FlashForward Episode Nine: Believe

Any huge Bryce fans out there? This is your lucky night. Four weeks before the blackout: Bryce and another doctor examine X-rays. The doctor tells Bryce his cancer has metastasized in the liver, and the prognosis is grim. Huh. This seems like a fairly ginormous part of Bryce’s backstory to spring on us now, and it feels pretty random. Afterward, Bryce wanders in a daze through the parking lot. While backing out of his parking space, he dings a shiny red ’63 T-bird. The driver bawls him out, so Bryce pulls forward, then backs up again, repeatedly hitting the car. He gets out and walks away, ignoring the driver as he bellows at him.

Two weeks before the blackout: In Tokyo, a young mechanical engineer named Keiko practices smiling in the bathroom mirror before she’s called in for a job interview at Nakahara, a major robotics firm. She shares her impressive credentials (she specializes in biomedical engineering and robotics) and her less-impressive hobbies (guitar and salsa dancing). The humorless panel doesn’t look especially charmed by her, which is their loss, because she’s adorable.

Still pre-blackout: Olivia snaps at Bryce for being flaky and spacey during surgery.

Keiko, clearly unhappy at her new job, winces her way through a congratulatory celebration with her friends and family.

The day of the blackouts, Bryce tells a psychiatrist he hasn’t told his friends or family about his illness. Then he heads out to the pier and sticks a gun under his chin. The blackouts hit, and his flash forward happens: He’s sitting in a sushi bar. Keiko approaches him tentatively. They smile at each other, and he says, “You’re really here.” He takes her hand and sees she has the kanji for “believe” tattooed on his wrist.

Post-flash forward, Bryce regains consciousness on the pier. In Tokyo, Keiko regains consciousness on the floor of her apartment, smiling and laughing.

In the present, Bryce learns Japanese from tapes in a room surrounded by his paintings of Keiko. He suddenly rushes to the bathroom and vomits.

Mark calls Aaron to fill him in on his investigation into Jericho. Conveniently enough, they’re headquartered in Santa Monica. Mark ends the call and answers Olivia’s phone while she’s in the shower. He sees the anonymous text message Olivia received about how he was drinking again during his flash forward. When Olivia gets out of the shower, he snaps at her for not telling him this earlier.

At the hospital, Olivia discovers Bryce’s central line on his chest for chemotherapy. He confesses he’s had renal cell carcinoma for a year -- he had his kidney removed just before he transferred to the hospital. He’s okay with it, though -- he now has something to live for.

Tracy fixes dinner for Aaron. When she pours herself a glass of wine, Aaron informs her she can’t drink in front of him -- he’s an alcoholic, so he can’t be around drinkers. Tracy flounces off to drink alone.

Mrs. Levy, a representative from the NSA, meets with the FBI gang about the surveillance footage of Suspect Zero in the Detroit stadium She’s been able to make out an alpha symbol on Suspect Zero’s ring. When Stan asks for a more detailed analysis, she refuses to provide it in front of Demetri, who has been red-flagged as a risk by the NSA, thanks to the phone call made by the mysterious woman who contacted Demetri to tell him about his upcoming murder. A recording of the call exists, but Mrs. Levy refuses to give Demetri any more information.

Keiko sits in her cubicle and stares glumly at a robotic arm picking up jellybeans. Whoa. Keiko, I know any job where you sit in a cubicle is going to suck by definition, but you’re watching a robotic arm pick up jellybeans. How bad can your job possibly be? She goofs off by watching footage of Bob Dylan concerts on her computer, then gets summoned into a big meeting. Her coworker explains that, since she’s the only woman in the department, she has to serve everyone tea. Keiko reacts to this suggestion with something less than wild enthusiasm.

Mark and Aaron clean up after an AA meeting. Mark explains that he’s freaked out that someone told Olivia about how he’ll be drinking in the future. He mentions that he only told two people about that, Aaron being one of them, and while he stops just short of outright accusing Aaron, Aaron reads between the passive-aggressive lines and picks up on Mark’s meaning. Aaron calls him a son of a bitch for suspecting him, smashes a few chairs, and tells Mark to get a new AA sponsor. This is the most vim and vigor we’ve seen from Aaron thus far in this series. Hell, he had less of an emotional reaction when he discovered Tracy was alive.

