Flash Forward Episode Five: Gimme Some Truth

It’s 1:30 AM in Washington, DC. Mark and Stan walk through a parking lot. Stan counsels Mark to keep his mouth shut about something. Mark calls someone and says he has good news. They’re joined by Agent Vreede and Demetri. They all pile into a car… which is promptly rammed by a speeding SUV. The SUV is crammed full of tough-looking Asian men, who start shooting at the Feds. Someone even fires a rocket launcher, and the car explodes. Ooooh, we’re deviating from standard FlashForward operating procedure and starting with a cliffhanger! Excellent.

Thirty-nine hours earlier: Stan, Mark, Vreede and Demetri loiter in the hallway of some government building in DC, waiting for their turn to undergo a lie detector test. Mark anxiously fingers a sobriety chip. There’s a montage of everyone relating their accounts of what happened during their flash forwards: Vreede says he was in the office along with Mark at the time, though he saw himself going out the security exit for unknown reasons. I think we’re supposed to conclude there’s something a little shifty about Vreede’s story. Mark tells the interrogators about the men with masks bursting into his office. He mentions that they were carrying AK-47 rifles, though since Mark is hep with all the cool FBI lingo, he refers to them as “Kalishnikovs.”

Post-interrogation, Mark calls Aaron, who is at the Benford house working on fixing their alarm system. Aaron asks if Mark has made it to any AA meetings recently. Olivia, venturing out of the home to get the paper, overhears this and seems concerned.

Stan plays basketball with some dude named Dave, who is played by Peter Coyote. The Senate is having hearings to redistribute emergency post-blackout funding, and Stan is fretting that the Mosaic funding will be taken away. There are references to Stan’s troubled past in DC, and his enmity with someone named Clemente, who will be chairing the hearing. Dave offers some not terribly convincing reassurances that everything will work out okay.

Back in L.A., Janis kicks the crap out of some guy in her martial arts class. I have no idea where she is, because it looks like they’re in some totally awesome temple, whereas every single martial arts dojo in Los Angeles is housed in a drab strip mall. I think it’s a city ordinance. The guy she just beat up asks if she wants to go to a showing of Enter the Dragon at the Nuart. Hey, I used to work concessions at the Nuart, for a very long summer! Yoko Ono came in once. So did Michael Stipe. And Helen Slater. Anyway, Janis does not want to go see a movie with him. Janis wants to flirt with another classmate, Maya.

At the office, Al gives Janis the CIA surveillance footage of Somalia obtained from the hacker known as Mr. Cheeto Dust.

Presidential press conference: President Segovia comes out, and it’s Stan’s buddy Dave! He fields questions about the Federal response to the blackouts. He mentions something about dropping unproductive investigations, and Stan starts to look pained. A reporter asks why President Dave hasn’t revealed the nature of what he saw in his own flash forward; the President assures him that all world leaders have opted to keep theirs secret. He flashes on his own flash forward: A man hurries into his bedroom, where he’s sleeping next to the (presumed) First Lady, and tells him that something is happening.

Aaron finishes fixing Olivia’s alarm system. Olivia quizzes him about the AA meetings, and they discuss Mark’s alcoholism for a long, long time. This is another deviation from the established FlashForward formula: Usually they save the slow-moving talky scenes for the last quarter of the episode.

In the Oval Office, President Segovia offers to make Stan the new Director of Homeland Security. Stan says his nemesis Clemente will try to block the appointment; Dave asks him to consider it..

Janis goes out to dinner with Maya, who turns out to be a chef. Janis confirms to her that, due to the conservative nature of the FBI, she is not out of the closet at work. Maya reveals that she saw herself with a wedding ring in her flash forward, which she finds confusing. Janis tells preposterous lies about her own flash forward (she was on the International Space Station having a three-way with Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton). They flirt outrageously and kiss.

The Senate Intelligence Commission holds a closed hearing on the blackouts. It’s chaired by Stan’s nemesis, Senator Joyce Clemente. She confronts Mark during a break in the hearings and asks him how he sleeps at night, knowing what he did to “that woman” six years ago. They quote Sun Tzu at each other, then Clemente mocks the Mosaic project. She doesn’t believe the flash forwards can be trusted: In her own vision, she saw herself as President.

