Welcome back. Another mind bending season where we face that most bittersweet revelation. Tonight is the Mr. Robot season finale and that inherently means two things. They are going drop something huge and connect dots, and next week we will be without new Mr. Robot episodes.
The previous episode recap ends the same with this episode begins. Tyrell in a black Suburban saying that ‘they’ are supposed to be allies and Tyrell needs to be involved. In the episode recap, Tyrell is talking to Dad/Mr. Robot, in tonight’s episode, Tyrell is talking to Elliot. It should be noted that Rami Malek’s acting in that little scene is just brilliant. Its the first time we see Elliot as Mr. Robot and he channels his inner Slater to do so. The interesting detail with this is that this parallel is another in a long line of subtle hints that blur the line of where Mr. Robot ends and Elliot Alderson begins. Tyrell is confused and in so plays the “I know your dirty little secret” card. What follows is brilliant.
Tyrell: Aren’t you forgetting? I know your dirty little secret. There are people close to you who would not be happy if they knew what I know.
Elliot: We’re both too smart to let petty differences dictate our actions. Weigh the pros and cons. Do what you’ve gotta do. Soon as the tabulations are over with, you’ll know that telling anyone about this does neither one of us any good. In fact, you’ll realize, the only thing to do in your position, is nothing.
Tyrell Wellick is completely lost with Elliot’s responses. Tyrell recites a poem. A poem his father used to recite to him as a child. Tyrell keeps that as a reminder of what not to become.
Wellick escorts Elliot down into this building. The inside of this building is barren, gloomy and a waste of time. Tyrell keeps speaking to Elliot as if he should recall the details. While Inner Elliot maintains that he has no recollection of setting up any of this. There is a nice redirect though. Elliot brings up Joanna, she’s been looking for Tyrell. Tyrell’s reaction is to accept that we do what is required. Tyrell sits at a terminal as he confirms that their partners, The Dark Army, set all this up. Including but not limited to the collection of UPS’s (uninterrupted power supply). Tyrell enters a password and Elliot stares blankly at what exactly it is they created.
Inner Elliot: They’re planning something. Mr. Robot, Tyrell, Dark Army and White Rose are all in cahoots to plan something big. And the worst part? They all think it’s me. They all think I’m the ring leader. The one in charge. And I have no idea what it is.
Darlene sits in the corner of an interrogation room. Dom and her boss sit across from her. Dom’s boss goes bad cop on her citing the Patriot Act and equating Darlene to an ‘enemy combatant’. Dom asks for a moment alone.
Joanna visits Mr. Knowles after Elliot discovers the coordinates of ‘Tyrell’s’ phone. All the gifts, the subtle reminders and even the sonogram was intended to create the sense that Knowles had the night they celebrated his promotion. On a day when it should’ve had it all, all was taken from him. His wife was killed who just so happened to be carrying their unborn child. Knowles loses it and breaks down emotionally. Joanna approaches him softly. There is a moment it feels like forgiveness is around the corner. We just forgot that Joanna is still Joanna. Like a flipped light switch she turns on him. I will not repeat the dialogue but suffice it to say Joanna thinks Knowles is a coward. She eventually crossed a line. Describing the remains of his unborn child and Knowles goes off. Pummeling her face repeatedly. Now we know Joanna has a pension for taking pain she wants to take. But this feels like a bigger agenda.
Dom and Darlene go round and round. Dom is very convincing that she ultimately is on Darlene’s side. Darlene let’s her speak but with no real intention of revealing anything. Sadly, last week was the literal demise of Cisco. And whether that was her intention, Darlene uses that to her advantage. Eventually, Darlene in so many words tells Dom to shove it. Dom leaves the room only to return with the camcorder that recorded the FSociety videos, the FSociety mask, and the missing bullet casing.
The big thing Tyrell wanted to show was the schematics of a building. The Dark Army gave them access to a building that is literally within striking distance of the Evil Corp building that has all of the paper documents they plan to use to rebuild the financial database. Tyrell begins to explain the details, but when he says “when our Malware executes” that’s all Elliot needs. He connects the dots on his own. The malware was designed to corrupt the UPS devices. Done just right the UPS gives off carbon dioxide. Then the malicious firmware re-engages the UPS’ auto transformer to create a spark and ignite the now building filled with carbon dioxide gas. A building sized bomb. They will wait until all of the paper documents are delivered to this Evil Corp location, then they will blow up the block. Hopefully, taking all of the paper document down in quite literally a blaze of glory.
