“The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln”
October 10, 2016
April 14, 1865
Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shoots President Abraham Lincoln at Washington, D.C.’s Ford’s Theater during a performance of “Our American Cousin.” Booth times his attack to the delivery of the line, “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!” He hopes to use the audience’s laughter to cover the sound of the gun shot.
After shooting Lincoln, Booth struggles with and stabs Major Henry Rathbone. Booth jumps 12 feet from the box to the stage below where he is generally reported to have cried, “Sic semper tyrannis!” Many in the audience thought it was all a part of the play – until Mary Todd Lincoln started screaming.
Lincoln is carried across the street to the Petersen boarding house where he dies at 7:22 am the next morning. Booth flees the theater and is killed 12 days later at the Garrett farm in Caroline County, VA.
Lucy arrives at the lab and frantically asks Wyatt and Rufus what has changed in their lives. Rufus still has no game, “so nothing really.” Lucy tells them that – yay! – her mom isn’t sick anymore, but – boo! – her sister Amy has been erased from history. Agent Christopher has a confused. She says their dossier on Lucy makes no mention of a sister.
Lucy aggressively holds up her locket and shows them the photos of Amy. Whatever changed, she wants changed back. She refuses to take part in the mission until they figure it out. Wyatt backs her up.
Christopher warns that Luka has already traveled into the past. Their reality could slip out from under them at any moment. It’s only when she gives Lucy the date that she gets her full attention.
Jiya helps Lucy with her corset and hoop skirt. She offers to try to figure out what happened to Amy. She’ll look for connections and see what changed, starting with Lucy’s parents.
Holy Wayne is reviewing security footage. He notes that Luka knew to go right for Max Headroom, the project leader and better of their only two pilots. He wonders aloud how Luka knew so much about them and their vulnerabilities. He holds up the digital recorder. Rufus hesitates, asking what “they” do with the recordings. Why does Rittenhouse even need them? Holy Wayne is all like ix-nay in the ittenhouse-ray.
Lucy boards the Omni with some difficulty, struggling with her voluminous skirt. Rufus and Wyatt are dressed in Union blues. Rufus says the uniforms came from a Civil War reenactors club. “No wonder they smell like sweat and loneliness.”
Rufus fires up the engine. The ship blinks out of sight. The displaced time energy blows loose papers around the lab again some more.
“We really should get some paperweights.”
The Omni lands and the first thing they see is fireworks over the capital. Lucy says the war just ended. They’re celebrating. Okay, show me the receipts on fireworks, but yes. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox Court House, VA just days earlier on April 9. Additional surrenders – and battles – continued into May. A formal proclamation announcing the end of the war wasn’t issued until August 20, 1866.
So maybe don’t light the sparklers just yet.
Lucy says John Wilkes Booth will be at Ford’s Theater at 10:00 am that morning to pick up his mail. She suggests they start there and hope Booth’s movements lead them to Luka. There’s an establishing shot of 10th Street showing the US Capitol in the distance, and no. If you want to see the Capitol you’ll need to walk down to Pennsylvania Ave. The only dome you’re going to see from that POV belongs to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History three blocks away (which won’t actually be built until 1910, so.)
Anyhoo, Lucy and Wyatt go into the theater to look for Booth. Rufus is again left loitering outside to keep watch for Luka. He’s noticed by an African-American soldier, Nicholas. Rufus introduces himself as Denzel Washington. He says he’s from Chicago and was born free. Nicholas assumes this means Rufus can read and write. He calls over a small group of soldiers. He says Rufus is going to write their newspaper notices for them.
Rufus balks until Nicholas begins dictating. His notice is for information about his wife Anne and four children. The last time he saw Anne was in a slave trader’s cell in Atlanta. Once they’re reunited, Nicholas says he’ll go back to Tennessee and work a piece of his former master’s land. He doesn’t expect the man to just give it to him, but President Lincoln is going to make it so.
Nicholas’s hope and certainty hits Rufus like a brick. He mutters that it’s all smooth sailing from here on out. The remark rubs Nicholas the wrong way. He looks more closely at Rufus’s uniform, asking what regiment Sergeant Washington is in and where they fought. Nicholas grabs Rufus by the lapels and angrily calls him out as a fake.
Lucy finds the mailboxes and meets General Grant’s aide and the president’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. She fangirls and introduces herself as Juliet Shakesman, aspiring actress. I get that the aliases are pure fun (and a total Supernatural shout out), but really why? Why not just give their real names? Anyhoo, Robert says Grant is unable to attend that evening’s performance. He’s there to return the General’s tickets.
Robert is still lingering when Booth comes in. He enthusiastically greets the actor and tells Lucy that John’s brother Edwin saved his life on a train platform just the year before. Robert says the Lincolns owe the Booths a great debt.
“That’s Edwin, always the hero.”
