The third episode of the new series The Irrational was a bit of a dud as compared to the other episodes. Sure, Alec Mercer’s original case, i.e., the Church Bombing case, got some impetus, but overall, the case Mercer had to solve in this episode lacked the twists and turns we have come to expect with The Irrational. Nevertheless, Alec Mercer remains a charming and dependable character with no rough edges. The last thing we want in the series is an angsty protagonist. The case was technically much bigger than Mercer had solved, but strangely, the stakes seemed low. Let’s take a look at the recap of Mercer and his world, where he is required by his wife Marisa to help the FBI solve a case.
What Was Mercer’s New Case?
In the previous episode, Mercer had remembered something about the church bombing case that happened 19 years ago. It turns out that there was a specific logo whose image had suddenly popped into Mercer’s mind. Before he could tell Marisa, something really tragic happened involving a plane crash. Rizwan, Mercer’s assistant, saw the incident happen in real-time as a commercial flight flew too close to the ground, hit a bridge tower, and crashed into the forest. The case immediately became a nationwide sensation. Marisa, being in the FBI, got in on the case with the Federal Aviation Authority, as they suspected that the pilot deliberately crashed the plane. So, how did Mercer get involved? Well, when Marisa reached the site and the facts became clear, the deceased pilot was found with no real motive to do the unthinkable. Marisa asked for Mercer’s help in decoding what could have been going on in the pilot’s mind. The task seemed impossible, but that is when Mercer does his best work.
How Did Alec Go Against Marisa?
The pilot was a man named Lucas, who had no drugs in his system at takeoff. The tests were clear. So why did Lucas crash the plane? In every flight, there is a black box present just for such cases. There was a hidden clue in the final recording extracted from the black box. A theory was drawn from the recordings, which was as preposterous as they come. According to Marisa and others at the FBI, Lucas was a member of ‘The Black Pill’ group, which had a vendetta against the members of the ‘Women’s Global Leadership.’ There were 34 women on the flight belonging to this group, and the theory was that Lucas just couldn’t let them get away. Their agenda was totally against the principles of the Black Pill group. Marisa described them as hateful divorcees who couldn’t get laid. All this is based on a recording. Mercer was left a bit confused, and although he didn’t have enough proof to nullify Marisa’s findings, he rejected her theory. If he had to get to the bottom of the case, he needed to find someone who could tell what was really going on in Lucas’s mind.
Mercer found Rory, Lucas’ brother, who told them that he could never do something like crash a plane. He wasn’t suicidal, as he wished to come back to his apartment and loved his job, for which he left his wife. Mercer often spoke of ‘The Barnum Effect.’ The case seemed to be a good example where the effect seemed applicable. We don’t see the actual reality; if the facts are vague, we latch onto the first thing that seems applicable. Lucas was being portrayed as a mass murderer, but Mercer was unconvinced. He had to go against Marisa and find evidence, challenging Marisa’s ‘confirmation bias.’
How Was Rizwan Affected?
Meanwhile, Rizwan was going through his own episode of nervousness during the investigation. He had seen the plane crash, and going to the site gave him mini-trauma that he was handling very poorly. Mercer was kind to him, but somewhere he was to blame. Rizwan always saw Mercer as calm and composed. In fact, the more trouble he was in, the sharper his mind became, and he channeled his nervous energy into his work. Rizwan ignored the fact that Mercer was almost 30 years his senior, and he hadn’t magically learned to process his feelings. Mercer had to calm Rizwan down after knowing about his nerves, and he, like a father figure, gave him techniques to recollect memories without reliving them. Rizwan was being guided by the best, and his focus came back after he managed to process his feelings.
How Did Mercer Solve the case?
The first thing Mercer found out was that Lucas was indeed a part of the Black Pill Group, but that wasn’t the whole truth. He had deleted his emails, which made the FBI curious, and they latched onto such facts and added them to the ‘Lucas did it!’ folder. Phoebe helped Mercer find out that Lucas was severely critical of the group, and he had publicly shamed the group. The group then spammed his email with junk mail and obscene content, which is why he deleted his emails. Secondly, Mercer did an experiment in his class by playing the recording of the black box, and everybody interpreted the words differently, as per the image Mercer showed on the screen. One of the students in his class, who was learning to be a pilot, said that the recording said, ‘ATMOS failure.’ This term is a common one used by pilots when the autopilot malfunctions. The rest of the context of the recording changed as Lucas could be heard saying a phrase used by pilots when they are in need of help. A suicidal pilot or a mass murderer will never call for such help. Mercer had his evidence. Marisa had to back down and pay heed to the new finding.
Emma, a woman working with Dale Newhouse, an officer from the National Transportation Safety Board, asked Mercer to meet in private, but she disappeared before Mercer could meet her. It turns out that Dale had asked for a bribe from the airline officials in exchange for staying silent about the faulty ATMOS setups in cargo planes. Emma was privy to this fact and wanted to tell Mercer all about it. Mercer used the ‘Barnum Effect’ to perfection, bringing up vague facts that the airline’s official Owen applied to himself. Thinking that Mercer knew about the bribes, Owen admitted to the corruption. Mercer was wearing a wire and Marisa listened to the entire conversation. Lucas had tried his best to save the most lives, but the faulty automated framework didn’t let him. Dale, along with Owen and the others involved in the criminal negligence, were arrested, while Rory helped prove Lucas’ innocence by simulating flight landing attempts.
Mercer’s super case of the Church Bombings didn’t receive much of the limelight in The Irrational Episode 3, apart from the fact that the case has now been officially reopened. Marisa had clues regarding the logo, which belonged to a now-defunct dry-cleaning company. The plane crash didn’t excite Marisa as much, perhaps because the logical leap of making Lucas out to be a mass murderer was too far-fetched for Marisa’s character. Mercer easily challenged her, and there wasn’t much of a conflict. It seems the episodes will not tackle Mercer’s relationship with his ex-wife to such an extent that the subplot takes the focus away from the case, although, in my mind, the linear flow of events could use some marriage trouble from the past, adding a little tension to Mercer’s easy and streamlined way of investigating.