Let’s Go Back to ars PARADOXICA: “32: Riposte”

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.


“32: Riposte”

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

Transcript
Written by: Eli Barraza and Danielle Shemaiah


So, what happens in this episode?

In a cell, Dr. Sally Grissom tries to, seemingly, guilt or intimidate one of her Russian captors. This proves unsuccessful. As they leave, Dr. Grissom tries to “Iron Man” her way out of the cell, fiddling with the lock, until she accidentally triggers a booby trap and hits herself with a knockout gas that puts her under for fifteen minutes.

The team, meanwhile, makes their way into the facility where Dr. Grissom is being held using fake IDs. On the way, they see Dr. Grissom’s hard drive, soldered to a table, which Dr. Nikhil Sharma (codenamed Lemondrops) is left to try to retrieve. As the rest of the team continues on, they hide away from a Russian who they overheard talking about David Marian. Lou Gaines takes his leave to try to save Marian. Petra and the two 77s continue on.

Eventually, they find Dr. Grissom, who they overhear speaking to one of her captors. Again, she’s trying to guilt or intimidate him; again, it does not work, but luckily, Dr. Grissom is saved by Petra, who just fights him. Petra starts to approach the lock, but Dr. Grissom says that the entire thing is massively boobytrapped in nightmarish ways, comparing it to the SAW films–which Petra has no frame of reference for. Instead of working on the lock, they use the electrical cattle prod on the captor to short it out, and Dr. Grissom is broken out. They start leaving as quickly as they can, only to realize that there are multiples of Dr. Grissom’s captor, Adler, like there have been multiple Petras. The team takes down the Adlers as needed along the way.

The group is interrupted by a voice saying they will stop the violence if they are allowed to negotiate with Dr. Esther Roberts.

The episode shifts to Lou Gaines talking to David Marian in a hospital bed in the facility. Instead of the warm familiarity to their typical dynamic, there is instead a remorseful nostalgia; it is clear that this reunion will not be one with a resolution either is happy with. Gaines asks Marian how he even ended up here given what they’ve learned and taught, but Marian points out that ODAR is no safe haven intent on truly helping humanity either:

Marian: They don’t care what happens to you, Lou. They never did. You think if you ended up like me, here, you’d be taken care of? Or would they leave you on the side of the road, make you forget you knew them in the first place? At least here, I know who I can trust.

Gaines: Then how the hell did you end up here? I’m not sure what I expected to find, when I found you. But now I’m staring you straight in the face and I can hardly recognize you. You’re not the same man I taught all those years ago. I don’t know when you threw all that away, but I don’t see it.

Marian: You’re not looking for it, Lou. You’re looking for me to tell you you’re right and follow behind you like I always have. I can’t do that. And I haven’t been doing that. It’s just taken a while for you to catch up.

Gaines: You violated what I was trying to teach you.

DM: I didn’t . . . I don’t think I am.

The heart monitor on David Marian starts to signal his heart failing.

Dr. Sharma, meanwhile, is having a hard time getting the hard drive off of the table, let alone getting into the hard drive. Petra tells him that the hard drive is from “some idiot agent from 20XX,” which prompts Dr. Sharma to input a password, realizing the encryption was put in place by Mateo Morales: “HEY LOSER.”

Dr. Esther Roberts is brought in to negotiate with her equivalent at KTNK, codenamed “Karla.” Karla tells Dr. Roberts that they are the same people under very different situations and that they are at a stalemate. Karla makes an offer: she will give Dr. Roberts the blueprint to what Dr. Grissom was building if Dr. Roberts gives her the files on the Plasticity experiments. Dr. Roberts is offended and appalled, given the nightmarish scenario that resulted–but Karla points out that the experiments were successful. She suggests, essentially, that using the reports, KTNK can do what ODAR never could because of their difference in ethics.

The rest of the team is told to hold position while they await the return of Dr. Roberts, but Dr. Grissom and Dr. Sharma decide to try to make a run for it, in classic Dr. Grissom and Dr. Sharma fashion–but when they are approached by a KTNK agent, they are told they will be peacefully escorted off the premises.

Petra, making it away from the last of the Adlers, finds a chakboard that reads, “Students, welcome to 1953.” Realizing what’s happened, she says, “We’re done, Roberts,” and leaves.


Key facts and characters

  • Karla: Karla is the KTNK equivalent to Dr. Roberts. She negotiates with Dr. Roberts to exchange Dr. Grissom’s blueprints for the Plasticity reports. Karla is played by Emma Sherr-Ziarko.

How does it hold up?

While the fast-moving action scenes of this episode were confusing–I missed that there were several Adlers until checking in the transcript–the emotional conversations work so well that this episode remains memorable and gorgeous. Barraza and Shemaiah’s writing of Lou Gaines and David Marian is one of the most tender and philosophical scenes of the series overall. Marian is present in so few episodes, but still feels so actively present in the story, his death feeling weighty and substantial. Likewise, the conversation between Dr. Roberts and Karla render Dr. Roberts human in a way very needed; so far, Dr. Roberts has been so stoic, with just a few falters. Hearing Karla push at the things Dr. Roberts resents about herself most reminds the listener of the person at the core of her.


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!

  • It’s comic books time!
    • Dr. Grissom references Iron Man, which the Russians don’t understand. Iron Man’s first appearance was in 1963.
    • Dr. Grissom references that they’re currently in the Golden Age of comics, the official name given to the comics published between 1938 (starting with the first Superman comic) until the mid-1950s.
  • The confusing reference to Iron Man prompts the Russians to say she’s talking about The Man in the Iron Mask, an anonymous masked French prisoner in the 1670s.
  • 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: frogs
    • Your lucky number: 862

Next week, I’ll be recapping episode “33: Home.” 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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