Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “16: Greenhouse”

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday.

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday. You can see the full series here.


“16: Greenhouse”

An embed to RadioPublic’s direct link for the episode, which you can also find here.

Transcript
Written by: Danielle Shemaiah


So, what happens in this episode?

The episode starts with sound design versus dialogue: Dr. Grissom, tending to her garden, as advised by Dr. Fitzgerald. Quickly, though, the episode shifts to the real focus of the episode: Esther Roberts.

Roberts talks to Chet Whickman about her frustrations with the operations in ODAR. There have been too many rapid staff changes for anyone to make any real progress, and efficiency has gone down. Roberts and Whickman bicker: Roberts blames Whickman’s alliance with Cornish, and Whickman says Cornish has nothing to do with them. They both assert themselves as the most invested in ODAR’s goals. Roberts and Whickman discuss using the Blackroom and other ODAR assets for projects that are beneath them. Roberts sees them as quick ways to bring money to stay funded; Whickman sees them in the long-term as a waste of their time and resources.

Dr. Grissom, meanwhile, is “winning” gardening, she tells Anthony Partridge in a voicemail. She’s developing a biodome, making her own fertilizer, and growing plants like flowers and herbs and cacti and fruit. But she’s impatient, and growing things–as well as looking in catalogs and ordering seeds–takes forever. In a voicemail, she tells Partridge that while looking for supplies, she found a box of her old things, including her cellphone. She can’t get the battery working, but she’s determined to figure it out.

Dr. Grissom is cut off by a knock on the door. She finds Roberts, bringing her groceries in what seems like the first time in a while. The two awkwardly apologize to each other, both blaming themselves for how things have gone wrong. Roberts tells Dr. Grissom that Whickman doesn’t know she’s visiting, and Dr. Grissom admits that it’s difficult to keep friendships with people she doesn’t trust–especially after what happened with Dr. Sharma.

Roberts and Dr. Grissom get caught up on each others’ lives. Dr. Grissom is growing her plants, including pumpkins, and is frequently visited by a stray cat she’s calling Archimedes–Archie for short–and Roberts is having to train inept new hires.

Roberts keeps visiting Dr. Grissom, and eventually, over cards, the two start opening up to each other more. Dr. Grissom admits that she’s bored, and Roberts tries to hire her back–seemingly, not for the first time. Dr. Grissom brings up the fact that Roberts will always put her work before others, and Roberts says her ex–a woman–agrees. Initially, Roberts panics over outing herself to Dr. Grissom, but Dr. Grissom tells confides in Roberts that she’s asexual. Both of them are marginalized, and Dr. Grissom wouldn’t be one to pass judgment.

When Roberts sees Dr. Grissom’s phone and becomes intrigued, though, things become tense again. Dr. Grissom remembers Roberts’s ambition and awkwardly asks her to leave, but the two wind up playing another hand.

When Roberts returns to the office, she’s chewed out by Whickman when he finds out she’s been visiting Dr. Grissom. Whickman says they shouldn’t be babysitting Dr. Grissom, but Roberts says they still need her. The two argue, Whickman pointing out how much Dr. Grissom has breached their trust and Roberts pointing out how integral Dr. Grissom is, before Whickman starts pinning the blame on Roberts being too emotionally invested in Dr. Grissom. Roberts tells Whickman about Dr. Grissom’s phone, saying they’ll figure out how to take it and make it work. She tells Whickman she doesn’t need, or want, his permission.

Eventually, Dr. Grissom does find a way to charge her phone battery. She’s hit with pictures and voicemails from the future, from her initial timeline. She regrets not just going with Dr. Sharma, lamenting how mundane her life as become–but these memories of her old life still prove to be too difficult to bear. She breaks the phone and buries it under some chrysanthemums so ODAR can’t use it.

Back at ODAR, Roberts is told “the children” have arrived.


Key facts and characters

  • Kayla Rogers: One of Dr. Grissom’s coworkers from her timeline.
  • Archimedes: Also called “Archie,” the stray cat Dr. Grissom looks after.

How does it hold up?

Danielle Shemaiah’s first work writing an episode of ars PARADOXICA cements her as another perfect fit for the show. While other writers introduced new characters with their first episodes–something also employed in the next standard episode, Eli Barraza’s first–Shemaiah instead focuses on a character the audience already knows, but not quite as well as they should by now. In the second season, Esther Roberts goes from being an interesting character to fascinating. The audience is in the same position as Dr. Grissom: it’s hard to tell where Roberts’s loyalties lie, what she’s saying in honesty or for power–but, as Shemaiah navigates here, it’s usually both.

What stands out about this episode–one I remember vividly in its imagery–is the tenderness in its writing. The episode still has iconic ars PARADOXICA pacing and stakes, helped along by the back-and-forth structure of the two plotlines, but there’s something more reserved to it here. The dialogue and the characters are given a little room to breathe without the typical heavy plotting, while the conversation stays intimate and down-to-earth set just in Dr. Grissom’s home. It’s a tactic that both humanizes Roberts and makes her feel like more of a confusing threat, all done with gorgeous subtlety.


