Mr. Robot: Stalemate

Courtesy of USA Network
Courtesy of USA Network

Warning: Spoiler Alert

There is a loud pounding at the door as Elliot labels another “hack disk”. The knock becomes varied in pattern and volume. Its Darlene wearing a FSociety mask, “Trick or treat?” Apparently Halloween is a thing with these two. Or at least it used to be. Elliot offers his couch if she needs somewhere to crash. She cuts him off to say something that I cannot make out. Sounds like “in it one”. Not ashamed to say, I have no idea what she just said. This is clearly something that means something between them. A phrase of significance, likely a coding term of some sort. A phrase that clearly articulates to the other that things just got real.

Darlene successfully convinces Elliot to hang out. They begin watching a movie labeled “The Careful Massacre of the Bourgeoisie” from 1984. Despite the age of the movie and the mere fact that I would have no interest in it, one of the characters is wearing a FSociety mask. Darlene rambles on about food, boyfriend’s cell carrier and posting to Instagram. None of which Elliot seems to care about. Darlene asks what his deal is (essentially) and he replies with “I got fired”. Elliot’s rambling has me almost concerned that I somehow missed an episode (which we all know that is not the case). Like that feeling that you studied for the wrong test.

Elliot re-lives Memorial Day. He was to make sure that the servers were hacker proof. Then as he tells the story, he pivots on a dime. “All the servers were destroyed. I don’t even remember doing it”. His matter of fact story continues as he mentions the therapist he was forced to see as part of an anger management program. Then he slowly looks over to Darlene and says exactly what we expected him to say at this point.

Elliot: I guess its official. I’m crazy.

Darlene’s reaction is fittingly matter of fact. Turning it back towards the “Wall Street Psychos”. By the way, I just got it. Part of these recaps is for you to hopefully see or experience these shows from perhaps, a different perspective. It took me most of the scene, but I’ve got it now. This is all one flashback. The mask was bought as a goof long before the FSociety thing ever happened. Elliot lost his job, that is true but it also predates the hack and All Safe for that matter. Getting back on track, Elliot mentions how his friend Angela, may be able to get him in at All Safe.

The conversation switches over to their mother. A person they both don’t see very often. Memories of Dad, or lack thereof. Darlene eludes to the idea that she doesn’t remember him well and that is concerning. Elliot gets up and walks to the closet where he pulls out the Mr. Robot jacket that their Dad used to wear. She wants him to put it on. Then she asks him to don the Careful Massacre mask. Without removing the mask, Elliot mentions that maybe he should take the All Safe job. He could be their Trojan Horse.

Elliot: I could take them down from the inside.
Darlene: Who?
Elliot: Evil Corp.
Darlene: Okay…can’t tell if you’re joking behind that mask.

While Darlene is in moderate disbelief, Elliot-still wearing the mask, begins to work out the details in his mind. Elliot gets to why we’re here. It’s the follow through. Removing the public trust after the hack. With phrases like, “that’s the only way it would work” Darlene begins to look increasingly concerned for what she’s hearing.

Darlene boards a train while Elliot goes through a morning routine. Darlene arrives at their mother’s home so its safe to assume we are back in present time. Despite the living arrangement Elliot has secured, she is compelled to tell him something. He interrupts her to break in the notion that he knows what she’s doing. Elliot wants her to stop, Darlene still has her eyes on the bigger prize. Elliot is stern, he wants her to stop. He believes they are on the other side of something bad. Darlene reminds him that this scenario is exactly what he predicted. Elliot tries to shrug it off by saying he doesn’t “need him”, to which Darlene retorts, “maybe I do”. Inner Elliot chimes in that she’s hiding something.

Meanwhile, Dominique is on scene at the FSociety headquarters with a team of feds. She’s already picked up on the stolen electricity. Still working on their internet connection. One of the feds questions this place as a legitimate base of operations. Dom reminds him that FSociety are hackers. They do what they do because they believe in it. They like to hide in plain sight. Another agent adds that the whole End of the World party was on social media. The only hard evidence they have is what looks like a bullet casing.

Mrs. Wellick has a strange conversation with the parking attendant who works the lot that Elliot woke up in at the end of last season. He’s being paid hush money to continue telling the story Mrs. Wellick is paying him to say. He’s uneasy and regrets ever agreeing to it. Wellick’s driver hands him an envelope of cash. When the attendant departs her car, the driver explains that they are running out of money. Then she ends the conversation.

