WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
Episode five of AMC series “Halt And Catch Fire,” opened with a study in contrasts as we watch Joe MacMillan and Cameron Howe, wake up and prepare for their work-day at Cardiff Electric. MacMillan wakens still feeling pain in his torso, from the beat-down he got from some Texas police officers in the previous episode, although the bruises on his face have mostly healed. Cameron wakes up in a hotel bed and she is in far better spirits than she was waking up in her basement work-station at Cardiff. She takes a shower, washes her hair, gets dressed and then calls a taxi to take her to work.
Joe however, is grimacing with every move he makes, even having difficulty buttoning his shirt and putting on his tie. After he finishes getting dressed, he grabs his baseball bat and tries to attempt to swing it, but the pain he experiences in his first two attempts, prevents him from completing the task. Finally in his third attempt, MacMillan is able to swing through the pain and repeats the process a few more times.
Gordon Clark arrives home from Cardiff just as his wife Donna is cooking breakfast. He tells her he is just home long enough to change and grab a cup of coffee and we see the disappointment in Donna’s face. It is her father’s birthday and both her mother and dad are at the house, Donna had thought that her husband had come home to wish his father-in-law a happy birthday. At that point both of Donna’s parents walk into the kitchen and engage Gordon in conversation. Clark and his father-in-law walk into the dining room where Gordon’s two daughters are sitting at the table, entranced with the electronic gadget they are playing with. Clark assumes they have a calculator, but in fact it is a TV set the size of a wrist watch, his father-in-law Gary, tells him it is the latest hot item from Japan and he will be selling it in his next catalog.
We head to Cardiff Electric and see Sales Manager John Bosworth, holding a presentation for a bunch of prospective buyers for their upcoming personal computer, while Joe stands in the back of the room with his back against the glass and remaining silent. Bosworth is playing his “Good Ol’ Boy,” persona for all it’s worth, telling the various company executives, that because their new computer will be so light and portable, they can take their secretaries for some “Afternoon Delight,” and tote the computer with them, so they’ll never miss a memo.
The group laugh heartily at Bosworth’s joke, but then start asking him technical questions that he is not knowledgeable enough to answer. He looks to MacMillan at the back of the room and Joe tells his boss that he’s just some carpetbagger from New York and the group would have no interest in what he has to say. Bosworth realizing he’s trapped, tells his potential clients that they can look up the answers to their questions in the packages in front of them. After getting his fill of John squirming, he started talking to the group and soon had their undivided attention.
Joe MacMillan maybe a man without any redeeming qualities, however he is a superb orator and even better at sizing up a situation, to say exactly the right thing at the most opportune time. That is what makes him an extraordinary salesman, a natural shark always looking for his next kill. MacMillan could steal your watch off of your wrist and then sell it back to you, making you feel that he gave you a bargain. First he provided the answer for the new computer’s speed that had stumped Bosworth, but then he proceeded to reel his audience in. Joe told the men that Cardiff’s new machine’s designed for their “third-shelf,” with IBM occupying the first shelf and already established manufacturers taking the space on the second one.
Joe then told him that the personal computer that Cardiff would put on the market would become the new industry standard; that once the public got the chance to see the new machines, they would embrace them. Instead of concerns about something being IBM-Compatible, consumers will want Cardiff Electric-Compatible products and if they convince the CEO of each of their companies to buy the new machine, in a year each of the men in the room would be their company’s new CEO. He stopped talking and each excited executive in the room had questions to ask him.
Cameron traveled to Cincinnati at the request of MacMillan, for an apparent company project and when she arrives at Cardiff she’s overwhelmed with the changes that went on in her absence. The company hired a slew of new young programmers as well as a new software director named Steve, that Cameron takes an instant dislike to. We can sense from their first meeting, that Steve will attempt to break Cameron’s spirit and show her whose the boss.
Cameron walks into Joe’s office interrogating him on why he hired Steve instead of putting her in charge. He responds that her lack of people skills, management experience as well as her demeanor, would make her a liability in that position. He then tells her that “the thing” they have going on, doesn’t provide her more privilege at Cardiff. She then reaches into his front pants pocket, taking the key to his apartment to take all her stuff out of there.
Cameron does become friendly with two of the new programmers, a guy named Lev with horn-rimmed glasses (in an era, that they were not close to being stylish in) and a heavy-set long-haired guy, whose nickname is Yo-Yo as he always has one in his hand. Howe tells the guys that she is going to download a computer game onto the main-frame, so that everyone in the office will be able to access it from their terminal.