Butterfly Syndrome

Timeline 1

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
    • XXXX: Dr. Nikhil Sharma goes back in time with two conflict missions: kill Dr. Grissom or bring her back to the current year.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom does not move forward with the test on the Timepiece.
    • On Wednesday, July 16th, 1945, Dr. Grissom, Anthony Partridge, Helen Partridge, and Chet Whickman witness The Trinity Test.
    • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by a bullet in a time loop:
      • Loop A1: Quentin Barlowe is shot by Chet Whickman from Timeline 3.
      • Loop A2: Dr. Grissom is shot by June Barlowe, which is then sent back in time to kill Quentin Barlowe, also closing the loop.
    • Quentin Barlowe’s funeral occurs on September 16th, 1945.
    • Dr. Grissom invents the TAP on September 20th, 1945.
    • The ODAR Christmas party, and subsequent mass firing, is on December 21st, 1945.
      • Loop B1: When the Polvo power grid overloads, Dr. Grissom A uses the timepiece to help save Polvo.
      • Loop B2: Dr. Grissom B goes to RAINBOW A and pulls the lever to regulate the power. RAINBOW B explodes.
      • Loop B3: Dr. Grissom C chokes out Lambert and saves RAINBOW A, saving the town in conjunction with Dr. Grissom B or Maraczek.
    • December 24th, 1945: Dr. Grissom A wakes up. Dr. Grissom B and C have been killed by Cornish and Donovan.
    • February 1946: Dr. Grissom, Roberts, Wyatt, Anthony Partridge, and Helen Partridge are moved to Point of Exile, Colorado, by Donovan and Whickman.
    • March 1st, 1946: Dr. Grissom concludes that forward time travel using the timepiece is impossible.
    • August 2nd, 1946: Dr. Grissom accidentally gets stuck in the CAGE for an hour and a half.
    • August 18th, 1946: Helen Partridge’s jazz performance.
    • September 9th, 1946: Roberts and Whickman stay in the CAGE for just over 22 hours.
    • December 23rd, 1946: Helen Partridge leaves Point of Exile.
    • December 24th, 1946: Partridge discovers Donovan’s tapes.
    • October 27th, 1949: Dr. Grissom establishes the answering machine in The Blackroom, and Esther Roberts reunites with Bridget Dreyfuss. Dr. Nikhil Sharma is brought back from XXXX.
    • Novembe 2nd, 1949: Dr. Nikhil Sharma is killed by Chet Whickman.

Timeline 2

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, but Dr. Grissom moves forward with the test on the Timepiece, which then sends an electromagnetic pulse backwards in time into Timeline 1.

Timeline 3

  • Starting time: Dr. Grissom is from a modern-day alternate timeline (see ODAR & You! for more on that) that she is pulled out of on August 14th, 20XX.
    • 20XX is sometime after 2014, a year that has not been redacted; 2014 is when Dr. Grissom received her PhD from MIT. If she started working at the SSC directly after graduating, 20XX would be 2016.
  • Jump back: On August 14th, 20XX, Dr. Grissom lands back in October 29th, 1943.
    • On October 29th, 1943, Dr. Grissom is brought to her new home of Polvo, New Mexico.
    • On January 17th, 1944, the blackout hits, and Dr. Grissom does not go forward with the test on the Timepiece.
  • On September on an unnamed date, Quentin Barlowe is killed by Chet Whickman after Whickman finds out that Barlowe’s records are fake. The bullet is sent through a rift in time to Timeline 1.

Fragment Timelines

Throughout the series, there are fragmented timelines that the audience is never given the full details of. Instead of trying to factor these into the main timelines, they’ll be given their own sections.

Bill Donovan’s Tapes

In the first season, Partridge finds the tapes that Donovan has been sending to himself from the future using his own Timepiece to make sure he gets his way. Only certain tapes were played in the episode, “10: Consequence, Act I.”

