As I sat down to watch this week’s new episode of ‘Siberia’, I immediately realized that none of the clips from the previous episode looked at all familiar. Apparently, NBC aired a new episode of the show on September 2nd that my DVR decided not to bother recording, and I, assuming that the show would be off for the Labor Day holiday, didn’t pay much attention. Fortunately, I was able to catch up via On Demand (as annoying as that may be, since NBC blocks fast-forwarding through the commercials there). What’s especially frustrating is that the missing episode was one of the show’s best so far.
‘One by One’
Episode 1.09 is incredibly spooky and suspenseful. Our characters have been split into even smaller groups than before. Esther, Annie and Irene have gone missing, presumably captured or killed by whatever’s been stalking through the woods. As Neeko and Sabina hole up in one of the cabins for the night, Miljan suddenly returns, babbling nonsense about voices in his head that told him to kidnap Irene and leave her in the woods. He insists that, “They’re coming for us. They’re going to get us,” but he can’t explain who or what “they” are.
This trio has a very rough night. They set up a ring of torches around the cabin, but something blows them all out. Scary noises in the woods keep them on edge all night. Somehow, they survive until daylight, at which they hear and see fighter jets flying overhead (going where?). Although the jets buzz by too fast to for the pilots to possibly see them on the ground, Neeko and Sabina attempt to draw a big S.O.S. sign in the snow in case anyone else flies over. This will be a moot point, however. Just a few minutes later, a group of armed men wearing crazy boots (clearly the source of the strange animal-like footprints in the area) appear at the cabin and grab them.
Meanwhile, out at the abandoned science research station, Johnny, Daniel, Sam and Joyce find some flashlights and explore the buildings, searching for ways to turn the power on and contact the outside world. As they wander the facility, they come across a group of dead bodies, apparently freshly killed. Inside a laboratory, they discover creepy science experiments involving mutated animals, like something out of ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’. Daniel identifies two side-by-side atomic clocks that have different times on them. Could time travel be involved after all?
Sam manages to get a generator working, providing some power. Unfortunately, the station’s radio can’t get a signal. That’s probably because someone (or something) has knocked over the antenna tower – the same one with a beacon light that drew them here in the first place. Obviously, this must have happened recently.
A map on a wall shows that the station is about 124 miles from the nearest town. When Daniel fixes a computer, Johnny has hope that maybe they can email someone to send help, until Daniel informs him that the computer doesn’t have an internet connection. Instead, what he finds on it is a video file of old film footage from the 1927 expedition into Siberia by Leonid Kulik (a real Russian scientist who investigated the Tunguska Event). This ties in with both the journal that Miljan previously found in the woods and the giant crater that this group saw on their journey. Finally, some of the pieces to this puzzle are starting to fall into place.
Episode 1.10, the penultimate episode of the season (and presumably the series), provides a lot more answers, though none of them are yet conclusive.
From the cabins, Sabina, Neeko and Miljan are marched to an encampment of native peoples called the Evenki, who are not very happy at all with these foreign intruders. They’re tossed into a tent where they find Annie and Esther, unharmed but shaken up. The girls claim that Irene is also being held in another tent. One native Evenki woman speaks English and translates for (and to) the group. She is not sympathetic to their complaints or their pleas for assistance. She tells them point-blank that, “We cannot help you.”
The woman explains that the Evenki made the scary noises at night, trying to scare off the Westerners. By intruding into this territory, they have apparently violated an ancient truce between the Evenki and another warring tribe (the “Valleymen” described in Kulik’s journal). The Evenki are quite scared of the Valleymen, and believe that they’re being punished by their god.
Also in this camp is a little white girl (the one that Sabina saw in the woods in a previous episode) named Sasha, who speaks English. She tells them that she’s the orphaned daughter of a dead American scientist. The Evenki have been taking care of her.
The group is reunited with Irene, who’s not only still alive, but has been treated by the Evenki and feels much better (though she’s still not very mobile).
In order to determine their fate, an Evenki shaman eats some poisoned mushrooms (the ones that gave Victoria such a bad trip early in the season), which they believe allow him to see the future. He eventually declares that the tribe will guide the Westerners over the ridge and set them on the path toward a white settlement, on the condition that they are banished from the area forever and must never return. Speaking for the others, Neeko eagerly agrees to those terms.
On their way out, Esther is strangely insistent that they must return to the cabins first to collect supplies. It’s pretty obvious that she’s left something there she doesn’t want to tell the others about.
The Evenki take them a ways, but see something in the distance (it kind of looked like an igloo to me) that scares them and makes them redirect to an alternate route. The translator woman claims that they almost walked into the “Valley of Death,” a cursed area that will cause anyone to become overwhelmed with confusion.
Later, the Evenki stop at what they describe as the border between their territory and the Valleymen’s. They will not cross the line. As they send the group on their way alone, Neeko (I think it was Neeko, anyway) asks the translator what the deal is with their strange-shaped boots. She tells him that the boots are the shape of the Valleymen’s feet, and they wear them to fool the Valleymen by imitating their tracks. Weird.
Elsewhere, at the research station, Daniel devises a plan to jury-rig a radio antenna by stringing wire across the roofs of the buildings. Exploring the lab some more, Johnny discovers two Revealer cabinets labeled “Primate Studies – Test Group A” and “Test Group B.” (Remember, their own Revealer cabinet was labeled “Behavior Reward Simulator – Test Group C.”) Daniel recognizes these as Skinner Boxes. This leads to the question of whether their entire Reality show was really an elaborate scientific study with humans as test subjects. And if they’re Test Group C, what happened to the first two test groups? Were the 1908 settlers Test Group A? Does it go back that far? How does the corpse that Sabina found wearing her own necklace a while back fit into this? Just thinking about this can plummet us down a rabbit hole of speculation about time travel and reincarnation and so forth.
While Sam helps Daniel with the antenna, Johnny and Joyce get into a little fight in which she reveals that she read his profile info collected by their show’s producers and knows that he isn’t really a rodeo rider. So what’s his secret, then? Who is he? Soon enough, their fight blows over and they start making out.
Eventually, Daniel gets the radio working. Broadcasting out a simple distress call in rudimentary Russian, it takes an agonizingly long time to hit a frequency that finds a response. Finally, after Daniel falls asleep at the table, a voice comes through on the other end. This is such a major event that the cameraman actually puts down the camera, grabs the microphone, and starts talking in Russian. Everyone gets very excited. With the signal cutting in and out, the cameraman manages to blurt out the coordinates of their location. The preview for the next episode suggests that the military will come to find them, but is this actually a good thing?
I’m really into the show at this point. The finale episode will have a lot of questions to answer. I don’t expect (or necessarily need) explanations to every mystery, but I really hope that at least some of the big ones can be resolved satisfactorily without a cop-out cliffhanger. Is that too much to ask? We’ll find out soon.