Flash Forward Episode Four: Black Swan

Fourteen days ago: Bjork’s “It’s So Quiet”, which is a song I freaking despise, plays during an idyllic fall day in Los Angeles. The blackouts strike: A city bus plunges into the pond at Echo Park and sinks, drowning everyone on board except for a strangely calm young man and a woman who speaks in a foreign language. The man blissfully kicks out a window and swims with her to safety.

Present day: The young man, whose name is Edward Ned -- Ned Ned, in other words -- is in the hospital, still blissed out, relating the story of the rescue to Olivia and Bryce. He’s getting treated for some pain he’s been having since the crash. Bryce asks what he saw in his flash forward. Ned saw himself wearing leather pants, rocking out at a club, happy and confident. Ned, who is white, also claims he was black.

Zoe tries to discuss the upcoming wedding with Demetri, but he’s zoning out on her. She asks about rumors that the FBI has been “Gitmo-ing” the blonde woman who was with the suspected terrorists, whom he suspects of having something to do with the blackouts.

Mark entertains Charlie by pretending to be a talking egg. Olivia refers to him as “the Shakespeare of cheesy dad humor.” Heh. Okay. Between that and John Cho’s “I know what a bong is” line from last episode, they’re hitting the meta humor pretty hard, and it’s sort of lame, but I can’t say I disapprove.

Charlie’s babysitter Nicole, who we haven’t seen since the pilot, talks with Aaron, whose dead daughter Tracy was Nicole’s own babysitter. Aaron asks why Nicole disappeared after the blackouts, but she doesn’t answer. You know how last episode I mentioned that the actor who plays Aaron does a convincing American accent? I was wrong.

Mark, accompanied by the FBI agent played by the cute kid who plays Cyborg on Smallville (Lee Thompson Young. IMDB says his character name here is “Al Gough”, which is the name of one of the Smallville co-creators, so that’s… weird), asks Stan for permission to investigate the crow deaths in Somalia, but Stan frets that this might create a conflict with the CIA. Mark secretly asks Al whether a hacker friend of his could hack into the CIA mainframe. Yikes. That’s going to go over well.

Demetri interrogates the blonde woman, Alda Herzog, who claims to be an honest businesswoman. She speaks without an accent, but she’s got passports from multiple countries. She gives him a lead as to who she’s working with: Customer Choice Restaurant Group in Indio, California. When Demetri threatens her, she spooks him by telling him he’s running out of time. Demetri and Mark squabble over their next move: Demetri wants to investigate the restaurant company, Mark wants to go to Somalia. Stan opts for Indio.

In the hospital cafeteria, Lloyd tries to discuss his son Dylan’s condition with Olivia, but she once again brushes him off. She asks Bryce to transfer Dylan to Physical Therapy, so she can get some distance from Lloyd. Er... one hopes it's also because it's the best thing for this sick and injured child.

Mark and Demetri visit a restaurant in Indio owned by Customer Choice Restaurant Group. When one of the cooks hears that they’re FBI, he makes a break for it, leading them on a merry chase through a trailer park. You know what was really cool? That parkour chase scene in the opening sequence of the Casino Royale remake. I wish I could do parkour. Anyway, this wasn’t really much like that scene at all, although they scale some walls and get whacked by trailer doors and fall in kiddie pools before apprehending their suspect. Demetri, who did not bring his A-game this episode, thinks the guy has been smuggling yellowcake uranium in his backpack, but it turns out to be a bunch of weed. It’s a natural mistake.

Mark and Demetri get into a huge fight, which culminates with Demetri punching Mark in the face and telling him about the anonymous call about his upcoming murder. Mark tells him to get past the fear, using the way he’s dealing with his own flash forward as an example. Mark, not to downplay your scary future, because being chased by a bunch of gunmen is certainly stressful, but Demetri is actually, like, dead in his flash forward. That sort of trumps yours. Mark promises to solve (and ideally prevent) Demetri’s murder before it happens.

Lloyd returns Bryce’s sketch pad, which he left in Dylan’s room. He remarks on a drawing Bryce made of a beautiful woman, whom Bryce claims he hasn’t met yet. Lloyd talks about his own flash forward: He was in a strange house, and he got an urgent call from someone he didn’t know. He heard a woman’s voice -- Olivia’s -- but the flash forward ended before he saw her face.

Olivia tells Ned he has a haematoma, which requires immediate surgery. Ned’s not worried. Since the bus crash, he no longer feels nervous or afraid of anything. He’s been inspired by his vision of the future, in which he’s a confident black man (“Like Shaft, or Bryant Gumbel!”).

