For All Mankind (Season 3), Episode 8 Recap and Ending Explained: After the explosive cliffhanger last week, this week in For All Mankind deals with the search for survivors, the search for the MSAM, a team up with NASA and Helios, or Margo Madison and Dev Ayesa with their respective teams, all working together to execute an effective search and rescue. While inside the MSAM, Danny Stevens and Ed Baldwin’s confrontation boils over. This is an emotionally charged episode which is making this season slowly race towards the finish line.
For All Mankind (Season 3), Episode 8 “The Sands of Ares” Recap:
The effects of the marsquake are felt by the NASA crew at Happy Valley. As Baranov checks on the seismograph, he identifies it as a landslide, while Danielle pinpoints the epicentre near the Helios Site. Kelly begins to attempt communication with Helios base, while Danielle instructs Baranov and Tyler to load up the Rovers and tanks and conduct a search for the crew, realising that something catastrophic must have happened; and strictly instructing Baranov and Tyler to nip their “interpersonal crap” in the bud. As we see a worried Kelly trying hard to connect with Helios, eager for news of the astronauts and especially the two men in her life, we see one of them burrowing out of the sand.
Alexei Pelotov barely manages to burrow himself out of the sandy terrain in which he had been buried after the landslide. As he tries to make out amidst the dusty hazy surroundings, trying to connect with his crew, he makes out a foot dressed in the same suit as the Helios astronauts. Rushing forward, he digs the body out, which is revealed to be Nick Carrado, who we see has died after the plexiglass helmet had broken, his skin carrying a bluish tint, resembling a body that has died from lack of oxygen.
We cut back to Ellen having made an unofficial visit to her ex-girlfriend Pam. When asked why she is sitting across from her instead of navigating important work befitting the president (same questions the viewer must have at this point), Ellen confronts Pam with the breakup letter she had been served with years ago. She confirms to Ellen that she had lied to her, scoffing at how Ellen didn’t even put up a fight when Pam had produced her fabricated reasons. She reveals that she “gave her up” because the life she envisioned wouldn’t be fair to Ellen, who is destined for greater things and has the opportunity to help “people like us.” But now, Pam is disappointed, as Ellen has compromised so much that she has travelled off the beaten path she had laid down for herself. Ellen, visibly moved and frustrated, laments at the lack of true power she has, having to sneak out to “visit the love of her life”, having to settle for what’s possible, instead of the desired outcome. As she gets called back because of the situation on Mars, we are left to wonder where this plot thread is going, beyond shaking Ellen’s beliefs and maybe her finally deciding to come out of the closet publicly.
Alexei and Louisa finally manage to reunite amidst the dusty and hazy landscape of Mars, while also discovering Isabel Castillo’s dead body. Louisa is concerned about the missing MSAM, habs, and fuel factory, and wonders if they are the only survivors in this rapidly deteriorating hellscape. Back in orbit, Phoenix continues contact with Happy Valley, who informs them that they are starting to conduct a rescue if possible. Phoenix reveals that they were able to contact Habitat 2 and would send the position to their rovers, with Kuznetsov, Dr Mayakovsky, and Lars Hagstrom managing to remain alive after that landslide, having locked themselves in the habitat. No contact with Habitat 1, believed to contain Ed Baldwin and Danny Stevens. Happy Valley’s rescue team was supposed to arrive in two hours. Hab2’s omnidirectional antenna being damaged means that they can contact Phoenix off-planet but are unable to resume contact on the surface.
As Phoenix switches to Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) to look past the smoke and debris and identify any survivors, Helios and Dev Ayesa are looking at the same images as Phoenix, realising that there is nothing left after that destruction beyond caved-in lava tubes and debris. The team led by Bill Strausser advises Ayesa to reach out to NASA to coordinate with the rescue efforts to search for survivors trapped beneath the debris with limited oxygen, which is running out. The team decides to go to the JSC and regroup there, so they walk out while Karen decides to reach out to the families of the unaccounted astronauts personally. Karen converses with a quiet and focused concentration. Dev, who, looking at Karen, promises to find Ed with everything in his power, his brain, we realize, is working in overdrive to figure out all the variables to mount this rescue.
Ed Baldwin and Danny Stevens are currently inside Hab 1, apparently inverted due to the landslide, buried 20 feet below the surface. Danny cleans up Ed’s abdominal wound, which was caused by shrapnel from the drill when it fell apart. As he cleans and bandages the wound, Danny reveals that there isn’t any exit wound, which means that pieces of shrapnel are still inside Ed. While the emergency beacon is broadcasting, whether they will reach Helios base or Happy Valley is debatable, and since they are trapped at the airlock, the only source of oxygen is the present artificial atmosphere in the Hab, and the oxygen in their suits, which would run out soon enough. A dire situation made all the more uncomfortable for Ed, who is not happy to be stuck with the insubordinate and not yet revealed culprit of this entire debacle. The camera pans away from the surface and we see what is presumably the spot where the Hab is buried, impossible to identify as it is covered over by the sand and smoothed out, looking like a normal part of the dusty landscape of Mars. Danny Stevens is suffering from withdrawal symptoms and exhibiting cold sweats, which prompts Ed to instruct him to drink the water Ed had been drinking through their space suit. As Ed starts to remind him to get off the pills, Danny fires back, reminding Ed that he had been injecting anabolics for the last five years. As the withdrawal manages to overtake Danny, his sullen, defeatist attitude starts getting on Ed’s nerves (along with ours).