Gordon and his team are ready to test the chip with the new BIOS that Cameron designed and are debating names for the BIOS, when she walks into the “Kill-Room.” She announces to the group that she designed the BIOS and will name it as well and her choice is Lovelace, which make the crew giggle like a gang of high school kids. She then tells them, it’s not for porn-star Linda Lovelace but instead for a woman instrumental in the first computer, Ada Lovelace. All the men agree that it’s a fitting name for the program.
With the name decided, they test the chip and it turns on the machine. Although the crew’s excited at their accomplishment, MacMillan comes in to rain on their parade. He tells the group that what they have designed is still far too bulky to fit his concept. As he walks out Gordon thinks he has found a solution to their problem, a LCD screen which the Japanese have used to great success. One of the group say it will be far too costly, but Gordon counters that with a “connection” it might be affordable.
Joe heads back to his office and his secretary tells him that his father called, he has a layover in Dallas and wants to see his son. Joe tells his secretary to set up a 1:00 pm meeting with his father at the hotel’s bar. We have yet to meet MacMillan’s father, but we realize that the kindest way to describe their relationship is “It’s Complicated.” We are well aware that Joe’s issues with his father were most likely a factor in his leaving IBM.
He drives to the hotel and instead of walking into the bar, he looks into the establishment through the window. He sees his father sitting there waiting in a chair for his arrival. However, for what ever reason Joe heads back to his car and drives away.
The scene shifts to a golf-course and we soon see that Gordon and his father-in-law Gary are in the midst of a game. Gordon’s not a regular golfer, but Gary tells him this is the perfect time for them to play as the course is empty so they can play at a leisurely pace. Clark thanks his father-in-law for the gift for his daughters and that prompts Gary to boast about his relationship with the Japanese. That was exactly what Gordon was hoping for, as it gave him a way to discuss what’s on his mind, Gary setting up a meeting with his friends in the Far East so Gordon and Joe can talk with them about them building LCD screens for the new Cardiff Electric computer. Gary’s opposed to the idea at first but eventually gives in and will set up the meeting.
We head to Texas Instruments and it appears that Donna is once again in trouble with her former high school classmate, now her boss Hunt as he can’t find the report he assigned her to complete. Donna looks through the folders he’s holding and gives him the one he wanted. Instead of apologizing he tells her to make sure the most important folder is on top from that point forward.
Things aren’t going smoothly for Gordon at Cardiff either, as MacMillan is at first non-receptive to the meeting Clark has arranged with the Japanese manufacturers. Gordon then blows up at Joe, telling him that he has asked for the moon and now that Clark has provided a way to access it, MacMillan wants to turn it down. Gordon’s logic overcomes Joe’s stubbornness, but MacMillan tells him to change the dinner meeting to a steakhouse to appeal to their visitors. He then congratulates Gordon on setting up the connection.
Cameron heads to Joe’s apartment and gets startled when she finds his father (John Getz) inside and she has no idea who he is. He introduces himself as Joe MacMillan, but Howe tells him that she knows Joe. He responds that he’s indeed Joe senior, the father of the man she knows and asks her if she knows where his son is. She tells him she doesn’t then asks him how he got into the apartment. He replied that he showed the superintendent his license and then tells Cameron that if “you say something with the right authority, you generally get what you want.”
Cameron gathers her stuff and is about to leave the apartment when the senior MacMillan says goodbye to her he asks her what her name is and she responds Cameron. At that point his eyes get large and he asks her if she is Cameron Howe and she confirms that. He tells her that his people at IBM came back to New York praising her to the heavens, which of course makes her far more comfortable. He chastises her for not taking the offer that Big Blue extended to her and she replies, that she could be a central figure at Cardiff Electric, but just another nameless employee at IBM. He then apologizes for his misplaced anger and tells her it is his son he is angry at.
Joe and Gordon meet the two Japanese manufacturers and Joe thanks them for agreeing to the meeting and one of the men tell him they would do anything for Gary’s son-in-law. Clark then tells the men that he is the son-in-law and both men bow in his direction. As the dinner goes on Gordon proceeds to get blotto as he attempts to match the visitors drink-for-drink. They discuss the design of the screen they would need and Gordon suggests improving the image quality by adding another layer to the display. The manufacturer responds that would be more costly, when Joe proposes a deal that would have the Japanese company get less money up-front, but would get a share of the profits, which could work out as a far more favorable deal for the manufacturers. The manufacturers agree to the deal.
