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Project Blue Book - Area 51 & Hopkinsville - Review



This will be a double review for Project Blue Book – my apologies for missing last week! “Area 51” was written by Alex Wells and directed by Pete Travis. Wells moves up from staff writer to writer with this episode and is also wrote for Training Day. This episode takes us into that other famous American UFO site: Area 51! This episode appears to have our first alien abduction. There’s also a pattern in which it seems like some episodes confirm alien life and some are clearly based on hoaxes. This episode seems like it could be the real deal…

The episode begins – as usual – with the case file. A soldier is in the desert and is suddenly running for his life and gets hit with a bright light. He apparently blacks out and then comes to when a jeep comes to his rescue.

The episode is bookended by scenes at the drive-in. Mimi (Laura Mennell) and Hynek (Aidan Gillen) are watching a science fiction film and tearing it to pieces! It’s hilarious as they compare it to the cases we’ve already seen. I really love their dynamic this season as Hynek clearly respects and enjoys Mimi’s help and input, and she’s clearly thriving with the work.

They return home to find Valentine (Michael Harney) and Quinn (Michael Malarkey) waiting. There’s a missing soldier, but he’s on the part of the base run by the CIA – it’s so early in the CIA’s history that Hynek’s never even heard of them. Valentine warns them to play nicely as the new administration – Eisenhower’s administration – could dissolve Project Blue Book…

It’s also hilarious when Hynek and Quinn are dropped seemingly nowhere in the desert by helicopter. Neither knows where they are. Eventually, Daniel Banks (Jerod Haynes) shows up in a jeep to pick them up. I love Haynes’ character and I hope we see him a lot more this season! He is set to be recurring – and an ally for Hynek and Quinn. The show does a good job in introducing him in this episode. Unlike Quinn in his uniform and Hynek in his suit, Banks is casually dressed. He’s immediately friendly and says he’s happy to have them and their help because he’s read all their cases! Classified cases! But that’s what the CIA does – intelligence.

Banks chatters on about Las Vegas and Quinn remains silent in the backseat. Banks asks if Quinn is wondering how he got the job – is Quinn racist? Banks tells him that the CIA operates off the grid, so they need to be the person you don’t expect – and at the end of the day, he was the smartest guy for the job! It’s clear that Banks immediately sees Hynek as a kindred spirit and ally and sees Quinn as an Air Force guy – he’ll be harder to win over. Immediately demonstrating that he IS smart.

They have to stop at the edge to Area 51 for clearance to avoid being shot – the CIA has surveillance everywhere – which leads to Quinn later asking if it’s in the washrooms too. Banks says yes and Hynek is amused while Quinn isn’t.

When they arrive at the base, Banks tells them that the CIA wanted to handle it internally, but after hearing Willingham’s (Brendan Fletcher) story, they decided to call in the experts. As they arrive, a soldier hands Banks a bottle of alcohol. Quinn asks if it’s for a liquid lunch. Banks is mildly offended and says that’s not how he rolls. It’s an interesting remark from Quinn who seems to have no problem with Harding’s (Neal McDonough) drinking. In the end, the bottle is to give a glass – just one – to Willingham to steady his nerves. Willingham tells them about seeing Miller (Riun Garner) being sucked up into the ship and then blacking out.

Banks believes him, and Hynek insists that they need to see the site and take Willingham with them. Once out in the desert, Quinn suggests that the soldier just went AWOL, but Banks points out that with their security, soldiers don’t just go missing – which is an interesting point considering that Hynek and Quinn are later able to steal a jeep and take off into the desert, suggesting that they were allowed to go…

Hynek tells them that he wanted to bring Willingham back to the site in order to trigger a memory. Banks proves he’s smart – and a kindred spirit – by having read the research that Hynek refers to. He then confesses that neuroscience is a hobby of his. The best part of this scene is when he turns to Quinn and says, “I know. Handsome and well read. Something to shoot for Captain?” He’s clearly teasing him, but before Quinn can come up with an answer Willingham takes off and they find the site of the abduction when they find glass created by extreme heating of the sand. They are interrupted by jeeps arriving – they’re in restricted territory.