At Hab2, the Happy Valley crew finally managed to regroup and re-team with Kuznetsov and his team. Kuznetsov informs them that they have started repairing the UHF transmitter to enable contact among the different habitats, reminding Kelly that there is a high possibility that Ed and Danny Stevens might be alive, trapped inside Hab1. Their conversation is interrupted by the door opening in Hab1 and revealing Alexei and Louisa having trekked and identified Hab1. The interaction between Kelli and Alexei reveals the blossoming, secretive relationship between them to the rest of the crew. After calculating the distance they travelled, Alexei and Louisa plotted the approximate coordinates where HAb1 might be buried. Danielle expresses her desire for Alexei to lead the way back out and search for Hab1, with Kelli deciding to accompany him while the rest send these approximate coordinates to Helios. Taking into account the granular debris flow characteristic of a mudslide, Danielle decides to hook up one of the ground penetrating radars (GPR) to one of the rovers, such that they can cover the approximate search area in a grid pattern, to minimise the randomness of digging around blindly. Mayakovsky informs them that the UHF radio is back online, while Danielle instructs Baranov and Tyler to load up all the soil digging tools onto the rover, as they may need to dig a hole quickly.
Back on Earth, we drop by Jimmy, living with his sister-in-law Amber and her son, watching the news coverage of the Mars Incident and the rescue mission for Ed Baldwin and Danny Stevens, as organised by the united front of both NASA, Helios, and Roscosmos. True to her word, Karen Baldwin arrives at the house, for support (reminds you of season 1 when Karen was visited by Marge Slayton and the wives of the other astronauts). Jimmy’s belief in the news broadcasted by the channels as “bullcrap” raises an interesting question: if Jimmy is supposed to be a part of a conspiracy group resembling conspiracy theorists of our real world, that is, what is the actual truth they believe? What is the lie they believe NASA is hiding from? Is it something like Stanley Kubrick’s being responsible for faking the moon landing, just multiplied a hundred times? It could be answered in the subsequent episodes because this plot point is going to boil over in the season finale, but it could also remain unanswered, which would be disappointing.
The scene shifts to Mars, where we see Kelly and Alexei on the rover, conducting the grid-wide search for Hab2. We see Alexei wincing with pain, and popping aspirin pills due to a searing headache, which could very well be a concussion. Kelly talks about her fear of losing her father as the rover approaches, a possibility she had grown up knowing but is unable to face now that it is unavoidable. Alexei too reveals his father’s love for the space program and how he was named after Alexei Leonov, the cosmonaut who had been the first to land on the moon. Their ruminations are interrupted when they intercept a homing emergency beacon, realising that they have discovered the location of the Hab1.
Back at JSC, after receiving the coordinates, the research team led by Margo realises that while the Hab1 isn’t crushed yet (thus ensuring that Stevens and Baldwin might be alive), it’s night, the temperature is around-73 degrees, and digging twenty feet below with hand tools isn’t a feasible option. As Margo advises the combined team to come up with a better solution, she realises that Dev is missing, and goes off to find him. We see Dev in the Viewers’ Visiting Area and, when asked sarcastically by Margo to join them to “save their astronauts’ lives,” Dev remarks that he thinks better when not in a crowded conference room. We learn of Dev’s connection to NASA, more specifically with his father. His father was an aerospace engineer who used to build components for the Saturn V rocket, especially the LH2 valves, until the day when Apollo 23, exploded on the launch pad (this happened way back in Season One Episode 6-Home Again), due to a defective second stage LH2 valve. After that explosion, the whole Saturn V team was replaced by Dev’s father, who lost his job and was forced to drive a taxi to make ends meet. He emotionally didn’t recover and passed away before Dev finished college. He remarks that he leaves the part of his dad’s failure out whenever he talks about his “inspiring” life because people in America are used to hearing “success stories” far more than failure, a sense we realise he is going through as well as the Mars mission is on the verge of disaster.
Amber and Karen are trying to have a meal before Amber starts breaking down due to fear. As Karen tries to comfort her, they are informed by NASA that the hab has been located and they are trying to excavate it. Meanwhile, back at the white house, Larry asks Ellen where she has gone. When revealed, Larry tries to bring up the myriad of issues that would have been caused by her lack of discretion, whereby she retorts by pointing out his hypocrisy. As Larry tries to shift the conversation by telling her that the Mars situation has taken up enough of the spotlight that his situation could be buried, Ellen reacts with disgust at being asked to take comfort from such an incident. As the Vice President and the administrator enter the Oval Office, Ellen requests Larry to leave the room, effectively shutting him out from key operational briefings as part of his punishment.
