What does the ending of Palm Springs mean?

palm-springs-dinosaurs
palm-springs-dinosaurs

Quantum physics and dinosaurs. Look closely. What more could a geek want?

The three endings in the Groundhog Day themed movie Palm Springs have a little unpacking to do. Plus, dinosaurs. Let’s get to it.

SPOILERS LIE AHEAD.

Why does Nyles mention his dog?

In the first end scene, Nyles and Sarah are lounging in the pool at his ‘safe house’ on November 10th, the real next day. They’re quiet and content. Then Nyles takes the time to tell Sarah he has a dog.


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Why does the character use the final moments telling the audience this? It’s a little joke, both in-universe and out. “One of them Shaggy Dogs,” he says, when she asks she kind of pooch it is…implying their entire experience is a “Shaggy Dog Story,” and so is the movie.

To drive home how cool this line is, here’s the definition from the Oxford Dictionary of a Shaggy Dog Story:

A long, rambling story or joke, typically one that is amusing only because it is absurdly inconsequential or pointless.
anza-borrego-dinosaurs

Seriously, the many gigantic metal sculptures in Anza Borrego are worth getting off the main drag for.

So what’s with the Dinosaurs in Palm Springs?

In the second ending, the camera slowly pans away from the pool and into the distance, past the pegmatite rock heaps of Joshua Tree National Park. Three graceful Diplodocus dinosaurs stroll by. I’m including these fancy words because dinosaurs and geology are fun. You should note the dinos in question are not Brachiosaurs. And now I’ll take off my teacher’s cap.

Dinosaurs are a big thing in the Southern California desert. There are famous dinosaurs in both the town of Anza Borrego, and along the exit off I-10 at Cabazon.

cabazon-dinosaur-dinny

Dinny is a gift shop and Creationism museum in Cabazon.

If you’ve ever seen PeeWee Herman, or The Wizard, or drove on Route 66 to Los Angeles, you’ve seen the concrete Cabazon T-Rex and Brontosaur sculptures, large as life. One is an actual gift shop! Dinny and Mr. Rex are a bit faded and crumbling now, but remain a beloved, iconic roadside attraction. The fact that they promote Creationism in the museum is just a cherry on the geological layer cake.

Likewise, in the resort town of Anza Borrego there’s a lot of huge metal sculptury, and dinosaurs aren’t forgotten. You can see a group of Velociraptors, a T-Rex, a few carnosaurs, and a Loch Ness Monster that goes under the road and loops off into the distance.

Dinosaurs have been associated with the desert for a long time now, since a lot of fossilized bones and track prints are well-preserved in that environment.

In-universe, the first time we see the dinosaurs (it happens twice), Nyles and Sarah are sharing a mushroom trip. Since they both see the creatures, it’s possible the dinos are actually there. Nyles and Sarah are literally tripping through time.

But the second time the Diplodoci appear, only the audience sees them.

Dinosaurs last walked the Earth 65 million years ago. We don’t know how long the three film characters repeated November 9th, but they are clearly outside the normal timeline. Why can’t dinosaurs have fallen through the loop too, like the goat? Why does time have to be linear in a repeating loop anyway? Am I overthinking this?

I think not. Anyone cool enough to put freaking dinosaurs in this movie is a geek too.

palm-springs-jk-simmons

Watch his eyes. The man is a gem.

And that extra scene with JK Simmons?

After the credits roll for a few minutes into Palm Springs, an extra scene begins. Back at the November 9th wedding, Roy crosses to a tux-suited Nyles. Roy grabs Nyles’ shoulder, saying, “Hey, Shitbird. I got the message from your girlfriend last night. That’s a pretty crazy theory. Do you really think it could work?”

Watch Simmons’ eyes. He acts entire scene with them, and a whole gamut of emotions runs by: irritation, confusion, hope, disbelief, pain, excitement, and the start of joy. It’s a lovely coda: Roy is not forgotten or left behind. The idea is that Sarah left instructions, telling him she probably got out, and how to escape too. Roy realizes this must have happened — Nyles doesn’t know him at all. In this timeline, Nyles never got stuck.

Roy celebrates by ordering a “lot” of alcohol. We assume he gets out of the time loop whenever he wants to after that. Maybe he stays longer in the “prison” he’s grown to accept, appreciate, and finally cherish. Maybe he’ll stay a lot longer. What would you do?

The ending is worth thinking about, either way.

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Is there anything extra during the end credits of Palm Springs?

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2 thoughts on “What does the ending of Palm Springs mean?”

  1. Thanks for putting so much thought into the meaning of these extras. That really shines a light on things.

    Note: I hope the diplodocus don’t get out of the loop or they will have a very bad time of it. There is nowhere near enough food or water in the desert to support them. Back in the dino-days that area of the country was a lush temperate jungle on the edge of a vast inland sea.

  2. True, this is nothing like the Cretaceous Era, but I assume the diplos just reset each morning. I don’t think they would even try to science their way out it. 😉

    And now I wonder where the goat went? I hope Sarah looked him up and brought him home.

    UPDATE on rewatch: The very first scene in Palm Springs artistically implies the goat made it out and is wandering around near the time rift. I still hope Sarah goes back for him. Goats, like dinosaurs, are cool.

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