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Manifest: Contrails

"The government didn't start hiding things on the day we came back.  They started on the day we disappeared."

Even paranoids can have non-imaginary enemies, and sometimes the crazy conspiracy theory is not just a theory and nowhere near crazy.  Just ask Captain Bill Daly, who was the pilot of Montego Air Flight 828 when it left Jamaica on the evening of April 7, 2013.

Last week, we saw that Captain Daly was something of a mess, more so than most of the 828ers.  As the pilot, the safety of the passengers was his responsibility, one he took very seriously.  When the plane encountered the storm/wormhole/alien spaceship/wrath of God/whatever it was, he got them through it in one piece and landed everyone safely--only to find himself being blamed for whatever it was that kicked 828 five and a half years into the future.  Add that on top of all the other stress that the "average" 828er has to deal with--finding out you were presumed dead, your loved ones remarried, and your worldly possessions were given away to Goodwill years ago, and such--and, well, if that happened to you, you'd be a mess, too.

After Cal prophecies that "the man from the plane" will need his father's help, Ben gets a call from Capt. Daly, who enlists his help.  The good Captain has determined that the official government records of the crash investigation are deliberately misleading, or at best wildly inaccurate, regarding the weather conditions.  The crash investigation report is dated April 8, 2013, just one day after the disappearance.

Ben subjects the inquiry record to one of his trademark analytical binges and discovers that a meteorologist named Roger Mencin, who was conducting observations of "dark lightening" near where 828 disappeared, was supposed to testify at a hearing, but backed out, and almost immediately took early retirement and moved to Massapequa.  They go to visit Roger, who tells them that he was pressured into erasing his data--but saved a copy just in case.  They load Roger's weather data into a 737 cockpit simulator, which gives them a pretty good replica of the storm and turbulence, but registers a crash when Daly tries to repeat the maneuver that got them through the storm.  As Ben points out, the simulator probably doesn't model time travel--but Daly just gets even more frustrated at his inability to "prove" that what he did was right, and even more convinced that Fiona Clarke is behind it all.

Meanwhile, Michaela is babysitting Cal on her day off when Autumn shows up at the apartment, asking Michaela's help in locating someone she claims stole her identity and framed her.   While Autumn is there, Ben calls Michaela and she asks him "Hey, how was Massapequa?"

The next day, Roger Mencin turns up dead in a suspiciously-timed boating accident.  Ben and Michaela go to check up on Daly, and when going through his apartment discover that he's planning to steal an airplane and fly into a storm cell looking for more dark lightening.  When they get to the airport, they find out that the airplane isn't the only thing Daly is stealing--he's kidnapped Fiona and is taking her with him!

I should mention here that while Autumn is attempting to break away from The Major's operation, her new handler is refusing to accept her resignation and putting the squeeze on her.  (The new guy  gives off the same weasel-y vibe as Autumn's previous contact, the late Lawrence Belson., and will therefore be designated "Weasel 2.0.")  While Ben and Michaela are chasing after Captain Daly, Autumn breaks in to Michaela's apartment, takes photos of Ben's research documents, and steals a page out of Cal's sketchbook.

Though Ben and Michaela do their level best to talk him out of it, Daly goes roaring into the center of the storm, pursued by two Air National Guard F-16s.  The plane is either shot down or flung forward in time, take your pick.

In reviewing the events of the day, Michaela realizes that Autumn overheard her mention Massapequa, and realizes she's the Major's mole.

And then Grace discovers that the window to Cal's bedroom is open and Cal is missing.

"828" Watch

The flight number appears on the cover of the government report.  The tail number of the stolen plane is N728PH.

Also on the manifest.....

In further developments on the romantic-triangle front, Michaela, to her credit, tells Jared that it's over between them and she will not be "the other woman."

"Dark lightning" really exists.  The technical term for it is "terrestrial gamma ray flash," a phenomenon first detected in 1994, and still not all that well understood.  They seem to propagate in and around thunderstorms, though the exact cause is still the subject of some scientific debate. A typical "TGF" lasts from 0.2 to 3.5 milliseconds (don't blink or you'll miss it!) and kicks out up to 20 million electron volts.  While "20 million volts" sounds impressive, we're talking electron volts, which are a measure of energy (and mass and momentum) in particle physics.  (They have nothing to do with the volts in your 9-volt batteries and 110-volt electrical outlets, which measure electrical potential.)  An electron volt is so small that you'd need 249,660,461,771,990,093,472.9 of them to power a 40-watt light bulb for one second.  (That's the answer I got, anyway.  Please feel free to check my math.)  I imagine it would take a lot more than that to send a Boeing airliner hurtling five years into the future through the space-time continuum.

