Tonight, Legends of Tomorrow made history: It let Victor Garber sing the Banana Boat Song.
It wasn’t possessed; it simply found the best, most entertaining way to get the Legends out of yet another tight spot. (Mick’s intro voiceover can only do so much.) Every episode sees the Legends backed into a corner, of course, but this one packed an emotional wallop that hit the right beats — just as Garber hit the right notes.
Let’s start with the return of Captain Hunter. As much as it pains Rip to see how the team has thrived without him, he has to accept the fact that Sara’s a better captain, and she’s done wonders as the leader of a team that used to bicker constantly instead of focusing on keeping history intact. The hour emphasized this by starting with Rip’s previous actions: It opened on Rip telling Henry Heywood to start a new life away from his family, right before the current Rip, Sara, Nate, and Amaya arrive to find him.
Under Rip, the Legends would have been dismayed at losing their target; under Sara, they get moving right away, even if Vancouver-dressed-as-1965-Manhattan turned out to be a bust. Jax points out that Henry wouldn’t have simply disappeared; as a former fighter pilot and JSA member, he would have wanted to continue serving his country and going on adventures, which means he probably headed for a gig at NASA. Before Rip knows it, Sara’s team has already figured out where to find him: in 1970, at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center. And before Rip gets a chance to pitch his idea on how to get to Henry, Sara steps in and informs the group they’ll have to infiltrate NASA. This isn’t rocket science, Rip! Keep up.
When they arrive in 1970, it turns out NASA’s in the middle of the Apollo 13 mission, and Henry isn’t just any employee — he’s the flight director. When Rip heads over to say hi, though, Henry’s none to happy to see him and punches him to the ground. “Surprise,” Ray whimpers. “We’re back.”
Henry keeps Rip in an interrogation room while the rest of the Legends catch up. Amaya and Nate warmly greet Henry, but Sara moves fast, telling Henry exactly why they’re there: They need his fragment of the Spear of Destiny, the last they have to track down. Henry tells them what every other JSA member told them — that he’s kept it safe — but Nate, as Henry’s grandson, figures it out. Henry has hidden his fragment inside the flag Neil Armstrong planted on the moon.
But a trip to the moon won’t be that easy for our time-travelers. It looks like Apollo 13 isn’t a failed mission, and history has changed to allow it to land on the moon itself, because, unbeknownst to NASA’s top minds, Eobard Thawne has infiltrated the crew as Jack Swigert. (Kevin Bacon played Swigert in Apollo 13, so is Thawne technically one degree away from Bacon now? Never mind.) The Legion of Doom leader has patched the ship up so it can bring him to the moon, and to the spear. He quickly knocks out the other two astronauts — sorry, Tom Hanks and the late, great Bill Paxton, I mean Jim Lovell and Fred Haise — and sets course for the moon.
All of which means the Legends must now intercept Apollo 13. To do so, they take their stations as if they’re NASA mission control and astronauts themselves. Jax, Stein, and Mick remain on the ground — Henry helps them enter mission control posing as British engineers — while Henry, Nate, Amaya, Rip, Ray, and Sara shoot for the moon.
They land among the stars. (Sorry.) With Apollo 13 drifting off course and radio contact with NASA severed for 20 minutes, Ray Atom-suits his way inside and finds the unconscious astronauts and Thawne poking around the lunar module. Inside, he gets spotted by Thawne, and the two fight (Thawne can’t use his super-speed without gravity). Eventually, Ray gets the upper hand, but he accidentally causes Thawne to push the button separating the lunar lander from the rest of the module, and the two crash straight into the moon.
The Waverider can’t pick up the stranded Ray and Thawne just yet. He has to retrieve the Spear fragment, and the rest of the team have to save the two astronauts now floating off into space. The action has taken too long, however, and with their 20 minutes up, Jax is forced to cut the radio feed between NASA and the module. To distract mission control from panicking right away, Stein, well, sings the Banana Boat song — much to Mick’s amusement, of course. “Nice voice, professor,” he chuckles in a scene that I’ll be watching over and over again until the end of time.
Ray, though, could use a distraction. He finds the flag just fine after bouncing across the moon to the epic 2001: A Space Odyssey theme, but quickly learns that the Waverider might not be able to pick up him and the nearly fuel-free module anytime soon. “And now I know how Matt Damon felt,” Ray says. Sorry, Ray. Just… pretend you’re Spaceman Spiff or something! It’ll be fine!
It’s because the Waverider hit, as Sara puts it, a bunch of space rocks. Well, it’s not like the space rocks just flew straight at them the way debris flew straight at Sandra Bullock in Gravity or anything; Sara was trying to use the Waverider as a shield to protect the unconscious astronauts, much to Rip’s chagrin. He’s no fan of using the Waverider as a punching bag and not as a weapon to blast the rocks out the way, but part of their mission’s complete: They’ve saved the remaining astronauts. Rip, though, still has more on his mind than just making it back to Earth.