We finally find out why Bryce wanted to kill himself: four weeks before the blackout, he learned that he had treatment-resistant cancer -- the kind that makes you really, ridiculously good-looking right before it finally kills you. But he had the blackout, which put lie to the whole "You'll be both handsome and dead within weeks." The day of the blackout, we also find out that Bryce had met with a counselor and admitted that he never really wanted to be a doctor and he's not very good at it. We also meet his lady-friend from the flashforward: She's a biomedical engineer named Keiko. And, like Bryce, she's managed to nab a job in a high-pressure, highly competitive field, but she's not terribly happy with it.
AND we get to see Bryce and Keiko's flashforward: Bryce is now semi-fluent in Japanese, he and Keiko have been corresponding for some time, and when she meets him, the camera makes a point of lingering on the water-wheel pattern on her t-shirt and the tattoo on her wrist, which has the kanji character "believe."
Over the course of the episode, Bryce gets an opportunity to get into a cancer trial and ditches it, heading to Japan instead to find Keiko at the sushi restaurant in her hometown. (The restaurant has the water-wheel logo we all saw on Keiko's shirt.) He gets as far as Keiko's house but Keiko's mom, still smarting from her daughter quitting the robotics job and refusing a semi-arranged marriage, lies about how she has no idea who the girl in Bryce's drawing is. But we see the end of Keiko's flashback and learn that she and Bryce will meet at a restaurant in Los Angeles. And guess who took the same flight back from Tokyo? So, Bryce and Keiko moving toward each other is pretty much the main story of the episode.
In other storylines: The FBI guys have their hands full with learning about the alpha insignia on the ring and learning that Demetri's been red-flagged by the NSA after they intercepted his call from Shoreh Aghdashloo. Although the NSA bureaucrat originally refuses to turn over their record of the call (and the data associated with it), she soon folds after Mark, Demetri and Wedeck glare at her. (Perhaps during the February sweeps period, they'll team up with Simon to develop that set-people-on-fire-by-staring-at-them technology and deploy it in future intra-agency meetings. I can dream.) The boys all analyze the recording and find out that Shoreh Aghdashloo made the call from Hong Kong. By the end of the episode, Mark and Demetri are on a plane to the island where east meets west.
So, Mark finds out that Olivia got the text about how Mark was drunk in his flashforward, and he reasons that only two people on the planet know, and only because he told them. (It does not occur to genius Mark that maybe someone else's flashforward shows a sozzled Mark.) Mark asks Aaron if he's the one who sent the text to Olivia about how he was drunk in his flashforward, and Aaron dumps him as a sponsor. When Mark asks Wedeck, his badass boss doesn't say yes, but he doesn't say no, either.
And, in "subplots I pay attention to only because it's my job," Tracy appears to be hitting the bottle, which puts a strain on Aaron the recovering alcoholic.
Four weeks before the blackout: a doctor is pointing at bodily scans all, "There, and there, and there, and there." Then the perspective shifts so we see Bryce standing next to said doctor, and Bryce confirms that a) his cancer has returned and b) it's metastasized. To make matters even worse, Bryce now has cancer in his liver (odds of surviving more than six months: Not Good), but on the bright side, it's not in his lungs or bones. Yet. And the worst news of all: Bryce's cancer is Stage IV and it's especially resistant to treatment. The doctor levels with Bryce: "We're running out of options."
Bryce numbly stumbles to his car. Behind him, a driver impatient for his spot dogs his steps, first honking the horn, then shouting, "Come on!" The guy skids away. Bryce appears not to notice any of it. He gets behind the wheel of his car, still dazed, which explains why he hits a cherry-red convertible as he backs out. The driver gets out, ready to dispense the (self-)righteous wrath of the aggrieved yuppie, and because this guy is not what we'd call "observant," he misses the fact that Bryce is wearing a shocked, thousand-yard stare. Bryce then shifts from the "denial" portion of his diagnosis to the "anger" portion, and rams the convertible a few more times before taking off. Bryce gets out of his Jeep and begins stumbling off to ... um, call for a ride? Anyway, as he walks off, the other guy yells, "You are so dead, man! Did you hear me? You're dead!" And honestly, that was what pushed me over to Bryce's side, because it takes a doucheknob of uncommon insensitivity to scream that sort of aggrieved threat in a hospital parking lot.
Two weeks before the blackout: in Tokyo, a charming Japanese woman in business drag is practicing her smile before a mirror. She is very obviously about to go into a big meeting -- something the exposition hurries along by having a guy run into the bathroom and asking Keiko Arahida to hurry up, as everyone's waiting for her. She then walks into a conference room and we see her explaining her qualifications to the waiting crowd of men: "I started by trying to assemble a robotic hand, as a teenager in my parents' house. I barely got the servo part working, but it was a start. I was hooked. I got my undergraduate degree as a mechanical engineer at the University of Tokyo, then a master's degree in biomedical engineering and robotics." Silence in the room. Then someone leans forward to ask Keiko her role models and we find out they're Marie Curie, Jane Goodall and Jimi Hendrix. "I play guitar. It's one of my hobbies, along with salsa dancing. I was first in my class at the university. Nakahara is the best robotics firm in Japan. I think I would be a perfect fit here," Keiko concludes.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, Bryce narrowly avoids killing someone on the operating table. After the operation is over, Olivia takes Bryce aside and tells him, "I think you need to think seriously about whether or not you're committed to this profession."
