‘Timeless’: Oh, the humanity!

October 3, 2016

May 6, 1937

A blonde woman standing underneath the passenger airship Hindenburg turns and runs as it falls from the sky. She’s quickly overtaken by the flames. It’s kind of show creator Eric Kripke’s thing.


The Hindenburg burst into flames while landing at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey. 35 of the 97 people on board were killed, along with 1 worker on the ground.

While it wasn’t the first – or deadliest – zeppelin crash, it was the most extensively documented. There was keen interest in the Hindenburg’s transatlantic arrival in the United States. The newsreel and radio reports that were broadcast the following day were the 1930’s equivalent of modern real-time disaster coverage.


Professor Lucy S. Preston walks out of a lecture hall to learn she’s been denied tenure. Her younger sister Amy tells her to quit and go somewhere she’s wanted. Lucy isn’t ready to walk away from the history department their dying mother built. It’s her legacy. “So, what? I should just throw my whole future away?” Amy tells her sister to stop worrying about disappointing their mother.

“Make your own future.”

Because time travel.

M-m-m-max Headr-o-o-o-o-m reminds Rufus that it’s Taco Tuesday and his turn to make the food run. He suggests Rufus ask Jiya to go along. It’s better – and less creepy – than Rufus staring at her for 12 hours a day. Rufus looks stricken. Rufus apparently has no game.

Outside, Dr. Luka Kovac from ER and a van full of accomplices pull through the gates of the secure research facility. They overrun the lab. A security guard shoots one of the attackers. The man’s body falls in front of Rufus and Jiya.

Max Headroom is forced at gunpoint to board the large white pod docked in the middle of the room. It looks like the Heart of Gold from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. As Luka follows, he makes a point of looking right at one of the security cameras. He wants to be identified.

The Heart of Gold’s engines fire up. In a blink, the craft if replaced by empty space.

The doorbell rings. Lucy opens the door to Agent Kundo from Supernatural‘s Season 5 episode “Changing Channels Homeland Security. Sadly, he is not (as I first thought) the same actor who played Dr. Pierre Chang on LOST, which means he is not there to ask Lucy to please drink her juice and get on board the submarine.


Lucy is taken to the research facility and shown to a waiting room. There’s a man already seated inside. His name is Master Sergeant Wyatt Theodore Logan, and together, they are


They’ve been brought to the facility because the pod that Luka stole is actually a time machine. I guess he wanted to go back and be the hot maverick doctor on ER first.

Billionaire Holy Wayne from The Leftovers built the Heart of Gold and only told the government about it after it was stolen by terrorists. Federal Agent Denise Christopher seems cranky about this fact.

The prototype Heart of Gold is lowered into the hangar. This earlier version of the time machine kind of looks like the omni from Voyagers! Good eye, @95sports! Also, I loved me some Voyagers! when I was kid and I was devastated when Jon-Erik Hexum died.

Anyhoo, Holy Wayne says she isn’t fancy, but she works … usually. They kept it operational as a lifeboat, in case the Heart of Gold’s crew ever needed a rescue.

He impresses upon Lucy and Wyatt the gravity of the situation. Any changes to the past will change history. Lucy is all like, WHY WOULD YOU BUILD A MACHINE THAT CAN CHANGE THE VERY FABRIC OF OUR REALITY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?


That is a fine question to which Holy Wayne does not have an adequate answer.

He tells them that the CPUs of the two ships are linked. The Omni can’t tell them where the Heart of Gold is, but she can tell them when. At the moment, she’s at 3:30 PM on May 6, 1937. Wyatt snarks that this is a first world time machine problem. The only other clue comes from the dead attacker – the address of a tavern in Manchester, NJ.

Holy Wayne and Christopher don’t know why Luka has traveled back to the day of the Hindenburg disaster, but they need Lucy and Wyatt to go after him.

Lucy storms out of the lab. You know who believes time travel is possible? Crazy people! That’s who! And she is having none of it! Agent Christopher follows Lucy out. What they are asking her to do won’t be quiet, it won’t be safe, and it won’t be calm. But isn’t she the least bit curious?

