Manifest: Cleared for Approach

Zeke: "Am I dead?"
Michaela: "No, but that would be easier to explain."

In this installment, we learn more about the mysterious Zeke, Zeke makes significant progress on his road to recovery, Ben and Grace make significant progress toward rebuilding their family relationships, and the showrunners make their first significant mis-step.

While Ben and Grace take Cal home from the cabin, Michaela stays with Zeke to help him process what happened to him.  They get a mutual calling, and in following it with him Michaela learns that she and Zeke have a lot in common: both are dealing with guilt and self-loathing because both of them caused the death of someone near to them.  It is, of course, no coincidence that he was drawn to Michaela, the one person on the 828 manifest who really knows what he's going through.

On their way home, Ben, Grace, and Cal see a billboard put up by 828DemandtheTruth.com, a conspiracy-theory website.  Once they get home, someone throws a brick through their front window, spray-paints an X on their front door, and yells "Freaks!" before driving off.

Jared and the NYPD trace the spray-paint can to a guy named Cory Weber, who runs the conspiracy-theory website.  He denies everything, of course, and has enough of an alibi that the NYPD can't work up enough probable cause to charge him.  A frustrated Ben does something very un-Ben like, going to Weber's place of business to confront him.  When Weber mutters a not-very-plausibly-deniable threat against Cal, Ben comes very close to hauling off and hitting him--thereby getting himself arrested and giving the conspiracy theorists some juicy video for their website.

Ben did do one smart thing, though.  When they changed Zeke's bandages, he pocketed the old dressing.  Saanvi draws a blood sample from that and determines that Zeke has the same protein in his blood that the 828 passengers all have in theirs.  Whatever it was that flung him forward in time was the same phenomenon that Flight 828 encountered.

"828" Watch

The arc number can be seen on the 828DemandtheTruth.com billboard and website, and on the cover of the December '17 issue of Celebrity Dossier.

Also on the manifest...

Zeke confesses to Michaela that he's an alcoholic, attends AA meetings, and went on his hike because he's "stuck on Step Five."

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935.  Its approach to attaining sobriety, the "Twelve Steps," has helped millions of people, and has successfully been adapted to treat other addictions and behavioral disorders.  Though non-denominational, the Twelve Step approach is definitely faith-based, stressing reliance on a "higher power."

The scene where Ben, Grace, and Cal encounter the 828DemandtheTruth.com billboard was filmed at the intersection of Springfield Boulevard and Kingsbury Avenue in Queens.  The Stones are driving northbound on Springfield.  The bridge that the billboard is on was built in 1904 as part of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a private road constructed by William K. Vanderbilt II leading to his wealthy family's Long Island estate, and on which he could indulge his passion for fast driving untroubled by the risk of traffic tickets.  It is now a hiking trail.

I couldn't find a precise figure for how much it would cost to rent a billboard that size in New York City, but my best guess is that it would be in the high four figures for a 4-week rental, and we get the impression from the show that there's more than one such billboard.

In case you were wondering, if you type 828DemandtheTruth.com into your browser's address bar, all you'll get is a 404 error.  The showrunners missed an opportunity there.

According to Olive's Mythology textbook, the peacock which Ben had a vision of a few episodes ago is a symbol of immortality and the Resurrection.

Turns out that Olive has known all about the callings for weeks because Cal told her.  There are no secrets between twins.

Whoever did the layout and graphics on that magazine cover needs a refresher course in aircraft recognition.  Flight 828 was a 737, not a 747.

Quotes

Ben: ". . . find out as many details as you can about what happened to him. Look for specific times, locations--"
Michaela: "Oh, you mean like a detective?"

Grace: "Don't you ever take a vacation?"
Saanvi: "Well, I went to Jamaica."
I like Saanvi when she gets snarky.

Conclusion

The story arc with Zeke and Michaela was up to the show's usual standards, as were the scenes with Ben, Grace, Olive, and Cal working through their various issues and rebuilding their family relationships.  Cory Weber and 828DemandtheTruth.com, however, not so much.  The showrunners took a good idea and flubbed the execution.

It's been hinted in past episodes that some people view the 828ers with fear and suspicion; that's certainly believable.  It's also believable that the fear and suspicion would ramp up after a very messed-up Captain Daly stole an airplane and flew himself and Fiona Clarke into the center of a storm cell two episodes ago.  It's certainly plausible that someone who was wound up about 828 conspiracies would open a website (and, probably, a YouTube channel and a Twitter feed) and attract a following.  It's a little implausible that such a group could grow in such a short time to the point of being well-funded enough to rent billboards all over town (see the note on billboard rental rates above).  It's a lot implausible that such a well-funded group would then devote itself to tactics as mundane as throwing bricks through people's windows and tagging front doors with spray paint.  What's next after that, toilet-papering the trees in passengers' front yards? sternly-worded letters to the editor? Facebook memes?  And if that's not amateur enough, they commit these dastardly deeds in broad daylight.  I mean, c'mon, guys, ever heard of the cover of darkness?

Far from being a diabolical mastermind in the same league as The Major, chief conspiracy-monger Cory Weber is every bit as pathetic as his brick-throwing minions.  He's a stock cardboard villain from a Saturday morning cartoon that wouldn't last more than a half hour if he were up against four teenagers and an anthropomorphic Great Dane.

Two and a half out of four conspiracy theories.

Baby M knows that it's not really a conspiracy--that's just what they want us to think!

No comments: