Welp, sorry for the late recap. I was stuck in a time loop.
Okay, I wasn’t. (I was stuck in the Land of No Wi-fi.) But anyway, what a fun episode, guys! Time loop episodes can be hit or miss depending on the character(s) stuck in the time loop and the stakes, but Legends pulled this one off nicely with some overdue character work for Zari and a fun twist that gave the bottle episode a lively feel.
Here in — as Nate points out over and over again — Groundhog Day set aboard the Waverider, Zari is the haughty misfit who wishes she didn’t have to do what she’s told aboard the ship. She argues with Sara when the captain returns; while the team was away fixing Waterloo, Zari was supposed to do some routine maintenance, but instead uploaded her own simulation software into Gideon, which results in Gideon crashing. Zari did it for selfish, though well-meaning reasons: She wanted to use the simulation software to find loopholes in history like the one she used to save Helen of Troy, so she can exploit one that may help her save her brother and the dystopian hell of 2042.
Annoyed, Sara tells Zari to get back to fixing the ship, but Zari just scoffs, reminding Sara that she’s not really a part of the team. Even when she returns to working on the ship, she can’t help but toss in some jabs at Sara and, distracted, ends up removing a tube that spurts glowing green liquid in her face. Just as that happens, the ship begins rumbling, and an explosion engulfs Zari and everyone on board…
…And the time loop fun begins! If you’ve seen Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, or, I don’t know, those special episodes of The X-Files or Supernatural or that Taye Diggs series Day Break (RIP), you know how this goes: During Zari’s first trip around time, she’s confused, so she goes on a fact-finding mission of sorts. None of the other Legends appear to know what’s going on or have ever experienced deja vu like the sort she’s talking about, so she just thinks she’s going a little loopy. But then — mamma mia! — the explosion happens again…
…And things get a little worse each time. When she starts voicing that she’s trapped, Ray takes her to the med bay and sedates her over and over again. At least she’s picking up little clues each time: She always notices that Ray trips when he tries to stop her from fighting Sara, she picks up on Nate and Amaya’s relationship — and the fact that they had sex while on their last mission — and she figures out that Ray’s probably hiding something, which is why he’s so nervous around Sara.
Finally, she develops a tolerance to Ray’s sedative, and stumbles into Nate, who believes her because he’s a huge Bill Murray fan. He tells her that in the next time loop, she should find him and reference Groundhog Day so he’ll understand and help her from the start. She screws up at first — “Hedgehog Day” doesn’t exist in any time period, Zari! — but eventually the two are able to, loop after loop, investigate the bomb, especially after Zari figures out that Nate and Amaya have been erasing their own memories to get rid of their guilt. They assume that someone on board must set it off, and start by looking into Mick, who’s suspiciously doing laundry.
Turns out he’s not doing anything wrong, though. When Zari and Nate investigate his booby trap-filled room, what they find is a safe containing the manuscript for his sci-fi romance novel that…isn’t that bad, actually, as Zari finds out after spending loops upon loops reading the whole thing. But I’m getting ahead of myself: With Mick in the clear, Zari and Nate move on to investigate Ray and why he’s being so skittish around Sara. Ray ends up telling them immediately about his conundrum. In the last episode, as Constantine was leaving, he told Ray that if Mallus takes over Sara again, they’ll have to kill her — and so, Ray’s been doing his best to keep their captain happy and calm, whether that means making her tea or forcing Zari to listen to her every order. So…Ray’s not doing anything shady or planting any bombs.
Which means the last person they need to investigate is the captain herself. Zari and Ray shrink to follow Sara into the jump ship, where she works on a crossword puzzle and has a very cute chat with Agent Sharpe. Sara vents at first about how hard it is to work with Zari, but then explains that she’d rather not look into loopholes in history, because she’ll just become obsessed with saving her sister again, which, take it from previous seasons in the Berlantiverse, would just drive her crazy. Thrown by this confession, Zari starts talking to Ray, Sara hears them, assumes they’re a fly, and then smushes poor Ray with a whip of her newspaper.