Nicole visits an eccentric young priest, who keeps crickets in a shoebox and calls her by her sister’s name, and offers to do volunteer work with the church. She asks him a question: “How do I atone for something I haven’t done yet?” In her flash forward, she saw herself being punished for something. When she wonders if God made this happen, the priest hastily gives her the name and phone number of the church’s volunteer coordinator and bustles her out of his office.

Bryce researches causes of pigment change. Something occurs to him, so he rushes to Ned’s room, only to find he’s already been taken into surgery. He orders a nurse to call the operating room to stop the procedure: “We’re about to kill our patient!” He believes Ned has Addison’s disease, in which the body doesn’t produce adrenaline, thus explaining his calm in the face of disaster. Addison’s disease also produces excess melanin, which explains why Ned’s skin will be darker in six months. Bryce tries to stop Olivia from operating, arguing that the surgery will kill Ned unless he receives an injection of hydrocortisone. Olivia overrules him and kicks him out of the operating room. Sure enough, Ned flatlines on the table, but stabilizes when Olivia follows Bryce’s advice and gives him the hydrocortisone.

Lloyd moves into his dead ex-wife’s apartment.

Mark interrogates Alda, who claims to know nothing about Demetri’s murder: she knew he didn’t have a flash forward because of his Mosaic posting and used that information to spook him. He asks her if she knows what caused the blackout, but she claims he’s ignoring the big question: Why were they caused? She refers to the blackouts as a “black swan” -- a metaphor for a high-impact event. She speaks in Farsi, then tells Mark a Sufi proverb: A man and a boy are in a room lit by a small candle. The man asks the boy where the light comes from. The boy blows it out and replies, “If you tell me where it went, I’ll tell you where it came from.” Alda compares Mark to a boy in the dark.

Al searches for the name “Celia” on Mosaic and looks overwhelmed by all the results. Mark asks him to contact his hacker friend, known as Mr. Cheeto Dust.

Olivia and Bryce apologize to each other for squabbling in the operating room: Olivia was reluctant to accept the diagnosis of Addison’s disease because she doesn’t want to believe in the futures shown in the flash forwards. She asks if he wants to talk about the suicide attempt, but he claims to be totally okay now: his glimpse of the future saved him. A nurse informs Olivia that young Dylan has been transferred back from physical therapy. Olivia seems a little wigged out by the news.

Mark comes home and talks to Nicole, who apologizes for disappearing after the blackouts. She tells him all about her flash forward: Someone was drowning her, and she felt as though she deserved it. Mark reassures her she’s going to be safe.

In the hospital, Lloyd entertains Dylan with magic tricks. His cell phone rings: It’s someone named Simon, who is played by a hobbit. One of the good hobbits, though. Not Sean Astin. (I’m going to get flack for that remark. Look, I love Sam Gamgee as much as anyone, but have you read Astin’s book?) Simon tells Lloyd they need to talk. Lloyd tries to blow him off, but Simon insists he can make time to listen to him, “..now that we’re responsible for the single greatest disaster in human history.”

Comments

levitatethis said…
I enjoy cliffhangers as much as the next person but when each episode ends on one it can alter the viewing experience by placing expectations that dwarf everything before. Still, I liked this one (Hobbit! Charlie!) and it makes Lloyd a bit more interesting (while making his future relationship with Olivia more complicated -- if Mark suspects Lloyd's involvement by that point it would certainly be a fact in his own marriage's breakdown and his drinking again).

The scene that ended up staying with me the most from last night's episode was actually the Mark/Alda interrogation scene. I really liked the way it played out in terms of tone and vague information. I liked the tension between them -- watching people engaged in an intellectual chess match.
Morgan Richter said…
Alda's a interesting character: sort of profoundly normal and unsettling at the same time. I'm looking forward to seeing how she fits into the puzzle.

And I'm glad Lloyd is shaping up to be shady (Hobbit! Charlie! was exactly my reaction to that last scene, too). I think Patrick pegged it last week when he mentioned that there was something furtive and suspicious about Lloyd's phone call in Olivia's flash forward. Good, because the Lloyd-Dylan stuff was a little bit draggy up until that final scene.

I don't know that I loved this episode, though I liked a lot of the individual elements -- the business with strangely-calm Ned, the revelation of Nicole's flash forward. It's still hard to get a sense of the picture as a whole (and if the business with the restaurant company in Indio turns out to be a complete red herring, I'm going to wonder about the whole point of that detour).
Patrick said…
Like Morgan I hate that Bjork song and found it a bit inappropriate for what was happening - planes crashing, people drowning etc.