Back at Cardiff a bunch of the young programmers are still at their desks addicted to the computer game “Adventure” that Cameron had downloaded onto the mainframe. Bosworth comes out of his office and walks over to Yo-Yo’s cubicle and tells him to come with him, when the programmer questions why John needs him, the Sales Manager asks all the programmers into his office. When they get there, Bosworth asks them how to escape from the cave he’s trapped in as he’s also playing the game.
Gordon’s drunkenness jeopardizes the deal when he insults his father-in-law to one of the manufacturers in the rest room. He tells the man that Gary’s catalog’s filled with schlock and disgusts the man from the Far East for the lack of respect Clark has displays for his father-in-law. We move to the parking lot and Joe is screaming at Gordon that he ruined the deal by insulting Gary, to men from a culture that have great respect for their elders. He then tells Clark that he will save the deal in the morning, before the men return to Japan.
The conversation continues at Joe’s apartment between his father and Cameron. She tells the elder MacMillan that she thinks his son is wrong about his father and he seems like a good guy, but in reality she is bating him to start insulting his son. He falls for her ruse and starts verbally tearing his son apart of what he believes is an empathetic audience. She soon however tells him that he is just as bad if not worse than his son and leaves the apartment.
Gordon calls Donna from a phone-booth to confess how he ruined the deal and says that Gary will hate him forever. Donna tells her husband to come home and they will talk, she is in the middle of baking some peach pies and hangs up the receiver. Seconds later it rings again and Donna assumes its Gordon however it’s Hunt, who says he called to compliment her on her work on the project and then apologizes for snapping at her in the previous episode. He asks if he has called at a bad time and she responds that she is just baking peach pies. Hunt tells her that he loves peach pie and says if there’s any leftover he’d gladly accept it.
We head to Gary’s house as Donna’s mother Susan is talking to her son-in-law whose standing on the front door step and begs to speak to Gary. She gets her husband and stage whispers that their son-in-law’s intoxicated. He looks at Clark and asks what’s wrong and the scene ends as Gordon attempts to collect his thoughts and beg for Gary’s forgiveness and help.
The next morning as the two Japanese manufacturers are ready to leave from their hotel, Joe pulls up and apologizes for Gordon as well as himself for the lack of etiquette displayed by Clark. He then tells the men that Gordon was too ashamed to come to the hotel, but he wanted Joe to convey his sorrow as well as the respect he has for Gary. Joe then starts praising his own father as the man that turned him into the success he has attained, that his father is his biggest supporter and how much MacMillan treasures him in return.
About 300-yards away, MacMillan senior is sitting in the lobby of the same hotel, reading about his son in Wall Street Quarterly. When he walks to the front of the hotel, the two Japanese men are still there but his son has already left, missing each other by seconds.
Back at Cardiff the crew in the “Kill-Room” are toasting Gordon for the deal with the Japanese when Joe enters the room. He asks Clark if he got his message and Gordon affirmed that he had. MacMillan then asked if he deserved a thank-you from Clark and Gordon told him he didn’t. Joe morphed into his “Bully Mode” and started to insult Gordon in front of the crew and boasting he saved the deal. Gordon stopped him dead in his tracks when he tells Joe the reason the deal is back in effect, was Clark groveled and begged Gary to salvage the deal, MacMillan’s conversation that morning was not a factor.
Joe and Cameron meet in the office and she asks him if he is going to the company function that evening. He responds that he was not planning to and asks if she intends to go. She tells him that she may as some of the new programmers are heading there. Joe tells her that he noticed she removed her belongings from his apartment, but he wants back the copy of the Wall Street Quarterly he thinks she took. Howe tells him that his father was in his apartment when she arrived and he must have taken it.
The Cardiff Electric employees are having fun at what looks like a County Fair. There is a car that anyone can hit with a sledgehammer if they pay to swing the tool. Bosworth gives the attendant some money and takes a couple of swings. MacMillan shows up at that point and gives the attendant a one hundred-dollar bill and the episode concludes as Joe is trying to work off all his anger and frustration by beating that car.
The story will pick up again next Sunday night on “AMC“