Stan gives his testimony, where he emphasizes the importance of not pulling funding from Mosaic. What am I missing? It’s a website. A really big website, granted, but is maintaining it really putting that much of a dent in the federal budget, and if so, can’t they just follow Wikipedia’s example and hold an occasional funds drive?

Maya fixes Janis a post-coital breakfast, then they make out some more. Janis is off to work, but Maya invites her to a gallery event that evening.

At the hearings, Mark testifies about the dead crows and the two men who were awake during the blackouts. Clemente is snide and condescending to Mark. She grills him on why his flash forward recollections are “impressionistic flashes of reality,” whereas everyone else had clear visions. Mark starts to get mouthy with her. Clemente dismisses Mark’s detective work based upon his fragmented vision as being akin to voodoo or fraud. Stan storms out of the hearing.

FBI office: Janis, Al and some pixielike FBI agent we haven’t met before go through the CIA footage of the Ganwar region. They spot unidentifiable tower-like structures.

Mark tries to call Stan, but he’s not answering his phone. Janis calls and shows Mark, Demetri and Vreede a series of satellite photos from 1990 in Somalia, five months before the crows died. They can see the various stages of the towers being built.

Stan calls Janis and tells her he needs her to do something right away.

Janis meets Maya at the gallery. Maya gives her a whimsical talking alarm clock. Maya says she looked up Janis on Mosaic and found out about Janis’s mysterious future pregnancy. Janis gets flustered and leaves abruptly.

Stan shows up at the house of Renee, an attractive young woman with a young son. Later, Stan meets with President Segovia. Six years ago, Stan paid Renee a quarter of a million dollars to disappear with her son -- who might be Segovia’s kid -- to protect Segovia from scandal. Stan tracked her down on the Mosaic site: In her flash forward, she saw herself living in Puerto Rico, though she’s currently staying in Georgetown. Stan threatens the President with photographic evidence of Renee and orders him to prevent Clemente from cutting off Mosaic. After Stan leaves, President Segovia makes an ominous phone call to someone.

Vreede and Demetri drunkenly sing “Sister Christian” in a karaoke bar while Mark mopes by himself. Stan joins Mark. They snarl at each other about the disastrous hearings, then storm out as Demetri and Vreede switch to “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Mark confesses to Stan that his flash forward is a little fragmented because he was plastered. Stan is appalled he put his career on the line for Mark’s drunken hallucinations. When Demetri and Vreede come out to check on them, Stan tells them they’re celebrating: He secured their funding.

Olivia sets the new burglar alarm, but it doesn’t work. When she goes to call Aaron, she sees that someone has sent her an anonymous text message: “Mark was drinking in his flash forward.”

And now we’re at the beginning of the events of the opening sequence. Mark, Demetri, Stan and Vreede walk to their car. They hear that Segovia has appointed Senator Clemente as the new Vice Presidential nominee, following the death of the VP in the blackouts.

Janis carries a bag of groceries and walks down a dark street. She passes a woman pushing a stroller with a crying baby, and it doesn’t really seem like any maternal instincts have been sparked in her yet. Mark calls her, and we can see he was talking to Janis in the opening scene. Their phone call is interrupted by the SUV crash and the attack by the ludicrously well-armed Asian gang. Once again, their car goes up in a ball of fire.

Back in Los Angeles, someone comes up behind Janis and attacks her. She beats him up, but a second attacker shoots her in the stomach.

Mark, Demetri, Vreede and Stan all make it out their exploding fireball of a car just fine and have themselves a dandy shootout. Their attackers get back in the SUV and clear out of there.

Janis lies bleeding on the sidewalk while the talking clock Maya gave her babbles next to her. She has a vision of her flash forward: She’s lying on the obstetrician’s table and getting an ultrasound.

Comments

Morgan Dodge said…
The senate hearings just killed it for me. I thought the rest of the episode seemed fine to me, but I had a flash back to watching Star Wars prequels and discovering they'd turned it into a bad political drama. There's a reason I don't watch political dramas. Dig?
Jason Gilman said…
The hearings and DC stuff was tolerable to me because it gave us some backstory on Stan and justifies why and how the LA office is going to be able to continue to operate in such unusual fashion.

