Dispatches from Elsewhere recap: Simone owns her issues in… 'Simone'
In the first episode of Dispatches from Elsewhere we met Peter, Jason Segel’s main character who gets pulled into an apparent war between two mysterious entities that claim to offer something beyond ordinary life: the Jejune Institute and the Elsewhere Society. Segel teams up with three other individuals to begin unraveling the truth about the organizations and discover what’s real, who’s good and bad, and what it all means. In episode 2 of this freshman AMC sci-fi drama, the spotlight is on Segel’s primary partner in the adventure, Simone (Eve Lindley).
The episode opens on Simone nervously talking to herself, trying to psyche herself up about something she’s on her way to. She arrives at her destination: a pride parade. She observes the joyful, passionate attendees, both admiring and overwhelmed by them. But when a megaphone gets passed to Simone, she panics and flees.
The narrator’s (Octavio’s) voice chimes in: “So much love staring her in the face and yet she turns and runs away.” He then describes Simone as someone who wakes up every day hoping she’ll finally be happy, yet the only thing keeping her from happiness is herself. He says Simone has never truly felt a part of anything. As he says this, we see Simone in different stages of her life and identity evolution. He talks about Simone having the courage to finally do the one thing that would change everything — come out to her parents — in the hopes it would fill a void, but it doesn’t go well and instead makes things worse. Octavio implies Simone wonders if she’ll always feel alone.
Cut to Simone arriving at her job in an art gallery. There, she imagines a conversation with the painted woman in a self-portrait — much like Peter imagined participating in studies. She asks the woman if she was lonely throughout her life or if it was enough to know she was busting boundaries and finding success in her work. The painting realizes Simone is looking for approval of her self-inflicted solitude.
Simone’s dreamy conversation is cut short by her boss ordering her to scold a customer. The customer is Bigfoot. From Simone’s recognition of the creature, it’s clear this is sometime after the night she and Peter met their other “family” members Janice and Fredwynn. Simone is ecstatic that the “game” is resuming. Bigfoot doesn’t speak, but he leaves a clue for her to find. It’s a riddle that takes Simone to a statue outside, where she finds a package comprised of fish food and batteries.
Simone shows up at Peter’s job to recruit him for the new adventure. He’s embarrassed and Simone assumes it's because he doesn't want to be seen with her, but it’s because he doesn’t want her seeing him at his boring job. Soon Peter receives a package: a singing wall fish and clue indicating they must find where the fish is from. Peter knows, and the two take off.
Through their conversation on the way, we learn Peter is so bland he doesn’t even have an opinion about music. We learn Simone was going to get her master’s degree in art but had to drop out of school. However, when Peter asks why, she shuts down. She imagines hearing the bus driver scold her for this, and she apologizes to Peter, but still doesn’t explain. She likens herself to the eponymous character in the famous French film Amélie, and gets a kick out of learning Peter doesn’t know that movie.
Once at the place the fish clue leads them to, a town called Fishtown, they put batteries in the singing fish and it begins talking. It’s the voice of Clara, the girl they’re searching for. She says Fishtown is where she grew up. They figure if they explore the town it will help them find her.
Another clue about seeing the world through new glasses leads them to a store in which they find red and blue glasses and a store owner and former teacher with whom Clara was once close. As Simone is about to buy the glasses, she informs the man they know he knows Clara. The man angrily tells her to send Clara a message: “We don’t need her anymore, she broke her promise.” The man barks at them to take their change and leave before they’ve even paid. Simone sees there’s something special about the change. Simone thanks the man, praising his “performance” (since she thinks it’s still a game).
The coin leads them to a bar where she thinks the bartender might know Clara. He plays dumb at first, causing Simone to feel insecure, but eventually, he whispers that he can’t talk about Clara because the Jejune Institute is watching. But he tells them to take the back exit, and on their way out they see a room marked Elsewhere that requires a token — the special coin from before — to open. They insert it and enter.
