‘Manifest’: Bulgaria hysteria

“Off Radar”
November 5, 2018

HIIIIII. So, I didn’t forget I was hate-blogging this show. It’s just that, well, I hate it. I hate this show. It’s a bad show that is dumb and I hate it. But it returns tonight, and I’m four episodes behind, so instead of hate-blogging the hateable Golden Globes, I’m going to spend my energy making a dent in the backlog of the recaps of Manifest. Which I hate.

As with most episodes, we begin on flight 828 as Pre-Pubescent Son is patted on the head by a middle-aged man as he makes his way down the aisle, asking people in a strange language for help with his customs form. Eventually, a Nice Lady offers to help while Pre-Pubescent Son stares at them with his one emotion: quizzical.

Cut to the present day, with Pre-Pubescent Son screaming in his sleep. Ben and Grace race to his room, determine that he has a fever and they and Michaela (but not Teenage Daughter as she was written into a sleepover because she was not required for this episode), race Pre-Pubescent Son to the hospital.

And then we spend the next hour with everyone arguing over whether or not they should give Pre-Pubescent Son antibiotics. On the one hand, FEVER! On the other, giving Pre-Pubescent Boy any sort of medication will result in him being pulled from Dr. Saanvi’s Cancer Cure Trial. What to do?!!?!1? It’s riveting stuff.


But it’s all a moot point because antibiotics are not going to cure Pre-Pubescent Son unless antibiotics can cure possession by a middle-aged Bulgarian man. Ben comes to realize that Pre-Pubescent Son’s illness has something to do with all the other weird shit going on in their lives when Pre-Pubescent Son begins mumbling in a strange language. Ben puts Pre-Pubescent Son’s ramblings through his knock-off Siri translate and it determines he’s speaking Bulgarian.

Dr. Saanvi, who has a remarkable memory and ear for languages, remembers that there was a middle-aged man on the flight speaking what sounded to her ear like an Eastern European language. After a quick consult with Ben’s iPad Conspiracy File, they determine that there was a Bulgarian passenger on the flight, Marko, and that he was helped with his customs form by Nice Lady, who just happened to be a translator who specialized in Bulgarian. Because there are just tons of Bulgarians flying between Jamaica and New York City just as there are tons of Bulgarian translators walking around and because there are tons of both kinds of people, it’s just a matter of simple math that they would end up on the same flight together, I mean DUH.

Oh, and also, through Pre-Pubescent Son’s perspective, we see that Marko is being experimented on by shifty people in some shifty place.

Anyway, Michaela finds Nice Translator Lady living in a motel where she explains that when she magically reappeared from the dead, Nice Lady Translator was greeted by her husband with divorce papers, which is how she ended up in a government shelter. Nice Translator Lady remembered Marko and seeing him also get onto one of the buses headed to the shelters, and she expected to reach out to him once they arrived, but he never showed up.

Michaela brings Nice Translator Lady to the police station where Ex-Boyfriend is all, “WHAT SHENANIGANS ARE YOU UP TO?” before deciding that Michaela needs to leave him out of it. Michaela — somehow — finds logs of the buses that took people to the shelters, but only four buses, despite the fact that Nice Translator Lady insists that there were five and that Marko was on Bus the Fifth.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Grace tells Ben that she knows he’s keeping something from her, and he’s like, “Yeah, but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She correctly points out that HE JUST GOT OFF A PLANE THAT DISAPPEARED FOR FIVE-AND-A-HALF YEARS WITHOUT AGING A DAY, so maybe she might be able to wrap her head around whatever else is going on. So Ben tells her about “the calling” and despite literally moments earlier saying that he couldn’t shock her with anything, this very badly written character is all, “WHAT? THAT IS MADNESS. YOU ARE CRAZY AND I DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING YOU ARE TELLING ME, MADMAN.”

jim the office wow disappointed

Michaela tells her brother about Bus Number Five, and he immediately goes full conspiracy mode: IT’S THE GOVERNMENT.

alex jones tin foil hat nodding conspiracy government.gif

Ben consults his conspiracy notes and determines that there are eleven passengers missing, all of whom are either foreign nationals or have no living relatives, people whom no one who would miss if, say, the government were to spirit them off onto a bus to a secret farm where they would perform alien experiments on them.

Micahela runs the license plates on the buses they do have information on and somehow? they track their route through rural New York and somehow? using a literal roadmap, Ben circles all the possible farms where a bus could be stashed before giving it to Michaela and ordering her to go investigate. The entire thing is patently absurd.

But they’re going with it and the next thing you know, Michaela enlists Ex-Boyfriend’s help. He’s all, “UGH NO,” before being all, “UGH, FINE.” The two drive out to the country where eventually they find a farm large enough to stash a bus, multiple kidnap victims and a makeshift secret conspiracy hospital, but before they can actually approach the site, they are greeted by two Very Serious Private Security Guys who are carrying Very Serious Assault Rifles and Michaela and Ex-Boyfriend are reduced to taking a few surreptitious photos before driving away.

Oh and then Michaela tells Ex-Boyfriend about the whole “the calling” business FINALLY, and he’s like, “cool.”

