In a series of flashback sequences, we fill in the gaps of what happened to those left behind when Flight 828 disappeared five-and-a-half years go.
"Manifest" did Something wonderful this week by throwing off the procedural format it had shackled itself with for the past four weeks to really delve into its characters. It was a better show for it.
Unfortunately, we’ve no reason to be certain they’ll continue in this vein, but hopefully the show will shed its procedural roots and allow all of the characters to breathe, including secondary and tertiary characters like the flight attendant Bethany and stowaway Thomas, both introduced last week and prominently featured again this week.
That alone was enough to make the episode stand out, as there were ongoing repercussions of Thomas’ escape from the hospital and refugee status now from the NSA as well as Jamaica. This is an incredibly complicated situation these passengers find themselves in, both legally and personally, so those done-in-one stories weren’t really satisfying.
In place of the case-of-the-week story we were treated to badly needed vignettes of those left behind when Flight 828 disappeared in 2013, particularly checking in to how Jared and Grace moved on with their lives with Ben and Michaela both missing and presumed dead.
Don’t worry, though. While we got plenty of answers as to what happened in those five-and-a-half years, we’ve still got a ton of questions, including the following six that cropped up after watching this week’s episode:
Is the Return Date a Coincidence?
Now, we’re full-on "Manifest" conspiracy theorists, so we believe that Michaela and Ben and Cal are somehow at the heart of this whole thing, and perhaps the most important passengers. That’s why we’re following them for the show, an it’s why they seem to be the only one experiencing callings for and with other passengers.
So when we discovered that the plane returned exactly three years to the day after Jared and Lourdes’ first kiss, it’s hard to brush that off as a coincidence. Now, we’ve no idea what the significance of that might be, but if it is a coincidence, it’s a hell of a big one.
In fact, we can play more with threes in this one, as we learned of the nickname "The Three Amigas" for Lourdes, Michaela and Evie (we still need that full story). And in Evie’s absence, Lourdes has slotted Jared into that equation, making them a threesome.
It’s hard to imagine that the return date was totally arbitrary, as they were returned just in time to fulfill these various callings, but why do it on a "first-kiss-aversary" and why the third one? Honestly, we haven’t got a theory on this one right now, but if you do, please chime in.
How Did Cal Find Thomas?
We knew Cal was special, but he proved himself all kinds of different this week. At first, we thought he was just more in tune with the callings on an innate level because he was a kid, but there’s more to it than that. More on that later.
For now, we want to explore the gifts that he displayed this week, and his reckless and dangerous behavior in running away from Ben through the subways and tunnels and grates of New York. If Ben hadn’t been fit enough to keep up, who knows if Cal would have waited for him.
He claimed he was just making random choices, which ultimately led them to the boiler room where Thomas was in hiding, but is that true? It seemed that the main reason for that journey was to convince Ben to be all in on the callings, as they did nothing to help Thomas.
After Bethany’s arrest by NSA Director Vance — who showed up personally to do it, which was sweet — her wife showed up to take Cal to safety, and Cal "knew" that, too. And yet, he didn’t know everything.
At first, he urged Ben to run with him because he sensed someone was coming. But when she was on the other side of the door, he was able to sense that she was an ally. So is there a proximity alert to how well he can sense people? And how does that explain him finding Thomas in the first place?
Will Danny Go Away?
This is a much simpler question, and we think we know the answer. But it’s also a messy and complicated one. Grace might be saying that she’s committed to saving her marriage, but we learned in the flashbacks that things were rocky between her and Ben from before his disappearance.
She and Danny built a life together over three years, and Danny disappearing doesn’t just impact him. He’d built a familial bond with Olive, as well. Presumably they would have wound up married and been a true family eventually, had Ben and Cal not returned.
Try as she might to convince herself, there’s no way Grace was able to just turn off those feelings. For now, it seems like they’re probably going to work out some kind of weird joint custody or visitation situation with Danny, or at least let him and Olive spend time together.
But honestly, the show seems to be telegraphing pretty plainly that Ben and Grace will not wind up together, and Michaela and Jared will. Ben will likely wind up with Saanvi — which we’re totally for — which only leaves poor Lourdes out of the mix.
And she did nothing wrong in falling for Jared after two years. It’s just a wild and crazy circumstance she finds herself in, and she’s definitely right to be worried about Jared’s feelings for Michaela resurfacing.
Will Jared Start Narcing on Michaela?
Michaela put Jared in a very tough spot last week, and this week the potential fallout of that has begun. Jared had no problem telling Vance to shove it the first time the director asked him to spy on Michaela and report her every move back to him.
It’s not so simple now, after Michaela botched a sting operation and Jared took the fall for it. Vance stepped in and effectively saved his job, giving him leverage over Jared. The question is just how far Jared is willing to go to defend Michaela.
He already risked his job once, as his statement about the botched sting didn’t look strong enough for the inquiry, but will he put himself on the wrong side of the feds, and risk it again for her? Honestly, he just might. But it would certainly add a wrinkle to the whole situation if he did start ratting her out.
A more likely scenario might be that Lourdes somehow finds out about this new "arrangement" Vance has made with her husband — Hell, Vance might come and tell her himself — and then she’ll be the one who starts to fill Vance in, to protect her husband, even if it throws her former best friend under the bus.
Who Is Dr. Fiona Clarke?
This one will likely result in an answer pretty soon, as it was dropped pretty blatantly in flashback news coverage of the plane’s return. Among the passengers was "eminent scholar" Dr. Fiona Clark, making her perhaps the most famous person on the plane.
So who is she? Why is she famous, and why should we care? There’s not a lot of depth to this question, but we still want to know the answers.
More importantly, what is she a "scholar" in? Saanvi just happened to be the right kind of scientist to perhaps save Cal’s life.
More than likely Dr. Clark’s area of expertise will also have some relevance and significance to the overall storyline, just as Michaela’s investigative skills have already proven handy and Ben’s mathematical proclivities are starting to bear fruit.
What Did Cal See Out the Window?
The biggest question, of course, is what was going on in the closing minutes of the episode when Ben looked out the plane’s window. Everyone else was asleep, so this was presumably when the plane was taken, or during the time it was gone.
What was unclear was if Cal woke up to look out at the bright light through the window, or if he’d never fallen asleep at all. If he didn’t fall asleep, that opens up another question as to why not? Was he special already before he even boarded the plane? And if so, was it because of his age, his cancer or something innate within him?
If Cal was special to begin with, perhaps the entire plane disappearing was all about getting Cal to that moment to see that light and experience whatever happened to him, and everyone else on board was just collateral damage, as it were.
Perhaps his special nature is why Michaela and Ben seem to have a secondary level of calling, just behind his intuitive understanding of things even beyond his own understanding.
Cal is special, but was he always special or did the light make him special? And was the light God, some alien presence or something altogether more bizarre? Somehow, we don’t think we’ll get that answer very soon at all!
"Manifest" returns in two weeks to NBC on Monday at 10 p.m. ET.
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