The Irrational Recap: Hidden in Plane Sight

Let’s kick off this Irrational recap, Jeopardy! style. Answer: Crash and burn. Question: What is an apt description of Alec’s prospects when it comes to a second chance at love with his ex-wife? Don’t worry if you got it wrong: The judges also would have accepted “What is this episode’s Case of the Week?”

A plane accident with murky underpinnings is the central focus of “The Barnum Effect,” but I’m most into the way that Marisa is firmly yet lovingly setting boundaries for her ex-husband. Yes, she and Alec can work together, and yes, it’s clear they still care for each other. But the FBI queen has made it clear that she’s moving on, and what better way to do that than to start dating a co-worker? Or, anyone, really?

Read on for the highlights of Episode 3.

A STEP FORWARD, FINALLY | Alec is heading to the FBI to meet Marisa so they can look into the logo he recalled from the van the night of the bombing. Kylie is skeptical — didn’t they talk just last episode about how he should give his ex-wife some space? But he claims the meeting is nothing more than investigational. Still, he is taking heart in the fact that she wants to see him in person about something that could be handled via phone.

When he gets there, she’s got good news: They found a company that matches the logo. “After 19 years, the FBI is officially reopening the case,” she says. The place in question is JoJo’s Dry Cleaners, which is no longer in business. The owner is dead, but Marisa has located his daughter in Sioux City; with Alec’s positive ID of the logo, she’ll have an FBI agent in Iowa question her.

THE IRRATIONAL — “The Barnum Effect” Episode 103 — Pictured: Arash DeMaxi as Rizwan — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)Courtesy of NBC

WHAT DID THE PILOT DO? | Alec’s assistant Rizwan just happens to witness the plane crash while working his rideshare job. Marisa calls Alec from the scene: The National Transportation Safety Board suspects the flight was downed deliberately, because they think the pilot wanted to kill himself. The highly experienced pilot, who died in the crash, didn’t follow any established protocol ahead of the crash, and the FBI didn’t find any drugs in his system. The law-enforcement agencies are wondering about his state of mind just before the incident, so Marisa brings Alec into the investigation to do what he does best.

Alec thinks both the pilot’s pattern of behavior and his work history don’t support the thesis that he wanted to end his life. So he, Phoebe and Rizwan (with Marisa’s help) search the pilot’s house for clues. They find fresh seafood and produce, which seems to indicate that he thought he’d be coming home that evening. Upstairs, Alec runs into Rory, the pilot’s brother… who’s naked in bed with his “friend,” Daisy.

Downstairs, Rory vows that Lucas, the pilot, was not suicidal. We learn that Rory also is a pilot. And later, at the FBI, we learn that Lucas might have been a member of an incel group who crashed the plane because 34 members of a global women’s leadership conference were on board. “This does not sound like the guy whose home we visited,” Alec says, but there’s more. Lucas deleted his emails right before the flight. And, seemingly more damning? The incel group’s rallying cry is “I took the black pill.” And that phrase is clearly heard on recovered voice recordings from the plane’s black box.

THE BARNUM EFFECT | Still, Alec isn’t convinced. And, on a totally different note, he’s bummed when Marisa breaks it to him that she’s seeing Jace, an FBI colleague (played by Brian King, The Chi, Somebody Somewhere). Alec takes his hurt feelings home to find that Kylie has recovered Lucas’ emails, and a little digging reveals that he thought the group he allegedly endorsed were a bunch of “impotent losers.” When they doxxed and spammed him, he deleted his emails.

Meanwhile, realizing that the pilot’s comments on the cockpit recording are susceptible to listener interpretation, Alec susses out that it COULD be that Lucas was saying “Atmos failure, prepare to ditch” — which would indicate that the plane’s guidance system had malfunctioned. The way that one of the plane bigwigs immediately shuts that theory down around the 24-minute mark means that’s exactly what happened, right? And when one of the plane bigwig’s underlings tries to slip Alec some intel, her home is ransacked and she goes missing.

Back at the university, Rizwan arranges it so that the black box information is fed into a flight simulator that Rory operates while Phoebe sits in the co-pilot’s seat. They do it several times, seeking answers, until a traumatized Rizwan shuts the laptop closed and runs from the room. A concerned Phoebe follows him out into the hallway, where he downplays his reaction. She gently suggests that he talk to someone, because he’s clearly affected by what he saw. And when he refuses, she says maybe Alec is the best person to hear what he has to say.

A BRIBE GONE VERY WRONG | It’s true: The guy’s got skills. Because he finds plane bigwig at a bar and, in just a few minutes, gets him to confess that the Atmos software had a bug that caused a cargo plane crash before Lucas’, but that Dale at the NTSB said he’d let things slide for a payoff and a promise that the company would patch the problem. Marisa and Jace then arrest plane bigwig as Alec rushes off to save Rory, who noticed some weirdness during the simulation and wants to bring it to the NTSB’s attention.

Alec and the FBI manage to intercept the meeting before anything bad can happen. Oh, and Marisa finds plane bigwig’s underling, who’s safe but was laying low after seeing someone break into her house.

The episode ends with Rizwan and Alec meeting up at a restaurant to process what Rizwan’s gone through. “What you’re feeling is completely normal. All you have to do is let yourself feel it,” the professor counsels. They talk a bit about how Alec reframed his experience in the bombing as a way to investigate why people do the things they do; he cautions against getting so wrapped up in the work that Rizwan loses touch with his ability to process his trauma. Then, Rory, Alec, Phoebe, Rizwan and a lot more people attend a candlelight vigil for Lucas.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Hit the comments, and let us know!

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