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Episode 05: Five Miles Out, the Sound Is Clearest
AppleTV+  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: March 06, 2024

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel  |  Written by: Peter Harness

Official Synopsis: Jo calls an ambulance for Magnus and flees with Alice. Alice reveals to Jo that she has been seeing the USSR corpse, which she calls “the Valya”. Jo asks Illya to check their vitamins, and Illya learns that certain historical cosmonaut files have been purged. Jo steals the CAL data core and travels with Alice to Skagerrak Marine Observatory. There, they meet Walberg and Laurenz Bang, who have for decades been making amateur radio recordings of astronauts in space, and have recorded audio of astronaut deaths, only for that astronaut to return to Earth safely afterward. These “ghost tapes” become clearer when near the CAL data core. After arriving at the cabin, Jo listens to the recording of her mission where she and Alice had a video chat, and Alice confirms that that Alice is not her. Jo hears her Alice call out to her, while in another universe her Alice searches for Jo in the snowstorm. Henry and Bud are in different universes, but are aware of and have been able to communicate with each other. Henry tells Bud he thinks the CAL made things worse, while Bud is determined to destroy Henry’s life.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Erin Qualey for Vulture, March 06, 2024

It’s no surprise that Jo is good at compartmentalizing. This is a fancy therapy term for what Jo calls “putting things in boxes.” Depending on the situation, compartmentalizing can be adaptive or maladaptive. An astronaut with only a few hours to get home in a broken space vessel absolutely needs to be able to focus on the task at hand, so if she packs her kid and her husband away in a mental box for a bit in order to do that, then so be it. And if she starts to lose her grip on reality and needs to follow some bread crumbs — however sketchy — to find answers, well, she should probably use that skill to her advantage. This episode of Constellation is full of moving pieces as Jo heads off on an anxiety-fueled road trip with Alice. We know that the two of them will be okay — they make it to the cabin, after all — but Jo’s choices with her 10-year-old daughter in tow are questionable at best. Magnus and Frederic stay behind and fret, while a tip from Jo has Ilya sniffing around for answers in Russia. And we finally get some definitive answers about Henry’s “brother,” Bud. There’s a lot to chat about, so let’s pull a Jo and put all of these things in little boxes as we unpack each one.

First up, Bud and Henry. The exchange between these two is steeped in jealousy and anger, and it’s incredibly fun to watch Jonathan Banks intimidate himself. Henry discovers the CAL is missing (we’ll get to that!), and as he scrambles to recover it, Bud is creeping into his consciousness. This is clearly something that’s happened before because Henry is familiar with how to communicate with his “other,” and he’s also familiar with how it feels to have Bud in control of his body. At first, Henry tries to leave a message via a steamy mirror. “Leave Me Alone,” he writes in the fog. But Bud has no intention of leaving Henry alone. At this point, it’s unclear why Bud has chosen to open old wounds and antagonize his cosmic twin, but it feels like Bud has some insane jealousy about being the one who was on a mission where things went horribly wrong while Henry got to be a hero. Perhaps he also cared for Irena, but she died in his timeline, so he’s constantly lamenting his lost love. Either way, Bud Caldera is here to fuck shit up. He’s stopped taking his pills and started mainlining cheap beer. He’s drunk-dialing his poor daughter and leaving increasingly menacing messages on her voice-mail. And when he can’t make a connection with her, he starts antagonizing Henry. The scene in which Henry urinates on himself while making a case to Frederic about the CAL is half-horrifying and half-hilarious. The maniacal laugh that comes out of his mouth after the accident feels like it’s Bud laughing through Henry — at Henry — and it’s creepy as hell. On his way to change his pants, Henry summons his counterpart to the mirror and tells him to go away. Bud promises him that he won’t, and it leaves us to wonder how much more damage he can do from a totally different dimension. Dimension? Timeline? Universe? I don’t know the correct terminology, people. But it feels like a safe bet that Henry won’t be quite himself for much longer if Bud has his way.

Irena is concerned about Henry, but she also has her own fish to fry. Let’s open up the Ilya box and see what’s inside. Oh! It’s Irena! And a beautifully lit library scene. And a lot of talk about astronauts and pills and mental health. When Jo calls Ilya to look into his pills, he’s horrified to learn that Jo was secretly given lithium. He trusts his old crewmate, so he heads down to the library to see what he can find. They deny him the records that he’s seeking, and Irena makes a special visit to intimidate Ilya into not talking. This woman is kind of the worst, especially because she’s also the Valya, a creature that haunts Alice’s dreams. What is she hiding? And why is she hiding it? Poor Magnus is stuffed into the tiniest of boxes this week. He reels from Jo’s attack and abduction of their child and desperately wants to call the police. However, Frederic convinces him not to; an erratic Jo would make for terrible PR. An astronaut who kidnapped her child and is ranting about dead people in space does not make for good optics. Frederic isn’t wrong, but he’s still an asshole. When Jo tries to call Magnus, Frederic intimidates him into giving up the phone by threatening to fire Jo from her job. This definitely makes one wonder if he was abusing his power to coerce “other” Jo (a.k.a. dead Jo) into having a relationship with him. It certainly feels possible. While Magnus flails at home, Jo and Alice travel all over Europe to find answers. Their box comes with smaller packages inside, like maternal-child bonding, dynamics in family systems, a wild visit to the Skagerrak Marine Observatory, a conversation about the terrifying Valya, and a stunning reveal in the final moments of the episode.

