Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “30: Volunteer”

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.


“30: Volunteer”

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?

Back in her home after going to Petra’s safehouse, Dr. Sally Grissom narrates to her audio diary about what it’s been like being back. Dr. Grissom has regained some trust of Dr. Esther Roberts after she told Dr. Grissom about saving Dr. Nikhil Sharma–but because Dr. Roberts only saved him to use him as an asset, that trust isn’t back completely. Dr. Sharma has been understandably on edge, but Dr. Grissom is just happy to have her friend back. Together, they’ve been trying to decrypt the hard drive from Partridge, but given neither of them have a background in computer systems, it’s proving difficult.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grissom has started teaching an engineering course to local women. She calls this group “Grissom’s Gizmo Gals,” because she is terminally Dr. Sally Grissom. At one of those classes, Dr. Grissom is approached by one of her students, Jeanette, regarding Jeanette’s niece, Carrie Everworth. Jeanette is worried; Carrie, who works for “the government,” has been living with her, but randomly moved out a few weeks ago. Jeanette susses out that Carrie works wherever Dr. Grissom works and asks Dr. Grissom to check up on her.

Dr. Grissom goes through a series of people to get Carrie’s file, eventually getting it from Petra, labeled for someone named “Syvlia Pureboot” (see ODAR & You! below). When Dr. Grissom does her research, she finds that Carrie is being put on an alternative to the Blackroom, something called the Outpost. Essentially, it looks like Director LeMartine is going to stranding someone else in a Blackroom just like they did for Partridge.

This motivates Dr. Grissom to stop dodging Director LeMartine’s asks and schedule a meeting with her. The meeting starts out with niceties and Dr. Grissom trying to act like she’s only been avoiding Director LeMartine due to her busy schedule, but fairly quickly, Dr. Grissom confronts her about the Outpost. Director LeMartine explains that because she’s from 20XX like Dr. Grissom is (not that she understands Dr. Grissom’s pop culture references, unfortunately), she has a better understanding of the tech needed for more sophisticated mechanisms than the current ODAR has.

Dr. Grissom isn’t impressed, though; she came with receipts. She explains how the records say that those stationed at the Outpost will be subjected to, essentially, the same isolation Partridge had to deal with. Director LeMartine tells Dr. Grissom she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, explaining that the Outpost is operated externally, not internally–which leads Dr. Grissom to remember some of the research she did on the Blackroom while trying to save Partridge.

Dr. Grissom goes to the diner with Dr. Roberts to talk about all of this, saying she doesn’t trust anyone in ODAR. Dr. Roberts points out that ODAR is made up of individuals, and also, Dr. Grissom is the one who almost literally committed treason for a friend she’d made just a day or two before.

Director LeMartine gives Dr. Grissom two weeks to draft up a proposal for how the Outpost might work without anyone to operate it. When Dr. Grissom gives the proposal, Director LeMartine is, shockingly, impressed:

Dr. Grissom: So, what do you think? Are we gonna save Carrie, or what?

Director LeMartine: I think what you’ve showed me today is the best justification for rethinking my plans for the Outpost.

Dr. Grissom: Wait, really?

Director LeMartine: I’m not wasting any time getting the Outpost set up, but I’m definitely going to take this data into account. It’s more efficient, and on the upside we can keep a few more agents’s families intact. Not bad, Dr. Grissom.

Dr. Grissom: Holy shit. This is the most human thing ODAR has ever done.

It seems like Dr. Grissom really has succeeded until Jeanette, sobbing, shows up on Dr. Grissom’s doorstep because her niece, Carrie, wound up moving away for work anyway. Jenette reads the letter from Carrie, explaining that she’s embarking on a new adventure. Dr. Grissom explains as best she can, gives comfort to Jeanette as best she can.

When Dr. Grissom confronts Director LeMartine, she’s furious. She says that they had an agreement, but LeMartine says they never agreed on anything–which is true: read that excerpt of the transcript above. LeMartine says that Carrie volunteered to leave and man the Outpost. She wanted to get away. Dr. Grissom posits that she only wanted to get away because ODAR inundates everyone with propaganda, and LeMartine says that everyone is complicit in something upsetting in some way. She fully admits and explains that she did try to send Dr. Sharma back to kill Dr. Grissom in the past to clean up some loose ends, because that’s the kind of decision-making someone has to do. She points out, though, that just because Dr. Grissom can’t fathom doing what Carrie did, that doesn’t mean Carrie was forced; not everything, it turns out, is about Dr. Sally Grissom.

The episode ends with more of Dr. Grissom’s audio diary. She says that LeMartine had good points–that she admitted to trying to have Dr. Grissom killed and still “landed her point.” Dr. Grissom doesn’t know whether this honesty from an ODAR director is an improvement or not after all.

And then, the audience hears Dr. Grissom get kidnapped.


Key facts and characters

  • The Outpost: A successor to the Blackroom, the Outpost functions the same as the Blackroom but is manned externally versus internally.
  • Jeanette: One of Dr. Grissom’s “Gizmo Gals,” whose niece, Carrie Everworth, is stationed at the Outpost. Jeanette is voiced by K McIntyre.
  • Carrie Everworth: Jeanette’s niece, who volunteers to be stationed at the Outpost for ODAR.

How does it hold up?

This episode was fine. Other than the standout performance by K McIntyre as Jeanette, which steals each scene, the episode didn’t make much of an impact on me, and didn’t feel like one of the more integral episodes in the third season plot-wise.


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!

  • Jeanette wonders if Carrie has become a “Hello Girl,” the name given to World War I switchboard operators.
  • While talking to Dr. Roberts, Dr. Grissom references the “I drink your milkshake” scene from 2007’s There Will Be Blood. It’s uncertain whether she is referencing the scene proper, or the Saturday Night Live sketch that made the scene especially well-known. The scene from the film is laden with spoilers, but the sketch isn’t, so here you go.
  • Who is Sylvia Pureboot? The ars PARADOXICA Twitter discussed in full, but warning for spoilers for the end of the series.

  • 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.

Next week, I’ll be recapping episode “31: Control.” 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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