PEOPLE OF EARTH Review: “Alien Experiencer Expo”

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TBS’s PEOPLE OF EARTH resumes transmission this week with a bit of a stop-gap episode, albeit one with an intriguing central set piece. As the StarCrossed alien encounters group in the small upstate New York town of Beacon continues to grapple with the death of beloved team member Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac), team leader Gina Morrison (Ana Gasteyer) elects to break up the grieving and stewing with a field trip (by chartered bus) to an abductee’s’ equivalent to Comic Con – an “Alien Experiencer Expo” in Ossining, NY.

Whilst in transit, Gina confides in Kelly (Alice Wetterlund) that her favorite alien abduction essayist and book author, Leonard Bechdal, will be speaking at the convention. She sent him an article about Ozzie’s death, and about StarCrossed’s group abduction many moons ago (everyone aside from Gerry was abducted in tandem), and some muffins. Kelly is immediately skeptical.

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Yvonne (Da’vine Joy Randolph) tries to level with her boyfriend and fellow StarCrossed alien experiencer Gerry (Luka Jones) about his behavior post-abduction: he has been programmed by Eric the Cube, his memory wiped, to construct a mysterious device that he refers to in his waking hours as a “game.” Gerry has also taken to staring at the moon in Yvonne’s front lawn when sleepwalking.

On the alien ship observing StarCrossed from on high, Jeff the Grey (Ken Hall) has been trying to make contact with other alien ships, to no avail. A guilty and vulnerable Don the White (Bjorn Guastafsson) convinces Jeff to help him search for the twin baby that he orphaned in 1986. Of course, we know from last week’s People of Earth installment that that baby was FBI Agent Alex Foster (Nasim Pedrad), who was separated from her mother on Don and Jeff’s ship. 

Alex Foster has become this season’s equivalent of Ozzie last season, performing a similar narrative function: she is the wary skeptic and fresh recruit for StarCrossed. She, like Ozzie before her, has aligned herself with StarCrossed in an effort to explain something that traditional, rational deduction could not explain. Agent Saunders (Kevin Hanchard), Alex Foster’s FBI superior, invites her back to work. Saunders, we know, was in cahoots with the Reptilian assassin who offed Ozzie — and was then offed himself, by Ozzie’s Reptilian buddy Jonathan Walsh (Michael Cassidy).

During a cosy lunch meeting away from the hubbub of the main convention floor, Leonard Bechdal tells Gina that he thinks her article could be a book, with a few moderate changes — including swapping himself in Gina’s stead as the story’s protagonist. He cooly slides her a $15,000 check to start. 

Don the White, having discovered Alex Foster’s whereabouts, arrives at the Alien Experiencer Expo and immediately begins issuing emotionally-charged correctives and tirades at the various alien displays. Elsewhere on the convention floor, Kelly, Don’s jilted ex-girlfriend, encourages Gina to move forward with the book herself.

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Chelsea (Tracee Chimo) experiences her own series of unfortunate events: first, she tackles some morning sickness; next, she realizes she’s late; and finally, an  emergency pregnancy kit test confirms that she’s pregnant. But here’s where things get a bit scandalous: the father could be her husband John (from whom she’s divorcing), it could be her lover, Father Doug (Oscar Nunez), or it could be… Don the White, with whom she had a very romantic extraterrestrial encounter (though the memory of her experience only comes to her in flashes).

Alex Foster excitedly finds Richard (Brian Huskey), her companion throughout the convention, and details the rest of her conversation with Agent Saunders at the FBI. The “third man,” as Saunders and Foster call him (actually the Reptilian assassin), admitted to killing Ozzie with sodium pentathol, and is now in a Russian prison. Foster has decided this explanation (a lie) fits, and elects to return to the FBI. In a mid-credits scene, we discover that Saunders intends to kill Foster, because Walsh is protecting her.

Elsewhere, in a big moment of self-assertion and personal growth, Gina confronts Leonard Bechdal, tears up the check, and decides to self-publish. 

As Alex Foster begins to pack her suitcase in her Beacon motel room and return to the FBI, she discovers a message from Don the White. It’s an envelope, with “YOU ARE NOT ALONE” scribbled in marker across its front. Inside, the word “FAMILY” is written above a phone number.

This episode is perhaps not People of Earth‘s strongest. But the show really has proven itself to be more interested in developing its characters than in getting from A to B to C in its own complicating narrative, and as a slice of very good character moments, it succeeds here. I wanted to see more from the alien convention, although one can only do so much in 20 minutes without sacrificing those core character dynamics in an ensemble piece.

Ozzie’s passing, as we discovered in recent weeks, may not be as definitive as we might have expected, say, last season. Kurt the Reptilian (Drew Nelson), who was accidentally run over by Gina last season, was surprisingly resurrected after months spent in an alien grave/incubator. Show runners and executive producers David Jenkins and Norm Hiscock confirmed as much in an Entertainment Weekly interview last month, cagily alluding to Kurt’s return as a possible blueprint for Ozzie.

Also, and this is a bit of a rambling side note, but I half-expected that bee from last week’s “Bee Kind” would buzz its way into relevance once again this week. I was mistaken. The insect that had been giving the aliens onboard the ship so much guff in week seven was nowhere to be found this week.

Season 2, Episode 8 (S02E08)TB-TV-Grade-B
People of Earth airs Mondays at 1030PM on TBS

Read all of our reviews of People of Earth here. 
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Still quiet here.sas

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