While Christopher is trying to convince Lucy, Holy Wayne is trying to recruit Rufus. Rufus is also not having it. He says he’s a coder. He’s a desk guy. “Also, I don’t know how it works across the pond, but I am black. There is literally no place in American history that would be awesome for me.” Holy Wayne cryptically says they both know why it has to be him.

It’s because his name is Rufus Carlin.


Lucy changes clothes and immediately begins having second thoughts. She says it’s all wrong. The skirt is from the 40’s and the blouse is made of a fabric that didn’t exist in the 30’s. Neither did the underwire bra she’s wearing. She has no complaints about her green plaid coat because it is cunning. Christopher presses some money and the address into Lucy’s hand. She gives Lucy and Wyatt the Prime Directive as they approach the Omni.

“Don’t be noticed. Don’t change anything.”

Rufus is already on board running through the final pre-flight checks. He’s the pilot … “kind of.” Y’all, I think Eric Kripke just gave us not one, but two Time Lords of color and I am here for it! Rufus initiates launch and tells them to hold on.


They reappear in a wooded clearing on the edge of town just as the Hindenburg is flying over.

Now that they know it works, Wyatt questions why they don’t just travel back in time five minutes before Luka stole the Heart of Gold and shoot him in the face? Rufus explains because Doctor Who “Father’s Day.” If you travel back in time to a point when you could meet yourself then giant bat thingies will appear and consume time as we know it.


[Or it’s possible you could accidentally Ron Silver in Timecop yourself.



It is very bad, is what he’s saying.

They catch a ride into town. “So, the back of the bus was amazing.” Lucy looks around and is overcome by when she is. She wishes her mom could see it. Wyatt reminds her that time is ticking.

She says the Hindenburg has reached the airfield but, due to light rain and high winds, won’t be able to land right away. The ship will make a series of turns, causing air friction, and building up static electricity. When the mooring ropes are released they’ll be dragged over the wet ground, become saturated, and electrically ground the ship. A spark in the metal hull will ignite the hydrogen, and oh! The humanity!

They arrive at the tavern where the day drinkers seem to be making up for time lost during Prohibition.  According to Kripke, the bar they’re in is called Harvelle’s.  RIP Jo and Ellen. They scan the room, but there’s no sign of Luka. Rufus becomes uncomfortably aware of the hostile looks he’s getting. Lucy suggests that maybe he should wait outside with the droids.

“On a scale from Million Man March to Mississippi Burning, how safe do you think I’m going to be out there?”

Lucy is like, you’ll be fine. Probably. Just don’t make eye contact with anyone.

She spots the blonde woman from the cold open. Kate Drummond is a noted Hearst columnist and war correspondent there to cover the Hindenburg. She recognizes Luka from his photo. She wonders why he’s wearing pajamas before saying she saw him in the bar two hours earlier. He was hired on as extra ground crew.

“He’s going to help bring down the Hindenburg.”

With the ship maneuvering for docking, Lucy runs up to the airfield’s commander, Rosendahl. She shows him Luka’s photo and says it’s important that they find him quickly. Wyatt adds that Luka is a threat to the base. This kid is already starting to annoy me. Never give more information than you have to!

Lucy skillfully covers. She tells Rosendahl that she’s Nurse Jackie and this is Doctor Dre. They’re from General Hospital. Luka is a patient of theirs … “which is why he’s wearing pajamas.” She says he has a bad case of Spanish Flu, hence why they are so nervous and jumpy. It’s certainly not BECAUSE THEY’RE FROM THE FUTURE.

The Time Trio split up to search for Luka. Wyatt spots Kate and tries to drag her physically out of the bullseye she’s standing in. He yells that they’re out of time! IT’S GOING TO BLOW!

And then it doesn’t.

“Um … that’s not supposed to happen, right?”

Lucy follows Luka into a hanger. A man grabs her from behind and says the doctor wants to talk to her. Wyatt appears out of nowhere, pulls the man off of her, and demands to be taken to Luka. When the man advances, Wyatt puts three slugs in his chest. The man falls at Rufus’s feet. I really hope the medical plan at Holy Wayne Industries includes comprehensive mental health services, because Rufus is going to need ALL OF the therapy.

