Warning: Spoiler Alert
This pilot episode starts off in a nice but somewhat predictable flashback. Every story that includes a hacker seems to start with the flashback of a kid hacking the pentagon or the NSA. This time it is Walter O’Brien hacking NASA. Just following the flashback is Walter (in his 20’s now) breaking up with a girl. Using a document to connect emotionally, complete with a decision tree. This ends badly especially considering he is breaking up with a woman on a job site. He’s at a diner to fix their Wi-Fi. After a short game of what appears to be chess with condiments, based on the types of movements and speed, with a waitress’ kid Walter departs the diner.
Radio Host: Which month has 28 days.
Walter (without hesitation): All of them.
Caller: I actually know this one. February.
Radio Host: We have a winner.
During Walter’s quasi breakdown over the ‘teams’ inability to focus on one thing long enough to pay their bills, Agent Gallo shows up at their undisclosed location. Agent Gallo is the agent that shows up at O’Brien’s door in the previously mentioned flashback. Apparently, there is a rift between these two. There is a problem with the LAX guidance system which will prevent communication to the planes above. If the problem is not resolved in under two hours, planes will start falling from the sky. Gallo gives the hard sell. And 50k each, which would dramatically change their financial situation.
Walter (speaking to Gallo): You cross me on this one and I’ll go online. And in less than an hour, I’ll erase you.
Being that this is LA we’re talking about, getting to LAX in a timely fashion in the middle of the day is unrealistic. Walter deduces that all they need is a strong Wi-Fi signal that will not go offline. So, we’re off to the diner. Gallo commandeers the diner for this ‘national emergency’. Paige, the waitress, is not convinced that a national emergency can be fixed by the Wi-Fi fix it guy.
Anyone who has seen the promos that CBS has been running for this show has been waiting for this moment. Paige, comes over with a glass of water. A conversation ensues. Walter is being Walter (factoring the huge IQ generally is accompanied by awkward social skills). Paige fires back at this deductions as if they are insulting. She also insinuates that Ralph, her son, is special. Going back to earlier when Walter fixed the Wi-Fi, he noticed Ralph. Everyone else thought Ralph was just playing with salt and pepper shakers because he’s special. Walter recognized that Ralph was playing chess. This is where Walter pulls out his ‘bearer of bad news’ line.
Paige: And my polish streaks because Ralph puts it on. He loves to paint. And don’t tell me that he needs help either. He’s challenged. Have some empathy.
Walter (under his breath): Challenged huh.
(Walter gets up to stand next to Paige and observe Ralph together)
Walter: Look at Sylvester and him. Do you know what they’re doing? (she shakes her head) The matches are the King, the jelly is the Queen, and the sugar packets are the Knights. His playing chess, with a grand master who is about to lose.
Sylvester: Walter, are you seeing this? Checkmate in 8 moves. This kid is amazing!
Walter: He doesn’t paint your nails because he loves to paint. He wants to hold your hand, but he can’t process physical contact. So help him, or he will never connect with you.
(Paige stares deeply with a tear welling in her eye)
Walter: I sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your son is a genius.
The first snag is that no one is home at the LAX server storage facility. They need to access the servers to access the backup software as the current theory is the latest software download was corrupt. In a certain amount of time, if they don’t secure the old software, the new (corrupt) software will infect the good software. So now the team has to calculate the power needed to create a surge strong enough to shut down a 10 block radius around the Port of Los Angeles just to get the doors open.
Toby Curtis is the profiler/shrink, who also dresses like a lame hipster minus the commitment. Once inside, Toby runs through his process, taking in human factors that would tip him in the right direction. Like putting the LAX server on the right side because the guy that runs the place is right-handed. Ultimately Toby yanks the server just in time. When Happy (the engineer and tough girl of the group) asks how’s he know that was the right one, Toby replies with “It says LAX right on the side”.
For the second time, we have a certifiable genius trying to explain to Paige what exactly is going on inside her son’s head. From the perspective of a genius. It’s actually a very nice scene. Beyond the basic information, Ari Stidham who plays Sylvester communicates the subtleties of being what he is and in turn what Ralph is very nicely.
Toby and Happy return rejoicing of their success and Toby even suggests they put a statue of him out in front of LAX because it is that much ‘in the bag’. Even a seldom television viewer should see right through that bravado. Snag number 2 is on its way. When Toby transported the drive it was next to the car door. Car doors have speakers. Speakers have magnets. Drive erased. Snag number 2. Walter storms out of the diner. After an essentially two one way conversations about Walter being smart enough to know what’s happening and Paige knowing that he is shutting down mentally, Ralph looks up and something clicks. It should be noted that the beauty of this show’s dynamic will come down to Walter and Paige. In one form or another. They don’t have to necessarily be an item, but they do have to be connected as the show is concerned.
