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Timeless - The Darlington 500 - Review

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Timeless “The Darlington 500” was written by Jim Barnes and was directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, whose other credits include Star Trek: Discovery, Bates Motel, Falling Skies, and Gotham. This is the team’s first mission back together, and it seems like old times. The episode helps to round out Wyatt’s (Matt Lanter) background a little bit. I’m really hoping that the show gets Flynn (Goran Visnjic) out of that cell sooner rather than later, and I’m also really hoping that Jiya (Claudia Doumit) comes clean about those visions even sooner! As always, my favorite part of the show is its ability to shine a light on an important historical figure that not everyone may have heard about.

The episode teaser takes us to Darlington, South Carolina, September 4, 1955. There is a race car driver – Ryan Millerson (Matt Long) whose wife (Annie Tedesco) is pregnant. Emma’s (Annie Wersching) appears to be there to kill him – and is planning to kill the wife and baby too. She comments that she didn’t know he was married – she seems disturbed she has to kill the wife too – but is willing to do it.

Back at the bunker, Jiya has a vision of an injury to Rufus’ (Malcolm Barrett) arm. Wyatt tries to ask Lucy (Abigail Spencer) if she is alright and what happened to her while Rittenhouse had her. She tells him nothing happened, but Jiya has sold her out. Wyatt knows that Lucy isn’t sleeping at night. It was a nice tease when it seems like Wyatt knows what she’s doing all night – but Jiya is her roommate!

The team find the mothership in 1955, but Lucy says there’s nothing there historically. Lucy wants to bring in Flynn because he knows more about Rittenhouse. Neither Rufus nor Wyatt are happy about it! Wyatt insists that Flynn is a total psycho and Rufus points out that Flynn’s in jail because they set him up – well, more Denise (Sakina Jaffrey) than them, but still! Denise agrees that Flynn is unhinged and can’t be trusted. Nobody else has a better idea, however. I like that they still meet someone historically significant even if that isn’t the target for this mission.

Lucy and Denise go to visit Flynn. Flynn comments that Lucy doesn’t look well. Denise asks the questions. Flynn won’t help unless they let him out. He mocks Lucy for not knowing her own mother was Rittenhouse, and when Lucy insists that she’s ready to do whatever it takes to take down Rittenhouse, Flynn presses her as to whether she’s ready to kill her own mother, her hero. Lucy throws the deaths of Flynn’s wife and daughter in his face before storming out of the cell. That gets Flynn to tell them that there was a 1955 address on an agent that Flynn killed.

Wyatt and Rufus complain to Mason (Paterson Joseph) that their clothes are from Old Navy and Wyatt’s badge looks like it came from the 99 cents store. Mason points out that they aren’t working with the same budget anymore and “wardrobes and props” are a bit bare bones! Hilarious! Clearly, the show is also working with a smaller budget this year! Nice meta, writers! According to Mason, it’s lucky that Rebel Without a Cause made jeans and t-shirts perpetually cool! So true!

I do like how the show finds ways to let each of the characters have some input into the cases. It’s Wyatt who recognizes Ryan Millerson as one of the best Nascar drivers of all times. But the twist here is that Millerson isn’t a real historical person.

Meanwhile, back at Rittenhouse, Nicholas (Michael Rady) is not a very amenable guest, and Carol (Susanna Thompson) struggles to connect with him. She tries to tell him they’ve followed his instructions to the letter. He’s printed out “all” of Wikipedia, and wants nothing to do with the tablet Carol has given him – it strains his eyes! I love that he’s a luddite! It’s also quite satisfying that Carol is getting shut out.

Nicholas has amused himself by painting his daughter – Carol’s mother. She’s just a baby still to him. While Rittenhouse waits for his guidance, Nicholas has them out searching for a 100 year old Victrola – he wants what he’s used to! And apparently the leader of this world dominating cult is a spoiled brat. He also has a list of songs that he wants. I’m not a luddite, but I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that you can get an app to play songs on whatever medium you like – or at least recreate the sound…

The team arrives at Ryan’s house only to have his wife tell them they had better hurry to get to the track – it’s race day, and the other two reporters are going to beat them there. She tells them they don’t look like reporters, so Lucy tells her that they’re from California – LOL! The perfect explanation for looking weird, right? But also another insider nod to fans as the show moved filming location to California for the second season.

When Wyatt totally geeks out over the cars, Rufus and Lucy tease him about being a fanboy. They are interrupted when Rufus is bumped into and called “Boy.” They are in the south in the 1950s, and Rufus remarks that it’s not exactly a great time or place to be Black. They are interrupted by Black driver Wendell Scott (Joseph Lee Anderson) throwing someone out of his tent because he caught him messing in his engine. Wyatt comes to his aid, pretending to be a cop before Wendell can get beaten up.

