Much Like 'Back to the Future,' 'La Brea' Is Hyper Focused on One Date — What's Going On?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Nov. 9 2021, Published 9:40 p.m. ET

'La Brea'
Source: NBC

Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers through Season 1, Episode 6 of La Brea.

The last thing you want in any time travel movie or show is a paradox. If a paradox occurs (or as the old Back to the Future joke goes, a pair of Docs), then you risk putting the entire universe in jeopardy. What you do need in any time travel vehicle (we don't mean a DeLorean) is a starting point. For Marty McFly, it was Oct. 26, 1985, the date he traveled back in time to 1955.

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In the "Plane Truth" episode of La Brea, we learn via Dr. Rebecca Aldridge (Ming Zhu-Hii) that Gavin's (Eoin Macken) visions are an integral part of rescuing everyone and that he "must go back to the beginning." Evidently, the beginning is Nov. 16, 1988. So, what is Nov. 16, 1988, in La Brea, and will we need a Doc Brown to get there?

Dr. Rebecca Aldridge (Ming Zhu-Hii)
Source: NBC
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Why is Nov. 16, 1988 important in 'La Brea'?

A cursory glance at this date in history doesn't yield any results that could conceivably affect the show, unless you count former president Ronald Reagan meeting with former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher in what could only be described as cold. They also met with the first lady, who, as we know, was not Jane Wyman. All roads lead the future, even if we don't need roads where we're going.

Now that the show has established when the La Brea people are 10,000 years in the past, it's throwing the occasional curveball. For example, Lucas (Josh McKenzie) and Scott (Rohan Mirchandaney) stumble upon a chest filled with gold that dates back to the Civil War. Now, why would something that is 156 years old also be 10,000 years in the past, unless this sinkhole serves as a kind of Bermuda Triangle, trapping people throughout time? Has anyone seen Amelia Earhart?

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Source: Twitter / @iAmMissJasmine

What is the history of the actual La Brea Tar Pits?

First and foremost, we cannot possibly cover its entire history as, according to the Natural History Museum of LA County, the La Brea Tar Pits are roughly 50,000 years old. Instead, we're going to focus on one find in particular that could very well have influenced the creation of La Brea the show. Grab your skateboards and put on your orange puffy vests — we're going back to the past.

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In 1914, the bones of an unidentified woman were excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits. The woman evidently died with a dog by her side and a piece of her skull missing, which indicated she could have been murdered. When carbon dated, scientists discovered that she is roughly 9,000 years old. She was nicknamed "La Brea Woman."

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Scientists also discovered that based on her bone structure, she was not part of any tribe that was native to the area. It's almost as if she dropped in from some other place or time. What's even more interesting is she wasn't found in the tar pits but rather in a nearby grave. The theory is that she was murdered somewhere else and buried by the pits.

Her skeleton would eventually go on quite the journey, which means there was little rest for La Brea Woman, even in death. At first, an exhibit at the George C. Page Museum was constructed. According to a 2006 article in the LA Times, the style of the exhibit was "Pepper's ghosts," after 19th-century British inventor John Henry Pepper. "Using mirrors and spotlights, the La Brea Woman exhibit let viewers see her skeleton and then, as if by magic, the actual woman herself, a dolled-up mannequin."

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In 2006, her skeleton was hanging by the museum's curating office, next to the dummy rendering of her. However, that skeleton wasn't hers. It belonged to a Pakistani woman they used for the exhibit, although the La Brea Woman's actual skull was in a file cabinet labeled Artifacts Pit 10: La Brea Woman.

La Brea Woman exhibit
Source: Wikipedia
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In 2007, the museum moved her to a storage facility. They didn't even want to display the facial reconstruction images done by forensic artist Melissa Cooper. In another piece by the LA Times, Melissa said, "The museum won't display her images out of fear that the Chumash, a Native American tribe, will attempt to take the bones away." Maybe they should.

Who is La Brea Woman? Is this the world's first true-crime mystery? Or is she someone who fell into a sinkhole, only to end up in another time, lost and confused? Perhaps it was her status as a stranger from a different era that got her killed. Maybe her legacy now lives on in the show La Brea. Whoa, this is heavy.

La Brea airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on NBC.

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