The trip to the waffle place was a bit strange if there isn't more to it. How much jail time would you get for possession of that amount of drugs? Because in the guy's FF he was doing well, making lots of money, but surely he's going to be doing some jail time in the immediate future and between that and the waiting for a court date I would have thought that he wouldn't be exactly living the high life in 6 months.

I thought a clue might be in the metal case - maybe the drug dealer got it from a terrorist who used to work there.

Alda is an interesting character - and I still think that she may be on the side of those trying to stop things, although she is a bit creepy.

Glad Simcoe is a bad guy after all - or at least a good guy working for a bad guy. Strange that Simon hasn't been pestering him for the last 14 days - but I'm sure he was busy.
Patrick said…
I also thought of 'Casino Royale' when I saw the chase scene - and again that it was not as good. Bit unfair, though, to call that film a 'remake' - the first 'Casino Royale' was such a mess and had so little to do with Ian Fleming that this was really the first proper film treatment. I love 'Casino Royale' - the book and the film - and just regret that the producers then ruined everything with the execrable 'Quantum of Solace'.
Patrick said…
PS Great recap!

Is the Astin book good or bad?
Morgan Richter said…
You're right, Patrick -- "remake" really isn't the right way to put it. I probably should have just said "the 2006 version of Casino Royale" or some such. Excellent movie, though when I think back on it, I really only remember that amazing chase scene. By and large, I hate long chase scenes, but that one was so physically dazzling that, seriously, it made me want to learn parkour just so I could do some of that stuff.

I feel guilty. As soon as I posted my recap, I checked my email and had a message from Boy-Morgan, sent while he was watching the episode, mentioning how much he loves that Bjork song. Me, I think I heard it used as the accompaniment to one too many super-whimsical figure skating routines.

The Astin book... well, it's interesting. Dan and I were discussing it a few years back when it first came out, and he used the word "ghastly" to describe it, which is pretty much bang on. It's an account of filming LotR, and Astin seems very straightforward and honest... but unlikeable. I'll just quote from someone's Amazon review: "Mr. Astin, I'm sorry that Viggo Mortensen seemed aloof and intimidating to you. I'm sorry Ian McKellen didn't take to you. I'm sorry Liv Tyler got more attention in France. I'm sorry Orlando Bloom got more attention everywhere. What I am really sorry for, however, is the fact that you were blessed with such a wonderful opportunity, and chose to focus so intently on the negative aspects of the experience. It made for a really sour read, and not one that I would recommend to anyone."
Patrick said…
While Googling 'Flash Forward too slow' I came across an interesting story from Newsweek. The headline was:

'Flashforward': the Next 'Lost' or the Next 'Heroes'?

and it contained the lines:

'Unless it shapes up over the course of its run (as shows often do as they find their footing), FlashForward will not be remember as the successor to Lost, but rather as the successor to Heroes, a show that has made a fine art of audience attrition. It seems like a lifetime, but it was only three years ago when Heroes was the hot science-fiction thriller du jour'.
Morgan Richter said…
I saw that story! Then again, Lost, like Heroes, had a sophomore slump, the difference being that Lost was able to rally and win back viewers/critics. With Heroes, that ship has sailed. FlashForward... I don't think it's found its footing yet, and it might never, but I think it's got at least a decent shot of making it work. If, in due time, they give us satisfying answers to all the mysteries they've been establishing (unlike Heroes, which prefers to ignore/contradict everything that came before), I'll be pretty happy.
Dan said…
I don't want to bang on too much about Lost, but in the back of my head I had the idea that Episode Four of Lost was the awesome first John Locke flashback Walkabout, which, y'know, solidified my early fan status

I was hoping, irrationally, that Ep 4 of FF might have similar magic. I enjoyed it, but it was no Walkabout.

Still waiting for the huge moment. Lots of good little ones so far but...

OTOH, Hobbit! Charlie! So I'm happy enough

Also, Sean Astin's book? Great read if you want to learn to hate Sean Astin.
Dan said…
Oh, as for Bjork, as I once said on my site, for quite long stretches of the song, she sings so softly that you can barely hear her. I like those bits.
Morgan Richter said…
Also, Sean Astin's book? Great read if you want to learn to hate Sean Astin.

I'm pretty sure that's the publisher blurb on the dust jacket. I was pretty pro-Astin before reading it. I have since reversed my stance.