Wyatt endears himself to Scott by knowing about his exploits, including running moonshine. Wendell Scott was the first African-American driver to win a race in the Grand National Series in NASCAR – and he IS a real historical figure. Lucy starts to get impatient as she’s eager to get to Ryan. I loved when Rufus shook Wendell’s hand and nods at him; Wendell has no idea what he means by it. It’s not a thing yet. Lucy knows the sports history – that car racing started from moonshine running! Although, it’s also a natural progression from racing horses – or dogs – that has been around a lot longer…

Wendell asks Wyatt how he knew about the moonshine story, and Wyatt says he was a bootlegger when he was younger. When Wendell goes off to get them an introduction to Ryan, Rufus and Lucy scoff at Wyatt being a bootlegger. He reveals that he ran illegal stuff across the Texas border when he was 15 – he doesn’t specify what, but it sure sounds like drugs! It has to be another nod to the Clockblockers when Lucy affectionately calls Wyatt a fanboy.

The team talk to Ryan inside his tent. He tells them that he has plenty of rivals but no enemies. Rufus finds what looks like a trigger in the car, and when Wyatt opens the hood, they find a bomb with a lot of TNT! Of course, when they turn around, Ryan as a gun on them. Rufus is incredulous that Ryan can be the sleeper!

They are soon joined by Emma, who is planning on killing Lucy and Wyatt, but promises Rufus she’ll let him live if he tells her where the Lifeboat is. Emma’s goon doesn’t want to kill Carol’s daughter, but Emma orders him too. A fire extinguisher grenade is suddenly thrown in the tent – by Wendell – and the team runs out the back to be driven away be Wendell.

Rufus gives Wendell the nod again – which freaks him out again! Wendell doesn’t believe that Ryan is a bad guy – he’s known him for 6 years, but Lucy tells him that Ryan is a communist – and in the 50s, that’s enough. They tell Wendell they are commie-hunters. Close enough, right? Wendell’s engine has been tampered with, so they head to his garage.

Wyatt really doesn’t know anything about Ryan before 1946, so they assume he was a sleeper dropped in then. The time loop here gives me a headache too. Rufus and Lucy tell Wyatt that his memories of Ryan are all “new” memories. Wyatt suddenly realizes the importance of the race. All the big car company CEOs are in town for this race – the biggest one of the year. Lucy points out that cars are the most valuable commodities at this point in history. Crippling the car companies could cripple the economy.

In the present, Connor wants to be a speaker at a big tech event, and Denise is completely opposed. Connor points out that he had to take the blame for the explosion at Mason Industries and forfeit his fortune. He tells her that at some point the missions will be over, and he needs to start re-claiming his name and reputation now. Denise reminds him that he had more fame and fortune for over 20 years than most people ever get. She tells him it won’t hurt him to live like an ordinary person for a few more months – and orders him to cancel his appearance. Will Connor’s ego by his downfall and endanger the team?

Emma wants to know why a man on a suicide mission would get married and have a child. Ryan denies that he has any feeling for his wife – she was just a way to have fun and the baby was an accident. However, Ryan then suggests that they postpone the mission because of Wyatt, Lucy, and Rufus. Emma again questions his mission readiness, but he tells her that he’s ready to go – but his face seems to say otherwise.

Wendell doesn’t want to take them back to the track. He doesn’t believe what they’re saying about Ryan – the most popular driver on the circuit! But if something does happen to Ryan, he really doesn’t want to be involved because it will just be another excuse to keep him out of racing. Rufus tries to help fix Wendell’s engine and ends up with the burn that Jiya saw in her vision! While Wendell gets the first aid kit, Wyatt sticks a part in his pocket.

Naturally Connor doesn’t listen to Denise. One of his rivals tries to embarrass him, but Connor clearly enjoys the rivalry and tells him that ideas always did come easier to him – and that he needs to look at his speech because he’s FIRST up.

Wyatt fixed the air filter for Wendell to prove that they are telling the truth. And that people are in danger. Wendell and Wyatt bond over their fathers being horrible to them. Wyatt tells Wendell that he learned about cars from his dad as a punishment – not out of love. When Wyatt would mouth off, his father would put him in the backseat and drive around the woods at high speed with the lights off until something broke and then tell Wyatt not to come home until he’d fixed it! Wendell’s father liked to gamble and finally left them. Wyatt ran away at 15 because his father didn’t leave. Wyatt is embarrassed when Rufus and Lucy overhear. Lanter is terrific in this scene - and the episode - as we see such a different side to the character.

