Three episodes into NBC’s The Irrational and the show is getting better and better. Despite some minor criticisms of telegraphed story development, the characters are getting pretty good development. These ‘cases of the week’ are a way to explore them further as they happen upon a case that might trigger something similar, they’ve experienced or just now experiencing since the basis of the show revolves around psychology and the human condition. This time, we’ve upgraded from an influencer’s death to attempted poisoning to now…a plane crash.
Episode Three The Barnum Effect finds Alec Mercer (Jessie L. Martin) catching up with his ex-wife Marissa (Maahra Hill) at FBI headquarters. He receives good news about the FBI re-opening the case of the church bombing 20 years ago. Turns out the logo Mercer saw on the car years ago used to be the logo of a dry-cleaning company that went out of business. She tells Mercer that they pinpointed the daughter of the person who used to run it in Iowa for FBI agents to question her. As usual, this storyline gets interrupted by today’s case of the week.
Flight 118, after a series of unexplained mishaps crash lands into a nearby forest as Mercer’s assistant Rizwan (Arash DeMaxi) just happens to witness during his carpool job. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, they believe the pilot named Lucas, a highly professional and experienced pilot, was going to commit suicide. They also believe that he did not follow established protocol to land safely and the FBI found no drugs in his system. Like clockwork, it’s up to behavioral science guy Mercer and co. to find out how this happens.
Alec and his assistants, Phoebe (Molly Kunz) and Rizwan, go to Lucas’s house with permission from the FBI to learn about what he was going to do after flying for the day. They learn that he bought fresh seafood, meaning he was coming home already prepared for something to eat. Mercer unknowingly stumbles into his brother Rory (Jake B. Miller) having bereavement sex in bed, who is also a pilot just like his brother. He states that Lucas would never drive himself to suicide because any normal sibling would try to at least keep some image of the brother or sister they once knew.
The FBI uncovers more disturbing information that Lucas might be an incel and was part of an online incel group. This leads to the assumption that he downed the plane on purpose because there were members of a global women’s leadership conference. Lucas on the black box recording says the incel group’s rallying cry “I took the black pill”. Of course, Mercer isn’t buying it at all.
As the case begins to pile up against Lucas, Marissa tells Mercer that she’s seeing a fellow FBI agent named Jace (Brian King), to which Mercer subtly feels hurt. Mercer’s younger sister, Kylie (Travina Springer) looks into Lucas’s email about the soccer dad incel group website known as Master Selection. Turns out that Lucas was unknowingly backing a group of “impotent losers”. After stating that fact, the group retaliated with doxing and spamming to the point where he decided to delete his email. Mercer then follows a new lead that Lucas on the black box could be saying “atmos failure”, thanks to a listening experiment at his lecture.
After explaining this revelation to the FBI and NTSB agents, one of the NTSB agents Emma (Mika Bantog), appeared scared about something. She gives Mercer her house address and time to meet her there. Meanwhile, Rory attempts to simulate Lucas’s plane crash at the university to figure out what could be the key to proving his brother’s innocence. During the simulation, Rizwan’s PTSD of seeing the plane crash kicks in with Phoebe telling him that he should see someone. That someone just so happens to be his boss who is the world’s leading expert on human behavior.
As the investigation reaches its conclusion, Mercer finds out from NTSB official Owen (Josh Blacker) that this situation regarding the Atmos software happened before on a cargo plane. However, Dale, one of the head NTSB agents who appeared on the scene told Owen and other people to keep their mouths shut about the entire affair prompting his arrest. The FBI then later arrests Dale who was about to kidnap Rory after failing to do the same for Emma. Another case is solved, Mercer decides to let his ex-wife see someone else, Rizwan has a positive conversation with Mercer about getting past their traumas and never letting work exaggerate it. Rory gets to leave his brother’s medal at the candlelight vigil for the people who didn’t survive the crash of Flight 118.
The Irrational continues to become more intriguing as the series goes on. Who knows what kind of craziness might happen next Monday when the next episode premieres.