Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “26: Grip”

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.


“26: Grip”

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?

This episode of ars PARADOXICA starts in media res. Dr. Sally Grissom is speaking to Petra as they scale Dr. Grissom’s modified radio tower in Philadelphia. Dr. Grissom accuses Petra of being the mole they’re looking for before she slips and almost falls. Dr. Grissom asks Petra to help her up, but Petra considers letting her fall. Before Petra makes a decision, the episode transitions to a moment from earlier in the timeline.

Having tea with Ida, Petra is distracted, but eventually says that after her first fight with Dr. Grissom, the two did make up, but it was short-lived. Again, the scene transitions to even further back in the timeline, just after Petra apologized to–and then subtly threatened–Dr. Grissom. Petra comes bck into the room and apologizes to Bridget Chambers for her outburt, though Petra still insists that Chambers was incorrect and overtaken by emotions when suggesting Carmen could be the mole. Chambers stands by her thesis, but Petra makes it clear the conversation will end there. Eventually, Chambers and Lou Gaines make a plan to consult with Charlotte Serber (see the “ODAR & You!” section below) from the Manhattan Project for some fact checking.

Cutting back to another teatime with Ida, Petra asks Ida about her life, and Ida responds with very generic answers. Ida asks if Petra and her sister–Carmen–grew up in Point of Exile:

Ida: You and your sister grew up here?

Petra: Um, yeah. I guess so. But this isn’t really the same Point-of-Exile I grew up in. Times change, you know?

The episode cuts to Dr. Grissom, Chet Whickman, and Petra going over potential options of how the situation could have played out. The options regarding the Blackroom are, essentially:

  1. The Soviet spies broke into the Blackroom and caused it to go silent, whether by killing Partridge or by tampering with things,
  2. Anthony Partridge somehow died otherwise,
  3. The Soviets did not break into the Blackroom but tampered with the mechanics externally,
  4. The Soviets tampered not with the Blackroom mechanics, but instead with the receiver, or,
  5. The Soviets somehow figured ut how to intercept the signal even though Dr. Grissom couldn’t.

Dr. Grissom suggests that she and Petra reverse engineer how the Blackroom would have gone silent in the first place. Dr. Grissom suggests they use her altered radio tower in Philadelphia to do it.

Petra says it sounds like a good opportunity for a road trip. Dr. Grissom says her last road trip didn’t exactly end well. Whickman offers to set them up with a flight, but Petra she has a contact who can help instead.

Cutting back to another teatime with Ida, Petra is asked if she has any friends. Petra says that she doesn’t, really, and that her travels were supposed to be to find out who she is. Petra says that she had a really fantastic dad, a dad that let her listen to music she wasn’t supposed to and did puzzles with her, but that he’s gone now. Ida sees Petra’s pain and makes her more tea.

On the plane, Dr. Grissom says that she’s recently gotten sober. She and Petra exchange quotes from Airplane, their versions slightly different, and Petra tells Dr. Grissom the movie is one of Carmen’s favorites. This opens Petra up to telling Dr. Grissom that her pseudonyms are always references to future films and pop culture that her siblings loved. She tells Dr. Grissom about Liam, and Dr. Grissom asks her a question similar to something Ida had asked her before:

Dr. Grissom: Petra. Is there anyone you can be . . . real with? Like, be yourself? Maybe Carmen?

Petra: Even with her, I’m just a version of myself. All of these versions of me and all of them are true, even the ones I think are lies. I stopped believing in objective truth a long time ago. Now it’s whatever the consensus is.

By the time the scene cuts back to another teatime with Ida, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Ida is trying to get information out of Petra, seemingly slowly convincing her of something. Ida asks Petra about her travels, and Petra says that in Mexico, she was seeking out artists. Ida is surprised, but Petra says that she loves art–especially art made as acts of rebellion. Petra tried to meet Frida Kahlo, but only wound up meeting people who knew Frida Kahlo instead.

The episode cuts to Dr. Grissom and Petra scaling the radio tower. The two seem friendly here, their antagonism only joking as the two call each other jokingly immature mean names. Eventually, Dr. Grissom asks Petra questions about why she’s going to all of this trouble to help Dr. Esther Roberts, who Petra hates. Petra says that it isn’t about her feelings; it’s about the evidence, finding what the truth is.

Cutting back to tea with Ida, Ida tells Petra that everyone should love to travel if they can. It’s at this point that Petra finally reveals that she knows Ida is trying to recruit her into working against ODAR. The two start fighting when it is understood that Petra plans on bringing Ida to ODAR.

Back at the tower, Dr. Grissom suggests the two clash because they’re too similar, like magnets with the same pole. Petra says that she isn’t “repulsed” by Dr. Grissom, but instead, is frustrated with how Dr. Grissom ignores the flaws of her friends like Dr. Roberts. Dr. Grissom accuses Petra of being a hypocrite for doing the same with Carmen, and then accuses Petra herself of being the mole–catching up with the beginning of the episode. Dr. Grissom slips and asks for help. Petra says she won’t help unless Dr. Grissom promises they’ll stop looking into Carmen. Initially, Dr. Grissom says she can’t promise that, but when it seems Petra isn’t bluffing, she agrees. Petra helps her up, and when Dr. Grissom asks if Petra would have let her die, Petra nonchalantly says she doesn’t know.

Later, Dr. Grissom tells the others, but she defends Petra’s heightened emotional state. Chambers doesn’t seem impressed by this defense, but she’s cut off by a lockdown alarm. Petra comes in, confused at why Dr. Grissom and Chambers are there, and just before the door closes, Petra says Ida’s name.


Key facts and characters

None in this episode! As the series comes to a close, we’ll have fewer and fewer of these sections with new information.


How does it hold up?

Another fantastic episode from the first half of ars PARADOXICA‘s third season, Eli Barraza’s writing feels so perfectly utilized in this episode. Barraza has a better grasp with the contrast between tenderness and rough edges on a character than essentially anyone else in the medium, as portrayed best in her work The Far Meridian. Here, her knack for fragility plays out in a way that is stunning and absolutely heart wrenching in Petra. Barraza also has an ear for a sort of lyricism in prose, both in the rhythm of each line–even when halting, especially when halting–and the poeticism in the words themselves. Using her writing adds such beautiful depth to Petra, taking a character who’s already fascinating and making her even more painfully human.

If you’re reading this, you already know this, but it bears repeating: ars PARADOXICA is very good.


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.
    • March 3rd, 1953: Dr. Roberts’s trial.
    • 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!

  • Chambers and Gaines reference “Charlotte” and “Priscilla” from the Manhattan Project. They were talking about Charlotte Serber, a librarian, and Priscilla Duffield, a secretary.
  • There are also plenty of pop culture references in this episode:
    • Dr. Grissom and Petra have a quote-off of Airplane, the 1980 Zucker brothers film
      • In Dr. Grissom’s version of the film, an Anita Bryant concert is referenced, and while Petra says this wasn’t how her version went, we’re never told what replaces this concert in hers
      • Don’t worry. I didn’t link to an Anita Bryant song there.
    • One of Petra’s pseudonyms is Lydia Deetz, the protagonist of Liam’s favorite movie, 1998’s Beetlejuice.
    • When Petra almost lets Dr. Grissom fall, Dr. Grissom references 1994’s The Lion King.
    • Dr. Grissom also references 2002’s Minority Report, only to remember that this is after Petra’s time.
  • 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: TROPICAL

On Tuesday (6/4/19), I’ll be recapping episode “27: Breach.” 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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