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Manifest: Grounded

Jared: “So, he's saying that a Calling he had led him here, and you believe him?”
Ben: “Yeah, how else could he have found the girl's body?”
Jared: “He could have found her by putting her there.”

Grace learns who the father of her baby is and Ben helps a student follow a Calling.

We get the story of Robert Vance (a.k.a. “Bobby”) and how he still happens to be alive. Of course, he doesn’t trust everyone in the government, but instead of being disappointed – he’s practical, not idealistic – he’s got a plan. I’m glad. I like Robert Vance, and how he is played by Daryl Edwards. A good man, and always there to point out how Ben, playing spy, really doesn’t know what he’s doing.

A still-open question from the previous episode is: who is the father of Grace’s baby? Ben and Grace, realizing it would be unfair to Danny to exclude him if he is the father, decide to take a paternity test. But before they can manage it, Grace gets a Calling, a strong hint that the father is Ben. First, I appreciate that this soap operatic plotline was not prolonged. Second, I respect Ben and Grace a lot more for trying to determine this. Third, I love the different way of resolving this issue. It also gives them the chance to interact with Saanvi, who is apparently the only doctor the Callings will allow to treat the Stones (except, presumably, Olive).

We meet Drea Mikami, a new character for Manifest. I'm glad Manifest followed the logic of getting Michaela a new partner; she couldn’t continue working with Jared. Not only do I like Drea – and it makes sense that two young women would bond in the precinct – but I liked how Michaela sized her up as a rich kid. Sometimes the show demonstrates that Michaela really is good at her job: noticing details, drawing conclusions.

Zeke, who wants to be punished, pleads guilty to all the counts against him. Zeke’s speech at his arraignment was too over the top for me, but I understand where they’re coming from: Zeke’s speech is an apology for his entire life, especially as he expects to die soon. I will warm up to him later, but at this point I’m still wondering why Michaela is attracted to him.

Ben is still working with the Calling, “Save the passengers,” and he has been doing what he can to check up on the passengers in the area. This week we met TJ Morrison, a freshman at Astoria (Garrett Wareing in this role is certainly easy on the eyes, but I always had a weakness for cross country runners). After an initial meeting, and Ben’s advice to follow Callings, TJ discovers a dead body, a female art student called Frannie. In alarm, TJ contacts Ben. Ben calls the police and Jared and the usual posse arrives.

This leads to conflict. Ben believes TJ had nothing to do with the murder. Jared, who is less disposed toward people receiving Callings, thinks TJ may be responsible, especially after he finds TJ’s fingerprints all over things in the dead student’s room. Michaela is stuck in the middle. After their experience with Griffin, the idea that those receiving Callings are naturally good should not be the default assumption, but Ben is at a point where he feels he can only trust passengers. He demands that Michaela look further, and she does.

TJ’s story about his mother overdosing on sleeping pills a month after 828 disappeared back in 2013 really got to me. This was why he hesitated to open up to Ben in their first meeting. TJ’s in tremendous pain. It may be season two, a year for viewers, but in the story, about three months have passed since the plane touched down. TJ’s only a freshman, still a kid, 18 or 19 years old. Any classmates he befriended back in 2013 would have graduated by now, and now he appears in the middle of a semester, with the badge of “weirdo” attached to him after his return on 828. He has lost his mother, his only family. He doesn’t even have a picture of her, because naturally, over 2037 days, if no one comes to claim things, they get tossed. Remember how freaked out Cal was that all of his stuff was gone back in "Reentry," the second episode of season one?

Michaela, with some excellent detective work and the assist from a Calling in the form of a vision, solves the case; the perpetrator is a campus security guy. TJ’s things, such as his old Latin homework papers, were scavenged by art student Frannie to use in her collages. TJ still wonders why he didn’t get the Calling before Frannie was killed. Michaela tells him that the murderer was a serial predator and TJ saved the next victim, if not Frannie.

TJ gets some pictures of his mom, and Ben is rewarded by meeting with a dean who just happens to be an old friend. It looks as if Ben will finally get a break in the job department. The Callings often lead you where you want to go, even if the route is not as direct as you would like.

At this point, only Olive is not getting Callings, and Grace worries that she feels excluded. Manifest hammers home this point when Cal refuses to talk to Olive about his. Still, Olive’s response to her mother is perfect. Olive knows about the death date, and now there’s the strong possibility that on June 3, 2024, she will have lost father, mother, brother and sister. Of course, the SATs seem pointless, and of course she will be looking for meaning and hope in some other way. Which makes her interest in Adrian’s church totally understandable. Olive is extremely vulnerable.

