Manifest: Unclaimed Baggage

Ben: "These callings are pulling you in deeper and deeper.  And what if the voices are bad?  You can't just follow them blindly."
Michaela: "I don't think we have a choice."

The tricky thing about prophecies and oracles and such is that they rarely give you complete, easily understood guidance.  When Saanvi and Michaela both receive a "calling" in the form of a vision of a stone angel with wet feet, it leads to serious trouble for Jared and to an adventure with flight attendant Bethany and the one individual on Flight 828 whose name was not on the manifest.

That individual is a Jamaican man named Thomas.  We first see him in a flashback, dressed in a flight attendant's uniform and riding the jumpseat in the airplane's rear galley.  He appeared to be a Montego Air employee deadheading to his next assignment, but he was actually a stowaway.  Thomas was in a same-sex relationship with Bethany's cousin Leo.  Gays are persecuted in Jamaica, so Leo and Thomas wanted to move to New York.  Leo got out, but Thomas couldn't get a passport, so Bethany was smuggling him into the country to meet up with Leo.  When the plane landed, Thomas slipped out via the cargo hold and got away from the airport.  He wandered the streets, unable to find Leo (who has gone missing in the intervening five years) and disoriented to time because he thinks it's still 2013.

No surprise, then, that Thomas ends up in a psych ward being pumped full of Haldol and other psychotropic drugs.  That psych ward happens to be in the same building where Saanvi is working.  She discovers him when she has a vivid hallucination of a woman made of stone walking down the hallway leaving wet footprints, who says "Save him."

Michaela, on a stakeout with Jared, has nearly the same vision. Michaela understandably misinterprets it as a direction to rescue the undercover ATF agent they're overwatching, and insists to Jared that the cops move in right the hell now.  This blows the ATF agent's cover and causes the whole undercover operation to fail.  Jared takes the blame for the screw-up before Michaela can say anything, which leads to him being chewed out by the precinct captain and suspended.

During Saanvi's encounter with Thomas, he mentioned Bethany the flight attendant, which leads her to contact Bethany and hatch a plan to smuggle Thomas out of the hospital.  Meanwhile, Grace receives a letter from an insurance company demanding that she repay the $500k death benefit she received when Flight 828 went missing.  Also, Olive gets caught shoplifting, and calls Danny for help instead of her father, leading to a very awkward moment when Ben comes to pick her up and more awkwardness when they get home.

Thomas escapes from the hospital just minutes ahead of the NSA, which is now interested in him because they found his fingerprints on the airplane.  Saanvi and Michaela discuss their mutual hallucination with Bethany, who figures out that they're having visions of Angel of the Waters, the sculpture atop the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.  The fountain plays a prominent role in Angels in America, which was cousin Leo's favorite stage play.  They find Thomas at the fountain, and take him to a secure location where Saanvi starts bringing him down off the drugs.

(At this point in the show, my wife the RN was rather insistent that a patient given haloperidol in therapeutic doses when he doesn't really need it will not have withdrawal symptoms and will not need detoxed.  I have two responses to that: (1) we in the audience don't know what other drugs Thomas might have been given, or how those drugs interact, while Saanvi does in-universe, so I think we can trust her judgment, and anyway (2) the Rule of Drama applies.)

The episode ends with Michaela back at Bethesda Fountain, asking the angel, "What do you want from me?"

"828" Watch

Ben and Grace's address is 2414 Ocotillo Avenue, Hollis Hills NY 11427.  2 x 414 = 828; so, in a roundabout kind of way, the house number is an "828" sighting.  It's also sort of symbolic.  Half of the family was on 828, and the other half weren't.

(In the interests of completeness, we should note that Hollis Hills is a neighborhood in Queens, and an ocotillo is a desert plant found in the American southwest and northern Mexico.  Extra credit will be awarded to any student who discovers a connection between ocotillos, the zip code, Hollis Hills, and/or the number 828.)

Also on the manifest...

