We begin this week with yet another flashback. This time in a Ron’s Coffee where Mobley and Trenton meet for the first time. I won’t go into any detail but there is also a friendly debate over Android vs Apple. This has been the first time I believe the show lacks realism. But that’s a conversation for another time. Darlene arrives instead of Elliot. Instead she reads from her ‘Evil Corp’ laptop Elliot’s speech from the pilot episode about the top 1% of the top 1%.
Back to the present and we see what Mobley sees on his laptop from the end of the last episode. There is a conference call with the FBI that has their attention. Using their relatively new resources, they record the conference call the FBI did not know they had access to. The not wanting to waste the opportunity, Darlene releases an FSociety video donning the mask and playing that highly classified conference call. The FBI is illegally tapping communications of over 3 million citizens, without warrants.
Trenton posts the video while Mobley continues to listen to the call over and over. There was one little detail that Mobley can’t get past. A reference to an unnamed case where the FBI has already identified 16 suspects. It used to be 17, but one of the feds mentioned how one suspect was deceased. So naturally, Mobley’s head is focused on Romero. But there’s a much bigger more immediate problem. The owner of the house they are using as their new headquarters just walked to find four strangers in her home.
What appears to be a family friend identifies Angela in a bar. They begin to share small talk, when the family friend slowly becomes less and less cordial. Even going so far as suggest, using innuendo, that Angela has been climbing the Evil Corp corporate ladder by some means other than professional. She almost internalized the whole thing, then stops short. She turns to this ‘friend’ and calmly puts him in his place.
It didn’t take long for bad to get way worse. The owner of the home and well known Evil Corp closer is now zip-tied to a railing in her swimming pool room after clearly seeing everyone’s face. And if bad wasn’t bad enough, worse wasn’t going to be enough either. The lawyer demands the use of her own bathroom. She made a crack to Trenton about this being about ISIS, refereed to Trenton as just another animal. Then when she charged Trenton, Trenton made a move putting the lady into a brick wall…head first. In a relative moment of panic, Darlene is calm. They plan to tie her up again and take what time they have to ‘own her’.
What follows is a very difficult montage. I’m interested in Darlene, Cisco, Mobley and Trenton collectively hacking their captive. I am dramatically less interested in Angela singing Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
Darlene ventures upstairs to their new house guest armed with a tazer just in case. Darlene goes down the verbal path we would expect. We hacked your life and here’s what we have. Although, Darlene knows that stuff won’t impress this woman. She takes a linguistic u-turn and brings back to her Dad. Then looks at this woman and says, “you’ve aged well”. Darlene targeted this woman from the beginning and not just because she’s a fed. This woman seems to be the catalyst for Darlene. A woman, standing behind a sea of suits laughing as she helped get Evil Corp off the hook when Darlene was only 4.
Darlene: I took down your company, I took your home, and now I have you.
Fed Lady: So you got me. What happens next?
Darlene: I hurt you. (Darlene tazes her and she falls into the pool)
She never came out of it. As it turns out the Evil Corp lawyer had a heart condition. One it seems would be obvious to anyone not even a hacker based on the info they hacked through. There is a painful awkwardness in the air. Darlene instructs Mobley and Trenton to leave as they technically don’t need to be there. Darlene sends a message from the woman’s work laptop that she will be out of the office for the better part of three weeks. But that still leaves a floated dead woman in a pool. Darlene suggests to Cisco that they do what they always do. Wipe everything down after a hack.
Darlene and Cisco accompany Ms. Evil Corp in what looks like a large roller case onto the subway en route to their favorite incinerator. Yep, the same place where they released all the stray dogs before they could be incinerated. It doesn’t go smoothly, but Darlene and Cisco finally get their victim into the oven. During a moment of reflection, Darlene is mildly surprised that she is un-phased by what just happened.
Trenton and Mobley aren’t in their respective homes for very long before the both start recognizing strange things. Trenton’s home might be under surveillance and the Feds are actually knocking on Mobley’s door.
Mobley sits across from Dom. She lays it out. She’s going to speak and Mobley just needs to listen as he could prove to be instrumental in solving the 5/9 case. Either she has no idea who Mobley is or she knows exactly who Mobley is in the 5/9 equation. So as it turns out 13 years ago Mobley made a little Angelfire website in devotion to a ‘DJ Mobley’. Long story short, Dom knows exactly who Mobley is. Mobley closes the folder with the End of the World party flyer and responds with a single word. “Lawyer”. Not exactly necessary as Dom’s superior squashes any plans she may have had for Mobley.
Mobley gets a message out to Trenton. “We’re burned.” They attempt to meet back at the Ron’s Coffee where they first met. One problem, Trenton’s been waiting at the rendezvous point for two hours.
Darlene wakes up at Cisco’s place. He’s in the shower but his laptop is on and Darlene has to hack it. Once in, she sees a video feed of her sleeping and written in Chinese in a chat of some sort which the showrunners were nice enough to translate:
Cisco: I have her, she’s with me.
Contact: Good job with the femtocell, the backdoor is in play…Stage 2 is about to begin.
Cisco walks out of the shower and Darlene looks…off. He asks if she’s alright, then she looks down. Cisco follows suit. His laptop is on the floor in pieces. Before he could completely turn around to ask WTF? Darlene hits him in the face with a baseball bat.
Today we start with something new. The sense of something big coming. I know that sounds like nothing new. This show is full of plot twists and compelling moments. I talking about going into a show fully anticipating them to drop a bomb on us the viewers. This may have been unfounded, but it’s just a sense I have in the pit of my stomach. Is it Angela? Is Elliot vs Inner Elliot vs Dad? Last week began weird but was loaded with moments. It feels like they are building to something bigger. As I watch the cold open, I am reminded of the opening scene for this season. Was Elliot reaching for a gun in the popcorn? If so, what happened to that. Too meaningful to drop and ignore.
Mrs. Wellick walks by her kitchen clearly dressed up and stops short when she notices something on the counter. They are earrings that she immediately puts on. She’s wearing white, sitting in her white kitchen next to a white sitting room when Tyrell walks down their white stairs wearing a white suit.
The music and behavior of Price and Knowles at the function Tyrell scooped up Mrs. Wellick for suggests a dream sequence or a flashback as they mentioned Terry Colby. Yes, clearly a flashback at best. Mrs. Wellick now finds herself near home pushing the baby stroller. A random woman walks up, abruptly refers to Mrs. Wellick as a Capitalist pig and tosses a bucket of red paint at her. Mrs. Wellick screams in silence as the title screen arrives. Not the image I need, Mrs. Wellick screaming in anger. She was scary enough before this point.
The package found on the kitchen counter apparently was not the earrings. Those she already had precipitating the flashback. Mrs. Wellick stands at the kitchen counter much later, a glass of wine in hand. She looks down to see a framed ultrasound picture. Inner Elliot monologues transitioning from the Wellick ultrasound to Elliot curled up in a ball in Ray’s basement being consoled by Dad. This is where we begin to understand the title, h4shake.sme. The ‘handshake’ in the computing world relates to the first time one device is introduced to another. Computer -> Server, laptop -> router, switch -> firewall. Like the first time to people shake hands, the computing relationship begins from there.
We get a little more explanation on “Dad protecting Elliot”. When Ray’s goons went to ‘discipline’ Elliot, we never see that. We find Elliot in some sort of suspended state of realism in the 1980’s style sitcom world. When he comes out of it, Elliot is in the hospital. Dad essentially conveys that he, part of Elliot’s subconscious, only wanted to take the punches for Elliot. To protect him. The logic is that Dad was able to mentally turn the real Elliot off so he wouldn’t feel the punishment he was about to endure.