The shootout at the end was kind of over the top for me though. The asian team (a Chinese red herring based on the theories we heard earlier in the episode?) had way more firepower and the element of surprise yet essentially had their asses handed too them once Mark and company started shooting. I had the impression that only the driver managed to escape and they left behind a couple bodies. Also, Janis's attacker was asian too and the attack seemed orchestrated to coincide with the hit on the rest of the FBI team.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah -- the hit on Janis was obviously related to whatever unrevealed favor Stan asked her to do when he called after the disastrous hearings. Still no idea what the favor was, though: Stan seemed to have successfully blackmailed the POTUS with the photo all on his own.

I don't have much of an opinion on this episode. I neither liked it nor disliked it. It didn't provoke much response one way or another. The Senate hearings grated just because they seemed a bit contrived in their melodrama -- it's just hard to believe the entire Senate would be that concerned with the doings of one FBI field office ("Oh no! They created a website! And sent two agents on a possibly unnecessary field trip to Munich! In the wake of this unprecendented and crippling world disaster, let's yank their funding!"), even factoring in Clemete's grudge against Stan. I liked the suggestion of skeleton's in Stan's closet, though if it turns out the worst he did was give some nice lady a quarter of a million to keep her kid secret, I'm going to feel cheated.
levitatethis said…
It sucks being sick. My brain refuses to function.

I'm on the fence with this episode. There were some things I liked and others I was unsure about. I also couldn't figure out how the MOSAIC website was supposedly eating so much money.

Also the talk that everyone had clear visions rather than impressionistic images made me roll my eyes since even the clear visions left out a lot to be desired. I couldn't see how any of those could automatically be given more weight than his (although I do understand the intent of the hearing was to try and look for an excuse to take down the LA office a notch).

The shoot out at the end annoyed me only because I hate it when "bad guys" start off strong and then are suddenly incompetent.

Highlight of the episode for me (besides actually liking the romantic element which normally is a distraction for me in shows) was probably something that only I noticed. The actor who played the agent who performed the lie detector at the beginning was in season two of "Sleeper Cell" as a repressed Muslim terrorist. He ends up meeting a guy (played by the actor who is now on "Melrose Place" as Jonah the wannabe director) at the gym and the two of them get very close in the sauna and end up having a sort of relationship. Great chemistry to boot.
Morgan Richter said…
Get well soon! Being sick is awful.

Yeah, all the fuss over Mark having "impressionistic images" in his flash forward confused me. If Mark was trying to pull a fast one with the Senate hearings, which was the distinct implication that Clemente was trying to get across, wouldn't he simply have said, "I had a crystal-clear vision of masked gunmen attacking me in my office"?

The one thing that soured me a little on the Maya-Janis romance was having one of them -- I couldn't quite tell who, but I think it was Maya -- mutter, "What a douche" after the nice guy in the martial-arts class asked Janis out to a movie. Well, no, unless I missed something he seemed like an okay guy, and it was a nice, non-pushy request, and thus that seemed unnecessarily harsh. It's rough enough getting shot down after you ask someone out; it's worse if you get called names for doing it. Still, Janis and Maya made a cool, low-key couple. (It was also nice having Maya immediately point out that maybe there was a connection between her wedding ring and Janis's pregnancy in the future.) And Janis getting shot was something I genuinely didn't see coming, even though I suppose wandering down a dark street in Los Angeles, at night, alone, carrying groceries, is television shorthand for "will be violently attacked in minutes."
Anna said…
Ditto on the "What a douche" comment. I didn't feel like he was being out of line. Maybe he was supposed to have understood immediately that "I have other plans" means "I will never ever date you". Just tell him he's not your type or that you're not interested, and don't act like he should have read your mind.

... the episode was boring. I hope they will at least follow up on this week's cliffhanger immediately in the next episode. It's a bit tiring to be left hanging all the time. I want to know more about Looyd and Simon's weird conspiracy. I also wanted them to deal somehow with Charlie's vision, but last episode, the kid seemed to be entirely over the trauma, suddenly...
Morgan Richter said…
I also wanted them to deal somehow with Charlie's vision, but last episode, the kid seemed to be entirely over the trauma, suddenly...

