Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “31: Control”

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.


“31: Control”

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

Transcript
Written by: Julian Mundy


So, what happens in this episode?

Director LeMartine delivers the news to Petra, Bridget Chambers, and Lou Gaines: Dr. Grissom has been kidnapped by Russians. LeMartine believes that due to her importance, Dr. Grissom is likely not only alive, but being treated very well–but this doesn’t put any of them at ease. Petra urges them to start looking for her, and LeMartine agrees that the matter needs to be treated with urgency.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grissom is trying to get information out of her handler, Adler, a codename inspired by his eagle-like “beak.” Dr. Grissom continually asks him who he is, but he evades the question, instead pointing out the favorable conditions she’s being kept in. He tells her that they want to keep her safe, and they intend on approaching her as they did Hank Cornish–like a coworker. He assures her that they don’t want to cause any harm to the United States, but instead, simply catch up to the United States. He says that Dr. Grissom could help them even the scales–which could end the war.

LeMartine meets with the others at Petra’s. She says that they’re in an “unprecedented position,” and that to help the search and rescue, she’s giving the team use of The 77s, a specially-trained task force that Petra says were discussed in boogeyman-like stories when she was growing up:

LeMartine: [. . .] the Seventy-Sevens are a group within ODAR comprised primarily of US military operatives from the year 1977, each highly trained and equipped with two decades worth of historical hindsight. They are trusted with the most dangerous missions because they are some of the best we have, and have given up their own futures to help fix our present.

LeMartine tells them that Dr. Roberts will also be bringing along a second team. The others are very wary about the risks involved in all of this, but LeMartine points out that she didn’t stumble into directing ODAR by sheer luck like Whickman did; she was hand-chosen. She knows what she’s doing.

Back with Dr. Grissom, Adler wonders if she’s ever cared much about history. He asks her philosophical questions about who she trusts, who she doesn’t, and why. He points out that the Americans made the atomic bomb, not the Russians. When Dr. Grissom asks him what he wants, he tells her that they wants to stop the fighting. She says what they want is to control who dies, but he points out that in a war, people die regardless–so why not focus on it ending versus who ends it?

Chambers tells Petra she left her a “care package” after looking for leads on Dr. Grissom. After reading through the package, Petra breaks into the house of James Thurston, an employee with Customs who potentially helped Hank Cornish conspire with the Russians. Petra monologues to a bound and gagged Thurston, switching between aloof and sentimental and threatening with ease. She demands information from him, and crying, he agrees.

Adler’s casual questioning of Dr. Grissom continues. Dr. Grissom tells him that she keeps doing her work because she likes control, and she likes feeling like she’s contributing. She says that she can’t let innocent people die just because she needs rest. He suggests that she doesn’t want to be scared anymore, and she agrees. When he asks her again if she wants to end the war, she’s a little more relenting. Later, during a meal with Adler, he tells her that his superiors want her to see their lab, treating it as a “professional appraisal.”

Petra, meanwhile, investigates some confusing goings-on in West Germany while also discussing a house guest who will be staying with them in case they need help. She says that she’s not sure what he’ll get out of this–maybe he really is as worried about Dr. Grissom as she is–but the 77s don’t sit right with her, and she can trust this guest. At the end of the scene, the guest is revealed to be Dr. Nikhil Sharma.

LeMartine looks over the leads with everyone. Chambers has located a West German address Hank Cornish was using, perfectly placed with his goals in mind. The address is connected to KTNK, or, “Russian ODAR.” Thurston’s testimony corroborates this all, and also reveals that he’d helped Cornish quite a bit after Cornish got Thurston’s nephew out of a sticky legal situation. LeMartine plans teams for surveillance who will only break into the site once Dr. Grissom, codenamed “Limestone” for the mission, has been confirmed to be held there.

Looking over the lab, Dr. Grissom continually asks Adler if she’s really allowed to be seeing everything; they’ve allowed her to see their blueprints of Timepiece field kits and more. Adler assures her that this is how much his superiors want her trust and collaboration. She points out that they must be antsy, meaning she can outweigh them, but Adler says that what they can promise her is being revered as a legendary scientist. Dr. Grissom points out that first, they should teach their techs better, telling Adler the various ways their schematics could be fixed, and telling him that a time bubble is a wildly irresponsible thing to attempt. She also tells him that she doesn’t know what’s on the hard drive or how to get into it.

77 Gordon, one of The 77, informs them all that they have a direct method to get into the facility where Dr. Grissom is being held–but because it’s so direct, they have to make sure she’s really there, and alive, before entering. Petra asks him if he’s ever annoyed by the constant “hurry up and wait,” which is emphasized when 77 Gordon gets a transmission from 77 Alec confirming that Dr. Grissom is there.

It’s raining when Dr. Grissom tells Adler that even though she hasn’t agreed to help KTNK, she’d be more comfortable saying yes if she could see their full schematics versus just little pieces. Adler tells her that if she were to go to the lab tonight, he might just conveniently forget to cover the blueprints for five minutes. Dr. Grissom picks up on his hint and, later that night, looks the blueprint over–but then runs back to him, furious:

Dr. Grissom: You steal my tech and jam it in a warhead, asshole?!


Key facts and characters

  • The 77s: A special task force of ODAR agents meant to be the best of the best with difficult missions. 77 Gordon is played by Zach Libresco. 77 Alec is played by Danielle Shemaiah.
  • Adler: Dr. Grissom’s handler with KTNK. Adler is his code name, not his actual name. Adler is played by Ego Mikitas.
  • KTNK: An initialism, essentially the “Russian ODAR.”

How does it hold up?

So much happened in this episode that it was, at times, hard to keep up–but that may be my person disinterest for hearing missions planned out in an episode. Other than the intricate plot and pacing, Mundy’s knack for writing established characters comes in full force here. His grasp for Dr. Grissom is impressive, but even mores so, Petra’s writing is so cohesive with her writing in the rest of the series.

Ego Mikitas is astoundingly warm in their role as Adler, a character who easily could have skewed too saccharine or too untrustworthy. Instead, Adler lands as genuinely curious, philosophically playful versus combative.


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.
    • November 1950: Hank Cornish starts working with Andrew Thurston to cover with tracks with the KTNK.
    • 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 77s aren’t just highly-trained fighters. Apparently, they’re also a band.
  • When 77 Gordon knocks on the door, he knocks the Morse code for “OPEN.”
  • 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 “32: Riposte.” 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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