Drilled into our heads again this week are the twin notions that (a) the future is entirely changeable and subject to free will, and (b) the future is written and we are silly, silly people to think we can change it. At least there's time for a frivolous round of poker and some gun play. We're also introduced, once again, to a brand-new band of villains. TV Fanatic calls it "a terrible episode," but we'll just call it writing-challenged.
"WE HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY"
Reluctant super-villain Lloyd Simcoe is shown watching a daytime panel-discussion show on TV where Agent Gough's dramatic suicide of last week is being bandied about as evidence of the whole free-will thing. He's getting ready to hit "send" on an e-mail with the above subject line to some other super-villain accomplices. The e-mail is addressed to several people at "nlap.us.com." This isn't a real-life domain, but NLAP is a real acronym for National Laboratory Audit Program, for what it's worth. He hits "send."
"The gods did it all the time."
Next thing we know, Simon (played by Dominic Monaghan, whom io9 rightly calls an "unconvincing bad guy") is challenging Lloyd to game of poker, in which the stakes are whether to announce to the world that their as-yet-unexplained "experiment" caused the worldwide blackout. Simon even throws out the words "confessing to a mass murder," which he passes off as a "Manchester figure of speech," lest their Asian-businessman poker friends be confused. Using the sleight of hand he's been practicing for several weeks doing tricks for his autistic son, Lloyd manages to win the game with a straight flush, and gives the dealer the entire pot as a tip. (Won't he need that shit for legal fees when word of this "experiment" gets out?) He then hands Simon a draft of their confession so he can put his own spin on it and struts off satisfied.
"Let's hope three-star guy didn't get to our witness."
Mark and Olivia take a much-needed break at the beach, but their couple's weekend is interrupted when a magical cell-phone video featuring a murder shows up at FBI headquarters, and a gunman with a three-star forearm tattoo — just like the one Mark saw on the arm of one of the masked man hunting him down in his flash.
This leads the agents to Barstow and a pet-store owner named Ingrid Alvarez, who shot the cell-phone video. The bad guys are after her, but she and Janis (did we mention Janis is back?) have time for a heart-to-heart about her flash-forward — which shows Ingrid as a blonde and working at the Bronx Zoo. (BTW, how does everyone see themselves in these flashes? Do they all have mirrors?) She doubted her fate, but after the man with the three-star tattoo finally comes after her, Janis recommends she go into witness protection — presumably at the Bronx Zoo.
"Four/five months from now I'm going to be sitting by your side in Afghanistan."
Former dad in mourning Aaron, whose presumed-dead daughter, Tracy, crazily showed up in his dining room last ep, has a lot to learn about the evils of the military-industrial complex. Tracy explains, at least in part, how she and her army buddy were ambushed in the Afghan desert by "Jericho" operatives — military contractors whom she had witnessed killing a whole village of women and children. We don't yet know how she got out of there alive, or why these Jericho dudes would have taken her blown-off leg and sent it home without checking her pulse, but we suppose we've got some intel to look forward to.
Aaron goes and gabs all about it to Mark, even though Tracy swore him to secrecy, and she gets totally pissed. Then we find out there's a whole second part to Aaron's flash, which involves a handsome but scarred Afghani field medic named Khamir who helped Tracy get out. "I don't know what could drag both of us back to Afghanistan, but I have to trust what I saw," he says. (Continuity note: In convincing Tracy of their shared fate, Aaron variously puts his flash at both four and five months from "now," but we're pretty sure a month didn't pass between commercials.)
"Did you open my gift?"
Mark gives Olivia a black lacy bra and panties, which turn out to be the ones she saw herself wearing to summon Lloyd to bed in her flash. Like a good wife, she tries to fuck with fate by tossing the gift in the trash and hoping Mark forgets about it.
"What's that on his hand?"
Bureau chief Wedeck interrupts Janis as she's reading about sperm donation on (get this) Wikipedia, to look at some enhanced images of Suspect Zero, the guy from the pilot episode who was awake and wandering a Detroit stadium during the blackout. The images shows essentially nothing, but you can make out that he's wearing a ring, which Wedeck bizarrely calls a "workable lead."
Agent Benford shoots the man who comes after Ingrid at her store, assuming that this is the same guy with the three-star tattoo from his flash.
This, of course, is quickly proven false when we're introduced to a whole new group of three-star-tattooed bad guys led by pockmarked magician and sometime actor Ricky Jay — who, like so many bad people on this show, has a few non-sequitur words of wisdom to share before the episode's end. Watch the closing quip below, and please join us in asking the writers of FlashForward to give us a break.