Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “21: Jailbreak”

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.


“21: Jailbreak”

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

Transcript
Written by: Daniel Manning


So, what happens in this episode?

Dr. Grissom starts her audio diary back up on November 1st, 1950. She talks about how she’s now working with a group of radicals to overthrow a government agency and recording it: “Classic me, right?” Dr. Grisson doesn’t quite understand her team. She knows June Barlowe and knows of Maggie Elbourne, but she isn’t sure if Lou Gaines is a journalist or a professor, and she’s not really sure who Petra is, either. She knows that Ben Quigley is her Quentin Barlowe from the past, meaning her Quentin Barlowe was from the future. She knows Bridget Chambers knows Dr. Esther Roberts, but she isn’t sure how.

Still, she plans on helping them build their second anchor point, even if they don’t really have the tech to do it. They could use the Rainbow generator, but since her attempt with Dr. Sharma, she hasn’t been allowed to be in its proximity.

But then, Petra assembles everyone together to tell them something–and then, there are two Petras. Using the timepiece, a version of Petra from the future (Petra 2) in a different timeline comes into Timeline 1 (see the “Butterfly Syndrome” section below for all of these Petra shenanigans) to teach this timeline’s Petra (Petra 3, “our” Petra) how best to execute a plan: they need to break Lambert and Maraczeck, the two Rainbow engineers from when the first ODAR location in Polvo was almost destroyed. Petra 2 was likewise taught by another Petra, Petra 1, who was taught by the Petras before her. An infinite loop of Petras teaching Petras how to execute the plan, meaning Petra 3 has the best chance yet at being successful.

Chambers and Gaines are confused by all of this, but Elbourne, informed by the many tests she ran, is outraged–not just for Petra, but for Petra endangering all of them by subjecting them to potential Butterfly Syndrome. Everyone agrees that Petra 2’s knowledge is needed regardless, though.

From here, the episode turns into a typical jailbreak episode. Petra 2 tells them that in order to break Lambert and Maraczeck out, they’ll need locks that are controlled by radios: the passcodes are encrypted by computers stored in the Blackroom. The only passcode they’ll be able to use is Whickman’s, and they’ll only have 20 minutes to execute the plan start to finish. This means they’ll have to break up into two teams: one team to break into ODAR HQ to steal the radio and the codes, the other team to receive the codes and break the two out.

Petra also tells Dr. Grissom that her cellphone is powering almost all of ODAR’s computer systems and decryption. Dr. Grissom doesn’t understand, saying that she broke the phone and buried it.

The episode skips to the plan being executed. First, Petra 2 and Petra 3 talk about what happened to Petra 1. When Petra 2’s plan failed, Petra 1 died even though she was “the best of [the Petras].” The two don’t know what’s going to happen to them after this plan–hopefully–succeeds, so they both agree to keep a recorder running. When they return, Petra 3 tells Dr. Grissom about how she knows about Dr. Grissom’s famous audio diary, which Dr. Grissom finds both flattering and unnerving.

As they reach the guards, they use fake IDs. The guard flirts with Petra, joking about how her ID looks too old–but Petra panics, thinking he’s seen through her. Luckily, Dr. Grissom is buddies with the guard, and they eventually make it through fine. Dr. Grissom surmises that Petra doesn’t know how old she is.

The group splits into two teams:

  • Blue Team: Petra 2, Lou Gaines, Maggie Elbourne
  • Red Team: Petra 3, Dr. Grissom, June Barlowe, Bridget Chambers

Ben Quigley stays behind with one of the vans to get them out safely.

Red Team goes to get the codes. Dr. Grissom apologizes to Petra, who says none of this is her fault, even if it really is. The team is approached by a guard, but they run away–only to find out that he was just trying to return a pen Dr. Grissom dropped.

Blue Team goes to break into the jail. First, they turn the power off on the searchlight, and Petra binds and gags the guard in the guard tower. Petra gets the rest of her team the passcode for the facility from the guard. Gaines asks Quigley the status of Red Team over the radio, but they’re too far away to get solid reception, and the connection keeps cutting out.

Quigley has an idea. He tells Gaines to turn the spotlight back on and get to the gymnasium. Because the gymnasium has a glass ceiling, Quigley tells Gaines to send Whickman’s passcode via Morse code.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grissom is picking a lock to get to the radio. Dr. Roberts passes by, which prompts a sigh from Chambers. Dr. Grissom realizes that Chambers is the ex Dr. Roberts still isn’t over, but tells Chambers she and Dr. Roberts aren’t involved.

Finally, they get the numbers to the other team. Petra 2 signals the numbers in Morse code, and then the episode skips forward. They’ve gotten Maraczeck and Lambert out, and they run to the getaway van. When they get there, though, the lights are off–the other team has seemingly not returned. Lamber says they’re walking into a trap, but they continue on.

And, of course, Lambert was right. They’re greeted by an armed Chet Whickman, who says he wants to speak to them all about their future.


Key facts and characters

  • Petra 2: The Petra who trained Petra 3, “our” Petra.
  • Petra 1: The Petra who trained Petra 2 and died in Petra 2’s universe.

How does it hold up?

Jailbreak episodes are always fun and exciting, and while sometimes the actual mechanics of what’s happening in the episode are confusing, the stakes always feel so genuinely high and the momentum is fantastic. The twist of the team failing doesn’t feel like a twist, but it likely wasn’t really supposed to. There was no way the team was going to succeed; ODAR is always a step ahead.

What really shines in this episode, though, is the dialogue editing. ars PARADOXICA is a closely scripted podcast, not replying on much improvisation or looseness from the actors, but the dialogue editing makes sure it still feels completely natural. The way characters are allowed to speak over each other here is the perfect amount of both organic and still understandable.


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.

The Multiple Petras

In order to execute the jailbreak plan for Maraczeck and Lambert, an infinite number of Petras traveled to the past, to other Petras’ timelines, to help them learn from their mistakes.

  • Petra 1: Taught by all the iterations before herself, Petra’s mission fails, so she uses the Timepiece to travel to the timeline of Petra 2.
  • Petra 2: Taught by Petra 1, she attempts the jailbreak plan and fails. Petra 1 dies, and Petra 2 travels to the timeline of Petra 3.
  • Petra 3: Taught by Petra 2, she attempts the jailbreak plan. Petra 3 is the Timeline 1 Petra, and she is currently still joined by Petra 2.

ODAR & You!

  • While it doesn’t use the same mechanism, using a radio for a lock is imagery that immediately made me think of the phenomenal game Oxenfree, which also deals with time travel, duplicates of people, the 1940s and WWII, time rifts, and likely even more parallels with ars PARADOXICA.
  • 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: DARK

On Tuesday (5/14/19), I’ll be recapping special episode “The Recorder of Dr. Nikhil Sharma.” 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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  1. Hi there —

    I’ve been trying to unsubscribe, but to no avail. I just get too many emails to continue following by email (sorry!). Can you help me?

    Best,

    Elizabeth

    On Fri, May 10, 2019 at 3:22 PM Wil Williams Reviews wrote:

    > Wil Williams posted: “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. “21: Jailbreak” > https://radiopublic.com/ars-paradoxica-GEvD1W/ep/s1!66b1d An embed to” >

    Like

    Reply

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