Meanwhile, Joanna returns to her boy toy freshly beaten and he decides to do the manly yet very immature thing of beating the guy up. Now Joanna wants Knowles punished, but the kid is thinking too small. I also love that in 2016 there is a grown man who still has a Tom Cruise Cocktail poster hanging up in his residence. His first mistake is agreeing that he indeed wants to hurt Knowles for this. That’s all Joanna needs to execute her amended plan. Originally it was assumed the bar tending boy toy was strung along to eventually hang Mrs. Knowles murder on and clear Tyrell’s name. Now it seems there is a detour in that plan that results in Knowles going down for the murder of his wife, thus also clearing Tyrell’s name. In theory.
Alone with Darlene, Dom tries to level with her. And not in that good cop/bad cop way. After revealing to Darlene on some level that Dom is not as put together as it seems and is actually quite a train wreck away from work, she offers to show Darlene something. No cuffs, no extra security, just Dom and Darlene walking through a sea of Feds all of which know exactly who Darlene is. They walk in to a large room alone. 95% of this part of the scene has us looking at Dom and Darlene but not what they are looking at. Presumptively its a large board with suspects and drawing lines connecting them. Dom explains how getting the person in the middle was key and they would not be able to do that if they came out ‘guns blazing’. Instead they adopted the ‘python approach’. Essentially, let the suspects think they are safer than they are. Darlene starts following this relative flow chart. Cisco. Ollie Parker. Gideon. Angela. Susan Jacobs-The Evil Corp Lawyer. Romero. Mobley. Darlene. Do the remaining math. Who’s left? What should the order of power be? Elliot or Tyrell? Tyrell or Elliot? According to the FBI, the man in the middle is Tyrell Wellick.
Elliot: Why is it so important for you to torment me?
In the strategically located building, Inner Elliot tries to put this all together. Then there is an explosion from actual Elliot. Elliot sees Mr. Robot and Tyrell Wellick in the same place at the same time. Something that should not be physically possible. Then there is the connection that someone had to make a deal with the Dark Army and since Elliot can’t remember any such deal, it must have been Mr. Robot. Mr. Robot tries to bring it back around with the, “You’re me and I’m you” thing but Elliot doesn’t slow for a second. The wheels begin to turn down a direction that will prove to be reckless. Yet without the foresight to see it, Mr. Robot tries to deflect that he has only been doing what Elliot wanted in the first place. Mr. Robot also reveals the thing we’ve all be operating under. And that is that Elliot is only supposed to know as much as he can handle. Remember the “I just wanted to take the punches for you”?
The conversation is far more relaxed than it should be considering the context. Elliot’s paranoia is beginning to grow. He believes Mr. Robot is distracting him from Tyrell’s efforts. Its true but still, the wrong wheels are turning in Elliot’s head. Elliot jumps into Tyrell’s chair once he leaves it. Elliot plans to not only delete the malware, but close the back door. Something that would absolutely derail everything they’ve done to this point. Tyrell reaches back for a gun. The same gun that Elliot pulled out of the popcorn machine that Darlene gave him earlier. Elliot, presumably when he was Mr. Robot explained that if anyone tries to impede their plan, to kill them. Well Elliot is impeding their plan.
Elliot stands to face Tyrell gun drawn. There is a standoff as Tyrell justifiably has no earthly idea why Elliot has made the proverbial u-turn. While given many opportunities to see just how quickly this could turn volatile, Elliot stands firm. Remember those wrong wheels turning, here is your “there is no spoon” moment.
Elliot: You’re the same.
Tyrell (yelling): WHAT THE _____ ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!
Mr. Robot: We are definitely not the same.
Tyrell: Back away from the computer.
Inner Elliot: This is just another of Mr. Robot’s mind tricks.
Tyrell: Elliot, I don’t want to shoot you but I will.
Mr. Robot: Elliot, listen to him.
Elliot: He’s not holding a gun. He’s not even there.
