Timeless Recap: La La Land


Season 2 Episode 3
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Man, does it suck to be Lucy right now. Imagine coming off one of your best episodes — not just a fun one, but one in which you shined in ways you never had before, including zzzexxxually — only to find out that the dude of your dreams just remet the love of his life … WHO WAS DEAD. I would say you just can’t make this stuff up, except we’re already talking about a sci-fi dramedy about time travel.

I have to give Timeless tons of credit for bringing back Wyatt’s corpse-bride Jessica, and for when and how they did it. (Also, tons of credit to any fan who called this because I surely never could have.) Given how this season has streamlined the show’s myriad plot detours, I just didn’t consider how all that first-season backstory is now ripe for the picking, ready to be harvested by the writers’ room and served up for some fresh surprises. Let’s jump in our Lifeboats, time-travel back to the start of the episode, and get to recapping!

We are in old-school Hollywood (in case the CGI’d “Hollywoodland” sign didn’t give it away) where a Rittenhouse sleeper agent gets installed by his sqauare-jawed pop. (If you’re a white, male, 50-something, workaday actor in real-life Hollywood who used to make your bread and butter playing Republican lawmakers on 24 or whatever, I bet you now earn you keep playing Rittenhouse dudes.) “Make us proud, son,” he tells his progeny before beaming off in the Mothership. Is his kid going to become a famous Tinseltown icon? My money was on him growing up to be Adventures of Superman star George Reeves, but only because of that Hollywoodland Ben Affleck movie.

Cut to 1941, and that Rittenhouse Sleeper Agent is now a big-time, hotshot producer. He cutely informs some hack director on the lot that television “is the future” when suddenly, his future is standing right in front of him. Rittenhouse Dad returns! He tells his son that Rittenhouse found Nicholas Keynes and that “he’s more brilliant than we could have hoped for” — which, come on, I still say that’s debatable. He also says Keynes has “mapped out” Rittenhouse’s game plan, thus proving my point from last week that it is a map, Keynes.

The Scooby Gang finds out where the Mothership’s gone, but just like last week when Rittenhouse traveled to the Darlington 500, they’re stumped as to why that’s on the itinerary. So it’s back to Flynn, where he and Lucy and Agent Christopher recite their whole will-they, won’t-they schtick about springing Flynn from the clink. Flynn trolls Lucy by hilariously yell-asking her, “Do you have any ability to do this on your own?” then rejects Christopher’s offer to provide more in-prison amenities by growling, “I don’t want any damn Netflix subscription.”

Flynn finally points them to the right studio, and here’s where “Hollywoodland” swept me off my oh-so-charmed feet. Granted, it’s not difficult to make charismatic TV out of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but what I really liked was how the show’s light-footed sense of humor meshed with the historical milieu. Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus were made for witty banter, wacky hijinks, and quick one-liners, like Bogart and Bacall and … Langston Hughes! Rufus comes through with that hilarious Hail Mary (because “who knows what writers look like?”) just as they’re about to be kicked off the lot, and claiming he’s the famous wordsmith gains the Scooby Gang access to studio president Marty Balaban. There, Rufus pitches Hamilton, plus a movie about “the ways of white folks” and another idea about a Rittenhouse-esque group of time-traveling baddies, which Balaban rejects because “secret cabala conspiracy stories are overdone.” Meanwhile, Lucy jumps in to clarify Rufus’s chronologically inaccurate claim that she and Wyatt are the next Bogart and Bacall (whose first movie wouldn’t come out until 1944) by declaring that they’re more like the next Fairbanks and Pickford. It’s yet another example of how “Hollywoodland” regales viewers with entertaining historical tidbits.

To wit: Things really get underway when the Scooby Gang finds out that “RKO 281” (code name for Citizen Kane) has been stolen. For all they know, this means that William Randolph Hearst could be Rittenhouse: Thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of basically everything that ever happened, Lucy reveals that Hearst was furious at Orson Welles for making Citizen Kane and wanted to kibosh the movie. So Hearst has gotta be behind the theft of the Citizen Kane reels, which means our heroes need to crash a party at his mansion, which means they need more glamorous clothes, which means Wyatt has to pick a lock on a costume storage room, which I just find funny. One week he’s assassinating sleeper agents, and the next he’s committing petty theft because he really needs some dapper duds!

