Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “The Intrusion”

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.


“The Intrusion”

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

Transcript
Written by: Lauren Shippen, Daniel Manning, and Mischa Stanton


So, what happens in this episode?

“The Intrusion” is ars PARADOXICA‘s first crossover episode. In “The Intrusion,” Anthony Partridge is visited in the Blackroom by Sam Barnes of The Bright Sessions.

When the episode begins, Anthony Partridge is in the Blackroom, performing a very dramatic monologue to himself. He’s interrupted by a stranger who appears suddenly in the Blackroom with it and she, it seems, is just as shocked as he is. She trips over a stack of books, surprised by that too, and the two share a very uncomfortable introduction to each other. The stranger is Sam Barnes, a woman from the future.

When Partridge reaches out to shake Barnes’s hand, she says she isn’t sure she can–and when she successfully touches him, she’s baffled. Usually, she says, she just passes through things. When she asks where and when they are, Partridge tells her they’re in October 28th, 1943, in Philadelphia, at a government test side on the Eldridge. Barnes doesn’t seem to have any recognition for this location in space and time as the anchor.

It quickly becomes clear that Barnes isn’t an ODAR employee and, in fact, doesn’t even know what ODAR is. The two share this isolated space and this knowledge of time travel, but so little else. When Barnes sees Partridge’s computer, she asks if he gets WiFi, but he doesn’t know what that is; when Partridge asks where Barnes’s Timepiece is, she says she doesn’t know what that is.

Barnes and Partridge aren’t sure why they don’t know about each other, given they’re both at least on some of the same page. When Barnes says she can–and sometimes, must–time travel without a Timepiece, Partridge is fascinated. She explains that it’s an ability of hers that she’s slowly gaining control over with the help of a therapist. Partridge, meanwhile, tells her about ODAR and their work with the Timepiece (and clarifies that, no, he is not Father Time).

Partridge explains himself as a mailman in time, and when Barnes realizes his computer is filled with files, she asks him to look up a name: Mark Bryant. When that doesn’t come up with anything, she suggests Mark Bright. When it still comes up with nothing, she asks for him to search “atypicals,” but he incredulously asks what she’s getting at. Barnes explains that atypicals are people like her, people with superhuman abilities like time travel, mind reading, superhuman empathy. Partridge finds it hard to believe, but backs off his suspicion when it’s clear he’s hurting her feelings.

Barnes asks why Partridge is helping her, given she could be a spy, he says he probably wouldn’t have cared if she were. He’s too lonely in this place to pass up conversation. Barnes agrees, saying that she doesn’t get close to people because she’s too worried what she’ll find when she “comes back.” Partridge presses her more on this phrasing until she reveals that she can travel forward in time. Confused, Partridge says people can only travel backwards in time towards the anchor, but Barnes disagrees; her ability works differently.

When Partridge processes this, he immediately demands Barnes takes him with her when she goes back. He advances on her desperately, begging her to take him even though she says she can’t. After asking him to stop moving towards her, Partridge only stops when he drives her to yelling. He apologizes, ashamed, but then says that if she doesn’t stay there with him, he’ll tell ODAR about her. Barnes calls his bluff, and she’s right.

Barnes tells Partridge that she’s looking for someone who needs her. She has to leave, and she can’t take him. Partridge can relate: he tells Barnes about Helen Partridge and how much he failed her. Barnes tries to make a deal with Partridge: if he doesn’t tell ODAR about her, she’ll come back and visit him. Partridge knows this isn’t a possibility, though. He says she know she won’t be back, and she agrees that she doesn’t know if she can come back. Partridge doesn’t blame her. Before she leaves, he says, “Give my best to the outside world.”


Key facts and characters

  • Samantha Barnes: A time traveler whose abilities were not the product of the Timepiece, but her own abilities as an atypical. Samantha Barnes is played by Lauren Shippen.
  • Atypicals: The name given to people with superhuman abilities in The Bright Sessions.

How does it hold up?

I am categorically not a fan of crossovers in any media. I understand the excitement they elicit on a logical level, but they’ve never given me that same thrill. I’m usually too distracted by the logistics or forcing characters into conversation to enjoy two characters I love from different works interacting. This is absolutely a matter of taste and what brings you joy.

While the conceit and setup for the episode aren’t for me, the execution was successful enough to get me to listen to The Bright Sessions when I first heard it, another podcast that would quickly become one of my all-time favorites along with ars PARADOXICA. The acting was also, as always, phenomenal. Partridge’s delivery of his frail, “It’s okay,” were some of the most well-performed two words I’ve ever heard.


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!

  • This episode was a crossover with The Bright Sessions, a podcast Mischa Stanton also worked on. Mischa Stanton is also currently working on The AM Archives, a spinoff of The Bright Sessions.
  • Lauren Shippen, who played Sam Barnes in this episode, is the creator of The Bright Sessions. Shippen’s work has been optioned for TV, given a three-book deal with Tor Teens, and earned her the title of Forbes 30 Under 30 Media Luminary.
  • In the beginning of the episode, Partridge is performing a monologue from Faust, the story of a man who makes a deal with a demon for unlimited knowledge.

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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