“So, it’s like a reverse Back to the Future?” pretty much sums up this week’s Timeless, as Wyatt and Rufus pull a Grand Theft Lifeboat and try to prevent Jessica (Wyatt’s wife) from being brutally murdered by way of keeping her killer from being born. Karma Chameleon, it is:
This week’s episode picks up with Wyatt banging down Lucy’s door to tell her his big plans to save his wife by keeping Gilliam’s parents from knockin’ boots. Normally this is a plot I can get behind, and there are some wonderful and funny moments to this episode, but I’m just not really feelin’ Wyatt’s hell-bent mission to save his wife and damn the consequences. He tells Lucy what he and Rufus are up to, and then asks her to give him a 20 minute head start before calling Agent Christopher about the whole “stealing a time machine” thing. She agrees and they have a moment while saying goodbye. Then the worst kidnapping to ever kidnap begins and I can’t help but laugh at the idea that anyone would believe that Rufus was being held hostage by Wyatt. One thing I do love about this episode is the 80s jokes. I, personally, am disappointed that Rufus isn’t wearing parachute pants, but off they go, security footage “convincingly” showing Rufus being dragged into the Lifeboat at gunpoint.
When they show up at the airport where the boys plan to intercept Gilliam’s mother, a flight attendant stewardess, Wyatt tells Rufus that he has no plans to hurt anyone, he just wants to make sure that Claire and Joel (Gilliam’s parents) don’t meet. Rufus is, I think, not paying terribly close attention because he’s so busy geeking out over Walkmans and the A-Team. But hey, if nothing else, they have a new covert ops team name. “Time Team” finds out that they missed Claire’s flight and when Wyatt asks another stewardess (not flight attendant) where she is, he’s given the name of a nearby bar and our dubious duo heads out.
Meanwhile, in present day, Emma freaks Anthony and Flynn the fuck out by telling then Rittenhouse’s plan (which we don’t get to know yet), and Team Mothership disagrees on how to take care of this “Super Threat.” Anthony and Emma want to destroy the Mothership and trust Rufus to destroy the Lifeboat, while Flynn just wants to kill everyone who is a part of or has heard of Rittenhouse.
Back at the Mason Industries warehouse, Agent Christopher (who makes every scene she is in better; more Sakina Jaffrey, please) isn’t buying for one second that this was a rogue mission solely perpetrated by Wyatt. She, like the rest of us, knows that this group isn’t exactly built to go rogue, and soon enough Lucy is defending Wyatt, saying she (and Christopher) would do the same thing to bring back their families. Here is where I feel like I need to step in. This is just not true. Lucy holds history too dearly, even if she is at the end of her patience. And Jessica was dead long before they started traveling through time, unlike Amy, who is a direct casualty of people fucking around with the past. It makes complete sense to me that Christopher would agree to help one and not the other. But I digress. In the middle of their questioning, Anthony calls and asks for Rufus, but settles for Lucy because, eh what the hell, one person is as good as another when you’re talking domestic terrorism. He asks Lucy to meet and tells her that he has a plan to “end it all.”
Back to the 80s and Mission: Cock Block. The go-to plan is to flirt with Claire and keep her too busy to hook up with Joel the bartender. I just have to say that I love that “Ma’am” seems to be Wyatt’s default pick up line. It works and he and Claire strike up a conversation while Rufus chats with another girl, forgetting that this is the 80s and a woman wouldn’t take being called a “weirdo” as the compliment it’s intended. What is made abundantly clear immediately is that this team just does not function without Lucy. Wyatt and Rufus are a mess, and literally nothing goes right. A storm comes through, stranding them at the bar, and Wyatt trying to defend Claire actually gets him kicked out to the lobby, leaving Rufus to prevent the hook up by ordering banana daiquiris and generally weirding out Joel (never change, Rufus). As more and more things go wrong, we see Wyatt begin to unravel. It would be easier for us to root for him if one or either of their targets were assholes, but they’re just people. Nice people. Claire’s friends come in and recognize Wyatt from the airport, blowing his cover and completely freaking them all out, causing the trooper who was stranded with them to arrest Wyatt.