Now Elliot’s mind is starting to take inventory of itself. Has Elliot’s mind be trying to hide Tyrell this whole time? Dad wants him just to move past it. Dad caves. The last thing Elliot remembers is the popcorn. Dun, dun, duuuunnnnnnn. There is a theory floating around the fandom that no one can find Tyrell Wellick because Elliot killed him. It ties things up. Why was Tyrell at FSociety? Why did Elliot reach into the popcorn? Why have we not heard anything from Tyrell directly? Then the one contradictory issue, who is communicating with Mrs. Wellick with tokens and phone calls that seem could only come from Tyrell?
Elliot: I did it, didn’t I?
Dad: It was either him or us.
Elliot: How did I do it?
Dad paints the picture of rationalizing the death of Tyrell Wellick. He was crazy. Rambling about killing a woman. Then the popcorn. Darlene always kept a gun hidden in the popcorn. Then Dad tells the rest of the story in first person. “I didn’t want to, but I shot him”. Elliot corrects him, “No, I shot him”.
Last we saw Dom, she was back in the United States looking eye to eye with Angela. Who had just come from the restricted floor of Evil Corp where the feds had opened up shop. Angela quickly blames her suspicious behavior with ‘making plans with agent Thomas’. Dom keeps pushing. While it feels on the surface like any other woman to woman standoff for information, this one feels different. This is high noon at the OK Corral. Dom changes directions to Angela’s back story. Leaving All Safe before the hack to get a significant career bump to Evil Corp. Angela’s body language is relatively in check, but her eyes are screaming, and Dom knows it. Dom departs and Angela finishes the configuration to restore the wireless connection.
Darlene: There it is.
Darlene: We own the FBI.
Dom stands over some lackey’s shoulders instructing him to pull up surveillance footage, tracking Angela’s movements one must imagine. Every time they try to pull up is corrupted data. The lackey is confused but Dom isn’t. “You just got hacked”. She instructs them to check everything including Angela’s computer, even though she knows they won’t find anything.
Elliot sits in a familiar place, at Ray’s terminal. Ray sits across from him and basically asks if Elliot has learned his lesson. Elliot confirms with a head nod and a quiet ‘yes’. Ray in no uncertain terms expresses to Elliot that he will sit there and do his work, then Elliot will go back in his hole until they are confident everything is working as it should. Side note. Maybe I’m just a fan, but I’ll be a little disappointed if Craig Robinson doesn’t at least get nominated for the John Lithgow in Dexter guest star villain award.
While this arrangement is not ideal, the status quo is unchanged as long as Ray needs Elliot’s services. Side note. Someone on Reddit is actually chronicling Elliot’s coding on the show and has created a script. This script will notify anyone interested by email if and when the static ip block used on this show ever changes from a placeholder site to anything else.
Mrs. Wellick has been pulling her little boy around with no sense of any sort of push back. Derrick wants to take things public, which she can’t and won’t do. He demands she accompany him as his girlfriend at a party or its over. She does not show. When Derrick confronts her about it, she hands him a rolled up piece of paper with a red ribbon. Its documentation showing she has begun the process to divorce Tyrell Wellick.
Meanwhile, Ray’s site of debauchery is getting more traffic than ever. The goon is about to take Elliot back down to his ‘cage’ when Elliot asks Ray for a game (of chess) for old times sake. Ray excuses his goon. For at least a moment, the friendly Ray has returned. Even lets Elliot in on his wife’s back story. The site was her idea. The subject matter wasn’t but the site idea was. Then coming back around, it was Ray’s wife that decided to take the don’t look, don’t ask approach. Let the market dictate what is sold. Ray actually never looked at what was on the site until Elliot came along. Elliot is Ray’s answer, not the other way around.
Ray: How much time do I have?
(Elliot just looks slightly confused)
Ray: Come on man, we both knew exactly what you were going to do when I let you go back on that computer.
Elliot: With their response time, I’m sure they have us surrounded by now.
Ray: You better get out before they get up here then…
Inner Elliot: World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker once said, when you see a good move, look for a better one.
Ray: Elliot…Be careful.
(Ray knocks over his king)
Elliot slowly makes his way out of Ray’s home. The faint sound of sirens can be heard. Elliot did exactly what Ray suspected he would have. But Elliot didn’t just turn him in, he opened up the traffic to anyone with the right keywords. Then sent an anonymous tip email to the FBI. In this moment, Elliot accepts that he created Mr. Robot and maybe now it can be used for other things. Good things. Or so this new ‘handshake’ might suggest.
We return from the commercial break to find the US House of Representatives preparing to vote on an Evil Corp bailout proposal. Before they can, the nuts that once belongs to the Bull of Wall Street fall from the ceiling on the House Chamber.
Angela meets with her father to explain just how she can get Evil Corp to settle. He wants no part of this conversation. She believes she has the upper hand and can get them to settle. Her father thinks they’re just using her. Even resorts to laughing in her face when she says they value her. He even goes so far to say that he doesn’t trust them or her. In the 120 second it took, this meeting of father and daughter has transitioned into Evil Corp representative and Plaintiff. Just as a courtesy of course.
Elliot sits at the playground watching a pick up game with Leon. Leon informs him that whether involved or not, everyone in the neighborhood has their eye on him. Half love him half want him dead. A group of out-of-place half frat boys, half military rejects looking fellas walk up on Elliot and suggest Leon get lost. That’s not going to happen. The leader of this rag-tag group explains how there is now a bitcoin access problem putting Elliot on the hook. Then Leon drops a ‘Sword of Damocles’ reference.
Angela walks into Price’s office proud of her accomplishment. Price speaks as if dropping the contingency is a bad thing. Angela comes back with the notion that Price asking for it was bad, but getting it is exactly what he wanted. Angela pivots to ask for a lateral move to risk management to create change from within.
Elliot returns to the church group to apologize for his outburst. The group leader is glad to hear this and goes in for a hug. It lasts longer than it should making Elliot uncomfortable. She understands, or so she thinks she does. She’s seen him “speaking to him”. She thinks he’s trying to speak to Jesus. Now unless there’s a crazy plot twist that I’m not anticipating, I’m pretty sure Dad is not going to manifest himself as Jesus. Yes, Elliot talks to him, but the him in question is not the him she thinks he is.
The woman leaves him to have a moment alone. Elliot walks up to a crucifix on the wall. Then turns to walk away stopping in the middle of the ‘trust circle’ now vacant. He begins to speak. Elliot needs to finish what he’s started with Evil Corp. Dad appears and seems legitimately shocked at this revelation. Elliot is speaking and Dad is listening. Might not be the Jesus scenario the woman envisioned, but it’s not that far off considering Elliot’s circumstances. So where do Elliot, Dad, and FSociety go from here? Elliot has to do the one thing he’s not wired to do. Lead.
Elliot goes back to the park (not smart) burns his diary in a trashcan and monologues about the destination vs the journey. Walking alone, Elliot gets scooped up by the frat boys complaining about their bitcoin access. Despite referring to Leon as something I’m not ok with, realism be damned, the group begin pounding on Elliot. They turn him around and to keep this family friendly we’ll walk away from that little detail. Then a slicing sound is heard. Then another one. One by one assailants start falling. Elliot turns to find Leon standing alone with Elliot in the alley. What follows makes this maybe the best scene by a secondary level character I’ve ever seen, all things considered.
