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H.G. Wells and Jane Walker go back in time to 1980 to uncover the mysteries that elude them.

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March 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM EDT

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.

NEXT: Back to the Future

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