I think it's time for FlashForward to come up with something so cool and evocative and awesome that it solidifies viewer loyalties. It's doing a nice job of sustaining interest, but Dan, you're right, there hasn't really been that single huge moment. Maybe when Mark and Demetri finally make it to Somalia...
Patrick said…
what was the most posts ever on this blog? was it a particularly controversial Heroes episode? I seem to remember some from last year where it went up to 60 or so in discussions. FF needs that something to grab us - and lead to a rush on posts.
Morgan Richter said…
There were 81 comments on a Volume Three Heroes post ("It's Coming"). It was a fairly terrible episode, but that was when we were all still fairly upbeat about it being terrible. And that was the start of the whole Mookies madness, which kept that thread going far long after we stopped discussing anything that actually happened in that episode.

Nothing in FlashForward has yet inspired anything as evocative as Mookies.
Anna said…
Comparing FF to Lost or Heroes is not so easy. My biggest problem with FF is how boring the characters are, a problem I had with neither Lost nor Heroes. Even though FF appears a lot better planned than Heroes, for one thing, so it probably, hopefully, will not fall into the making-it-up-as-we-go-along trap. But we cannot really say for sure how they handle the premise and storyline in the long run. They SEEM to have some kind of plan, though... so I'm cautiously optimistic. Of course, if the characters don't grab me soon, I'm not staying on board long enough to find ou, I guess. XD

Also, this is sad about Sean Astin! Or... would be, if I had seen him in any good movies recently. He's somehow disappeared off my radar, just like... that other hobbit!
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah. Heroes, for all its flaws, had some great characters right at the start. Ditto for Lost. FlashForward... everyone's fine (though I have to say Olivia started working my nerves a bit in this episode, what with endangering Ned because she wouldn't listen to Bryce and with constantly trying to transfer the injured little kid out of her department even though everyone kept telling her he was exactly where he needed to be), but I haven't glommed on to anyone. The show's been pretty good for evocative images (falling crows, buildings on fire, incongruous kangaroos), but not so much for evocative characters. Maybe that will come with time.
Anonymous said…
What puzzles me is that I don't know why this is the case. Why are these characters so... bland?
I've read a lot of opinions on the show, and most people agree the characters are dull, and even after four episodes, people still can't remember names of main characters, and refer to them by the actors' names, or past roles.

Agreed on Olivia. It was especially ridiculous because the outcome of the situation was predictable, and her denial kind of contrived. It just created a subplot that didn't really advance the story, but gave Olivia a moment to angst and dwell on her flashforward. But it's been a month since the pilot for the viewers, and we've all come to terms with these things... it's frustrating to have characters be so much behind with their coping and understanding of the show's premise. XD
Morgan Richter said…
It was especially ridiculous because the outcome of the situation was predictable, and her denial kind of contrived.

Yes, exactly. Olivia's denial seemed so forced. When she was snapping at Bryce that the flash forwards shouldn't be incorporated into the practice of medicine... well, that's nice, Olivia, but since there's abundant evidence that the flash forwards have some basis in reality -- since Olivia herself has met the man who appears in her own flash forward -- discounting them wholesale like that just didn't seem like a plausible move. And then the scene in the operating room was a little ridiculous.
Dan said…
she was snapping at Bryce that the flash forwards shouldn't be incorporated into the practice of medicine

I was actually hoping they'd explore the idea that patients who'd seen themselves alive 6 months in the future would take all kinds of outlandish medical risks. "Heck, I'm not going to undertake any chemotherapy - that sounds suckular. I don't want to be bald for my FlashForward"

It seemed they might have been going that way when Mr Happy signed the permission slip without a hesitation, but, nope.
Morgan Richter said…
The first time I watched the episode, I missed the shot where we saw in Ned's flash forward that he was still unmistakably himself, just with darker skin. Ergo, I spent all of Ned's plot expecting him to die on the operating table, then have his organs transplanted into someone who would later be bopping around to George Clinton music at the nightclub in the flash forward.

I was actually sort of disappointed this didn't happen. Oh, sure, it wouldn't make a tremendous amount of sense, but it would've been an ominous "Ha ha! You all think you're going to have awesome futures, but you're wrong!" response to all the blissed-out people like Ned and Bryce.
Dan said…
Yeah, I missed that shot too. I thought it might have been some kind of crazy crossed wires thing, which showed some people FlashForwarded to the wrong body.
Morgan Richter said…
I'm not usually bloodthirsty, but I think the Ned plotline would have worked better had it ended in Ned's death. Something to shake up the complacent assumptions that the flash forwards are set in stone. Plenty of time for that later, I suppose.

I like the crossed wires theory, Dan. I think that could've been pretty cool.

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