While Project Blue Book has allegedly been about proving flying saucers don’t exist and that there’s a logical explanation for every UFO reported, each episode has ended with the same sense that’s the government is hiding something, and UFOs are real. “Operation Paperclip” is different, and arguably the most historically grounded, because UFOs aren’t what’s being kept under wraps. In fact, the UFO is what’s given up to Hynek and Quinn, bringing into question what the government needs hidden more than UFOs.
Hynek’s bad track record with air travel continues when the plane he’s on suffers a near collision with a spacecraft. Agreeing with another witness that the craft resembled a rocket, Quinn jumps on Operation Paperclip as a possible suspect. A group of German scientists that the US recruited after WWII to work on the US space program, many of these scientists were former Nazis and this stirs up a lot of feelings in everyone this episode, especially Quinn.
While his instincts to investigate them prove right, knowing Quinn’s reluctance to keep cases open in the past, it does feel self-serving that he finally listens to Hynek when it’s somebody he wants to go after and bring down. The sentiment is understandable, but sentiment doesn’t hold someone like Werner von Braun (Thomas Kretschmann) accountable in a court of law, and by going after Braun before Hynek has a chance to implicate him (and he does catch Braun in a lie, so Quinn merely had to wait) he’s only opening Braun up to getting away with his secret activities. Deciding somebody’s guilty without evidence is a nasty habit, and it shouldn’t take Nazis for Quinn to listen to Hynek, especially when listening will not only strengthen his case, but give him a case in the first place.
Hynek’s scenes with Braun are their own, interesting animal, especially since it seems as though Braun would befriend Hynek. He offers Hynek a job and is the first person to truly acknowledge his intelligence, but (and this is a huge “but”) he’s a Nazi (former or otherwise), and Gillen plays these scenes very well. He’s not outright antagonistic, like Malarkey’s Quinn, but you never question whether he’s forgotten Braun’s affiliations. Flattery has no effect on him and the first half of the episode is especially strong, with moral layers to unpack.
The episode takes a turn after Quinn’s suspension. Hynek goes off on his own to discover the crop circles, realizing the true reason Braun gave up his rocket is he wanted to cover-up whatever left those markings. Hynek and Quinn discover Braun’s “monkey” in the lab and the episode ends with the government testing its very own flying saucer (Did they steal it from aliens? Did Braun invent it? We may never know). In other words, the second half is given over to speculation. Fuller is revealed to be Mimi’s stalker (I’m not sure if we were supposed to figure this out last episode, because it didn’t seem like the show was trying to mask his identity.), but how did he figure out where Hynek lived, and how did he get himself to Ohio?
Now that Quinn’s taken to disobeying orders, will that change the show moving forward, or will it be like the electricity last week – all but forgotten once “Foo Fighters” airs?
Project Blue Book airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on History.