Timeless pulled a bait and switch this week and we were 100% here for it. (Spoiler warning for Timeless 2×08, “The Day Ronald Reagan Was Shot.” You have been warned.)

For a certain generation, John Hinckley, Jr. loomed large in our minds. For others, he’s a name in a history book. Either way, it’s certainly an event that could have altered the course of history had it gone differently. This week’s Timeless could have made that event the focus of the episode. The promos definitely set it up as such. Instead, they used it as a backdrop to tell one of their most heartfelt stories of the series.

Until now, we’ve seen Sakina Jaffrey’s Denise Christopher as the tough but fair Homeland Security agent intent on stopping Rittenhouse and getting the Mothership back. We also know she has a wife and children thanks to season 1’s “The Capture of Benedict Arnold” and that she gave Lucy a memory stick in the event that a time shift caused her to forget her family. We know Denise as smart, capable, and willing to make hard choices when no one else will.

But we didn’t know about her past or how she got where she is until this episode –– and what an episode.

The ’80s, baby!

Oh, the hair. The fashion. The cars. From Lucy’s feathered flip to the AMC Pacer the Rittenhouse agent drove, the production design was on point. Sure, there’s still some residual ’70s stuff in their looks, but seeing the Time Team in full ’80s regalia is one of my favorite moments in the series to date.

It was also great to see Jiya on the team. Rufus’ reasoning for why she should come along may have been morbid (she’s the Lifeboat’s back up pilot) but adding her to the away team (to borrow a term) gave us a chance to see a whole new side of her (we’ve seen a lot of sadness recently) and discover how versatile she is. I want to hear more about the security tag thing…

Rittenhouse’s target

When the episode started, my first thought was that Rittenhouse was going back to the day Reagan was shot to finish the job Hinckley set out to do and Kill Reagan. Reagan’s death at that time would have made George H.W. Bush president and that shift could have had any number of ramifications.

Instead, it was a young Denise Christopher, born Dhriti Sirivastava, a woman who was on the cusp of the next big step towards the future we all know she’s destined for. At first, you think Wyatt has preserved the timeline by saving her life, but Rittenhouse still managed to tilt the board just by wounding her.

What follows is an exploration of cultural values, family tensions, what life may have been like for some LGBTQ people at the time, traditional gender roles and more –– all of it handled beautifully. We also learned more about Jiya in the midst of all this and it made perfect sense in the moment. It’s hard to tackle that much in one episode and make it work, but make it work the Timeless writers did. It apparently got really dusty in my apartment while I was watching the episode because my eyes kept watering right through to the end.

All the Feels

Seriously. So. Many.

Who would have thought that Garcia Flynn would be the one to get through to Agent Christopher as she sits there in the bunker trying not to think about possibly losing everything she loves in one fell swoop? But it makes perfect sense once it happens. Flynn began this whole series doing whatever he could to take Rittenhouse down no matter the costs because of what Rittenhouse did to him. Not that he doesn’t put his foot in his mouth more than once this episode, but Goran Višnjić is so charming, it’s hard not to warm up to him.

Sakina Jaffrey was also stellar in this episode, as was Karen David as her younger self. David as Dhitri had all the core strength and intellect of Jaffrey’s Denise and both showed a vulnerability that was captivating to watch. Especially those moments about Denise’s wife and children in both timelines.

Rufus and Jiya

Show of hands, am I the only one who cheered when Jiya told Rufus he was acting like a douchebag? She’s right, he was. But it’s the “was” part that makes me happiest and I hope his commitment to her at the end of the episode sticks.

These two are so in love and they’re so good for one another and I truly think there’s nothing they can’t do if they work together.

So more of that, please.

The Sleepers

First, they were just Rittenhouse, then we learned that were sleeper agents sent to different points in time, but who they were or why they did this was a mystery. In “The Day Ronald Reagan Was Shot,” Wyatt and Rufus capture sleeper agent Owen (Matthew Alan) and we a look at someone who’s been sent back in time to wait to be activated but didn’t seem like any other agent we’ve met so far.

Instead, Owen’s something both more understandable; he’s gone back in time because he owes Rittenhouse for something they did for him. Once he’s really faced with the prospect of what he’s done, he takes his own life. Granted, some of that may be because he’s afraid of Rittenhouse, but there’s also the feeling that he really didn’t know what he signed up for when he first went back in time.

Rittenhouse seems to understand that anyone can be pushed to do things they wouldn’t normally do and any mountain can be moved with the right leverage.

Speaking of leverage…

Jessica’s news

Pregnant? I have questions. Are people in the bunker just letting her go out shopping for pregnancy tests? Do they get Amazon delivery? And how long has she been back? I’m confused on time*. Something about this feels fishy to me.

We also learn that her brother, who was dead in Wyatt’s timeline, received a critical and lifesaving cancer treatment at age three. Was it Rittenhouse? And, if so, who’s paying that favor back? Is Jessica Rittenhouse already or will they activate her? Is the pregnancy real or a diversion tactic? If Jessica is Rittenhouse, why would she so casually mention her brother to Wyatt? If she’s not Rittenhouse, why do they have surveillance on her?

Yeah, I have a few questions, Timeless writers.

Tidbits and randomness

Lucy and Wyatt’s little “The Alamo!” when talking to Rufus. Those two are so darn cute. I’m glad they’re getting along a bit better than last week.

“She doesn’t end up in the FBI, she doesn’t join Homeland Security, Rittenhouse wins, we’re toast.” Jiya sums it up perfectly.

Lucy and Jiya being delightfully awkward while trying to suggest maybe Denise isn’t so into…men and saying all the wrong things but somehow managing to be earnest enough that it’s okay.

Chicken Biryani and shrimp curry. ‘Nuff said.

I hope to see you next week. Until then, keep living in and enjoying the moment. Who knows when things can change?

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