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3 Body Problem: Destroyer of Worlds

"All you had to do was keep playing."

A stunning episode. With some answers, even.

It began with the suicide of yet another physicist, this time at CERN, who deliberately killed himself in the bizarre way that Oppenheimer's mistress did. I assume that was to convey the message "Destroyer of Worlds," the episode title. The Oxford Five met at Jack's place to discuss it, probably because Jack has all the snack food in the world to go with his wall of nerd collectibles.

In a possible metaphor for the aliens, Will talked about the meaning of birdsong: me me me, or mate mate mate. Survival. Will, who is dying of stage four pancreatic cancer, is quitting teaching and wants Jin to go away with him. Maybe if he'd told her he was dying, she would have gone.

Jin wasn't interested in going away with Will because all she could think about was playing the game, and Jack has gotten into it, too. Auggie, who entered the game using Jack's helmet and got decapitated, was seriously alarmed and tried to get Jin and Jack to stop playing. That didn't work.

The Game

Jin and Jack simultaneously entered the game at Level 2, and suddenly it was two-player. How is that possible? I have no idea. Moving right along. In an enormous cathedral, Pope Gregory was about to make a decision, and I just now realized every iteration of the game included an important leader in an important building trying to deal with the chaotic eras.

Our brilliant Jin figured out the three-body problem. The planet in the game has three suns whose gravitational fields create chaotic eras that destroy their civilizations in horrible ways. The people were about to burn Jin for heresy when the entire planet started to burn instead, the little girl Follower died again after an amazing ride on a flaming horse, and the woman with the sword arrived to take them to...

Level 3, Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree, with Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Turing predicting the movement of the suns using thirty million soldiers as a human abacus. This segment was visually astonishing. As Jin and Jack were being boiled !!!, Jin speeded them ahead in time (I really love the way they do that with just a hand on the floor, or in this case, a hand on the bottom of an enormous boiling pot) and Jack said it was syzygy, another word I know nothing about.

Gravity shifted, and everyone and everything flew up into the sky. Again, an absolutely amazing visual. Again, Jin didn't save the Follower. But Jin won Level 3 by realizing that the point of the game wasn't to figure out the three body problem – it was to help the people survive that problem.

The game then moved into the real world where Jin and Jack received an actual, physical invitation to a meeting with Tatiana/Invisible Woman. Apparently, Jin and Jack were the only people in the UK to make it this far. How many people are playing this game?

Back in the game, Level 4 was a wasteland, and Jin and Jack were wearing their own clothes instead of elaborate costumes. The only other characters were Sword Woman and the Follower. Sword Woman told them that computers could not predict the results of the three body problem forever; the only possible answer was for the people to leave their planet. Which is what they finally did. In a thousand ships. That's a lot of ships.

The aliens now have a name: the San-Ti, from the (Mandarin?) words for three body people, san ti ren. The Follower asked Jin, "You'll welcome us, won't you? We can't wait to meet you." Shudder.

Jack and Jin were understandably freaked (I certainly was), but Jack's reaction was the incorrect assumption that the game had to be a scam. Jin, though, continued to be intrigued. Note how Tatiana was trying to connect to Jin by bringing up Jin's past as an orphaned survivor of a flood. Hey, Jin is just like the San-Ti. Uh huh.

When Jack didn't buy in, I had this horrible feeling that it would be curtains for him. (And it was. Although in this case it involved a plate glass window.) The weirdest thing, again, was that Detective Shi was surveilling the house, looking at that very window, and didn't see Tatiana kill Jack. More magical San-Ti power.

Mike Evans Talks to God

Out of the blue, we just discovered that Evans is communicating with the aliens using a microphone and speaker. How? Wouldn't extreme distances make that impossible? Evans was reading to someone he called "The Lord," who responded in a female voice, asking him about humans and human nature. She said, "Humanity must learn to fear again." Evans responded, "And we will teach them."

Again, all this does not make me confident that the San-Ti have good intentions. The horrible conditions of their planet and the many civilization deaths could certainly make us sympathetic to their plight – is that what is motivating Evans? – but my word, how creepy can they possibly get?

