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Manifest: Black Box

Zeke: I don't get it. You're willing to risk everything for me now, but when I try to see you, you blow me off. Am I just another person to save and check off your list?

Michaela and Zeke are Called to a bank that gets robbed; TJ and Ben work together to solve another Calling that helps out Michaela and Zeke; TJ and Olive form a connection.

Ben is caught making a video for Olive in case he’s dead before she marries. Grace tells him to stop, that it’s a sign of desperation. But Ben is desperate. It’s been a month, more or less, and he hasn’t had made any progress on stopping the death date.

When TJ visits Ben's office for help with a Calling, Olive shows up. I love the flashback interactions between young Olive and TJ. TJ might not recognize her today (she has grown and was played by a different actress). She might not recognize him (he has not changed, same actor, and not grown as only about half a year, but for her it has been about six years). But they do remember each other. And it means we have more reason to have TJ be around more. Olive plays it cool to begin with, but then mentions a tesseract – something found in A Wrinkle in Time - when she comes back to her dad’s office and sees him again.

I love how Michaela comes and spends time with Beverly, and how Beverly, despite her dementia, sometimes gives her good advice. It’s easy to confide secrets in someone with dementia, as there’s a good chance they will forget what you told them ten minutes later. Michaela, with her visits and support, is compensating, a little, for her role in Evie’s death. Beverly tell Michaela to go for love, even if it’s only for a short while, that loving someone is brave.

Anyway, both Michaela and Zeke are Called to the bank. Before the robbery happens, they see each other, report that they have each received the same Calling and wonder what it means. We get some background: Mick has not been returning Zeke’s calls, and he has been out about a month. This seems inconsistent with what we saw before. I would understand hesitation on Mick’s part – Zeke has a troubled, addicted past, and although he has been pleasant enough in their encounters, he hasn’t really been worthy of her. However, her hesitation is not consistent with her prior actions, or what Cal was telling them – that they need to be together – and the fact that both of them, especially Zeke, have expiration dates coming due soon. However, in this episode, Zeke really proves himself to Michaela, with being ready to sacrifice himself. This – coupled with the advice she received earlier from Beverly – is enough for Michaela to finally welcome Zeke into her bed.

Zeke’s bravery is noticed also by Jared, who is on the outside of the bank. Jared, to his credit, prevents Zeke from being shot when he brings out the injured bank manager. Jared, after watching Michaela leave with Zeke, goes to the sassy bartender, and they go “not have that dinner” which, although we do not see, understand.

Logan wanted into his brother’s safety deposit box to find a compass, which happens to be engraved with a peacock. The compass is supposed to save his life, maybe the lives of all the passengers. The safety deposit box happens to be 6224, which, if you interpret it the way Americans interpret dates, can be translated as June 2, 2024. The death date. This information really cheers up Ben. I guess Ben goes and deletes the recording he was making for Olive’s wedding.

Saanvi follows up with the Major with Vance’s instructions, trying to draw her out. This storyline was not quite as satisfying to me. Saanvi was able to fool the Major before – that’s how they detected the leak in the first place – so why does she have so much trouble now? And, eating an apple ought not to be the way to go. If she has a need to fidget, I would have put a bandage on one hand, have Saanvi explain how she spilled something on herself that has created a rash, and then direct her fidgeting there. Oh, well. We needed the Major to “win” and to steal Saanvi’s actual research, so coming up with a better way to solve a problem that should not be solved is not helpful to the plot.

The debates about the 828ers continue. Frank Strickland believes they all died and they therefore don’t exist. Adrian thinks they are evidence of actual miracles. Maybe both of these interpretations are true.

Title musings: “Black Box” is the title of the episode, and in aviation it refers to the protected box that records the pilots and everything about a flight, to provide data if something goes wrong. We don’t see the 828 black box in this episode. However, it also has a more metaphorical meaning, as in something that seems to work but where we humans don’t know how it works. A black box hides its mechanics. I guess this could apply to the Callings in general and how the 828ers returned. In this episode, the phrase also applies to Frank Logan's safety deposit box.

Bits and pieces

Why would TJ be reading Homer in Latin and not in Greek? Yes, he’s studying Latin. However, the cover is in English. On the other hand, it’s also The Odyssey, in which Odysseus takes a trip which he doesn’t want to take, and that is very appropriate for Manifest.

I like how Manifest portrays caring for someone with dementia. There is no shame. Obviously there is concern and you have to devote a lot of effort and care, but Michaela handles it just right. My own father had dementia. He kept telling my brother and me about having stashed 13 mllion in the basement (no such thing, alas). Instead of insisting on reality, I simply said, “That’s a lot of money, Dad. What do you want to do with it?” That ended up being my last real conversation with my father, for in later visits – I lived far away – he had completely lost the power of speech.

The Calling isn’t great this time. Both Michaela and Zeke hear “Bring him back” and later conclude it means Frank and not Logan Strickland. But neither of them brings Frank back, unless it means to the back of the bank. Ben brings Frank, but Ben didn’t receive the Calling.

The mathematical definition of a tesseract is basically a cube but in four dimensions. Kind of like how a cube is a square in three dimensions.

Young Olive and “our” Olive are really believable as different versions of the same person.

Logan and Frank Strickland look amazingly like brothers but the names of the actors are sufficiently different – Alex Morf and Ben Loving, respectively – to make me think they are not related.

Logan Strickland raises a good point: what do banks do if a safety deposit box key is really lost?

Jared just can't stop himself from helping Mick.

Adrian’s Church of the Believers maintains that if you believe in the miracle, you will be saved. I have never accepted the idea that faith is enough to save someone. Perhaps faith can be a starting point, but in order to make a difference, you need to do more than just believe.

Note that black boxes from airplanes are never black, but some sort of orange or red so they can be found more easily.


Beverly: So, who are you taking to prom?
Michaela: Um, I don't actually have a date.
Beverly: Really? There isn't a boy you're interested in?
Michaela: You know what? There is, actually. He's new. He's kind of a loner type, but he's got a really good heart.
Beverly: Mm. Good heart goes a long way.

Michaela: Who's Frank Strickland?
Zeke: After everything she's done for you, you don't think you owe her an answer?
Logan: He's my brother.
Michaela: If he's your brother, then why did you just hold up a bank? Why didn't you just talk to him?

Frank: But a gun? Hostages? How could you?
Logan: How could you?! You abandoned me. My own brother told me that I wasn't a human being.

TJ: So, your dad just chases down these Callings, always believing he can solve them somehow?
Olive: It's like you've known him forever.
TJ: You think he can solve the one about the passengers dying?
Olive: Wait. My dad told you about the Death Date?
TJ: Any thoughts on how we can stop it, SAT girl?
Olive: Maybe we could use the tesseract to move through space and time.
TJ: A Wrinkle in Time. That was you. So you do remember me.

Overall rating

A lot happens in this episode, and it was enjoyable. I loved the Michaela-Beverly and the TJ-Olive interactions. However, a few things felt off. The Calling, or at least their interpretation of it, did not really make sense. Mick would not have been blowing off Zeke before this. And Vance and Saanvi should have done a better job with the Major. Three out of four tesseracts.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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