Sometimes time travelers are not tracked by the splinter machine. They post an ad in a newspaper with a coded message to inform the future scientists, where and when they wanted to be picked up.

If I remember correctly in one of this cases a scientists says something like "the newspaper hasn't changed yet".

That seems odd to me. It is established that timeline changes are only recognized by people who took the injections. When they make a big change, Katarina (who gave herself injections for exactly that purpose) was the only one who notice the changes. So how could the other scientist expect the newspaper to "change"?

Also it is established that more often than not "changes" the travelers create are not changes at all but have already happened and are already part of the timeline. So shouldn't the scientists expect to see the ad in the newspaper even before they send the traveler into the past at least in some cases?

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    Paul D. Waite hasn't made the "Very Well, Thank you" comment yet? :O – Aegon Jul 12 '17 at 10:52
  • It is established that timeline changes are only recognized by people who took the injections. This is correct, however we're looking at the inverse: if the timeline hasn't yet changed, and the scientist knows it's supposed to... they can know it hasn't. – Will Jun 9 '18 at 6:52

I was about to say that Katarina could have just told them to expect some change to occur, but they still wouldn't know when and if it changed, so that's not it. Which scientist was it? Maybe he got the shots off-screen?

As to your second point, I don't think that's the case in 12 Monkeys, as this usually renders time travel void, and it's probably related to the out-of-universe explanation of the episode's chronology. Indeed, it would be confusing and a bit of a spoiler to show the consequences of the team's actions before showing the causes - how it happened.


This rather touches on how any one writer, show, etc decides to treat the effects of time travel. The process here seems to be that a change made in the past doesn't "happen", or manifest in the future until the person in question makes them.

Consider the bootstrap paradox - a person goes back to see who discovered the wheel, only to find that HE did, offering some caveman the idea to observe a tree rolling down a hill. In that case, the event (wheel) was already in place before he left, though he wasn't aware he had any connection to it.

Now consider the Predestination Paradox from Somewhere in Time. Christopher Reeve finds the guest book for the hotel from decades past, sees his name and signature in it, so he KNOWS he will succeed at traveling back in time. If the newspaper ads was already in existence before the Splinter machine sends the traveler back, they'd already know something went awry.

This appears to be a different situation - the newspaper ad only exists AFTER the person not only goes back, but actually places the ad. Now, logically, since the event still happens in the past, the ad should exist instantaneously upon their departure. I'm betting we're looking at a version of the grandfather paradox - if the ad appeared instantaneously, they could go back and get the subject immediately, BEFORE they placed the ad, or even sort out what went wrong before they left so it wouldn't. But they they wouldn't PLACE the ad, so the people in the future wouldn't be able to read it.

So same question - why doesn't it appear immediately? Best guess is in this version of time travel, there's a connection between the "present" and the person who goes back. if a person goes back and placed the ad two days after arrival, the ad would only appear two days after they left in the "present". There's a certain logic to that - something to do with Quantum, I expect...

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    I think the method of communicating with the future may also be an artifact of the show's roots in the 12 Monkeys film. The film plays up the fact that many of Cole's actions appear to be those of a paranoid schizophrenic - until the end, we're not supposed to be sure if he's sane or insane, or if the time travel is really happening or not. A belief that coded messages are present in newspaper ads is a trope of the depiction of paranoid delusion. These story problems arise because the writers want the delusion to be real. – tbrookside Sep 6 '18 at 2:39

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