Warning: Spoiler Alert
Cardiff Electric’s team to sell their new personal computer have arrived in Las Vegas in episode nine of the AMC Original Series “Halt And Catch Fire,” as Gordon and Donna Clark, Cameron Howe and Joe MacMillan, have brought the prototype of the Giant to the Comdex Trade show hoping to return to Dallas, with lots of orders for the new product in hand. The crew have to overcome adversities from the time they arrived and just when it looked that they were sailing into clear skies, an unseen storm came into almost capsize their boat.
As MacMillan went to the hotel’s front desk to get the keys to the three bedroom suite reserved by Cardiff, the hotel manager tells Joe that the card the company had used for the room got declined and the hotel received information that funds were frozen due to the investigation into Cardiff by the FBI, that began in the previous episode. MacMillan being a pathological liar, told the manager his name’s John Bosworth, but when he attempts to put the charge on his private credit card, the manager immediately notices the different name on the card and sends Joe on his way.
As the four sit in the lobby attempting to come up with a plan, Gordon looks through the brochure of who will feature booths at the show and recognizes two losers he had met when he and Donna attended the show two-years earlier. Clark tells Joe to head into the rest-room and put on his best blue-suit. They head to the presentation hosted by a duo with the joint personality of a slab of granite, reading notes woodenly and showing the uneasiness they feel. Gordon starts throwing out questions that emphasize the product’s problems and then asks how they expect to compete when IBM releases the same product at a cheaper price? When they ask Gordon where that information came from, he nods his head toward MacMillan standing at the back of the room and they assume he’s with IBM.
Joe plays the part perfectly as he buys the pair drinks down at the bar and the men are besides themselves as they sunk every penny they had into the suite at the hotel and the spread they were going to have for their party that night. MacMillan tells them that IBM needs more rooms and that “Big Blue” would compensate them for the suite and the food and liquor for the party, leaving the men with their funds restored.
Cardiff also lost the booth they had reserved, so Donna and Cameron purchase a new one, far from their original location in prime real estate and far too small for their planned presentation. Cameron grabs some money and tells Donna to go to the suite and get ready for the party. She soon returns with some blocks of Styrofoam, a can of red spray-paint, a briefcase, a large metal chain and a saw. She goes with a simplistic but intriguing presentation, making a wall and a podium out of Styrofoam, spray painting the message on the wall that there’s a Giant in the briefcase that’s wrapped with the chain and puts the Cardiff Suite number as well. It soon attracts a large curious crowd.
With those problems resolved Gordon and Donna encounter yet another as they try to turn on the Giant and the computer won’t boot up. They move the prototype into their bedroom to solve the hardware glitch seconds before the first guests arrive for the party. Two-hours later Joe walks into the room and asks Gordon what’s the status and the engineer responds he’s almost ready. As the main room starts to reverberate with the crowd cheering Giant. MacMillan takes the machine away from Gordon and heads out to the cheering crowd.
Joe MacMillan’s far more than a master-salesman; he’s a showman, a manipulator, along the lines of the famous circus impresario P.T. Barnum, who posted signs throughout his circus, which read “This Way To The Egress.” What the attendees didn’t realize until they found the destination that the signs guided them to was the exit, which is what the fancier word means.
Joe came out teasing the crowd with the Giant and the audience demonstrated their excitement to see the computer in action. MacMillan takes his time working his way to the front of the room, then asks the crowd if they want him to turn it on and the audience erupts. Joe, tells them he could do that, but they’re in Vegas and happen to have the porn convention at the hotel next door. He tells the engineers that Cardiff has hired four big name actresses to entertain at the party and the room explodes in cheers. He then tries the old bait-and-switch, asking if the crowd wants him to pull up some spread sheets before introducing the ladies and the boos drown him out. He announces he’ll wait, if they promise to attend their demonstration at their booth the next day and they cheer in agreement. The four women enter in hot-pants and halter-tops and the booze starts flowing while the music cranks up and dancing begins. Gordon takes the Giant back into the bedroom so he and Donna can finish repairing it.
Later that evening, MacMillan notices Cameron talking with a young engineer from Silicon Valley and trying to talk her into moving there. They debate the pros and cons and then the engineer invites her and his fellow engineers out for pancakes. Joe seems sad she’s left with the group, but quickly becomes engaged with a man named Dennis who owns and operates Computer-Land, the chain that started retail sales of personal computers and tells MacMillan that he thinks the Giant could become a big product for his stores. Joe asks him why he’d be interested in a specialty product from a first time computer manufacturer and Dennis replies to his question by asking MacMillan if he ever sold cars? Joe responds he never had and the older man replies that’s how he started in sales and that taught him to sell station-wagons a dealership needed a sports-car in the window.
The four head down the next morning to present the Giant, when they notice a large crowd gathering around one booth and the buzz of excitement can be felt throughout the hall. As they get closer, we hear a familiar voice and see a look of shock on Donna’s face as she sees her former boss at Texas Instruments Hunt, talking about his new personal computer; a stripped down basic version of the Giant. It’s far more simplistic, has a plastic case, but it’s faster and cheaper than the Giant. As he unveils drawings of the “Slingshot,” a complete rip-off of the Cardiff machine, we see that former engineer of Gordon’s and the Clark’s next-door neighbor Gary’s Hunt’s lead engineer. When Hunt asks the crowd if they have questions, Donna pounces on him and starts to attack him, until Joe and other men pull her off him.
When the four get upstairs to their suite, Gordon tells MacMillan and Howe to wait outside and after Donna enters he slams the door behind them. He then repeatedly asked his wife if she slept with Hunt and she tells him no, but she kissed him and she wanted to sleep with him, because he treated her well while Gordon took her for granted. Clark then berates his wife for allowing him to pump her for information and tells her for all his shortcomings he never even thought of breaking their vows.
We move to the bar and see Hunt apologizing to what at first seems like Donna, but it’s actually Joe he’s talking with. MacMillan threatens him with a lawsuit and Hunt counters that by the time the case hit the courts, the “Slingshot,” would be in its third generation. Joe may have finally met somebody with even fewer moral convictions than he possesses the revulsion he shows is for both of them as he walks away. He gets into the elevator, Cameron rushes in at the last second and Joe takes her hand as the doors close.
They arrive at the suite to find a tipsy Gordon has reconfigured the Giant, so that the machine’s now faster and cheaper than Hunt and Gary’s machine, however he had to remove Cameron’s interactive operating system to accomplish it. Howe breaks into tears and tells MacMillan to make him put it back the way it was, but Joe’s first a survivor and realizes that Gordon’s changes will make the computer salable. Cameron leaves the suite in tears, despite Joe’s pleas to come with him to demonstrate the Giant.
Joe and Gordon present the computer to a large but underwhelmed crowd, who expected a game-changing machine and once again MacMillan makes lemonade out of lemons. He tells his audience that the bottom line, speed and reliability make the Cardiff computer great. He tells his audience that if they want a friend get a dog, play with their kids head to the park. The purpose of the Giant is to get the job done right and quickly and for its cost it blows away the competition. The crowd slowly and then loudly applaud the speech. Dennis tells Joe that he’s thinking of ordering 60 thousand units at nine hundred dollars a machine and MacMillan responds that the order is a start; the retailer then ups the offer to 70 thousand units and Joe responds they’ll talk as the episode comes to an end.
The story will pick up again next Sunday night on “AMC“