As Jiya is helping Lucy get ready for her “tech free” meeting with Anthony by fitting her for a tracking device, she complains that Rufus didn’t inform her of his plans, saying that if you care about someone, you tell them shit like this. I’m sure it doesn’t much help to hear that Lucy knew only because Wyatt told her, but we don’t get enough time with Jiya to care. Of course, when Lucy goes to meet Anthony, he pulls a gun and finds her tracking device (he probably invented it, let’s be real) and sticks it on a random pedestrian’s briefcase. After getting her alone, he makes his case for mercy, thinking his family probably considers him a monster (you did steal some plutonium and help some people get killed, just sayin’). He tells Lucy (without actually telling her The Plan, probably because we were listening in) that Rittenhouse has a plan to basically rewrite history in their image and that Mason is helping them. They want to control everything but can’t, so are systematically going through time “fixing” it to match the clean, sterile future they want; and Flynn is the only thing standing in their way. I have been waffling on the line for Team Flynn for a while, if I’m being honest, and now I just really want to see everyone but Mason and Jiya (sorry) switch sides and become True Rogues (I think they will do better if they’re doing the right thing, or if they believe they are, anyway).
After his plans to kidnap Joel are derailed by a drunken asshole and Rufus’s AMAZING diversions (A “flood” and “creepy kid named Haley Joel in the storm”) Wyatt resorts to going to Claire’s hotel room (he saw the key) to keep her and Joel from hooking up. Wyatt is off the rails. He breaks into Claire’s room with a gun (after knocking out the state trooper who was holding him). Wyatt is completely reasonable-seeming when he tells them it’s just important that she and Joel not hook up, and Claire, bless her heart, tells him it’s not him, it’s her. Joel leaves with Wyatt and makes a break for it. The sickening thud of Joel’s skull hitting the curb, killing him, makes me wonder exactly how far Wyatt will go. What ends justify his means? I know he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, but he is so blinded by his grief for his wife that bringing her back has eclipsed everything else. And the worst of it is that Jessica would be horrified if she knew what he’s done, and Wyatt knows it. He sounds so much like Flynn when he talks about how it doesn’t matter what happens to him, as long as she is okay, that again, I’m ready for them to switch sides.
They head home and Wyatt is immediately arrested, and to add insult to injury, Jessica is still dead. The other two women Gilliam claimed to have killed are alive, but Jessica was still murdered, essentially destroying any chance Wyatt had at saving her. If I were him I’d be pissed at Flynn for giving me the wrong information, but Viewer Meg thinks that this was some kind of test to see how far Wyatt would be willing to go. Before we can get any deeper into it, the explosion in Oakland that Anthony warned Lucy about happens, and the team (minus Wyatt) goes to see the destruction, finding no evidence of the Mothership, but a very dead Anthony (RIP, I love you Matt Frewer). The next day, Lucy finally confronts her father, who tells her he’s happy she knows about Rittenhouse and says it’s her legacy and a gift. Ugh.
I don’t know if it was because I’m kinda sick of Wyatt’s Quixotic mission to save his wife and the monotonous beats therein or what, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Karma Chameleon. There were some genuinely cute and funny bits to it, and Rufus was, as always, a goddamned gem… but it fell a bit flat for me after last week’s strong showing. I did, however, like seeing that Time Team doesn’t work at all without Lucy, and am excited to see how it might or might not work without Wyatt next week.
That being said, here is the issue I am having with this show: There are still no stakes, and there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive long range narrative. The formula of “case/monster of the week” that works for procedurals or other shows doesn’t work here. We aren’t with any characters long enough to care about them, or what happens to them. Thirteen episodes in and I still do not care about what, if anything, happens to Jiya. Mason is a one-note bad guy, and this week we didn’t even really see Flynn, who is the most compelling character in the whole story. Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, and Malcolm Barrett are all good actors, but I’m not feeling the chemistry I really want to between them. I feel like the audience is being asked to invest in these character’s lives without giving us much to go on. We have seen Rufus’s family once, and even his and Jiya’s interactions are brief. This week felt like it was supposed to get us more into Wyatt’s story and character, but I can’t really bring myself to care about what happens to his wife, because all the grief seems to be written on the surface, and counting on facial expressions or long looks to fill in the blanks does not a compelling drama make. Even Lucy, who has the most to lose in this show only seems to get token time given to her dilemma of saving her sister or possibly saving everything. There is meat on the bone for this show and these stories, and it’s frustrating to see it not being utilized.