Season 1, Episode 13 “Karma Chameleon”
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders
Directed by Greg Beeman
This episode is sad. Not that it’s a bad episode, but it’s a sad, depressing, traumatic episode. It also brings up a couple of problems with time travel. If you go back in time to change an event, how do you do it? There are so many things in life that you have no control over even if hindsight is 20/20. Also, it creates a paradox if the reason you steal a time traveling machine is corrected. You no longer have the reason to steal the machine and go into the past.
Wyatt (Matt Lanter) goes ahead with his plan to steal the time machine and save his wife from the serial killer. His plan involves the least violent way of preventing her death possible. He wants to prevent her killer, Wes Gilliam, from being conceived. Wyatt did his research. He knows that the serial killer was conceived in a one night stand between an airline stewardess (Amanda Brooks) and a bartender (Drew Roy) who never saw each other again after that night. It seems simple enough to keep them apart for one night. Wyatt underestimates how hard it will be to keep two people away from each other during a tornado when fate determines that they breed a killer together.
Before he leaves, Wyatt visits Lucy (Abigail Spencer) to tell her what he’s going to do and that he’s not taking her with him. She gets emotional and puts her face in her hands. I’m sure there are tears under there. It’s no wonder. If he succeeds, she loses him. If he fails, she loses him because he’ll be off the team and in jail. Wyatt gets emotional, too. He knows he hurt her.
Wyatt and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) pretend that Wyatt is kidnapping Rufus for the sake of the security cameras. Lucy tells Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey), as instructed by Wyatt. Wyatt and Rufus go back to the eighties.
Emma (Annie Wersching) tells Flynn (Goran Visnjic) and Anthony (Matt Frewer) what Rittenhouse’s true purpose with the time machine is, but they are cagey about telling the audience. They both seem seriously worried about it. Flynn wants to keep using the time machine to destroy Rittenhouse. Anthony wants to destroy the machine.
The only fun thing about this episode is that we’re in the eighties. Rufus and Wyatt are dressed like Miami Vice wannabes. There’s Pac-Man at the bar and The A-Team on TV. It turns out Rufus is a big fan of The A-Team. He calls the three of them, the Time Team. It’s as good a name as any. Wyatt tries to distract the stewardess. Rufus distracts the bartender. It doesn’t work as well.
Meanwhile, Anthony tries to call Rufus but of course he’s AWOL. He sets up a meeting with Lucy as his second choice. While they are planting a bug on Lucy, Jiya (Claudia Doumit) reveals that she’s very upset that Rufus didn’t tell her what he was up to. I guess she didn’t buy the security video either. She tells Lucy that if you love and trust someone, you tell them when you’re going to do something like that. Then Jiya asks Lucy how she knew the boys had done this, and she has to admit that Wyatt told her. Point taken.
Anthony wants to destroy the mother ship and wants Lucy to destroy the lifeboat. He tells her that Rittenhouse built the ship to go back in time and control history more than they already have. They’ve always gone after outliers — JFK, MLK. Garcia Flynn is the only thing in their way. This revelation doesn’t sound too new or shocking to me. What else would they want it for? Lucy agrees with him, and takes the idea to Agent Christopher.
Through a series of unfortunate events, Wyatt is hauled away by the police. Rufus comes to rescue him and Wyatt knocks out the policeman. Wyatt has been getting increasingly frustrated and is ready for violent action. Rufus has lost track of the bartender. Wyatt runs to the stewardess’s room with a gun, and forces them apart. Not only is this awful and scares the life out of them, but it’s humiliating to Wyatt. It’s painful to watch. The bartender makes a run for it and Wyatt follows him. He shouldn’t, because they are separated now, but Wyatt feels he can’t take a chance. He chases him through the storm until the guy falls and hits his head on a concrete parking space marker. And dies.
Wyatt is horrified. Rufus hauls him off to the time machine and tries to make him feel better. At least they saved three women. Wyatt says that he doesn’t know how he could look his wife in the face again.
We see Anthony plant C-4 in the mother ship.
Rufus and Wyatt get back. Of course agents are surrounding the lifeboat. Lucy has to tell Wyatt that his wife is still dead. The other women are both alive. Poor Wyatt gets hauled off shouting that she has to be alive. He can’t believe that it failed after all he did and everything he went through.
They detect a big explosion where Anthony said it would be. Oakland. On investigation, they find no pieces of the mother ship, but they do find Anthony’s body. Rufus is grief stricken. He and Agent Christopher both think that Anthony was killed trying to do the right thing.
For some reason, all of this triggers Lucy deciding to confront the father (John Getz) she’s never met. He’s delighted to see her and wants to tell her all about her Rittenhouse legacy.
Whew. This is really an angst-ridden episode. We’ve finished Anthony’s story line. He was Rufus’s dear friend and mentor turned enemy, and now he’s died heroically. He has been redeemed for helping Garcia Flynn steal the time machine. I’m sure that he helped him because he thought fighting Rittenhouse was the right thing to do. Even at the end he said that Flynn was all that was holding Rittenhouse back. I think Flynn had been thinking for a while that he was going to kill Anthony. That’s why he went to the past and found himself another pilot.
Emma should make a good partner for Flynn. She seems colder and more callous than Anthony. She’s had a good decade to build up hate for Rittenhouse and a longing for revenge. One off note: she said she missed beer. The one thing you could find in the old west was beer. Could she have been so isolated she couldn’t get beer?
Poor, poor Wyatt. He tried so hard to come up with a peaceful solution. Fate, or coincidence, or just the forces of time were working against him at every turn. It’s not the quest you are on that determines what lines you will step over. It’s how badly you want something. He was so desperate that his plans became more and more desperate. At one point he planned to kidnap the guy, but that was thwarted. Wyatt knocked out the cop rather than let Rufus try to distract him and sneak away. He chased the terrified bartender until he got killed trying to escape him. All for naught. Wyatt may have really snapped in this episode.
Still, the way that you can tell that he’s a good person is that it upset him tremendously. Compare him to Flynn, who is ruthless in his quest and doesn’t blink an eye about it afterwards.
How are we going to see the aftermath of that snapping? How are we going to get Wyatt back on the team? They established early in the series that he’s the most replaceable member of the team. There’s no way that any rational person would let him near the lifeboat again.
They reaffirmed the bonds between Lucy and Wyatt, and Wyatt and Rufus in this episode. Rufus was with him all the way and so was Lucy. It’s going to be a big loss for them if Wyatt is gone.
Why didn’t it work? Why is Jessica still dead? The most obvious answer is that Flynn lied. He just picked a likely serial killer that was in the same area, and Wes Gilliam was not the man. Or, possibly, Rittenhouse or someone else made him look like the killer and there’s a deeper conspiracy behind her death. It could be that Wyatt ran up against an intention paradox, where his purpose for going back in the past would have been removed if he had been successful. Remember that the telegram gambit that he tried early on also didn’t work.
Malcolm Barrett did a wonderful job in this episode. He was so empathetic with Wyatt. His face and voice when he found out Jessica was dead but the other two were alive was amazing. He conveyed astonishment, regret, and so many mixed emotions. Matt Lanter was wonderful, too, in the deconstruction of Wyatt.
The next episode starts the three episodes that Jim Beaver will be in. Maybe his character will be their new soldier? Or perhaps someone who comes in with their new soldier?
Timeless airs on Monday nights at 10pm/9c on NBC.