Lucy and Rufus play Woodward and Bernstein in the middle of the Watergate scandal
If Timeless is going to have an episode about secrets and treachery, it’s certainly fitting to set that episode in the middle of the Watergate scandal.
Finally, our time-traveling trio is getting some answers — and only a few of them involve meeting a secret source in an empty parking garage! For weeks, Timeless has hinted at its core players’ backstories: Lucy’s mom, sister, and mysterious father, Wyatt’s dead wife, Flynn’s dead family, and Rufus’… family? Honestly, until recently, when Rittenhouse threatened them, we didn’t even know Rufus had a family.
Well, he does! And they seem really nice and normal! For the first time, Timeless ditches the flashback cold open and sets its opening scenes in the present, where we meet Rufus’ mom (and hear about his basketball-playing little brother). As we learned previously, Connor Mason recognized Rufus’ genius and helped fund his education and provide for his family. In return, Rufus has to keep informing on his friends to Rittenhouse, much to his dismay (and with increasing threats from that creepy white-haired Rittenhouse agent).
His next task is to travel back in time once again with Wyatt and Lucy, this time tracking Flynn and the Mothership to June 20, 1972. That, of course, is the day Richard Nixon recorded his most notorious White House tape: the one with a gap of 18 and a half minutes. For decades, movies and TV shows have speculated about what sort of incriminating material may have been in those 18 and a half minutes, and our heroes set out to get that tape before Flynn can. (While wearing some fabulous ‘70s outfits, I might add. As Wyatt puts it: “I look like Greg Brady.”)
The only problem is they’re too late. By the time they walk up to the White House with their fake press credentials, Flynn’s men grab them and tie them up in an abandoned hotel room — the same place they stayed when they were trying to stop the Lincoln assassination all those years ago. Or days ago? Ugh, time-travel problems.
For the first time, all three of our heroes have a face-to-face confrontation with Flynn. Over the course of these first few episodes, Flynn has been a tough villain to understand, as we know very little about him and his motivations. At the beginning, we were told that he was an NSA contractor turned international terrorist, who killed his wife and young daughter. Since then, he’s been flitting around through American history, supposedly in order to wreak as much havoc as possible.
Now, with Flynn, Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus in the same room, Flynn feels like far more of a threat, and he does a little bit of villain monologuing, explaining his intentions. He swears that when he was working with the NSA, he discovered that money was being funneled to Mason Industries to help funnel Connor Mason’s research into time travel. After digging through some of the encryption, he learns that Rittenhouse was basically bankrolling Mason’s research, and only a few days after he told his superiors, his wife and baby daughter were killed in a tragic home invasion. “We call them silencers, but they’re not that silent,” he says, bitterly. He swears up and down that he was framed, and since then, he’s devoted his life to completely wiping Rittenhouse off the map, hoping that one day he’ll return to the present to find his wife and daughter still alive.
So is Flynn telling the truth? Maybe… Although, I see no reason not to believe him. It’s the only real motivation we’ve seen for his insane time-travel murder spree, and it’s a far more compelling reason than just general terrorism. Flynn even tries to convince Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus that they’re on the wrong side of history — ha, history — by showing them Lucy’s supposed journal and talking about all the times he’s confronted Lucy during past missions.
Which is when Rufus and Wyatt are like, “Um, what confrontations during past missions?” Turns out that Lucy has been keeping the existence of her journal and her little chats with Flynn a secret, much to Rufus and Wyatt’s annoyance. They’re understandably angry that Lucy hasn’t been telling them everything, but Flynn has no time to play marriage counselor: He’s already retrieved the 18 and a half minute tape, and when he plays it, they hear Richard Nixon reveal that he’s being blackmailed by Rittenhouse and he needs to find something called “the doc.” So, he tells Lucy and Rufus that they have five hours to go find that doc, and if they don’t, they can say goodbye to Wyatt.
NEXT: All the President’s Men (and Women)
So, Lucy concocts a brilliant plan: to track down W. Mark Felt, the FBI official who spoke to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate scandal. (I do find it a little odd that Rufus has never heard of Deep Throat. Has he not seen All the President’s Men?) She arranges a meeting with him in a parking garage because if you’re going to conduct a clandestine meeting with the real Deep Throat, you’d better do it in a parking garage. That’s a given.