Mr. Robot: Elliot! Step away from the computer.
Tyrell: You touch that keyboard and I will shoot you.
Elliot: No. (Steps forward) He won’t. He can’t. He doesn’t exist. I’m the only one that exists. It’s finally time to take back control. Real control.
Elliot starts retreating slowly towards the computer. He doesn’t get halfway there before discovering there very much is a spoon. As promised, Tyrell shoots Elliot. His delusions seem to melt away. Also perhaps a foreshadowing note visually. One of the overall themes of this show is how does Elliot rid himself of Mr. Robot? Elliot suffering from a gun shot wound allowed the show to go all Back to the Future II. We see Mr. Robot flickering in and out. It’s not how I would want it to end, but if Elliot’s light goes out, so does Mr. Robot’s.
(Angela’s LAN Line Phone rings)
Angela: Tyrell are you there? It’s okay, they told me you’d be calling, this is a secure line. Are you with Elliot right now?
Angela: Okay, don’t let anyone near him. I should be the first person he sees when he wakes up.
Angela: Tyrell, you did what needed to be done.
Tyrell: I love him.
Angela: I do too.
A car drives through a Fry’s parking lot that appears to be Arizona, New Mexico or a less populated portion of California. Outside are two Fry’s employees on a break. Those employees are Mobley and Trenton. Trenton wants Mobley to consider her idea. We never hear the idea, but understand that Trenton believes it can undo the Five/Nine hack. With impeccable timing, a familiar face emerges just before Mobley gives any real consideration for Trenton’s plan. That face belongs to none other than Leon. Now my colleague and partner here at NJATVS, Jeff Sack, offers up the perfect analogy to who Leon really is. Leon is “The Wolf” (Harvey Keitel) but in reverse. Instead of The Wolf coming in promptly to clean up the mess, Leon arrives timely to prevent the mess in the first place.
Trenton: Please, just look at what I found.
Leon: Excuse me…?
Mobley: Sorry, we’re on a break.
Leon: Yeah, I just had a quick question. Do you have the time?
For the first time in a long while, Elliot opens up to the idea that perhaps Mr. Robot is the key to everything. Elliot recalls a story from middle school. When taking a Visual Basic class, he found there was a technique that would allow his to keep studying. Just recite the mantra, mind awake. Mrs. Wellick seems intrigued by the opportunity that has presented itself care of Elliot. The location coordinates of the cell phone believed to belong to Tyrell Wellick shows up (at what I postulated might be Mr. Knowles’ home)
Dom gets run through the police policy following a shooting. She finds this unnecessary waste of FBI resources.
She also discovers the news that the Chinese extended Evil Corp a gift. A financial bailout to the tune of 2 trillion dollars. Dom’s boss even concedes that it’s over. The bailout is the gift everyone has been waiting. China just saved the economy. They will get away with it.
Angela is taken to an undisclosed location. All the while trying to persuade her captors to let her go. Inside is one of the strangest scenes i’ve ever seen. A young girl walks in, sits at a computer, inserts a 5.25″ floppy into an old C: drive. Then the girl starts asking very strange almost unrelated questions. Shortly after the assessment, a new figure emerges. Its White Rose.
There is a rather strange scene with Dom and Alexa. The depression is becoming more than Dom can handle. She seeks comfort from an interactive piece of electronics that has limited question and answer combinations.
White Rose remains cryptic. But in the end, this was all just a test given to Angela. White Rose wants to see the drive and why Angela wants what she wants so badly. That and to discover why Phillip likes her so much. Then that leads into the drawn connection of Angela and Elliot, insinuating that the catalyst for all of this was the Washington Township plant. And furthermore, her mother and Elliot’s father died for a ‘greater good’ reason. White Rose plans to show Angela exactly why she needs to drop her mission.
White Rose: You are at the center of all of it…
Elliot wakes from his trance to find Mr. Robot in his apartment. It’s as if the roles have been reversed. Now Elliot appears to be the silent passenger. Mr. Robot is doing things while Elliot stands over Mr. Alderson and not the other way around. Mr. Robot looks over a BBQ food pamphlet with writing on it. It’s a cypher. Elliot and Mr. Robot work independently to crack the cypher.
