Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “22: Dawn”

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 Recorder of Dr. Nikhil Sharma”

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

Transcript
Written by: Tau Zaman


So, what happens in this episode?

The season 2 finale of ars PARADOXICA starts with Helen Partridge, scribbling lyrics before performing on stage.

The episode quickly transitions to Chet Whickman and Dr. Esther Roberts discussing a prisoner they’re holding: Amelin Vasilievich, a Soviet spy caught with ease. Dr. Roberts explains that Vasilievich’s cell is locked in sync with Lambert’s; this way, nobody will know they have two prisoners versus one. Whickman has some very understandable frustrations with this plan, but Dr. Roberts tells him it’ll work for now. After speaking with Vasilievich, Whickman and Dr. Roberts realize that the Soviets also have a timepiece.

Meanwhile in the future (a phrase that feels specifically ars PARADOXICA), Dr. Nikhil Sharma is having nightmares before going back in time to help the Anchorites. Mateo Morales tries to cheer him up with jokes, but it isn’t working; Dr. Sharma can’t shake his fears. The two mull over what June Barlowe wrote–“I see the beacons dotting the arc of time, lighting the way to dawn”–and what a strangely poetic thing it was to say, before realizing she was passing along a coded message:

Morales: Then she’d need to find some way to preserve her work without ODAR getting a hold of it. I’ll admit, when I looped around snatching her diaries, it didn’t feel like the most revolutionary way to carry out her legacy.

Dr. Sharma: The best way to do it would be…

Both: —to encode it!

Morales: But even if she encodes it, she’s trying to share it with people all across time. You can’t exactly do that with a numbers station.

Dr. Sharma: Right. Airwaves won’t work. You’d need a numbers station that could broadcast—

Morales: Across time! [pause; soft gasp] The beacons.

Dr. Sharma: I used to think they were anchor points; but what if they weren’t?

Morales: What if the beacons June was talking about… are numbers stations? Like the one they used to use in the old days — codes over the airwaves!

More on this in the “ODAR & You!” section below.

There’s a cut to where we left the characters in the previous episode, having just been cornered by an armed Chet Whickman. Now, Whickman is accompanied by Carmen, who it seems has helped Whickman find out that Dr. Grissom, Petra, another Petra, June Barlowe, Ben Quigley, Lou Gaines, and Maggie Elbourne released Lambert to make a second anchor point. Now, though, the audience has more information: Lambert’s cell wasn’t the only one opened. Vailievich’s was, too, and Dr. Roberts is still in the building. There’s a panic, everyone trying to maintain their side of the conflict, but Dr. Grissom points out that everything has gone to hell anyway, and Dr. Roberts might be in serious trouble.

This leads to a less aggressive, but still intense conversation. Whickman apologizes for killing Dr. Sharma, but says he has all of America on his shoulders; Dr. Grissom counterpoints that people who like Whickman still kill people like Dr. Sharma without even thinking about it in the future. Carmen and Petra come to an understanding, but all of the exposure to them has given Elbourne Butterfly Syndrome. Quigley tells Barlowe that if everything goes the best it can, he’ll stay with her now, and then come back from the future to be her Quentin Barlowe.

Eventually, though, the group does find out that Dr. Roberts has been severely injured–and Vasilievich escpaed via time travel with David Marian.

In Marian’s audio diary, he explains everything to Gaines: that Gaines was supposed to be in ODAR, and that Marian was tasked to get rid of the letter as a test of his loyalty. He agrees to go with Vasilievich because he knows now that no country should have this much power.

All of which leads Whickman, seeing how the others’ attempts have failed so spectacularly, to offer Dr. Grissom, Bridget Chambers, and Lou Gaines a job with ODAR. Dr. Grissom points out that ODAR is going to keep doing what they’re doing, so the three of them might as well help be their moral compasses. The three agree.

Meanwhile, Elbourne, Carmen, Petra, Petra, Barlowe, and Quigley are ruminating on what they’re going to do after all of this. Elbourne says she wants to keep trying to figure out Butterfly Syndrome. Barlowe wants to keep working on the anchor point, and Quigley wants to stay with her. Petra 3 tells Petra 2 to go live her own life, that she can–and should–manage the second anchor point alone.

And finally, Dr. Grissom tells all of this to Anthony Partridge. Partridge wants to hear more, but also just wants to talk to her more. After Partridge leaves her the message, he gets an incoming message from Whickman to open one of his boxes. Partridge opens it to find a record of Helen Partridge singing that night at the beginning of the episode–but in rage and despair, he destroys his record player.


Key facts and characters

  • Amelin VasilievichA Soviet spy captured easily by ODAR–only to escape with David Marian, taking a Timepiece with him.

How does it hold up?

This season 2 finale was strong, raising the stakes of the season before it while also adding emotional depth to the characters. The intertwining storylines, puzzling out how each moment in the timeline connected, and political ramifications of both set the stage for the very political third season.

Other than some general mic issues, my one gripe with the episode was the introduction of Amelin Vasilievich. I would have liked to hear his name, or some foreshadowing to these events, earlier in the season; introducing him in the same episode as he became an important plot asset felt a little rushed.


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!

  • The mystery of the numbers station at the end of each episode is. If you’ve been decoding them–or, like me, just reading them on the Wiki–you can see that they become clearer and clearer messages for characters in the story, sent back through time by Morales and Dr. Sharma.
    • The weather in Tulsa today is: CLEAR

On Tuesday (5/21/19), I’ll be recapping episode “23: Contact.” 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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