Elliot and Ray play chess. Ray puts his knight in a position of check for Elliot and mentions that Elliot could use some practice. Elliot quickly rearranges the pieces back to the starting point. “Your move”, as if he’s suggesting they continue practicing. Elliot pushes back as if Ray could teach him anything. Ray leans back, and suggests that Elliot play himself. Practice. When Elliot asks what good would that do, Ray points out that something is on Elliot’s mind. It’s been there since the day they met. Inner Elliot responds to Ray’s comments while Actual Elliot does not. Perhaps that something on his mind is that he perpetrated the greatest hack in human history and someone he knew died because of it.

Ray changes direction by explaining how confessing could help Elliot deal with what weighs on him. Inner Elliot is considering it. Elliot is generally guarded. The fact that he’s even considering letting an outsider in on the details, is a step. A step towards sanity or a step towards his undoing. As he begins to debate in his head how helpful it would be to have someone to confide in, Dad shows up.

Mr. Alderson: You tell him anything and I will find the tallest building and swan dive off of it.

His very presence pushes Elliot in one direction. The direction Dad does not want him to go. With Ray in front of him, Elliot makes a slow transition from talking to Ray and hearing Dad to looking at Ray but talking to Dad, without letting Ray know what’s happening. Instead of reacting, Ray simply looks at Elliot and tells him that he needs this game more than he thought.

Dad proposes a winner take all game. Stakes of the game go like this. If Elliot wins, Dad goes away. For good. And Elliot will be free to confess whatever he likes. If Dad wins, Dad is in charge once and for all. And Elliot will be sent into a state that would parallel what happened the night of the hack. Elliot would lose all sense of time and memory. He would become nothingness.

Elliot snaps out of the image of a chess board to find himself in Krista’s office. It doesn’t take long for her to suggest that speaking to Mr. Alderson might be helpful. That would legitimize Dad’s existence and give him too much power. She continues to push and Elliot let’s out some infrequent truth. He wants to know what Krista wants from him regarding this issue. For him to admit he sees his dead father? That he speaks to him? That there are periods of time missing from his recollection? That he’s losing his mind? That he didn’t recognize his own sister? That he lacks the control to stop it? While his outbursts got louder and more indignant, Krista is not concerned. This may be the biggest breakthrough they’ve had.

Krista explains that while the existence of Mr. Alderson is cumbersome and annoying to the point Elliot is willing to risk it all, it’s not that simple. Elliot wants to eradicate his father from his consciousness, but Krista explains that like it or not, Mr. Alderson is a part of what makes Elliot, Elliot. She finishes by saying annihilation is not the answer. Elliot disagrees. Then goes into an introspective analogy that all we do is annihilate the things we think other people don’t like about us. This transitions into the images of White Rose putting on makeup and dropping a bombshell that should not surprise to us at this point. White Rose is talking to Phillip Price. I feel the need to drop a “cahoots” here.

Price and White Rose are absolutely in on this somehow, but to what end is the question. White Rose is concerned with the time of the issue. Surprise, surprise. Price comes back with the “Rome burned in a day but wasn’t built in a day” reference. The idea of building whatever this is and it taking time does not please White Rose. Speaking to her assistant she references a second plan, which will also take time. He presents her with a tablet that has a FBI classified document of Dom’s progress and investigation into the FSociety headquarters.

Mrs. Wellick stands in Mr. Knowles house. He finds her, clearly he’s a little drunk. She’s there to inquire as to the delay in her husband’s severance package. He doesn’t seem to care as his issue is finding the person who killed his wife. She actually rolls over on Tyrell right then and there. She will testify against her husband if Knowles will release the severance package. She has a baby after all. Knowles stands firm. Mere inches from her face he says, “Tyrell Wellick’s baby gets exactly what it deserves…nothing”.

