Hey, remember this show? Started off strong last fall, then ran out of steam, then was pulled off of ABC’s schedule for a super-long break in the middle of the season for some extensive retooling? Then both the showrunners quit in rapid succession, remember? It’s back. Finally.
The two-part episode that aired last night was really pretty terrific. During the long break, the creative staff apparently got together, maybe cracked open a few beers, and had a good, productive chat about what had gone so horribly wrong: “Hey, remember in our first couple of episodes how a lot of really cool stuff happened and how we set up a bunch of really interesting mysteries, like those towers in Somalia and the man who was awake in the stadium during the blackouts? Our ratings were pretty good back then. And then remember how we had a whole bunch of slow-paced episodes that ignored all the interesting mysteries in favor of long, pointless detours like Bryce’s quest to find the woman in his flash forward, and Aaron’s daughter’s drinking problem, and Mark and Olivia’s marital squabbles, and our ratings pretty much flatlined? Maybe we should go back to having fast-paced, interesting episodes, huh? Does that make sense?”
I’m going to get the Nicole-Bryce plotline over with fast, because it was the only draggy part of an otherwise sterling night of television. While volunteering at the hospital, Nicole catches a glimpse of the man she saw drowning her in her flash forward. She also gets involved with a support group called Sanctuary, which is run by a former window washer named Timothy (Gil Bellows) who saw himself as a great religious leader in his flash forward. Timothy and Nicole talk about God’s role in the flash forwards for much too long. She then takes Bryce home to meet her eccentric mother (Lindsay Crouse), who wears angel wings over her bathrobe, sets Bibles on fire, and glues 1989 pennies to the living room wall. A little of this goes an awfully long way.
On to the good stuff: At the FBI headquarters, Stan bawls Mark out for his Hong Kong escapade, Janis and Vreede interview Olivia about Lloyd getting abducted right in front of her, and Simon searches for beer. The MVP award for this episode goes to Dominic Monaghan in a landslide. Coming in a distant second is Michael Ealy, making a repeat appearance as smug, mean, awesome CIA Agent Vogel, who joins up with Demetri, Janis and Simon to locate the men who kidnapped Lloyd.
On Stan’s orders, Mark meets with a department psychiatrist (Paula Newsome) to discuss why he’s been such an incompetent jackass lately. His shrink really doesn’t seem to care about any of that. She notes, as so many have before her, that Mark’s booze-addled memories of the events of his flash forward add up to considerably less than two minutes, and suggests he might be repressing some of his memories. Under the influence of memory-enhancing drugs, Mark remembers more of his flash forward: He was talking on the phone to Lloyd, saying, “I just wish you were standing behind the eight ball when I came crashing through.” He also remembers saying, “The man you know as D. Gibbons lied to you,” and, most dramatically, “There’s going to be another blackout.”
Demetri and Vogel team up to search a train yard, on the trail of the ambulance in which Lloyd was abducted. Vogel gives Demetri a snappy lecture on getting his act together and not hanging out with losers like Mark, so Demetri takes a swing at Vogel, so Vogel wrestles him to the ground and pins him down. Okay, these two are awesome together. May I suggest that Demetri be reassigned as Vogel’s partner permanently? Vogel’s fun. They find the bodies of the ambulance crew stuffed in a train car, along with a phone case, but no phone. They trace the phone signal to the abandoned ambulance, which is wired with a bomb tuned to FBI frequencies. When FBI agents approach it, their radios detonate the bomb.
Janis and Simon search Lloyd’s apartment for his laptop, hoping to find clues to his disappearance. When Simon sends her to find him a beer, Janis gets knocked out by masked men in the kitchen. When she wakes up, Simon is gone.
Simon is taken to an abandoned building, where he’s locked in a room with a disheveled and confused Lloyd (“Good, I found you,” Simon says upon seeing Lloyd). Lloyd and Simon are introduced to their captor, Flosso, who is played by--wait for it--Ricky Jay! Very cool. Flosso lights a cigar and says, “Only villains smoke. We know that, right?” Then he throws the lit cigar in Simon’s face and proceeds to interrogate Lloyd about his search for tachyonic dark matter and his plasma-wakefield acceleration experiments. This pretty much makes it the brainiest interrogation ever. The questions are solely directed at Lloyd, who conducted the experiment on the day of the blackouts on his own: Simon, we discover, was at his dad’s funeral. Flosso drops a bombshell: He knows Lloyd didn’t cause the blackouts -- he just amplified them.