Quinn wants to see the restricted aircraft that the CIA have. Banks initially says no, but Quinn does his own teasing when he says he thought Banks was the kind of guy to bend the rules. Banks relents and says he’ll bend them – but not break them. Nothing he shows them had better end up in their files! Quinn’s first response is that none of the planes have weapons, and Banks tells them that the CIA is all about espionage and spying – not fighting. The find the flying wing from the “Lubbock Lights” and the stogey fits the bill for the wood sightings. There’s also a tail sitter. Quinn points out that they could explain all the sightings, but there’s no ship that has a downward facing engine to explain what caused the glass in the sand.

They are interrupted by Banks who takes them into the desert to see the body of Miller which has been found skewered in a tree. The coroner (Jay Hindle) shows them that the eyes have been removed and so has the tongue, sternum, one lung, heart and stomach. All of the arteries have been cauterized. Banks suggests a mountain lion and Hynek insists that the body had to have been dropped from above. They are interrupted by the arrival of the Air Force who take the body and Willingham, accusing him of murdering Miller!

Banks tells them that they’ve been ordered back to Ohio. He’s sorry he can’t help them, but he also tells them that in future, he’s on their side and he’ll help when he can. Hynek is furious and gets in a jeep – and of course, Quinn jumps in with him. The CIA had to let them go – let’s not forget the security. The CIA – Banks – had to have wanted them to go beyond the ridge, into Air Force territory, and come back to tell him what’s there. Hynek is determined to find an alternate theory to try to save Willingham – an innocent man.

The two do go beyond the ridge and discover men in hazmat suits picking up dead coyotes that look exactly like Miller’s dead body. They follow the truck to a secret base inside a cliff! Hynek takes pictures but naturally drops the camera. The two are chased by lights and suddenly appear in a beam of light. They wake up in the back of a military truck with seemingly no memory – but they do remember what was beyond the ridge. They are taken back to the base.

Valentine is waiting for them and is furious. Banks steps in to say that their not returning to Ohio is his fault. He asked them to investigate some celestial thing or other. Valentine tells them that Willingham confessed and that they are to stop trivializing Miller’s death with talk of “flying fucking saucers!” Once Valentine storms off, Banks tells them that Valentine had already told him about the confession and calls Valentine a “lying sack of shit.” He also tells them that he doesn’t like cover ups. Banks tells them that he’s never been beyond the ridge, and they tell him about the secret base – which they clearly remember. Banks now trusts them and offers them help when they need it in the future.

Mimi meanwhile tries to get some information at her group. Evan (Keir O’Donnell) tells her that the ship from Roswell was taken to Area 51, but eventually they discover that it’s actually right there in Ohio at the base. Evan tries to get Mimi to sneak into the hanger to investigate. She does eventually do some reconnaissance, but doesn’t get very far, and may even raise Faye’s (Jill Morrison) suspicions by asking about the unlabeled hangers on the base.

We don’t see much of Harding in this episode as he’s clearly having a dark night of the soul. Once again McDonough puts in a really terrific performance as we see just how tormented and conflicted Harding is. He goes to confession and there is a funny moment when he tells the Priest that they aren’t alone in the universe and the Priest is pleased thinking he means God. Harding ends up in tears and can’t even really explain what he’s seen. But it is pretty clear that Harding does believe.

When Harding comes out, Valentine is waiting in the church. He’s worried about Harding and it’s intimated that Harding had a similar breakdown after the first Roswell incident. Harding insists that he’s fine, so Valentine goes on to tell him that the CIA has Project Blue Book investigating a UFO. They agree that if Eisenhower is looking for a “favorite,” they need to force him to choose them.

It turns out that the way they are going to force him is with the Pentacle Memorandum – a faked alien invasion. If the enemy is right there, it’s no longer an intelligence operation – it’s war. And that’s something Harding understands and can get behind.

