At long last, Project Blue Book put these two fantastic characters, these strong and capable women, back in the same room. And I couldn’t have been happier. Unfortunately, their coming together led to a lot of unfortunate outcomes and more than a little tragedy – physically and emotionally. In the waning moments of episode 208 of Project Blue Book, titled “What Lies Beneath,” I couldn’t help but be a little melancholy.
And that was only part of the equation for, what I consider, one of the best episodes in the Project Blue Book library. Episode 208 had it all for my money – mystery, deceit, conniving, betrayal, distrust, cooperation, sadness, terror and more. There’s a lot going on in “What Lies Beneath,” including the mystery of just what lies beneath that Air Force base? Was there something? In the end, our Dr. Alan Hynek and Captain Michael Quinn are left to ponder that very question in a vast empty warehouse.
But before we get going, this is your SPOILER alert. From here on out, we’ll be talking specifics about episode 208, so beware. SPOILER ALERT engaged.
What lies beneath the Air Force base that serves as the headquarters for Project Blue Book? Well, that is the question, isn’t it? A source here, a flashback to six months prior there, and our boys are made aware of a secret part of the base known as Hangar 18. It is here, a young, skittish engineer tells them, that the proof they seek of alien encounters can be found. But as is always the case with Project Blue Book, the path to proof is often narrow and fraught with strange twists and turns.
There’s a part of me that wonders how Hynek and Quinn maintain their sanity as the pursuit for the truth, or a version of the truth, continues amid clandestine meetings, untrustworthy sources and a phalanx of people and agencies that seem to all want their own agenda at the top of the list. Our Hangar 18 source is supposed to meet the boys at one point, guaranteeing he has proof of what they seek. Naturally, he doesn’t show up, but what does show up is a jeep with MPs in it sent to escort Quinn and Hynek to an audience with generals Harding and Valentine. They always seem to have an inkling about what’s going on, don’t they?
Ahhh, our generals. They had a fun little run in this episode as they try to uncover who is behind a Washington, D.C., errand boy and his attempts to enlist Quinn and Hynek on his superior’s behalf. So interested in finding out the top guy are our generals that they lay a trap for him in a D.C. brothel. And who should they enlist to help them but CIA operative Daniel Banks and his special skills. Which include LSD, which the CIA is having a lot of success with as a truth serum. Espionage in the name of national security makes strange bedfellows, doesn’t it?
The plan, lure the weak link into the brothel bedroom, have the female operative dose his drink and then ask him suggestive questions. All the while, the generals sit behind a two-way mirror recording the answers and doing a bit of leering. Funny, but Valentine seems okay with what they’re doing, while it’s clear that Harding is struggling with this kind of thing.
In the end, the dose is too high, the “John” starts to freak out and manhandle his hostess and Harding bursts in to stop it. Later, we find out that he got the name of the man instigating all this, a man that Harding describes as “untouchable.” It’s a label that Banks assures him isn’t something the CIA worries about. And who is this puppeteer that is pulling these alien intrigue strings? Well, let’s just say putting two-and-two together leads us to a phone call to Quinn and Hynek at the show’s end. Turns out, Senator John F. Kennedy is very interested in the work of Project Blue Book and promises to stay in touch.
Quite a fun development, isn’t it? One of the delightful things about this show is how it melds events and people from those years into the fabric of what’s going on. The Kennedy revelation is a biggie and I look forward to seeing how the CIA and Kennedy dance around the issue of alien visitors and technology. But wait, there’s more.
Turns out that there’s more bothering Harding than we thought. We’ve gotten clues to Harding’s struggles throughout the show, something that has been interesting to try and interpret. He’s done some terrible things, some things he felt needed to be done for national security, but the hard shell is starting to show emotional cracks.
How can he get a handle on it all? Well, in the words of a Jim Stafford song, he’s gonna “take a trip and never leave the farm.” Looks like he’s gotten a little recreational LSD from Banks and plans to do some mind expanding exercises in a search for answers. His faith, he tells banks, is shaken. The demons he’s battling are very real. I feel for the guy on some level, though I can’t condone what he’s done thus far. Still, people have done far worse in the name of their country and I have little doubt he sees his actions as necessary. Still, a hard core military man looking to trip out? That’s interesting to me. “Harding party of one, your trip is ready to get groovy.”
Still, all that’s just the appetizer to quite an amazing main course. I’ve been pining for a Mimi-Susie reunion and wouldn’t you know it, this episode provides one. And what a reunion. Wow, I was at once devastated and exhilarated. Turns out, some very classified materials were stolen from the generals, materials that Quinn and Hynek naturally thought was taken by the unknown bigwig’s operatives and then given to our duo to study. But no, that’s too easy, too obvious.
Remember last week when Mimi was told by Faye that she no longer had clearance to work in the Project Blue Book offices. And there was that key ring lying on the desk? That’s right, turns out Mimi leveled up in the espionage department and took the files. This leads to a full-on investigation with everyone looking at Hynek and Quinn, as well as a little raised eyebrow towards Faye, who admitted that she was worried for Quinn.
