don’t think Kim ever does anything without an ulterior motive. She wanted to watch Jennifer’s reaction and let her know she’s being watched. If the apology and bonding softens Jennifer toward her, so much the better.
A hallucination of Yorick could easily be explained by his photo on the board and Marla’s friendship with Jennifer. She could just have easily have seen Hawkeye Pierce, from MASH. Dreams don’t have to make sense. But it was cruel of Jennifer to make Marla think she was seeing things when she wasn’t. Jennifer is already forcing Marla to stay in the Pentagon against her will. Now she’s making her question her sanity.
355 and Yorick fly behind the other two pilots. Suddenly, the front helicopter explodes, crashes, burns. There’s no way either pilot survived. Yorick asks if they should turn back. 355 tells him they’ll keep going and to put his seat belt on. In a shaky voice, she repeats, “We keep going.”
Episode 3 was directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer and written by Katie Edgerton. Cinematography by Kira Kelly. Film editing by Melissa Lawson Cheung. Sound editing by Lauren Stephens. Production design by Alexandra Schaller. Costume design by Olga Mill. Music by Herdís Stefánsdóttir.
After the Goldrush, the song Nora and Mack hear on the radio, was written by Neil Young, who I assume is the Neil referred to in the title. He would have died in the Event. The song has three verses that take place in the medieval past, the present and an apocalyptic future. In the third verse, chosen ones are evacuated from Earth in spaceships after an environmental disaster. Nora and Mack heard the beginning of the song, the medieval celebration. By leaving their house and their men’s bodies behind, they are both leaving and entering that world.
There were two explosions and two medals of honor, presented to the pilots by an expert bomb maker. You do the math. At least 355 seemed shaken by the pilots’ deaths. She’s not a stone cold killer.
Red and blue feature as the colors of the Republicans and the Democrats in this episode. Blue is prominent, since Jennifer and her party dominate the government, but we catch glimpses of red here and there, especially in the hallway confrontation. Some people can’t let old rivalries go, even at the end of the world.
I realize that I sound very critical of Jennifer Brown. I’m sure she was an effective Congresswomen and would have been a great president under normal circumstances. But we’ve been shown from the start that she has trouble connecting to people on an individual level and maintaining relationships. In my commentary, I’m hoping to explain why and how and what the consequences of her emotional distance are, because this is an aspect of the show that reflects our toxic culture.
In the work world, whether business or government, men and women are taught to put their emotions aside, push themselves and others to the limits of their tolerance levels, and then beyond, to the point of illness, injury and divorce. We praise high achievers who have devoted themselves to their jobs to the exclusion of anything else in their lives and those who work until they die. We look down on those who put their relationships first, whether they are stay at home moms or people with lower stress careers that give them more free time. Government and business policies are skewed toward ablism, an unwillingness to accommodate the needs of those whose abilities fall outside a rigid standard of normal, which leads to the exploitation of workers who are able to meet employers’ demands. The pandemic has brought some small changes to these policies and attitudes, but most remain the same.
On Y: The Last Man, the government is spending so much time on the big picture that they’re forgetting to connect with regular people and pay attention to their concerns. They need to take care of individuals in addition to projects like the power grid, but no one in the Pentagon understands what it’s like outside. The encampment with more than a thousand people right outside the gates is treated as if they are derelict homeless people who should just move along to the shelter/camps, without anyone wondering why they don’t want to go to the camps.
When Yorick tries to tell Jennifer what it’s been like for him, she brushes him off. He’s a valuable resource, not just as a Y chromosome, but as someone who’s been on the ground in NY for the last 2 months. He can be honest with her about how it’s going out there, in a way she won’t get from most people, but she doesn’t respect him enough to listen.
She could have gotten the same information from Nora, about a different part of the country, but she also turned her away. She doesn’t really listen to Kim either, who actually has some valid concerns and speaks for lower level employees and families who live and work in the Pentagon, in addition to Republicans. Kim has her faults, but she gets to know the people around her on a personal level and she understands their concerns. When Kim came to Jennifer about the NY cryobank, Jennifer was dismissive. General Peggy wasn’t in this episode, but in episode 2, there were times when she was frustrated that Jennifer wasn’t listening carefully to her.
Jennifer’s heart is in the right place, but she can’t stand any sign of weakness, whether it’s in herself, her husband, her children, or her strategy. This makes her uncompromising and gives her giant blind spots. It leads her to discount the struggles of others and ignore signs of exploitation. It means she’s prone to secrecy and lies rather than open communication, because she doesn’t want to expose her vulnerabilities.
When she teams up with 355, who has the same issues, the problem is magnified and they form a little secret society. Christine and Yorick don’t have the status to make them listen to reason. There is a middle ground between telling no one about Yorick and telling everyone. And there are better ways to tell everyone than what the Russians did. I suspect 355’s Culper Ring box directed her to take Yorick to Boston (the “Not yet!” address), so that’s why she pressures Jennifer to send him away.
Now that Jennifer has committed to lying about Yorick, she’s cut off from being honest with the advisors in her inner circle. That’s never a good idea, especially for a president with a tenuous hold on the office during an ongoing crisis.
All of that being said, the shortages, outages and time it’s taking to clean up the bodies and trash are realistic. The showrunners did extensive research into how things work and found that much of the world’s infrastructure is still dominated by men. If the men dropped dead, it would take time to reorganize the systems.
It’s not that women aren’t capable. It’s that there aren’t enough women who are already trained and in the right locations. If the planes fall out of the sky, the ships go adrift in the oceans and the highways and trains are shut down because there are so many accidents blocking traffic, logistics become a nightmare. Food, materials, supplies and personnel can’t get where they need to be. And then there are the billions of bodies rotting in place. Nobody is prepared to deal with that and the level of disease that would arise from it.
Images courtesy of FX on Hulu.