‘Constellation’ Episode 3 Recap & Ending Explained: Who Is Bud Caldera?


Constellation, the new psychological space thriller series on Apple TV+, leaves us at an interesting point at the end of the first three episodes, which premiered together. The plot follows an astronaut named Jo, who makes an unbelievable return to Earth after her mission aboard the International Space Station was cut short by an unexplained accident. The science fiction elements of the show seem to kick up a notch in Constellation episode 3, where viewers are perhaps given a certain angle as to what exactly is happening with the characters.

Spoiler Alert

What does Jo face after her return?

After Jo Ericsson’s almost miraculous return to Earth, she is rushed to Star City, a facility run by the Russian space research authorities, simply because her capsule landed close to the place. She first has to get acclimatized to the conditions on Earth once again, after having spent some significant time in outer space on the ISS. The human body reacts very differently after it has been to space and then returned to Earth, and Constellation puts some focus on this as well. Jo has to live with swelling in her legs, which is a usual occurrence after space travel. She has to go through regular exercise sessions in order to get her body used to gravity and the oxygen levels on Earth. She does forget about gravity at times, even leaving a glass of water mid-air, thinking that it would keep floating like in space. But Jo’s physical difficulties are perhaps nothing when compared to the mental and emotional stress that she has to go through upon her return.

Her extraordinary story of return is immediately perceived as an example of true grit, and so naturally, the media conducts interviews with her. It is through these interviews that the exact reason behind Jo’s space mission is revealed—she was meant to collect data about how the human body physically and mentally reacts to life in outer space. But alongside the appreciation she gets from the media, Jo also has to face a lengthy investigation and internal trial conducted by the ISS authorities in order to understand the possible reason for the accident. This is all the more difficult because each of the different space organizations, from various and even rival countries, wants to find faults in each other. Believing that her responsibility as an astronaut is to correctly report her findings on the space station, Jo sticks to her report of having seen the dead body of a Soviet cosmonaut, which she holds responsible for the accident.

But the Roscosmos agency officials are simply unwilling to accept this report, as it would put the blame for the accident on them and the country of Russia. The leader, Irene Lysenko, interrogates Jo for long hours, trying to put as much pressure on her as possible to make her change her report. Irene naturally refers to Jo’s admission back in space, saying that she might be suffering from hallucinations because of an oxygen shortage. Therefore, Jo’s report of the dead cosmonaut is stated to be a similar hallucination by the Russians, but the protagonist refuses to give up. The matter briefly turns to why the cameras on Jo’s suit suddenly failed during her spacewalk, and it is once again NASA and the ESA who have to take the blame, as they were responsible for the technical matters. Irene also points out that there was no alarm on the ISS before the accident, stating that this, too, was a lapse of security on the part of NASA. But this is extremely odd because Jo clearly remembers having heard an alarm go off right before the crash, and the alarm was indeed heard during the specific scene in Constellation episode 1.

Jo had been on a video call with her family at the time, and when the footage of this call was checked by the authorities during the investigation, no sound of any alarm was heard. Therefore, both this and the report of the cosmonaut are considered to be imaginary matters from Jo’s oxygen-deprived mind. The authorities instead try to prove that the accident was caused by space debris, and an extensive list of things left behind or dumped in space throughout history is opened up. The closest match to Jo’s statement is found when it is realized that the Soviets used orange bags to dispose of their waste in space in the past. It is ascertained that Jo must have mistaken the orange waste bag for a cosmonaut suit, and almost everyone is convinced by the claim.

When Jo still refuses to change her statement, even the NASA officials state that there is no record of any Russian or Soviet cosmonaut having died in space whose body was left behind, making the protagonist’s claim rather unconvincing. Jo does some research herself and finds out that the exact orange suit she had seen had been part of a USSR space program in the 1960s, based at the very same Star City where she is being kept at the moment. Interestingly, the photograph that Jo finds on the internet is of a female cosmonaut wearing an orange suit, and a colleague reveals that the woman was actually Irene Lysenko, the current director at Roscosmos. But the finding cannot help Jo in any way, and she realizes that none of her colleagues, the ones who were on the ISS with her, believe her statement either.

