The endearing oddness that is the Legends of Tomorrow can take damn near anything and make it into absurdist comedy. You wouldn’t think there’s a lot of laughs to be had in looking at the Cuban Missile Crisis, considering how close the world came to nuclear annihilation. But leave it to the crew that “screws things up for the better” to find a weird way to look at things. While the two incidents aren’t directly related, the title is from a different international near-incident involving Cuba, as we see in “Bay of Squids.”
In October of 1962, some Cuban soldiers make a strange discovery as one of the pods Sara ejected from the ship she took over makes a hard landing. Seeing something they can’t identify, and given the political tensions of the time, the solider leap to the conclusion that, as one of them says, “The invasion has begun!” In the middle of the ship’s night, Mick sounds an alarm that brings the Legends staggering to the bridge, fresh out of their beds. Nate has an odd meeting with Zari, bringing up the plot I thought they’d forgotten about that Nate was involved with the original Zari before the timeline got changed. While Ava, too, appears to have been sleeping, Behrad is passed out and Spooner is exercising. It’s a crew with a lot of different ways to pass the time. Mick has put together a plan to go after an alien that might lead them to Sara, and is conducting an impressive briefing, with a lot more vocabulary than he usually uses. As they get ready to go, Spooner asks a fairly logical question that gets swept under the rug, like many “Hey, wait a minute…” kind of issues on this show.
Mostly still clad in their pajamas, the team hijacks the truck they believe has the alien they’re looking for. After an action sequence that Mick and Spooner clearly have far too much fun with, they learn that not only do they not have an alien to question, but they have stolen a nuke, in Cuba, during what becomes the Cuban Missile Crisis. Fun times. Mick made a few other errors to make things worse, and someone remembered that Nate was, originally, a historian, so he goes off to the Kennedy White House to see if he can keep things from going haywire. For unclear reasons aside from wardrobe, Zari insists on coming along. Finally having roused Behrad from his stoned slumber, Ava makes assignments to try and mitigate the damage they’ve done, part of which morally offends Mick.
Ava goes to a command bunker to try and run a scheme, using Behrad for a distraction and cover. It’s a great example of a writers’ room that, I’m betting, is mostly, if not all, White, since the plan working depends on Latinos not being able to tell the difference between a Latino and an Arab. Because all brown people look alike, right? This one point irked me a lot. Also moving amid the chaos, Spooner questions the mission and grouses that she liked it better when Mick was briefly in charge. Nate and Zari manage to bluff their way into the Oval Office, and Nate distracts JKF with a drawn-out football analogy, after Nate gets over being in a room with so many historically significant people.
The alien retrieval plan hits a few snags as Ava learns what the Cubans have planned, and Behrad runs off, not doing well with some of what happens in the room they’re in. Between his wandering around and some mistaken identity, he ends up playing the role of Jay Guevera, Che’s cousin. Right. Maybe the writers are eating some of Behrad’s gummies. Zari, reduced to the role of secretary, fetches coffee and transfers calls while General Kilgore, a very hawkish man, somehow produces a picture of Nate as Steel in Cuba. No one recognizes him, fortunately, but really, how long did it take Nate and Zari to get to DC? And is this going to make Nate think it’s a bad idea to use his powers at all, which he’s almost at the point of anyway? Nate’s football speech doesn’t work this time, and the DEFCON condition gets worse, which confuses Zari.
Ava manages to drug everyone where she is because apparently they were trying to sedate the alien with laughing gas? I guess? Eventually, she pulls herself together and steals the alien, which appears to be the same kind Gary turned out to be. I wouldn’t think it was his fiancé that he and Sara kicked off the ship, since she went out without a pod as I remember it, but I guess we’ll see. Behrad’s new buddy, Fidel Castro, talks about assassinations and nuclear missiles, and then indulges in some of Behrad’s candy. Because that’s going to help. Mick and Spooner wander around, looking for their target, and there’s a moment where Spooner is about ready to go off on Mick until she realizes he’s actually being nice. Spooner is much more dialed in to these aliens that the others they’ve met so far, and guides Mick to where Ava is on the wrong end of an alien temper tantrum. Behrad almost gets Castro mellowed out until there’s an ill-timed Close Encounter, and then everything gets much worse. Tensions ratchet up in the Oval Office, Castro’s command center, and among the Legends as Ava learns how much things have spiraled out of control.
Nate and Kilgore battle to sway JFK’s thinking as alarming reports come in about what’s happening in Cuba. Zari manages to insert herself into the communications chain after Nate boasts about her typing skills, although the men are puzzled as to why she uses just her thumbs (that was a nice touch). Nate briefly gets on coms to compare notes with Ava, and no one really has a handle on what’s going on or what will happen next. While Behrad’s cover gets blown, Ava finally recognizes Mick’s talents, but not exactly in a supportive way. It’s interesting to see how much Mick has latched on to trying to get Sara back. Spooner and Mick finally manage to find the alien, and Spooner can now apparently translate for the creature. They begin to negotiate a deal as Castro freaks out his own soldiers by launching the missile.
Zari’s deception is revealed when Kilgore gets a phone call, and the general freaks out. He also has a gun, which is doubly unlikely, as troops on American soil aren’t armed, and no one carries in the White House but the Secret Service. Things degenerate into a very unlikely contest between the White House staff and the military for control of the nuclear football, during which Nate once again apparently forgets he has powers. They do include a nice bit of historical trivia about JFK before Zari takes over. Nate manages some calming words, which work on JFK, but the General freaks out, runs outside, and meets an end that is both in tune with Legends sensibilities and possibly a nod to Dr. Strangelove. Zari is amused when Nate gets to be part of something he clearly wants to do.
The reason only the general died becomes apparent as we see what Mick and the alien have been up to. Mick does something that looks like a dick move but actually takes Spooner out of harm’s way, and then he and Ava have a chat. Ava freaks Mick out on several levels, and finally they end up parting. Mick is off on a brave new adventure without his team, and the others regroup in Cuba. They have a plan for what to do next, but considering they are on the wrong continent and in the wrong decade, I’m not sure how it’s going to work. Mick gets an interesting scene with the alien, and we see some hints that his quest to save Sara is not going to go as he thought at all.
What I liked: The weirdness that is the Legends come through nicely, and almost everyone who made it into the episode gets a moment to shine. Behrad is a much better singer than I thought, and Mick did an impressive job on a few fronts. The contributions Nate and Zari made towards the end were amusing and very in character.
What I didn’t: Mick isn’t dumb, and several plot points revolved around him acting that way. He was a successful thief for years, not just a big thug. I mentioned the Behrad issue above. As usual, Nate and Zari only remember their powers when it’s funny or when it will make more problems for them. The excuse to ditch Constantine and Astra was flimsy.
I found this one a bit more uneven than some Legends episodes. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. We’ll see what comes of what they set up here in the future.