Keiko visits a tattoo parlor. The tattoo artist scoffs at her at first because she looks like a clean-cut office girl, but Keiko insists she wants to get inked.

Mark, on a mission to alienate all his friends and coworkers, next accuses Stan of texting Olivia about his future drinking. Like Aaron, Stan reacts poorly, though he stops short of smashing chairs. Instead, he coldly orders him out of his office.

Bryce chats with a patient, using the rudimentary Japanese he’s learned, and shows her his drawing of Keiko. The patient identifies the symbol on Keiko’s t-shirt as the logo for a sushi bar in Tokyo. Bryce thinks this might be where he meets Keiko in his flash forward.

Olivia snags Bryce a spot in a medical trial in Houston for a promising new drug, Trifecuab. Bryce refuses, because the testing might kill him, and he wants to stay alive for Keiko. Olivia argues, quite reasonably, that the drug might be the reason he’s alive in the future. She urges him to go to Houston. So Bryce gets on a plane and goes to… Tokyo. He shows the drawing of Keiko around to the chefs at the sushi bar. One recognizes Keiko and tells him where to find her.

Keiko considers quitting her job, over her mother’s protests. Her mom also insists Keiko marry some random office guy. When Keiko refuses, her mother threatens to kick her out of the house. While Keiko is delightful, there’s something a little smug and condescending about the scenes in Japan. The peripheral players -- Keiko’s mom, her employers, the chefs at the sushi bar -- are drawn too heavily on stereotypes. The result makes me cringe a little.

Mark manages to get the recording of the phone call between Demetri and the mysterious woman from the NSA. Demetri, Mark and Vreede listen to it. Vreede identifies some distinctive electronic music in the background as part of a nightly light show in Hong Kong. Stan won’t give his approval for Demetri to go to Hong Kong to investigate. Because they’re rebels who aren’t bound by things like direct orders, Mark and Demetri decide to sneak off on their own.

Bryce shows Keiko’s mother his drawing. She decides to be a butthead and tells him he doesn’t recognize her, then shuts the door in his face. Bryce calls Nicole, depressed he can’t find Keiko. Nicole urges him to come home.

Mark apologizes to Aaron for accusing him of sending the text to Olivia. Aaron complains that Tracy has become an alcoholic. Gosh, this is a fun plotline. In fact, between Bryce’s stage-four cancer and Keiko’s spirit-crushing life and Mark accusing all his friends of betraying him, this is just a fun episode.

Bryce returns to Los Angeles. He exits the plane… followed by Keiko. Neither is aware of the other. We see Keiko’s flash forward in full: She arrives at the sushi bar and meets with Bryce... and the sushi bar is in Los Angeles, not Tokyo.


Anonymous said…
If there was an award for Most Depressing Storyline, I'd give it to Aaron right now. Jeeze Louise.

Although I dislike how Bryce's cancer was suddenly sprung on us now, I have to say that this is the first episode where I've really felt something for the character. It used to be indifference. Now I'm curious. It helps that I really like Keiko and want these two crazy kids to meet asap. It was nice to see a really sweet flashforward for two people.

Yes there were strong elements of stereotypical characterization in for Keiko's family but if we're to believe she comes from a very traditional family where expectations tend to follow a certain set pattern (which I've seen in Indian families as well), then I can buy it as a plot point to get her over to LA.
Morgan Richter said…
I think it was the cumulation of Keiko's traditional family, plus her bosses expecting her to serve tea, plus the sushi restaurant staff thinking gaijin Bryce was looking for a virgin for sex, plus the underlying message that "only in America can Keiko let her hair down and flaunt her tattoo and listen to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix!" that kind of wore me down. Ingrid and I have a meme -- "Don't Feed the Japanese" -- which stemmed from the scene in Rising Sun where Sean Connery grimly gives Wesley Snipes explicit instructions about dealing with Japanese nationals (don't make eye contact, don't make any big gestures or sudden movements) that treated them like some kind of sub-human exotic species. I thought last night's episode had distinct traces of "Don't Feed the Japanese" about it.