There is a knock at the door of the Washington Township lawyer’s home. She was concerned after not hearing from Angela. Angela stands before her as deadpan as a robot (pun intended). Angela is there to tell the lawyer to stand down and not to contact Angela again.
The cypher takes Elliot/Mr. Robot to a swap meet. Elliot and Mr. Robot arrive separately but they are on the same hunt. Eventually the side door of a taxi van opens and the driver only knows two English words. “Elliot?” and “Address?” Elliot is very confused. He eventually gets in but then does not have an answer for “Address?” Then the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Tyrell Wellick enters the taxi van using the other sliding door.
Elliot has no idea what on earth is going on right now. Elliot is unsure of what is real and what is not. Since he finds no answers he gets louder and more indignant. Demanding to know if the non-English speaking taxi driver if he sees the man sitting next to Elliot. Eventually both Elliot and Tyrell are kicked out of the van.
Tyrell: Now what was the meaning of that? Now you’ve been under a lot of stress, but I’ve been under a lot of stress too. Can you imagine what it’s been like for me? We can’t talk out here, we’re exposed. Come on.
Tyrell: Enough with theses games, We’re close. Have you forgotten everything? The Dark Army told me phase 2 is ready, when you see it, you’ll be pleased. It worked Elliot, it’s up to us now.
Welcome back to our game, Terry Colby. Terry meets with Phillip Price. Terry shows off his book and Phillip needs Terry to do him a favor. That’s about where the logic and my attention span drops off. Something about gifting Africa to the Chinese. Terry almost takes the request at face value but stops short. He must know what the motivation is. What makes a man move countries like pieces on a chess board. Phillip’s answer is simple. Phillip Price must be the most powerful man in any room and if you can’t leave a legacy that rivals that of God, it’s not worth mentioning.
At the conclusion of last week’s episode Elliot walks up on Tyrell’s SUV. Mrs. Wellick is in the vehicle. She addresses Elliot at Ollie, escorts them inside where she all but demands that Elliot find Tyrell. Assuming that he’s even still alive. Mrs. Wellick wants Elliot to help with tracking the calls coming into the burner phone. Elliot declines. She, in her scary way, approaches Elliot slowly, seductively to suggest that no one says no to her.
Cisco brings back ‘Vincent’ the guy in the beginning of the season that almost posted a pic of him holding the bull of wall street’s unmentionables. Darlene put him in the lead of a task he probably wasn’t supposed to return from. He can’t speak and Cisco is freaking out. Darlene pulls up his shirt to search for a tracker only to discover, his entire torso looks like it bleeding from the inside out. Darlene has gone completely around the bend. She won’t drop him off at an ER because eventually he will come two and she can’t risk him talking. Cisco sees the nothingness in her eyes when she said that and fires back. Suggesting that Darlene is not a leader and needs to stop acting every mistake was just part of the plan.
Dom arrives on scene at the smart house. One of the feds hands her a photograph of the person they believe was in the house tonight and is a person of interest in Dom’s ‘code-name’ case. Dom is confused and a little upset with the handling of this asset.
Elliot and Dad sit in the back seat of Wellick’s SUV driven by her driver/bodyguard. Dad wants no part of it. Elliot just seems intrigued by who is pretending to be Tyrell. No other conclusion is logical as Elliot believes he killed Tyrell Wellick.
Dom returns to her superior to make her argument. The feds are acting like this is any other criminal element. Dom is the only one who knows they cannot proceed that way. The photograph, and its the second from a second and different witness, is that of Cisco. Her boss decides to put out a bolo on Cisco. Dom tries to argue this needs to stay quiet. If his identity is made known, the Dark Army will surely kill him.
Elliot convinces the driver that whatever he plans to do for Mrs. Wellick (tonight) he requires hardware and that will require a stop. At Micro Center. He begins pulling items including what I believe is a $1900 Alienware laptop. Then the burner phone rings. He answers it and looks around. There was breathing but no image. All of a sudden, Elliot is literally alone in Micro Center. Not even Dad is present.
