The Time Team is back in peak form in the Timeless movie, “The Miracle of Christmas.” When we last saw them, a grizzled Lucy (Abigail Spencer) and Wyatt (Matt Lanter) interrupted their grieving the death of Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) in a tricked out Lifeboat and asked if they wanted to #SaveRufus. The movie picks up in the same moment, and the answer is an obvious YES.
Future Lucy and Wyatt are an unhappy looking duo. They give 2018 Lucy and Wyatt Lucy’s journal, which this 2023 Lucy has apparently been adding to, and tell them to figure out how to save Rufus so he can save them all. Then they give the Time Team their “DeLorean” Lifeboat and use the 2018 version to get home. During their visit, 2023 Lucy suffers a severe headache and near seizure because of being inside her own timeline, and as soon as she leaves, Connor (Paterson Joseph) cautions everyone that lingering in your own timeline starts like that and ends in insanity and death.
Lucy and Wyatt retire to the room that until recently was Wyatt and Jessica’s (Tonya Glanz) to look at the diary. As soon as Wyatt peeps a near-future entry that recounts Lucy kissing Flynn (Goran Visnjic), he opts out. He finds Jiya (Claudia Doumit) wigging with unrest while she waits for them to choose a destination, and he shows her where to find the new-in-packaging Rubik’s Cube Rufus picked up for her in 1981 as a Christmas present.
Before the diary reveals anything, the alarms sound, announcing that the Mother Ship has jumped to the California Gold Rush in January 1848. Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey) insists on maintaining their core mission in the midst of the new mission of saving Rufus, so Lucy, Jiya, Wyatt and Flynn hop in the Lifeboat and head to 1848.
Almost as soon as they enter town, a cat-calling miner mentions that Lucy and Jiya are the third and fourth women they’ve seen that day– the others being a redhead and a blonde. That’s because while the Time Team has been worrying about saving Rufus, Emma (Annie Wersching) has been launching into her new era for Rittenhouse with Jessica as her chief lieutenant.
Emma and Jessica have come to 1848 to connect with their last remaining sleeper, who has collected a satchel full of gold nuggets for them. Jessica meets him alone, because? He wants to see Emma face-to-face and go home with her, but he can’t because? In any event, he gives Jessica all of his gold at gunpoint, and she leaves him behind, returning to 2018 with four gold bars worth of gold. Emma leaves her to guard two of them while she departs again for North Korea in 1950 to do something?
Meanwhile, in 1848, the Time Team also discovers that Emma and Jessica have made up Wanted posters for them in advance of their arrival, and there’s a bounty on their heads. This inspires them to steal horses, gear up as cowboys and ride for Sutter’s Mill to sniff out the sleeper.
In transit to the gold fields, they’re intercepted by the owner of the horses, Joaquin Murrieta, a.k.a. ‘Zorro’ (Paul Lincoln Alayo). They tell him that in exchange for the continued use of his horses, which Jiya observes he has also stolen, they’ll lead him to gold. He and his men join their band, and they ride on together.
They camp for the night before reaching their destination, and Flynn and Zorro bond over their similar histories of having murdered families that spurred quests for revenge. Flynn advises against getting too into it, since it doesn’t help the family and does cause a lot of pain. Zorro is like, “Why did you get over revenge, brah?” And Flynn looks meaningfully at Lucy.
Later, around the campfire, Wyatt makes a declaration. He’s been reading and re-reading the part of the diary that includes Jessica, and he’s decided that Rufus is dead directly as a result of his having allowed Jessica into the bunker. The only way to save Rufus is to take Jessica out of the timeline, and he’s the man for the job. Lucy says, “I’ll go with you.” Jiya says, “I’m coming, too,” and Flynn says, “If you all die saving Rufus, who will be left to save the world?”
Flynn makes a decision. He pretends he’s going to scout ahead for them, but in reality he sneaks to the Lifeboat and uses the new auto-pilot feature to travel to the moment Jessica died in the original timeline. He meets the man Rittenhouse sent to save her and shoots him, then witnesses the fight between Jessica and Wyatt that led to her leaving the car before being strangled. Once she’s walking alone on the dark road, she calls someone…
It’s the dead Rittenhouse agent! She was always Rittenhouse. Or was she? She was in this version of the original timeline, anyway.
Flynn attacks her, but she’s combat trained and puts up a good fight. Eventually he shoots her down, then fires a “making sure” shot into her body before leaving. He’s already having the headaches from being in his own timeline, so he goes to peek through his family home’s window at his happy earlier self and his alive wife and daughter, then sends the Lifeboat back empty and stays to die in 2012.
