What if I told you there’s a TV show that manages to pull off eye-rolly stuff like bringing major characters back from the dead, and also happens to be the most overtly political series on the air today?
“Yeah, uh-durrr,” you’d probably say. “Like the entire planet, I am aware of the Roseanne revival. Thank you.”
And then I’d be all, “Whoops, my bad, I brain-farted. What I meant to say was, what if it was the most covertly political series on TV today?”
Then you — because you, Timeless fan, are a smart cookie who gets the show on all levels, up to and including the covert ones — you would say something like, “Yeah, I get it. You’re talking about Timeless, the way Rittenhouse serves this season as a cautionary stand-in for what happens when free societies’ worst autocratic tendencies are allowed to run amok, and then there’s the the fact that Lucy & Co. have crossed paths this season with so many less renowned, but more intriguing historical figures who are people of color and/or women, and how the choice to focus on the traditionally marginalized is of a piece with the recent push for more equal representation. So, are we done here? Can I get back to 1692 Salem, please?”
I’d like to think if you were feeling particularly cheeky, you’d even admonish me to hush up with a callback to this week’s opening scene, as one of Salem’s so-called witches is ask-yelled, “Have you not learned silence, woman?!”
Nevertheless, I’ll persist … in writing this recap, hey-o!
So yes, our Time Team is at the Salem witch trials, except without their trusty first-stringer Wyatt, who stays home in the present day to re-woo his reanimated wife. After fretting that Jessica’s revival would be just too much romantic angst to bear (#Lyatt forever, dammit! And this is Timeless, so I mean “forever” literally!), the show finds a totally palatable yet plausible way to introduce her into the mix: She can’t stand Wyatt! Apparently, in the latest timeline created by Rittenhouse and the Scooby Gang’s cat-and-mouse game through Hollywoodland, Jessica isn’t just alive — she’s pissed. Wyatt has been a bad spouse, disappearing and ignoring texts for months on end. As she tries to go about her shift at the bar while a crestfallen Wyatt pieces together his altered backstory, she can barely stand to look at him and I can barely suppress a giggle. I was so fearful of a Lucy-Jessica showdown, but I’ll take a Wyatt-Jessica one all season long.
Speaking of showdowns, there’s a mini one back at HQ between Lucy and Agent No-Fun after they realize that Wyatt is sitting out this week’s jaunt to work on his marriage. Lucy thinks Flynn, newly sprung from federal prison, should sub in. “Why do we have him here if we’re not going to use him?” Lucy asks Christopher, with what I detect as a mix of practicality and excitement. “He’s a time-traveling killer and we share the same enemy.” I’m loving how the show has incorporated Flynn, like Jessica, into the main story line in a way that makes perfect sense. After all, as Flynn himself says, “Fighting the good fight through time is kind of my wheelhouse.”
He’s right! Flynn was a natural on this week’s fourth-dimension field trip, sliding into the role of the Scooby Gang’s muscle/tough/goon with aplomb and panache. Whereas last season Flynn couldn’t shake the weight of the world off his shoulders no matter where or when he went, this episode marks the debut of IDGAF Flynn. The guy doesn’t even mind “flying coach” in the Lifeboat. (“Cheer up, kids, this will be fun!”)
We come to find out that, in a surprise and historically inaccurate twist, one of the Salem women set to be hanged is none other than Abiah Franklin, a.k.a. Ben Franklin’s future mother. Why would Rittenhouse want to change history by offing her? “Franklin made it okay to criticize people in charge,” Lucy explains, adding that preventing his birth would count as a “step towards tyranny.” (David Spade–doing–“Hollywood Minute” voice: Hi, 2018 called. It wants its fascist overtones back.) Gold stars to those of you who caught the Ben Franklin quotes during this scene at Ingersoll’s Tavern: “Beer is proof that God wants us to be happy” (allegedly not an actual Ben Franklin quote, but still), and, said by Abiah, “If we do not hang together, we will all hang separately.” Extra gold stars to those who knew that Ingersoll’s was a real tavern and Abiah’s sister, Bathsheba Folger Pope, really was involved in the Salem witch trials!
The Scooby Gang starts pursuing a few different theories, including that Bathsheba must’ve been the one who ratted Abiah out. Lucy and Flynn go to confront her, which leads to the hilarious line, “Cut the crap, Bathsheba,” followed by Lucy siccing Flynn on Mr. and Mrs. Pope by barely raising a single eyebrow. Bathsheba admits she ID’d some of the townswomen as witches, but not her sis.
