The mission is jeopardized - with Armstrong and Aldrin's lives at risk - due to a virus put into the NASA computer operation by Flynn. Rufus is the only one with sufficient knowledge to fix it - put in a cure - but he actually doesn't have quite enough know-how to do this, after all. He needs the help of Katherine Johnson, a real person who was given the Medal of Freedom by President Obama last year. Back in 1969, she has the knowledge to program Rufus's cure into the paper-punched NASA computer system.
Given that Obama presided over the Medal of Freedom ceremony for this year just a days ago, Katherine Johnson was a really nice touch, and a pleasure to see. And just for good measure, Lucy throws in a timely lecture to the male chauvinists in Mission Control about not treating the secretaries like mere carriers of coffee.
There's also a nice Flynn story wrapped into this tonight, as he meets another secretary, with a talent for rocket design, who turns out to be his mother. Wyatt (who is an FBI agent - with the name "Mulder," another nice touch) witnesses part of this, and there's an implicit question raised at the end - should Wyatt have done something to stop Flynn's mother, so that Flynn would never be born?
This is a perennial time-travel question - if the traveler had a chance to kill Hitler's mother, or otherwise prevent her from meeting Hitler's father, should the traveler do that? Usually, the answer is no - the morality of time travel is that you don't mess up the lives of innocents to get at the bad people in history.
Unless, you have to shoot an essentially innocent person to save someone crucial to the mission, which Rufus had to do tonight.
A nice, provocative hour of time travel indeed.
See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded!
a time-travel agency in Riverdale ....