Project Blue Book: More Secrets Emerge At Area 51 – Review, Ep. 203

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Three episodes into season 2 of Project Blue Book, we’ve already visited Roswell and now Area 51, the twin pillars of the alien cover-up conspiracy temple. Episode 3 took Capt. Quinn and Dr. Allen Hynek to Groom Lake and the strange and hidden machinations that the area has going on. It’s a fascinating look at a facility that’s still in its infancy, but certainly offers a few tasty tidbits about what will come in the years that follow.

I thought opening up season 2 with visits to Roswell and Area 51 has been a wonderful way to keep the momentum of season 1 rolling. And to my mind, that’s exactly what’s happening – Project Blue Book is on a nice roll right now. So, let’s talk about it. But be forewarned, there are SPOILERS coming in the words that follow. If you don’t want to be SPOILED, stay where you are. If you’re good, let’s roll on, shall we.

Nevada Desert in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

An incident at Groom Lake sends our dynamic duo to the burgeoning Area 51 facility where they meet their contact, Daniel Banks. There’s an interesting undercurrent with Dan, as he’s an Africa-American, something that seems to throw Quinn for a loop through most of the episode. Remember, it’s the early ’50s and racial equality is a very foreign concept in the United States.

So we meet Dan, who is clearly a sharp customer, and we get our first exposure to a new government agency named the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s right, the CIA is new and already flexing its intelligence and political muscle along with its friends in the Army, Air Force and Navy. They all have facilities at Area 51, it turns out.

There are snipers in the hills, secrecy dripping off the walls, and a sense that there’s plenty of answers that will never see the light of day. Seems a pair of soldiers were in the desert, one disappeared and another is found telling tales of a ship that transported his friend into the air. The missing soldier is later found impaled on a tree limb about 30 feet up. He’s been surgically cut up with major organs missing, etc. It’s precision work and it shows up again later – on coyotes. Intriguing, that.

Dan (Played so smartly by Jerod Haynes) thinks the surviving soldier’s story is worth looking into and pushed for Project Blue Book to get involved. Even with Quinn seemingly measuring him from the beginning, it is very apparent that Dan is something of a believer and in the Area 51 realm, carries some serious cred. He tells Hynek and Quinn several times that if he can be of help moving forward, he’d do it. He shows the pair classified, experimental aircraft that appears to offer some answers to earlier cases they’d investigated. It’s a startling revelation for Quinn and Hynek, but one that they instinctively feel isn’t the whole story. As they rightly note, it’s too easy, too convenient, these answers. There has to be more, right.

L-R: Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn, Jerod Haynes as Daniel Banks, and Aidan Gillen as Dr. J. Allen Hynek in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

Let’s face it, given what these two have seen, witnessed being covered up, and experienced, a healthy dose of skepticism has to develop. The instinct sharpens, the ability to see through the bull is heightened, and a sense of what an incomplete answer might feel like are handy skills they’ve developed. But Dan is a guy that, as Quinn notes, “is willing to bend the rules to get to the truth.” He proves to be a useful ally at junctures throughout. My hope is this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Daniel Banks.

Naturally, we can’t go too long without the specter of military cover-up rearing its predictably irritating head. The boys of Project Blue Book get a nice dose of that as well when the surviving soldier is accused of murdering his comrade and is being drug out of the hospital en route to an inevitable serving of the lamb to slaughter. He’s being fitted for the patsy, a portion of the desert is turned into glass by heat exceeding 3,000 degrees, and Hynek is about to get that look in his eyes. Oh, and General Hugh Valentine pops in to scream and try to put a lid on things. He’s a peach, isn’t he?

Determined to find answers to clear the railroaded soldier, Hynek shows us that his accusation of Quinn acting rashly last episode isn’t necessarily a one-way street. Hynek fumes, rumbles out of the building and steals a jeep. He’s headed into the desert with Quinn jumping in for the ride…and what a ride. As darkness falls, Quinn and Hynek see lights in the distance, follow it and are met with something incredible.

Neal McDonough as General James Harding visits the confessional in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

The side of a mountain opens up and exposes something unfathomable, something powerful and electric. It’s a hair-raising moment and one that Hynek catches on his camera – then promptly drops it in a moment of terror. Must the scientific types be so skittery when there’s the prize right in front of them? What is in that mountain and why does it exist? Turns out, that part of Area 51 is controlled by the U.S. Air Force and that’s an intriguing little bit of info. And it takes us back to General Harding, doesn’t it?

It’s intriguing that there’s all this jockeying going on in and around Project Blue Book. The Eisenhower Administration is coming to power and the administration of Project Blue Book, and the whole alien visitors world, is there for the taking. But who will control it? The CIA, young as it may be, is proving to be a powerful force within the government and the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want them getting a piece of their alien pie. It’s a little unnerving to think of Quinn and Hynek having to work in the middle of an intelligence civil war between government entities.

One of the fascinating aspects of Project Blue Book has been the relationship between Quinn, Hynek, Harding and the deep desire the government has for explanations about alien aircraft sightings. There’s a real worry about how the American people will react to any real-world, definitive proof that earth is being visited by aliens. There’s a paranoia that is wonderfully prevalent throughout the episodes about what might happen if it all comes out. Part of it is the Soviet scare, part the simple realization that alien existence messes with fundamental beliefs. Time has shown us that tampering with those fundamental beliefs is a dangerous road to take.