Darlene returns to what looks like Coney Island and it is less quiet than you’d think. One of many in FSociety masks bumps into Darlene and demands to have her phone. Its Cisco. He gives her directions and walks away. Cisco meets up with her two blocks later to inform her the feds have raided their hangout. He claims to feel confident that what’s going on has nothing to do with the Dark Army as there is nothing in it for them. Cisco wants to make sure Darlene is OK. She is anything but OK. He tries to fix it, she pushes back. Suggesting that somehow letting a woman stay upset is what a man would do. Then there is a scene involving Cisco, Darlene and a public bathroom that I will not provide any details on. This is a family friendly website even if the show I’m covering is not. Suffice it to say, Darlene is scared that the feds are onto them specifically.

Elliot stares blankly at a folded up chess board while Leon rambles at their lunch spot. Leon abandons whatever unimportant story he’s telling to focus on Elliot’s attention to the chess board. Elliot shakes off Leon’s interest or at least he thinks he does. Leon persists. He even sounds somewhat informed on this subject and asks Elliot what he’s waiting for. If the game isn’t intended for Leon, its intended for someone. Even with the stakes where they are-existence, Leon is intrigued. Feeling profound, Leon asks if Elliot wants to be here, in the cosmic sense. Then very clearly explains that existence can be good or bad, but the result is up to the individual. He suggests that Elliot try dreaming. If the dreams are good, then its good. If they aren’t, then maybe it is time to check out.

I will leave some to the imagination on Elliot’s dream sequence. The part where he closes his eyes and dreams of what life would be like if he truly connected with those he cares about. Reunite with long gone friends. See his sister find true happiness. Amends for those he’s wronged. A future that’s not so lonely. A future filled with friends and family. Should be noted, Tyrell Wellick shaking Ray’s hand and Darlene sitting happily across from Angela is particularly creepy right now. And just about the time you feel comfortable with this scenario in Elliot’s head he says, “and you’ll be there”, camera pulls into an empty chair as the lone skyscraper in the backdrop falls to the ground. This is the world he’s always wanted. And Elliot now knows, he would very much like to fight for it.

Let the game begin. Elliot monologues about the nature of chess and the beauty of it as he and Dad engage in a speed chess like game. Only problem is this is not one vs another. This is one vs himself. Even with existence itself as the prize, they reach a stalemate. Elliot resets as there has to be a winner one way or another. Right when Elliot clearly states to Dad that he is aware that Dad isn’t even here, acknowledging his mental ‘issue’, they reach another stalemate. And this will continue as long as the subconscious of one is dictating the moves of another.

This chess match was supposed to be the episode’s big payoff. The thing that changes the direction of story lines (perhaps) going forward. But just as Elliot discovers playing the game, we should have known that was a futile hope from the beginning. Elliot is not going to be able beat himself. Or as Dad puts it, its pointless for them to fight each other. They will remain in a perpetual state of impasse.

Angela barks demands at Price from the shadows as he exits the building. He doesn’t laugh or stop her. He encourages her to continue. Angela noticed a pattern in all of the settlements filed in the case from her home town. Price was trying to position Angela to convince those plaintiffs to drop the third provision, outside inspections. Which Angela is willing to do, for the right price. Phillip is still impressed with her, but this he claims, is all in her head.

Darlene calls Elliot at their mother’s home all but begging him to get on a terminal so she can share with him what she knows now. Before he will even consider getting on a terminal, Elliot needs to know if she meant what she said when she suggested she needs Mr. Robot not Elliot right now. She turns it around and claims she wants him. He says, “You know what to do”.

Dad is verbally annoyed as to why he and Elliot are back at Ray’s house. Ray enters and is not surprised to discover that no one actually won when he played himself. Before Elliot can set up the confession we are all expecting here, he pivots and tells Ray he’s there to fix that pesky computer problem Ray’s been having. Ray calls someone to enter the room, but before they do, he goes on a tangent. Suggesting that many prophets, Jesus and Moses among them, also heard voices. Perhaps, Elliot’s dealing with his own divinity.

To this point, Ray has been the same. Even when dealing with the previous IT guy, always the same. In this moment when Ray’s “associate” enters the room, it’s a little different. He asks Elliot to respect his task and consider how important his online business is. And to please fix the task, but try not to look where you don’t have to.

Inner Elliot: I know. I know. This is really scratching that part of my brain again. But that’s the part of my brain I need to start ignoring.

Elliot uses Ray’s computer to communicate with Darlene. She spills everything. Elliot’s face gradually turns to panic. He must know everything they know. This is the way he will fight for his dream. His ‘fighting’ is to hack the FBI.

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