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For All Mankind sets up a hundred episodes of potential drama before an epic time jump.
by Jeremy Fogelman
The latest episode of For All Mankind is called “All In” and by the end of the episode, everyone is all in one way or another. The episode starts with a series of moments at the IAC Convention in Merry Ol’ England as Margo and Sergei meet up, share drinks, and she always leaves him for the next year. It all seems very nice in the “oh these two lovebirds” way but we know that it’s actually hiding something much worse.
All those years Sergei has been putting Margo on the hook as an asset, not that the KGB gave him any choice in the matter. When we finally arrive in 1992, Helios is there at the IAC and we’ve caught up to the troubling present -- for now. With a now common enemy of sorts, Margo finally takes the lead in consummating their simmering romance for the first time and with the worst timing, because the Soviets are desperate to meet that 1994 launch window (which has been accelerated by Helios' entry in the space race).
Sergei pleads for the design of the nuclear engine, which Margo refuses as it presents a national security risk (accurately). But that knock on the door is ominous because both we and Sergei (and Margo) suspects who it is -- the KGB has arrived. This scene is juxtaposed with cutting back to Kelly rejecting her parents’ request to join the Helios to stay at NASA (which we saw explained elsewhere as not wanting to be defined by her father), yet Ed does seem okay with it, saying that the country’s gonna be real proud of her.
Which is in direct contrast to Margo sitting in the next scene with the Russians, with a country that will be the opposite of proud. Although she stands firm against the blackmail attempt, the actual pain point of seeing Sergei choked near to death in front of her is a different problem -- we never explicitly see her decide to help the Soviets, but considering we see them launch at the end of the episode, it’s hard to imagine otherwise.
All of the other plotlines circle these two as the future begins to come into focus. At Helios, Ed is able to convince Deva (with Karen’s help) that a fully automated trip to Mars isn’t a good idea, that they need the capability to take over if need be. It’s hard to really argue with that, it’s not like they’ve standardized safe space travel or anything, things might come up. They also manage to bring in Bill who delights in telling Aleida how much it meant to him to be a “get”.
Indeed, he doesn’t know he was their second choice after Aleida, nor how Margo only says goodbye after he’s left the room. But Aleida’s own choice was quite compelling, as Karen has become an epic recruiting talent -- she offers twice the salary at NASA and immediate work as the flight director. She doesn’t even know about Aleida’s father’s mental issues, and the painful comment from Victor about her never being there.
Yet Karen miscalculated by calling her “Margo’s girl”, as Aleida was proud to be loyal to the one that brought her there from a pretty bad place and even pushed for her to go to the moon. But we’ll see how things might change if Margo’s Soviet treason is ever revealed. Still, when we jump ahead to 1994, it does seem that Aleida is the flight director as Bill predicted, but are there homelife dominos yet to fall?
|© Apple TV+|
Poor old Danny is doing very poorly, struggling in landing simulations and getting benched by Danielle temporarily. This is made even worse when he flirts with a random stranger at The Outpost and brings her back to his old house -- which makes them now trespassing. These stupid mistakes gets him grounded but that means it’s an opportunity for Ed to ignore Danielle’s advice and recruit Danny -- who never gets a chance to tell his loving wife the truth.
Karen seems to have misgivings about this of course, but she won’t be on the trip with her two surviving lovers so it’s not as bad as it could be. But Danny might still be jealous or resentful of Ed despite getting such a great opportunity from him, so that’s another domino yet to fall. The episode ends with the great song “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden (which did indeed come out in 1994) playing as we see NASA and Helios launch -- with only the TV footage of the Soviet launch, so no insight yet there.
As the now President Ellen calls to congratulate Margo, the latter notes the Soviets launching with what we can assume was her help, Ellen also tells her now to kick their asses. It’s a very solid start to the Mars mission, and I was wondering how long the show would stretch out before we got it. Nothing wrong with a classic For All Mankind time jump, which was deployed perfectly here alongside the perfect needle drop. Just a really solid episode to keep this season strong.