Left alone, Simon tells Lloyd about the events in his flash forward, in which he was strangling a man to death with his bare hands. Lloyd scrawls “Help Us” on the takeout menu for a cheese steak restaurant -- which is one of the pieces of evidence on Mark’s wall -- and slips it out the window. Flosso retrieve the menu and hands it back to him. He threatens to torture Simon, but Lloyd still refuses to tell him anything about his experiments.
Oh, and one of Flosso’s goons cuts off Simon’s pinky with a cigar slicer.
On suspension from the FBI, Mark investigates the clues on his evidence wall from his flash forward on his own. The Red Panda clue leads him to a humanitarian aid society that works in Somalia to supply clean water to the locals. He asks if he could possibly accompany them on one of their trips, but they shoot him down. When he returns to his car, a menu for the cheese steak place is tucked under his windshield. He visits the restaurant and discovers they recently changed locations. He asks for the address of the old place.
When Mark arrives at the abandoned restaurant, the door is locked, but he sees a gigantic eight ball painted on the window. Remembering his cryptic words to Lloyd in his flash forward, he drives straight through the window and has a big gunfight with Flosso’s goons. Simon grabs a gun, chases after one of the goons, says, “Word of advice: Next time, take the trigger finger,” and kills him.
See what I mean about Simon being the MVP? And you haven’t seen anything yet…
Paramedics arrive to transport Simon to the hospital. Flosso pops up in the back of the ambulance to chat with Simon: It turns out they’ve been in this together the whole time, though Simon hadn’t been briefed on the “cutting off fingers with a cigar slicer” part of the plan. Simon claims he’s done being Flosso’s bitch, and Flosso threatens to expose Simon unless he cooperates: Simon was the figure who was up and walking around at Detroit Oxide Super Stadium during the blackout.
Fun fact: “Detroit Oxide Super Stadium” is totally made up for the purposes of the show.
And we see what really happened to Simon during the blackouts: He was at his father’s funeral in Toronto, comforting his kid sister Annabelle. Then his driver whisked him away to a heliport and presented him with a ticket to the division playoffs at the Oxide Super Stadium in Detroit. Having just buried his father, Simon is in no mood for an impromptu baseball game, but the driver kind of insists.
At the stadium, he takes a call from the creepy man known as D. Gibbons, who instructs him to find his seat. There’s a container of popcorn at his seat, with a ring inside it. At D. Gibbons’s urging, Simon puts on the ring. The blackouts occur; Simon remains conscious, thanks to the ring. He walks into a tunnel and finds Flosso, who orders him to follow him.
Present day: Simon’s in the hospital, getting his pinky bandaged. Janis picks him up to keep an eye on him, but he feigns an allergic reaction to penicillin and gives her the slip. He flies to Toronto… and finds Janis waiting for him at the airport. Janis bawls him out for fleeing the country, and Simon quips, “Country is such a loose term. It’s Canada.” He asks for 24 hours in Toronto: His kid sister Annabelle recently ran away from home, and he wants to help his family look for her. Suspecting he’s up to something, Janis agrees. She puts a tracking device on his ankle, which Simon quickly deactivates. He slips away from Janice -- again -- and visits his former particle physics professor/mentor, only to find Janis waiting for him there as well. Because Janis can teleport, apparently.
Under Janis’s close scrutiny, he asks his professor if there’s any way to prevent a flash forward from happening again. His professor is not encouraging.
Janis has dinner with Simon’s family (his mother wonders why a nice girl like Janis hasn’t settled down with a boyfriend yet), which is interrupted by the surprise arrival of Simon’s Uncle Teddy… who turns out to be Flosso.
We see more of Simon’s adventures during the blackouts: Flosso/Teddy tells Simon he had Simon’s father murdered strictly to create Simon’s alibi: He was attending his father’s funeral in Toronto on the morning of blackouts; ergo, he obviously had nothing to do with them. Flosso has arranged for a private plane, unregistered with the FAA, to take Simon back to Toronto before anyone notices he’s been gone. He advises Simon to make up a good story for the events in his flash forward.
As soon as Flosso leaves, Simon murders Flosso's henchman with his bare hands, then later uses that story for his flash forward.
Simon’s missing sister Annabelle calls during dinner, claiming to have run away to New York. While Simon’s greatly relieved mother talks to her, Flosso secretly shows Simon a video of Annabelle held at gunpoint. He takes Simon outside and shows him the body of Simon’s professor, stuffed in the trunk of his car. He says he’ll kill Annabelle if Simon crosses him again. Simon calls his bluff in a spectacular way: He knocks Flosso down and compresses his chest repeatedly, cutting off his oxygen. As Flosso dies, Simon says, “I’m cutting out the middleman.”