Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “29: Odyssey”

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. You can see the full series here.


“29: Odyssey”

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?

This episode starts with a look back into Dr. Grissom’s road trip with Dr. Nikhil Sharma. As the two run out of gas, they push the car to the nearest gas station and discuss the night previous, in which Dr. Sharma had made a move on Dr. Grissom. Dr. Grissom says it wasn’t a slight on him; she’s just asexual. This leads Dr. Sharma to talk about leaving his partner, Mateo Morales, in the future. Dr. Sharma says he misses him and shares some of his memories. Dr. Grissom points out how curious it is that he can remember these details, but he “doesn’t remember” his own mission.

Cutting to Dr. Grissom’s narration, she explains that she’s been listening to these tapes and recording her own tapes to cope with everything. She’s no longer talking to Dr. Fitzgerald, and everything has been so tumultuous after Chet Whickman resigned–especially since he’s now living in Ida’s old house, right next door to Dr. Grissom.

Dr. Grissom ruminates on Anthony Partridge’s tape and whether or not he was successful in saving everyone given the Russians still have a Timepiece. She wonders about the Barlowes.

In another recording with Dr. Sharma, she tells him that their friendship matters. Dr. Sharma says that he loves her, and then explains that platonic love is just as important as romantic. Dr. Sharma says that he did tell M<orales he loved him before he left, and then lies about a device he has that’s built to regulate his location in time, again trying to seem like he doesn’t know his mission. When Dr. Grissom worries about whether or not she’s doing any good, Dr. Sharma says that she’s a legend in his timeline–not that he’ll give her any more spoilers than that.

Dr. Grissom makes her way over to Whickman’s to find Petra leaving with no explanation of why she was there. She fins Whickman, sick and confused about why she’s paying him a visit. He tells her to just call him Chet, but she refuses, before launching into a series of questions about ODAR–and also his eyepatch which, so far, has not been mentioned. Whickman says he plans on leaving, and he doesn’t understand why she isn’t happy about that. Dr. Grissom says that she hopes they could have been more normal now that she isn’t working for him, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She notices that he’s coughing up blood.

Dr. Grissom complains about this all to Dr. Roberts, but Dr. Roberts is too engrossed in catching up on her work to focus much. Dr. Grissom says, “You haven’t been good to me,” and Dr. Roberts agrees. This leads Dr. Grissom to lay down some very specific ground rules for their friendship moving forward:

  • Dr. Roberts will not use Dr. Grissom, nor anyone else.
  • They’re friends first–Dr. Roberts can’t just boss Dr. Grissom around.
  • They have to spend time together outside of work, at least once a week.

Dr. Roberts agrees, and when Dr. Grissom leaves, Dr. Roberts calls Petra in. The two are working together on a plan Dr. Roberts is going to keep secret from Dr. Grissom: they’re going to go back in time and save Dr. Sharma, using his knowledge of the future to help ODAR now. Because of her immunity, Petra has to be the one to do it–but because there would be no way Whickman would allow them to revive Dr. Sharma after Whickman shot him, they need to convince past Whickman that it’s a direct order from future Whickman.

The scene transitions back to the moment when Dr. Sharma died in Dr. Grissom’s arms. Petra stops Past Whickman by shooting him in the eye, and then Past Whickman a code phrase that should let him know the order to revive Dr. Sharma came directly from him:

The weather in Tulsa today is wildfires.

Petra revives Dr. Sharma and keeps him in a safehouse.

The episode transitions to Dr. Roberts talking to ODAR’s new Director, Director LeMartine. LeMartine introduces herself to Dr. Roberts but explains that in the future, she’s already been ODAR’s Director from some time–she came back to serve as Director in the past by Future Dr. Roberts’s own orders. Director LeMartine asks about Dr. Roberts’s relationship to Dr. Grissom and asks to see her as soon as possible.

Dr. Roberts panics. She picks Dr. Grissom up and starts driving her to the only safe place she knows: Petra’s safehouse. Dr. Roberts explains that Director LeMartine is, she thinks, the one who ordered Dr. Sharma to come back in time to kill Dr. Grissom in the first place. She also explains that, yes, Dr. Sharma is alive. Dr. Grissom is . . . alarmed, to say the least, and is panicked about who Dr. Sharma really will be when she sees him. He’ll still be an anchorite, that much is sure, but will he still be the same person? Will they still be friends?

When they arrive, Dr. Grissom greets Dr. Sharma by punching him and yelling, “You fucking asshole!” Crying, she keeps punching him, but she’s obviously thrilled to see him–and he seems happy to see her again, too. He offers her in for some fried chicken, and her anger is summarily defused.


Key facts and characters

  • Director Tonya LeMartine: Director LeMartine is the replacement for Dr. Roberts. She has served as the director for ODAR in the future, and is the person who tasked Dr. Sharma with going back in time to kill Dr. Grissom. Director LeMartine is played by Tina Huang.

How does it hold up?

“29: Odyssey” is an episode I love more than I think I would if made by any other team, with any other characters, with any less care.

Generally speaking, revival plotlines–especially in time travel narratives–feel cheap and convenient to me. When a character dies, I always narratively prefer them to just stay dead. When it comes to Dr. Sharma, though, I was just delighted. His friendship with Dr. Grissom is so important to who she is as a character and how she regards the rest of the world that continuing to use him as a part of her development without his presence might have felt forced.

It helps that Dr. Grissom didn’t save him, and that he wasn’t saved for altruistic purposes. When looked at through the lens of practicality, reviving Dr. Sharma is exactly something both Dr. Roberts and Petra would have done–though Petra’s help here is certainly motivated by a bit more sentimentality.

It also helps that this episode centers on Dr. Grissom’s lack of any real friends. In this episode, she mourns Partridge. She laments Whickman leaving. She admits that Dr. Roberts isn’t good to her. She wonders after Wyatt and even over the Barlowes. Bringing back Dr. Sharma feels not only narratively comfortable, but narratively necessary.


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. Grissom and Dr. Sharma break into the ODAR HQ.
      • Loop A: Dr. Nikhil Sharma is killed by Chet Whickman.
      • Loop B: Petra revives Dr. Nikhil Sharma.
    • 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.
    • 20XX: Director LeMartine travels back in time to take over for Dr. Roberts as Director of ODAR.

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.

The Death of Cornish

In Timeline 1, Hank Cornish almost escapes after being revealed as ODAR’s mole. Partridge, from the Blackroom, rips him out of time and lands him in another timeline, where his corpse washes ashore and is found by that timeline’s Chet Whickman.


ODAR & You!

  • The song that plays on the road trip is The Carter Family’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”
  • 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: WILDFIRE
    • Your sign is: CANCER

Next week, I’ll be recapping episode “30: Volunteer.” 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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