Elliot says nothing but Leon continues to speak. His hood is up and his words carry with them a more matter of fact or business like manner. (By the way, what’s about to be revealed I just got. Like an avalanche of ‘how did you not see it earlier’ sort of way. Like watching the Sixth Sense the second time. Everything just became clear. As if the show runners just peeled back the filter translating everything we’ve seen to this point). Leon’s tone is quiet but informative. Leon tells Elliot he will receive a letter on Tuesday and to do what it says. Ominous but not crazy. What is crazy is Leon telling Elliot about White Rose.
Leon: When you see White Rose, tell him I did you solid.
Elliot did receive a letter and without ruining the reveal I’ll leave that alone except to say, the letter somehow signifies something. He doesn’t know whether to be excited about its contents or not. Even if Krista thinks it is something to be celebrated. Elliot acknowledges that Krista was right about his inner conflict. Can’t destroy a part of yourself. He did mention, when he was at his mom’s which prompts Krista to ask question.
Krista: Elliot, I need to ask you a question. Where do you think you are right now?
Elliot: What do you mean?
Krista: You know you haven’t been staying with your mother, right?
Elliot (short pause, then): I know
(Prison door alert sound is heard as Elliot looks up-the veil is removed and reality finally sets in)
Elliot sits at a table across from Krista. We are no longer in Krista’s office or Elliot’s mother’s home. Elliot is wearing an orange jumpsuit. Now take a quick journey of reflection with me. Elliot lives at his mother’s home. Yet his mother’s home is dark and simple. In his bedroom there is literally nothing but a basic bed with no frills, a desk with his journal. Every time he entertains a visitor in his mother’s home it’s at the same table. Angela, Darlene, Dad and now even Krista, the same table. That table is the visitor’s room like in a prison. His bedroom looks a lot like that of a prison cell. One is the one activity he watches every day? A pickup basketball game involving the same people at the same court. Like a prison yard. His new best friend, Leon. They eat every meal together at the same diner. Leon is cool, a little off and basically steps in any and every time Elliot is about to be confronted. Like someone put there to protect Elliot…while he’s in prison. The group of white guys complaining about bitcoins, wait until Elliot is not with Leon and jump him with the intent to sexually assault him. Yet while that is happening, Leon is not far away. When it goes down, Leon slices them all with an easily concealed knife probably not 4 inches long tip to hilt. It was a prison. The entire time, Elliot was in a prison. Whether it was his own mind protecting itself, a projection from the Dad lobe of his brain, or Elliot refusing to accept reality, he was in prison the entire time. In plain sight.
Control is an illusion, but sometimes you need the illusion to get by. Here’s the bad news. I really felt like I had a moment of realization. I unloaded all of those connections hoping you were seeing it to. Now the show runners have taken the wind out of my sails as they are literally showing the differences and truth that I just mentioned moments ago. Regardless of my experience watching this or your interpretation of it, this was probably one of my top 10 most enjoyed single episode experiences of my tv watching life. I don’t mean to oversell it. This show does a remarkable job presenting itself. This reveal was brilliant and executed exactly how it was supposed to.
We begin tonight with the single most creepy imagery we could possibly imagine as it pertains to Mr. Robot. Elliot appears to be lost in an early 90’s USA Network, TGIF like TV show. All clear-eyed and brightly lit. Seriously, I’m freaking out right now. Think Perfect Strangers or Full House. Laugh track and all. Elliot is the only one finding this scenario weird. Dad driving, Mom in the front seat and Elliot sitting next to Darlene who is wearing way too much pink for this to not seem weird. Elliot even reacts to the laugh track as if he’s the only one that hears it.
I really hope they snap this back into the proper ‘universe’ soon. The title sequence is done to the relatively likeness of Full House. One positive though, in this alternate reality, Gideon is not dead. There is a man in the trunk of the family car, so that’s at least something in the right direction. ELLIOT JUST BUMPED INTO ALF. I am so not making this up. Angela works at a gas station convenient store (an Evil Mart) and the rest of the Aldersons just came in to rob the place. The Alderson family car gets a flat tire and the charade continues until Elliot has had it.
Elliot: ENOUGH OF THIS (bleeped expletive). Tell me what’s happening. What is this?
(cop car sounds)
Dad: Whoa. That doesn’t sound good. On the plus side, I hear jumpsuits are in these days…
The fun doesn’t stop there. First commercial in the break is for Evil Corp and their new fast internet. “Our new 28k connection will have you online in minutes”, hilarious. That spot is followed by an actual Bud Light commercial from the 90’s. I’m not going to lie, I was hoping the joke would end after the first commercial break.
The investigating cop is actually Gideon, which doesn’t last long because then Alf comes out of nowhere and runs officer Gideon over. In the car again, Dad keeps up the shtick. There is a moment when Elliot gets serious and pleads for Dad to take him back (to reality). The response is the first time the elder Alderson did not seem to be in this new sitcom ‘character’. The man in the trunk escapes hopping away proclaiming himself to be a ‘business man’. Would not be surprised in the least if it was Wellick. The body runs into a backdrop and falls. Dad keeps up the notion that Elliot is seeing things with the bound man on his back on the side of the road. Then Elliot just starts cussing as if to test the bleep button’s efficiency. Before they put the business man back in the truck, Dad says,
Dad: It’ll feel good if you let it. Believing it’s real, makes it so.
Dad runs through a sitcom like monologue, but the monologue rings true to aspects of the real Mr. Robot. Pretending makes it easier, sometimes lies can help, truth is painful, etc. The message while misguided, in this reality of imagery almost works. Elliot believes this is what it looks like if Dad won. Total control, Elliot, lost in nothingness. Not really true, but it did have me for a moment. In a Sixth Sense/Matrix sort of way. The destination of the road trip was to the hospital that actual Elliot is in after the beating Ray’s goons put on him.
Dad: Nobody’s won anything Elliot. I’m just here to help you put in all in the rear view. As painlessly as possible.
A beaten, very real looking Elliot wakes in a hospital bed, complete with the Tyrion Lannister cut across the face. Without being seen yet, Ray begins to explain Maxine’s (Ray’s dog) condition. Her slowly developing need for assistance when it was never there before. An anecdote of sorts I’m sure. Ray now stands over Elliot. Bringing the anecdote to a close, Ray basically makes the connection that Elliot like Maxine was only breathing because someone else (Ray) permitted it.
Last week, Angela convinced Elliot (sort of) that her involvement with Evil Corp and the FBI is essential. So now, Darlene and the gang are trying to teach her what she’ll need to know to contribute. Its slow going. The timetable has been moved up. They need their device in Evil Corp before the feds vacate, due to the shooting at the end of last week’s episode. Teaching Angela even the basics of hacking is proving very difficult.
Cisco meets before what must be an associate of White Rose. He’s speaking in Chinese, but is the only person of a two person conversation saying anything. He’s demanding to know something. Even drops in that these are his friends of his in question. The associate stops walking away, says nothing. Cisco looks over his shoulder to see two men in Kabuki masks. Same two men possibly that Dom spotted when they arrived in China. Cisco knows the drill
Cisco: Come on man, I thought we were on the same team.