Zip! Back across the Pacific. Keiko is heading into her parents' place. It's filled with people and she closes the door for a moment to compose herself and plaster a fake smile on her face. Then it's in to face her congratulations party. We learn that despite Keiko asking her mother not to say anything, Mrs. Arahida has evidently been broadcasting the news up and down the streets of Tokyo. She rationalizes violating her daughter's wishes by pointing out that Keiko landed a plum position with one of Tokyo's top companies during an economic downturn. We are left to infer that Mrs. Arahida is a disciple of the Transitive Properties School of Parenting, i.e. "everything my kid does is a total reflection on me, so clearly, her victories belong to me." Mrs. Arahida has also thoughtfully provided two pre-vetted candidates, should Keiko be itching to get married. That Keiko is not too enamored of either Mr. Ito or Mr. Shinhara is apparently beside the point. Keiko pulls her mother aside to ask what's going on, and in the course of the conversation, her mother basically asks, "Aren't you happy that you'll never have to work in a restaurant? I'm happy for you," and we see that indeed, Keiko's mom is living out her own ideas of what constitutes a good life through her daughter.
Bryce is meeting with a counselor now, and he's admitting something I suspected all along: "I'm not a very good doctor. I never have been, really. I don't know what I want. I just ... did it, and now I'm here." We find out that Bryce has refrained from telling his family about his cancer because he feels like they went through enough with his father's three-year lung cancer ordeal, and he hasn't told his coworkers because "I don't want their pity." The counselor tells him, "You need their support to get through this," but Bryce doesn't really see himself "getting through this" so much as he sees himself "dying of this." He tells the counselor as much, and she tells him, "You don't know what the future holds. None of us do, really. Your job is to take care of yourself, Bryce, to try to have the best life you can for as long as you can. Live each day doing what feels right."
Bryce opts to disregard all that advice. On the morning of the flashforward, he prepares to kill himself out on the Venice pier. For someone who is all, "I walk alone into the valley of death," he sure has no problem making sure there are plenty of bystanders for his lonely trek into mortality. Then we see a sequence only slightly more detailed than the initial series of events in the pilot: Bryce walking out on the pier to go kill himself, looking out over the pier to watch the surfers, preparing to shoot himself, and right as he places the gun to his chin ... passing out. Boy, Bryce is lucky that he didn't squeeze the trigger reflexively.
Then we see his flashforward in some detail: Bryce is sitting at a table in a Japanese restaurant, studying the painted carp on a privacy divider. A kimono-clad waitress comes up to him and he asks her for tea, in Japanese. A girl in a shirt with a waterwheel on it walks over, and when Bryce looks up, it's Keiko -- her hair down, her expression tentative. Bryce says, "You're really here," then, switching to Japanese, invites Keiko to sit down. She does and the two of them stare goonily at each other until the giggles set in. Bryce then takes Keiko's hand and notes the kanji tattoo on her left wrist reading, "Believe." She laughs some more, and then the flashforward ends.
Bryce comes to, looking up at a brilliant blue sky and a bunch of balloons floating heavenward. Keiko comes to on her bathroom floor. She stretches out, then begins laughing in delight at her flashforward.
And now, we're all caught up to the present. Bryce is spending all his free time on two things: painting different impressions of his flashforward, and learning Japanese. We see him at home, painting away, surrounded by giant canvases of Keiko's face. He better have the good sense to put all those away before she comes over, or else she is going to be seriously creeped out. Bryce's language lesson is interrupted by a run to the loo; he's back on the chemo, and it's not sitting well. As he chunders, the tinny little voice on his language tape asks, "How are you feeling today? I hope you are well." O THE IRONY. As the tape reels on, "I am lost. Who are you? What do you want?" I have to wonder: Is it really possible to buy the Rosetta Stone Language Acquisition series, Foreshadowing Edition? Or is that one of those products that cropped up post-flashforward?
Meanwhile, in my least-favorite subplot of all time: It's Aaron and Tracy, having a morning at home. And by "morning at home," I mean, "Tracy is passed out on the couch and Aaron is talking to Mark on the phone about the aforementioned daughter." Mark shares the results of his informal investigation with Aaron: "Private military contractors like Blackwater (now known as Xe) and Jericho are harder to break into than Ft. Knox. This outfit's headquartered in Santa Monica --"
And excuse me, Mark, but I have to stop you s