Captain Daly drives a C2 Corvette Stingray.  Definitely a pilot's kind of car.

In the first scene with Ben and Daly in the Corvette, the car radio is playing "Midnight Rider" by The Allman Brothers: Well, I've got to run to keep from hidin'/And I'm bound to keep on ridin'/And I've got one more silver dollar/But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me, no, not gonna let 'em catch the midnight rider.  Fitting choice for Daly's theme song, given how his story arc plays out.

This week's gold star for acting goes to Frank Deal, who played Capt. Daly.  In the flashback scenes and the first act of the pilot episode, the character is snarky and supremely confident (as pilots usually are).  In the "present day" scenes in this episode and the previous one, he's a broken man--but still the same individual, and still sympathetic even at the end.  Honorable mention goes to Francesca Faridany, playing a terrified Fiona Clarke.

In the cockpit scenes during the storm, Daly says he's "increasing speed to 300 knots."  According to Wikipedia, a 737's cruise speed is in the neighborhood of 450 knots when at altitude, so how could he be increasing to 300?  He's referring to indicated airspeed, which is not the same thing as "true" airspeed.  A plane's airspeed indicator measures speed by measuring the difference between static air pressure around the plane and the pressure in the pitot tube, which points directly forward.  At cruising altitude, the air is thinner, and this causes the airspeed indicator to register something less than the speed the aircraft is actually travelling relative to a fixed point on the ground.  That 450 knot cruising speed therefore translates to something a bit below 300 knots IAS.

Massapequa is a town of 21,685 (2010 Census) on the south shore of Long Island.

According to the co-pilot, Kelly Taylor was demanding a hypo-allergenic blanket from the flight attendants.  She would do a thing like that.

I am very certain that I would not want to be Autumn Cox when Michaela catches up to her.


Captain Daly, to his co-pilot: "I'm a cowboy.  Plane's my horse, and the sky an open desert."

Captain Daly, in his debriefing: "You don't understand.  There is no 'conventional maneuver' when a storm appears right on top of you.  And this storm was like nothing I've ever seen."

Airport guard: "Hey, hey, Captain Future! You gonna fly through the Bermuda Triangle again?"  A more prophetic statement than he realized.


Another good episode with a couple of annoying little details.  The Major's organization seemed uncharacteristically ham-fisted: kill the meteorologist the day after he talks to Ben Stone?  Way to draw attention to your secret operation that no one is supposed to know about and blow your mole's cover in the process!  Shoot down a plane and kill the hostage?  Not swift either, guys.  Also, I thought it a little too neat that Fiona, a neuroscientist in a narrow specialty with New Age leanings, would be conversant enough with high-end particle physics to know what dark lightening was in the first place.  (A quick scene of Fiona looking it up on Wikipedia would have been a nice touch.)  However, the episode did an excellent job portraying Captain Daly's descent into madness in a believable fashion, and I liked how Fiona Clarke, until now the very portrait of emotional equilibrium, completely lost it as she concluded she was about to die.  And the cliffhanger at the end--oh, boy!

Three out of four terrestrial gamma ray flashes.

Baby M avoids exposure to gamma rays whenever possible.


  1. My first thought was that the Captain succeeded and that we'll be seeing them again at some point. After all, no bodies ...

    I am really enjoying this show.

  2. My sister and I watched the ending over and over. We have concluded that he succeeded. The pilots that were sent to bring him in, said they shot them down. But since they weren't up that high, there shouldn't have to be this extremely difficult time finding the downed plane. Not sure why the pilots would lie, unless they shot at it right as the plane disappeared.

  3. Hey, you're the only person I've seen so far who links "dark lightning" to TGFs, which is great (I'm a TGF researcher who's new to Manifest because of this - this has been a lot of fun for those of us who study them). The 20 megaelectronvolts is a typical maximum energy for each electron accelerated during the TGF, but there are about 10^18 (a billion billion) electrons involved, so the total energy in relativistic particles is about 3 million joules, or enough to keep your 40-watt bulb going for about a day. Still less energy than the regular lightning going on at the same time.

  4. Hi. Just started watching the show. I'm liking it but hate the numerous plot holes. In this episode in particular, the most glaring one is that "target had been neutralised" like. Did they fire or didn't they? They would know.


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