Snag number 3 comes in the form of a direct download. FROM A PLANE CURRENTLY FLYING. Gallo begins to make calls to attempt to remove traffic and give them a clear shot to LAX in order to intercept the correct plane and download the old uncorrupted software. Problem is, that not all geniuses drive. Just then Ralph takes Paige’s keys out of her purse and hands them to her.
Paige: Uh…driving through LA with nothing but green lights has kind of been a fantasy of mine.
Walter: At high speeds? No.
Paige: Who’s gonna drive?
Walter: Your son needs you.
Paige: I’ve tried really hard and I’ve never been able to fully connect with my son. Not in the way that I’ve seen you guys connect with him today. What my son needs is to see me help you. Please Walter.
Paige and Walter race out of the diner parking lot in front of Agent Gallo. Gallo jumps in his Bureau issued Tahoe and chases after them. Happy is unable to get one of the lights to change. Gallo hears this and steps on the gas. He positions himself between Paige’s car and the pickup truck headed to t-bone them. For our sports fans, Agent Gallo was run blocking in live traffic.
At the diner, Sylvester and Toby are having a hard time tracking down a cell phone on the plane that isn’t turned off. The answer is not newer tech but older tech. The exchange between Toby and the older plastic salesman on board the plane is one of those subtly glorious moments in dialogue. Overlooked by most I’m sure.
The plan to get passed snag number 3 is to download the file while the plane does a fly by a hundred feet above the tower. So when Walter says there is a speed differential between the flying plane and a stationary laptop, my first thought was DUH. And I’m not even close to genius smart. Again, anyone who watched the promos leading up to tonight knows what’s coming next.
They are going to have to use a hard wire connection to download the file directly from the plane to the ‘moving’ laptop. The only way to do that is to bring the plane’s altitude to around 8 feet (totally not joking) plug-in the Ethernet cord and download the file in under 7 seconds while Paige drives a Ferrari at about 200 mph under the plane. Yeah, simple. Writing this recap is making me sound much smarter than I am about technology.
The Co-Pilot (whom you may recognize as Agent Davis Sinclair from NUMB3RS) actually has to get in the belly of the plane, find the Ethernet cord, travel down the landing gear and hand it to Paige while Walter drives at 200 mph. Which more or less goes to plan. Problem is that the runway is short and the end of the line seems to be coming faster than the download progress bar. The pilot begins to pull back on the stick forcing Paige to stand up in the car while holding on to the laptop. Once they get the download, Walter goes all James Bond with the Ferrari power sliding to a stop perfectly 2 inches from crashing into the cement barricade.
Back at the diner everyone rejoices. Then we see Ralph sitting at the counter in front of Walter’s computer. He is stone faced. Then Sylvester leans in and says, “your mother did that”.
Now for the fun part. Never underestimate the value of doing the math. Presently 51 minutes of a 59 minute recording. The good guys saved the day. But if you thought this was a one time engagement, then you either take things as they come (admirable) or you don’t understand how TV works. This is the part where Gallo tries to sell Walter and his team into becoming a team for the US Government. And if my hunch is right, this is where they recruit Paige away from the diner and introduce her as one of the team.
Walter: I wanted to thank you for your help today.
Paige: You came all the way over here to say that?
Walter: No. I also wanted to offer you a job. Government funded problem solvers.
Paige: Um, why? I’m not a genius.
Walter: No. But you are raising one. And that takes someone smart and brave. Now our work requires interaction with people. That is not our strength. Now you want to know about your son. I can translate him for you. You, translate the world for us.
(Walter hands her a folded piece of paper)
Walter: Salary plus benefits. You’re worried about not being able to connect with Ralph? That, is a second chance.
In the heat of this great moment, and even before she says yes, Paige asks about Walter and Cabe (Gallo). As it turns out, Gallo convinced Walter to design deliver software for the military to drop aid and food on countries that need it. Yep, instead they used the software to drop bombs on Baghdad taking 2,000 civilian lives. He immediately jumps right in to Ralph. “Tell him to avoid sentences that start with NORMALLY…” Then Ralph walks into the room and without looking at him say, “Hi Walter”. Paige is amazed as he doesn’t talk to anyone but her. Walter retorts with, “he recognizes one of his own”. Then they bond over a video game.