Here's the thing, everybody. I missed the first five minutes of this episode because of a variety of reasons. I missed whatever Dyson Frost had to say to Demetri. I missed the scene where Mark moved out of the house to protect his family. (I only know his motivation for this because it was in the helpful episode description that my Slingbox provides to me.) I missed some of the FBI stuff, I assume. But the episode filled in enough of these blanks that I feel comfortable saying I got it enough to know that the episode wasn't the one that magically fixed all of the show's issues. I also feel comfortable saying that somewhere along the line, this show got really, really funny, but not in a way that I think anyone involved with its production is intending.
Actually, scratch that. I think the cast knows exactly how stupid some of this stuff is. That's why the show is bearable at this point. Everyone in the cast is playing the hilt out of some of the goofier lines, even Joseph Fiennes. When he randomly exclaimed, "NOW, WE'RE TRAVELING" to close out that scene where he solved Frost's chess riddle, it was hilarious. When he said, "UNFORTUNATELY, ONE OF THEM IS MY ENEMY," it was even better. I think we need some sort of scale here, some sort of fair measurement that would suggest how close we are to Mark just randomly breaking out, "I WAS LOADED!" again. Assuming FlashForward crashes and burns and isn't renewed, I want "I WAS LOADED!" to become an Internet meme. I want schoolkids on busses singing its name. I want the whole world to get just a taste of what this show has become.
Because in tonight's episode, we spent a good portion of screentime following around a character we've met just three times (once in someone else's flash forward) as she attempted to find a job and ended up falling in with a bunch of racial stereotypes who worked at a garage run by a kindly Latino man with a gruff exterior but a heart of gold, a guy who just wants to work on his cars, man, and is willing to employ undocumented workers to do so. All of this was wrapped up in a tale of how Keiko and Bryce just keep missing each other and have each found new romantic interests. But as little interest as I have in the romantic pairing of Bryce and the babysitter, I have even less interest in the pairing of Keiko and some guy I've just met, especially as it hinges on a number of pieces of information I've just learned that the show clumsily forced in there, chief among them the fact that Keiko is apparently a genius auto mechanic.
As a serialized sci-fi drama in the back half of its first season, building up to the moment when the flash forwards pointed to, there should be more of a sense of things falling into place in FlashForward than there is. Instead, there's a sense of things madly scrambling around so that everyone gets something to do. Some of that probably stems from the constant cut in production order, which probably forced a few episodes to get smushed together to give the end game a better sense of how it was going to play out. Some of that probably stems from first-season jitters, a show that doesn't have its serialization sea legs under it just yet. Most of that stems from the fact that the show is awful. Or, y'know, TV'S BEST COMEDY. Whatever works. I got a SENSE of what the show was pushing for when Bryce called the sexy babysitter to tell her he wasn't sorry he kissed her and the ICE VAN CARRYING KEIKO SCREAMED ALONG BEFORE HIM, OMG, but that was mostly because it didn't involve Bryce looking over at the camera or an extra or a friendly dog or a dead crow or a creepy doll head or Ricky Jay's disembodied nose and saying, "We just keep missing each other. Failed connections are one of the themes of the show." Visual storytelling. Use it.
The main plot involves Mark locking everyone in a room with Seth MacFarlane. No. Really. That's what it was all about. After you've mostly forgotten about Agent Seth MacFarlane, Agent Lady, Agent Gruff Black Man and all of the other non-regular FBI agents, the show suddenly decides to spring on us that one of them is a mole and that only Mark, Michael Ealy and Demetri (who gets an early reprieve) can figure out what's going on. The fact that this is probably two or three episodes wildly smashed together is most evident in this plotline, which starts with Mark and Demetri figuring out that Frost left a message for them in a chess game from decades ago that leads to a pre-paid cell phone they can call to leave him a message (in what's actually a pretty cool little bit of puzzle solving that easily could have sustained half an episode), takes a random detour to San Franciso and then abruptly turns into a bottle show. A "bottle show," if you haven't heard the term before, is an episode of TV that's designed to keep the characters all in the same location to save money. That this episode was half world-spanning (or, well, state-spanning) travelogue and half bottle show suggests most strongly that all involved were making one thing and then ended up making something else.
But that doesn't matter! We have moles to catch! Anyway, the mole turns out to be Agent Lady, which makes sense since if the mole were a regular, we'd have to make more out of it, and Seth MacFarlane has other shit to do. Agent Lady guns down Agent Seth in cold blood, which should make this the greatest episode of television ever but somehow doesn't, then cuts her way through the rest of the extras before finally being subdued in the fountain outside. How do Mark and Demetri determine it's her? Why, they notice that she's putting sugar in her coffee sometimes. She NEVER does that!
BUT WAIT NO. Janis is actually the mole. And she tells Simon for some reason, after he gets done hitting on her, because apparently the information that she is a lesbian except when she's trying to get pregnant is only on a need-to-know basis. I can understand the conspiracy trying to tell Simon they have eyes everywhere. But this guy just got done offing Ricky Jay. He clearly has no compunctions about going batshit crazy at any given moment AND THEY KNOW IT. Why is Janis outing herself to him? Because the writers need her to say she's the mole and couldn't figure out another way to do it. That's why.
Also, if you are ever being tailed by a suspicious looking man at the Santa Monica pier, just go up to him and ask him what he's doing. He's sure to tell you that he's there at your husband's orders, making sure you're safe, just so you can remember how much you like him and feel that much more guilty when a British man shows up to ask you if you remember the complicated mathematical formula you saw in your brief vision of the future. Because that's all Olivia gets to do this week. Good thing she's doing power reps and triggering the end of a phantom universe over on Lost this week. Otherwise, she'd probably be pretty pissed.
So that was FlashForward for the week. I'm utterly speechless about what to say about it. It's a show where everyone explains everything all of the time. At least the actors are sort of making it amusing. Do they roll their eyes when they get the scripts? I have to imagine they do. Or, as Jaime Weinman asked on Twitter, at what point does a show like this turn into your opportunity to audition for another, better show?
Grade: C if this was meant to be taken seriously, B if it's a comedic spoof of ponderous TV serials.