He holds it together long enough to realize that the ground crew was keeping the mooring ropes up off the wet grass. The ship didn’t ground, there was no spark, and no explosion. Luka traveled back in time to save the Hindenburg. Which seems like a win to Wyatt. 36 people are alive. Lucy reminds him AGAIN SOME MORE that the future – their present – has now changed in ways they can’t possibly predict.

She’s also angry that Wyatt brought a modern semi-automatic pistol with him to the past. What if it falls into German hands? It could change the course of WWII. Wyatt shrugs that sometimes things get messy. I am truly starting to dislike this fool. He says that now they’ll make it up as they go.

While they’re talking, Rufus tries to use dead guy’s walkie to track Luka. Only, it’s not a walkie – it’s a detonator. Luka saved the Hindenburg so he could blow it up on its return voyage to Europe – along with the men who helped plan D-Day and build the United Nations. Lucy says the damage to the timeline would be catastrophic.

Also catastrophic – being discovered with a dead body by the police. Luka watches from the edge of the airfield as the trio are taken into custody. Wyatt stews over all the people who are going to die. Lucy checks him – he means Kate, right? Because surprise! She looks like his dead wife, Jessica.

Time continues ticking. Wyatt could spring them from their cells if he had a hairpin, but he doesn’t. He realizes what he does have is the underwire in Lucy’s bra. He mouths at Rufus to create a distraction. Rufus politely asks the officer for a glass of water. The officer tells him to swallow his spit. He calls Rufus “boy.”

Rufus eyebrows at Wyatt. Wyatt eyebrows back. Rufus centers and evenly says he’s not a boy, actually. He is not a child and he is definitely not the officer’s son, “so don’t call me boy.” The man postures over to the cell. He’s not sure Rufus knows where he is. He calls him boy again.

“Actually, I do. I’m in the damn stone age, but man I hope you live a long, long life. Long enough to see Michael Jordan drunk. Michael Jackson dance. Mike Tyson punch!”

“Really, just any black guy named Michael.”

In the other cell, Lucy’s jaw hits the floor. Wyatt smirks, pleased at the distraction, but apparently clueless at the danger Rufus has placed himself in as a black man asserting his humanity in the 1930’s (or you know, ever). But Rufus isn’t finished.

“OJ? Yeah, he gets off. He did it, but we don’t care. And Obama? He’s the president! 2008. That’s going to suck for you. I hope you see it all …”

“Because the future is not on your side, boy.”


And that’s how Rufus became my new favorite character.

The officer grins, tips his hat back, and walks away. The bravado drains away from Rufus. Lucy quickly removes her bra and tosses it to Wyatt. He sets to work on the lock as the officer returns with a friend. They both walk with purpose. They’re both carrying billy clubs.

Wyatt springs the lock and grabs the second guard before he can enter the cell. Rufus grabs the club from guard of the first. Pummeling racists. Pummeling racists. Pummeling racists. The Time Trio race back to the Hindenburg to search for the bomb. They find Kate, who says she saw Luka in the galley. Wyatt finds the device just as the ship takes off. He tells Lucy to ground the ship and evacuate it while he defuses the bomb. Rufus asks how they’re supposed to do that.

“We make it up as we go.”

Lucy and Rufus storm the cockpit and hold the crew at knife point. She says they’re the anarchist group Black Cross and they have a bomb on board. She orders them to land the ship and await further demands.

The ground crew scrambles back out onto the field as the mooring lines are dropped. Luka’s partner Stiv uses one to shimmy up into the ship. He goes to the galley and fight fight struggle fight. The timer on the bomb continues ticking down. Kate clocks Stiv in the face with a cast iron frying pan. Wyatt scrambles over to the bomb and cuts the final wire with 12 seconds to spare.

Stiv staggers to his feet and pulls out a gun. Kate grabs his wrist. The gun goes off. The bullet hits the metal skeleton, creating a spark which ignites the gas. The Hindenburg falls back to the ground in flames.

The Time Trio, along with Kate, make their escape and try to help other survivors on the ground. Lucy runs right into Luka. He tells her she needs to understand who and what she’s dealing with. She needs to ask why she was really chosen for the mission. To ask them what “Rittenhouse” is.