The Time Team doesn’t know about his deception at first. They find out when they reach Sutter’s Mill and are arrested by the cat-caller from town. He locks them in a makeshift jail, where they hope Flynn will come save them. Instead, it is RUFUS who breaks down the door and saves them all!
It’s news to Rufus that he’s been dead. In his reality, Jessica never came back and Wyatt and Lucy have been a couple since Hollywood. He also never lost Jiya to Chinatown, so he’s a little out of step with his friends. His appearance, together with a letter from Flynn that Lucy finds in the journal, confirm that Flynn has sacrificed himself for the greater good.
With Rufus back and Jessica gone, the Time Team returns to 2018 where Agent Christopher has been nervously knitting and decorating for Christmas while Connor grumped. In their alone time, Agent Christopher pointed out that they’ll have to destroy both time machines once they’ve won, and Connor countered with the point that technological advances cannot be un-achieved. The fact that he invented the time machine means that someone else will also do it, and soon, and dismantling both machines will leave them vulnerable when that day arrives.
When the Team returns to a Jessica-less timeline without Flynn, they fill in Agent Christopher and Connor and then try to work out their romantic awkwardness. Lucy and Wyatt may be remembering a disturbance in their force that no longer happened, but finding out that Wyatt and Jessica’s room has been Wyatt and Lucy’s room in this timeline is uncomfortable anyway. And when Rufus tries to initiate sexy time with Jiya, he finds literal scars on her body from Chinatown, which she isn’t willing to talk about yet– hinting that there are emotional scars as well.
They aren’t the only ones who need to adapt to “while you were away” changes. Emma returns from her North Korean jaunt to discover that her underlings don’t know Jessica and there’s no gold in her safe. (Does that mean she didn’t just take gold to North Korea to arrange for whatever she arranged there? She asked a guy for a big favor, but what the heck was it?)
Emma wants revenge, so she jumps back to North Korea to lure the Time Team to their deaths! They innocently follow her, both couples traveling in the four-seater DeLorean Lifeboat, since Jiya won’t risk being separated from Rufus again.
The Christmastime Hungnam evacuation is their destination this time, when US troops managed to evacuate thousands of North Korean refugees safely. The Time Team parks the Lifeboat far from the action and begin hiking through the historically cold night (without hats or gloves, but whatev). They soon find evidence of a skirmish where a lone survivor with a helicopter offers them a ride to the evacuation site. It’s the guy Emma bribed!
Cut to Wyatt regaining consciousness after wresting the controls from the pilot, and causing the helicopter to crash. Lucy is fine, Rufus is fine and Jiya has a minor shrapnel injury that she takes care of with skillz she picked up in Chinatown.
They continue their trek on foot, and when they find an Army ambulance outside a church, Rufus and Wyatt team up to get it started while Lucy and Jiya take refuge from the cold in the church. The gals start speaking audibly about their relationship issues caused by time travel, not worrying at all that anyone there might speak English. A nice pregnant woman and a less-nice communist informant do, though. The woman befriends them and the dude takes off to get some killers.
Back in 2018, Agent Christopher and Connor discover online that the whole team is going to be shot to death outside that church. Agent Christopher decides she needs to get the Mother Ship back to save them.
In 1950, Wyatt and Rufus succeed in getting the truck started just as the informant and his killers arrive. They go to get the womenfolk, but Lucy won’t leave without her new friend, and the port she needs to reach is in the opposite direction of the Lifeboat.
They drive safely through the gunfire at the church, but the truck dies again a mile from the evacuation point. It’s time to start hiking again, but oh no! Korean friend is in labor, so Wyatt steps up as the second-best option for delivering the baby, and Lucy and Rufus run to the evacuation scene to try to find a doctor or nurse.
They succeed, and as they’re running back to the shack where they left Wyatt and Jiya with the laboring mother, they see an explosion in that direction. When they arrive, the shack has been decimated. Fortunately, all parties had safely moved out of the way before the bomb hit? So they emerge from behind the wreckage, with Wyatt holding the healthy baby girl he’s just delivered and Jiya supporting the new mother.
Everyone makes it safely to port, where the mother and child are almost instantaneously reunited with the woman’s husband and son in the crowd of thousands of refugees. The Time Team hopes to find a vehicle to use to get back to the Lifeboat, but anything with four wheels here has already been wired to explode as soon as the last boat leaves, so they have to hoof it.
When they reach the church, they take shelter there again because sounds indicate that they’re surrounded by communist fighters. Inside, Jiya and Rufus decide that their differing memories don’t change what they are to each other, so they make out. Lucy tells Wyatt that when she thought he’d died in the explosion, she realized she couldn’t imagine a life without him. She confesses her love, and he confesses that he never wanted to choose Jessica, he just felt duty-bound. They make out.