Other Possibly Important or Unimportant Stuff

Jin met her boyfriend Raj's family at dinner. I loved how Raj told her to maybe not go nuts with the science talk, but she went nuts with the science talk anyway.

Raj's father received the highest military honor in India during the Kargil War, when he played dead while freezing and suffering from hypoxia and managed to steal oxygen to save his men. This story feels like it relates to the San-Ti and the game somehow. The obvious? The San-Ti are fooling us? The game is a lie, it's just a ploy?

Jack and Saul visited Will in the hospital after a treatment; Will, who was stoned on meds, said he negotiated with his cancer and it would stay in a corner of his pancreas, leaving him the rest of his body. This again felt weirdly like it related to the San-Ti and the game.

When Auggie's associate threatened to continue Auggie's work without her, and even have her deported, she returned to her lab, started up the machine, and the countdown immediately appeared in front of her eyes with only a minute left. She turned it off again. What else could she do?

In Closing

So Jin won the game, and the game killed Jack for quitting. The aliens said they were coming, but it seems like they're already here. But at least we're starting to get some answers. Right?

Four out of four game levels,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. This was a very good, albeit mildly frustrating episode. The plot does seem to be moving forward, and I'm deeply curious about the San-Ti and their motivations. I keep thinking back to the conversation when they first made contact. I'm a scientist and pacifist, my people are different, they are conquerors. Do not respond back."

    Jack did feel like a character that wasn't going to last in the long term. He questioned to much, and never seemed to take anything seriously. Yet I liked him and it was a shock to see him killed.

    I wonder what Auggie is going to do next, it soft of feels like Auggie and Jin are going in opposite directions. Jin possibly becoming an agent of the San-Ti and Auggie possibly positioned to be a leader against them.

    However, I still keep thinking that there is more going on with reality. But while the alien presence is clearly real, the way reality has bent and shifted feels like everything is a simulation. Especially Jack's death. It is one thing to mess with the perception of technology like cameras to erase someone from footage. But can they actually hack into human perception and alter it? I guess that makes sense given the countdown and the global event of the sky blinking.

    I'm intrigued and confused. I'm only frustrated because I want to know more, now!

  2. I'm curious how they choose who gets to play the game. Jack managed to graduate from intruder to invited (and then to dead), so will Auggie follow the same path? (Side note, loved her in the dress.) The aliens obviously are worried about her nanofibers. Why not recruit her to the cause like they're doing so with Jin? Maybe they realized that she wouldn't want to? Jack's reaction to Sword Lady cutting off his head was more annoyed that he couldn't play, where Auggie's reaction was freaked out because she realized that this wasn't a normal game.

    The rules of the game are really, really nonexistent. I tried not to let it bug me, but suddenly it's two players? Suddenly there's other players? That's who "Newton" and "Turing" were, right? They weren't just part of the game, they were players. I'm also not really sure why Jin said that she needed Jack since he really didn't contribute anything, but it's fine. The scenes were absolutely gorgeous. The human computer was stunning. I didn't mention this last episode, but I also loved the little "tutorial" aside that taught Jin how to speed up time. That felt very much like a real video game, and it came in handy here!

    Although the game segments seem to be over and done, and that makes me sad. They, and watching Jin's obsession as she tumbled down it, were consistently excellent. They did a lot of cement Jin as my favorite character so far. She approached it with such a joyous energy, something that also popped up when she talked about science to Raj's family. She's very unashamed to be excited about something. It's nice.

    I also thought that Will's negotiation felt like it was related to something. Or at least a metaphor of some kind. He's starting to grow on me.

    The "Oppenheimer death" was kinda fun given that we just saw that over the summer. Loved the mention of the conspiracy theory that she was murdered as well.

    Evans talking to the Lord was fascinating. Very creepy, but absolutely fascinating. I want more of that. It's one thing to (impulsively?) press a button and tell aliens to come invade, it's something else entirely to have a conversation about how you'll teach humanity how to fear again.

  3. Entirely unrelated but I was compelled to comment on "syzygy". Definitely an unusual word but as it was the name of an X Files episode it's stuck in my brain for the last 30 years since I first looked it up lol

    Great review!


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