One nice element of the writing in this series is that the individual characters react to the callings in a way that reflects who they are.  As a law enforcement officer, Michaela is trained and expected to act decisively under stress, so when she gets a calling, she picks it up and runs with it.  Ben, a math professor, and Saanvi, a researcher, analyze things for a living, so they are more analytical in their reactions.  From what little we saw of Kelly, she had a free-floating sense of entitlement and expected to be the center of attention wherever she went, so when she got the call to "own your truth," her first impulse was to go in front of the cameras and make herself the center of attention.

I was wondering if the show would ever get around to dealing with the matter of death benefits that were paid out after Flight 828 disappeared.*  If a benefit is in the form of continuing monthly payments, I'd expect the payments would stop coming, but as for lump sums or past installments, who knows?  (It'll make for an interesting law school research and writing exercise, if nothing else.)  Whatever the applicable law might be, an insurance company or pension fund would be foolish to send out dunning letters to the families of "828ers."  As soon as someone posts a copy of the letter on Instagram or mentions it on Twitter, and the tale goes viral as things like this inevitably do, the company would have a huge PR problem on its hands.

On meeting Saanvi at the door, Bethany identifies her as "Row 8, laptop girl."

I've never seen Angels in America in any of its iterations, but it is my understanding that the Angel of the Waters appears in the play to deliver prophecies to the main character.  It was neat how this week's episode paralleled that element of the play.

Jared is keeping track of all of Michaela's coincidences-that-aren't-coincidences on a city map.

There's a short scene where Saanvi shows one of the neurologists a brain scan of "this patient of mine who's having hallucinations."  The neurologist remarks that it looks very much like the scan of this newly-arrived patient with apparent schizophrenia, who of course just happens to be Thomas.

Continuity glitch: if Olive was born in May of 2002--her twin Cal's birthdate is mentioned in "Pilot"--her age in November of 2018 would be 16, not 15 as Grace said.

The actress who plays Bethany goes by the stage name Mugga.  "Mugga as Bethany" is right up there with "Zulu as Kono" in the annals of awesome screen credits.

Quotes

Ben: "I need to work on my Olive-speak."  It's a hard dialect for adults to master.

Jared, to Michaela: "I know there's more to the story here, just like I know there's more to the story about those kidnapped girls and the lady who killed that passenger from the plane.  If you don't want to talk to me, I get it.  But you got to talk to someone.  You need help."

Conclusion

So far, Manifest has done a commendable job of balancing the human interest stories with the more fantastical elements and the over-arching mystery.  If the promos for next week are any indication, the myth arc is about to pick up some serious steam.

Three out of four trails of wet footprints.

Though his mother considered him a "little angel," Baby M does not leave trails of wet footprints in hospitals

*I'm an estate planning lawyer, so I can't help geeking out on stuff like this.

3 comments:

Patrick said...

I had similar thoughts about the whole death benefits thing. On the one hand, I get why the insurance companies might want the money back. After all, the people aren't dead. But asking for a six-figure sum like that on such short notice? That's just cold. And you're absolutely right, in this day and age if one of the families posted about that on social media it would go crazy viral and it would be a PR disaster for the insurance company.

I also agree with you about the balance this show has struck so far between the human interest vs. spooky mystery story elements. I honestly think both can be quite compelling. Yes, I'm very interested in finding out what happened to them and why. But I also think the stories about these people just trying to get back to their lives in a world that moved on without them for five years is compelling too. This show has a lot of what I loved about The 4400, I can't wait to see where the story takes us.

Billie Doux said...

I'm a little surprised that I'm still watching. Clearly, there's something about Manifest that is working for me. I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

And hey, apparently I'm not the only one. Manifest didn't get a back nine, but it did get three more episodes this season.

Patrick said...

I just read the highlights from the press release. While it may be nothing but spin, I do think Manifest is the kind of show that could benefit from shorter, more focused seasons like iZombie & The 100. Maybe they'll extend to 22 next year when they have a proper hiatus to map it out, but I don't want this show to ever feel like it's treading water, the way Lost did at times.