FlashForward

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In the Garden of Dyson, Baby …
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

When last we tuned into Flashforward, Dyson Frost -- the man, the legend, the supercooled vacuum cleaner with extraordinary sucking action -- had succeeded in abducting Demetri the day before he was due to be murdered. This was largely due to the FBI getting all in a tizzy about Demetri's pending quickie-nuptials and not, say, anticipating Demetri's possible abduction. How fortunate they're not in the crime-prevention business.

And now, this episode begins by reminding us that on October 6, the planet blacked out for two minutes ... blah blah blah. You know, if you're seventeen episodes into the series, it is probably a bad sign if you're still refreshing viewers on the basic premise. Then again, one of the most hilarious things about the late and unlamented Tru Calling was how the episode would, around the halfway mark, recap everything that had just happened. Clearly, the writers on that show had decided, "If you're brain-damaged enough to want to watch this, we're betting you're brain-damaged enough to have no short-term memory left. We're here to help you."

The episode begins with a close-up on Demetri's perspiring face, and we soon zoom out to see what brought on the flop sweat: an elaborate set-up involving red laser beams (aimed at Demetri's forehead), what looks like one of Green Lantern's trick arrows and Mark's gun aimed at his forehead. We zip very quickly to a blackboard behind Demetri that is covered in a diagram that is colorful, complex and apparently related to all the possible timelines Dyson Frost has seen, then we see that Demetri is barefoot and the platform on which his chair is mounted is pressure sensitive.

We revisit the big board o' possibilities again and see that Dyson has laid out the season's arc in white chalk, and recapped it with admirable brevity: Dec 15: Hong Kong à Keep distance àCan't help à Jan 4 2010 à Somalia à Kill Pat. 9 à Queen Sacrifice à Lathe à L.B.C. à Carnival à March 15, 2010 - Demetri dies à Zoom Car à Antelope Valley.

At FBI HQ, everyone's changed out of their tuxes and bent to the task of finding Demetri. Mark is trying to interrogate his daughter regarding her chat with Dyson Frost the previous evening. It is not going well and Wedeck steps in, calmly saying, "Charlie, sometimes closing our eyes helps us remember more. You want to do that with me?" He makes a show of squeezing his eyes shut, and Charlie follows suit. Wedeck continues to gently question Charlie, and she spills a detailed narrative. The two are sitting on a bench at the carnival...

Dyson Frost: Hello, Charlie. They make a mean cotton candy here, don't they?
Charlie: I'm not supposed to talk to strangers.
Dyson Frost: I'm not a stranger. If I were a stranger, would I know your name? I work with your daddy, and I hear that you are a big reader. Do you like Dr. Seuss?
Charlie: Yeah.
Dyson Frost: Me too. You know, my favorite is "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish."
Charlie: That one is for little kids.
Dyson Frost: (chuckles) Well. Maybe. You know, even grown-ups can learn from that book, 'cause Dr. Seuss has all the answers.
Charlie: I like Horton.
Dyson Frost: Horton? Oh, that's a good one too. I mean, Horton's a trooper -- he had faith to carry his mission through to the end, even when others doubted him. You know, Charlie, I need you to do something for me. (Opens a satchel, hands her a picture.) I want you to give this to your daddy. It's very important. Bye-bye.

I put down the whole exchange because it was striking how this guy is apparently a natural with children; it humanizes him in a way, and I like that Dyson Frost is not just some one-dimensional eccentric evil genius. And also, why did Mark and Olivia never drill their kid on how to sniff out a liar? Charlie will apparently hang with anyone who pretends to know her parents.

Anyway, back in the present, Mark flips over the picture Dyson gave him; there's a note reading, "If you want Demetri back, Union station. Main concourse. March 15. Noon." Well -- Mark has some place to be.

Then there is an awkward Benford family mini-reunion over by the elevator, and once again Wedeck saves the day by coming by and asking Charlie very soberly if she'll help him by eating the jellybeans in his office. This will give Mark and Olivia some alone time to not talk about how Olivia's flung herself at Lloyd. Wedeck is awesome, and he is my Number One Reason for tuning into this show, but he can't possibly save every excruciating Mark-and-Olivia scene, can he?