Jo had been suffering from mental struggles because of all the bizarre happenings around her, and she kept claiming to her husband that she was not feeling like herself. She feels almost like she has stepped into a different life now, surprised to learn that she was apparently not even close to her husband, Magnus, before leaving Earth. This is not how Jo feels at the moment, as she is filled with love for him, and probably, to get rid of all this confusion, she decides to give in to the claims of the authorities. Jo finally lies, saying that she must have mistaken the orange disposal bag for a body, only so that the investigation would end, and she could return to her home in Cologne with her family.

What exactly is Henry looking for?

Henry Caldera keeps running a series of tests and experiments with the CAL device in Constellation episode 3, despite his closest colleague Eryn reminding him that it is not going to yield any result. The CAL device, which is seemingly designed to find forms of life that are not visible to the human eye, had already shown two separate entities existing at the same time. Now, when Henry keeps running the tests, he does eventually find a similar result but is still unable to prove it to anyone. This is because even though Henry is able to see the result with two life forms with his eye, any photograph or print of it only shows one. Frustrated by this strange occurrence, Henry places a piece of paper on the computer screen and makes a sketch of the exact figure he is seeing, with two life forms. 

Sometime later in the episode, Henry reveals or rather explains, what his real motive with the CAL device and his current research are. As he explains the matter to young Alice, it also serves as a dumbed-down version of it for us viewers not acquainted with matters of quantum physics. The new branch of physics roughly states the possibility of an object existing in multiple different forms at any given point, with its true form ultimately being determined by the observer. Henry wants to take quantum physics beyond the realm of theory and wants to prove the practical implications of it. Therefore, the CAL device is actually meant to identify objects, or life forms, existing in multiple forms at the same time, and so the two dots in its reading suggest this very existence. Naturally, it gets Henry immensely excited, and this is why he desperately wants to go through the results and logs of the CAL device. 

Who is Bud Caldera?

The character of Bud Caldera was first seen in Constellation episode 2, when it seemed like the man was Henry’s twin brother and that the two were not in regular contact with each other. Bud is currently aboard a cruise ship, attending talk shows, debates, and fan meets because he claims to have been in space, even having written a book about it. However, his claims are constantly refuted by a professional rival, with whom he has to conduct public debates. At the end of the episode, Bud actually kills this rival, pushing him over the rails of the ship into the open sea. But what is more bizarre is Bud’s very claim, for he states that he had led the Apollo 18 mission to the moon, which actually did not take place in reality, or at least in our reality.

So far, the manner in which Constellation has played out seems to suggest the existence of two different realities at the same time, and certain characters seem to have traveled over to other realities unknowingly. This is possibly what has happened to Jo as well; she has returned to Earth safely, but in a different reality from her own, in which her daughter does not understand Swedish and her family car is blue instead of red. There seem to be some visual cues leading to this theory as well, as for some time, right after her return to Earth, Jo and Alice are on the helicopter by each other, and yet for a few seconds, they both find themselves completely alone. It can be that this is where the switch took place, leading to terrific confusion, even for the daughter, who, at the end of episode 3, accepts that this version of Jo is not her real mother. This is also probably why the video call recording does not have any alarms sounding, as things occurred in this reality slightly different from that in Jo’s original reality.

The two other important figures to have traveled to space, Henry Caldera and Irene Lysenko, also seem to know something more about the whole affair. In fact, the two are secret lovers as well, and Irene admits that the dead cosmonaut Jo claims to have seen was very real. However, there is some major cover-up in the works, and the particular red-and-yellow pills that both of them keep having, and which were recently prescribed to Jo as well, are somehow related to the matter. Both Henry and Irene mention that they have a brother and sister, respectively, with whom they are no longer in contact, but it seems extremely likely that these siblings are actually different forms of themselves in other realities. Bud is actually Henry from a different reality, in which the Apollo 18 mission actually happened, and this is why both the men have the same names along with the same appearances. Irene’s long-lost sister, or her form in a different reality, is the dead cosmonaut Jo saw in space, and this is why, for a sudden moment, while kissing the woman, Henry sees the rotting dead body in his embrace. Constellation definitely builds up the excitement with the last of the three episodes premiered together, and hopefully, the show will deliver on its thrilling promise.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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