From the word go, Alice knows something is up with her mummy, but she’s keeping a game face on. She naps in the car like a champ, orders a delicious-looking breakfast at a roadside diner, and dutifully draws a picture of her fear when Jo asks her to do so. When she finally gets to speak with her father on a stolen iPhone, she tells him that she needs to take care of Jo because she wants her to be okay. Even a slightly deranged and confused mom is still her mom. Or is it? Constellation is definitely asking whether or not the various iterations of these astronauts are still themselves. Without a shared history or the knowing shorthand that comes from having a shared history, Jo is somewhat like a stranger to Alice, as Alice is to Jo. Rosie and Davina Coleman do a great job throughout this episode of imbuing Alice with a stubborn strength and perseverance that belies her pedigree. Alice is definitely Jo Ericsson’s daughter, and it seems that both versions of Jo had grit and determination that they passed on to their respective daughters. When Alice arrives at the Marine Observatory, she puts on a resting skeptical face and never lets it fall. Alice has good reason to be skeptical as the brother-and-sister duo at the observatory are intense and committed. The brother, Laurentz, is distrustful of their visitors and even calls Jo a “crisis actor” for good measure. (To be honest, they did hear Jo die! So he’s right to feel a bit confused!) The woman takes Alice and Jo out on her boat so they can hear the tapes. She claims that they need to be in a liminal space — or a space between two things — in order to decipher the sounds beneath the static. It’s interesting that the concept of liminality was mentioned in the previous episode in reference to Alice’s age. Perhaps that’s why she’s able to see so much in between worlds? Perhaps that’s why she sees the Valya?

Alice and Jo stop the tapes and demand to return to land. As they leave, the woman presses a giant bag full of the tapes into their hands and wishes them luck. Soon enough, Jo discovers that the tapes sound loud and clear when played close to the CAL. The CAL itself seems to be a bridge between the two worlds. Alice and Jo are both able to hear the plea for help from the female cosmonaut, and Alice identifies her as the Valya, both alive and dead. Once Alice and Jo get to the cabin — after a horrifying drive over an ice-covered lake — Jo sends Alice to bed and stays up to listen to the tapes. She listens to the tape that was recorded just prior to the collision on the ISS, which is different from the conversation we saw her have with Alice in the premiere. For one, she doesn’t mention the CAL at all before the explosion. And two, it’s Paul who frantically calls out for Jo as the initial sounds from the collision subside. Alice hears this tape from her bedroom and comes out to ask questions. Jo tells her that it’s her on the recording, a claim Alice vehemently denies. She doesn’t speak Swedish, and she doesn’t call her mom “mama,” she calls her “mummy.” Moments later, we see a bedraggled version of Alice tromping through a foot of snow in the raging blizzard. And this version is screaming for her mama.

As a mother, I don’t know how I missed the “mama/mummy” distinction — it was right under our noses the whole time — but the reveal felt pretty electric. The idea that there is fully another Alice out there in the snow is tripping me out as well. The cabin itself feels like a liminal space, especially in blizzard conditions, and it feels like it might provide a portal between the two worlds that could be exploited at some point in the near future. In a liminal space, two things can be true at the same time: Jo can be dead and she can be alive. Irena (a.k.a. the Valya, because we’ve 100 percent heard Henry call her that before) can be dead and alive. Bud can be a complete psychopath, and his counterpart, Henry, can be a Nobel Prize winner. I failed to mention Henry’s fleeting comment about curiosity killing the cat last week, but in a conversation of liminal spaces, the idea of Schrodinger’s cat, both alive and dead until someone opens the box. With Jo compartmentalizing her days away, all those neat little boxes are about to pop wide open, and we might finally get to see the underlying truth.

Guest Cast: Barbara Sukowa (Irene Lysenko), Henry David (Ilya Andreev), Kurt Dreyer (Laurenz Bang), Birthe Neumann (Walborg Bang), Katharina Bellena (Clerk), Lea Gerstenkorn (Customs Official)