Dismayed to find that all of the Legends are doing their jobs and there’s nobody planting any bombs, Zari resorts to following Nate’s advice and just enjoying herself for the next few loops. She tries on costumes — including Hawkgirl’s helmet — initiates snowball fights with Mick, and even learns to play a Stradivarius violin, but eventually, she’s bored and tired and depressed from dying over and over again, even if she’s checked off everything she can think of on her Waverider bucket list. Finally, she cracks and cries about the loop to Sara — and Sara, being a good captain, tells her she’ll help her find the bomb. (Next: Gary?!)
On Sara’s orders, the team gathers in the kitchen to figure out a plan. Over the course of the loops, Zari had already checked every inch of the Waverider — but when Mick tries to toss out a beer bottle only to have it flung back out at him, they realize they never checked the trash compactor. When they do, they open it to find…Gary, the nerdy Time Bureau agent with a penchant for screwing up.
But he’s not the one who planted the bomb; instead, he’s the one who initiated the time loop so one of the Legends could figure out a way to save themselves. Mick, though, gets too eager and ends up smashing Gary’s time loop device, forcing the rest of the team to scramble and find the bomb in the next few minutes.
Luckily, when they’re back on the bridge, Zari realizes the one thing she didn’t look at: the anachronism the team picked up from their last mission, the cassette player that got that one song stuck in Mick’s head. But without a way to toss it off the ship — Gideon’s still down — and not enough time to defuse the bomb itself or rework it, Zari takes it inside the force field and decides to sacrifice herself and her totem to protect the team. See, during all her time loops, she’s gotten to know each of the Legends, and she’s finally come to understand, to like, and to consider them as her family. And in her final minutes, she gives each of them a meaningful message. (Except for Gary, because he’s not a Legend.) She advises Ray to come clean about what Constantine told him, Sara to ask Sharpe out, Mick to keep writing, and Amaya and Nate to just accept their feelings. And then she activates her totem, the bomb counts down, and…
Nothing explodes. Zari opens her eyes to find herself alone, except for a stranger who applauds what she just did. The stranger is Gideon — we’ve met her in the “flesh” before — and Gideon explains it all. Zari hasn’t been stuck in a time loop; her consciousness has just been in the simulation software she uploaded to Gideon, because Gideon was able to migrate her mind into her matrix, while Zari’s body has been healing in the med bay after she got hit by the fluid that powers the ship.
Yeah, it’s a lot — but Zari’s just happy to know everyone’s okay. Gideon reveals that through the simulator, she realized Zari could only save 2042 with the help of the rest of the team, and that Gideon had to find a way to help Zari understand how essential she is to the Legends as well as how the Legends are the only ones who can help her as well. Gideon did so by using what she knew to be true about the Legends; after all, as an A.I., she’s been able to study and watch how the Legends interact, which is how she was able to craft a story around Zari. Is it a little creepy? Sure, but it’s also kind of sweet.
In the end, Zari wakes up, tries to explain everything, and manages to convince the team that she’s telling the truth of what she went through with Gideon by having Ray reveal to Sara his secret. And Sara, seeing how changed Zari is, invites her to coffee. Over the drinks, Sara tells Zari that she has been thinking of a way to save Zari’s brother, because maybe there’s a way to change Zari’s past seeing as it’s in Sara’s future. (Key word: maybe.) Zari toasts Sara and calls her captain, and then moves on to tell each of the Legends what she’d already told them in the simulation, but now in real life. She tells Amaya and Nate to stop Eternal Sunshine-ing each other’s memories, suggests to Mick a new ending for his novel, and then tries to play the violin — and discovers she still can.
A sweet montage of the team’s members working on their own follows — until the last scene finally takes us away from the ship and all the way to China, in the Yunnan Province in 2018. There, Wally West (special guest star and new series regular Keiynan Lonsdale) meditates in a pagoda, only to be interrupted by Time Bureau agent/founder gone rogue Rip Hunter, who says he needs Wally’s help saving the universe. Ah, just what a man in the middle of a meditation session needs to hear.