The second episode of FlashForward (Lost with a side of Armageddon, hold the Island, for those of you just joining us) puts us three days out from the mysterious worldwide blackout, when traffic is moving smoothly in Los Angeles, and the plot thickens around the creepy surveillance image of a single man awake in a Detroit stadium while the rest of the earth was out. Since we’ve already met everyone, let’s focus on that corkboard — the one with the index cards, spotted by Agent Benford in his flash-forward — as handy a repository for a mystery show’s clues as any we’ve seen. There will be time for several cupcake breaks and a cameo appearance by Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Card No. 1: D. Gibbons
Agent Janis Hawk, whom we’ve been told is “a bit of a tomboy” (read: comes out as lesbian in a future episode) and a brilliant analyst, narrows down a list of some 15,000 D. Gibbonses to a thousand or so with criminal records; meanwhile, a bakery owner named Didi Gibbons (played by MadTV alum Stephnie Weir) wanders into the FBI office with a box of red-velvet, carrot, and peanut-butter–crunch cupcakes. She describes her flash, in which she argues on the phone with a credit-card company, says something about pigeons, and mentions agents Benford and Noh by name.
Later: Didi’s flash leads Janis and field-office chief Wedeck to investigate a few weird credit-card charges on her bill in Utah, and then, absurdly quickly, send Benford and Noh off to a town in that state called Pigeon (more on that later). Didi is probably not the D. Gibbons in question, however — little Charlie Benford mentions a D. Gibbons from her “dream,” and he is a “very bad man.” But that doesn’t stop Didi from bringing over another box of cupcakes! This time they include ones with “tropical flavors,” which we believe is a subtle, and still racist, apology for essentially calling Agent Noh a Chinaman in her flash (he’s actually Korean).
Card No. 2: Doll Photos
In Pigeon, Noh meets a female sheriff who, like him, saw nothing in her flash. She waxes wise about how she’s glad she’s not tortured like everyone else about glimpsing their near futures, and that night helps the Feds stake out a bus station next to an old horror-movie set — er, an abandoned doll factory.
Later: After failing to catch a credit-card defrauder skipping town, Benford notices the doll factory and gives Noh (who knows the doll card on the corkboard) the old “this enough of a coincidence for ya?” They go in with the sheriff, guns out, and spot a shadow moving in an office upstairs. Benford trips a booby trap that sends a bunch of hanging dolls swinging and singing (“ashes, ashes … ”) and sparks a shoot-out with a trench-coat–clad lunatic, who keeps his computers submerged in fish tanks full of gasoline, all the better for torching. The lunatic and the sheriff die; the latter has Noh fretting over his own even-more-apparent death.
Card No. 3: Friendship Bracelet
Noh gets worked up when he sees Benford sporting the braided friendship bracelet from his flash-forward, because freely wearing it is like a symbol of giving in to fate, or something. (Creepy daughter Charlie gave it to her daddy on the day of the blackout.)
Later: Olivia Benford wakes up to find Mark sitting by the fireplace at 3 a.m. But she’s the one with some explaining to do — she met the shirtless man from her flash, and he turns out to be Lloyd Simcoe, the father of her autistic boy patient. “By the way,” she asks, “why’d you make a fire?” We see the friendship bracelet burning amid the logs.
Card No. 4: Mosaic
It’s the name the FBI has given to the investigation, as well as to the website they’ve built to track people’s visions from around the world and search for patterns within them. Lynn Whitfield makes a regal entrance as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Anastasia Markham, a doubting Thomasina about the pricey web project and Agent Benford’s attempt to lead the world’s most important investigation.
Later: A cupcake or two down the line, Markham “eats crow,” having seen footage of Suspect Zero and then watched Janis trace a cell-phone call made during the blackout to the very Detroit stadium where they spot him.
Janis and Demetri Noh each submit their stories to the Mosaic website, and Demetri gets a chilling call from a woman in Hong Kong, who tells him she saw a case report in her flash with his name on it — and he’ll be getting murdered come March.
Meanwhile, there’s a funny little cameo by journeyman character actor Alan Ruck (best known as Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). He shows up to an AA meeting hammered, talking about seeing himself off the wagon again in six months. We hope this is his last appearance, if only because seeing how old he looks has us flashing forward ten or fifteen years ourselves, and such disturbing visions are not what we look for in escapist television.