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Ben and Grace are still arguing over whether or not to give Pre-Pubescent Son antibiotics, and Ben is all, “Blah blah blah don’t give them to him blah just trust me on this blah, alright I am going to leave you and our dying child here in the hospital to go do something mysterious that I am not going to fill you in on and I’m just going to hope that you’ll be cool about it even though you are clearly not cool and hey, have you noticed that Teenage Daughter doesn’t seem to give a shit about the fact that her little brother whom she just got back from the dead is seemingly dying, I mean, where is she? still at a sleepover? anyway I’m off on my secret mission byeeeeeee.”

So Ben heads to the government facility where¬†Beleaguered Federal Agent works and demands to speak to him, and Beleaguered Federal Agent and his cronies are all, “LOL, OK, SURE. WHY NOT.” Oh! And I suppose I should note that at the beginning of the episode,¬†Beleaguered Federal Agent and his cronies were attending some pseudo-science conference where a bunch of pseudoscientists were all, “WAS IT A WORMHOLE? OR WAS IT ALIENS? OR WAS IT MAGIC?” and Beleaguered Federal Agent sighed heavily to his cronies that other federal agencies weren’t sharing what they knew about Flight 828 with them because it’s 9/11 all over again and this show thinks its The Looming Tower or something.

ANYWAY, Ben comes storming into their offices and shows them a blurry photo his sister took of some patient at the farm and is all, “TELL ME WHAT YOU DID WITH THE MISSING PASSENGERS!” And the other federal agents are all, “LOL, WUT? YOU CRAZY,” but Beleaguered Federal Agent is secretly all, “Hmmm … interesting …” before sending Ben and his tin foil beret back to the hospital.

There, Pre-Pubescent Son gets worse and Grace comes thisclose to demanding the doctors give him the antibiotics, which the doctors tell her is a Very Bad Idea because he probably has a virus, not a bacterial infection, but she is screaming at them to do it anyway which I am pretty sure is not how hospitals work. But before they can commit malpractice, Pre-Pubescent Son suddenly gets better when the goons experimenting on Marko finally give up electrocuting him when they have to suddenly pack up the conspiracy hospital and flee.

Ben returns to the hospital and Grace is all, “Pre-Pubescent Son is alive, SO THANKS FOR NOTHING.”

saturday night live kenan wait what confused surprised huh ok

Later, Cronies hand over files on all the missing passengers to Beleaguered Federal Agent, proving that they are, actually, all accounted for, but he still has a suspicious, particularly about Passenger 8-2-8. GET IT? IT’S LIKE LOST’S NUMBERS BUT SO MUCH MORE HEAD-BANGINGLY OBVIOUS AND STUPID. Anyway, Beleaguered Federal Agent and Cronies go to the farm where they find nothing but a used band-aid and he’s all, “A-HA!”

saturday night live kenan wait what confused surprised huh ok

Oh, and Michaela, somehow traces the buses and the farm back to a giant corporation that does a lot of government contract work and makes mouthwash, United Dynamic Systems, and she is all, “A-HA! BIG MOUTHWASH IS BEHIND ALL OF IT!”

saturday night live kenan wait what confused surprised huh ok


nene sigh lord give me strength

Look. It’s not that Bulgarians are immune to Jamaica’s many charms. I sure there have been over the course of the island’s history some tourists from Bulgaria. It’s just that it seems unlikely that a Bulgarian man who speaks no English would choose to fly to Jamaica by himself. That seems like a tough vacation. And I’m sure this is going to be part of a larger “EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE IS CONNECTED” plot element, but there just happened to be a translator on the plane? A translator who spoke Bulgarian?

retta um no unsure skeptical

And can we talk about the very terrible writing where Grace begs Ben to tell her what’s going on with him and then she refuses to believe him EVEN THOUGH HE JUST CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD? First of all, I hate Grace and I’m pretty sure these hack writers are making her deliberately unlikable so that when Ben inevitably leaves her in some grand self-sacrificing gesture so that she can be with Replacement Husband/Dad we won’t be angry with him when he makes a romantic connection with Dr. Saanvi. But second of all, LEARN TO WRITE. LEARN TO WRITE CONSISTENT CHARACTERS. This scene might have worked if Ben had volunteered the information about “the calling” rather than have Grace pull it out of him. It would still have been stupid, but it at least would have been more consistent for her character to reject this information that she is not ready for, rather than claim she can’t possibly be surprised by anything and then seconds later be surprised.

But honestly one of my biggest complaints with this episode — and with this show in general — is that the pacing is just so off. Everything happens so quickly. Much too quickly. For instance, we are supposed to believe that in the course of one afternoon that Ben, Dr. Saanvi and Michaela 1. determine that Pre-Pubscent Son is connected to a random passenger on the flight and 2. figure out the one person who that passenger had been in contact with and 3. track her down and 4. determine that he was put on a bus and taken somewhere and 5. find potential locations where that bus might have gone and 6. visit all of those locations and 7. find the location and 8. report said location to the feds who 9. visit the location which has 10. already been cleared out and moved. ONE. AFTERNOON.

I’m not saying that slowing down the action will make this show better, I’m just saying that it couldn’t possibly make it worse. And in conclusion, this show is very bad and very dumb and I hate it.

Manifest airs on NBC on Mondays at 9 p.m.

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