Hopefully you were already onboard with For All Mankind‘s sometimes brazenly credulity-stretching alternative reality. The first woman president comes out as gay. Homegrown terrorists blow up NASA HQ. Agency director Margo Madison defects to the Soviet Union and then goes to work in its space agency, only to end up partnering with NASA.
If so, then you won’t mind if a Russian ghost comes back to mess with us now, too.
OK, he’s not a ghost. He’s Sergei, the Russian scientist who seemed to fall in love with Margo and got strangled in front of her to get her to give up U.S. space secrets. And as forces now align to mine the Goldilocks asteroid near Mars, he breaks cover on Earth to seek her out — and maybe not just for more romance.
For All Mankind season 4, episode 8: ‘Legacy’ recap
For All Mankind season 4’s episode 8, “Legacy,” unfolds on two main fronts after last week’s developments. On one, groups that could be working together form separate schemes to capture the Goldilocks asteroid and its mineral wealth, which will lead to the season’s climactic action in the final two episodes. And on the other, Sergei enlists help to seek out Margo Madison (Wrenn Schmidt) to give her a serious warning that might save her life, as she once saved his.
Romantic blast from the past
You see, Sergei Nikulov (Piotr Adamczyk), now known as Sergei Bezukhov in his assumed identity, has been alive all this time and living in Garden City, Iowa. He works as a high school science teacher. He drives a Toyota Prius. He lives with his American wife/girlfriend in a nice house, where the clock radio blares country music in the morning and they eat dinner in front of the TV in the evening.
But as he brushes his teeth one evening, he hears a familiar voice on the TV in the bedroom. His partner is watching Margo Madison in that press conference we saw in a previous episode, where she says NASA started putting profit motive over human life. He stands there, dumbstruck, his eyes beginning to tear up, as his wife recounts the basics. Everyone thought Margo died in the NASA bombing. Of course, his wife has no idea about his connection to Margo.
Then we see Sergei continue to go about his business to a country music soundtrack. But one morning he turns right instead of left, headed for the highway that leads toward Margo (I-35, in case you were wondering). He looks like he wants to reunite. But does he?
Angry crackdown at Happy Valley, Mars
In the Happy Valley base cantina that Miles Dale (Toby Kebbel) took over from his former black-market mentor Ilya, Ed Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman) talks Helios strike with Samantha Massey (Tyner Rushing) over coffee. She’s not pleased he’s been chatting with the enemy, Helios CEO Dev Ayesa (Edi Gathegi). Ed says certain “enlightened individuals” might make progress in their struggle and that Dev, though an asshole, is brilliant.
Then base XO Palmer (Myk Watford) walks in and shuts the cantina down, per order of the base commander, Danielle Pool (Krys Marshall). Ed and Sam soon find other measures going down, like whole levels blocked off by hatches welded shut. Sam, keenly aware authorities want to limit where workers can organize, agrees to hear what Dev has to say.
And Ed and Dev know just how important it is to get her to listen. Because the workers listen mainly to her.
Tough to find a good sitter …
Ed and Dev arrive at Ed’s quarters to find Ed’s daughter Kelly (Cynthia Wu) and her young son Alex. It’s clear Ed forgot he agreed to watch Alex for 3 days while Kelly goes out on the surface for methane research work. He pretends to remember. Both grandson and grandfather look bummed out. Dev wishes Kelly “good hunting.”
Then the kid says, “Mom, you’ll come back, right?”
“Oh course I will,” she responds, kissing his forehead. But given this little plot setup, you have to wonder what potentially fatal crisis might await out there.
After Kelly leaves, Ed and Dev glumly agree they need a babysitter.
Long story short, a British crew member looks after Alex, but loses track of him, leading to a scare. Ed and Alex bond a little more here and there, especially after Dev tells Ed how he bonded with his distant father, building intricate models together after young Dev accidentally broke one.
Dev tells Ed Alex will one day look back at him like Dev looks back at his dad. “Just be yourself. Share your passion,” he tells Ed. “It’s the best gift I ever got.” It clearly gives Ed something to think about.
… so your kid turns into a thief in an asteroid heist
So what do two grown men do with an impressionable boy while mom’s away? They press him unknowingly into their conspiracy and turn him into a thief, of course.
This is where the show lays out plans for upcoming action. At Molly Cobb Space Center, NASA director Eli Hobson (Daniel Stern) welcomes Margo to go over asteroid-capture plans with staff. And Dani talks to her crew at Happy Valley. Meanwhile, Dev meets with top strike organizers on Mars.