Elliot returns to his apartment with Mrs. Wellick’s driver and begins cracking into his new stuff. This is all set to a storytelling moment from Darlene about how she was never special, but Elliot was. A story about when they went to Coney Island as a family. Elliot went with Dad and Darlene somehow got lost. Lost and then kidnapped. A notion child Darlene did not fight against. She actually got in the car voluntarily, knowing something was wrong. Young Darlene didn’t view this as a kidnapping. She viewed it as a new start with a better family. It was a dream for her for a day. The next day the cops raided the home to rescue Darlene. And now, Darlene’s inner conflict is what life would have been like living with that woman or not having Elliot.
Elliot decided that instead of hacking the cell carrier, he would just follow policy and procedure and ask the carrier to trace the blocked call. With the fax sent Elliot and the driver are in a holding pattern. The driver decides to shoot the breeze. Elliot uses this opportunity to tune him out and talk to Inner Elliot. Why was Dad so spooked with that phone call? Why is he suddenly scarce? Elliot thinks the answers to those questions might manifest themselves in his apartment. That’s all Dad could talk about at Mrs. Wellick’s home. He even asks Inner Elliot to take a look, see if he can find out what that is.
Elliot makes the call. Impersonating a NY Police detective. Elliot follows the procedure and gets the information he’s looking for. Most importantly, the coordinates of the originating phone that made the call to Mrs.
Wellick’s burner. In short order, Elliot has the location and residence of that phone. The driver stands up and his reaction is not great. He knows this location and is all too displeased to know that this is the location of the phone. (My gut instinct is that the location in question is that of Mr. Knowles-Just to mess with Mrs. Wellick).
The feds break in the door of an apartment and scour its contents. Dom discovers a security badge with Cisco’s picture and one must assume, his real name. The feds issue a bolo on Cisco and the Nurse tending to Vincent’s injuries, who has absolutely seen Cisco up close sees the news bulletin. While Cisco and Darlene grab something to eat at Lupe’s, they have no idea the feds have already questioned Vincent’s Nurse.
Elliot spent most of the night ignoring Angela’s many text messages with the urgency that they meet immediately. Elliot now finds Angela on a subway train. He apologizes for taking so long to get back to her. She appears dazed as she often does when she’s struggling with something heavy on her mind. She gets to the point abruptly.
Elliot: What’s wrong?
Angela: Why did you start FSociety?
(Elliot looks around)
Elliot: I didn’t want to involve you.
Angela: An FBI Agent came to my home.
Dom speaks to the Nurse again after her boss went full FBI Leadership and assumed the lead was dead. The news wasn’t on in the ER until after Cisco and Darlene left. They have no reason to think something is afoot. They’re coming back, but Dom is going to search the area to see if she can get the jump on them.
Angela will confess. She is on her way to meet with her lawyer. She won’t burn Elliot or Darlene, but sooner or later she believes this will all make its way back to Elliot. All because she believes something that Elliot does not. That FSociety cannot possibly beat Evil Corp. Elliot is now beginning to see that while he was locked up physically and bound in a construct mentally, everyone else was busy taking risks.
Elliot is genuinely having an emotional conflict. He doesn’t want to leave her. They share a friendly hug and then Elliot goes in…for the kiss that is probably like 15 years overdue.
Angela is able to have the long look. When she comes back to center there are two bodies watching. A black male and white female. Their stature suggests two people of an ‘official’ capacity. Did Angela just set Elliot up the way Ollie tried to set Angela up? If she did, she’s dead to me.
Dom finally makes her way to Washington and 6th ave. The corner where Lupe’s Diner is. She makes a b-line for the couple sitting by the front window. You don’t have to be a big movie/tv viewer to know what happens next. Two riders riding tandem on a crotch rocket motorcycle approach. The one in the rear jumps off holding what looks like an automatic gun of some sort. As predicted, the Dark Army will not permit one of their own from becoming known to law enforcement. Luckily Dom is positioned to the gunman approach. Also doesn’t hurt that she called in all units to her location before going in.
The gunman shoots up the diner but it appears not all that efficiently. The rider still on the bike takes off. Two NYPD cruisers pull up on the gunman. It doesn’t take the gunman long to turn his weapon on himself. As the assailants did in the FBI hotel in China.
Welp! I was wrong. Dom walks out of the diner signaling to the NY’s Finest that she is FBI. By the time she gets across the street and in focus of our lone camera it is obvious that she’s been splattered with someone else’s blood.