Back at JSC, Dev is back in the conference room with a plan. To dig down a lava tube closest to the surface, place a bomb nearest to the buried Hab1 and cause an explosion, forcing the regolith and sand materials to flow down from the hab through the hole, leaving the Hab exposed to be dug out. As Strausser remarks that it is a doable operation but they have to be precise, Dev, in a fashion that reveals why he is the charismatic leader of Helios Airspace, remarks, “These are engineering problems, and we are engineers. Shall we begin?” “For All Mankind” as a show truly shines during these moments of capable people working together to solve difficult problems.
Back at the buried Hab1, Ed realizes that the CO2 level is increasing, which means that they are running out of air and it’s going to get colder very soon. Danny’s suffering from withdrawal tacitly implies not getting into his spacesuit. Ed, running out of patience at Danny’s fatalistic attitude, calls him a quitter. In response, Danny sneers at him and objects to Ed’s methods of not letting him lose hope. Danny implies that Ed’s methods of teaching are not going to help, not like the time Ed taught his son Shane to ride a bike. Seeing Ed’s confused face emboldens Danny, who shocks him by telling him how Shane used to be terrified of Ed and his macho ways of teaching and how he used to light up whenever Ed went away. This leads to blows between the two men, which leads to Ed’s wound reopening, and Danny having to use all of the quick-clot to stop the bleeding.
Back at Hab2, Baranov, and Tyler, having volunteered to rescue Ed and Danny, placed the explosive at the precise spot to gain access to the buried Hab. Inside that Hab, Ed and Danny finally have moments of confession. Ed confesses his regret that he had harsher words with Kelly the last time they spoke. Danny confesses that Shane (Ed’s son) and Danny used to get into trouble in their teenage years because Danny was the one to influence Shane, causing Shane to ignore being grounded and cycle to a basketball game. But he is faced with an accident, which causes brain damage. Thus, Danny blames himself for Shane’s death, which causes Ed to touch Danny’s cheek and tenderly state that it’s going to be okay—a genuinely fatherly moment. Then, just as Danny is about to reveal that he was the one who slept with Karen, an explosion rocks the Hab and causes it to topple over.
Back on Earth, Karen and Jimmy have a heart-to-heart by the pool, where Jimmy reveals to Karen that he knew about her and Danny. When asked by Jimmy why she did it, Karen replied that it was because she was angry, angry at her husband, at the space program, and the world, and she wanted to do something wrong, and she trusted Danny. Jimmy corrects her and states that she used him, reminding her that Danny always wanted to live up to the expectations set for him due to the successes of their parents, and this relationship with Karen just complicated matters. He finishes with a sigh, stating that he hates it, which Karen echoes. The next morning, Karen and Amber are woken up by the phone ringing. They are informed that both Ed Baldwin and Danny Stevens have been rescued, which elicits tears of joy from both Karen and the Stevens family, including Jimmy, as the three hug in unison and relief.
For All Mankind (Season 3), Episode 8 “The Sands of Ares” Ending Explained:
At Hab1, Ed awakens to find Danielle sitting beside him, reading her bible. While happy to see Ed alive, the happiness is marred by another death, that of Alexei Poletov. He had already been feeling far worse, and when Kelly and he returned to Hab1, he had started vomiting and suffering a seizure, due to a subdural hemorrhage. Due to the nature of the wound as time passed, Mayakovsky and Louisa had been unable to save him, even though Kelly had been prepared for a blood transfusion. Then, Kelly comes over to Ed and sobs on his chest as Ed learns of the overall body count and the effect of the tragedy washed over him. The episode ends with Kuznetsov and Mayakovsky debating what to do with the “Baldwin Girl”, as she is unaware that she is pregnant with Alexei’s child.
For All Mankind (Season 3), Episode 8 “The Sands of Ares” Review:
The show has its strong and weak points, and by this time, those are readily apparent. The storyline involved with the Mars Mission, both on Mars and Earth, is the strongest of the lot, and the primary focus being on the rescue mission truly elevates this episode. However, the Earth-based subplots, especially Ellen’s arc, and the Stevens family arc are dragging the show down. As the episode ends, we see Danny Stevens still alive, and his relationship with Ed is repaired a tad bit, but the trajectory the show is taking makes me believe there is a high possibility that comeuppance for Danny Stevens won’t be as straightforward as viewers want it to be. It’s a shame because both the plots regarding the Stevens brothers are easily the weakest of the season, and Danny Stevens’ plot thread is revealed to be the most undercooked of them all. However, the end of this episode again introduces a new curveball, and with only a few episodes remaining, it will be interesting to see whether any time jump is in play to explore the pregnancy plot point. For All Mankind truly delves into its melodramatic roots, and this episode was the biggest culprit of them all.