That said, I thought Keiko was delightful, and her flash forward with Bryce was genuinely sweet.

It was nice seeing more on Bryce and Aaron, I suppose, but there are so many plotlines I'm more interested in right now (Lloyd! Simon! Where were you?). Taking this detour frustrated me a little.
LindseyS said…
question: who is the actress who plays agent Levy?
Morgan Richter said…
LindseyS: It's not showing up on her IMDB listing yet, but Agent Levy was played by Jessica Tuck. She was on One Life To Live for a long time, but she's also shown up on a lot of other series (True Blood, etcetera).
Dan said…
I thought last night's episode had distinct traces of "Don't Feed the Japanese" about it.

I love 'Don't Feed The Japanese'. After the Japanese stereotypes, I can't wait for us to see the kangaroo's FlashForward™, which will feature a laid-back crocodile-wrestling Australian and his best friend, an outback-savvy, loincloth-wearing Aborigine.

I dunno, this episode seemed to be a lot of filler for me. Despite the show's best efforts, I find myself completely indifferent to the story of Bryce and Keiko. But I'm pleased for Bryce that he has both (relatively) symptom-free cancer and treatment. Good for him. Certainly makes it easier to hold down a busy job and jetset back and forth across the Pacific.

What I did notice, and which would no doubt make Patrick happy, is that the dialogue between Bryce and Keiko in their FF could conceivably be interpreted as them finally meeting on that day because it was FlashForward Day. It could also be interpreted as all kinds of other things, too, of course. So I won't get too excited by that.

So, over here, we got a preview of next week's episode which, among other things, advertised it as the 'final episode of 2009'. Is the show really taking a break after the next episode? Or is this just Channel Seven's excuse to get the show off the air over our summer?
Dan said…
Huh. According to this article, Australia is going to get next week's FlashForward before the US?

I'll believe it when I see it.
Patrick said…
Always good to watch things a second time before posting! I was going to complain about Bryce knowing the tattoo said 'Believe' in his FF when he didn't know what it meant when describing his FF. But then I saw that he said the word in Japanese, which he wouldn't have understood when he was seeing it.

The cancer storyline didn't work for me. We should have had a hint about it before now. Bryce was in perfect health when he was solving the Addison's disease problem, but now we're meant to think he was just going through a good phase.

And if I had a terminal illness and was thinking about suicide I wouldn't be cheered up too much just because I saw that in 6 months time I would be meeting a girl in a bar/restaurant. I'd need something a bit more solid than that, some sign that this was going to go somewhere. I meet a lot of girls in bars/restaurants. In itself, it is not a reason to think my life is going well.
Dan said…
Always good to watch things a second time before posting

I actually saw this episode a second time, too (despite it being the dullest to date). The thing I noticed on the second time was there seemed to be fireworks (?) when Keiko was running to the bar. Is this a celebration of FlashForward™ Day?

I meet a lot of girls in bars/restaurants. In itself, it is not a reason to think my life is going well.

The only explanation I can think of for this is that people weren't just seeing their FF's. They were fully experiencing them with all their senses and emotions. This is why Olivia knows she loves whatsisname, instead of screaming 'what are you doing in my house, whatsisname?'. I'm assuming Bryce experienced similar feelings.

Or maybe he's just a hopeless optimist when it comes to girls he meets in bars.
Patrick said…
Yeah I didn't like the episode either, I just fastforwarded to the bits I wanted to check. That's a very clever point about the fireworks - I bet they are for FlashForward™ Day.

I accept that people experienced all the feelings and emotions of the time in the FF. Hence Olivia having feelings for Lloyd. But if Bryce is meeting Keiko for the first time then it is no different from a blind date - you don't actually know you will connect, so you shouldn't really be pinning all your hopes on it.

Of course, they might meet before that date, and this could be a subsequent meeting, but I fear the writers are just making the story up week by week.

I've gone off the show a good bit.
Morgan Richter said…
Yeah, no FlashForward for us this week because of Thanksgiving, Dan, so you might very well jump ahead of us.

This was my least favorite episode thus far, just because it dealt with a lot of second-string plotlines and was chock full of filler. And I simply didn't buy Bryce's cancer. It seems we should have had some indication before this point that he was terminal.

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