The room is full of strange devices and art. Simone tells Peter to strap onto her a headpiece that’s connected to a bike. As he complies, the two share a moment. Breaking the tension, Simone instructs Peter to pedal the bike. As Peter pedals, an animation begins to play, like the device is an old school virtual reality toy. The image is blurry but then Simone dons the special glasses and she can see clearly.
A wizard voiced by Elsewhere’s Commander Fourteen says the video will reveal who’s the good guys in this Elsewhere-Jejune battle. Then in fast-talking verbose fashion, he explains that Elsewhere is a “disorganized collective of mostly human souls” dedicated to preserving and understanding the “beauty entitled to us by the nature of our membership in the divine wonders of existence”— I’m pretty sure that’s fancy for “life.” Elsewhere’s mission is to nurture Clara and protect her from the “evil, corrupt” Jejune Institute, so Clara can bring Elsewhere to the whole world. Elsewhere isn’t a myth, it isn’t limited to a few select people, and its members aren’t as unworthy or unlovable as they once may have thought. He calls on them to join the resistance — to follow the setting sun and find Clara.
The sun clue leads them west to a building with a ladder to the rooftop that looks like it's from the animation Simone watched. They climb the ladder. After Peter ensures a frightened Simone he’ll keep her safe, she holds on to his arm as they peer over the edge and see that the walls of the buildings below form a beautiful mural. Peter turns on the fish and Clara’s voice says this is the place where she would come to think about magic. She was afraid to say out loud that she saw magic, but one day she said it and felt better. She urges Simone and Peter to say their own greatest secrets out loud, so they’re not alone in bearing them.
Peter says he didn’t feel any distinct feelings for a long time before meeting Simone. He heard music play the second time they saw each other. Simone can’t bring herself to respond. She sees herself behind Peter saying “don’t mess this up for me again,” and she runs off. When they get down off the building, Peter decides to return to work and leaves Simone alone with the fish.
Simone goes home and joins her grandmother Nana on her bed. Nana asks why Simone seems sad. She says when people get close to her, she loses confidence about her life. Nana says meeting people involves an adjustment period, like when Olivia Benson in Law & Order gets a new partner. Simone wonders if she has too many problems to be close to others. Her Nana says the key is not to hide her problems from others but to be honest and open about them.
Simone gets a text from the Elsewhere family, and soon after, she meets Janice and Fredwynn. Peter is missing in action. They receive instructions from Elsewhere to choose between attending an Elsewhere protest against Octavio, or a Jejune Institute shareholders meeting where they could become shareholders themselves.
Simone says they should go to the protest because Elsewhere is the good guys, but Fredwynn and Janice had an entirely different adventure from Peter and Simone. Theirs suggests Jejune is philanthropic and noble and Elsewhere is a troublemaker. Simone says that Elsewhere is about freedom, beauty, and anti-capitalist greed, but Janice (in an OK Boomer-worthy tone) says Elsewhere people are like Occupy protestors who are all protest and no solutions.
Fredwynn says the task is meant to divide the team and instead of letting it, they should try to go to both events.
They start at the protest. Fredwynn runs off into the crowd to gather information, and Janice runs after him. Simone explores alone, and like at the pride parade, she takes in the excitement with both anxiety and joy.
Then she spots Peter walking away from the group. She grabs a megaphone to call after him. The protest stops dead in its tracks. She apologizes for leaving him hanging after he shared his secret. She says she isn’t ready to be that vulnerable herself, and that she’s afraid being more than friends with Peter could ruin things and make her have to walk away from the game and him and she doesn’t want to because she likes the “game” and him. She asks if they can just be friends for now. Peter smiles and the crowd cheers.
Then Octavio emerges from the building, walks through the protestors and gets into a limo. Peter and Simone come together and wonder where Janice is. As Peter and Simone find her, calling and looking frantically for Fredwynn, she sees Fredwynn jump into the limo’s trunk. It drives off and Janice, Peter, and Simone jump on a pedal cart to try to follow, with Janice vigorously urging them on after Fredwynn.
The episode ends on Octavio introducing Janice.