H.G. Wells and Jane Walker go back in time to 1980 to uncover the mysteries that elude them.
Credit: Eric Liebowitz/ABC

At the beginning of this week’s Time After Time, John’s still being held captive by mad scientist Brooke. Then, as if responding to last week’s “frozen burrito” question, one of the first things Brooke says to him is this: “Your system must be in shock after all the preservatives we put in food these days.” That — plus John getting a taste of his own weak, defenseless medicine — is definitely a good start.

Back at the kids’ table, H.G. Wells has momentarily been left to his own devices, typing on a laptop — one key at a time — looking for any more news on “The Key Killer.” Since this episode takes place the day after last episode’s antics, the news about those two people John killed at the beginning of that episode has just broken… as has Wells’ laptop, after clicking on a pop-up for “What Women Want.” Not the Mel Gibson movie, either. At least he has mastered how to close a laptop so as not to let Jane notice all the porn pop-ups he gets, which leads to some stolen kisses between the two. After Jane makes sure Wells doesn’t think she’s a “harlot,” that is. He doesn’t think that, which is good, but Wells walks a fine line between being sweet and confused and being rude and possibly stupid, so it’s hard to tell at times.

This romantic moment is cut short by Doug debriefing them on Wells’ deceased stalker, Chad Holland. Nothing truly out of the ordinary comes from the background check, so Doug takes them to Chad’s apartment, leaving them alone yet again. Vanessa makes a comment in this episode about trusting her security team, but her head of security is the worst of a bad bunch. A few things come out of the trek to Doug’s apartment, though: Wells learns from the landlord that there was a second World War, he finds out Chad was following both him and John, and Jane finds a satchel (engraved with “RH”) that includes a piece of paper (with the mysterious emblem from the premiere) with coordinates, a date, and time: Glen Cove on Long Island, September 15, 1980, at 1:42 pm. Wells wants to go alone, but Jane insists he take her along, because: “I’m a historian.” Mmhmm, we’ll see about that.

They make it to 1980, right in time for a garden party (a “yuppie barbecue,” as Jane calls it) thrown by Vanessa’s parents, Courtney and David (no relation) Anders. Three-year-old Vanessa even makes an appearance! Obviously, Jane and Wells going back to the ‘80s actually sounds like the coolest thing ever, because actual use of the time machine should be the most interesting part of a time travel show. Plus, it’s perfect for a show that takes all of its episode titles from the 1983 Cyndi Lauper classic “Time After Time,” a song that was actually named after the feature film version of Time After Time. Full circle and whatnot. The problem is, they go back in time to 1980, which is basically still the ‘70s, and despite Jane’s insistence that she’s helpful as a “historian” here, she’s actually a detriment, given her absolute lack of relevant information. The one historical, non-pop culture thing she should know — who the president is — she doesn’t. She instead sounds like she just watched an episode of I Love the ‘80s and figured that would be enough:

Jane: “Reagan was president. Greed was good, fashion was awful. It was a time of spandex, Dynasty, ‘I want my MTV.’”
Wells: “You want your what?”
Jane: “It’s a party. Just say things like ‘Madonna’ and ‘Wall Street’ and you’ll fit right in.”

Ronald Reagan hadn’t even been elected president yet, Dynasty had yet to premiere, Wall Street didn’t come out until 1987, and saying “Madonna” or “MTV” would have also gotten confused looks from everyone at the party, not just H.G. Wells. Maybe an actual historian from another time travel show should be brought onto the team — Timeless is on hiatus right now, so Lucy Preston is available. Luckily, they manage to meet the town gossip, Bethany, at the party, and as such, they get so much information — like how the Anderses are about to go broke, which doesn’t quite add up with their legacy, or how the squirrelly man that David interacts with is Robert Holland, who grew up around here and has been married for five years… to a “beautiful wife” who is definitely cheating on him. The cheating thing doesn’t come back up, but it’s probably safe to assume that will be important. It’s here that Wells says, out loud and to Bethany’s face: “My god, imagine the possibilities if you used your memories for something significant.” There’s that fine line again, landing firmly on rude. Funny but rude as heck.

What follows are shifty garage antics, as Jane and Wells witness the titular “Secret Stolen.” David had Robert steal files for all the drug research on something called “Project Utopia.” And it looks like Jane was actually right that “greed is good” works here, because David’s immediate reaction to the files is: “I’m gonna make so much money.” He tries to stiff Robert out of being rich as well, though, so when Robert won’t give him the files until he fully pays him, David takes matters into his own hands and kills the guy. So Jane and Wells run, the smartest thing they could do.