Luka says he already knows all about her. He knows what she’s meant to be. He shows her the pages of a small leather-bound journal. Lucy recognizes her own handwriting, but says she didn’t write it.

“Not yet. But you will.”

Luka spins Lucy around, using her as a shield as Wyatt runs up. He says he knows for a fact Wyatt isn’t going to shoot. Wyatt shoots him. Luka fires back. He misses Wyatt – but hits Kate. She dies in Wyatt’s arms. @TVandDinners suggested on twitter that Kate should die in every timeline. I find that idea kind of hilarious and fully support it. It would be like one big Supernatural “Mystery Spot” Easter egg.


The trio return to the present and an altered timeline. Wyatt wants to go back to 1937 for another shot. Rufus is like WHAT PART OF YOU CAN’T CROSS THE STREAMS DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND THE FIRST FIFTEEN TIMES WE TOLD YOU? THERE ARE NO DO OVERS.


Holy Wayne asks what Luka is after and Lucy floats a theory. She says he’s trying to change the timeline at points when our institutions were much more fragile. “I think Luka is trying to kill America in the crib.”

As they leave the facility, Lucy tries to impress upon Wyatt that some points are fixed in time. She Team Fates that maybe some things are meant to be. “Maybe we don’t get to make it up as we go.” Wyatt cuts her off. He remains firmly Team Free Will.

Inside, Rufus hands a small digital recorder to Holy Wayne. He says he didn’t get all of Lucy and Wyatt’s conversations. For some of it they were out of ear shot. He tells Wayne he’s not at all comfortable with doing it. Wayne asks if Rufus thinks he is?

Lucy returns home. She calls out to Amy, but gets no answer. She walks into the kitchen to find her hale, hearty, and healthy mom fixing dinner. Shock and joy mingle on Lucy’s face. She pulls her mom into a hug and bursts into tears. Mom is confused by Lucy’s reaction and concerned that she’s not wearing her engagement ring. Her whaaa? Lucy deflects and asks where Amy is.

“Amy who?”

Lucy’s face crumples. Panic creeps into her voice as she calls again for her sister. She walks into the living room and picks up a framed photo. Amy isn’t in it. In this timeline, it’s just her and her mom. Lucy is forced to push pause on her unspooling when her phone rings. Christopher says a car is on its way. Luka is on the move.

Lucy asks where and then corrects herself.


I was already predisposed to like Timeless because Kripke, but I genuinely like the characters (most of them), the pop culture winks, and the wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. And as a history buff, I appreciate Show’s attention to detail. Things like the ship dropping ballast water as it was maneuvering for docking and the aluminum piano in the passenger lounge. These elements aren’t important to the story, but they’re grace notes that elevate the episode. I look forward to more of these little moments throughout the series.

Rufus is clearly my favorite character of the three. He just sings for me. He’s capable and funny and his reactions to being placed in extraordinary circumstances read very real to me. Lucy I’m still warming up to. We’re not quite going steady yet. I like that she’s quick on her feet and respects the fragility of the timeline. And the pedant in me loves that she was bothered by the inaccuracy of her outfit. Wyatt? I don’t care for Wyatt. He doesn’t listen. I predict I’m going to be typing QUIT YOU’RE GOING TO WRECK IT quite a bit for him.

Also, if you were wondering why Eric Kripke chose the Hindenburg as the first point in history to explore, I think I have an answer.


Timeless airs Monday at 8:00 p.m. on NBC.

Whitney is also watching Supernatural and Hawaii Five-0. Follow her on twitter @Watcher_Whitney.

3 thoughts on “‘Timeless’: Oh, the humanity!

  1. Love it Whit! Looking forward to the weekly recaps. I also called Zeppelin as the shoutout point for the Hindenburg being the pilot timey wimey subject.

    Also, I proposed on Twitter a drinking game every time “catastrophic” is uttered.

  2. Jon-Erik Hexum’s death devastated me too. He was my one star crush. I still have the newspaper clipping. Good review of the show. I’ll keep watching.

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