‘Constellation’ Episode 6 Recap & Ending Explained: How Did Jo Survive The Soyuz Capsule Malfunction?


Constellation episode 6, is arguably one of the most interesting episodes in this season of AppleTV+’s psychological space thriller series, as it turns the perspective around completely. While the existence of alternate realities had only been teased or shown in limited phases in the earlier episodes, we get to completely experience the other side of reality this week, with very little of the protagonist, Jo Ericsson, seen. Episode 6 now directly takes us to the world where Jo was the one to be affected by the accident on the ISS, while Paul Lancaster survived and returned to Earth.

Spoiler Alert

What happens in the reality where Paul has survived?

Constellation episode 6 begins aboard the International Space Station, a few days earlier than the present time, where protagonist Jo Ericsson is seen on a video call with her daughter, Alice. While Jo is busy on the call, fellow American astronaut Paul Lancaster is working on the CAL device, recalibrating its lasers as per the orders from Earth. Since the CAL device is part of an experiment conducted by the Rocket Propulsion System (RPS) organization, it is Henry Caldera who has been overseeing the matter from the ground. As soon as Paul plugs a cord into the device, essentially turning it on, the alarms on the ISS go off, catching the attention of everyone, and Alice loses all contact with her mother. It is important to note that Alice had been speaking with Jo in Swedish, and now that she is concerned for her safety, Alice speaks the language with her father as well, who is clearly dejected by love. On the ISS, something has obviously crashed against the structure, causing a massive jolt and also some serious damage to the facility. However, unlike earlier, it is Jo who is struck by debris and not Paul, who we saw earlier pinned to a wall on the ship. It becomes evident that this is not the reality we had been shown in the previous episodes but is genuinely an alternate timeline.

As Jo is struck by debris, there is also a serious leak in the space station’s body, leading to her getting sucked towards the tiny fracture in the glass, which is creating a vacuum. Jo suffers a deadly fall, and her left eye smashes into the glass, killing her immediately. Right before she got pulled down into the chamber, though, there was a very evident split in realities, meaning that a second version of Jo actually saw herself falling to death without any harm to her since there was no such leak in her reality. It can be guessed that this is Jo from the reality we have been following, as she is seen holding her iPad, on which she had been speaking with her daughter. But episode 6 sticks to this different reality, in which Paul suffers no injury and survives along with the other astronauts. Once everyone is sure that they have lost Jo, a similar situation plays out, as only one Soyuz capsule can be used at the time, and Paul is the one who volunteers to stay back. When he went to check on the CAL device after the accident, though, there was no sign of it, and Paul now instructs his colleagues to inform the authorities at NASA and the RPS about the failure of his mission. However, none of the fellow astronauts know anything about the CAL experiment, and they are rather bewildered to hear Paul speak of it or of the RPS boss, Henry Caldera.

This is because there have been multiple splits in reality during the accident, and it is not just about different versions of Jo, as Paul’s reality has also altered. In fact, the Paul we follow throughout the episode finds himself in a different reality, just like Jo had after her return to Earth. But in this case, Paul’s reality is altered right after the accident, as the one he finds himself in at present never had the CAL device or the experiment. In fact, there is no existence of the RPS or of Henry Caldera, and this is why his colleagues do not understand what he is saying during their evacuation. Once Paul returns to Earth, there are subtle changes that he notices as well, just like Jo in the previous episodes. He remembers his wife’s name to be Frida, but although her appearance and personality are the same, she corrects him, saying that she has always been named Erica. Paul also remembers his daughter’s name to be Wendy, but this too has changed, confusingly to the same name, Erica. Over the next few weeks, Paul has to face a similar kind of interrogation by the authorities, just like Jo, but nobody believes his claims about the CAL device or his personal mission for the RPS. He also had to leave Jo’s dead body back in space, a decision that now haunts him and makes him grow terribly guilty, and those around Paul generally perceive him to be losing his mind. Interestingly, he is also prescribed the same Lithium 7 capsules as Jo and the others earlier, clearly to cover-up the claims he is making. 

How did Jo survive the Soyuz capsule malfunction?

If we recall the first couple of episodes of Constellation, when Jo Ericsson had to go through terribly scary procedures and moments before she could leave the ISS aboard a repaired Soyuz capsule, then a certain situation would certainly stick out in memory. After fixing the evacuation capsule, Jo suddenly realized that there was a severe bolt malfunction that would not let her leave the space station unless repaired. The situation turned out to be even more dire, and actually totally out of her control, since the bolt malfunction required a minimum of two people, and it had to be done from the outside of the capsule, from the space station. It was almost certain that Jo would not be able to solve the issue since she was all alone on the station and would, therefore, die until something miraculous and seemingly supernatural happened. A shadow was seen approaching the terminal, following which the malfunction errors completely disappeared, and Jo was able to evacuate safely.