There’s an edge to John’s voice as he says it. While he was himself well-regarded and respected, Edwin was the most famous actor in America at the time. So despite Rufus’s comparison to Donnie Wahlberg, it’s more like if Joseph Fiennes shot the president.
The Time Trio follow Booth out of the theater. Rufus advocates for saving Lincoln and just shooting Booth here and now. He says Lincoln’s death is going to be disaster for the African-American soldiers he just met – not to mention his own great-great grandparents. Lucy looks to Wyatt for support, but he’s with Rufus on this one.
Lucy argues that the unintended consequences make it too risky. She says it’s their job to save history. Rufus questions whose history they’re saving, because a lot of his sucks. He earnestly insists they have a chance to change things for the better.
Wyatt tries to get them back on mission as they tail Booth down an alley. He goes into a boarding house. Lucy says this is where he meets with his conspirators. That’s when Luka walks past the open window and spots them. Shooting shooting shooting. Wyatt takes a bullet in the side.
Lucy hastily rents a hotel room they can use for triage. Wyatt shrugs Lucy off when she says he needs a real doctor. “To what, leech me?” Rufus soon arrives with supplies. Wyatt stretches out on the bed. He tells Rufus to get the knife from his pocket and use the gas lamp to sterilize it. Rufus is like, what in the who now? Lucy not its. She’s a fainter.
As Rufus preps for surgery – “worst game of Operation ever” – Lucy begins putting the pieces together. Booth was part of a larger conspiracy to kill the four most powerful men in government at once – Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State William Seward, and General Grant. The other shooters failed or abandoned the plan. Luka seems determined to help them succeed.
Lucy goes to the train station to make sure Grant leaves the city. She meets Robert again. He tells her the train has broken down. They will be attending the play after all, much to General Grant’s dismay. His wife’s, too. Julia Grant didn’t care for Mrs. Lincoln’s company. Lucy tries again some more to deter him, saying it’s a terrible play. Instead, she snags herself an invite as Robert’s guest.
“We really have to stop meeting like this.” Luka looms up behind Lucy. Rage at Amy’s loss overtakes her fear. Luka simply says it’s war. He lost his whole family. Lucy accuses Luka of murdering them, but he says Rittenhouse is responsible. Luka is just trying to right some wrongs. He’s trying to save America, not destroy it!
“You’ll see. One day, you’re going to help me.”
Lucy thinks it’s a threat. Luka says no. It’s a statement of fact. It’s her future. He tells her to accept it and stop interfering. The threat comes when he says not to get in his way again.
“Is it unsanitary if I throw up on you now?” Rufus drops the bullet on the night stand and puts his head between his knees. Lucy comes in with a large box under her arm. She can’t attend an evening performance in a day dress!
Lucy recaps the previous scene, leaving out the part where she talked to Luka. She lies that she saw him leaving the train station. Rufus makes another pitch for saving Lincoln. Lucy is just as impassioned in her argument against. “The present isn’t perfect but it’s ours.” She says Lincoln’s death is meant to be.
Wyatt asks if the same is true of his wife. Was she just meant to die, too? Lucy’s silence is like, yup. Team Fate.
Luka arms the conspirators. They’re astonished by the weapons they’re given. Luka says he’s Prussian. “We make good guns.” Booth is standing in front of a mirror practicing his lines. Luka offers him a mod’ren semi-automatic. Booth says it’s ugly. Luka tells him it fires 17 bullets. Booth says a derringer is more dramatic. He has staked his fortune and fame on this spectacle. “I will see it through as I imagined it.”
Luka looks like he’s ready to shoot Booth himself and be done.
Lucy tucks a revolver into her evening bag. Rufus makes one final plea. “Think about who you would save.”
At the theater she looks like she’s about to jump out of her skin, anxiously glancing back at the door to the box. Robert assumes she’s nervous about meeting the president. He assures her his father is always late. The orchestra strikes up “Hail to the Chief,” briefly halting the performance as Lincoln arrives. Lucy gawps in dewy-eyed awe as Robert presents her to his parents.
Wyatt tries to calm Rufus’ nerves. He tells him to just keep an eye out and alert the Veep’s body guards. They’ll do the rest. Rufus is worried that he won’t even be able to do that. That he’ll freeze. He tells Wyatt about growing up in Chicago and the kid who bullied him. Rufus says he couldn’t fight or flight. He just stood there while the boy beat the crap out of him.
Wyatt points out that, in the last two days, Rufus was part of a jail break, held a knife to a Nazi’s throat, and pulled a bullet out of Wyatt’s gut without puking. He won’t freeze. Rufus admits he’s scared. Wyatt says he wouldn’t go into battle with Rufus if he wasn’t.
Lucy feigns a coughing spell and oopsie! pours a glass of water on General Grant. He exits the box. That’s one player off the board.
