Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “19: Gumshoe”

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.


“19: Gumshoe”

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

Transcript
Written by: Julian Mundy


So, what happens in this episode?

“19: Gumshoe” starts back when Lou Gaines failed to receive his recruitment letter from ODAR–thanks to Loop 1 David Marian (see the fragment timelines in “Butterfly Syndrome” down below). Gaines is a little bitter about losing his job, but mostly content–especially since he’s given himself a new job. Ever since accepting the offer with Agent Beck, Marian has gone completely silent for two months. He hasn’t left an address, hasn’t called, hasn’t sent any letters–and Gaines decides he’s going to be the one to find Marian.

Gaines starts with some typical leads, but finds that Marian hasn’t even contacted his mother in this time. Gaines relies on one of his trickier contacts, Jim Colfax, to help find some more information. Colfax agrees, but says after this, they’ll be square–no more favors.

Colfax comes through, getting Gaines a shocking amount of paperwork to look through. It takes him a few days and several calls, but eventually he finds something of a lead. Several wives of scientists in the same town said that their husbands worked on government projects, but they wouldn’t give any more information up. This leads to Gaines’s most important finding, though: he’s contacted by June Barlowe.

In the phone call, Gaines initially tries to lie about being a journalist working on a story about government contracts with outside agencies. Barlowe very plainly states that she’s happy to give up information about ODAR, but she’s also hesitant to trust him. Gaines wins her over by telling the truth and explaining that he’s looking for his friend. Barlowe isn’t thrilled that he lied to her initially, but after thinking it over, she agrees to work with him.

When Barlowe calls Gaines back, she explains what happened with her, Dr. Grissom, and her late husband Quentin. She convinces him that, yes, they do have a working time machine that they built. Barlowe only has one lead: she says that Dr. Esther Roberts (who, it turns out, has a doctorate and not just a master’s as I once thought, and will henceforth be referred to as Dr. Roberts) was close to a woman named Bridget Chambers, who now works at a New York library. Gaines says he’ll follow up.

Gaines finds Chambers at her library, where he gives her the same lie about being a journalist, twisting it a little to say he’s a professor of journalism at her alma mater. He asks her to pull sources on ODAR and Dr. Roberts. Chambers doesn’t show any signs of recognizing either of these names, but tells him she’ll contact him when she finds something. Chambers, though, is far too smart for this game. When she calls him back, she says she did basic research on him and discredited his story. Gaines tells her the truth and eventually wins Chambers over, too–but she’s too afraid of ODAR to help him. He tells her to keep a recorder around just in case Dr. Roberts tries to contact her.

The episode skips to the recording just after Dr. Roberts and Chambers sleep together and Dr. Roberts tries to recruit Chambers. She sends the recording to Gaines, who is very uncomfortable, but tells Chambers that giving him the tape was a great deed, and that he doesn’t think any less of her for being attracted to women. Gaines asks if he can rely on her in the future, and she says yes.

After a month-long dry spell in leads, Gaines finds information on Margaret Elbourne. He gives her a call, and she’s very suspicious of him, but when he gives her the same story about being a journalist, she says they can meet. When they do, Elbourne tells him everything about her work. Instead of blaming her supervisor, she mostly blames Dr. Roberts. She tells him she’s going to help him however she can, because letting him go this alone would be sending him on a suicide mission.

Eventually, Gaines finds out about Point of Exile after Marian sends his mother a card on her birthday. Gaines tries to get Marian’s contact information from the post office, but they won’t supply. When Gaines tries to just go to Point of Exile, Barlowe talks him down, reminding him how dangerous this all is.

Later, Gaines gets a collect call from Mexico from Petra. Gaines incredulously asks who she is and how she found his information. She gives her name and calls herself a friend, saying she’ll help him. Gaines understands none of this, but Barlowe later calls Petra a mutual friend, confirming they should work with her.

Gaines, meanwhile, cares about their last lead, who Barlowe refuses to work with: Dr. Sally Grissom herself. Gaines argues that Dr. Grissom had nothing to do with the death of Quentin Barlowe other than by accident and says they’re going to need her help. Barlowe finally concedes, and Gaines tracks down Dr. Grissom while she’s gardening. Dr. Grissom is furious with the universe for never giving her a break, and she tries to tell him that whatever he’s after isn’t worth the trouble–but eventually, she invites him inside all the same.


Key facts and characters

  • Jim Colfax: Gaines’s contact who finds him information on ODAR. Jim Colfax is played by James Oliva.

How does it hold up?

The beginning of “19: Gumshoe” is one of the trickier starts to an ars PARADOXICA episodes for me. While the performance by L. Jeffrey Moore as Lous Gaines is solid as always, the writing is stuck somewhere between the typical feeling of ars PARADOXICA and a standard piece of noir. The result is narration that feels a little forced and out of place, stumbling between the two tones before it ultimately settles into its full noir trappings. It takes a bit–about a third of the episode–but once it lands in a jazzier feel, it truly lands on its feet.

The second season of ars PARADOXICA introduces a huge amount of new characters that initially feel a little bloated in the season overall, but “19: Gumshoe” helps show how each one is integral to the plot. This episode feels a bit like an “Avengers Assemble” episode, bringing together some forces that will ultimately shape so much of the story, and seeing how these threads weave is just as exciting, if not more, as when I listened the first time.


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.
    • November 2nd, 1949: Dr. Nikhil Sharma is killed by Chet Whickman.
    • May 19th, 1985: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van arrive after travelling back in time.
      • Loop 1: Liam travels back in time ten minutes to see himself.
      • Loop 2: Liam A meets Liam B from 10 minutes in the future, giving him severe Butterfly Syndrome.
    • December 13th, 1990: Petra, Carmen, the other children, and Van travel back in time to May 19th, 1985.

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.

The Recruitment of Gaines and Marian

In a version of the current timeline, both Gaines and Marian are recruited into ODAR. Sometime after October 28th, 1943, Marian is given the order to stop Gaines from joining ODAR.

  • Loop 1: Both Gaines and Marian are recruited by ODAR.
  • Loop 2: The current timeline, Marian destroys Gaines’s offer letter to work for ODAR.

ODAR & You!

  • Jim Colfax is played by James Oliva, who readers of this site might know as the creator of audio drama favorite What’s the Frequency? as well as being a voice actor in countless other audio dramas.
  • While waiting on more information, Gaines and Barlowe listen to the conviction of Alger Hiss, a former State Department official who was charged with perjury in January 1950. Hiss’s conviction helped encourage McCarthy’s accusations of communism, and it also highlighted Richard Nixon, who worked on investigating Hiss.
  • 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.

On Tuesday (5/4/19), I’ll be recapping “20: Hitchhiker.” 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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