During processing, Elliot is still almost catatonic mixed with a pride in his own work. And if you didn’t see it coming, Ray’s goon is one of the guards checking him in. Should’ve seen that coming two weeks ago. CRAIG ROBINSON IS THE WARDEN. I knew he would be there, had no idea he was the warden. Kind of makes that website story line even worse, assuming the website isn’t a metaphor for something yet to be divulged. This is like watching Shawshank Redemption on peyoti. On their way out to the yard, Leon stands in front of Elliot rambling. Incident, trial, conviction all in 24 hours. Which we all know is not accidental or the product of unfair practices. Leon was planted there to watch over and protect if necessary, Elliot. Go back to the almost white supremacists rape scene. “Tell White Rose I had you”.
The artistic effect here is wonderful. We still see Leon leaning back on the bleachers watching the basketball game. But as if the Wizard has gladly pulled back the curtain. As it turns out Leon was binge watching Mad About You before diving head first into Seinfeld. Leon gives him the rundown and it doesn’t take long for anyone with a brain stem to see Leon as Ellis Boyd Redding. In here, Leon is the guy who can get it for you. He’s a regular Sears and Roebuck. All Elliot asks for is a notebook, and we know what that was for.
As the flashback ends, we find Darlene there to pick up Elliot from jail, complete with a brown back with french fries. She then whispers something in his ear that we don’t hear. Meanwhile, Angela is pulling the whole, “I have to hand deliver this sensitive information” angle. This creates a distraction long enough for Angela to plant her usb drive. She copies login credentials and then downloads that sensitive information hinted to earlier. Lovely that the imagery of a poster behind Angela that reads, “Risk Ahead”.
Darlene accompanies Elliot on the train. They attempt to lose what they think is a tail. Elliot has to make a stop. The stop is to visit his mother. She doesn’t live in a dark home that we assumed despite that home being the mental construct for the jail he was in. He makes small talk and she is reluctant to speak. He thanks her for her not involvement but still assistance in helping him survive the last few months. He leaves and she never says a word.
White Rose and assistant visit a grave site. White Rose’s reverence in this moment is an illusion. The grave belongs to the previous E-Corp CEO who attempted to sink White Rose’s “Project”. And he is where he belongs. Then she turns around, squats, and urinates on his grave.
Elliot revels in the benefit of using the bathroom in private. While that seems to be enjoyable, you can’t help but notice Cisco and Darlene yelling it out. It all seems so ‘normal’ until…Dad enters the argument. The wonderful part about this show is that moment when you are perfectly at ease with what you think you know. Then, something happens that makes you question all of it, for as long as you keep the episode paused.
Then you ‘un-pause’ it and proceed to cuss at your television. Dad slowly turns his head to face Elliot and his head/face start glitching in and out between being the head of Dad that we think we know and that of Elliot. Insinuating that the line that divides Elliot from Dad (or his inner conflict with himself) becomes blurry. Now the Elliot standing in the door is no more. Elliot snaps back into it and asks for Cisco’s Dark Army contact. Before Cisco washes his hands of the is whole thing, he gives it to Elliot on paper.
Cisco (hesitates then hands the paper to Elliot): I hope you’re more reliable than your sister.
Afterwards, Elliot sits across from Dad and asks what happened. Elliot was acting relatively normal, then he stopped responding. Like packet loss and Dad stepped in to speak for Elliot some sort of backup connection.
White Rose meets with Price. Small talk to begin. Then as White Rose begins to take this conversation in a positive direction, Price drops the bombshell that eminently, the US Government will control the Washington Township plant. News that does not find White Rose well at all. Price lays out an idea where White Rose goes to the Chinese government to secure Price the money they need and didn’t get from the US Bailout that didn’t happen. White Rose responds favorably, but the last part of that response tips us to the recurring idea that the bigger picture issue at play here may be much larger than we have considered to this point.
White Rose: I will go to the Chinese government, and I’m sure they will be most agreeable. But the next time you threaten my plant…
Price: What…? What? The only move left in that scenario is a third world war. You see, I’m a mercenary. I don’t play fair. I play what I want. So you can have your cute little threats and your watch beeps, order will not save you. I will rain down chaos…even if it hurts me. I would rather see you lose than win myself.
