Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Journeyman: Christmas with Dad

Spoilers for "Journeyman" coming up just as soon as I find a black sweater that I can wear in any era...

And we're back! After a week off to try "Life" in this timeslot, "Journeyman" resurfaced, and it looks like the last two episodes will air next week (one on Monday as usual, the other in the "Life" timeslot Wednesday at 10). So there will be closure of some kind.

Another solid episode. The decision to include some kind of personal stake in every mission was a wise choice. I don't know if it's something that could be accomplished were the show to run five years ("Honey, you'll never believe who I ran into while I was back in 1983. It was my second cousin Frank!"), but in the short term it's made the time travel a lot more interesting than it was in the first few episodes. The trip back to the newsroom's '79 Christmas party was doubly important for Dan, as it gave him a chance to slightly alter his own history with his dad (more on that in a second) as well as a chance to save his job and other people's in the present.

Not sure I loved the blackmail resolution, though. Times are tough in journalism, and real newspapers everywhere are laying people off, regardless of who's in charge; can Dan really hold that secret over the publisher's head in perpetuity? And what's to stop the publisher from admitting that he was in the room while denying that he waited to call for help?

(Also, on a more nitpicky, Gen X-centric level, it was strange to see Robert Pine play the publisher in 2007 and the very shady-looking Anthony Starke play him in 1979, when any "CHiPs" fan worth his salt knows that Pine looked like this in '79. I'm guessing there's not a lot of "CHiPs"/"Journeyman" crossover audience.)

As for Dan and his father, what interested me wasn't so much that Dan was able to change something about his own life without personal consequence. Rather, I was struck by the fact that Dan didn't remember the revised timeline, even after he came back. The show has suggested this before -- Dan remember a conversation with Jack that he later erased from the timeline -- but never this directly. Some time travel stories adopt the theory that if you change the past, you only remember the events you experienced in the unaltered timeline ("Back to the Future"), while others suggest you either remember the new version only or somehow remember both ("Frequency").

Even though Jack is now openly helping Dan with research on his trips, it's interesting that Dan chose not to explain the role he played in their dad's confession. On the one hand, it might have been something they could have bonded over. On the other hand, this is ancient history as far as Jack is concerned; learning the truth behind it all these years later could freak him out, re-open the old wounds, maybe even resent or mistrust Dan again. If you're Dan there, what would you have done?

Finally, we got our first glimpse of Livia's life in 1948 -- and, conveniently, her period dress didn't look too out of place at a disco party. Here's something I wonder about Livia that I doubt the show will have time to address before it runs out of episodes: when she would travel into the '80s and '90s for long stretches to attend college and law school and to date Dan, was she gone for equally long periods in the past, or did she return not long after she left but much older? Either way, I imagine her life back then was a lot more complicated than Dan's is now -- though, as she explained a few episodes back, her trips got longer and longer over time, just as Dan's might if the show were to continue.

What did everybody else think?


Kat Coble said...

I love this show unreservedly and the fact that we may have only 2 more episodes before cancellation breaks my heart.

I can't help but wonder if Larkin (can't remember her name on this show--Jack's Doctor girlfriend) doesn't have a more sinister reason for spying on Dan besides her "pregnancy". I still think she works for the people who are tracking the time-travelers, and that there is more to her than meets the eye.

Also, maybe I'm a prude on this but it seems odd to have created a child with someone and to then say you "don't know [them] that well." Do people routinely make babies with strangers?

I tend to think the pregnancy was made up to deflect Jack's anger.

While it made for a nice Christmas moment a la the kidnapping in Nat'l Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the blackmail thing didn't sit that well with me. Doesn't the newspaper have a board and/or shareholders? Decisions in corporate America such as lay-offs and other cuts aren't usually made by one Mr. Potter-type guy anymore.

Still, I love the show and don't care too much about its little stumbles in reality.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I thought the Christmas miracle aspect was a bit hokey and unbelievable, but otherwise I liked this ep. I definitely feeling "pangs" that we are so close to the end.

It was good to see something of Livia's life in the past. I'd love to see more from her character's perspective, and how she copes.

