WARNING: This review contains spoilers
Relationships are put to the test in the fifth episode of season 2 of Halt and Catch Fire — and one of them may not survive the trial.
While Cameron and Tom wake up to each other brainstorming gameplay and making plans that night to watch Terminator, Sara, in the wake of a romantic romp with Joe, finds an unexpected surprise: a prenuptial agreement, drafted for the couple by her father Jacob. None too pleased, Sara rings her father on the phone as Joe discovers the documents himself.
When Donna takes some early morning leave to catch up on some zzz’s, Bosworth ensures Mutiny’s safety in her absence. At home, she opts for a beer pick-me-up, but promptly spits it out after remembering her condition. She prompts Gordon to get the Westgroup deal “in writing, [because]it seems almost too good to be true”; Gordon’s attempts to brush off Donna fail, and, despite his fear of Donna telling Cameron, he admits to Joe being his connection.
As John tries to input a small amount of order and efficiency into the wily Mutiny group, Cameron fields “pain-in-the-ass” long-time subscriber Chet who’s two months behind on his fees. Meanwhile, Gordon confronts Joe about making the deal with Mutiny official; he refuses, noting his plan was to “amass months of data” before bringing it to Wheeler for official institution. When Joe threatens Mutiny’s expulsion from the network, Gordon says, “You can, but you’re not going to…You’re going to honor that agreement because you’re not the reptilian son-of-a-bitch that everybody says you are. You’re a changed man.”
As Gordon predicted, Donna isolates Cameron in her bedroom and informs her of Joe’s involvement with the Westgroup deal. Cameron becomes infuriated at Gordon’s instigation of the deal, despite Donna’s plea that it was Gordon’s apology for Solaris.
Meeting with a physician, Gordon is told his diagnosis: brain damage from chronic toxic encephalopathy. The doctor informs him there is no treatment for the condition, and that his symptoms will likely get worse over time, saying, “You likely haven’t seen the worse of this yet.”
Donna is inspired to expand the module with a Personals room for singles to meet each other after catching Lev flirting online with a member of Community. After Bosworth reveals his planned date that night, Donna fields a call from Gordon, who tries to set up a date with her, but becomes second priority to her developing idea for Community. Meanwhile, Tom finds out from Lev that Cameron’s distant behavior is a result of “stuff with her ex.” Contemplating this, he leaves the videotape rental of Terminator, his and Cameron’s date plan, on a table. After the phone call, Gordon, looking for someone to listen, finds himself amidst a sea of strobe-lit partygoers in a loud club, revealing “I think I’m dying” to a distracted female dancer he hallucinates is a younger Donna.
In his future father-in-law’s office, Joe pitches the mainframe network project to Jacob, who, despite the “gamble” of Joe’s under-the-table actions, insists on a meeting with Mutiny to solidify the deal. “I never go into business with anyone without looking them in the eye first,” Wheeler remarks. Despite convincing Jacob that Sara was knowledgable of the deal, Joe only later informs her of its correlation with Mutiny. Though impressed by his working of the deal, she tells him, “We don’t keep secrets. I don’t care how small, I can’t do it.”
Bosworth finds a flustered Cameron in her office and prompts her to talk. She expresses her anger over Joe’s secretive involvement with the company. “I know you don’t like Joe — neither do I,” says Bosworth. “But he’s a businessman, not a bad one.” However, he assures Cameron that she is “the only one I trust to get an accurate read on Joe Macmillan.”
The next morning, Donna battles morning sickness, while a nervous Gordon answers the door to Joe, who requests Donna’s representation at the meeting that night with Jacob Wheeler. Despite the awkwardness the situation would present, Donna insists it be Cameron at the meeting; Joe then assigns Donna to prepare Cameron for the meeting. After Joe’s departure, Donna once again puts off Gordon’s attempts to schedule some family time with her that day.
