Connor Mason takes his first trip in the Lifeboat to help rescue legendary blues singer Robert Johnson.
Ever since Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt took their first trip in the Lifeboat, they have been the beating heart and soul of Timeless. Sure, there have been shadowy conspiracies and historical figures and flashy action spectacles, but this show has always run on character — specifically these three characters. For two seasons, we’ve watched Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt grapple with impossible tasks and moral conflicts, and more often than not, they’re torn between saving the world and saving what they themselves love.
Outside of the core trio, however, many of Timeless’ recurring characters have felt a little two-dimensional. That’s changed as time has gone on: Jiya has gone from being the on-call tech nerd to a hero in her own right, wrestling with her own ethical quandaries and unexplainable visions. Agent Christopher has evolved from your standard government bureaucrat to a mother and leader with her own moral compass. And Flynn…well, we’re still not sure exactly where Flynn lands, but it’s clear that the (supposedly) reformed time-traveling terrorist is a man who contains multitudes.
The only major character who hasn’t been fully explored is Connor Mason, the Elon Musk-like tech mogul played by Paterson Joseph. Connor Mason has been many things over the course of the show’s run: a brilliant inventor, a conflicted Rittenhouse pawn, a mentor and father figure to Rufus. Earlier this season, he got a plot where he snuck out of the bunker to try to present at a conference, only to realize that he’s become the laughingstock of the tech community. It’s a storyline that didn’t really land; it’s hard for we, the viewers, to empathize with the billionaire who’s sad about not being a billionaire anymore. Unless one of you has lost your own personal fortune because it turns out that your company has been secretly bankrolled by an ancient time-traveling supergroup, and you’ve since gone on the run and are now reading these Timeless recaps in a hidden bunker of your own?
“The King of the Delta Blues” puts Connor Mason front and center for the first time, to delightful results. We’re all history nerds about something, and it turns out that Mason’s thing is 1930s blues music. (My thing, for the record, is arguing about whether Meriwether Lewis’ mysterious death was a murder or a suicide.) When Rittenhouse takes off for 1936 Texas, Mason knows exactly where they’re headed: the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson recorded some of his most notable work. Johnson, of course, is an American icon, known not just for his influential guitar skills but also the shadowy details surrounding his life. As the legend goes, he met the devil one night at a crossroads, bartering his soul in exchange for immeasurable musical talent. His rapid mastery of the guitar and his untimely death at age 27 only served to bolster the legend, with countless guitar players citing him as an inspiration and his story going on to permeate pop culture. (If his story sounds familiar, the Coen brothers wrote a fictionalized version of Robert Johnson into O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
In spectacular timing, Rufus and Jiya have managed to add a fourth seat to the Lifeboat, which means that Mason gets to play historian and take his first-ever trip in the time machine he helped create. He’s joined by Rufus, Lucy, and Flynn, and although the ride is a little bumpy, Mason can’t help but be delighted at seeing firsthand a piece of history he’s admired for decades. “I’ve studied this world of juke joints and sharecroppers my entire life,” he explains. See, everyone has a thing.
The team successfully manages to stop the Rittenhouse agent before he can assassinate Johnson, but Johnson and his producer are spooked, and the blues guitarist takes the mysterious guy trying to kill him as a sign that maybe he is actually cursed, and it may be time for him to hang up his guitar. So, the quartet spends the rest of the episode trying to convince Johnson to record his album, knowing that Johnson’s seminal style is responsible for influencing rock ‘n roll and the counterculture as we know it. (Lucy introduces herself and Flynn as “Taylor Swift and Agent Timberlake,” while Mason is “Lando Calrissian” from British intelligence.)
Eventually, they bring Robert Johnson to a nearby bar, where he plans to say goodbye to his sister before disappearing and trying to outrun his bad luck. There, they run into a whole host of other blues legends, including Muddy Waters, Son House, and Bessie Smith. Mason is, understandably, starstruck. But he gets down to business, convincing Johnson to record the album right there in the bar.
“Maybe you made a deal with the devil. Maybe you didn’t,” he tells Johnson. “But this bad luck is gonna keep chasing you until you decide to stop, stand your ground, and fight. To hell with oblivion.”
And with that, Mason himself decides to stand and fight. After witnessing just how far Rittenhouse is willing to go to achieve its aims and the kind of havoc they can wreak, he finally gets it. While the rest of the team has been on board since the beginning because they believe in the cause, Mason has always been attached just because he had to be — he didn’t really have much of a choice. But now, finally, he realizes the magnitude of what he’s been fighting for. And he’s ready to fight back.