Alan, I also wondered about Dan telling Jack about meeting their father. I think Jack would resent that his little brother got to spend that time with Dad. But, I wonder if keeping the secret now will just unleash further resentments if the truth comes out later.

I trying to thing how the unplanned pregnancy is going to fit in with the time traveling. It seems out of place otherwise.

Lastly, I was surprised that there was no supernatural/mysterious aspect to Dan's father's disappearance — at least not yet.

Anonymous said...

I think Jack, if anything, would have resented Dan for not convinving their father to stay. "You were right there the night before he left... You should have told him who you were and how wrong he was to leave, alienated or not!"

As for the blackmail, I got the feeling from the older woman's statement that the father's death wasn't just a matter of waiting to call 911. She said that he promised her a reporting job if she did one thingfor her. It was clear that she didn't sleep with the publisher, but we did see her give him a drink at one point. I thought she had drugged/poisoned him for the son, not knowing it would kill him.

I am a little dissapointed in the fact that the changes Dan makes to his own life are so minor in the long run. You would think that their father telling them why he was leaving, and that it wasn't their fault, might have drastically changed them somehow. While I don't mind that Dan, who is bouncing around the space-time continuum on a pogo stick, isn't changed by his actions, shouldn't jack be more affected by these things? That seems like a major thing in a young boy's life. It is hard to believe all it did was change Jack's anecdote about their father leaving.

I think it would have been interesting if Dan had come back to the house and Jack had a different girlfriend...

K J Gillenwater said...

I'm still holding out for Dan's dad having the same time travel troubles that Dan is having. It would just make a lot of sense. Didn't the scientist guy who Dan went to for info about tachyons (so sorry for the spelling...I'm just guessing) know the father? I wish I had a better memory for this stuff.

They haven't done a whole lot with science guy lately. That one phone call he received in the past from the present was the last 'weird' event we had.

It just makes sense that the dad would 'leave' because of the same time travel trouble. He did say that he felt like a 'freak' in his own family...and I could see how without a supportive and understanding wife like Dan's wife, he could have tried to do it all on his own and went a little nutty in the end.

So super curious about Livia's man in the past and how this will all tie in and/or complicate things.

I would really miss this show if it didn't come back next season.

Nate said...

Wassup Sep?

I just realized the other day that the guy that plays Dan is actually British! I did not know that! He was interviewed on RedEye on The Fox News Channel.. and please don't tell anyone i was watching The Fox News Channel.

Isn't it ironic that Dan has/had a bit of a gambling problem? If Livia had one, don't you think she would go back to the 40s and put some wagers on sporting events? She might be able to afford an unbreakable chain for her locket!

And are Dan's dad and/or Jack's pregnant girlfriend somehow part of this time travel brigade? Hopefully NBC will allow the show to continue...

Toby O'B said...

Not that it had anything to do with the show, but your idea for a future plotline - about running into second cousin Frank - dragged "Last Action Hero" back into my consciousness.

In that, Art Carney played a cousin Frank, several times removed, in a series of movies that had run far too long. (I doubt 'Journeyman' will get that chance, but I'm still holding out hope it'll come back for more than just these last few eps.)

I thought the resemblance between the two actors playing Dennis was close enough. Maybe there was some need for plastic surgery in the intervening years? (You have to admire the casting directors for 'Cold Case' who have to do that type of match-up every week!)

It made sense to me that Dan didn't know how the timeline altered as he never lived it. He was outside the loop when it was revised - S.O.P. for time travel stories.

All in all, a nice Christmas story for each of the characters.

XWL said...

Any newpaper who wouldn't fire Dan, blackmail or no, isn't doing their job right.

He's not owed a job at that paper, saving the jobs of a bunch of deadweight seems hardly a worthy cause.

And they could have gone way, way tackier with the costuming in Christmas '79 (just have to look at an early episode of WKRP, or even Lou Grant, for reference).

Also, why his wife didn't just throw that apron in the fireplace the day after the event if it was going to trigger memories every time she was near it is beyond my fathoming.

Anonymous said...

