Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “20: Hitchhiker”

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.


“20: Hitchhiker”

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

Transcript
Written by: Eli Barraza


So, what happens in this episode?

“20: Hitchhiker” parallels the events of “19: Gumshoe,” this time from the perspective of June Barlowe. Barlowe has been living in Carlsbad, New Mexico, but she’s been saving up to leave. A friend sees through her false name, “Alice,” and Barlowe gives her her real name before leaving.

While heading out of town, Barlowe runs into a hitchhiker who looks, speaks, and acts like her late husband Quentin Barlowe, but he has no memory of her, and he uses the name Ben Quigley. She agrees to give him a ride, and the two start road tripping east. Quigley tells Barlowe he’s an aspiring astronaut who’s travelling the country before he ventures into space. Barlowe tells Quigley she’s heading back home for a while, and the two bond over the song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which Barlowe already knows is Quigley’s favorite.

But eventually, Quigley says they’ve arrived at his destination. He asks if she wants to get one last meal with him, but she turns him down, saying she needs to continue on. She tells him to call her if he’s ever in Chicago.

In Chicago, Barlowe vents her frustration about her parents, who are already asking if she’s found another partner. Barlowe thinks about Quigley but tells herself:

“God gave you a brain—he expects you to use it. Especially when your heart’s all used up.”

And then, Barlowe calls Helen Partridge. Barlowe says she’s calling to reconnect as friends, but Partridge sees right through her game, saying they were never friends. Partridge tells Barlowe she should stop whatever she’s trying at, because ODAR will find out and retaliate.

Eventually, Barlowe gets a lead on a “reporter” from another woman whose husband worked for ODAR. The “reporter” is, of course, Lou Gaines, and the episode is largely a rehashing of the events between the two from Barlowe’s perspective. We do learn that Barlowe found Bridget Chambers by looking through the alumni archives at her alma mater, where Dr. Roberts’s records had been scrubbed, but her picture remained.

Before Petra calls Gaines, she calls Barlowe, calling herself an interested party in what Barlowe is up to. Barlowe is initially suspicious, but Petra convinces her they’re on the same side by speaking in coded language to reveal that she, too, has but hurt by ODAR. Barlowe doesn’t know whether or not to trust Petra, but Petra says she trusts Barlowe’s judgment.

After Gaines approaches Barlowe about working with Dr. Grissom, Barlowe yells about it to her empty home before she’s interrupted by a phone call. Initially, she expects she’s just being called by Petra again, but it turns out to be Ben Quigley, over a year since she last saw him. She invites him over for dinner, and the two get caught up. Quigley, as it turns out, has quit his job. The two flirt, but they’re interrupted by an unexpected knock on the door. Petra has invited herself over.

Petra immediately recognizes Quigley as Quentin Barlowe, which sends her into a baffled spiral of conversation until she realizes what’s going on: June Barlowe is trying to keep this younger version of Quentin ignorant of his future so he doesn’t wind up with the same fate her Quentin had. Eventually, this leads Barlowe to tell Quigley everything that’s happened to her. While Quigley is, to say the least, taken aback by the information, he quickly offers to help in whatever ways he can.

Eventually, Dr. Grissom does come to Barlowe’s to help her take down ODAR. Petra, who has moved into Barlowe’s guest room, is overjoyed: Dr. Grissom is essentially a folk hero to her. Barlowe, meanwhile, is fuming. Petra, Barlowe, and Dr. Grissom exchange some very awkward dialogue before Barlowe points out Dr. Grissom’s lack of apology, which Dr. Grissom quickly amends. Still, Barlowe says they will not be friends, and Dr. Grissom agrees. During their exchange, Dr. Grissom mentions that Dr. Nikhil Sharma was “got,” prompting Petra to quickly leave the room.

And then, there’s a knock on the door, and Dr. Grissom is met by Ben Quigley.


Key facts and characters

  • Ben Quigley: A version of Quentin Barlowe from earlier in the timeline than the Quentin Barlowe met in the first episode.

How does it hold up?

In twenty episodes so far, “20: Hitchhiker” was the first episode I didn’t enjoy. The problems here lied equally on writing and acting. In writing, it didn’t seem feasible that June Barlowe would let the person who is clearly her husband just leave after having been killed, even if she thought she were protecting him. It felt equally unfeasible to think she’d just been in enough denial to think it truly wasn’t him. There wasn’t quite enough to Barlowe’s character added, especially in the moments that paralleled the previous episode, to make this episode feel very necessary other than for introducing Ben Quigley. Hannah Trobaugh’s performance as June Barlowe is also one of the weaker in the series, never quite feeling natural, which was emphasized by her starring role in the episode.


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!

  • When talking about space, Ben Quigley references Jules Verne and La Voyage dans La Lune.
    • Jules Verne is the author of several influential science fiction novels, but here, Quigley is most likely referring to the 1870 novel Around the Moon.
    • La Voyage dans La Lune is a film by Georges Méliès, one of the most influential filmmakers who developed innovation in film like hand-painting individual cells to bring black-and-white films into color. La Voyage dans La Lune, or A Trip to the Moon, contains some of the most referenced iconography, like this music video by The Smashing Pumpkins. Méliès is also one of the main characters in the 2011 film Hugo.
  • Linguistics check!: Barlowe and Quigley use the word “spaceman” versus the word “astronaut.”
    • In the sense of being an astronaut, “spaceman” was first widely used in 1942.
    • “Astronaut,” meanwhile, did not rise in popularity until 1961, likely around when John F. Kennedy discussed Project Apollo in a speech.
  • 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: TORNADO

On Thursday (5/9/19), I’ll be recapping “21: 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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