Timeless recap: 'The Darlington 500'
Welcome back to regular coverage of Timeless! Just as fan outcry helped save the show from cancellation, you, dear readers, have resurrected EW’s weekly recaps. Thanks to your enthusiasm, we’ll be checking in with Timeless every week for the rest of the season. I’ll be your guide on this journey through time, and I look forward to spending the next few weeks together unscrambling Rittenhouse theories and geeking out over historical figures, both well-known and obscure.
And we’re off, to September 1955 in Darlington, South Carolina! Well, not immediately. The team is still playing catch-up, trying to figure out exactly when and where Rittenhouse has dropped its sleeper agents. For a little guidance, they’ve turned to the only person they know who knows anything about the inner workings of Rittenhouse: Garcia Flynn. Flynn and Lucy are not exactly on friendly terms after Agent Christopher betrayed and arrested him (not the best way to make friends, Christopher), and he gets in a few digs about Lucy’s mother. Ultimately, however, he gives her a little hint as to where Rittenhouse might be headed in 1955. “This one’s free,” he warns her. “The next one will cost you.”
Flynn tells them where, but it’s Wyatt who tells them who: Ryan Millerson, a famed NASCAR driver and a particular idol of Wyatt’s. Cue the blank stares from everyone else. “You guys really are coastal elites,” Wyatt grumbles.
And so, the team is off to the races, always two steps behind Emma and one of her Rittenhouse lackeys. In their search to find Millerson, they cross paths with Wendell Scott, one of the first black NASCAR drivers. He was a notorious bootlegger, smuggling moonshine and outrunning the cops before making the transition to professional driving. “Hunk-of-junk fast ride, smuggler, rebel, racer, and made the Fall Creek run in less than 12 parsecs,” Rufus jokes. “This Wendell Scott dude’s like a real-life Han Solo.”
Wyatt excitedly tells Wendell that he used to be a bootlegger, too, and Lucy and Rufus roll their eyes until Wyatt informs them that actually he’s telling the truth: He grew up with an abusive father who used to force him to fix broken down cars, and teenage Wyatt ran away to start smuggling “things” across the Texas-Mexico border. Our upstanding lawman has a dirty past! We’ve spent so much time exploring Lucy’s family history and how it’s shaped her into the woman she’s become that it’s nice to devote a little time to Wyatt’s backstory, too.
It also leads to one of the best and most moving moments of the entire episode: a heart-to-heart between Lucy and Wyatt, trapped in the back of Wendell’s trunk, as they talk about being disappointed in their parents and trying to move past their pasts. In a show that is all about how our history shapes who we are, it’s an intriguing moment, as Lucy and Wyatt both decide that they’d rather move beyond their past traumas and forge their own way into the future.
Wendell leads them to Millerson’s car, where they find a bomb wired to the engine. Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus move to save Millerson, only for Millerson to turn around and pull a gun on them: That’s right, we found the Rittenhouse sleeper agent! The plan is basically for Millerson to ram his car into the audience, where an explosion will kill all of the car industry bigwigs in the stands. The resulting chaos and lack of leadership will allow Rittenhouse to take over the Detroit auto industry, which, Lucy admits, was a much bigger deal in 1955.
Lucy sums the whole mess up well: “This is simultaneously giving me a headache and panic attack.”(Recap continues on page 2)
While Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt try to figure out what to do about the bomb (and try to explain to Wendell what the hell is going on), Emma has a heart-to-heart with Millerson. Or more specifically, she informs him that she’s very disappointed that he got married, and she’s more than willing to bump off his extremely pregnant 1955 wife if he fails to follow through with his mission. God, Emma is the worst. Did all those years living alone in a rural Missouri cabin turn her into a misanthropic psychopath, or was she always this much of a lunatic?
But before she can carry out her nefarious plan, Lucy, Rufus, and Wyatt show up. Wyatt snaps the neck of yet another disposable Rittenhouse henchman before shooting Millerson. (I always forget how high the body count is on this show. There are a lot of lighthearted gags and history geek outs, but there are also a lot of murders — on both sides.) Millerson, however, managed to arm the car bomb, so Wyatt and Co. take off on a frenzied car chase through South Carolina backroads, set to the Chuck Berry classic “Maybellene.” Even though they’re navigating an armed bomb and running from both the 1950s police and Rittenhouse, Wyatt can’t help but crack a smile. He’s in his element.
The trio end things with a rare win — bomb defused; Rittenhouse machinations thwarted — but back at the bunker, things aren’t going quite as well. Jiya is continuing to have her strange, otherworldly visions, and they’re getting ugly: She hallucinates a burned, scarred patch of skin of Rufus’ arm, only for him to return from South Carolina with, you guessed it, a burned, scarred patch of skin. She shakes it off, however, and keeps quiet. Let this serve as a lesson: If you are having potentially prophetic, time-travel-related hallucinations, please talk to your doctor — or at least your colleagues in your secret underground bunker.
Connor Mason is also annoyed because…I guess because he lost a bunch of money and his techy friends are laughing at him? He’s sulking like a grounded teenager because Agent Christopher won’t let him go speak at some fancy tech conference, and Christopher is like, dude, c’mon, we’re trying to save the world here and stop an evil time-traveling supergroup — which YOU helped enable. Sorry Mason, I’m with Christopher on this one. Like, sorry that Elon Musk and your tech buddies think you’re not as rich as you used to be, and you don’t get to party on yachts with robot models, or whatever it is impossibly rich tech billionaires do. There are more important things happening right now, my dude. Fate of the world, and all that.
And honestly, the Time Team is going to need all the help they can get: Nicholas Keans, Carol’s grandfather and Lucy’s great-grandfather, is in the present, and he’s ready to lead Rittenhouse into a new golden age. That is, of course, once he gets over his dislike of computers and someone gets him some pickled eggs, damn it. He’s also kind of sexist, based on his dismissive treatment of his granddaughter, a.k.a. the lady who got him his flippin’ time machine and brought him into the FUTURE. Carol is good for more than fetching eggs, man.
But apparently, all those pickled eggs were brain food, and when Emma returns to Rittenhouse HQ, Keans has taken over an entire wall and turned it into some sort of map/manifesto/guideline to taking over the world. (The details are fuzzy, but I spotted Abraham Lincoln and a figure that looks like Martin Luther King Jr.) For the first time, he truly outlines Rittenhouse’s mission.
“It’s time to begin preserving human culture: taking what’s best of us and subtracting and sloughing away the worst,” he explains. “Shaping, cutting away at the rock that is the human race until it resembles something like Michelangelo’s David. Until it reaches perfection everlasting. We few will save the world.”
Carol looks concerned. Emma looks impressed. Keans looks like a zealous man on a mission, and whatever is outlined in his manifesto, it can’t be good news for our heroes.