I also was just waiting for it to turn out that Dan's dad was a time-traveler, too, and that's why he left the family. (It also seemed as if he recognized grown-up Dan as his son.) Maybe the fact that he actually knew he was leaving rules that out, since it appears that time-travelers never have any idea when they'll be sent away or how long they'll be gone. (Or if he is a time-traveler, maybe he left because he thought his constant disappearing act made him a lousy dad.)

All of which, frankly, makes it surprising to me that Livia agreed to marry her boyfriend. It's hard enough for Dan to juggle his family demands in 2007, much less for a woman in the '40s who disappears for extended periods of time with no notice.

This show is growing on me, even if the timeline stuff doesn't always make perfect sense. The acting has really gotten good, especially on the part of those playing Dan, Livia, and Dan's wife (who's really been terrific the last couple of episodes). As for Reed Diamond, I hope they find a real cop show for him if this one doesn't last.

Cassie said...

Dude, I totally remember Robert Pine from CHiPs, and had pretty much the same reaction to seeing his younger self!

Anyway, the blackmail plot was kind of ludicrous and I don't see how Jack's girlfriend's pregnancy can become interesting, but overall this show is still quite good (hard to top the last two-parter, really).

I agree that Livia's problems with maintaining a relationship while time traveling seem even harder than Dan's. Too bad the show will end before that can be explored!

afoglia said...

Re: Whether Dan should have told Jack about convincing their father to tell them why he's leaving...

One possibility is that Dan didn't want to tell Jack because he wanted Jack to think their dad decided to be honest to them because he was a nice guy, not because he had to be convinced by some stranger at a holiday party.

Weak episode after the last few, but Gretchen Egolf did some great work. (As usual, the 2007 stuff is better than the past.) Hopefully the next two are better.

Bobman said...

Just read that NBC has effectively canceled Journeyman. Bummer, even though I guess we all saw it coming.

Anonymous said...

Let me add my name to the list of people who thought about Robert Pine from "Chips" on Monday night as well.

Let me also second everyone on the sadness over cancellation. This show started slowly on me and has become one of the shows I most look forward to every single week.

But then again, it's pending cancellation will only start me on my angry diatribe as to what the hell is wrong with people as to why the heck they would choose to watch dull reality tripe like "Dancing with the Stars" or worse, that awful "CSI: Miami" where you have a terrible lead like David Caruso - when you can watch a creative and interesting show like "Journeyman" with a wonderful lead like Kevin McKidd.

I agree - the acting on this show is powerful and makes all the various interpersonal relationships feel very real.

I would, however, be very against the idea that Dan's dad was also a time traveler. This would be a blatant ripoff of "Heroes", in terms of a parent's strange universe leads the way for the kid's strange universe.

I do think it's interesting that NBC is starting to take some of the most compelling actors from their various Cable properties (Katee Sackhoff on "Battlestar" to "Bionic" and Joel Gretsch from "The 4400") & showcase them in their new series. Smart move. Gretsch and Sackhoff are some of the best talents on Cable and NBC clearly recognizes their skill.

I think "Journeyman" would have been a fantastic fit on USA or Sci Fi and the ratings expectations would have been lower and could have kept it around longer - a shame.

I_Sell_Books said...

Ah, that's where the Publisher was from! Couldn't remember...

Another fantastic ep. I'll miss it when it's gone.

Anonymous said...

Livia is living in the 1940s. In 2007, we may not notice the fact that Livia and her boyfriend are (were?) an interracial couple, but I can assure you that they would have back then.

I also got the vibe that Jack's girlfriend is not who she says she is and is using the pregnancy to "pump" Jack for info on Dan.

Journeyman is a great show. The last episode was not its finest, but it was still better than 98% of what was out there this week.

Dani In NC said...

Everyone else made all the really insightful comments, so I'll just add a small one :-). You mentioned that Livia's 1940s dress conveniently blended in with everyone else's at the party. I remember back in the 1970s, fashion went through a 1940s resurgence, much the same way that 1970s styles are coming back today. Even some of the music had a big band flavor (Bette Midler and Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band come to mind). So it is realistic that Livia's dress wouldn't have stood out too much.