That's a good point. They do seem to have forgotten all about Charlie's vision, which, considering how her reference to "D. Gibbons" would make it seem very crucial to Mark's investigation, seems like a bad oversight.

Yeah, kind of a dull episode. Too many Senate hearings/Oval Office meetings. I liked that they actually had a couple action scenes, short and messy though they were. And so help me, that scene where Olivia and Aaron fret about Mark maybe starting to drink again bored the snot out of me.
levitatethis said…
Yeah, I didn't get the douche comment either. He didn't say anything out of line or rude to her. In fact he seemed like a nice guy...I thought I had missed something in my flu-like haze. But yes, other than that, it was nice to see Janis/Maya as pretty low key.

I would have been fine with the Senate scenes had it not played out the way it did. The issues being taken with MOSAIC and Mark's specific flashforward were a stretch that ended up making me scratch my head rather than sit on the edge of my seat.
Morgan Richter said…
There are plenty of guys out there who really are overly pushy and inappropriate when trying to pick someone up; there's no need to come down hard on the guy who, from what we could see, just thought it was cool that Janis could kick his ass and thought maybe she'd be interested in seeing an old Bruce Lee flick with him. Why scorn him for that? Still, it was nice seeing some comfortable and non-contrived same-sex interaction (and ABC didn't even feel the need to send out self-congratulatory we're-so-daring screener copies beforehand. Take notes, Heroes).
Patrick said…
Hi Morgan, congrats on getting the Tvgasm gig – look forward to reading your articles. I’ve watched a bit of Fringe – not a great fan. Intrigued by parts of it, but I think it’s poorly executed.

Also get better soon Levitatethis – I’m also suffering! We could do a big Mosaic website linking all sufferers in the world, although as this episode showed it would probably take up too much of the federal budget.

As for the episode… This is where I back away and withdraw all my support for the show. I had such great hopes for this series and it really is dreadful. Of course Charlie wasn’t in it this week – no, they’ll wait until next week and string viewers along.

Great cliches of this episode:

1. We begin in the middle of a conversation. I immediately thought – there will soon be a card saying ‘20 hours earlier’. It was 39 but I was close.
2. Oh no – it looks like everyone got blown up! I hope they get out of that alive when we get to it the second time around.
3. The two playing basketball like regular guys, but wait, we’ll later learn that one of them is someone really important…

The FBI field guy and the president are good friends. They play basketball together one on one. The president wants him in his cabinet. The president owes him a big favour. So how does the FBI guy ensure he gets his own way – he blackmails him by showing a photo of some previous indiscretion. Is that how ANYONE would behave in real life? Anyone else would just play the loyalty card and get his way – or would tell the president he owes him – but to be as crude as that….

And how did the FBI guy track the woman down? By going on to Mosaic and finding out that 6 months earlier she was living in Georgetown… Fair enough. But how did he find out where in Georgetown? Presumably by checking the telephone book. Which doesn’t make it that difficult at all.

Agree about the poor guy being shot down when he asked Janis out on a date. Although it may have been just banter between the girls. What I didn’t like was how unlikely their dialogue was. At dinner when Janis said something like ‘I would never let you down like that’ and kisses her I just thought ‘This is a first date. Those kinds of statement never work well on a first date’. And given that Janis freaked out just because Maya had checked her out on Mosaic I thought – well, you did promise on the first date never to let her down in any way. Presumably Janis posted it on Mosaic. I can’t believe the doctor knew the patient’s full name.


Other things I hated:

The Rolling Stones song playing during the shoot out. Just like Bjork last week. Just as bad.

Mark being grillied about having an unclear recollection. Come off it! Mark remembers way more stuff than anyone else. Pictures, names, almost an entire board of material, and he remembers people coming to kill him. Is he really going to be criticised for only having 30 seconds worth of good stuff? Even drunk he remembers three times as much as anyone else.

The dialogue between FBI head and Mark in the bar. Meant to be edgy, just unrealistic. And then Mark following him and revealing about the drinking. And FBI guy’s pathethic – ‘But I did everything based on that vision…’

Mark has now told a Senate hearing that masked gunmen are coming to see him in 6 months time. The fact that there is no back up for him at that time, and that he decides to remain in the office, makes no sense.

