“Janice” takes centre stage, and various histories are revealed. But is everything merely going according to a script?
This recap of Dispatches From Elsewhere Season 1, Episode 3, “Janice”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Janice (Sally Field) takes center stage in Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 3, and as Octavio Coleman, Esquire (Richard E. Grant) helpfully explains against the orange background of the Jejune Institute’s informational openers, she just might be the audience-surrogate character we’re supposed to relate to.
This does indeed make sense; she’s a woman aging out of a life she once shared with someone else and now has to navigate alone. Anyone fearfully hurtling towards old age and all its attendant losses and limitations will see their selves in her, as will anyone pining the sudden absence of a loved one. Her backstory is divulged via cartoon since everyone likes those, and we see the early days of a romance blossom into the ups and downs of a real relationship. We see its fruits age and fall away from the tree; we see a branch broken off and its twin left idly behind. When you build your life around something, or someone, what life remains when that person or thing isn’t there anymore?
The fourth-wall-breaking intro of Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 3 gives way to a direct continuation from last week’s closer, with Fredwynn (André Benjamin) in the trunk of Octavio’s limo and Peter (Jason Segel), Simone (Eve Lindley) and Janice giving chase. They follow to the theatre where the Jejune shareholder’s meeting is being held, discover Fredwynn is missing, and then are taken backstage by Octavio, from inside whose coat Janice must retrieve a card.
Octavio reflects the episode’s focus on Janice. For the most part, Peter and Simone are sidelined backstage; Octavio regales Janice personally with justifications for Jejune’s purpose in an ever-changing world and the naïve idealism of the Elsewhere Society. He’s dismissive of Peter and Simone’s demands for an explanation from him, and, after a failed attempt to get to his jacket, leads Janice to a floor seat where she’s given a jacket of her own.
The presentation in Dispatches From Elsewhere Episode 3 dispenses useful background on the Jejune Institute and their history as a conglomerate of pioneering academics. It also introduces their latest invention, a gizmo developed by the missing Clara that is very reminiscent of something from Black Mirror – a virtual reality headset that allows users to relive, in exact detail, a past memory which would ordinarily be distorted by time and attempting to recall recollections. When Octavio asks for a volunteer there are many offers, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he ultimately ends up choosing Janice.
Through the device, Janice is whisked to her wedding day – an initially happy memory that quickly turns sour when she’s led to a younger version of herself, who is disappointed in how few of her ambitions became reality, and how few of her promises were kept. She had no career; no life outside her husband, Lev (played in the flashbacks by Will Rogers). Now she is flailing aimlessly, desperately in search of some purpose beyond companionship. The “game” she has become so obsessed with isn’t the answer, and neither are Peter and Simone, who she snubs in their attempts to provide support, turning instead to Octavio, whom she thanks for the experience.
Much of what Janice saw was projected onto screens for the benefit of the crowd; an obvious tool in Octavio’s presentation, though Janice doesn’t see it in that cynical sense. But the Elsewhere Society does – they invade the theatre dressed in elaborate costumes and wielding toy weaponry, promising to free the onlookers from Octavio’s spell. The resultant fight, nerfed and silly, between two opposing sides both believing themselves to be unequivocally right, isn’t a particularly subtle metaphor. But it’s at least a pretty funny one.
It might also be all a ruse – at least according to Fredwynn, who emerges basically from nowhere claiming to have found a script, and proving as much by correctly predicting several subsequent events. The Jejune Institute and the Elsewhere Society are, apparently, aligned; it’s the players of the so-called game who’re being manipulated along predetermined tracks. That script might hold further answers, but there’s time for a break before our heroes go in search of them. Any pity felt by the others for Janice is short-lived, since she reveals that, during her thank-you hug with Octavio, she stole what she was told to. Perhaps there’s an independent streak in her after all.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.