Finally, the episode circles back to the drive in. This time it’s Susie (Ksenia Solo) and she’s watching Shane – classic John Wayne, classic American Dream stuff. Is Quinn her hero? She’s there to meet Daria (Sofia Milos) who seems to be her new contact. She knows exactly what Susie’s been up to – and presumably can hold the murder over her. Susie tries to continue bargaining, saying that Quinn is a valuable new asset because Project Blue Book is clearly a cover for advanced weapons. Daria tells her that she wants her to kidnap Quinn! Photos and documents aren’t enough any more…

After the credits roll, we know get the facts that the episode is actually based on! I love this!

“Hopkinsville” was written by Harley Peyton and was directed by Pete Travis. Unlike the last episode, this one clearly turns out to be a hoax. I loved the way they teased the whole story out and how the threads dovetailed together. We start, as always, with the “sighting.” Jimmy Jay Shoemaker (Sandy Robson) is telling his family a ghost story. He scares them all and then goes out into the yard where he sees a UFO and then hears and sees “creatures.” He retreats to the farmhouse and then the whole family sees the creatures. They are armed and ready for battle…

Hynek gets the call in the middle of the night and somewhat brushes Mimi off, telling her to go back to sleep and that he’ll call from Kentucky when he knows something. Susie is at Quinn’s and about to drug and kidnap him when he is saved by the bell – and gets his own call.

Harding and Valentine plan to use this incident to put their plan in motion. I liked this scene as Harding talks chess moves and how the pawn is the soul of the game – Jimmy Jay is the pawn who will let them put their plan in motion. Valentine complains that he wishes Harding would just play golf like the rest of them. I thought this a very clever way of once again putting Harding in a separate category from the rest of the Generals. He enjoys games of the mind, but he’s also smarter and more of a thinker – he doesn’t blindly follow orders and he doesn’t blindly accept things, and things weigh on him in a different way.

        We also learn later that he was also a boxer… we do know he loves a good fight. It’s Banks that brings it up, and like the drinking reference from the last episode, it nicely sets these two characters in opposition. Banks complains that Harding is a “south paw,” and that he always had the most difficulty with them in the ring as Banks is a boxer too.

When Quinn and Hynek arrive at the farmhouse, there are reporters and cops everywhere – it’s a ‘circus.’ They interview the Shoemakers and they all have a different story – just like any good horror/sci fi movie. They all saw something slightly different. When Quinn sees Jimmy Jay talking to a reporter, he interrupts and takes away the reporter’s notes – they have to keep a lid on it after all. The Shoemakers are all packed and leaving – the aliens came two nights in a row and they aren’t staying. Jimmy Jay tells Hynek and Quinn that they shot one of the creatures – it’s probably still out in the woods.

Quinn and Hynek go to investigate and end up finding a glowing handprint – with three, clawed fingers – on a tree. Hynek stops to call Mimi. She tells him that she’s met with her group and they are all calling it an invasion. Carolyn (Sidika Larbes) really pushes back against Mimi, essentially accusing her of helping with a government cover up. Hilariously, of course, the government is actually using them to expose their plan. Mimi also tells Alan that Banks has called. Hynek doesn’t really pay attention to her.

We get another nice scene between Hynek and Quinn as they have their dinner of bourbon and pretzels. Hynek asks about Quinn’s new woman. Quinn is surprised that Hynek has noticed, but tells him that it’s Susie. Hynek is surprised. Quinn confesses that he likes Susie “a lot.” Hynek tells Quinn that he and Mimi have been together for 15 years.

Hynek and Quinn hear something in the woods and then see a light in the farmhouse – it’s Banks! He tells them that the CIA has intelligence about an imminent alien invasion and reveals the presence of a secret CIA program on precognition. He reveals that Rebecca (Hayley McLaughlin), one of their subjects, has drawn a picture – and it matches the one the reporter drew based on Jimmy Jay’s account. Rebecca said that Hopkinsville was the center of the invasion and that Hynek and Quinn were the only ones who could stop it.