I hated the way everyone said ‘6 months from now’ in the first half of the episode, even though it is really just 5 months away. But then in the second part of the episode everyone started saying 5 months.

These are just ‘impressionistic feelings’ of the episode. I’m sure if I watched it again there is more I could find to hate.

Am I cranky? I really don't feel too bad today, but I feel very let down by this show.
Patrick said…
Ok - I am cranky!

While I am at it...

Who is Sarah Palin and why would Janice make jokes about her over dinner in 2009?

I say that because Segovia is in his second term as president, and it looks like he was opposed by Senator Clemente six years ago. So Sarah Palin almost certainly never ran for the vice-presidency in this universe. So for Janice to make a Palin-Clinton joke means that she is referencing some obscure politician Maya has almost certainly never heard of.
levitatethis said…
Thanks for the well wishes. I could certainly use them.

Patrick - if you want to start a MOSAIC site linking all of us ill people who are suffering let me know. I've got tons of names for you.

Wow, my brain really isn't functioning because I didn't catch that Palin slip. Meaning I smirked at the joke but didn't connect that they shouldn't know who Palin is.

What I didn’t like was how unlikely their dialogue was. At dinner when Janis said something like ‘I would never let you down like that’ and kisses her I just thought ‘This is a first date. Those kinds of statement never work well on a first date’.

This confused me as well. I couldn't tell how well they knew each other before dating because the dialogue kept throwing me off. Statements like the one quoted above sound like something said between two people who know each other really well, but then at the same dinner Maya's asking her about being out and I thought, 'well, if they were close that wouldn't have come up'...

The more I think about the more I can say this was my least favourite episode. There were just too many things that felt false.

My biggest sore point is still Mark being thrown under the bus for his "hazy" (re: clearer than most of the population and certainly more than anyone else's we've seen) vision.
Morgan Richter said…
Who is Sarah Palin and why would Janice make jokes about her over dinner in 2009?

Patrick, I am simultaneously delighted you came up with this and disgusted with myself for missing it. Because of course you're exactly right. I suppose the only way it makes sense is if, in the FlashForward universe, Palin is still the governor of Alaska and has been in the news enough for Maya -- a California chef -- to immediately get Janis's joke. I suppose it's possible, given real-world Palin's propensity for grabbing headlines. But yeah, seems like a slip.

As to Janis getting weirded out by Maya reading about her posting on Mosaic (we saw Janis posting about it in, what, episode two right before she urged Demetri to do the same), well, if there are details in your life you want to keep private, maybe you shouldn't post them on a huge federally-funded (and, evidently, ruinously expensive) website that millions and millions of people will be accessing.

Yeah, the crap Mark was getting for his unclear recall was pretty damn contrived: "Gee, I'm sorry, by my estimation that's only about thirty seconds of highly-detailed observations you made on that bulletin board. In two and a half minutes, you should have been able to memorize a lot more stuff."

The more I think about the more I can say this was my least favourite episode.

I didn't hate it, but it was a bit of a chore to get through. It looks like next week's ep is going to be hobbit-heavy, and maybe things will perk back up.

Get better, sick people! Or just come visit Los Angeles -- it's in the mid-80s today, and absolutely no one is sick.
Dan said…
Re: the funding requirement for Mosaic. I've been assuming that the big costs would be in the cross referencing of the various impressions. Given people are presumably posting their experiences in free text (and despite most of them not being 'impressionistic') you're either going to need some very clever programmers or a truckload of outsourced data processors. Either way, that's going to cost way more than the basic web site portion. Perhaps not enough for the Senate to worry about, but still, it's not like Wikipedia where you can have devoted editors fixing things up. Nobody can correct anybody else's FFs.

However, what on Earth does 'destroying the negative' mean in this day and age? Seriously. These days a photo barely proves anything (eg Mohinder in ever single scene of Heroes according to Morgans recaps) By itself, the photo is no threat. Or always a threat. It's certainly not a card you can only play once.

The first date conversation did seem odd. And the douche thing was harsh. But I wasn't as annoyed by the episode as Patrick.
Morgan Richter said…
I've been assuming that the big costs would be in the cross referencing of the various impressions.

