We’ll say one thing: The show keeps its sense of humor in the face of incomprehensible human suffering. The scale of the disaster is enormous, but somehow there's still time for ironic T-shirts and amusing musical interludes. And we appreciate that. Let’s take a look at this week’s special absurdities.
Absurd Moment #1: Ned Ned becomes an "invincible black man, like Shaft, or Bryant Gumble."
The Flash: Olivia and Bryce's new patient Ned Ned arrives in the hospital fourteen days after almost drowning when the city bus he was on plowed into a pond during the blackout. He came to after his 137 seconds, still listening to Björk's "It's Oh So Quiet" on headphones — which serves as a clever soundtrack to this flashback-to-the-flash-forward opener — and feeling incredibly serene in the face of calamity. He saves a woman from drowning, along with himself, and only goes to the hospital after feeling some pain in his gut. The reason for this geeky white boy's incredible calm? He flashed to seeing himself confidently sauntering into a trendy nightclub, and catching a glimpse in a mirror of his newly pigmented, African-American–seeming skin tone.
The Upshot: Olivia dives into operating on the hematoma in (around?) Ned's liver, while Bryce tries to convince her that Ned's flash means he has Addison's disease — a condition that would complicate surgery and change his skin pigmentation. Olivia wants to fight Bryce, and reject the truth of these flash-forwards, because she can't deal with the idea of falling in love with her autistic boy patient's dad, Lloyd Simcoe. After Ned nearly dies on the operating table, she starts to face ... the power of fate.
Absurd Moment #2: Yellow-cake uranium that's actually "yellow cake" weed.
The Flash: In this case, the relevant flash may be Demetri's lack of one. His lawyer fiancée Zoey wants him to get all "Dick Cheney" on the asses of anyone the Feds have in custody in order to get whatever information they can. While stopping short of waterboarding, he does aggressively pat the head of the creepy blond terrorist sympathizer they're still holding, Alda Hertzog, and she tells him to find Customer Choice Restaurant Group, which turns out to be in Indio, California.
The Upshot: Demetri and Benford hoof it out to the desert, where they end up chasing a vaguely accented, Mediterranean-looking Ali G type through a trailer park (this time with soundtrack provided by a random jazz trumpeter). Demetri yanks a metal box out of the guy's backpack labeled "yellow cake," which he naturally believes to be black-market nuclear material. But it's just the name of a strain of weed. We find out that this absurd anti-pimp saw himself driving an awesome car in six months, and that this trip may have been yet another waste of time and tax dollars.
Absurd Moment #3: Jesus is my Episco-pal!
The Flash: We're reintroduced to the Benfords' babysitter, Nicole, who was herself babysat by AA sponsor Aaron's dead daughter, Tracy. She's still broken up about seeing herself drowning in her flash-forward, and she seeks the counsel of a minister.
The Upshot: He serves as a neat symbol for the uselessness and absurdity of religion, telling her nothing comforting and offering her a T-shirt that says "Jesus Is My Episco-pal!" Nicole remains convinced that she's going to be punished for something, and that all of this is God's doing.
Absurd Moment #4: Mark Benford knows Arabic.
The Flash: Benford's Mosaic board is useless at this juncture.
The Upshot: While it shouldn't be so surprising that an FBI agent might know Arabic, Benford rattles off a translation of Alda Hertzog's Sufi poem in mere seconds, and we're meant to see her as some kind of evil mystic or something. She communed with terrorists, and she admits that her "associates" were responsible for the blackout. But so far she's still being treated humanely and her hair looks good, and all she's offered the FBI is a useless lead about a burger joint in Indio, and some bullshit parable about a boy blowing out a candle. (Although she does spurn Benford on to looking further into the "why" of the blackout, starting with getting a known hacker named CheetoDust to break into the mainframe at Langley to look up any intelligence there might be on the 1991 Somalia event.)
The Upshot: It's clear now that a mystical branch of Islam is going to be blamed for this blackout, and that these FBI guys are going to continue to hang on every word this Hertzog woman says. Also, she gives the episode its metaphoric title — black swans, she says, symbolize shocking events that humans aren't prepared for.
What Else? We're introduced to a new FBI agent, Gough (Lee Thompson Young), who we see checking the Mosaic website for a woman named Celia. Janis is nowhere to be seen.
Oh, yeah: And Lloyd Simcoe is finally revealed as the villain he is. He takes a call from Simon (Lost and Lord of the Rings alum Dominic Monaghan), who we know from previews is some kind of ringleader of the worldwide calamity, despite having had little screen time thus far. Like all good villains, they both have British accents.