(the masked men restrain Cisco. The associate drives a needle under Cisco’s finger nail and breaks it off in there. Suggesting that all foot soldiers need to do is follow orders)
Dom sits in a superior’s office to hear the disturbing news that she is to take 6 weeks off to deal with the trauma of surviving the shooting gallery that occurred last week. She’s not buying it. She carefully recalls what happened even the part about the shooters turning their guns on themselves when they did not need to. She believes they weren’t there to wipe everyone out, they were there to disrupt only enough, that it might cause the FBI to retreat. Abandon the investigation.
Price’s plans do not seem to be holding up as he’d originally figured they would. The Speaker of the House is putting his foot down about a bailout of any kind for Evil Corp. One of his subordinates cannot deliver on a phone call of some importance and now his driver can’t even get past the protesters.
Angela finally begins to get it, with the assistance of her Tony Robbins talking to herself. When Cisco walks in. DANGER WILL ROBINSON! She recognizes him immediately. It is very awkward. Cisco was the ‘rapper’ that peddled his ‘CD’ to Ollie. Who then tried to play it in his computer, comprising himself and getting Angela involved to begin with. Darlene can feel the tension in the air. Angela shrugs it off as if she doesn’t connect the dots to Cisco.
And…welcome to the Ocean’s Eleven portion of tonight’s broadcast. Angela sits at her desk waiting for the call. A three word response, then Angela is on mission. Passing through by-standards, she makes her way to the ladies room. A quick script error occurs. Darlene directs to a new pathway, and they are back in business. Angela is stopped by an over zealous Fed. Not because she’s acting suspicious, but because he’s trying to hit on her. Once he realizes she’s not buying what he’s selling, he turns back into Mr. FBI Man. Darlene skurried in Angela’s ear to get something on this fed Angela can use. Instead of panicking, Angela throws it on in reverse. Questioning why the agent would give up so easily. He is putty in her hand.
Darlene quickly walks Angela through the schematic of setting up their device. Battery backup to power strip, Ethernet to switch, etc. Angela spends too much time with the Clorox wipes, but gets the green light from Darlene that it was a success and Angela can go celebrate. Angela doesn’t get 5 feet down the hallway when they lose the Wi-fi signal. Darlene will walk her through it from Angela’s terminal. No matter how badly Angela wants to be done with this.
Back in the hospital room, Elliot monologues to himself. He doesn’t see the goons enter or get to finish his diatribe before they whisk him out of there. They toss Elliot into a vacant basement from the looks of it, then lock the door. Elliot doesn’t move. Stays huddled in a ball on the floor when Dad appears.
Dad: Before you get all bent out of shape, all I was trying to do was take those punches for you.
(Elliot lunges, not to strike but to cling to his dead father)
Elliot (trembling voice): Thank you.
At her desk, Angela begins to follow very specific instructions from Darlene. This will include coding which Angela has already not shown an aptitude for. Despite the office traffic walking behind her, she pushes through. She is literally about to hit the enter key when a voice calls to her. Its Dom. Judging by Angela’s look, Dom invites Angela to ‘finish her call’ that she’s not on. Or at least not a conventional call that a fed would encourage the mark to finish first.
There is a flashback to what appears to be the actual past. Dad driving Elliot home with a big shiner on his cheek. Calmly talking with no response from Elliot. Clearly he’s been in a fight and doesn’t want to talk about it. Dad redirects. Tells a story about his supervisor reading off a series of dates which are the precursor to the termination of Dad’s employment contract. The dates corresponded to doctor visits. This is when Dad shares his little ‘health’ secret with Elliot that was a significant story line in season 1. The concept is not new information, the rhetoric is however.
Dad: Come on kiddo, the world’s not getting rid of me that easily. I’m going to be ok. I’m never going to leave you. Promise.
Dad attempts to change direction. Explains that he’s driving Elliot to the location of his new gig. He’s opening a computer store. This news brightens young Elliot’s mood considerably. Not to be outdone by the moment, Dad offers to let Elliot name the new business. There’s a long period of Elliot’s reaction to his news, and he loves it. Then the weight of the responsibility of naming the store. Dad helps out by suggesting he just blurt out the first thing that pops into his head upon seeing the store front. The first thing that pops into young Elliot’s head. There is a long pause of Elliot with his eyes closed. He gasps and opens his eyes. Credits.
The worst kept secret with my affection of television is that I believe The West Wing is the greatest achievement in television history. I would gladly debate that point with anyone brave enough to try. That line in and of itself seems to be a microcosm for the political landscape we find ourselves in. Let’s be clear, the notion that I am right and you are wrong if you disagree with me in the slightest, is not a new idea when applied to political dialogue. For at least the last 50 years (maybe even longer) the two-party system has created a divisiveness among its electorate, suggesting that there is an absolute right and absolute wrong way to see things, depending on which side of the aisle you sit.
At some point the narrative changed. From the ‘I believe this and give me a moment so I can explain that and see if you feel the same way’ that eventually gave way to the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong and until you agree with my stance, you’re an idiot’. We are going to try to use The West Wing as a vehicle to explore what the problem really is at its core while still maintaining some sense that we can always get better. And secondly, that the gold standard of modern scripted fictional television can provide the ideals of government that we should continue to strive for.
The nature of democracy, specifically our democracy is that we are never going to get there. We will never wake up with 100% of the country completely in agreement about everything. So the next most logical goal to reach for is to create a political landscape where we keep talking. Not to slam the other side. Not to create further division. Not to widen the gap but instead, to narrow it. When it comes to politics and the practical sense of the governing of a nation’s people, we should act like intellectuals, not school yard bullies. As articulated by Jeff Breckinridge (a Black Civil Rights Lawyer from Georgia) debating reparations with Josh Lyman (a White jewish man from New England) in the episode, “Six Meetings Before Lunch”.
Jeff Breckinridge: You got a dollar? Take it out. Look at the back. The seal, the pyramid, it’s unfinished. With the eye of God looking over it. And the words Annuit Coeptis. He, God, Favors our Undertaking. The seal is meant to be unfinished, because this country’s meant to be unfinished. We’re meant to keep doing better. We’re meant to keep discussing and debating and we’re meant to read books by great historical scholars and then talk about them.
Sadly, it seems, this 2016 Presidential Election campaigns have been worse than I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following the political process and Presidential Elections specifically since the first George Bush. Every year it seems the popular cliché is that this election is a “lesser of two evils” situation. It’s always been popular to say, but this year I’m afraid the sentiment is more accurate than in past years. For the first time I can remember, there are more people wishing there were other options than those set on who they will vote for. While choosing who to vote for is every American’s right, there is a great deal of vitriol being tossed around from both sides. When the very nature of our system is to keep talking, keep evolving the debate. As opposed to spewing hatred for ‘the other side’.
Disclaimer: If you are waiting for the portion of this article where I divulge my political allegiance. Explain why my candidate is better than the other side. You are misunderstanding the point of this exercise. I have no intention of getting into the meat and potatoes of the political debate. The point to be had here is that neither side is right or wrong, but that the process was never intended to be this angry or combative. Something to consider the next time you get into a political discussion with someone who doesn’t share your view. In the “Game On” episode when President Bartlet faces off against Governor Ritchie of Florida many things are said, but one thing rings out stronger than all the others. A quote I think of every time I hear a politician or pundit drop the “partisan politics” line as a means to create animosity for the other side.
Jed Bartlet: I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they’re tired of hearing career politicians diss partisan politics to get a gig. Partisan politics is good. Partisan politics is what the founders had in mind. It guarantees that the minority opinion is heard, and as a lifelong possessor of minority opinions, I appreciate it.