They’re all taking about strategies to capture the asteroid — just not with each other. Essentially, the Helios crew Dev is turning to his own purposes plan their own capture — an asteroid heist — involving purloined gear via Miles’ black-market channels.
The key element they need is a “discriminator” that figures into a comms unit the group needs to create, separate from NASA’s. You could also call the discriminator a MacGuffin, which is something crucial to a story’s plot — often a gadget — but not especially important in and of itself. In other words, don’t worry too much about whatever the “discriminator” is supposed to do.
Sergei schemes to reach Margo through her worst frenemy
Back in Houston, Sergei startles Aleida in her driveway after rushing over from Iowa. She remembers who he is but wants nothing to do with him. But he persuades her to listen, and he ends up telling her the whole story of his relationship with Margo under the auspices of the KGB — and how she steadfastly refused to give up engine-design secrets but then “gave up everything” for him when his life was on the line.
Aleida is moved by the tale and its revelations about Margo’s character, but says she can’t forgive Margo. And yet she will help Sergei speak to Margo, who is always under American and Soviet guard.
Later, Aleida seeks Margo out at Mission Control, where she’s eating a sandwich between her guards in the old observation room where many of the show’s scenes have unfolded. Aleida says she needs Margo to look at some figures indicating vector anomolies reported by a tracking station. Margo opens the report to find a post-it note with equations scribbled on it. It’s code that includes a notation for 10 p.m. Margo says she’ll look at it later that night. Even if the equations are Greek to the audience, Margo has received a message.
Kelly is safe for now
Back on Mars, Ed reads while Alex stirs in bed. He tells Ed he’s scared of him because he looks like a bear with his beard. It’s adorable. Ed tells the kid he used to read to his mom. And so he does with Alex, cracking open a book with a manly tale about a man called Jake getting ready to set sail on a ship in the night.
As he reads, the camera rises up over the surface of Mars and travels to the Korolev Crater, thousands of kilometers away. That’s where Kelly is. The camera zooms in over the majestic rim to zoom in on her tiny craft, eventually getting close enough to reveal crew unpacking gear.
With the orchestral music playing as she gazes out on the vast crater, we’re meant to get chills, and we do. After the establishing shot in the episode’s first scene at Happy Valley, rising over a ridge to show the base, this is the episode’s only space visual other than Ranger in Mars orbit (below), and it’s a great one.
‘Mission Impossible’ on and around Mars
Back on Mars, Miles goes over the equipment-heist plan again theough a voice-over as we see crew walking around with packing containers. The containers they want have green and yellow bar codes. Security goes to check a container as the crew lines up to exit, but Miles is one step ahead, thanks to Ilya’s teaching — the contraband comms equipment is hidden under other materials.
But as they unpack to set up their own mission control, the crucial item is missing. The discriminator! Tech sleuthing turns up it was wrongly sent to the secure lockup. The only way in is an intake vent too small for adults to crawl through. Wheels turn in Ed’s head and sure enough, his grandson is soon deployed. And when noises indicate possible disaster and wow-is-Kelly-really-going-to-kill-Ed-this-time, Alex emerges from the vent with the coveted item.
And soon enough Dev meets with Happy Valley command and convinces Dani and others that untrustworthy strike-leader Sam needs to be on Rover for the capture mission. He’s persuasive, just as when he cajoled Miles to go think bigger and go through with the crazy heist.
Reunited and it feels so … fraught
In her hotel that night, Margo goes over the the report and post-it note Aleida gave her. Margo cruches up the note and flushes it down the toilet.
Meanwhile, Sergei sits in a diner, waiting. Margo doesn’t show. Then the diner closes and he has to leave. He walks sadly through the parking lot and — you guessed it — there she is, waiting in the dark.
She tries to rebuff him before he even gets two words out. But rather than professing affection, he tells her she’s not safe. He explains her current Soviet space boss, Irina Morozova (Svetlana Efremova) was his KGB handler — the person who destroyed both their lives.
“You cannot go back there, Margo,” he says, meaning the Soviet Union.
Up in Mars orbit, Ranger is smoothly on target with Danielle and Samantha onboard. Palmer watches Sam with suspicion. Sam gazes at the communications stack with the component she’s supposed to steal. She looks at the crewmembers all around her.
“Fuck me,” she mutters at the seeming impossibility of her mission.
Watch For All Mankind on Apple TV+
You can catch up with the first three seasons of the alternative-history series, plus the new season, on Apple TV+. It’s available by subscription for $9.99 with a seven-day free trial. You can also get it via any tier of the Apple One subscription bundle. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free.