L-R: Aidan Gillen as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn, and Jerod Haynes as Daniel Banks in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

The lengths to which the government will go to keep its secrets very secret are scary. Hynek and Quinn have been front and center for those lengths and it has to unnerve them, although the good doctor seems to be full-on committed to exposing the truth, even to the point of making “rash” decisions. Funny thing is, the government machinations seems to have strengthened their mutual resolve for the truth even more, though Quinn has moments where he struggles with squaring that with his duty as an Air Force officer..

Episode 3 gives us a fun look at the many curtains that are hanging in front of the truth. And part of that is a fun little alien abduction encounter that may or may not have happened. A craft hovers over Hynek and Quinn in the desert, a light shines, they are no longer in the jeep, and they wake up 12 hours later in a military truck headed back to the base. There they are dressed down by the Valentine, who looks ready to pop a gasket or two. But they also get a little more help from Dan, who again tells them that if they need assistance at getting to the truth, he’ll help them.

But there’s more going on. Susie Miller is, indeed, still working for her Russian handlers. And it looks like she’s been working our own Captain Quinn – hard! When she promises her handler that she can deliver some vital intel within two weeks, her handler suggests that a better course of action, and a quicker one, would be to kidnap Quinn and use more persuasive methods to extract vital information. Now, I imagine Susie being pretty persuasive in her own, unique way. But her Russian agent pal seems to have darker plans for the captain.

Laura Mennell as Mimi Hynek in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

All I could think of was “No Susie Miller, nooooo…” as this line of thought was being expressed, I think Susie (Can I just express me joyful admiration for Ksenia Solo’s work here?) genuinely likes our handsome Capt. Quinn, but she’s now being forced down a road I think she’s rather not travel. There may be some decisions she’ll need to make very soon about where she stands with her government and her man. I like her naughtiness, but don’t want her to end up being a baddy on the naughtiness scale. Be good, Susie. Be good.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Gen. Harding going to confession for the first time in what appears to be forever. The events of Roswell, both recently and 1947, seem to weigh heavily on him and it’s no small feat, we discover, for him to simply ignore what he knows is the truth. He talks to the priest about faith, about truth and knowing things that others shouldn’t know. Harding is a hard-as-stone military man who, I suspect, can feel that hardness starting to crack. He knows too much, has done too much, for it not to take a toll.

Fortunately, his partner in alien crime, Gen. Valentine brings him back to the threat of now. The CIA, Valentine suspects, is going to try to acquire operational jurisdiction of Project Blue Book, something Valentine and Harding both agree can’t happen. A knowing look and Valentine says “I’m tired of these little skirmishes. If we’re going to war, let’s fire the first G… D…. shot.” And with that, we are shown a file that reads, “A Pentacle Memorandum: A Planned U.F.O. Invasion.” Whoa, what is that? That got my attention.

L-R: Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn and Aidan Gillen as Dr. J. Allen Hynek in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

“Alright then, let’s got to war,” says Harding in agreement. Now, how they will use that memorandum to stop the CIA from the perceived incursion into their alien encounter territory should be interesting to see. Harding says they discontinued the plans in the memo “for good reason.” I”m intrigued, to say the least. Again, my hope is that Hynek and Quinn don’t get slapped around in the agency battle to come.

Speaking of battles, Mimi is having a good time with her alien saucer group. She’s become adept at alien cover-up speak and demonstrates her newfound prowess during a fun little moment with her husband at the drive-in. An alien invasion movie is playing and they’re comparing the movie’s plot to real cases. Again, the work of Laura Mennell is so delightfully fun to watch. It would be fair to say I kind of adore her and this character.

Anyway, Mimi asks Evan about Groom Lake and he gets wonderfully, nerdily excited about it. And we find out later that the remnants of the crash that occurred in Roswell may not have been taken to Area 51 as everyone suspected, but were reportedly shipped to the Air Force base where Quinn and Hynek are based – right there in Ohio. Evan is pushing for Mimi to use her access to the base (she types her husband’s notes, etc.) to do some snooping. It’s so convenient, so tempting, so….right there!

L-R: Michael Malarkey as Captain Michael Quinn, Aidan Gillen as Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Michael Harney as General Hugh Valentine in HISTORY’s “Project Blue Book.” “Area 51” airs February 4 at 10 PM ET/PT.
Photo by Eduardo Araquel
Copyright 2020

She says she’s not that kind of person and Evan, who has a pretty good read on Mrs. Hynek, wonders aloud if she truly is that kind of person. I think Mimi finds the whole alien encounter/cover-up trail as something that provides her purpose and keeps her close to her husband. It’s something they can share together, which I think appeals to both.

However, I also think Mimi has a bit of the adventurer in her, coupled with a woman who has had to demonstrate some traits of strength, curiosity and doggedness as her husband has worked for Project Blue Book. We’ve seen her evolve and grow, and Evan sees something else, a woman of delightful ingenuity. He kind of baits her, but it’s baits she likes deep down. So, we’ll see where that leads and what kind of trouble she gets into because of it. Oh, Mimi, please be careful you beautiful, smart alien adventure lover. You know it’s true.

And with that, it’s hard to know where this thing goes from here. Are we back to Ohio for some work on the Air Force base where parts of the Roswell crash may very well be sitting? The wheels are truly turning on season 2 of Project Blue Book and with visits to Roswell and Area 51 in the first three episodes, the potential for some wild fun is certainly in the air. I’m ready for more.

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John Baker