‘La Brea’: In which they steal the whole button thing

La Brea
January 31, 2023

JUST LISTEN TO HOW DUMB THIS SHOW IS: Last we were gathered here, several of our main characters — Eve, Gavin, Josh, Izzy, Dr. Sam, Riley, and Levi — had all miraculously ended up in 1988 where they could have lived out their lives in modern comfort and never seen another saber-toothed tiger again. Instead, all of them, except for Levi, lept into yet another sinkhole, along with Gavin’s improbably young mother, to return to 10,000 B.C. in an attempt to prevent a tidal wave from destroying Santa Monica. The catch is, to prevent the tidal wave, they have to destroy the time travel machine in 10,000 B.C. which will then trap them there. But greater good and all that. Oh, and just before they all lept into the sinkhole, Gavin had another vision: this time of Eve dying while red flowers fell on her.

I hate this show.

So, they return to 10,000 B.C., except they can’t find Josh at the designated meeting point, which seems like it will be a bigger part of the plot going forward, but SPOILER ALERT: It’s not.

After puttering around for a few minutes, the group decides they can’t wait for Josh any longer as they only have a few hours to upload Gavin’s Mom’s (Caroline’s) virus into the system before the next sinkhole opens up off of Santa Monica. So, they split up: Gavin and Izzy will go to the tower, gain access to the security system and open it up using Gavin’s handprint (don’t ask) so that Caroline can upload her virus from a remote research station. Don’t worry about how the technology works, the writers sure didn’t.

Dr. Sam makes some noises about being trapped in 10,000 B.C. and how the other people down here with them might want to know what’s going on but everyone’s like, “shut up.”

Gavin and Eve kiss, while Izzy looks on and gets her hopes up.

On the way to the tower, Gavin cuts his own arm so as to have an excuse to go to the infirmary, which he somehow knows is on the same level as the security system. Izzy is all, “YOU AND MOM KISSED, OMG,” and this, somehow, leads to Gavin telling Izzy about the red flower vision, which, honestly, like, why? Why would you share that with your kid? Until you know what’s going on, that’s just going to freak her out and God knows, Izzy isn’t exactly chill.


So they go up to the tower and the guards let them in and Gavin’s dad James is like, “I DIDN’T EXPECT TO SEE YOU BACK HERE, BUT I’LL TAKE IT,” and he invites Gavin and Izzy inside.

There, James takes Izzy on a tour of the greenhouse while Gavin has his arm wound treated by the super suspicious security lady with the blonde hair and severe disposition.

On the tour, Izzy spots a tree with red flowers, and James explains that it is a remarkable species that only grow in caves in this specific prehistoric era. Izzy proceeds to hyperventilate, realizing that based on Gavin’s latest vision, her mother is probably going to die in 10,000 B.C.

Meanwhile, in the infirmary, after Severe Lady administers an antibiotic to Gavin, he attacks a security guard who is very bad at his job, grabs the guard’s taser stick thingy, and makes Severe Lady take him to the security room, where, using his hand print, he opens the security network so that his mom can upload her virus. Now, it seems to me like lazy writing a design flaw that anyone related to James can access the security system but no one consulted me, so.

Speaking of Mom and Eve, Dr. Sam bitches the entire way to the research portal about being trapped in 10,000 B.C. if they destroy the time travel machine, and YEAH, BUT YOU KNEW THAT WHEN YOU JUMPED INTO THE SINKHOLE IN 1988 SO WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM, MY DUDE?

At one point, Dr. Sam tries to steal the virus, but before Caroline and Eve can confront him about this, he takes off running into the woods, which, in this setting, is always a good idea to do by oneself.

The women are like, ~shrug~, and make their way to the research portal where they turn on the computer … or whatever … only to have the power be unreliable. And that’s because THEY ARE IN 10,000 B.C. Dr. Sam is nearby whacking the power source with a giant tree branch.

This guy.

Eventually, Eve and Riley are able to talk Dr. Sam down by making puppy-dog eyes at him and talking about the “greater good,” and Caroline is able to continue uploading her virus into the system.

HOWEVER. Back at the tower, Severe Lady has managed to trigger a silent alarm, and James and Izzy arrive in the security room just as the virus is nearing the completion of the upload, which we can tell thanks to some very helpful computer graphics:

Thank goodness for that giant 96% in the center of the screen!

So James arrives and tries to talk Gavin into stopping the upload of the virus, arguing that they are close to figuring out how to avoid opening sinkholes and that the sinkhole they were trying to prevent in Santa Monica has already closed up.

But it’s only when Izzy tells Gavin that she saw the tree in the greenhouse that he described from his vision of Eve’s death that Gavin is given pause. When James promises he can help prevent Eve’s death by sending her home, Gavin cancels the virus upload at the 99% mark.

Over at Camp B Plot, Ty is hanging out with the rest of the survivors instead of being with his fiancee — you know, the one he’s known for all of a month? two weeks? — and he asks Ella to make a ring for him to give to Paara. Because obviously fur-wearing cave people from 10,000 B.C. recognize the same romantic traditions as those of us in the 21st century. Makes sense.