That makes sense. I'll buy that.

However, what on Earth does 'destroying the negative' mean in this day and age?

I'm going to fanwank it to assume that President Peter Coyote is a bumbling technophobe who has yet to put the batteries in the digital camera his kids got him three Christmases ago, and he naively believes that once you destroy the negative, that's it -- that photo is not going to resurface again, no way, no how. But yeah, as blackmail fodder goes, that was pretty weak.
Patrick said…
Oh and by Charlie I meant the little Hobbit, not Mark and Olivia's daughter. I thought it was very predictable that they would end last week's episode by showing us the mysterious Simon and then not have him present this episode. Although, in fairness, Lost pulls this trick all the time. I suppose everything I saw in the episode seemed predictable. Bad people writing the dialogue and copying techniques from other shows to mask their own inadequacies. Or, I could just be very grumpy. But this show has been disappointing me since the pilot.
Morgan Richter said…
Heh, yeah, Patrick, I figured you weren't upset because we didn't get to see much of Mark and Olivia's kid. I knew which "Charlie" you meant.

It's been a little disappointing, no doubt about that. Still, I have some hope for it -- it's not like the ghastly train wreck that Heroes has become (oh, Heroes, you were once so shiny and new and filled with promise). We'll see how the season evolves. They're about due for a really great episode to get viewer interest back up there. Maybe when we finally find out what the heck went down in Somalia in 1991?
Anna said…
One of the showrunners quit recently. XD I don't know the reasons, but either way it might mean some changes for the show. In my opinion, changes can only be good at this moment... the narrative style is growing tiresome.
Or it is the beginning of the end. :o We'll find out.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah, Marc Guggenheim quit as showrunner, leaving just Dave Goyer in place, but from what I understand from the Hollywood Reporter coverage of it, this was always the long-term plan: Goyer has never run a show before, so Guggenheim was just going to stick around for the first chunk of episodes to establish the tone and show Goyer the ropes. Could be spin, of course, but nobody seems particularly ruffled about it. So, for better or for worse, it might not have much effect on the show. A shame in a way -- five episodes in, and the formula is already wearing a little thin.
Anna said…
Haha, yeah.
I haven't looked particularly deeply into the reasons, partly because like you said, who knows what's truthful and what's spin. I suspect that any such decision has more than one motivation. Since I don't know Guggenheim and don't have much experience with the other people, I can't throw in my two cents, either.

However, even if he did not leave to enable change, that doesn't mean that his quitting will not somehow bring change, basically accidently.
Dan said…
he naively believes that once you destroy the negative, that's it -- that photo is not going to resurface again, no way, no how.

Presumably, his new Vice-President brought him up-to-speed on the realities of the modern digital world. Hence, the rocket launcher fight in the carpark.

Although, in fairness, Lost pulls this trick all the time

This is true, and I was trying to work out why it bothered me much less on Lost. Particularly, early on, when I wasn't as totally invested in the show.

I think it might be because Lost just kept throwing mystery after mystery out there and (mostly) each new one was interesting enough to warrant your attention. So when they drop off one to pick up a different one the following episode, you don't mind so much.

Here, they hinted at a clue to probably the show's biggest mystery ('What/Who caused the blackouts?') and followed it with... what? The mystery of Demetri's karaoke song choice? The mystery of Stan's blackmailing past? The mystery of Washington funding decisions?

Maybe if they'd offered more substantial clues about Somalia or followed up the man in the stadium or something, it would have been less annoying that they dropped off the hobbit clue of last week.
Dan said…
PS Hope all the sick people have recovered by now.
Morgan Richter said…
Maybe if they'd offered more substantial clues about Somalia or followed up the man in the stadium or something, it would have been less annoying that they dropped off the hobbit clue of last week.

Yeah. Again, I didn't dislike the episode as much as some did, but it still felt kind of flat, maybe because they didn't come up with a cool new piece of the puzzle, or a wholly new cool puzzle.

I'm no weapons expert, though offhand I would have thought a rocket launcher fired from a few feet away would have been enough to take out an SUV full of drunken and incompetent karaoke-singing Feds. I was wrong.

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