Chris Haston/NBC
April 15, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT

We gave it a B+

Ugh, being a teenager is the worst. You’re just trying to hang out with your friends and pass your classes, when all of a sudden your English teacher tries to murder you, and then a bunch of people kidnap you and take you 80 years into the future, where they tell you that you’re going to grow up to be the president of the United States. Oh, also, you and everyone you’ve ever loved are going to die young because of a mysterious curse.

And so the tale of young John F. Kennedy is told in an episode of Timeless that breaks all the rules. This season has pretty much established a formula: Go back in time, stop Rittenhouse’s evil machinations with help from a notable historical figure, and then head back to the present. “The Kennedy Curse,” however, switches things up by bringing a notable historical figure from the past, and the result is the show’s first episode set almost entirely in the present.

Guest star Grant Jordan plays the 17-year-old JFK, complete with that unmistakable accent, and after a Rittenhouse sleeper agent tries to murder the young boy before he can become president, Rufus and Wyatt take him back to the present for safekeeping. Lucy is still recovering from almost getting hanged as a witch in 17th-century Salem, so Flynn takes her place as the third person on the mission, and he gets left behind at a 1934 Connecticut boarding school. Poor Flynn. He was just starting to bond with the team, and they go and leave him 80 years in the past, like a lost glove.

Because nothing can ever go right for the Time Team, the young JFK promptly escapes the bunker and starts wandering around 2018 California by himself. He’s understandably freaked out by the lights and sounds of a modern convenience store, but all things considered, I think he’s a lot more chill about the whole thing than most of us would be if we were suddenly transported eight decades in the future. Of course, even at 17, the young Kennedy is charming as hell, so of course he befriends a young, beautiful girl named Kayla who offers him a ride.

So, Lucy and Wyatt set off into the California night to try and find him, while Rufus, Jiya, and Connor stay behind in the bunker to try to track him down. And, because they need all the help they can get, Jessica joins them. Turns out she’s pretty useful, and even Lucy is impressed at how she can handle herself in an insane situation.

They track the young JFK to a local hospital, correctly predicting that his chronic stomach pains will lead him there. When they get there, he’s already split — but they do run into a very angry Emma, who’s eager to finish the job and take out JFK before he becomes president. The result is a brutal hospital room fight between Emma and Wyatt, where they each land some pretty nasty punches. But in a dirty move, Emma grabs Lucy and holds her hostage. Lucy doesn’t even blink; she just asks Wyatt to shoot them both and end the whole thing. Emma, as far as they know, is Rittenhouse’s only trained pilot. But even at Lucy’s urging, Wyatt can’t bring himself to do it — and Emma escapes.

They’re all shaken, but it’s Jessica who gets the biggest shock, finally realizing that Lucy and her husband have a very distinct connection. “The way Wyatt looked at you back there, it doesn’t take a professor to figure it out,” she tells her. Traveling through time and almost getting murdered countless times by a century-hopping evil cabal will do that to you. She moves to leave, but Lucy convinces her to stay, recounting the dozens of times Wyatt risked his life to meddle in time, desperately trying to bring her back.

“He risked his job, his freedom, everything, because he never stopped loving you,” Lucy explains. “Not for a second.”

It’s enough to finally convince Jessica to stay, and through the magic of social media, they track Kennedy to a house party in Palo Alto. But they’re too late to stop Kennedy from confessing to Kayla who he is. At first, she doesn’t believe him, but after doing a little Googling, she pulls up pictures of the young JFK online — only for him to read his own Wikipedia page. It’s all too much for the little JFK’s mind to handle — the presidency, the tragedies that befall his family, his own tragic fate. Between the time travel, the beautiful teenagers, and all the tragic sense of doom and gloom, the whole thing feels like the plot of a particularly maudlin YA novel. Maybe young presidents will be the new sparkly vampires.

But the young Kennedy finally accepts the whole thing and makes his way back to the bunker, where he agrees to head back to his own time. The team has meddled with historical figures in the past, but never before has one been left knowing his entire future — the good and the bad. But either he’s emboldened by his encounter with Kayla or he’s just a particularly brave 17-year-old, and he heads back to 1934 to face his fate.

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