A little sleuthing by Quinn, including a look at the visitor log that Faye had hidden, leads him to the Hynek household and a desire to ask Mimi some questions. There’s such an interesting dynamic between Quinn and Hynek when something’s breaking. Quinn tends to be the calmer soul, a guy who often counsels calmness and deliberation. Hynek, by contrast, is a little more emotional, a little more spontaneous in his actions, particularly when he feels it’s the right thing to do.
That is on display several times in this episode and it’s always interesting to me that the man of science is the one who often needs to be calmed and so often goes off on his own so recklessly. Quinn reminds Hynek of the multiple lies the good doctor has told him during their time together, which I was glad for. Hynek’s desire to bust this cover-up wide open often gets the better of him emotionally, which I find quite a contradiction to his natural scientific tendencies.
So here we are at the Hynek house. Turns out, Susie Miller is there as she knows her Russian compatriots are now in full pursuit mode. She’s seeking protection for a bit and even manages to find the gun Mimi bought previously and hide is where she can get to it. Why? Because there’s a car parked down the street with a good-sized shadowy figure in it. Susie, it seems, senses she’s about to run out of options and the normal cool she displays is starting to erode.
There’s a great scene where Susie has found the gun and is in the bathroom hiding it. Mimi comes in to find her and the tension and concern is etched on their faces, each with a cheek to their side of the bathroom door. These two women care for each other, but they have secrets and fears. It’s a great shot and one that says a lot about what’s to come.
And then, everyone comes together. Quinn is there to talk to Mimi, Dr. Hynek is trying to stall and get answers from his wife, Susie is trying to tell Quinn she has to go away permanently, and Quinn is simply trying to manage about three things at one time. It’s a mad, rambling bit of storytelling that heightens the tensions all around. Mimi confesses to having the file, Hynek goes through it and that mind of his starts racing at the evidence before him. He wants to go public, Quinn is still in the “too much information vortex,” and Mimi and Susie are in various states of emotional struggle. The shit is hitting the fan – and then the fan decides to hit back.
Our shadowy figure enters the house and demands Susie, who has disappeared. He’s big, he’s menacing and he wants Susie now. And then, he gets her. Or should I say, she gets him with a bullet to the back. She’s got the gun and puts a slug in the Russian agent. It’s interesting because in that moment, the calm, assured Susie is back. While Quinn tries to calm her, the Russian on the floor tells them it’s no use, she’s trained to finish the job. If there was any doubt about Susie Miller, it ended quickly as he speaks Russian to his countrywoman before she finishes the job. It’s a cold-blooded killing and leaves everyone in shock.
There’s emotional devastation all over the place. Mimi feels completely betrayed and used by a woman she thought was a good friend, a friend she could trust. Quinn obviously has feelings for Susie, feelings that run deep and true. He can’t believe what he’s seeing and hearing. And Susie herself is crushed. It would seem that she’s lost just about everything, a love, her daughter, her freedom – everything. That what makes what happens next so incredibly powerful. She offers to take the blame it all – the killing, the file theft, being a Russian agent, all of it. In the end, Susie Miller, the highly trained Russian agent, is going to cover for the friends she just lost.
Wow, was that incredibly good stuff. I can’t do the arc justice. Suffice it to say that the work of Ksenia Solo (Susie), Laura Mennell (Mimi), Aiden Gillen (Hynek), and Michael Malarkey (Quinn) really dialed up the tension, excitement and sadness. I did not see Susie’s sacrifice coming, though I suspected that when she disappeared when tall, dark and ugly broke into the Hynek’s that she was going to put that gun to use.
When it was over, the stunned looks and disappointment of everyone was powerful stuff and I loved it. It’s a good reminder that Project Blue Book isn’t just a sci-fi show based on alien investigations, it’s a study of the men and women who crossed paths and built into the lives of each other as those investigations continued – and the time and worldwide tumult that was going on.
And when it was all over and Susie was taken away in handcuffs and everyone got their stories straight, Hynek and Quinn sat calmly in their office in the calamity’s aftermath. Two interesting things occur right here. The first is the call from John F. Kennedy inquiring about their work. The second is an envelope with a strange key that has been sent to them by “John,” perhaps a subtle dig at them with a brothel connection. Could be our generals manipulating our boys to get them to walk a certain path. Could be, given our boys find Hangar 18, use the key to gain entry and find a giant facility that is completely empty.
In photos they’d looked at, the facility was full of machinery and craft. Now, as they ponder their next move and the series of events that led them to this empty room, it becomes increasingly murky as to who is pulling the strings. Feels as thought there are multiple puppeteers at work here. With two episodes to go, I’m curious about how JFK will now play into this little alien investigation drama and I’m hopeful we get to see Harding’s LSD trip. That should be a boatload of fun.
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