Outside, a commotion erupts with bright light, and they head cautiously to the door to see what’s happening. It’s the Mother Ship!
Agent Christopher managed to spring Benjamin Cahill (John Getz) from prison and secure immunity for his son. In exchange, he took her to every Rittenhouse property until they found Emma, giving her another unpleasant surprise upon returning from one of her trips. Since she set up her new HQ at the beginning of the movie, she’s not only arranged a few hits on the Time Team, she has also been stealing art (the Mona Lisa??) and diamonds throughout history. Agent Christopher arrests all the remnants of Rittenhouse, then handcuffs Emma and forces her to pilot the Mother Ship to save the Time Team.
The reunion in North Korea is interrupted when Emma frees herself from the handcuffs with a stolen brooch. She freezes under a number of raised guns and tempts Lucy with the promise that if Lucy will trust her and let her go, she’ll help get Lucy’s sister, Amy, back. Lucy doesn’t trust her, though, and she tells the gang that if Emma moves towards the ship, they should shoot her.
The North Koreans beat them to it, shooting Emma and letting her fall to the ground, only definitely dead if the show doesn’t get any more revivals.
Rufus deposits Lucy and Wyatt at the auto-pilot enabled Lifeboat and pilots the Mother Ship back to 2018 with Jiya and Agent Christopher inside.
Lucy and Wyatt share a moment in the Lifeboat, where he offers to take her to get her sister back. She tells him that she doesn’t want to risk creating any more ill effects from trying to save another lost person. She’s made an uneasy peace with letting Amy go, so they just go home.
With both ships finally reunited, the Time Team share Christmas in the bunker. Agent Christopher gives everyone ugly scarves that they’re rude about. Jiya OPENS and PLAYS WITH the new-in-original-packaging Rubik’s Cube. (So what was even the point of buying it in 1981? They still make them now if you’re just going to play with it.) Rufus and Jiya decide they need new jobs and that they should move in together. The Mother Ship has already been dismantled (that was fast!), and Agent Christopher cheers the group with three promises:
- They are all free to go in the morning.
- She agrees with Connor’s assessment, so they’re keeping the Lifeboat. (Instead of the Mother Ship? For sentiment?)
- Wyatt has been transferred to special projects under her command, to their mutual satisfaction.
Then we jump five years into the future, where the couples are still together. Lucy has returned to teaching history, or rather “her-story” as she doesn’t have enough time to get to men. She has just been tenured, and she and Wyatt have two lovely daughters named Flynn and Amy.
Rufus and Jiya are start-up bazillionaires who encourage STEM for children. She’s the famous face of their organization, and he’s the mysterious guy in the background.
Connor has thrived as a federal contractor, continuing to help save the world.
Agent Christopher brings the gang back together for one final mission. With Rufus as pilot and Wyatt as strength, it’s time for Lucy to go back to Christmas Eve 2014 and start the whole thing by giving Flynn her diary. Lucy and Wyatt tuck their girls in for a “sleepover” in the bunker, then load into the Lifeboat and head to São Paulo, Brazil, where Flynn is drinking himself into oblivion.
Lucy approaches him, quickly gaining his trust with her knowledge of who he is, what he’s suffered and how Rittenhouse hurt him. She tells him he’ll never get his family back, but that he will be a hero and make the ultimate sacrifice, despite being seen as a terrorist by everyone first. She kisses him on the cheek and departs before the headaches get too bad.
The Time Team returns safely to the same timeline they left, and we see Flynn move into the storyline we know and a montage of moments from the series, before ending with a look over the shoulder of one of Jiya and Rufus’s STEM kids as she invents time travel.
Those crazy kids and their disregard for the space-time continuum!
They all celebrated “winning” in their battle against Rittenhouse, but Lucy’s bio-dad and half-brother are still alive, Emma is for sure alive if the show gets another stay of execution and they never resolved what the whole “Rittenhouse heir-apparent” thing with Lucy was.
Our heroes cheered at having spared Zorro from becoming a murderous bandit, and we can assume that Hedy Lamarr is still a patent billionaire in the 2023 we left. All the havoc they wreaked in their journeys is still there– except Jessica.
What about Flynn and Lucy’s fling? We have no reason to think it isn’t in the journal, but the Lucy we watch in this movie definitely never experiences it. Are we in a multiverse situation? Because now we have to believe that the Mad Max Lucy is the one who finishes the journal, but the tenured professor Lucy is the one who gives it to Flynn in the original-original timeline. Is that moment in São Paulo this show’s “Enchantment Under the Sea”?
Even though I find this show infuriating in its disregard for the butterfly effect, it’s still lovable enough that I hope tonight’s ratings will guarantee it another revival.
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