With just weeks to go, Jake can't remember what his mission is
The last time we saw Jake Amberson (né Epping), he was comatose in a hospital bed after getting beaten to a pulp by loan sharks. When he finally wakes up at the beginning of this episode, he’s having a hard time keeping his timelines straight. Anderson Cooper is on the TV; his ex-wife, Christy, is by his bedside; and his doctor appears to be Al, berating him for failing to save Kennedy. Then Sadie finally brings him back to his true time and place: Nov. 5, 1963 (or 17 days before the Kennedy assassination, as a helpful title card reminds us).
Sadie takes Jake for a walk outside the hospital grounds. Jake’s in a wheelchair and can’t remember what JFK and LBJ stand for (“that’s a lot of initials”), nor can he remember the details of his season-long scheme to monitor and stop Lee Harvey Oswald — doubly frustrating because he had finally put everything together in the moments before the beating. Sadie is optimistic that he will remember everything eventually.
A week later, Lee stops by the FBI office to ask after the FBI agent who’s been following him and Marina. The receptionist says he isn’t there, so Lee files a formal complaint. He still thinks that the bugs he found in his apartment at his birthday party were planted by the FBI, rather than Jake and Bill, and is starting to blame all his frustrations on the American government. Most of all, he seems determined for people (whether the FBI’s office workers or otherwise) to respect him and remember his name.
Jake finally gets to check out of the hospital, but he still can’t remember important details like why he was beaten or who Bill is. He also mixes up facts, calling Deke “Frank” and thinking he’s married to Ms. Mimi…who, sadly, succumbed to her cancer in the interim. Jake’s mind is swimming in the kind of alternate histories he’s trying to create. But sometimes all it takes is some muscle memory — signing his own release forms reminds Jake of how he consigned Bill to the mental hospital.
He and Sadie go to the asylum to check out Bill, in the hopes that he can remind Jake of the details of their mission. The hallway of the asylum is rather like a descent into hell; Jake and Sadie are instructed not to make eye contact with any of the inmates and definitely not to laugh at them. It turns out Bill was transferred here after the doctor at the hospital didn’t hear anything from Jake. The Bill they find is a hollow man; when Jake and Sadie greet him, he responds “we get Jell-O today.” Jake wanted to keep his friend safe from involvement in the assassination plot after his loyalties became compromised, but instead he subjected Bill to the kind of barbaric mid-century mental health “treatment” that so vividly colored One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Weeks of electro-shock therapy have instructed Bill that people don’t come from the future; that’s only in comic books. Now, unfortunately, Jake needs to try to reverse Bill’s treatment so that he can fill in memory blanks. Jake reminds Bill that they’re friends, to which Bill responds, “If you’re my friend, why did you do this to me?” Jake and Sadie go to sign the release papers, but the mental stress is too much for Bill. While their backs are turned, he jumps out the window, Mrs Dalloway-style.
It’s now Nov. 15, a week out from the assassination. They’re running out of time, but Jake keeps popping pain pills, which make him groggy.
On Nov. 16, Jake overhears Sadie tell Deke that “he doesn’t want to be helped,” but it doesn’t do anything to stop the pill-popping. On Nov. 17, Jake is still couch-bound. The past really did a number on him. Sadie tries to talk him through it — were the Russians involved? The ones she heard talking on the recording equipment in his basement that time? Jake can’t remember, but he finally agrees to wash all the pills down the drain and asks Sadie to repeat exactly what he told her over the phone before his beating.
Meanwhile, Lee’s mom is berating him for bothering the FBI. She reveals that she still carries around his report card from the second grade, on which the teacher had written that Lee showed great promise “in all areas” and had potential. Mrs. Oswald wonders where that little boy went; Lee replies that he’s still here.
On Nov. 18, Lee is sitting on a park bench, reading a newspaper article about Kennedy’s arrival in Dallas. He sees that the motorcade route will go past his book depository, and this appears to give him some sort of epiphany. He looks out at the other people in the park, a vision of Kennedy-era nostalgia, and perhaps remembers his mom’s words about his potential. He throws the paper in the trash and walks away, looking determined.
NEXT: Return of the Yellow Card Man