Manifest: Vanishing Point

"Is that...?" "Us. Right now."
"Sometimes the things he draws, they've happened already but he couldn't have known... Other times, they haven't happened yet..."

What makes for a great episode? I would submit that one template for a great episode is an episode where the characters you know and love, faced with a critical situation, band together and take it on with everything they've got--and have two or three plot twists thrown at them for good measure.

Grace called the cops, like any parent would upon finding her kid missing, but Ben is concerned that The Major may have informants in the NYPD.  Michaela enlists Jared to falsely report that Cal is with his grandfather, which ends the police investigation.

Ben takes a look at Cal's sketchbook, and they quickly realize that the pictures are clues to finding Cal, and that Autumn tore out one of the pages.  Grace recognizes one of the pictures as the town square in Tannersville, in the Catskills--someplace she and Olive went the previous summer (with Danny, no doubt), but where Cal has never been before.  While Michaela and Jared go to work giving Autumn a thorough and well-deserved grilling, Ben and Grace borrow Danny's big honking 4WD pickup truck--that must have been a really awkward conversation, but we didn't get to see it--and head for Tannersville.

For the rest of the episode, our main characters are hitting on all cylinders, and each of them contributes to the effort to locate Cal: Ben, Grace, Michaela, Jared, even Olive, who finds a key message in Cal's secret hiding place.  It turns out that Cal wasn't taken by The Major or anyone else, he left on a calling of his own.

The drawing Autumn took from the sketchbook was of Autumn and the daughter she lost custody of when she went to prison--the source of The Major's leverage.  On the back of that page is a drawing of a cabin near Tannersville, where Ben and Grace eventually find Cal.  About two minutes later, a man bursts in and promptly collapses, suffering from hypothermia.  Inside Cal's backpack there is a sleeping bag and first aid supplies, exactly what is needed to treat the injured man.

His name is Zeke, and he relates that he was on an extended camping trip when he got caught in an intense blizzard.  (There is no snow on the ground outside the cabin.  This is not a plot hole or a continuity error, as you'll see in a few sentences.)  He holed up in a cave and tried to stay warm by starting a fire, using the December issue of Celebrity Dossier Magazines for kindling.  The cover story of this issue ("Four Years Later, and Still No Answers") was about the people lost on Flight 828.  The last page had a picture of Michaela, and when he saw it Zeke felt a compulsion to go out in the snow, repeating to himself, "Find her."  (That's right, Michaela's (and Cal's) snowstorm vision was from Zeke's perspective.)  For his part, Zeke has never heard that Flight 828 returned.  As the cover date on the magazine reveals, Zeke's camping trip, and the blizzard he got caught up in, took place, not in the show's "present day" of 2018, but in December of 2017

"828" Watch

Blink-and-you'll-miss-it sightings of the arc number on the pages of Celebrity Dossier Magazines.

Also on the manifest....

The scene at the end of the first act, where it cuts from Cal's sketchbook drawing of his parents and his aunt to closeups of his parents and aunt looking at the sketchbook, to the final shot of the three of them standing in the exact same composition as the drawing, was probably the coolest thirty seconds of the series so far.

Over the course of the episode, Grace and Ben have the conversation they should have had eight or nine episodes ago.  Grace finally comprehends just how mysterious and ominous the callings are, and how hard Ben has been working to protect his family.  Ben finally realizes that his OCD tendencies got the best of him and he should have read Grace in on the full story concerning the callings, the missing passengers, and The Major, much sooner.  It seems they are on the way to patching things up.

Speak of the devil, we finally get to meet The Major.  She's seen taking a call from her underling while standing on the balcony of a really high end New York apartment she's thinking of buying or renting.  She's played by Elizabeth Marvel, an alumna of Person of Interest.

Given that foster care and adoption records are not open to the general public--in many states, even an adoptee has to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get access--it's pretty impressive that Michaela tracked Autumn's long-lost daughter down in just a few hours, with no court orders.

Tannersville is a town of 539 people, according to the last census, and bills itself as "the painted village in the sky."

Now playing in-universe at the Lafayette Theater in downtown Tannersville: What Lies Beneath.

The page of Celebrity Dossier Magazines with Michaela's picture on it has quotes about her from Olive, the precinct captain, and the rector of Michaela's church.

Quotes

Michaela to Autumn: "You know, for a con artist, your poker face sucks hard." Ouch.

Olive: "I can feel him, just like last time.  I think he's in danger, and he's terrified, and it's like he's trying to send me, like--oh my God."

Grace: "Sweetie, how did you get here?"
Cal: "I took a bus to Tannersville, got a ride from Max at the gas station, then I walked up from the road."
Grace: "I don't understand.  Why?  Why did you do this?"
Cal: "This is where I'm supposed to be."

Grace: "You were trying to take care of us, all of us, all this time.  I didn't see it."
Ben: "I didn't let you see it."

The Major: "If I've learned anything running point for 22 years, there's no need to chase the enigma when it lives right in our backyard."  What does that mean, and what enigma did she start "running point" on back in 1996?

Conclusion

The best episode of the series yet.  Tense, exciting, well written and acted.  Four out of four borrowed pickup trucks.

Baby M prefers small, agile sports cars to big 4WD pickup trucks.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

Not sure if it's my *favorite* episode of the series, but definitely one of the most engaging. The reveal about the hiker, that this whole lost time thing goes beyond just flight MA828, suggests a much bigger mystery that I'm excited to delve into.

I'm SO glad Ben finally told Grace everything. Whether it was the right thing to do or not, I understand why he didn't until now. And honestly, until they had Cal's sketchbook as physical evidence of Something Spooky going on, Ben & Michaela probably would've sounded nuts to Grace. It's one of the things I like most about this show, all of the characters actions have felt believable so far. No one has done something stupid or out-of-character just for the sake of plot development. Though I'm still pissed Michaela slept with Jared. That love triangle will only end badly.

Lei said...

Am I the only one that is bothered that Cal never seems to suffer consequences from just running off after his callings. My sister and I would say that our parents would be so happy to see us, but we definitely would've been punished. This kid just keeps constantly running off and it just seems like when they find him after losing their minds looking for him, they just hug him and kiss him. Maybe it is just me.

The story was interesting, I just hope it doesn't go the way of Lost, giving more questions than answers. I don't know if adding more characters and variables is okay at this point, especially when it is the first season and shows get cancelled so willy nilly these days.

But I am enjoying the ride so far and will stick around.