Elliot uses the Dark Army contact from Cisco to hack that contact. His name is Xun. Dad begins to feel off. Like an equilibrium thing if he were still human. He thinks they (Elliot and Dad) are overheating like an overworked computer. He lays out that they will now have to meet this contact. Accessing the contact’s phone mic is not enough. Darlene thinks this is a we situation. We are going to meet this contact. Elliot makes it very clear that Darlene won’t be going. This contact is going to meet Mr. Robot…er…me (Elliot). As improbably as it may seem, nothing is off the table. Elliot and Dad are absolutely acting like a malfunctioning computer. And at this point, I’m not rejecting anything.
Angela meets with an agent from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Its starting to come together. I’m just going to throw this out there without any certainty that his idea is fleshed out or even plausible. Angela’s mother died working in a plant that dealt with Nuclear elements and Evil Corp financed and produced nuclear weapons for China. Again not fleshed out, just shooting from the hip. The toxicity levels of nuclear radiation in Washington Township. Angela is going full whistle-blower.
On an almost empty subway car Elliot stands up and walks to the back of the car disregarding the old man annoyingly assaulting a mini electronic keyboard. He sees himself on the other car away from Cisco and unable to get his attention. All just a day-dream though. Elliot and Cisco arrive at Xun’s library (meeting place). Xun is accompanied by his kabuki mask wearing lackeys. Due to their lack of an appointment, Xun and his men decide to just leave. Elliot yells out interrupting the typical decorum. He demands that Shun relay back to White Rose that Elliot wants to know what is “Stage 2”?
For the second time in two different locations, the power has surged. Never goes out, but surges oddly. Brownouts. This time in the office of the Nuclear Regulatory guy. The deputy director of that department makes her entrance. She asks Angela to accompany her and speaks of the value of everyday citizens. As they walk Angela cannot help but notice the cameras. The director stops short and turns. Her demeanor is peculiar. Alarming almost. Then she asks about Angela’s employment at Evil Corp. Something she never mentioned to the previous agent.
Angela has a change of heart and rightfully so. The corridor they keep walking down gets darker and sketchier with each step. The director’s demeanor is definitely off. Angela wants out of there. Angela turns and walks away.
There was a vhs tape of Darlene speaking to the people wearing the FSociety mask. However, there is a portion of it where she removes the mask. She just realized she does not have that tape. She left it at the smart house and has convinced Cisco it must be retrieved. Something he’s really not excited about. Darlene sits back down on the couch and starts talking to Elliot. Only, Elliot is Dad, visually. Just like that, Dad still talking, Elliot appears in the chair across from him. Then Dad changes back to Elliot. Something that has now happened a couple of times in this episode.
The last thing Angela needs right now is Dom knocking on her door. Dom walks in with a bag of food she brought. Fresh off her meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory people Angela is suspicious of everyone including Dom. She asks to Dom to leave. Dom tells the story of a dream/nightmare she had as an ice breaker to tell Angela that she’s had Angela tailed and knows she’s freaking out. This is Dom’s way of leveling with Angela in a way that the next fed won’t.
Cisco foolishly enters back into the smart house and finds the tape in short order but not before hearing a sound he shouldn’t hear. Meanwhile, Darlene continues to listen to Xun’s audio feed they hacked from his cell phone. He communicates with someone, I’m inclined to think it’s White Rose based on a reference to being on time. He explains that Elliot wants to know what “Stage 2” is. The second party finds that odd as stage 2 was Elliot’s plan. While Darlene listens, White Rose asks for Xun’s phone. As if White Rose is the only one who thinks Elliot is good enough to hack the Dark Army. Then there’s a pounding on the door.
Elliot wanted to return to his place, maybe get some good sleep for once. His inner monologue on his trip home deals primarily with how he is currently accepting of the fact that he is not normal. Then he stops short before his apartment.
Elliot: How can I be normal when the SUV of the man I killed is parked in front of my apartment. Normal? I have no normal.
Elliot walks up to the SUV. The passenger window rolls down to reveal Mrs. Wellick.
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.
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.
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.