After they arrive at the party, Wyatt and Lucy split from Rufus, who’s off on a tangent with Hollywood’s greatest multi-hyphenate, screen siren/inventor Hedy Lamarr. (Earlier, Rufus asked expositional questions about Lamarr, found out from Lucy that she basically invited Wi-Fi, and gave voice a large chunk of the American public by asking, “How did I not know this?”) Rufus tries to keep his Langston Hughes cover going by reciting the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song (LOL!) as an example of his latest poetry, but Lamarr doesn’t buy it. Rufus soon reports back to Lucy and Wyatt with a blunt, “Hey guys, guess what? Hedy knows I’m not Langston Hughes.” But she still trusts he’s a friend of Orson Welles, so they go off together to spy on the Rittenhouse sleeper agent while trading nerdy knowhow about acoustics and whatnot, leaving Lucy to keep the gang’s cover going with a song.

(I apologize that it’s taken me this many words to get to Lucy’s performance, especially since it’s one of the highlights of the episode. Consider it evidence that “Hollywoodland” is like a swanky cocktail party I never wanted to end.)

So Lucy is forced into singing “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” and OH. MY. GOD. I can’t say my knowledge of movie scenes in which people entertain showbiz crowds by singing in front of a piano is as encyclopedic as Lucy’s knowledge of everything that’s ever happened, but this was the best one since Postcards From the Edge. Actually, even better, because Meryl and Shirley didn’t do their crooning while staring into the eyes of a hottie-boombalottie like Wyatt. (Speaking of Streeping it up, first of all, Lucy’s gown is positively Katharine Graham–in–The Post–esque.) Either way, what a wonderful showcase for Abigail Spencer this scene is!

Oftentimes, so many plot gears need churning and so much historical background needs explaining on Timeless that there’s little opportunity to spend downtime with these characters. You know, like the way Lyatt’s two previous attempts at a kiss this season were interrupted by their fellow do-gooders. But not this time! Because — cue the Celion Dion song, throw in a little bomp-chicka-bow-wowwwww — LUCY AND WYATT FINALLY DOOOOOOO IT! The moment isn’t without its cheese, all silent looks and whatnot, but I feel so — whoops, never mind, here comes Rufus with the post-coitus interruptus. “Oh yeah, I was looking for both of you,” he mumbles in that nerdy endearing way Malcolm Barrett has practically copyrighted at this point. “Well, here you are.”

And here we go with the rest of our do-gooders’ to-do list: It’s time to thwart the Citizen Kane handoff so that Rittenhouse doesn’t get to spew unedited propaganda in Hearst’s newspapers. (Seems kinda low-stakes to me, much like last week’s threat to the auto industry, but sure, whatevs.) Whiz, bang, a brief shoot-out ensues, mission accomplished.

Meanwhile, back in the bunker, the gist is that a doctor told Jiya she’s actually healthier now than she was before the Lifeboat effed her up. I’d like to think I detected a glimmer in Mason’s eye when he heard this news — as if the gears are turning inside his head and he’ll somehow figure out a way to save Jiya’s life, despite the fact that he bluntly told Agent Christopher that Jiya’s a goner.

No longer a goner is Flynn, who breaks outta prison with help from the Scooby Gang, only to walk into the bunker and hilariously deadpan, “To think I escaped prison for this.” Wyatt isn’t thrilled that Flynn is now considered a member of their team, but don’t worry Wyatt, your new girlfriend Lucy is here to tend to your manly anger! But boom goes the dynamite as Wyatt gets a text and walks off in a distracted rush. The alarms sound and everyone thinks somebody broke into the bunker, but it turns out Wyatt has busted out. To go see Jessica … who texted him? Or someone else tell him where to find her? Also, did it look to you like Jessica recognized Wyatt when he hugged her? Does she even know that she was once dead? I have so many questions!

Timeless Recap: La La Land