FlashForward: Bryce Yourself


Season 1 Episode 9

When it comes to supporting characters, FlashForward is just as stingy as Lost in the doling out exposition. It’s taken nine episodes to get anywhere with Bryce, the previously-suicidal-but-now-optimistic surgeon who works under Olivia at the hospital. But now’s his shot: The Bryce Episode. And it’s not a bad one to have: right before we take a two-week hiatus for Thanksgiving, and leading up to the winter finale. (Incidentally, the A.V. Club has a theory that we should only be watching the odd-numbered episodes of this show, because it’s the even-numbered ones that have been crap.)

“You’re dead!”
The episode opens four weeks before the blackout. Bryce is meeting with another doctor and looking at some brain scans, which turn out to be his own. He has stage-IV cancer, with several tumors in his brain, and his own doctor doesn’t sound all that confident about going forward with more treatment. No wonder he was trying to off himself! Cut to Bryce in the parking garage, backing into some poor, yuppie schmo’s “cherry ‘63 T-bird” several times before walking away from the scene. (See the video below!) “You’re dead!” the guy screams. Ah, television writers and their jerky stabs at irony …

“I think you need to think seriously about whether or not you’re committed to this profession.”
Two weeks before the blackout, Bryce totally flubs the preparation for a surgery — Olivia calls him out for not checking into an alcoholic woman’s medical history before they cut into her, because, apparently, you “ooze” a lot if you’re a boozer. She then delivers the line above, and Bryce is shamed.

Coincidentally, his soon-to-be girlfriend is shown in Japan, insecure about her own professional position, interviewing for a job at a robotics firm. We see her in a conference room telling a bunch of non-plussed Japanese executives that she’s really into Jimi Hendrix, because, you know, she plays guitar? Strangely, she gets the job, and her family throws her a surprise party (her mother is predictably trying to fix her up with a couple of respectable dudes her age). We see her at her desk, with a little robot whose only function is to pick up candy, watching a downloaded video of Bob Dylan’s live performance of “Shelter from the Storm” at his Hard Rain ‘76 concert in Fort Collins, CO. But, being the only woman in a male-dominated field in already patriarchal Japan, she ends up being called in to an important meeting only to find out they want her to serve the tea. Ah, television writers and their clichés about Japan … Also, we see her going to get the wrist tattoo of the kanji (for “Believe”) that she saw in her flash.

“Go to Houston. You need a coupla days, take a coupla days.”*
Then, finally, we’re back in the present, where Bryce is sick from his ongoing chemo, and still drawing pictures of his mystery lover. We see more of his flash now, and before she walks up and he says, “It’s really you,” he’s making an order to a waitress. It’s a sushi restaurant.

Bryce shows one of his drawings to his older Japanese-woman patient, who tells him the T-shirt he’s drawn on her has the logo of a specific sushi restaurant just outside of Tokyo. Olivia then calls him out again for looking pale and stumbling around, and she ends up finding the “central line” shunt in his chest that’s being used for the chemo. He tells her the sitch, and she quickly gets him into an experimental trial in Houston for a drug he seems to think might kill him.

Cut to him landing in Tokyo. He finds the sushi restaurant, fumbles with his Rosetta Stone Japanese and ends up getting directions to the home of Keiko, who turns out to be the daughter of the restaurant owners. Sadly, he gets there right after Keiko’s had a fight with her mother and left the house, so her mother just shoos him away and says nothing.

“It’s just a glass of wine.”
Meanwhile, in the life of AA-sponsor Aaron, recently found daughter Tracy is drinking herself to sleep every night with a fifth of vodka, and downing red wine at dinner. He can’t handle it, because as an alcoholic who’s now sober he’s, naturally, unable to be in the same room as someone who’s drinking. (Note: We’re pretty sure only asshole alcoholics are like this.)

He’s also faced with his sponsee Mark Benford accusing him of texting Olivia that fateful message about Benford drinking during his flash. Aaron tells him to go find a new sponsor if he can’t trust him, but later softens up and says, with all this drunk-daughter crap, that he still needs a friend — but still can’t be his sponsor. Also, Mark fails to get him any information about Jericho, the evil military contractors who tried to kill Tracy, because he doesn’t have high enough security clearance. But they do figure out that Jericho’s got an office right nearby in Santa Monica.

“It plays every night in Hong Kong Harbor.”
Agents Vreede and Benford work with Audio Forensics to analyze the tape of the phone call Demetri received from the woman telling him he was going to be murdered — which it turns out the NSA had a wiretap recording of all along, because even FBI agents get their calls tapped, apparently. Just as on regular procedural television (we’re thinking of you, CSI), there’s a bit of background noise that exactly identifies the location of the call: Hong Kong Harbor, with it’s cheesy electronic soundtrack, “Symphony of Lights,” played nightly. “We’re going. Hong Kong,” says Benford, ignoring bossman Wedeck, and thinking of that CIA agent a few episodes back suggested the Chinese were behind the blackout.

“Sometimes you have to be patient.”
Bryce calls Nicole, the candy striper who’s also the Benfords’ nanny, to tell her about his spontaneous trip to Japan. He’s thinking he was stupid to go to Tokyo all because of a T-shirt — and we’re thinking he’s stupid for going there four months early when he knows damn well he’s supposed to meet Keiko on April 29th. Long story short (too late!), he flies back to L.A. without meeting her. But, magically, as Bob Dylan sings “Shelter From the Storm,” we see Keiko stepping off the same plane a few steps behind him. We’re then shown the puzzle piece to tie it all up, and tide us over until after the holiday: Keiko’s flash shows her approaching the sushi restaurant where she meets Bryce — and it’s got a “Best of Los Angeles” post outside the door.

The Only Evidence About the Blackout In This Episode: The lady from the NSA who came to deliver the news about the Suspect Zero footage doesn’t have a lot to offer, especially when it comes to the guy’s face. But just like on regular procedural television, they were able to enhance something in the image: his ring, which has a Greek alpha on it. Remember the case full of rings that got handed to Ricky Jay in the last episode — the one that had a ring missing?

*See our review of Sonya Walger’s American accent.

Addendum: In the November 27th issue of Entertainment Weekly (and hopefully soon on their website), Jeff Jensen has an impassioned feature about the show in which he wonders about that damn kangaroo, and lays out his theory about what caused the blackout. He points to quantum entanglement, and says that Simon and Lloyd were probably working on a device or system for teleportation, which turned out to be better at moving brain waves through time rather than people through space. He further theorizes that Suspect Zero and villainous Ricky Jay are bad-guy conspirators who stole the technology for their own greedy gain. He also has a super-complicated theory about how the creators are planning to get a season two out of this, which makes our head hurt just reading it.

FlashForward: Bryce Yourself