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Welcome to Night Vale Recap: Episode 18 “The Traveler”

Have I mentioned lately that time is weird in Night Vale?

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Once again Cecil feels it is a news story by itself to tell us that there is a visitor in Night Vale. But this one is not noted for his perfect hair or charming, if perilous, curiosity. Instead this traveler has a handsome, terrible beard and an arrogance that could lead to his own undoing.

The Traveler is never named, but he does make a splash right away. His clothes look strange, almost like the marching band uniforms of Desert Bluffs prior to the incident. (Which, as of the just-released episode 73, we can see may have been related to the actions of a certain not-yet-revealed organization.) The Traveler also seems to have very little respect for the forbidden areas of Night Vale and has even already married the town’s third most beautiful woman, Cactus June. (Cactus June formerly lived in a cactus. Perhaps one that Telly gave a haircut to?) Cecil is able to look at a photo of the wedding in his newspaper.

In other news, Mayor Pamela Winchell seems to be getting in the habit of holding more press conferences lately, ever since her position as mayor was threatened by Hiram McDaniels. She has called her fourth emergency press conference this week. She gives a vague yet ominous message about fences in caves and a throbbing heart. I have no idea what it means, but I can’t help wondering if these sorts of messages are all Mayor Winchell’s way of trying to warn people that her work is dangerous and not just anyone can replace her. Also, there may be a horrible creature behind a fence in a cave somewhere.

After a brief PSA about the importance of believing in reality occasionally, we get back to the story about the Traveler. He was recently seen shopping with his wife, now called Cactus Judy. While out, he was heard to laugh at the fashions and technology he saw, claiming that things were much better when he was from. Then, in case anyone missed that, he emphasized again that he said when he was from, not where. Basically, we have a story about a really cocky time-traveler this episode.

Honestly? It makes sense to me. If I went back in time, I think I’d have a hard time not being arrogant. I’d keep getting frustrated by the simpler technology, the uncomfortable fashions, and the more overt bigotry of the past. I’d also probably keep ignoring widely accepted social boundaries, if I even knew about them. Basically, I have a lot of sympathy for this Traveler. It can’t be easy to adapt to a new-old time.

It’s also worth noting that the Traveler seems to already be affecting the timeline around him. Somehow he’s caused his wife’s name to change and Jerry’s Tacos to reopen, despite the restaurant previously being encased in amber because of sins against nature.

Next we move on to a corrections segment. In a previous episode (that we did not get to hear) Cecil and several others very vocally denied the existence of mountains, even going so far as to burn a “mountain believer” in effigy. Since then, one of Cecil’s friends drove him out into the desert until they got to a mountain. So now Cecil must admit that there is at least one mountain in the world, though he’s still skeptical that it’s not just a fake mountain made by obsessive mountain believers.

This segment is also interesting because it’s one of the few that suggests there are episodes of Cecil’s show that we don’t get to hear. It makes me wonder how often he’s actually on the air. As a community news show, it would make sense for it to be on daily or at least a few days a week. For that matter, what is Cecil’s show actually called within the Welcome to Night Vale world? Why does he begin each episode by welcoming the listeners to their own town? Dang it, now this is really going to bother me.

Back with the Traveler, he finally speaks openly about his status as a time-traveler. He claims that he has changed the past in order to save all of Night Vale, but because of that no one remembers him or the danger they were in and he can no longer return to his own time. The Traveler also wants to sell everyone enchiladas, presumably at Jerry’s Tacos.

Then, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, Cecil begins to wonder if this man is some sort of prophet and, if so, should the people of Night Vale follow him instead of the wisdom of the Hooded Figures? And with that sentence we all know that the Traveler is as good as dead.

Though seriously, what wisdom do the Hooded Figures have? They only talk in static and steal babies. I’m not sure what sort of leadership they’ve been offering. I guess when you live in Night Vale and mysterious creatures steal your kids and keep you from visiting the local dog park, it’s best to just assume they had a good reason to do so. Still not sure what that has to do with the Traveler though.

This episode’s weather is “Jews for Jesus Blues” by Clem Snide.

When we get back the Traveler has unsurprisingly disappeared. His photo has even vanished from the newspaper. Cecil hints that this may be the result of the way the Traveler has been mucking up timelines, but then it’s made pretty clear that the Hooded Figures attacked him and likely erased him from existence. On a related note, the Hooded Figures will now run Jerry’s Tacos. It is now a monolith with no visible entrance.

However we get to end the episode on an upbeat note as Cecil announces several recent births. These include the introduction of the fan favorite character Meghan Wallaby, whose entire body is only a detached adult man’s hand. Cactus Jane, now with another new name and widow to a man no one can remember, has also given birth. Her child is one that bears a startling resemblance to his father, right down to the handsome and terrible beard. Several government agents were present for the birth. This boy will probably be watched for a long time.

The episode concludes with Cecil generally musing about Night Vale as he imagines hovering above it in his mind’s eye. He goes into a lot of detail about what he sees, making this passage one of the strongest arguments that fans have had for Cecil actually being psychic. I still think the theory makes a lot of sense but, at this point at least, Night Vale’s creators have declared it to be non-canon. Oh well, I guess we can still dream.

And that’s it for “The Traveler”. It’s a pretty tame episode by this show’s standards and I often find that people tend to forget about it. I guess that’s understandable though. It did arrive just before a sandstorm hit…

And the Conspiracy Tracker!
1. Angels are living with Old Woman Josie and the City Council wants to capture them.
2. There’s a house that doesn’t exist.
3. The Apache Tracker has changed into a real Native American and only speaks Russian
4. Time is weird in Night Vale and Carlos wants to figure it out.
5. Cecil wants to be swallowed by a giant snake.
6. There’s a city underneath the Desert Flower Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex.
7. Literal five-headed dragon Hiram McDaniels wants to be the next mayor.
8. Pets become perfect when you accept them…
9. What the heck is the dog park?
10. Russian=Weirdness
11. Cecil hates Steve Carlsberg for unknown reasons.
12. Night Vale has a surprising fixation on actor Lee Marvin.
13. The government can control the weather.
14. Two boy scouts are close to becoming Eternal Scouts.
15. The Apache Tracker and angels are watching the Desert Flower.
16. Night Vale is prone to duplication.
17. A dark planet is calling to people.
18. People are shipping crates with tiny houses inside.
19. There’s a man with a tan jacket who’s affiliated with the underground city.
20. There’s an old oak door on John Peters’ farm.

Alex Townsend is freelance writer, a cool person, and really into gender studies and superheroes. It’s a magical day when all these things come together. You can follow her on her tumblr and see her comments on silver age comics. Happy reading!

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