Title musings: “Grounded” is the title of the episode. In airline speak, it refers to a plane that is not allowed to fly, as in when there are problems due to mechanics, weather, terrorists or personnel. The word grounded has additional meanings. It can refer to the punishment a person, usually a kid, receives, after breaking the rules. This applies to Zeke, who is now in prison, and is being punished for breaking the rules (through his confession he has grounded himself). Oddly enough, being grounded can also mean that someone is more emotionally centered. I don’t see how this interpretation applies to any of our characters; in fact, Olive is the exact opposite of grounded (making Adrian’s church all the more appealing). Finally, in this episode, the title could also refer to the dead body that TJ finds in the ground.

Bits and pieces

Michaela says she wants to steal Cal’s waffles but she does not actually take any of them. As far as I can tell, no one takes a bite at the breakfast. Which makes sense; eating during takes is problematic for continuity and for overfull actors watching their figures.

Michaela thinks she solved the murder because of an anonymous tip. And it’s true that she had a vision of boots and digging. But she also had a lot of good detective work, and she could have made that case to Bowers.

Adrian and his church: I love how the sketch of an airplane looks like a distorted cross, strongly evoking “religious symbol.”

The fact that her entire family might have an expiration date is a good reason for Olive, at least, to maintain a relationship with Danny.

TJ raises some good questions. Why did he get this calling? Just to be reunited with some of his mom’s stuff? How do Callings get prioritized? Although this doesn’t come up, the questions above make me think of the young boy throwing starfish back into the ocean. There are so many he can’t possibly throw them all back but he’s making a difference to those he saves. Maybe the Callings are powerful, but not omnipotent; they can’t do everything.

I guess the Stones straightened up Michaela’s apartment while she was gone. The fight between Jared and Zeke broke a lot of her stuff.

My calculation is that we are in early to mid-February in 2019. Looks warmer than it should be.

Quotes

Robert Vance: The world needs to think I'm dead.
Michaela: Well, I was convinced.
Ben: The whole world was. You would have loved your funeral... Bobby.

Michaela: Uh – Captain?
Jared: Detective Stone and I... we used to be partners.
Captain Bowers: Yeah, and that partnership triggered a lot of internal investigations and unwanted attention from One PP. So now I'm in charge, and Detective Stone has a new partner. Don't start sleeping with this one.

Grace: Definitely need this nap. I forgot how exhausting it is to make a new human.
Ben: Well, I am a big fan of your work.

Drea: Are you and Vasquez in some kind of détente I need to know about?
Michaela: Uh, need to? No.
Drea: Got it. My last partner retired. Aviera. Good guy, but super old-school.
Michaela: How did Aviera feel about being paired with a rich kid?
Drea: Where'd that come from?
Michaela: That watch is three months' salary, you say things like "détente", and you have a photo on your desk of a horse... English saddle, not Western. So, yeah, you're moneybags.

Ben: What happened to her?
TJ: When the plane went missing, um, she must have felt like she didn't have anything left to live for. And she OD'd on sleeping pills a month later.
Ben: Oh, TJ, I'm so sorry. My mom died when we were gone, too.
TJ: While I was gone, the school emptied my dorm room, and my mom's landlord tossed her stuff. So I don't have anything. Not even a photo of her.

Ben: She's still thrown by the whole getting a Calling thing.
Michaela: I can't wrap my head around that; it doesn't make any sense.
Ben: I feel like we say that a lot.

Michaela: He's not my assailant.
Captain Bowers: Not an assailant, not your boyfriend. You keep correcting me, and we just met.

Olive: Mom, do you think I'm resentful because everyone else gets the Callings and I don't?
Grace: You're not?
Olive: Mom, I'm not resentful. I'm terrified. Because the Callings gave Cal and Dad the Death Date. How do you know that you and the baby don't have it, too? And in five years, you'll all be gone. And I'll be the only one left.

TJ: I should have been able to help her, though. It's my fault.
Michaela: No, no. She was dead before you ever got the Calling.
Ben: TJ, you couldn't have saved her.
TJ: Why would the Calling want me to find a dead body?
Ben: Without you, Frannie's body may never have been found. At least now her family can get some closure.

Michaela: Yeah, the guard left his previous jobs under suspicion of harassment and stalking. I mean, he was likely a serial predator. You saved whoever would have been his next victim or victims.

Suzanne: Ben Stone?
Ben: Suzanne? You're kidding me. How long has it been?
Suzanne: Well, for you or for me?

Overall rating

I enjoyed this episode a lot, but I still have a few minor complaints. First, Zeke’s speech felt over the top, even though I understand that he is trying to make everything right before his own expiration date. Second, Michaela may have had a Calling that helped her find Frannie’s killer, but she also did some really solid police work and she should have acknowledged that. Third, Cal's telling Olive she could not help him with a Calling was just too much piling on. On the other hand, I absolutely loved the introduction of TJ. Three and a half out of four Latin assignments.

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

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