Politicians will be politicians. In order to be one, the individual has to engage in a game of sorts. This plays out in every election cycle. One elected official cannot possible appeal to all voters. So, they play a numbers game. Using whatever resources at their disposal they will identify trends, tipping points, hot button issues and hopefully present themselves to fall on the winning side of those issues. For the politician, it’s about serving their best interest which generally means doing what is required to get re-elected. The day we discover a politician that is willing to fall on the grenade, throw away his lifestyle, security and career away for standing up for an issue they believe in is the day that politician decided to stop being a politician. My more pressing concern is that of the electorate. The people need not adopt the attitude and persona of the politicians they vote for. And that my friends is the crux of my issue.
I am sure it hasn’t always been this way. I remember watching my grandparents around election time. My Grandmother was a blind democrat. Put simply, she grew up the daughter of farmers and believed Democrats were for farmers. She really needed no other criteria. My Grandfather who did lean Democratic at times was much more open. He took the approach of “Show me what you’ve got, you have to earn my vote” and he would have no problem voting the other way. So by the time I was 10, they would not even speak to each other about politics. If the conversation had the potential of going south, they’d prefer not to talk about it, then vote however they were going to vote. That sense seems to be gone now. They both paid attention, both took in the debates of the issues of the day, but never dug in their heels to belittle or attack someone who disagreed.
Take a step back from the details. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter, Clinton supporter, or even a steadfast Sanders or Johnson fan . Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle. Maybe it has something to do with how social media and technology have made the world smaller. I think the clear takeaway is that no matter who you think you’re going to vote for, it is a lesser situation. Despite popular belief, I do not think Trump’s attack on political correctness would fly 50 years ago. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone 50 years ago voting for a candidate with real trustworthiness issues. I’m not going to so far as to call this a lesser of two evils, but it is less. Less than we should expect. Less than what came before them. We are not raising our expectations for our future President we are diminishing it. We are so used to looking at the landscape and thinking, “That’s the least crappy candidate. That’s my pick. The one I hate the least.” When did we decide this was good enough. Both parties want to believe they are rolling out Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It may not be a choice of lesser of two evils, but there is no doubt the expectation has become lesser.
Idealistic as it may seem, we should expect more. For the moment, forget the issues. Forget the economy, forget foreign policy, forget education reform, forget national defense. We should expect more from the candidates. College educated shouldn’t be enough. Serving two terms as a Senator who took a vulnerable seat shouldn’t be enough. To be completely transparent about it, this aspect of the conversation isn’t left to Trump or Hilary. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but no President I’ve been legally of age to vote for fits that bill. Not Trump or Hillary. Not Obama, not George W, not Bill Clinton. Maybe George Herbert Walker Bush, maybe. Ask yourself if any President in the last 25 years even comes close to measuring up to what you once believed a President should be. The one thing that Herbert Walker on back had (Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, etc not even talking about the Lincolns, Roosevelts, and Washingtons of our history) was gravitas. The moment they spoke there was a reverence. The idea that issues aside, we are in good hands. Intelligent hands. Hands of a leader in control. We can debate the subtle merits until we’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that these candidates in today’s politics lack most of that. The sensibility of intelligence, leadership and gravitas.
Sam: Before I look for anything, I look for a mind at work. No one’s saying a President has to have a tenured share in symbiotics, but you have to have
Ainsley: And how do you measure that?
Sam: You don’t. But you know it when you see it.
Political correctness made its way back into this discussion. Again, with no intention of pumping up one or discrediting the other, this needs to be addressed. When did we decide treating all people with the same level of reverence or respect was a bad thing? Political Correctness is necessary. It sets a guideline for acceptable language in scenarios that call for it. Am I going to request political correctness when I’m watching Monday Night Football with the fellas? No, but I do think it has a place in dialogue by governmental leaders. And when did we decide telling it like it is was anything other than excusable bad behavior? To take that further, when did we decide we wanted average Joe’s in positions of power and leadership? Despite what some said years ago, Joe the Plumber would make the worst public servant imaginable. To quote a completely different Sorkin show, “I’m a fan of credentials”. I want my leaders to at the very least create the illusion that they are more educated than me, more cultured than me, more aware than me, more adjusted than me, and better at working with people and solving problems than me. We all really, should want the best the country has to offer. And being just another guy/girl, ‘being just like the rest of us’, or being plain-spoken are not good things to look for in the leader of the free world. At the end of the day, if our leaders are just like the rest of us, then get everyone in the mix and work off shear numbers. If the sample size was larger, maybe the cream would rise to the top. Barring an asinine theory like that, give me the smartest, most qualified, engaged people this country has. Or in other words, I want a heavyweight.
I know that it flies in the face of what we’ve been programmed to believe, politically. We now live in a very divided America. Granted, I could suggest any number of topics from Black Lives Matter to the 2nd Amendment to Military Funding to the Economy. Chances are pretty good that anyone chosen is likely to fall any number of ways on those issues. As if we use the issues to define us. To say, I am different from you because of this. Why has that become the approach we take? Why is our default position to be combative? Black Lives Matter ALONE seems to have divided the nation in half. There is no middle ground. At least 20 years ago, two adults could discuss the issue of Abortion or Gay rights or Government spending and they could have that conversation with it never getting anywhere near the verbal violence such debates incite now. The fact of the matter is and has always been that what we are arguing about are slight. We all support free elections. We all believe that all of our citizens deserve certain rights. We all want our children to grow up in safe schools where education is a priority. We all want a strong America. We just disagree on some of the nuances of how to get there. A sentiment that is beautifully articulated by Sitting President Walken (played wonderfully by John Goodman).
This brings me to a point that is bound to rub some people the wrong way. The fact that any subject is given the distinction of being an ‘issue’ generally means it is important to enough people who it is worthy of the discussion. However, I have always seen ‘issues’ as rankable and not just some grocery list absent of order. Towards the top, we are always going to have ‘issues’ like the economy, education, taxes, citizen’s rights, foreign policy, right to choose, and military issues. Those and some others have always inhabited the top. In sports rankings we tend to refer to that as the top tier. Grouping certain things of like importance together.
It may not be an important first step, but it seems logical that certain issues should take a back seat. To cite specific instances from The West Wing (just for the fun of it), changing the name of North Dakota to just “Dakota”, Topography Equality, Legal protection against the burning of the American Flag, campaign finance reform, a ‘wolves-only’ highway, all should not be the thing that derails your opinion of a would be public servant. Now yes, some of that is done to make light of the point I’m trying to make. But I have run into many of the “Amy Gardner’s” or “Lt. Commander Jack Reese’s” of the world. Those who will weigh one thing that is particular or special to them allowing them to rationalize the derailing of bigger issues.
Yes, the amount of money set aside for Military spending would be important to someone like Lt. Commander Reese. But should that really be the deal breaker? Reese in the show cites military spending as the end all be all for why he planned to vote for Ritchie (Bartlet’s opponent in the re-elect). Similarly, Amy Gardner. Amy is actually one of only a handful of characters among the 250 some recurring characters on this show I admittedly ‘hate’. Mary Louise Parker is a very attractive woman, but politically speaking, I have a problem with anyone who has that one ‘deal breaker’ issue. In Gardner’s case the ONLY issue that existed was that of a pro-women’s issue agenda. Now that is an important and worthwhile issue to support. However, any deal breaker issue becomes a problem when it derails other positive legislation.