  • Tape 1: Recorded August 1st, 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells himself to let Partridge take the others to Las Vegas. He tells his past self that J. Edgar Hoover is gay.
  • Tape 2: Recorded July 17th 1945; sent back to July 10th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that the intel on J. Edgar Hoover wasn’t sufficient.
  • Tape 5: Recorded July 26th, 1945; sent back to July 18th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Winston Churchill lost the United Kingdom general election and that they should call in a favor.
  • Tape 7: Recorded August 10th, 1945; sent back to August 4th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Truman still will not fund their work until he sees good evidence that it’s going towards something.
  • Tape 12: Recorded September 12th, 1945; no date listed for when it was sent back. Donovan says that he found the tape of Chet Whickman from Timeline 1, Loop A1, shooting Quentin Barlowe.
  • Tape 16: Recorded December 3rd, 1945; sent back to November 28th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self that Hank Cornish has arrived in town.
  • Tape 19: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 20: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tries again to tell his past self how to avoid being hit by a car.
  • Tape 21: Recorded December 12th, 1945; sent back to December 11th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self to not go outside.
  • Tape 26: No dates given. Donovan tells his past self to tell “her” how much she means to him.
  • Tapes 29-33: Recorded December 21st, 1945; sent back to December 20th, 1945. Donovan tells his past self how to trigger the explosion in Polvo, make sure Dr. Grissom uses the Timepiece to create duplicates of herself, and then use those duplicates as physical proof that the timepiece is working to get their funding.
  • Donovan’s final tape: Recorded December 10th/15th/18th, 1946: Donovan tells his past self that his illness is getting worse, but he receives the tapes.

Elbourne’s experiments

  • Experiment 1: Food is sent to a mouse back through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 1: The mouse, Kronos, pushes a button, and receives his food an hour later. Food is brought back to Loop 2 through the Timepiece.
    • Loop 2: Kronos receives his food as soon as he pushes the button. The food is received from an hour into the future via the Timepiece.
  • Experiment 2: A mouse is sent back through the Timepiece many times to complete a maze.
    • Loops 1-6: The mouse, Hermes, attempts to complete the maze with quickly declining proficiency.
    • Loop 7: Hermes is dead at the start of the maze.
  • Experiment 3: Three mice are sent back to their past selves. Pushing a button, the future mice will receive food but shock their past selves.
    • Loop 1: The mice–Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos–are raised to adulthood. They are trained to receive food by pushing a button.
    • Loop 2: The adult mice are sent back through the Timepiece to adjoining cages to their past selves.
      • Future Clotho pushes the button, indifferent to the pain of Past Clotho.
      • Future Lachesis refuses to push the button, starving herself.
      • Future Atropos attempts to kill Past Atropos by abusing the button, regardless of receiving food.
  • Experiment 4: A mouse will be sent to raise itself in the past with its mother.
    • Loop 1: A mother mouse raises a child mouse in isolation.
    • Loop 2: The child mouse, now an adult, is sent back through the Timepiece to raise itself with the mother. The adult mouse attempts to kill its past self.

ODAR & You!

  • Dr. Grissom’s mother is played by Kristen DiMercurio’s mother, Jean DiMercurio.
  • Dr. Grissom references Charlie Brown to Roberts, but Charlie Brown would not even start to be published until October 1950.
  • Archimedes the cat is named for Archimedes the Greek scholar, best known for his work in maths like analyzing spirals.
  • Liguistics time! Dr. Grissom tries to use many different euphemisms for having sex. She does a very bad job for the time:
    • Get groovy with: “Groovy” used in this way dates back to 1941, but it wasn’t used popularly until the 1960s.
    • Making the beast with two backs: Shakespeare may not have coined this phrase, but it was also famously used in Othello (see line 127). Dr. Grissom massively over-corrected on this one.
    • Making whoopee: Surprisingly old, this phrase originated in a 1928 musical of the same name.
  • Dr. Grissom is one of the–unfortunately–very few asexual characters represented well in a work of fiction. While asexual representation is getting better (big ups to Bojack Horseman), it still has a ways to go. I recently asked Twitter for recommendations of other podcasts with ace representation, so be sure to peruse the replies to find more!
  • When Dr. Grissom finds her things from her past/the future, she’s excited to find a pen with a gel roller ball. Gel pens weren’t invented until 1984.
  • A list of the plants Dr. Grissom is growing in her garden:
    • Pumpkins (grows well in Colorado)
    • Parsley (grows well in Colorado)
    • Petunias (grows well in Colorado with enough sun)
    • Pears (can be tricky to grow in Colorado)
    • Tulips (grow well in Colorado)
    • Cacti (vague terminology here, but most cacti would need to be grown indoors in Colorado, other than maybe prickly pears)
    • Chrysanthemums (invasive in Colorado!)
    • Dragonfruit (should be grown in a greenhouse if in Colorado)
  • Searching that list above lead me to this delightful site which discusses plants in Colorado, including posts in both Spanish and English. Thank you, Colorado State University.
  • Each episode ends with a color, a set of numbers, and an identification of the “weather in Tulsa.” Each of these is a Vigenere cipher, all of which have been solved on the podcast’s Wikia.
    • The weather in Tulsa today is: STORMY

On Tuesday (4/23/19), I’ll be recapping “The Intrusion,” a crossover episode with The Bright Sessions. On Wednesday (4/24/19), I’ll be livestreaming my reactions to “16: Plasticity” on Twitter at 7:00PM AZ–this episode genuinely merits it. For all of the ars PARADOXICA recaps, start with this post, or see all of the posts in the series here.


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