Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “23: Contact”

Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA is a relisten and recap series for season one of ars PARADOXICA released every Tuesday and Thursday.

jkijhuLet’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.


“23: Contact”

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?

In 1953, three years after the botched breakout, Dr. Grissom is now working with ODAR once again. She hasn’t been working on the Timepiece, but has been working on other projects. She talks about how ODAR now has an Ethics and Oversight Committee to help them be somewhat morally aligned–though while she can understand the discussion of timelines, she can’t really wrap her head around the ethics. She’s also still in recovery from Butterfly Syndrome, still worried about whether she’s using tenses right or not.

Because of how wrong everything has gone, though, Dr. Roberts is now being tried–especially because they’re now in the middle of the Cold War. ODAR has been looking into the plasticity kids like Petra and Carmen–both of whom left ODAR–and whether the future Dr. Roberts’s decision to approve the experiment can reasonably be held against this timeline’s current Dr. Roberts.

ars PARADOXICA, folks.

Talking to Dr. Grissom, Dr. Roberts defends almost all of her decisions and her actions. Dr. Grissom says that if Dr. Roberts could understand that what she did was wrong, her trial might be easier, but Dr. Roberts doesn’t regret anything she’s done, and she doesn’t think she should be exempt from punishment, either. Dr. Roberts says that she has reasons for her decisions, even with the ramifications. She doesn’t claim that she’s doing it for the greater good, though; the concept of a “greater good” isn’t something she supports, saying everything is really just shades of gray. Dr. Roberts becomes frusrated with Dr. Grissom, and Dr. Grissom says that she sounds just like Donovan.

The episode transitions to a recording from Kenzo Sugimura, one of the ODAR agents who trained with David Marian. Sugimura’s relaying information to Anthony Partridge, telling Partridge to make sure he gets his Fleetwood Mac albums back–things he isn’t supposed to have because they haven’t been released yet, but Partridge obliges. There’s a knock on the door and Sugimura is greeted in code by his Soviet contact. Sugimura replies back in code, and the two talk about their mission. The contact is going to kill Stalin in return for safe passage out of the Soviet Union, and Sugimura is there to make sure everything goes smoothly.

There’s a skip forward to Sugimura and the contact executing the plan. In the middle of their plan, the contact is caught, and Sugimura tries radioing Partridge for assistance or plans forward–but all he gets back is silence. Luckily, Sugimura and his contact are saved–each by a Petra. Sugimura’s Petra asked him what he said to Partridge; she tells him that in Partridge’s chronology, Sugimura was the last person to speak to him, regardless of Sugimura’s chronology. On the other side of the radio, though, the contact and his Petra are attacked. Sugimura’s Petra doesn’t understand–the contact’s Petra is the same Petra as she is, just from an hour ago, and things didn’t happen like this.

The episode cuts to Chet Whickman who’s trying to reach Partridge to no avail. Speaking to Amelia Arnault, Whickman asks for any information she’s found. Arnault says that about an hour before the Blackroom went silent, Dr. Roberts sent a document to an address that doesn’t exist–with a header code from the Moscow job Sugimura was on. Whickman believes this means Dr. Roberts may be giving out secrets.

The episode cuts back to Dr. Grissom and Dr. Roberts, with Dr. Roberts still in the cafeteria, about to be properly arrested. Dr. Grissom explains the hazards of Dr. Roberts’s position given she’s a queer Jewish woman, but Dr. Roberts holds her ground and says she’ll be fine. She’s moved to house arrest, but she’ll be facing a full investigation in DC.

The episode cuts one last time back to Sugimura nad Petra. Petra doesn’t understand how this moment in the timeline went wrong, but then she realizes that the people who attacked her must have taken her Timepiece.


Key facts and characters

  • Not much! Kenzo Sugimura and Amelia Arnault have appeared in the series before.

How does it hold up?

Manning’s writing returns full force this episode, with every story beat landing into place effortlessly. As the beginning of a new season, this episode’s level of intensity feels very natural. There’s a sense of urgency inherent in the plot, but the characters are, by now, so used to this level of threat that they don’t experience that urgency. In this, the listener feels engaged enough to be riveted for the next episode, but not still at the levels of anxiety from the building pressure of the previous season.


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.
    • February 27th, 1953: Dr. Roberts is put in house arrest.
    • 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!

  • Dr. Grissom calls Dr. Roberts “lawful neutral,” a reference to the classic Dungeons & Dragons character alignment system. Lawful neutral characters abide by a strong moral code, but that code is personal versus societal, religious, etc. The moral authority is one’s own judgment of morality, not an external authority’s judgment of morality. Here’s a quick list of some other debatably lawful neutral characters:
    • Black Panther
    • Iron Man
    • Amanda Waller
    • Percy Weasley
    • Ron Swanson
    • Iroh
  • Personally, though, I care much more about where Dr. Roberts is on this scale, which I discussed with ars PARADOXICA writer Tau Zaman. I’m guessing it would have to be “We have food at home.”

Image result for alignment chart

  • 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: DROUGHT

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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