Referencing the show. Gardner does her level best to sink a bill that would provide revenue to the education system along with a few other very important causes because the language of the bill did not advance Gardner’s women’s issue enough. To some degree these deal breakers become weighted just as much as issues like the economy, education and foreign policy. Now I’m sure one could argue they are just as important. I would just politely argue that cannot possibly be true from an objective logical perspective.
Not all issues are equal in weight. That’s factual. How Donald Trump feels about Daylight Savings Time or how Hillary Clinton feels about Congressional Term Limits should not in any way come close to say the economic state of this country. Yet there are people who seem to put too much value in smaller issues. Maybe even issues that aren’t an urgent concern. We should be able to focus on the bigger issues and find ways to seek common ground there before tackling some smaller issues or even issues that really might not be urgent issues to begin with. A notion that was addressed shortly in an episode called, “20 Hours in LA”.
Let’s be perfectly clear, issues are and should be the driving determining factor for any voter. By no means am I suggesting that the issues important to me should overshadow what is important to you. What I am proposing is that we all accept that there are some macro issues that should always take priority. Consider your own financial/bills situation. There’s no one reading this I’m sure that is going to consider their Netflix bill as being more important than their mortgage. Yes after a long and stressful day at work, maybe knowing you can unwind and binge watch a little West Wing is monumentally important. But if you don’t have a home to watch it in, how important really is the Netflix subscription. Yes, I may be underselling the importance of secondary issues with that analogy, but the bigger point should be obvious.
While we’re considering the difference between big universally important issues and those that have a particular significance to an individual, can we also look to shed the combative nature of American Democratic politics? As has been mentioned previously in this article, “the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us”. Using that idea, it’s high time we take a step back and see the bigger picture. Like an artist painting from six inches away, sometimes taking a step back can re-calibrate our perspective.
At times, the electorate are divided among issues like foreign aid, military involvement, economic bailouts for suffering countries, base closings, support of allies and potential military presence in countries that may or may not appreciate our presence. These issues and questions can often be just as divisive as social issues like a woman’s right to choose or gay rights. At the end of each of those conversations, one very obvious question needs to be asked. Are we for Freedom or are we not? Because if we are for freedom, it can’t be limited to…well anything really. The very nature of the concept of freedom is devoid of limitations.
To say that we’re for freedom within our borders or as long as it doesn’t cost us anything is contradictory to the very notion of what freedom represents. So if you think pulling out of conflicting nations is strategically recommended, don’t think we should put troops in harm’s way, or take the approach that we need to completely fix 100% of our own problems before we put even a single resource on someone else’s soil, then you have a fundamental conflict with being the democracy we are. That is perfectly fine by the way, but call it what it is. When you can realistically identify that a person is against those things just mentioned, then that person needs to come to grips with the reality that they are not for an American Democracy.
The fact of the matter is that if America is the leader of the free world. If America represents what it is supposed to represent, then every one of its citizens has to be in support of Freedom. And not just conceptually. You have to be for Freedom everywhere and for everyone. Now that same Freedom that allows us to choose our own religion, where our kids go to school, what we do for a living, also has to extend to less admired Freedoms. Burning of the flag, saying whatever one wants, the freedom of assembly. Freedom only works if its free across the board. It must also extend to Freedom for all of its citizens even if you don’t agree with other citizen’s choices. It must extend to all religions, even those absent of any such a faith at all. It must extend do those who disagree with you. And yes, it must extend to those countries and peoples who are not quite there yet. Those countries that have yet to break free from the oppressive rule of a mightier and less Freedom loving power.
Never has such a sentiment been more adequately portrayed than in the episode “Inauguration Part II: Over There”. In this fictional masterpiece, one very obvious theme is that this particular President does not, will not put American lives in danger lightly. Often there have been points of conflict. The reluctance to put soldiers into the equation almost always is overshadowed by the greater good of the pursuit of Freedom. Which absolutely is a prime virtue of this American Democracy.
As the episode progresses, it is clear that Jed Bartlet’s epiphany on whether the troops should be used to ensure those that want Freedom can pursue it, is not the end of this motif. While the President battles over to do it and risk lives vs not to and let tyranny prevail, his staff deals with a similar angle. Senior staff being what it is, is naturally concerned with the political fallout of the decision either way. Regardless of what side of the fence you may be on, Aaron Sorkin (as he does often in this series) provides a very simplistically beautiful way to see this issue. Sometimes, you just have to back up and see the whole picture. And sometimes that picture is very simple and lacks complexity.
C.J.: The guy across the street is beating up a pregnant woman. You don’t go over
and try and stop it?
TOBY: Guy across the street is beating up anybody, I like to think I go over and
try to stop it, but we’re not talking about the President going to Asia or the President
going to Rwanda or the President going to Qumar. We’re talking about the President
sending other people’s kids to do that.
C.J.: That’s always what we’re talking about, and in addition to being somebody’s
kids, they’re soldiers and sailors, and if we’re about freedom from tyranny,
then we’re about freedom from tyranny, and if we’re not, we should shut up.
TOBY: On Sunday, he’s taking an oath to ensure domestic tranquility.
C.J.: And to establish justice and promote the general welfare. Stand by while
atrocities are taking place, and you’re an accomplice.
TOBY: I’m not indifferent to that, but knuckleheaded self-destruction is never
going to burn itself out, you really want to send your kids across the street into the fire?
C.J.: Want to? No. Should I? Yes.
TOBY: Why? And don’t give me a lefty answer.
C.J.: A lefty answer is all I’ve got.
TOBY: Why are you sending your kids across the street?
C.J.: ‘Cause those are somebody’s kids, too.
Now while that may be a little lefty heavy, the sentiment remains. The very foundation of Freedom suggests that the pursuit is never over, especially when “Someone is getting beat up”. As a free nation of power and influence, we are inherently compelled to assist when Freedom or the pursuit of Freedom is threatened. An idea that is made clear yet again in the same episode. This time President Bartlet finds a way to promote Will Bailey to Deputy Communications Director and drive home the bigger point at the same time.
BARTLET: Will, I think some of these people don’t know who your dad is. Will’s the youngest son of Tom Bailey, who’s the only guy in the world with a better title than mine. He was Supreme Commander, NATO Allied Forces Europe. We didn’t know we were going
to do this. I would have asked you to invite him.
WILL: Well, you got quite a response from him watching on TV, sir. I think he’s going to reenlist.
BARTLET: Actually, I meant he could be here now when I tell you Toby’s asked me to
commission you as his deputy.
WILL: I’m sorry, sir?
BARTLET: Toby wants to make you deputy.
WILL: Pardon me?
BARTLET: I’m appointing you Deputy Communications Director. It covers a wide range
of areas of policy and execution and counsel to me.
WILL: To you… the President?
BARTLET: [to the gang] That’s what you want to hear from your new Communications–
WILL: I-I accept.
BARTLET: There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make. Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. You know why?
WILL: It’s the only thing that ever has.
BARTLET: …and affixed with the Seal of the Unites States. And it is done so on this day and in this place. Congratulations.
BARTLET: [holding a piece of paper in his hand] You know, it’s easy to watch the news
and think of Khundunese as either hapless victims or crazed butchers, and it turns
out that’s not true. I got this intelligence summary this afternoon. “Mothers are standing
in front of tanks.” And we’re going to go get their backs. An hour ago, I ordered
Fitzwallace to have UCOMM deploy a brigade of the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Air Assault,
and a Marine Expeditionary Unit to Khundu to stop the violence. The 101st are the Screaming Eagles. The Marines are with the 22nd M.E.U., trained at Camp Lejuene, some of them
very recently. I’m sorry, everyone, but this is a work night.
