“Cleared for Approach”
January 28, 2019
TL; DR version: Michaela goes to a cave with her new boyfriend where they hold hands and Ben and his family are targeted by Qanon nutjobs.
We begin this episode back in December 2017, as Hiker stops in a store to load up on final supplies for his big hike through time. He and the storekeeper make some foreshadowy small talk as he buys a special magazine devoted to Flight 828, and Storekeeeper posits that the Russians “plucked the plane out of the sky.” Or shot it out the way they did Malaysian Flight 17, BUT SURE, LET’S ALL BE PALS WITH PUTIN AND LISTEN TO HIS ADVICE ON NORTH KOREA OVER OUR OWN INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS.
As Hiker leaves, Storekeeper is all, “See you soon!” but see, it’s dramatic irony because he won’t see him soon at all.
In the present, Hiker is all, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I TIME TRAVELED?” but Ben and Michaela have questions for him, too, namely, what happened when he finally escaped the cave. He explains that there was some sort of earthquake or avalanche, and the ice moved away.
With that, Ben is like, “Alright, well, Grace and I are ready to take Pre-Pubescent Son out of this cold dirty cabin, so let’s go, guys!” But Hiker announces he’s going nowhere, he needs time to process. Michaela decides she’s going to stay with this complete stranger out in the middle of the woods far from any sort of civilization, and her brother is like, “NO!” before being all, “OH, ALRIGHT,” and just leaving her. Oh, and he takes the bloody bandages from Hiker’s hands with him because yum!
Question: Who owns this cabin and are they just cool with all these weirdos trespassing?
After Ben and his family leave, Michaela explains that no one knows what, exactly, happened with flight 828, before asking if he doesn’t have someone who is looking for him: no family? friends? coworkers? Improbably he does not and then the two of them have a joint vision of the two of them standing outside underneath some straight-up terrible F/X stars while their voices monotone, “GO BACK.”
First of all, Jack Shepherd wants (one of) his catchphrases back.
Second of all …
So then Michaela has to explain that, “oh, hey, since we slipped through time we all get these weird visions now, and basically the rule is we have to do whatever it tells us to, don’t question it. I’m guessing we have to go back to the cave.” Hiker explains that the cave is an hour away, so Michaela goes to the store. Because they’re going to need supplies. For a two-hour round trip. OK.
Michaela goes to the store that Hiker went to in the opening scene where she finds a missing person flyer with Hiker’s face on it.
OK, but who put up the missing person poster if he doesn’t have anyone in his life? JUST ONE MORE OF MANIFEST’S MIND-BOGGLING MYSTERIES, I GUESS.
Michaela asks Mr. See Ya Soon, the storekeeper, about Hiker and he shares yet another of his trademarked theories: that Hiker committed suicide because his sister died on the mountain back in 2006. Thanks for the clue, Mr. Exposition!
When Michaela returns to the cabin, she confronts Hiker about his dead sister before insisting that he take her to the cave already. At first he’s like, “NAH,” but then he’s like, “OH, ALRIGHT.”
So then Michaela and Hiker are out in the woods and Michaela is asking how much further it is, when Hiker is like, “we’re here!” OK BUT HOW COULD SHE MISS THE GIANT ASS TIME TRAVEL CAVE DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HER WHAT IS THIS DUMB SHOW.
They go inside the cave which is just a cave, but while inside the cave they have another calling featuring them standing under the bad F/X stars while Hiker’s voice yells at them, “GO BACK,” again.
Michaela decides that the stars must mean something, and Hiker pulls out a tiny star necklace that he gave his dead sister.
Hiker admits that he came out to the woods in the first place to fulfill Step 5 of AA: “Admit to a higher power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs,” and admit that he … KILLED HIS SISTER!
Except, of course, he didn’t kill kill her; he was 15, she was 9, he got distracted by his cell phone, she fell into a ravine, the end. The two bond over the people that they “killed,” and then Hiker decides that the “calling” wants him to go to his sister’s memorial.
So they do, and they build cairns, and then they hug and then they have yet another stupid calling under the stars and urging them to “GO BACK.”
So they go back to the place they went back to: the cave. There, Michaela tells Hiker that she understands his reluctance to go back to the real world, she wishes she could do her re-entry differently. And then they hold hands and then there is a bolt of lightning and then they see a drawing on the cave wall …
… and then they’re all “wow, is this cave drawing making you all horny, too?”
THAT’S RIGHT, THEY ARE JUST STRAIGHT RIPPING OFF GAME OF THRONES NOW.