Back at Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, Brooke now has a guard of her own to handle John, but let’s be real — no security guard any of these people hire is competent. Plus, it only helps John that Brooke is committed to befriending him, trying to gain his trust, and buttering him up about there only being “one Jack the Ripper.” She knows things about John, like his origin story — much like Alexander Hamilton, he was a bastard and son of a whore, though supposedly not an orphan — and also the things he doesn’t know — like the fact that he fathered a son named Henry Ayers in 1891, after a tryst with a nurse he met in Paris, and the kid (who also became a doctor) died in 1918. And she promises to give him what he wants if he lets her do tests on his psychopathy, as she actually works in biotechnology research, just like her father did.

Funny how Papa Monroe worked in the same field of work as Vanessa’s dad. Wonder if there’s any connection… oh, of course there is. Project Utopia was Monroe’s project, and the rest is history.

Brooke is working specifically on radical gene therapy in order to change the way a psychopath’s mind works. That sounds admirable, but we’ll have to wait for the other shoe to drop, as — just a reminder — she has no problem being friends with benefits with Jack the Ripper. John only cares about himself and the time machine, though, so he makes a run for it the second he can. Only, Brooke actually lets him run, straight into the direction of a super jacked psychopath who beats the crap out of him. Is it possible he’s Frankenstein’s monster? The pieces of the puzzle are all here, Time After Time! It turns out John isn’t the only lab rat Brooke has, and he’s far from the most physically intimidating, so John gets a bit of a wake-up call after that encounter. Kind of. He mostly gets a newfound knowledge of tranq darts, uses a couple of them to take out the guard, and makes another run for it… learning from his mistakes and heading upstairs instead. The guard fighting through the tranqs is hilarious and ridiculous and perfect for this show, but even then, John is able to best a modern security expert. That leaves Brooke and her real gun as the last line of defense, but silly rabbit: She just spent all this time telling John how important he is and how she won’t to hurt him. John just struts out of the house, with his son’s birth certificate and a knowledge of where the time machine and Wells are, thanks to his best friend Brooke.

As John makes it to the Anders estate and (unsurprisingly) sneaks past both catering and security, Jane and Wells have to figure out what to do with their 1980 knowledge. Wells, despite always preaching how they are only observers, feels like they should’ve done something to stop David from killing Robert, and now he also has to lie to Vanessa (after they already promised never to keep secrets from each other), who’s happy just to know that Wells met her parents. And while Griffin Monroe has spent this whole episode pretending to be shocked by everything that’s going on with H.G. Wells and time travel — at one point, Vanessa makes a joke about this being like a science-fiction story “written by H.G. Wells, maybe,” and she’s so pleased with her joke that you can only assume Griffin Monroe decided long ago he has no reason to feel bad for all this deception — he’s also making moves with his sister to steal the time machine and learn everything he possibly can about it beforehand. Vanessa sets up a “war veteran charity” party for him; he sets up mass subterfuge. Can you really blame him, though? Her dad stole Project Utopia from his dad.

So, “what’s Project Utopia,” Wells wonders, “besides an ironic joke on me?” That is the question — as is who Project Utopia was even stolen from in the first place. We obviously know it was Papa Monroe, but Wells and Jane don’t. In fact, at the party, Brooke and Griffin Monroe are understandably stressed out about the possibility of Wells learning about this and Utopia and blowing up their entire spot. On top of that, Wells and Jane learn that the Anderses covered up the true cause of Robert’s death, which explains all the (guilty) philanthropy afterwards. But where does Wells come in, and where do Chad and his mother Mary come in? Questions! Wells spends this time blaming himself, but Jane has a eureka moment, remembering that she knows a document specialist who might be able to find them the information they need.

But Jane can’t be useful this week, because she runs into John, who’s in a hurry to find the time machine but still takes the time to taunt and tease and threaten her. Luckily Jane screams for help… and the one security guard who shows up is immediately slashed and stabbed by John. Dude, you have a gun. Dude, you’re facing a surgeon. Take your pick of judgments for the latest incompetent member of Vanessa’s security team.

So as Griffin Monroe uses a key card he lifted to finally make his move and steal the time machine, John also makes his move and rushes into the room with him. Here, we find the only person besides Brooke’s version of Bane from Batman Forever who gets anything resembling the better of John in a fight, but even he still ends up getting slashed and choked out. By the time Wells and the most useless security team get to the ballroom, John has already used the time machine and gotten away. And now Griffin Monroe knows the time machine can be controlled remotely, which adds a crimp to his and his sister’s plans.

John’s final destination? Sepia-toned March 30, 1918. Paris, France. Meaning John is going to have a family reunion.

Episode Recaps

Time After Time
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