The final point I’d like to drive home and reinforce with context from the West Wing is the nature of how we view politics in this country. The founding fathers of this country and the framers of the Constitution had a few things at the forefront of the construction of this country’s government. 1) Most decisions structurally were made in a reactionary manner to reject anything adopted from the British model (let that marinate for a moment-might alter the way you see ‘how this country was made) 2) Freedom of its citizen’s will be paramount to almost anything else. 3) The party system wasn’t instituted to divide the country but to allow the electorate the opportunity to be heard, view or debate the minority idea. Yet in 2016 within this American Democracy, we have grown not only divisive but almost angry and combative. The divisions are stark and clear. With the addition of the 24 hour news cycle and social media making the world smaller, we have taken a structure meant to encourage debate and the sharing of ideas and have replaced it with emotion filled, borderline verbally abusive tactics to convey that I am right and you are wrong.
Cable news might be the worst contributor to this notion. Any number of networks claiming to be fair and balanced or always in pursuit of the truth, when in fact, those ideas are conceptually false. Fox News is not fair and balanced as they admittedly support a strict adherence to the Conservative agenda. CNN is not the most trusted name in news either as they can’t be completely trusted if they are slanting left consistently. Ever want to have a great bit of fun during an election? Watch the cable news coverage of that election based on who is losing. Watching those anchors and analysts fidgeting in their chairs as if they are actually watching the end of the world is entertaining no matter who you are. So instead of shaping our news coverage based on a model that would more likely mirror the sense of the founding fathers encouraging debate and the explanation of perspective…our news media takes sides.
Now the influence of news media may not mean a great deal to each individual’s decision. It is fair to assume that most of the electorate can read between the lines. However, the presentation of this ‘sharing of ideas’ (if we can even call it that anymore) has illustrated just how far we’ve fallen. For me it started with the McLaughlin Group back in the 1980s and it continued from there from everything from Meet the Press to Face the Nation to each and every hosted program on cable news. Go watch Anderson Cooper or Bill O’Reilly (no spin zone, that’s funny) without noticing one person disrespectfully talking over the other. From a tv production standpoint, what we see now unconditionally assists more than anything else into this condition we find ourselves in. My beliefs are what’s right in the world while your beliefs (if they differ at all from mine) are stupid and therefore what’s wrong with the world. The day I hear a cable news anchor/host say, “That is a fair point, no allow me to counter.” is the day I will get off this news soapbox.
The 24-hour news cycle, social media, advances in technology and a society that is often fearful that the world is getting progressively worse and worse with each passing year all contribute to an angrier electorate. Now while I’ve heard “worst election ever” each and every election I’ve witnessed since George Herbert Walker Bush, I do believe that this 2016 election is actually the worst. Now, again, I am not referring to the candidates themselves. Granted, I could make that argument as well, but that isn’t the focus of this piece. The shear vitriol that the voters seem to be throwing at each other is the bigger issue. I am a dog person. However, I can absolutely understand and grant the notion that there are people who would prefer to be cat people. Not my choice, but cat people are not lesser people. They are not heathens for preferring cats. They are not sub-human for not wanting to choose dogs over cats. While the analogy is simplistic is it really that unrealistic? Of course not. It only seems ridiculous because of how we approach political conversations amongst ourselves. We have conditioned ourselves somewhere in the last 25-50 years that those that disagree with us are stupid and a detriment to this country as opposed to viewing the conversation as an opportunity to evaluate all perspectives.
The perspective extends further than conversations at the work coffee machine or the danish cart. It is apparent that the voters are not the only ones taking an adversarial view. The very leaders we elect also subscribe to this idea of Party over Country. At every step we should be asking “is this best for the country” and the sad thing is that question is never asked in all honesty. The question generally comes down to “is this best for the party”? The two-party system has become a contact sport. Democrat vs Republican and there needs to be one clear winner and one clear loser. Thus, is our problem.
I will give one very hot bed example. Apologies in advance, this is not the political portion of this piece either just a random issue that is very divisive and should identify the point. The slight alteration to the second amendment to hopefully decrease the number of mass shootings and violent crimes or refusing to even talk about the second amendment because no one wants to make any sort of legislative compromise even if it means saving American lives. Now I’m not saying that gun control will eliminate violent crimes. I am also not saying that to fix the problem we must remove 100% of guns. However, the bigger point to be made is that even an issue such as gun control that has very clearly drawn lines of support vs opposition should still create some level of compromising discussion. However, I dare you to bring that up in a public forum and count the seconds that pass before people resort to name calling and profanity.
We have become angry and party-centric. The two-party system wasn’t created to inspire adversaries. It was created to appropriate all perspectives into the dialogue. Yet, the government and the people who vote them in all seem to be on the same page. It’s almost brand loyalty at this point. If party A is not the winner, then they must be the loser. That’s where the concept needs to change. We all, from voters to The President need to all get on board with the idea that we collectively should be making decisions that benefit all and not just those that belong to one party over the other. The West Wing has been a beacon for what we should strive for, not what we currently are. And yes, I know, some of what is seen in this series is unrealistic and ideological. However, a great deal of it is not that far-fetched and should be the inspiration for what we hope to be.
Both sides should see ways to identify with the other. We should be able to shed the party-centric mentality and give credit where credit is due. Not everything needs to be an opportunity to advance one party past the other. Never should ‘beating the other side’ be a motivating factor, but it often is. We should in every way, every conversation be trying to advance the country not the party. Anything less than that is irresponsible.
AINSLEY: Well, it President Bartlet, I’m on the government payroll. And I believe that politics should stop at the water’s edge. To be honest with you, I think it should stop well before that but it turns out there’s no Santa Claus and Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore. See, I don’t think you think the treaty’s bad, I don’t think you think it’s good, I think you want to beat the White House.
AINSLEY: You’re a schmuck, Peter. Today, tomorrow, next year, next term, these guys’ll have the treaty ratified and they’ll do it without the reservations he just offered to discuss
Every now and then, there is a moment where the above is not the sentiment shared. Go to any travesty, any devastation that befalls this country because it befalls all of it equally. 9/11, mass shootings (at least before they became so frequent that we are almost desensitized to it), or any natural disaster. Americans come together. Without hesitation or qualification. Why does it take tragedy to bring out the inner American in most Americans? Well, the artistry in some of what Sorkin creates is Art imitating Life almost literally. We won’t even mention how the young, engaging minority democrat wins in a Presidential election over the old white republican Congressional stalwart and go straight to a story line commonly referred to “The 25th”.
In “the 25th” we discover the President’s youngest daughter has been kidnapped. The President is so beside himself over the issue at hand that he acknowledges that he is unable to preside over the country objectively. He does what he must and invokes the 25th Amendment turning over the office of the President to the next person in the line of succession. In this case, that would involve turning over his office to the highest ranking official on the other team. Yet, Sorkin again finds another way to articulate the approach we should have and not the current approach we cling to.