As for the B storyline: Ben takes Pre-Pubescent Son to see Dr. Saanvi and to give her Hiker’s bandages so she can check for the special blood marker thingy they all supposedly have. Oh, and Dr. Saanvi mentions in passing that she was supposed to go to Jamaica with someone but it didn’t work out, so that’s certainly going to come up later.
As they drive home, they notice a HILARIOUS billboard:
Jesus, there’s so much to unpack here. First of all, “ARE THEY HUMAN?” is a hysterically funny conspiracy theory to go with. Second of all, and I’m jumping a little bit ahead here with this plotline, but we will learn that the person who is running this site is just some guy, not an Alex Jones or some sort of nationally-known conspiracy nut. And as someone who runs her own conspiracy website from her couch, I’m here to tell you, a billboard on the side of the highway just seems like a very good expenditure of one’s bottomless advertising funds. But finally, you should visit www.828DemandtheTruth.com. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
THAT’S RIGHT, THERE’S NOTHING THERE. Someone at NBC had the good sense to register the domain so that someone like me couldn’t buy it and post some of Manifest “scripts” which would just be a series of scribbles. But to do nothing with it is just the height of laziness. A fake website that ties into the series is a terrific way to share easter eggs and encourage fans to talk about the show online. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated and, in fact, for a conspiracy site like this, the crappier the better. But, just like everything else with this show, they couldn’t be fucked to make the effort.
Once they return home, Ben and Grace debate whether or not to tell Teenage Daughter about the “callings.” Eventually, they do, and she’s like, “Yeah, Pre-Pubescent Son told me all about them already.” So I guess that ends the whole question of whether or not people who know about the calling drop dead after a certain amount of time like they’ve watched The Ring video. (They do not.) Cool red herring, guys.
At some point, Ex-Boyfriend swings by the house to ask where Michaela is, and while he’s there, someone throws a brick through the window. Ex-Boyfriend goes chasing after them, and Ben and Grace discover that some asshole has painted a giant red X on their front door.
Eventually, Ex-Boyfriend tells Ben they found the man whose prints were on the paint can they found outside the house and he just so happens to be the same person who registered the non-existent site www.828DemandtheTruth.com where he rants about the 828 passengers being terrorists and lizard people between selling Brain Force Plus supplements and plastic tubs of freeze-dried foods. Ex-Boyfriend urges Ben to leave the investigation into who did this to them to the professionals, and Ben is like, LOL SURE THING.
Ben (almost) immediately drives to Conspiracy Guy’s place of business (after he has a conversation about the symbology of peacocks with his daughter because this show is as subtle as a peacock with a sledgehammer) and loses his shit, warning him to stay away from his family. Conspiracy Guy is all, “Cute ‘kid’ you got there. It would be a shame if it turns out he’s AN ALIEN WITH GREEN GOO BLOOD.” Ben further loses his shit which is when the cops arrive.
But good news: its one of Ex-Boyfriend’s friends and Ben is let off the hook with a Very Stern Warning from Ex-Boyfriend.
Sometime even later, Grace and the kids are terrified when there is some banging at the front door in the middle of the night, but it’s just Ben trying to clean the X off. Instead of being like, “HEY, MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE WAITED UNTIL THE MORNING TO DO SOME CLEANING,” Grace invites him to move back in. OK. SURE.
Later, Dr. Saanvi reveals to Ben that Hiker has this blood marker thingy before sharing some weird airplane/earthquake/aftershock/cave theory. The plane was the earthquake, the cave avalanche an aftershock? I don’t know, it’s stupid. When Dr. Saanvi is leaving her lab, she discovers that her door has been tagged with a giant X, too, and she’s all, GASP!!!!
If this were a good — or even half-good — show, here’s where I would go into an overly long discussion about the significance of caves as death, rebirth and initiation symbols and representations of the sacred feminine before giving a lecture on how stars represent illumination, beacons, and eternity. I might have added to Teenage Daughter’s conversation about peacocks and how while we traditionally associate them with vanity, they are also solar symbols, and how in some religious traditions they are associated with immortality and their tails are thought to evoke the star-filled sky, which ties back to the star discussion from earlier. I would then end the discussion with some talk about the meaning of storms, specifically lightning, and how they represent divine power and glory, but also, interestingly enough, fertility, tying it back to the cave imagery and how this might be foretelling something significant between Michaela and Hiker. BUT THIS SHOW DID NOT EARN THAT, SO IF YOU WANT TO READ MY RAMBLINGS ABOUT CAVES AND SUCH YOU SHOULD READ A RECAP OF A GOOD SHOW THAT I ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT.
This is a dumb show and I hate it.
Manifest airs on NBC on Mondays at 9 p.m.