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Journeyman‘s Swiss Cheese Effect

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I spent a good deal of last night pulling my hair out trying to figure out Journeyman. None of what I watch on the show makes any sense whatsoever. Dan Vassar actually remarked to his wife, Katie, last night that he was shocked and surprised that while he was only in the past for what felt like 15 minutes, he was gone from the present for three hours. Why is this now a surprise? Was it not a surprise in the first episode when he was in the past for a few hours but gone from the present for days? Is the show misusing the Quantum Leap "Swiss cheese effect" wherein Sam Beckett can't remember details of his actual life in the past?

Is, in Journeyman's iteration, the Swiss cheese effect a process by which Dan can't remember what happened two episodes ago while in the present? And what about Katie? Why did she not look at him and say something to the effect of "Dan, you moron, we talked about this already? Do you not recall how I thought you were off on a bender because you disappeared for a few days? Remember, we had an intervention for you because you were gone for so long?"

The show seems to have absolutely no desire to put forth a clear set of rules as to the whens, whys, and wherefores of his time traveling. Yet, they are very happy to repeat the one or two little things we do know and pretend that it's new knowledge.

Speaking of inconsistencies in that show, why did Dan keep waking up in the same exact spot when he traveled to 1989? Every other time he goes into the past he wakes up in a variety of locations, but last night, it was the same exact spot every time. Or, how about this: if Dan had gone out and saved his boss's sister, his boss never would have stopped drinking and wouldn't have been the editor of the paper. Consequently, Dan and his boss never would have met so Dan never would have been prompted to save the boss's sister. Ah, a classic time travel paradox. Way to open a silly can of worms. Plus, let's not pretend that Dan didn't realize that the sister's death was what caused the boss to clean up. As soon as the death and the drinking problem were brought up everyone watching knew exactly when the drinking stopped. Dan is a reporter, how could he not have picked up on it?

There seems to be but one answer to these inconsistencies about Dan and his time travel: the producers are suffering from a Swiss cheese effect of their own.

But last night's cheese didn't end there for NBC, did it? Or, more correctly, it did end there as Journeyman aired in the final primetime slot on the network, but it wasn't the only show on NBC to feature cheesiness, as both Heroes and Chuck had plenty of the stuff.

As I have spewed most of the vitriol I currently possess, I'll keep the rest of this short. First, Heroes — I know that I thought last week that the show improved from the first episode of the season, but this week was a great disappointment. Only Hiro and Mohinder's stories are progressing, everyone else seems to just be there doing nothing, just like Micah and Niki last night. Why precisely did we need a scene with them if it was really just a graveside cry? That was our introduction to them this season, it didn't take place until the third episode, and it completely wasn't worth it. And, if Peter knew that Will (Dominic Keating) was going to try and steal the money from his fellow thieves, why did he not do anything to prevent it in advance?

Then there was Chuck, which was, and seems to always be (if one can judge by three episodes) cheesy. But Chuck's cheesiness seems purposeful. How can anyone cast Adam Baldwin and not expect cheese? He seems to always be given lines that beg for him to be just as over-the-top as he can manage. Plus, Chuck's learning the woman's part of the tango last night and having La Ciudad (Lorena Bernal) do the man's was great. It may not have any seriousness or depth to it, but the show is funny.

In closing, a question. Did anyone else out there notice that both Heroes and Journeyman last night relied heavily on Star Trek? Heroes did it with discussion of the space/time continuum, Dominic Keating's presence (Malcolm Reed on Star Trek: Enterprise) and that of Nichelle Nichols (Uhura on Star Trek). Journeyman, on the other hand, even if you discount the Swiss cheese effect Quantum Leap Scott Bakula connection (Bakula playing John Archer on Star Trek: Enterprise) had John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox on Star Trek: Enterprise).

Fascinating, Jim. Fascinating.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Yea, I noticed the Star Trek connections. There have been many in the last season of Heroes. And Sylar is playing Spock in the next movie.

  • Jules

    Dan kept ending up back in the same spot in the episode because he kept going back and getting it wrong – not a little wrong, ALL wrong. Usually he progress the time line of what needs to happen in the first encounter and then he he keeps going back and fine tuning until what was supposed to happen – happens.

    As for the whole, why is he just NOW starting to worry about how much time he’s there versus how long he’s actually gone – he’s still adjusting to being pulled out of one time line and thrust into another. It’s got to be disconcerting to say the least.

    I admit – I didn’t think last night’s episode was the best of what we’ve seen so far, but I’m not ready to give up yet. Especially not with the oh so talented Kevin McKidd in front of the camera – love him!

  • the dude

    dude man youre wrong man. dan’s gonna try to save his bosses sister even if he knows its not possible. It not like he spent hours thinking of every possible paradox. plus man he wasn’t able to fix it so the paradox never took place man. and what you said about the inconsisencies of his time travel is wrong too. the time travels revovle around a certain person and certain occurences which affect that person’s life. its clear the time travel ability is set up for him to help people not just travel back in time. i must admit the first episode need a bit more showmanship to show off the plot but the ideas are pretty decent. ill keep watching till it either reveals bad scriptwriting or someone persuades me better than you. no offense but nothing you said was a quality argument man. the dude says peace man.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Hey, the dude, I loved you in the Big Lebowski.Though, I thought “The Jesus” was funnier…

    “its clear the time travel ability is set up for him to help people not just travel back in time.”

    I thought that was the same idea in Quantum Leap as well.
    Anyways, back to the article at hand.
    Did Mr. Laser ever read comic books?(It’s just a question)Because Heroes,to me, feels the same.
    As for Journeyman,I guess I just enjoy what’s taking place and I really haven’t worried about the technicalities of time travel because we really don’t know to begin with…Uh, no one has traveled through time,Hello?

    On your assertation of the paradox: No one knew that the boss stopped drinking after his sister’s death till the end of the episode(I’ve seen plenty of functioning alcoholics)including Dan. Obviously, in the confrontation of writing an article about her, it seemed the boss was still pretty torn up about her death. Maybe he was still drinking?? Plus, he doesn’t know beforehand,like Quantum Leap,who he has to save. Also,He thought he had to pull Allen(?) out of the earthquake to stop him from commiting suicide ,when in reality,letting the house fall on him changed the past…AND, like Jules said,“Dan kept ending up back in the same spot in the episode because he kept going back and getting it wrong – not a little wrong, ALL wrong.” That is why he kept ending up in the same place…

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *lol* Let me just repeat myself again…