Wyatt stops the conspirator outside Secretary Seward’s home. He tries to question the behemoth about Luka. The man tosses Wyatt through the front door. Fight fight struggle fight. Wyatt shoots the man and that’s two.
Luka grabs Booth off the street and pulls him into an alcove. He says Grant is at the theater as well. Booth is going to need more than one bullet. Luka tells him again some more to take his gun. Booth is outraged at this attempt at improv. He put this production into workshop four years ago! “I do not now submit my destiny for your approval!” Luka cracks him over the head with the butt of the gun, knocking Booth unconscious.
” … Actors.”
Grant reenters the box. Robert leans over and whispers that the play isn’t so bad. Lucy says it’s certainly not what she remembers.
Rufus arrives at the Kirkwood Hotel. The conspirator enters moments later. Rufus is steeling himself to act when he’s grabbed from behind by Nicholas. Rufus tries to explain, but Nicholas is inclined to believe it’s the fake sergeant who’s up to no good. Johnson walks into the lobby. The conspirator pulls his gun. Rufus breaks away from Nicholas and his fellows and throws himself at the assassin. The gun goes off but the shot goes wide, striking the Veep’s bodyguard.
The assassin draws down on Rufus, but Nicholas and his men have him covered. Nicholas offers to buy the sergeant a drink. Rufus says he’s not a soldier. “You are in my book.”
The sockdologizing line is delivered. The audience laughs. Lucy looks behind her at the door. Booth doesn’t enter. Just as she’s thinking that maybe Lincoln is going to live, Luka bursts into the box. He aims but stops dead when he sees her. In that heartbeat, Lucy decides who she would save. She cries out a warning. Luka clubs Robert out of the way and fires the shot.
Luka pivots and takes aim at Grant. Lucy jumps up and grabs his arm. The bullet goes up into the ceiling. He grabs Lucy by the throat and tosses her aside. Robert wraps Luka up from behind. Grant joins the fray. Fight fight struggle fight. Lucy snatches the gun from her purse, but hesitates. Luka vaults over the box onto the stage and is gone.
The Time Trio regroup and report in. Lucy points at the blood on her dress and shakes her head. Robert comes out of the Petersen house and thanks her for saving Grant. He says there was nothing she could have done for his father. Lucy dies a little inside.
Nicholas is also standing vigil outside the boarding house. Rufus tells him not to go south. Find his family and head up north. He earnestly says it’s going to be all right. Nicholas has a hard time believing that could ever be true, despite Rufus’s promises.
“The man helped us. Freed us. And they killed him for it. It will never get better.”
In the Omni, Lucy tells them she had decided she was going to let it happen … but then she called out to warn him. “It’s one thing to talk about history like this abstract thing, but when the man gets shot right in front of you …” With tears in her eyes she tells Rufus she tried.
The papers on Jiya’s desk flutter, heralding the Omni’s return. The paperweight holds them fast. Wyatt tumbles out of the craft and is hustled off to the infirmary. Lucy has one question: “Who shot Lincoln?”
Holy Wayne reads from Wikipedia. Lincoln was assassinated by an unknown gunman using an unknown gun. Booth is only remembered as being part of the larger conspiracy. A high school in Point Pleasant, OH is named for the obscure actress who saved Grant. Credit for Johnson goes to his bodyguard. Rufus has a disappoint. “All he did was get shot!”
Christopher credits the team with good work (except for the whole letting Luka go again thing). Lucy frets that history still changed. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Christopher says it’s close enough. Luka didn’t destroy America or the world. “Take the win.”
Jiya pulls Lucy aside to share what she’s learned. As far as she can tell, Lucy’s parents never married and never even met. Henry Wallace married the granddaughter of a girl who should have died on the Hindenburg. Lucy says that explains why her mother doesn’t have lung cancer, since Henry started her smoking. And why Amy was never born.
Jiya lets Lucy noodle out the rest for herself. Lucy is still here because Henry isn’t her father – and he never was.
Rufus tells Holy Wayne he’s not recording them any more. Lucy and Wyatt trust him. He’s not spying on them. Holy Wayne reminds him that this is the price of his MIT education, his mother’s house and car, and his place at one of the most important scientific projects of all time.
“Gratitude doesn’t repay your debt. Those recordings do.”
Lucy walks into her house slightly dazed. She tells her mother they need to talk about her dad. What is Carol not telling her? Her mother is floored that Lucy would bring him up on today – of all days. Carol needs a drink. And Lucy needs to go freshen up and for Chuck’s sake find her ring. It makes for an awkward engagement party without it.
A dark-haired handsome man who I thought for sure was going to be Luka slips up behind Lucy. He says he’s missed her and kisses her. Lucy is all like HELLO YOU … PERSON WITH LIPS WHOM I’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. HELLO.
Timeless airs Monday at 8:00 p.m. on NBC.