Meanwhile, Zoey's meeting with Alda in prison. Alda is, of course, her usual charming self and Zoey points out "The only reason I agreed to represent you is because you said there was more that you weren't telling us. I know you don't care if Demetri lives or if he dies, but I think that you do care about getting the hell out of here." Alda points out that indeed, she does -- why is why she's not saying a word: "Get me a hearing and we'll talk. I've been held here for five months as a material witness and I haven't been charged with crap." Zoey protests that she's doing her darndest, and Alda's like, "I should think you have extra motivation today. Get me the hearing."

The FBI's all prepping for the Union Station. Vreede's contribution is to tell us that the painting Dyson Frost handed to Charlie was "Oedipus and the Sphinx," by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Who says a fine arts education doesn't come in handy? Anyway, Mark wonders, "Why Oedipus? Why a carnival? Why Dr. Seuss?" "Dyson's in love with his mother," Vreede shoots back. Ha! Mark is not amused and goes into a boring rant about how the message to Oedipus Rex is that fate is unavoidable. Everyone's like, "So how do we know that our rescue efforts aren't foreordained to kill Demetri?" and Mark rolls his eyes all, I AM THE ONE MAKING UP THE NARRATIVE HERE. ME ME ME ME ME.

Meanwhile, Demetri focuses on staying perfectly still so he doesn't fidget himself into an execution.

We then flash back to six months before the flashforward -- so, April of 2009. Alda is tricked out in a Matrix-style leather trench and one of the blond goons who tortured Lloyd is taking her to a warehouse, explaining, "The man you're about to meet -- he's brilliant but eccentric. We had to fake his death in order to remove him from the public eye, and he's been ... difficult ever since." Alas, "we" have to rely on him because "there are only a few people on Earth who understand the physics involved in all of this. He's one of them. Just know that if he gets too unmanageable, we may ask you to take care of him." Alda does not look like her idea of "taking care" of someone involves any genuine concern for their well-being. The two enter the warehouse -- atmospherically-lit, of course -- and Dyson chides them to be careful of the dominoes. We see a massive arrangement laid out on the floor. Dyson asks, "Who's your friend, Henninger?" and Henninger introduces Alda with "Dyson helped us engineer the Raven River experiments?" Dyson explains that "helped us" translates in Factcheckese as "Came up with them all by his brilliant self." The point, however, is that few people who participated in those experiments are still alive. The three chitchat about the pending October 6 experiment -- which Dyson will be tracking worldwide with waveform stations -- and Dyson concludes, "If Simcoe and Campos find their dark matter, then we're on our way." Henninger asks if the QED is ready, and Dyson tosses a ring at Henninger. Then he lets Henninger know that he's on to his death-threat-y ways. As Henninger and Alda prepare to take their leave, Alda asks what the deal is with the dominoes. Dyson explains, "This is my garden, and the white [dominoes] chart the path of my escape." Alda chuckles dismissively, "That makes no sense at all." "It does if you live in my head," Dyson replies. He sets the dominoes in motion.

We then get a shot of Demetri sitting, with the giant blackboard behind him, and it is surely no coincidence that it looks like the same layout of the domino maze. Dyson comes in and cautions him, "If you move too much, the gun will fire." Then he talks to Demetri about the massive chart behind him: "I call it the garden of forking paths. All those lines! They're futures that branch off of each critical decision I made. For me, it started back in the '80s, at a place called Raven River. We engineered hundreds, maybe even thousands of flashforwards. Sometimes we jump 20 minutes, sometimes we jump 20 years." The camera pans to some of these alternate paths, all of which appear to end with the same symbol: a zero with an "X" through it. Dyson continues, "Every time we jumped, we saw a different possible future. Take the day of the blackout: had we failed, a different path would have opened up. We succeeded, so we moved on to the next decision point."

In other words, this mad genius is saying, his life has basically been like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, one where he's had no problems flipping ahead to see what happens if he does follow the Troll King down to the throne room on page 23. Dyson sa

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FlashForward

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