The West Wing on its own, in a vacuum is the greatest achievement in television history. Beyond that simple idea it continues to breed more than that. New information presents itself with each viewing. It may have you question your convictions or maybe it will solidify them. It is more than a show. I could go on and on about the genius of Aaron Sorkin, but that’s not what this is about. Ask me later, I have no hesitation in discussing the West Wing on any level relating it to any topic, but for another time I guess. Beyond the obvious form of entertainment which it swings for the fences at every turn, it is the ideology of what we as Americans engaged in the political process should constantly strive for. Even the show is not perfect. It is not a documentary about political utopia. But it does consistently show how people of differing perspectives can come together for the greater good. Or put in other words, “The West Wing can serve as an oasis from our own political madness” or at least the current level of political madness of the 2016 Presidential Election seems to be.
The last time we spoke, Elliot uttered a phrase that is extremely risky for any hacker of any skill level, “I’m hacking the FBI”. To see Elliot in his element is no different from anyone else in their element. The subtle nuance of him enjoying the process. What he’s doing I am not smart enough to describe. What I can gather is that it involves creating something that he’s planting in the kernel. As we learning in Ep 3, corrupting the kernel is a virtual death to the computer in question. If that isn’t enough, he now has control of every FBI Android phone within range of that building. Notice, they didn’t say all ‘smartphones’, wink wink.
Angela comes home to find Darlene and is not pleased with her intrusion at all. Darlene goes a sits right next to Angela, invading personal space next to. Darlene lays it all out. The FBI knows something and it all could come back to Elliot and Angela. Darlene needs Angela to sneak a device into work, thus asking Angela to darn near hack the FBI herself with this action.
Mrs. Wellick meets with her parking lot attendant. I’d say he’s gone around the bend if this was almost any other show. He thinks he’s being watched. He carries on about the feeling he has. Head pointed down, Mrs. Wellick’s eyes jet upward (yeah, that’s not scary at all), gently holds the man’s hand and says, “I promise, everything will be alright”. Famous last words. Also, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, there is a massive connection to this parking lot attendant, Mrs. Wellick, Tyrell Wellick, and Elliot. He was the attendant when Elliot woke up in Wellick’s truck three days after the hack. She is protecting, hiding or prepping something that’s for sure.
Darlene meets Elliot at their mother’s home asking about Mom’s whereabouts with, “So, where’s the shedevil?” Elliot can sense something’s wrong. Darlene starts to explain about Angela and Elliot isn’t having it. He wants Angela to have literally zero involvement. Even with Dad clamoring from the dark corner, Angela is a non-starter.
Dom and her assistant arrive in China. Dom stands with others as a group make their way down a stairwell. The last to be revealed is White Rose out of drag. This group, Dom included are there to check the Evil Corp’s backup servers. So for the moment we can surmise that not only is White Rose in cahoots with Phillip Price, but moreover somehow connected to Evil Corp directly. One of the agents attempts to tread lightly about the Dark Army. Dom has no interest in treading lightly and comes right out with it. White Rose, turns slowly like the exorcist and Dom’s confidence quickly vacates.
Mrs. Wellick discovers another cryptic piece of mail. This time no music box. This is a pewter baby rattle. Mrs. Wellick sings softly to her baby when a hand turns on something we’ll just call a noise maker. The man is her driver/bodyguard. He’s been trying to trace the packages but no luck. As predicted the parking lot attendant did not survive to see the second half of this episode. Mrs. Wellick wants details, because she scary and somewhat deranged. The drivers complies. First he injected the man with a paralytic. Proceeded to trash the apartment while the mark is still alive. Then looks him in the eyes and puts a few rounds in the man’s chest. Mrs. Wellick enjoyed that story.
Elliot meets with Ray in the park. Ever since Elliot agreed to help, Ray has had a completely different demeanor. He never really looks up at Elliot, but he will make a meeting between Elliot and RT happen.
Angela arrives at a bar looking for someone. She’s there to meet with Ollie, believe it or not. Ollie uses this opportunity to slide in his resume considering Angela’s new employer. Ollie is being Ollie and Angela seems remarkably uninterested. Then he asks about the cd. With one subtle ‘tell’ Ollie tips Angela off to the primary objective. Ollie looked down at his phone which was face down. Angela snatches it to discover he’s been recording their conversation. The ‘cd’ question was also a dead giveaway that something was off. Ollie busted, reveals that he has spoken to the FBI but never mentioned Angela.
Dom begins to snoop around what we must assume is a property belonging to White Rose. She stumbles into a clock room. About the size of a respectable walk-in closet, full of clocks. Naturally, the first person to discover her is White Rose. White Rose and Dom share a conversation about the deeper meaning of the clocks and her motivation for joining the Bureau. White Rose plays the part well. And either Dom is playing it well too, or she’s actually getting lured in by White Rose’s charm.
Angela shows up at Elliot’s current. She’s there to look him in the eyes than to agree to help. Angela wants to know why he’s been ducking her. Elliot actually gives an open, honest answer. He wanted to stop seeing his dead father before he saw Angela again, who is consequently standing behind her presently. It’s actually a nice moment between two friends. Before the scene ends, Elliot smiles and asks about Querty. Angela thinks he’s getting too fat.
Elliot gets his meeting with RT. Elliot finds a way to communicate to RT without tipping off Ray’s goon. At first RT is trying not to cooperate on that level then asks in text form, “do you really not know what happens on this site?” Eventually, RT starts to pull up the site when Elliot asks how bad is it? Side Note. Love that the username is “The Dread Pirate Roberts”. RT leaving the admin credentials open for Elliot to look into if he so chooses.
Inner Elliot: Everyone has their own If/Then conditional programming. A situation where IF certain conditions are met, THEN a logic bomb detonates. Everything blows up in your face. Is this Ray’s condition? Or my own?
Elliot hits the enter key and a realization of some sort washes over him. A freeze frame reveals a series of links on the left margin starting with drugs, then books, then apparel. The site is called Midland City Marketplace. The drugs were not enough to illicit Elliot’s reaction. However the images of young women bound at the wrists and ankles as well as blindfolded, were enough. Drugs, weapons, sex trafficking, hitman for hire. Imagine all the bad of Craig’s List on steroids where they only sell evil.
Elliot speaks to himself, to work out the details in his head. But there’s one problem. In his head is where Dad lives. Dad tries to refocus Elliot. Ignore it and move on. Dad is thinking about ‘us’ (those working the hack) while Elliot is thinking about those harmed by the website. Elliot will do something about this, to what extent is the question.
Mrs. Wellick enjoys a glass of wine staring at the music box when the burner phone rings. There is no voice on the line. There are sounds though. Mrs. Wellick pleads for Tyrell to say something. Instead all she can hear are sirens. Then without disconnecting the call, she runs outside to see the same sirens turning left at the light. Tyrell is in the city.
Angela takes a series of short taxi and train rides until she finds herself at Darlene’s base of operations. Apparently, the route was provided by Darlene. Inside is FSociety (minus Elliot and Dad). Setting up a significant story line perhaps as early as next week,
Dom and her assistant meet other feds in an atrium of sorts. All seems very matter of fact until Dom reaches for a piece of fruit on a snack table. Rapid shots rings out. In an instant you see more than half of the agents get hit. Dom is not one of them. She ducks behind the snack table. Sher removes a gun from one of the dead. She gets a shot off, a lower leg shot. That shooter’s reaction is to shoot himself in the head.
Elliot stirs in his sleep waking just enough to discover two large men standing over him. Elliot is removed from his bed. You don’t actually see it as the camera zooms in slowly to the floor, but Elliot is struggling desperately the entire time. Held upright, it appears Ray and his boys are aware of Elliot’s intrusion. Ray exits the nearby car.