Incidentally, in this alternate reality, Paul Lancaster also faces the same bolt malfunction error in the capsule, realizes that he will be unable to fix it alone, and then suddenly has the same shadow approach the error and allow him to leave. This is closely tied to the fact that Paul keeps feeling the presence of someone else while repairing the Soyuz capsule, just like Jo felt in her reality. Paul hears the voices of Jo, feels like the dead body is sighing, and then even sees a flash of the woman alive and well. This is the very same moment in which Jo grasped Paul’s hand and saw him appear suddenly, despite him being dead, in her reality. It is clear from these scenes that although the CAL device had possibly split reality into multiple possibilities, the base or main situations remained the same, as indicated by the bolt malfunction, for example. Along with this, the many different realities had also co-existed at the same time and space, and the actions of individuals in one such reality affected the others as well.

Therefore, when Paul is finally able to leave the ISS, he looks back at the terminal to see the floating dead body of Jo, suggesting that it was Jo from some other reality who had fixed the terminal, leading to the survival of both Paul and Jo in their respective alternate realities. Spooked by his experiences on the ISS, Paul had decided to leave Jo’s body in space, and although he seemingly received permission from ground control regarding the matter, NASA did not back up this claim after his return. Paul is also able to see flashes from the other reality, as he sees Jo standing near her grave (just like Jo had seen Paul) and also sees Jo and Alice from a different reality during the colleague’s funeral. Up until now, the main crux of Constellation seems to be that the CAL device had split realities, and this was possible only in outer space, which is why only astronauts who had been close to the object in space could experience this split. However, it might also be that outer space itself has the ability to make certain individuals experience alternate realities since the CAL device was probably not present in every situation when astronauts reported something wrong after their space expedition.

Why does Alice choose to go to her mother’s cabin?

In this alternate reality, Alice is absolutely devastated after being told that her mother has not only died in space, but that Jo’s body has not even been brought back. Over time, Alice is very sure that her mother is actually still alive, and this is mostly because she, too, can experience flashes from different realities. In one of the earlier episodes, Alice had seen someone tear apart her toy doll and thought it to be her friend from school, Wendy. However, it is revealed in this episode that she had actually seen herself in a different reality, in which Alice was extremely frustrated by the loss of her mother and wanted to destroy every memory of her. Later on in the episode, the young girl also sees a similar flash of alternate reality as Paul, as she sees herself and Jo in the altered situation, in which Jo had survived and Paul had died. The only explanation behind Alice suddenly getting this unnatural ability is that she had experienced and witnessed the CAL device accident on the ISS, albeit through video call. 

Eventually, Alice grows convinced that she can still make contact with her mother or that Jo might return to Earth in some way. This is why she tells Magnus to take her to the old cabin, which Jo used to frequently visit, and despite his initial reluctance, Magnus agrees to his daughter’s demand. Alice had already developed a habit of hiding in the cupboard and watching videos about spacecraft crashes on the internet, and this is what she continues doing even at the cabin. Incidentally, Alice repeatedly kicking the side of the cupboard in a rhythmic manner is what Jo heard during her hallucinatory visions aboard the ISS. At the end of the episode, Alice does see Jo drive up to the cabin, which is basically from the other reality, and her calling out to her mother is what ended the previous episode, since Alice of this reality calls Jo “mamma.”. 

What does Paul learn from Henry Caldera?

When Paul starts a personal investigation into finding Henry Caldera, primarily asking his NASA boss about the esteemed astronaut and his CAL experiment, he is met with disbelief and ridicule. The world that Paul now finds himself in did not have Henry Caldera heroically save the Apollo 18 mission and land on the moon. After going through some video footage from the expedition, Paul learns that the Apollo 18 mission had ended in total failure, and instead of Henry being a celebrated Nobel Prize-winning astronaut, as in his original reality, the latter was an insignificant ex-space researcher. Henry Caldera had grown disillusioned with life, especially after failing to convince people that he had actually landed on the moon, and had grown into an alcoholic wastrel.

As is clear from the suggestions, and then also confirmed at the end of the episode, the Henry Caldera of this reality is indeed Bud Caldera, whom Paul tracks down and goes to meet. However, Bud also does not believe that it is Paul Lancaster who has come to meet him, and so he refuses to talk to or entertain the man in any way. Bud seemingly shoots at Paul, but the effect of it is unclear. From this new development, it appears most likely that Henry and Bud also landed up in alternate realities, just like Jo and Paul, after their space travels. Bud had probably saved the Apollo 18 mission in his reality, only to get transferred into the alternate realm, where the mission had failed, and so he is considered a liar and a cheat. On the other side, Henry Caldera seems to be the one who messed up the moon landing mission but then luckily found himself in the fortunate reality in which he had saved the day. Since both of them are essentially split images of the same person, nobody obviously noticed the switch, and Henry went on to claim the Nobel Prize and the following accolades: If this is indeed what is happening in Constellation, then it means that Henry is the actual antagonist, in some sense, and his desperation at retrieving the CAL device is probably to ensure that Bud can never return to his reality. Going by this logic, it was perhaps Henry who pushed Bud’s professional rival to death on the cruise ship, trying to get himself jailed in another reality for murder.

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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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