Banks takes Quinn and Hynek to a CIA testing facility in Washington where they meet with Rebecca. She will only speak to Quinn – which is interesting. She tells him that some people can block things – which is an interesting remark about Hynek. Meanwhile, Hynek asks about where Banks finds the people in the program – and wonders about the Fixer (Ian Tracey) – though he doesn’t tell Banks much about him. Quinn emerges with pictures of an invasion, and Hynek declares them no better than inkblot tests.

The two then follow up on the sample of the handprint that they took and discover that it’s not paint but glaze – and the clerk (Kareem Malcolm) tells them who they sell it to. Meanwhile, Quinn is confused as to why Hynek doesn’t believe Rebecca when he did believe the Fixer.

Feeling frustrated, Mimi suggests a road trip to Evan – and the two set off to Hopkinsville. They stop to ask for directions – and it’s hilarious that at first Evan – typical man! – doesn’t want to ask, and even when he does he just pisses the guy off. Mimi on the other hand gets the guy to open up by telling him that they aren’t reporters and don’t want to make the locals look foolish. He tells her that he’s known the family for a long time – and that they lie all the time. He tells them where to find Jimmy Jay.

They find Jimmy Jay at a cheap, hoaxy circus. They win him over by saying that they are with Ringling Brothers and want to hire him, but they need to see the evidence to convince people to come see him. Jimmy Jay says that Project Blue Book took all his evidence. Mimi assures Evan that Hynek would never help with a cover up.

And at that moment, Quinn and Hynek also arrive at the circus – the regular buyer of the glaze! Hynek is surprised but not angry to find Mimi there and asks her why she is there. She tells him that she’s helping with his research. I loved that he was more impressed than anything – and he says nothing about Evan. Mimi is the one to completely blow the case open because her father used to take her to the circus when she was young and she always loved the trained monkeys! They find little alien suits – just the size to dress monkeys up! They also find the glaze.

Then they see a convoy of CIA trucks arriving to stop the invasion and Hynek and Quinn run off to try and stop it. They find a hanger full of flying saucers – with Air Force markings. Harding is ready with another cover up story. Valentine asks if they closed the case, and Quinn answers yes. It was monkeys – which is hilarious.

Banks goes to see Harding and Valentine and has a copy of the Pentacle Memo. He knows that they are trying to impress the White House. Valentine asks him what he wants, and Banks tells them that he’ll let them know…

Meanwhile, Susie has a very, very bad day. Daria has her beaten and brought out to the woods because she failed to kidnap Quinn. We learn that Susie has a daughter – who she’s hidden – and that Daria and presumably other have used threats to her daughter to keep her in line. Daria tells her that she is going to find her daughter and turn her into a spy too – and then Susie is hit with a shovel and falls into the grave dug for her!

Of course, Susie isn’t dead. She hits the guy guarding her grave – which begs the question, why didn’t they check to make sure she was dead, and what was the guy waiting for anyway? Regardless, she drives over him as she leaves, presumably killing him and then lies in wait for Daria. Instead of killing Daria, she makes a deal to get back in her good books by telling her about Edward Rizzuto (Michael Imperioli) now being a double agent and saying that she will kill him – but she wants no more threats against her daughter. I have to say that I’m getting tired of this storyline and it seems to fit less and less into the main story.

When Quinn arrives home, Susie is in his bed – and she is remarkably completed unbruised. She startles, however, when he touches her and then jumps into his arms. It does appear that she has real feeling for him – but is it possible that rigid Captain Quinn would ever be able to forgive her for being a spy?

Finally, Hynek arrives home to find the Fixer waiting for him. He tells Hynek that Mimi and Joel aren’t there – his doing. He has a gun and Hynek is scared. The episode ends with the Fixer pistol whipping Hynek into unconsciousness.

And then we have the facts that this case was based on….

Two more great episodes. I really like how the relationship between Alan and Mimi is developing. I’m wondering if Harding will eventually end up being an ally. Banks is a great addition to the team. Lots of questions now too. Will Harding and Valentine give up their plan now that Banks knows? Seems inevitable. Does the Fixer mean harm to Hynek? Will Daria demand Quinn be delivered again? What did you think of the episodes? Do you like the new ending facts? I love them! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!