Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E6 moves the plot of the series forward significantly. After discovering that the waterfall mural that Clara purportedly painted was real at the end of S1E5, our friends gather at the diner to discuss their next move. Peter, believing more than ever that Clara is real, insists that they focus on trying to find her. Fredwynn, on the other hand, doubles down on his insistence that the whole thing is a conspiracy and wants to track the money involved in order to find out who is behind it.
Simone suggests they do both, with the usual pairings, but Janice is still mad at Fredwynn due to the text message he sent from her phone. So things get shaken up, with Simone and Janice taking off to track the art, and Peter teaming up with Fredwynn on the conspiracy angle.
It’s quite entertaining to watch these pairings. Dispatches from Elsewhere has a phenomenal core cast and has managed to flesh out these four characters quite effectively without wasting any time. And that continues in S1E6, as we learn more about Janice’s past as a badass feminist and see her support Simone. Peter and Fredwynn’s interactions too give fresh perspective into each character, while also providing for some moments that are quite funny.
As each pair proceeds through the task at hand, we see them bringing out aspects of one another that are both novel in terms of the show, and fit perfectly with what we have to come to know about each of these people over the proceeding five episodes.
For example, when Peter recognizes the logo of Bender Elmore, Fredwynn asks him how he knew something, in a way that could certainly seem condescending. But we’ve gotten to know Fredwynn enough by this point to discern that he really just wants to know. He’s direct—blunt, even—and has been a bit dismissive of Peter because he’s found his desire to believe things are “real” to be naïve, but there is a respect that comes through here and grows throughout the episode.
Sorry, I Can’t Tell If You’re Joking At All
Both storylines in Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E6 cut against the notion that what our friends are engaged in is “just a game.” As Peter and Fredwynn revisit past locations, they find they no longer exist as they did. The induction room is basically empty—though Peter finds a card on the floor that says “HELP HER”—the strange “shop” where Peter met Simone has been emptied of all of the curios and items that were there before, and so on. Even the museum, which Fredwynn notes is a pre-existing site that cannot be similarly wiped, is for some reason closed and they have to break in.
On the other side of things, Simone and Janice track down a mural that seems incomplete, only to find its other half inside of an apartment across the street. They discover that a previous tenant was named Clara Torres, and by looking at microfilm at the library that she did indeed go missing. All of this points to Clara being real.
There are more sinister elements that occur in each storyline of Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E6 as well. When Fredwynn and Peter go to the phone that Peter answered before he danced with Bigfoot, for example, they find a rather mundane phone in its place. But as they grapple over it, they receive a threatening message about returning to the game. And we see the man drinking milk at the bar that Janice and Simone go to, and again at the library. I don’t know why the fact that he is drinking milk is so disturbing, but it is. Perhaps because these are places where one should not be drinking milk. Regardless, he’s watching them.
So is this a game, or isn’t it? Is there something nefarious going on, or not? It’s possible, after all, that the game is so elaborate that even though our friends think they are working outside of its bounds they really aren’t. It could be like one of those things where the characters think they have broken out of a simulation only to find themselves in another simulation.
I don’t know if Dispatches from Elsewhere has moved beyond its source material at this point or not (and please don’t tell me—I’ll finish watching The Institute (2013) once the season is over I promise—but these questions feel very much up in the air in terms of the narrative of the show at this point. So even if it hasn’t, the door remains open for this fictional story to do something that veers away from those real life events in San Francisco.
That Means Everyone: To Help Clara, We Need Your Help Right Now
The differing missions of the two pairs nonetheless lead them to the same place. Peter and Fredwynn find it as the source of the playlist that has provided the music for the game, while Janice and Simone find it through Janice’s inference that Clara would have been taken to the same mental health facility Janice herself appears to have previously spent time at. But it’s not that anymore—there’s a gym where intake used to be. Thankfully Fredwynn’s tracing of an IP address has been more precise, and up they all go to the penthouse apartment.
It’s in disarray. There is a lamp on the floor, and the faucet is on in the kitchen for some reason. There is also what seems to be a half drunk glass of wine next to it. They follow the noise from upstairs, Peter kicks in a door (!), and they enter an even more interesting room.
There is a kicked over chair on the floor, with rope around it, as though someone had perhaps been bound to this chair and escaped. And on the TV are Octavio and Commander 14 repeating the same phrase over and over again. This seems to be further evidence that they, along with the Jejune Institute and Elsewhere Society, are one and the same, or two sides of the same coin. (Though it does complicate things a bit that they were in the same place in S1E3, doesn’t it?)
The Last Day of the Game?
A message our friends receive early on in Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E6 indicates to them that the truth about Clara will be revealed that evening, leading them to believe that this will be the last day of the game. This colors their actions throughout.
I don’t know whether it is, or if they will make it to that gathering to see what’s going on there (though I imagine they’ll do the latter, somehow), but they do seem to have all moved beyond just thinking that they are in for a bit of fun with this. So if it is all “just” a game—that is, if this has all been concocted by whomever in a way that lacks real stakes—it is still not just that for them. The stakes are real when it comes to the lives of Peter, Simone, Janice, and Fredwynn, regardless of what this thing is that they’ve got caught up in.
Peter has lost his job, which could be seen as a bad thing, but has also involved him asserting himself. Simone seems to be gaining confidence in herself and her place in the world. Janice isn’t sure if she “used to be a badass” or is becoming one. And Fredwynn, however slightly, is opening himself up to relations to others in a way that he’d closed himself off to.
As I’ve said before, Dispatches from Elsewhere is more about the characters than anything else. Though that doesn’t stop us, or them, from wondering what is going on.
When Fredwynn enters his mental palace in Dispatches from Elsewhere S1E6, he sees the clown boy who previously appeared in S1E3. If you recall, he appeared outside of Janice’s window at the end of the episode, pretty much out of nowhere. It didn’t connect to anything, but now it does. It seems likely that this is what Fredwynn was looking for but couldn’t recognize. This is what the imaginary Clara invading his mental space was trying to point him towards.
I don’t know quite what to make of this Clara, to be clear. She seems like a figment, showing up to Peter and now Fredwynn, but who knows if Dispatches from Elsewhere might make more of that as we move forward. Everything about Clara is in question, after all. Is she a real person? Is she a girl? Perhaps she is an adult woman by this point given that the waterfall mural was painted 20 years ago. Has she been abducted? If so, by whom? Is she missing? And if the Jejune Institute and Elsewhere Society both want to find her, is it for the same reason, or are they at loggerheads? How do we read that last scene of S1E6?
Either way, I get the feeling that Clown Boy (Travis Burnett) is somehow going to play a key role in all of this. And clearly even if the “game” ends the show won’t for several more episodes. I can’t wait to see where it’s going.