Ella invites Veronica to join her on a trip to a cave — Cave C Plot — to find an amethyst for this ring. Veronica agrees to come along after revealing that she’s getting rid of everything that reminds her of their old life and also, too, she and Lucas kissed.

Inside the cave, Ella and Veronica find a cache of amethyst — how Ella knew it was there since she’s only been back for like a couple of days or a week or whatever? STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS, GEEZ. But then Veronica goes wandering off by herself in the cave — because again, exploring solo is a solid idea and definitely encouraged — and she finds one of the Eve Death Trees. Veronica proceeds to have a panic attack. Apparently, their kidnapper Aaron used to make Veronica draw this tree, and grew them at his “old home.”

Ella finds this very strange, and suggests to Veronica that they need to figure out what these flowers mean: maybe he knew about this place, maybe there’s a bigger reason they are there … but Veronica is NOT INTERESTED and never wants to talk about Aaron or the flowers ever again.

Back at Camp B Plot, we are introduced to a new character, some guy named Wyatt who was a construction foreman in the 21st century. He’s helping the group build something, it’s not important.

The point is, the camp realizes that there is a herd of hundreds of giant, terribly rendered prehistoric buffalo nearby and that they could stampede through the camp, destroying everything and possibly killing a bunch of people in the process. And with a new aurora opening up for the Santa Monica sinkhole, there’s a good chance the giant, terribly rendered prehistoric buffalo will get spooked and do just that.

This entire plot point is to show Lucas stepping forward as a leader (in the absence of every other potential leader). He and Wyatt build a giant ring of fire around the camp to scare away the giant, terribly rendered prehistoric buffalo — and it works! Until seawater and fish start pouring in from the aurora, dousing the fire ring. Lucas then organizes the survivors to get into the cars and start honking their horns to scare the giant, terribly rendered prehistoric buffalo away, and this works. 

Oh, and also Josh shows up at camp. And Ty’s headaches are getting worse. And everyone’s REAL MAD at whoever released Taamet. And Scott is all, “ME TOO, I’M REAL MAD, TOO. FOR SURE. BECAUSE I’M DEFINITELY NOT THE GUY WHO DID IT. NOT ME! NOPE.”

To be honest with you, I’m having a hard time finding things in this episode that La Brea specifically stole from Lost. That’s not to say there aren’t similarities in certain places; but it’s more that they are stealing from tropes that have long been used, and which Lost certainly did not invent.

One similarity between the two shows is the pressure to “push or not push the button.” Here, Gavin is torn between whether or not to allow his mother’s computer virus to upload in a certain amount of time. On Lost, there was a literal button that had to be pushed every 108 minutes to prevent the end of the world. This, of course, is not something that Lost invented, it’s a trope as old as movies and TV shows themselves (if not older — though it plays best in a visual medium).

Also, and this is one we’ve talked about before, but there’s this whole mechanism where some of the survivors have been in 10,000 B.C. before, or have some sort of connection to it. On Lost, there is a character named Charlotte who spent her earliest years on the island with her parents who were part of the DHARMA Initiative. When she is a small child, a man (Daniel Faraday) approaches her and tells her that she will soon be evacuated from the island and that she must never return because if she does, she will die. After leaving the island, Charlotte has memories of it, but her mother insists she’s making it all up. Charlotte does eventually return to the island, with Daniel Faraday, and due to time travel anomalies, she dies there. Daniel then time travels to the 1970s where he tells young Charlotte to never return to the island, completing the circle.

RIGHT, SO, in this episode we have two potential Charlottes: Veronica, who remembers drawing this mysterious tree that only grows in 10,000 B.C., suggesting that she has some tie to this place that is not random; and Eve, whose death is envisioned beneath this same tree. It’s not an exact match, and I don’t know where they are going with it, but the melody sounds very similar.

Finally, there’s the major theme of this episode: the struggle between the “greater good” and the individual. The group agrees to go back to 10,000 B.C. and sacrifice their own ability to return to their original timeline to save hundreds of thousands of people in 1988 — the “greater good” — only to have Gavin, at the last moment choose to abandon this plan to save one person’s life, Eve’s.

Interestingly, there is an episode of Lost called “The Greater Good,” which tells Sayid’s backstory and how he ended up on Flight 815. Basically, he was working with the CIA to infiltrate a Muslim terrorist cell in Australia. When he decides he feels bad about encouraging one of the members to go forward with a suicide mission, he tries to back out of the deal, only to have the CIA threaten to withhold information about the whereabouts of the woman he loves. Torn until the last second, Sayid does tell the cell member that he, Sayid, is working with the CIA, and the cell member kills himself. The CIA honors their deal with Sayid and gives him the address of the woman he’s been looking for.

As for the island story parallel in the episode, Sayid is torn between whether or not to allow the woman he is involved with, Shannon, kill Locke, the man that she holds responsible for her brother’s death. In the end, Sayid saves Locke, because he thinks Locke will be more valuable in the long run for the survival of the group. Needless to say, this philosophical trolley problem that Lost was doing in almost every single episode was far more complicated and nuanced than whatever the hell La Brea thinks it’s doing.

Alright, that’s as much time and energy I am willing to spend on this stupid, very bad show. You know, until the next time.

La Brea airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 8/9 p.m. It’s available to stream on Peacock.

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