Then there’s Scarface Pilgrim, the guy who gets killed by Rufus in Jiya’s latest premonition. Yet again, I must give Timeless credit for finding a seamless way to give Jiya’s story line more than passing attention as she screws up the courage to tell Rufus about her visions. He takes a few cheap cracks about “seeing dead people,” but when he espies Scarface Pilgrim in Salem, he assumes the guy must be a Rittenhouse sleeper agent.
Twist! Turns out, there is no sleeper agent this week, but there is Lucy’s mother. She shows up once Lucy and Rufus are in custody, spurred on by what is, I assume, a very, very rare case of familial guilt. Back in 2018, see, Keynes has been boning up on his 20th-century trivia, watching Woodstock footage and listening to that crazy rock-and-roll music, and also catching up on how Lucy abandoned Rittenhouse. “Emma filled me in on her exploits,” he tells Carol. “She’s a bad seed.” (Momentary flash: Lucy is to Carol/Keynes/Rittenhouse as Aunt Jackie is to Roseanne, facing off against her strong-willed kin in her pink pussy hat.) Carol admits to accusing Abiah, which she calls a “necessary sacrifice for a better future,” but more importantly, she is there to free Lucy, convince Keynes she’s a good egg, and bring her back into the Rittenhouse fold. “I’d rather be hanged,” a principled Lucy responds. Her mom, still trying to save her daughter, slips a knife between the prison bars.
With Lucy back to having nothing — no family, no Wyatt, etc. — except said principles (and that knife), she launches into a stump speech praising the misfits who have been imprisoned alongside her. “They mock you and they tell you you’re stupid, but you refuse to change,” she tells the women. “I’m proud to be in your company.” Rufus, who’s locked up nearby, gives equally good rhetoric when he tells the racist white man shackled beside him, “You know, black and white necks snap just the same.”
And Flynn? Ha, Flynn is gooning it up all over Salem, skulking back into the Pope house to sniff out some firepower. “I could see it in your eyes, you have a rifle here,” he tells Bathsheba’s husband. Remember when Flynn used to mastermind things? Now he just wants to shoot bad guys, like, “Hulk, bang!” He’s right, though: There is a rifle in Chez Pope, and Bathsheba pulls it on him, but then Flynn gets it from her by WEAPONIZING HER OWN HUSBAND AND THROWING HIM IN HER DIRECTION, LOL.
Seeing Lucy walking toward the noose at Salem was an unexpectedly jarring moment for me, but of course, just in the nick of time, Flynn Hulk-bangs up the place and she, Rufus, and the accused women escape. Lucy and Rufus even decide they’re going to actively help the witches flee to safety, as historian Lucy no longer gives a damn about leaving things exactly as she found them in the past. I dig it!
Rufus, however, also resolves in the moment to not live up (or down) to Jiya’s premonition, in which she saw him kill Scarface Pilgrim. While Scarface Pilgrim is ready to rumble after Rufus attacked him at Ingersoll’s, Rufus begs him to “just walk away” and put down his weapon so he doesn’t have to kill him in self-defense. Just when you think Rufus managed to elude fate — womp womp! — Scarface Pilgrim is run over by a horse. (Good editing job here with the repeated cuts to the agitated horse: I knew something was up, but I was still caught off-guard when the horse dang stampeded Scarface Pilgrim.)
This sets off Rufus, who declares he “can’t sit back and watch innocent people die anymore. To hell with what’s supposed to happen.” When he gets back to 2018, he tells Jiya that Scarface Pilgrim’s death “wasn’t bound to happen — we bound it to happen.” He also suggests she no longer tell him about her premonitions. Have I mentioned yet that this episode does a really, really good job of weaving so many threads together? Like here, where it picks up the idea of fate versus self-determination — an idea that Timeless toyed around with from the beginning — and uses it to forward Jiya’s story line?
And then there’s Connor Mason, who receives the rock-star treatment he’s been craving when Wyatt takes Jessica back to the bunker and Jessica briefly fangirls over him. While Mason once again has very little to do, he can still be counted on to deliver a deadpan one-liner as if Mason Industries invented them. “You may want to finish that,” he wryly tells Jessica, gesturing at her drink just as the Lifeboat is about to appear in front of them. And yep, she drops the glass.
After the last episode, I was left with a knot in my stomach because of the Jessica reveal. But this week, I’m feeling quite content. There’s a battle brewing between Keynes and Carol that I can’t wait to see play out. I’m looking forward to more Flynn, but I’m also excited about Wyatt’s return to the Scooby Gang. I want to see what happens with Jiya and her premonitions, just as I am intrigued by this whole hour-long Mothership visit to San Diego that somehow ties into Jessica’s resurrection? Any guesses?