Felt reveals that in addition to the Democratic National Committee break-in, there was another unreported break-in at the Watergate Hotel. All they found was a crumpled piece of paper in the trash can with a symbol that Rufus recognizes immediately as a sign used by black militants. “I kinda went through a militant phase back in college,” he tells Lucy.
They make their way to the headquarters of the Black Liberation Army, where, in a nice role reversal, Rufus is the one telling Lucy to wait outside. Inside, Rufus tries to be smooth and do some spying, declaring that his name is Kanye and trying to order a Miller Lite, which didn’t exist in 1972. Good job, Rufus. Still, he manages to impress everyone, despite their skepticism of the name “Kanye,” and they agree to take Lucy and Rufus to “the doc.”
While Lucy and Rufus are trying to track down “the doc,” Wyatt is still held captive as Flynn pontificates at him. “You are really Jedi mind tricking the crap out of me, pal,” Wyatt tells him. (Which is funny because Matt Lanter voiced Anakin Skywalker on Star Wars: The Clone Wars for years. Meta!) Flynn, in turn, reveals that he knows everything about what happened with Wyatt’s wife, all thanks to Lucy’s trusty journal. Apparently, she and Wyatt got into a fight as they were driving home from a party, and he angrily left her by the side of the road. When he came back for her just 20 minutes later, she was gone — and she was found strangled two weeks later. It’s a dark twist, for sure, and it’s one that we’re definitely going to come back to.
As for Lucy and Rufus, they soon learn that “the doc” is not a document but a person! Who has a doctorate! She reveals that she’s on the run from Rittenhouse, and finally, she gives us some concrete answers about this mysterious organization. She never officially joined the group; instead, she was born into it. (Which isn’t creepy at all.) She’s notable because she’s the member who’s been tasked with memorizing every single member of Rittenhouse, stretching back decades. (Apparently, Rittenhouse isn’t a big fan of Microsoft Excel… or paper.)
Rufus is still shaken up from Rittenhouse’s threats on his family, so he calls the mysterious number Creepy Rittenhouse Guy gave him to fill them in on the details. They’re totally unfazed by the fact that the doc is a person, and they tell Rufus that it’s his job to “destroy” it. It being a living human woman. That’s too much for Rufus, so he decides to short out the recording device and spill his guts to Lucy.
She’s understandably angry, and Rufus is still mad because she didn’t tell him about Flynn and her journal, but they don’t have time to hash out their feelings and dissect this betrayal of trust: They have to choose whether to hand the Doc over to Rittenhouse or Flynn. Instead, they choose both, and the Rittenhouse agents and Flynn arrive at the safehouse at the same time, all while Lucy and Rufus break out Wyatt and get the Doc to safety.
Question: Why didn’t they ask the Doc to write down all of the Rittenhouse names she knew? Wouldn’t that have allowed them to get one step ahead of Flynn and help unravel this mystery? Or were they too busy pouting about breaking each other’s trust? Jokes aside, Timeless is really starting to find its groove, and with “The Watergate Tape,” both the plot and the characters are starting to come into focus. We’re slowly learning more about Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus and how they interact with each other, and Flynn is starting to feel like more of a real character with motivations, instead of just a stock terrorist villain.
But even with all of this episode’s reveals, Timeless has one more twist: In the final moments of the episode, back in the future, Lucy decides to finally confront her biological father, after her mother gave her his name — Benjamin Cahill. After a lot of lurking outside his house, she finally musters the courage to go ring his doorbell, but she’s unnerved when she comes face-to-face with his son (who’s presumably Lucy’s half-brother). By the time the real Benjamin Cahill comes to the door, she’s lost her nerve and left, only for the mysterious Mr. Cahill to make an even more mysterious phone call about Lucy’s visit. Like the Watergate scandal, there’s a conspiracy at the heart of Timeless, and it goes a lot deeper than anyone ever thought.
Best Rufus one-liner: “Like a double agent? I can barely single agent.”
Episode grade: B+