If Jason Segel’s Dispatches from Elsewhere has taught its characters and audiences anything through three episodes, it’s to expect to be surprised. The AMC mystery-comedy-drama hybrid series remains self-aware, with the opening sequence of Octavio (Richard Grant) chatting about another one of the series’ main four characters. He continues his conversational tone, and his insistence that we are similar to at least one of these people, in this case the kind Janice (Sally Field), of which the episode is named.
Clue 1: An Animated Janice
Subverting expectations once again, ‘Janice’ starts with an animated sequence detailing her life and her marriage. Octavio explains that Janice has become a “partner without a partner” and she has learned that “nothing lasts forever.” This opening acts as a cute, heartbreaking, and love-filled example of Segel’s show attempting to bring humanity to the forefront.
The short animation brings memories of Pixar’s Up and the way we remember our relationships. If the first five minutes of Up made you cry, be sure to grab the tissues before you begin this episode as well.
Clue 2: Shareholders and Speeches
Riding their joint bike to the Octavio-led Jejune Institute’s shareholders meeting, Janice, Peter (Jason Segel), and Simone (Eve Lindley) continue looking for their fourth team member, Fredwynn (André Benjamin). Fredwynn had hopped in the trunk of Octavio’s car in the previous episode, and Janice’s worry overruns the group. While looking for Fredwynn, the group comes across Octavio, their first meeting with the mysterious and oddly omniscient leader of the organization. After Peter pleads with him to tell them what’s going on, the leader rightfully pulls out a hard boiled egg and eats it with a pack of sugar. We’re at the point in this show that this type of experience doesn’t even phase the viewer.
The group heads to the audience, while Octavio gives a speech to them and the rest of the shareholders, preaching about our memories. His darkest fear is “forgetting who [he] is” and his frustration exists due to our lack of recollection of events we experience. He explains that “we only remember an event once,” leading to us “recalling the memory of that event, and then memory of that memory and on and on and on.” It represents another chance for Dispatches from Elsewhere to take big swings at heady topics, asking questions of life as a whole.
The mysterious heroine and genius Clara (Cecilia Balagot), who we have only heard not seen, has an answer to this problem of memories becoming shadows, allowing us to experience these events for the first time. A volunteer is needed to test out this technology, and Janice jumps at the chance.
Clue 3: Janice’s Wedding
Janice puts on the virtual reality device, and immediately hops to her wedding day, reliving it from her memory. Though the specifics of how this device works, Janice’s facebook had a plethora of photos so it could be recreated, the idea of reliving your past is weighty and fascinating to think about. It’s difficult to pick a moment you would 100% want to experience again, yet Janice’s feelings were immediate.
Octavio turns off the presentation monitors to give Janice alone time while in the simulation, and she sees a younger version of herself, beginning to have a conversation with this woman she used to be. Janice argues with her bridal self in the mirror, explaining that she didn’t “do the things she wanted to do,” instead opting to fill her life with her husband Lev rather than experiencing life alone.
Her younger self calls her a coward in an extended scene that shows Sally Field still has much to offer on the screen. Field’s performance contains such a large amount of empathy, understanding, and emotion that it’s hard not to get choked up at this woman convincing herself that she’s made the right decisions in her life. Janice tries to tell herself that she’s not a coward, that she’s not a fool, and it’s a saddening exchange to say the least.
Clue 4: The Game Goes On
After taking off the VR system, Janice and the others leave the shareholders meeting, just as the Elsewhere Society and their leader Commander 14, the rivals of the Jejune Institute, storm into the theater. Elsewhere and Jejune supporters on both sides fight with childish weapons and toys, as the group slips out the back door, finding Fredwynn in the alley. Fredwynn has figured out the game to a certain degree, finding the script for that night’s events, and explaining that Jejune and Elsewhere are basically the same organization. This means that Richard E. Grant is both Octavio and Commander 14, and more Richard E. Grant is never a bad thing.
Janice decides to head home to be with her husband, Lev, returning to her comatose, monitor-hooked partner. She just wants to tell him about her day. She spends time with him, beginning a one-sided conversation about how she’s feeling and how she spent the last few hours. Again, Sally Field breaks your heart.Oh, and the episode ends with a little boy wearing clown makeup looking through her window and smiling at an exhausted Janice. It should be assumed that the show will get weirder and wackier as the episodes roll on. Next week, Dispatches from Elsewhere will focus on André 3000’s character, Fredwynn. Thank you, Jason Segel.
Michael Frank is a film critic and journalist based in Brooklyn. He thinks the Before trilogy should be in the Louvre and once bumped into John Oliver at brunch. He has bylines in RogerEbert, Film Inquiry, The Playlist, and AwardsWatch.