In the lobby of Jacob Wheeler’s office, Cameron gives the cold shoulder to Joe. In the meeting, Cameron uses a Wayne Gretzky reference from a Sports Illustrated magazine in front of her to hook Wheeler into demoing Mutiny. After expressing his interest, Wheeler asks Cameron to vouch for Joe, revealing his engagement to Sara. After some hesitation, Cameron remarks, “He’s a hell of a guy.” Upon departing, Joe stops Cameron in the parking garage. “When I heard that you had weaseled your way back into my life…I was scared, because I thought I was the mark. But [Jacob]’s the mark, isn’t it?” Cameron says, calling him out on his engagement to a billionaire’s kin. Insisting his association is motivated by a desire to help, Joe asks about a letter he sent to Cameron when he initially left Dallas. But before he can elaborate, Sara interrupts the conversation and introduces herself to Cameron, who quickly leaves.
Across town, as Gordon picks up his daughters from school, he encourages them to pick someplace where they can have fun as a family, but the kids opts for video games at Donna’s mother and father’s house instead. Gordon is invited inside by mother-in-law Susan, leading to a discussion about old times. When Gordon thanks Susan for the family’s support over the years, she mistakes it for an offer to repay owed money “just north of $22,000” in relation to Gordon’s failed Symphonic invention. Gordon pulls out his checkbook and writes a check for an even $23,000.
That night, Bosworth’s date is interrupted by his credit card being declined. He phones Cameron at Mutiny, who had just overheard the programmers chatting about subscriber Chet being kicked off of the network. Meeting Bosworth at the restaurant with money, Cameron inquires about Chet’s removal from the network. To his remark that the action was just business, Cameron replies, “No, it’s a community. It’s my community. And we don’t just kick people out.”
Back at the Clark household, Gordon rings up his brother and proposes bringing his daughters for a visit. Meanwhile, on the outside porch of Mutiny headquarters, Donna finds Bosworth, who relates his suspicion that Cameron might be pregnant after finding a pregnancy test in the trash. Donna reveals it was her test, not Cameron’s.
Inside, the programmers sit around the television set enjoying the Terminator videotape Tom has initially nabbed for his and Cameron’s date. In the midst of the film, Tom leaves for “a date, and not in a Community room, but with an actual, living, breathing woman.” Cameron, secluding herself in her bedroom, becomes upset, only to find Tom crawling through her window, remarking, “I think they bought it.” Realizing Cameron’s feelings, Tom embraces her.
Ready for bed, Joe, holding the pre-nuptial agreement, finds Sara in their living room. Handing the documents to her, he shows his signature on the last page, saying, “The only thing I’m after is you.” Sara immediately asks for some time apart, revealing she’s going back to Austin.
While not heavy on major action or revelation, this episode was integral in connecting the Cardiff team together again and assessing where they stand with each other.
Many of the characters expressed their belief that Joe is a “changed” man; even Bosworth spouted his respect for Joe and his business acumen despite what happened at Cardiff. It seems only Cameron remains suspicious of ulterior motive or betrayal, knowing more intimately how Macmillan and his mind works. Halfway into the season and the writers are making sure not to reveal Joe’s poker hand too soon, which bears the question: could Sara really have had that much of an impact on Joe and his perceptions of and approach to people? While Joe’s business savvy has in no way waned, he seems truly different because of Sara, willingly scaling the obstacles Daddy Dearest has put in his way to make it official with her. But with his renewed involvement with Cameron, no matter how much distance Cameron is determined to keep between her and Joe, I can’t help but feel that she has something to do with Sara’s decision to “take a break” from Ross…err…Joe, and may have a greater impact on their relationship later on. There’s just too much history between Cameron and Joe. (And that’s not even bringing up his letter to Cameron, of which we have yet to learn the contents.)
Regarding Cameron and Bosworth’s relationship, I see both sides of the issue. Cameron can’t have her cake and eat it too — if she wants Bosworth to handle the business side and treat Mutiny like a business, she needs to know what that entails. Bosworth has no emotional or loyal attachment to the subscribers or programmers of Mutiny — he cares about the business being profitable and successful, as is his job, and Cameron needs to realize that. However, with as small-scale an operation as Mutiny is right now, and with Cameron still in the seat of head honcho, Bosworth should consult with her on decisions affecting the bottom line, especially while he’s still acclimatizing himself to Mutiny and its workflow.
And let us never forget the classic Joe Macmillan/Lee Pace nickname “Admiral Eyebrows.” That is all.