Wendell agrees to sneak the team back into the race track. Rufus rides up front with him, but Lucy and Wyatt have to snuggle up in the hidden moonshine compartment! Lucy’s claustrophobia makes this really uncomfortable for her! I really liked this scene between Wendell and Rufus. Wendell asks Rufus what kind of engineer he is if he can’t even fix an engine? Rufus hedges by telling him that he fixes other kinds of machinery. Rufus gets an appreciation for the courage it took to be a black man breaking barriers in the 1950s.

Lucy asks if what Wyatt said about his father was true. She doesn’t know how he is able to just let it go but thinks he’s lucky that he never admired him. Wyatt tells her that he did admire him – he was his dad. Lucy is clearly still devastated by her mother’s turning out to be “terrible.” But Wyatt suggests it’s a good thing if she’s able to move on. If the trade off to getting her sister back is that her mother will be dying, will Lucy now be more at peace with that? What if in the reality in which her mother is dying, she also isn’t Rittenhouse? Is that even possible?

Wendell gets Rufus past the check point at the track by playing on the fact that the white people pay no attention to the black. He tells Carl (Jim Hanna) that Rufus is his cousin George – on his pit crew – and Carl’s met him a half a dozen times! And Carl believes him. Carl does make Wendell open his trunk, but of course Lucy and Wyatt are in the moonshine compartment. Wyatt and Lucy almost kiss just as Wendell opens the secret component!

Emma brings Ryan’s wife to the track to watch. And tells Ryan to carry out his mission or she’ll kill his wife. Meanwhile, Wendell and Wyatt come up with a plan to stop Ryan. Wyatt goes in and fights with Emma’s second. Ryan is shot and killed – by Wyatt – but not before he arms the bomb. When Ryan’s wife arrives – with Emma hot on her heels, the team takes off with the bomb in the car. Rufus warns Wyatt that the bomb is pressure sensitive and points out that they are going really fast.

A quick shout out to all the gorgeous vintage vehicles in this episode! Wyatt is clearly having a blast as he drives away with the cops hot on his heels. He performs an awesome 180 degree turn and parks safely in Wendell’s garage. I loved that Lucy was also clearly having a ball!

Lucy thanks Wendell for helping them. Wendell compliments Wyatt on his driving and delights Wyatt by asking him to come drive with him sometime. Wendell finally gets the nod right, and Rufus tells him he’ll be a trend setter. When Wendell talks about winning his first race, Rufus asks him if he really thinks they’ll give him the trophy. Wendell has no illusions however – he’s not thick! He knows they won’t award him the race or give him the trophy, but he wants to race and be the best – “No more wisdom behind it than that!” He’ll know he’s the best, with or without a “prize.”

Jiya sees Rufus fixing the injury on his arm when they get back and is freaked out by it. She knows he’s burned it because of her vision. Rufus thinks she’s just upset because he hurt himself. He suggests that they make everyone breakfast in the morning… and Jiya doesn’t tell him anything! AAARGGHH! They better not keep dragging this out!

Connor is about to give his speech when Denise shows up with a bunch of suits and arrests him for conspiracy to commit fraud. Connor is furious with Denise – but the feeling is mutual. Connor’s rival gets the last laugh and gloats as he’s taken away. This storyline is a nice contrast to Wendell. Connor has to get the trophy – he takes no satisfaction in simply knowing he’s won – or done the right thing. He’s clearly going to let this fester and hold it against Denise.

Emma returns and tells Carol that she failed – but puts the blame on Carol for not letting her kill Lucy in 1818. She also questions the competence of Nicholas to lead – but he has a surprise for them. He’s painted a gigantic mural on the wall. It’s more than a road map. “Time is their canvas.” He tells them that “it’s time to begin preserving human culture, taking what’s best of us and subtracting and sloughing away the worst. Shaping, cutting away the rock that is the human race until it resembles something like Michelangelo’s David. Until it reaches perfection everlasting. We few will save the world.” Emma says wow and seems to have drunk the Kool-aid – but Carol looks skeptical. She’s beginning to see that their glorious leader is maybe not so glorious. Will she defect to Lucy’s team? Will she live that long?

This was another tightly written episode with a plausible tie to the past. I liked that we got to see a little more of what the “hometeam” is doing while the team is out on a mission. I do hope they don’t drag the Jiya storyline on for too long – and that we see her have a bigger role to play. I also hope they find a way to get Flynn integrated into the plot better. I think that both Connor and Carol may end up not being team players. What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments below!

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