WARNING: SPOILER ALERT:
Although IBM brought in a squadron of attorneys in the last scene of the début episode of “Halt And Catch Fire,” it turned out that the lawyers from “Big Blue” would not stay long in the offices of Cardiff Electric in the second episode. Realizing that winning a suit over Cardiff would take an amazing amount of luck, the attorneys left the building just as they appeared in the premier.
It appeared that Joe McMillan would become a major asset for his new company, John Bosworth introduces MacMillan to his fellow employees as Senior product manager specifically for their new PC project that would commence shortly. Joe captivated that crowd of Cardiff employees with his charisma. In closing he expressed hope that the birth of this product would add another ding to the universe (It turned out he nicked the line; Steven Jobs said it a couple of years before he “passed it off as his own.”
The first half of the show was watching Gordon Clark, morph from the sullen depressed guy we met in the series premier. Clark was given his own office with a prestigious window. (apparently Cardiff has a very small amount of offices with windows, which shows Gordon how much cash-flow his company expects this new product will bring into the market.) Gordon who last week seemed to have lost his ability to experience joy, was rocking out in his car to Boz Scaggs as he was heading home. Clark told his wife the good news and since the kids were playing down the street, Donna and Gordon decided to celebrate by playing in the bedroom.
Unfortunately things aren’t working out as well for Cameron, hired by Cardiff to write their own BIOS system. Isolated in a former storage closet, turned into her new office otherwise known as “The Clean Room” designed so she avoids contact with Gordon or other engineers. Joined in her less than spacious working-quarters by the company’s attorney, so that everything remains above-board. That working arrangement soon falls apart and Cameron is no longer working out of “The Clean Room,” instead she has relocated herself in the company’s basement. Joe is unhappy with the way Cameron is conducting herself since she started at the company. He wants her to toe the line which she refuses to do as she marches to the beat of her own drummer.
While our “Three Amigos” are not seeing eye to eye on the project at hand, there are far more serious problems facing Cardiff. Turns out that IBM decided to get their revenge on their adversary, by stealing Cardiff’s biggest clients, including three that account for 68% of the company’s revenue. How did “Big Blue” steal away some of Cardiff’s best customers? By offering a rate that is far less than the one they are currently paying out. Needless to say that all the blame for the situation is on McMillan’s shoulders, according to one of the employees if the company fails to get back their major clients the company will die in just two months. Gordon took the news worst of all, as he felt duped by Joe, comparing McMillan to Mark David Chapman and making the analogy that Gordon is John Lennon, the rock-star murdered by Chapman.
Joe goes to the basement looking for Cameron and when he realizes she is not there he starts panicking looking for the blue binder that contains the Bios system for the IBM, PC. Clark starts freaking out thinking they will end up in prison, while Joe tries to remain optimistic that she and the binder would turn up some place quite safe. Gordon then looks at the code that Cameron has written on dry-erase boards in the basement and is incredulous, he believes her work is brilliant. MacMillan can’t sell himself completely on the idea that Cameron will return with BIOS binder in hand, so he takes a drive stopping by a stereo store that has a going out of business sign. Because it appears the store is in the same condition that Cardiff could soon find themselves in, Joe tries to get the store owner to explain to him why his dream soured. The pair actually get into a physical confrontation before the store owner tells Joe he is calling the police.
Before Joe’s former boss from IBM catches the red-eye flight back to New York, he pays MacMillan a visit at his apartment. The “Big Blue” executive informs his former employee that he still has back-pay owed to him and hands him a check for over $600. We get a clue about MacMillan’s departure from IBM, when he tells his former boss that he did over $2 million of damage to the computer servers his last day at IBM. The executive informs him that they ended up making a profit from the reimbursement provided by their insurance provider. (No matter how much mud “Big Blue” falls into, they end up clean as a whistle.)
The executive then tells Joe that the check being delivered officially closes MacMillan’s employee file with IBM, unless he would like to rejoin the corporation. He then pulls out a plane ticket for Joe for the same flight he will soon be on; it’s just a business class-ticket but it is on the aisle. We can see the shock and temptation in MacMillan’s eyes, but he refuses the offer saying he likes it right where he is. The executive informs Joe that he was sure that would be his reaction, but made the offer as a favor to Joe’s father. He tells Joe that his refusal will disappoint his father, but then again he already is unhappy with his son’s choices.
This is the second inference that Joe has “Daddy Issues,” as we saw a note of encouragement from MacMillan’s father when he suffered a meltdown during the series opener. Apparently MacMillan senior is a heavy-hitter, whether he works for IBM or somewhere else. It seems abundantly clear that the two will come face to face in the next few episodes, most likely revealing the truth about Joe’s past. It also could result in an epic showdown between father and son.
Later that evening Clark, McMillan and Cameron are all in the Cardiff employee parking lot at just about the same time. Gordon sees Cameron and asks her where she has been and where is the “magic binder,” which she never reveals. Clark believes that the college dropout gave the binder to IBM and tells Joe that when he pulls into the lot. She denies this but asks if she has the right to do so, because she believes that once she creates a new BIOS she is out the door.
Clark and McMillan start scrapping in the lot when Joe’s shirt tears open, revealing a lot of deep scars on his chest and his abdomen. He tells his two cohorts that the scars were the result of a childhood accident at the age of nine, as some bullies chased him off a roof and he fell to the ground doing some tremendous damage to his body. He tells Gordon and Cameron that the rest of the boys in his neighborhood were in love with the NY football Giants who would take on the Baltimore Colts in what is known as the “Greatest Game Ever Played,” while the fate of the Russian spacecraft Sputnik was far more exciting to him.
Apparently the event has helped shape the man he has become, an irritant who bucks the system every chance he can. He tells Cameron and Gordon that he believes they are all kindred spirits and that progress depends on the three of them changing the planet to suit them, not the other way around. He then tells the other two he will be at Cardiff at 7:00 am and hopes they will be there as well.
All three show up, but Clark shuts his office door in MacMillan’s face. Cameron heads into Joe’s office and tells him that her father used to tell her stories about the game that Joe got injured over. She also tells him that the game took place in December of 1958, while Sputnik occurred the year before, making us wonder if Joe had just made the story up to win back the pair.
The story will pick up again next Sunday night on “AMC“