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Manifest: Call Sign

Ben: “You should wear mom's dress. Or veil. At least, you know, a part of her will be with you in spirit.”
Michaela: “Yeah, I thought about that, um... but Dad got rid of all her stuff when she died. Guess the memories were too much. Kind of like how this might be too much for me.”
Why didn’t Steve save the dress or at least the veil for his granddaughter, who did not disappear on Flight 828?

Michaela and Zeke marry, so “Call Sign” has to traipse through the tired tropes of every TV episode wedding. However, there are a few bright spots.

A continuation of the meth dealers: We got a reasonable representation of how hard it is to break a set of suspects when they all hang together. It’s the classic prisoners’ dilemma, but in triplicate. It’s nice that we have three suspects because this allows Drea to participate.

Michaela is taking a pass for the follow-up, however, because she’s getting married, something that is a surprise to Jared. She didn’t want to tell him (but she does) but she also says Zeke’s death date is in two days. Jared says he’ll be there (but when he sees her in her wedding gown, he bails).

In every episode centered on a wedding, at least one of the parties has serious doubts. This so the wedding episode has some conflict, or maybe just so something actually happens in the episode. At least in this case, Michaela has a pretty good reason for her doubts: Zeke expects to die in a day or two, and is it right to marry a dying man? Her dad – showing up at last – gives some decent advice, saying he would have married her mother if it had only been for five minutes.

In a way this is the only way for Mick to marry. Manifest tells us she loves Zeke – I have never sensed much chemistry between them, but Melissa Roxburgh is excellent at switching on the tears when she talks about his impending doom – but she has a history of steering away from commitment. This time committing is easier for her, because it’s only for a few days.

Zeke’s mom, Priscilla, is planning to skip the wedding because she’s still so angry with Zeke’s father. I don’t think this was a reasonable response on her part, but it does get Zeke to finally tell his mother that he expects to die in one or two days. She stays for the wedding after all.

One bit I really liked was how Zeke asked Cal to be his best man, and how they spent the time eating junk food and playing Monopoly. Given how long Monopoly seems to take – at least for many people – this could have the impact of making Zeke's remaining hours seem longer, even if they are not longer.

Ben sees the plane exploding in a Calling and meets up with Ward, the guy who inspected the plane. It’s not a meaningful encounter for Manifest – how is it possible that Ward never connected before this, if not with Ben at least with the pilots – and it seems to only be to put Ben in the same place as the pawn shop that contains his mother’s wedding veil.

And then there’s the wedding itself. It’s simple and pretty, but the vows from the bride and groom did not feel real. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the actors or me, but it just didn’t work for me. On the other hand, I adored how Ben danced with Grace while carrying the baby.

The meth heads escape so easily! Seems silly of them, given how weak the case against them was. It’s a scene we have seen many times in other shows, too. Jace, the leader of the meth heads, is not just unpleasant, he’s completely one-dimensionally unpleasant. At least our last villain, Griffin, showed some complexity. Jace is just one-note nasty.

Saanvi shows her tenacity when she goes and shakes down Robert Vance’s wife for his whereabouts. It’s one of those many scenes where you ask for something, it is denied, but it happens later. Patience, grasshoppers, patience!

Title musings: “Call Sign” is the title of the episode. The phrase, according to Merriam-Webster, means "the combination of identifying letters, letters and numbers, or words assigned to an operator, office, activity, vehicle, or station for use in communication (as in the address of a message sent by radio)". In the airline industry it can refer to unique names and identifiers for pilots and flights, such as Montego Air 828. I didn’t notice any unique names / identifiers in this episode. I have to imagine that, given the fact that Manifest is all about Callings, the creators have been eager to use this particular expression as a title. And there are Callings in this episode: Ben sees the plane explode; he finds the veil; Michaela sees her mother at her wedding. But in this episode there’s another call, Saanvi’s call to Robert Vance in order to get her lab back. It’s a fair title.

Bits and pieces

At least Steve Stone shows up for his daughter’s wedding. He offers on-screen advice to Michaela and apparently fixes his son’s decorations.

Despite my comment about Monopoly above, I actually love the game. It was our family game when I was a kid.

I have expressed concern in a prior episode that the dead Karen Stone, mother to Ben and Michaela, may be a moving force behind the Callings. After this episode I have more concerns. Maybe Manifest should make her the Ruler of the Callings; it would be an unsatisfying, but a unique, end.

Darn, TJ is going to Egypt, which means he won’t be around as much. A pity, as Garrett Wareing is easy on the eyes. I still wonder how TJ is supporting himself.

Ben holding the baby while he and Grace were dancing is really cute.

You’d think the Callings would warn Cal not to go outside and get himself kidnapped. Unless they want him kidnapped, for reasons we don’t yet fully understand. The priorities of Callings seem very warped. Perhaps it's a moment for this grasshopper to have some patience.


Ben: I can't believe you saw Mom. How'd she look?
Michaela: Like Mom. The veil, her showing up... I think she was trying to tell me something.
Ben: Well, I wouldn't put it past her.
Michaela: Maybe that I don't have to choose one path or another, that I can still honor Zeke's wishes and keep fighting to save his life.
Ben: I think that's exactly what mom would say.

Saanvi: Please. I'm begging you. There are gravely ill patients who I need to treat who will die without my intervention. Do you want their blood on your hands?
Cardoso: I want to help you, Saanvi. I do. So, believe me when I say, the decision to fire you was made by people well above my pay grade.
Saanvi: But you're the chair of the department.
Cardoso: I can't revoke people's licenses. Only the NIH can do that. Is there anyone in the government who has a reason to shut you down?

Zeke: I'm getting a Calling. Cal is lying his butt off. Talk to me.
Cal: I thought weddings were supposed to be fun, but what's fun about...
Zeke: Me dying? Yeah. But hey... we still have some time together. And we haven't even done the best part of planning a wedding... the bachelor party. Seriously? You're my best man. You gotta throw me a killer party. You in?

Estelle Vance: You want to know where you can find my husband? At the cemetery.
Saanvi: Please, just call him.
Estelle Vance: Get off this property before I call the police.

Olive: Okay, and us... breaking up, it...
TJ: I'm not breaking up with you. I'm going on this trip so that I can try to solve the Death Date so that we can have a future together. Just don't give up on me.

Overall rating

I have a problem in that I tend to dislike wedding episodes. There were also several things that didn’t ring true, either emotionally or logically or both. "Call Sign" is watchable, but it doesn’t feel rewatchable. You can’t skip this episode, because you need it for the plot, but you can fast forward through some bits. Two out of four games of Monopoly.

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

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