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Transatlantic – Episode 1 Recap

Transatlantic is a historical drama based on the novel titled The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer. It follows the efforts of Mary Jayne Gold and Varian Fry who helped refugees escaped to the US during the WWII. Starring Gillian Jacobs, Cory Michael Smith, and Lucas Englander.

Streaming on Netflix

Transatlantic - Episode 1 Summary & Recap

Escape to Marseille

The episode starts off with a pair of siblings, Ursula and Albert Hirschman (Lucas Englander) successfully escaping Paris into Marseille. We later meet Mary Jayne Gold (Gillian Jacobs) who is working with the Emergency Rescue Committee that helps rescue talented Germans and help get them to the US amidst the war. Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith) is the Director of the Committee. Mary Jayne is mainly there because she’s from a wealthy family and she could fund the committee’s operations.

While in a cafe with Mr Patterson, the American consul in Marseille, Mary Jayne spotted Ursula in her ragged clothes. You see, Mary Jayne also helps smuggles Jewish refugees to the US on the side. So this time, she again helped Ursula and Albert by arranging for them to illegally board a cargo ship to the US.

At the pier while waiting for their boat, Albert and Ursula met another old Jewish man. Together, they got on a small boat alongside a few other refugees so that they could board the ship before the cargo comes. Unfortunately, a police raid happened at the same time. Panic, the old man who couldn’t swim dived into the ocean and drowned. Albert and Ursula, on the other hand, was caught by the authorities. 


Scene from Transatlantic Episode 1 to illustrate recap
Ursula and Albert on a boat with the other refugees moments before the police raid. Photo: Netflix

Across the mountains by foot

When Mary Jayne heard the news about the raid, she immediately went to the station to bail Ursula and Albert out. Ursula got out first as Albert was interrogated for his multiple passports. In jail, Ursula also met a woman named Lisa Fittko. Lisa is also a Jew and she found an unguarded path through the mountains to Spain. As there are guards during sunset, Lisa and Ursula had to make a move first. Mary Jayne on the other hand, promised to get Albert to them.

Albert eventually came out after two hours and Mary Jayne was left with no choice but to drive him to the mountain area. The two shared a great chemistry since they met. When they were stopped at the police stops, Albert and Mary Jayne pretended to be lovers so that the police would let them go quicker.

By dusk, Mary Jayne eventually drove Albert to the mountains. Albert had to run and catch up with his sister. He finally did in the morning, where he saved the refugee group from some Spanish police. However, Albert and Lisa decided not to board the bus to Lisbon. The two of them wanted to get more refugees out since they now know the way. Albert and Ursula parted ways. Then, Lisa and Albert headed to Splendid Hotel, to meet up with Varian and Mary Jayne.

The two siblings had to say their goodbyes. Photo: Netflix

Turning dangerous

On the same day Albert and Lisa arrived at Splendid Hotel, the French government evoked Article 19, where all refugees had to be turned in to the local police. As part of the committee, Lisa and Albert were holding some talented refugees in the hotel, including a writer named Walter Benjamin. With this command, the Chief of Police pressured Mr. Patterson to gave up Benjamin’s location.

Trouble also looms for Mary Jayne. Her father has been asking her to go back to Chicago for a while. Mary Jayne had indeed bought her plane ticket home, but she missed the flight because she had to drive Albert to the mountains. That night, she received an angry telegram from her father.

Additional Observations From Episode 1

  • Albert studied economics and served in the army for France and Spain
  • Varian has a wife who sends him a telegram everyday. However, he is in fact gay. He got a telegram to meet up with an old “friend” named Thomas (Amit Rahav) in an abandoned mansion. Varian had not heard from Thomas for five years and thought he had been captured. Varian and Thomas was shown kissing.
  • Paul and his brother Petit, are from West Africa. They are working as the hotel receptionist and bell boy, and seems to be working together with the Emergency Rescue Committee.

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