Halt and Catch Fire: ‘Working for the Clampdown’ Recap & Review

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WARNING: This article contains spoilers!

The stage is finally set for the ultimate battle of loyalties in the second season’s seventh episode of Halt and Catch Fire, but who will claim victory remains to be seen.

Gordon finally reveals to Donna his diagnosis, and she reacts as he predicted she would, offering to quit her job at Mutiny to care for him. He assures her of his health and ability to carry on, including the convenience of his new computer company being in the garage and with friends.  

In Jacob Wheeler’s office, Joe and Jacob lay out their plans for Mutiny post-acquisition, proposing to turn the entire block on which Mutiny HQ resides into a “mini-campus” of their design. While serious business is being discussed at Westgroup, the programmers at Mutiny are opting for more silly entertainment with Wall Walker toy races. A frazzled Cameron interrupts their play time and orders them back to work, then returns to a meeting in the kitchen with Tom and his mother Karen. After Karen compliments Cameron on Mutiny and its potential and departs, Cameron answers the phone to Joe, who informs her of Westgroup’s plans for Mutiny and sets a meeting for the following day to present their offer. When Cameron responds with nothing but silence, Joe reassures her, “This is good news, I swear.”

The next day, as Cameron nervously discusses the coming meeting, Donna requests a few days’ off, but is unable to tell Cameron the reason before Joe enters the house. In the meeting, the plan is passed around between Cameron, Donna and Bosworth. Joe expands on the inventory specifics and furthers his pitch, saying, “Mutiny’s killer app isn’t games — it’s people. And when you sign with us, you won’t have to worry about numbers anymore…you can focus on what you love, which is bringing people together.” Cameron stiffens at the implication that games would be put by the wayside in favor of a “global expansion,” but Joe tries to convince her of the control she’d have over Mutiny’s direction by saying, “Let’s leave the past where it is and build something truly special together. No, scratch that — you build it. I’ll get out of the way this time.” Cameron takes the plan and departs the room, addressing the house’s programmers and rallying them against Westgroup’s takeover plan. Cameron rips the plan to pieces as an irritated Joe looks on. 

In the Clark’s garage, Gordon gathers a team of four engineering friends and former co-workers for a meeting. After guaranteeing a match of their current salary at their day jobs, Gordon elaborates on his vision for his company. “Guys with screwdrivers and soldering irons, sitting of these benches, doing what they do best…No more retail stores, no more middlemen, no more cubicles, no more bulls**t.” Meanwhile, Donna visits her mother Susan and delivers the news of Gordon’s condition, saying, “It’s not a death sentence. It’s a complication. And Lord knows the two of us have overcome our fair share of those.” But her mother expresses doubts about the situation, suggesting the miscarriage she believed Donna had was a “blessing in disguise.” 

After Cameron pushes Lev to ask out a guy he’s been flirting with for some time (since episode 5, “Extract and Defend”), Carl interrupts the programmers’ work and ushers them into another room, where he has the torn puzzle of the Mutiny acquisition plan nearly completed. Perusing the document, they find out Cameron’s ownership of 90% of the company. At Westgroup, Bosworth meets with Joe. While he comments that the deal sounds good, he concurs with Cameron’s apprehension. “Can’t fault the kid for being a little squirrelly, either, can you? Hell, Joe — you seemed like a pretty good deal to me back in the day.” Joe pushes with compliments and assurances of a position for him in the company, but little is accomplished as Bosworth reminds him of Cameron’s proprietorship. At Joe’s insistence that he’s Cameron’s “go-to,” a worn-down Bosworth gives Joe his loophole to Cameron: “What can I say? The kid’s in love.” Joe’s evident uneasiness from the statement is disrupted by the entrance of Jacob, who greets Bosworth, then departs. After Joe nudges in one final pitch, Bosworth closes the meeting by saying, “I won’t be bought, Joe. And if that’s what Cameron wants, none of us will.”

At the Clark household, Gordon reassures Donna that she doesn’t have to watch after him. After Donna notes she’s missed him, she comments, “I know that’s why you went to Henry’s. You needed someone else because I wasn’t there for you,” but any further conversation is dropped by engineer Larry’s search in the house for a mug. After learning Gordon’s expense of $40,000 on CPU chips, Donna asks Larry to keep an eye out for any out-of-the-ordinary behavior from Gordon. 

Back at his desk in the data entry department, Joe is met by a frustrated Tom, at whose house he had left a copy of the terms sheet of the Mutiny plan. As Tom calls Joe out on giving his mother high hopes about the money Tom would stand to make from the deal, Joe uses that and his relationship with Cameron as leverage to pitch the deal to Tom, saying, “You care about Cameron. You should. She’s special. But you have to ask yourself if you’re doing right by her if you let her make this decision from a place of pure emotion.” Befuddled, Tom departs.

Bosworth meets with Cameron in her office and recaps Joe’s proposal of a position for him with the acquired Mutiny. Cameron asks, “Is that what you want?” Tom arrives from his own confrontation with Joe and encounters the programmers still taping the shredded pieces of the plan together. When they ask how much money the acquisition was for, Tom feigns ignorance, but Cameron, behind them, answers: “It was $5 million, but we already made our decision.” The programmers challenge her on the lack of a democratic vote and the high percentage of her company ownership. To settle the issue, Cameron gathers everyone into the room and calls a vote. When the tally begins leaning towards not selling the company, Tom’s vote is interrupted by a phone call stating Lev is in the hospital.

At dinner, Jacob joins Joe and Sara at the table. When Sara comments on her unhappiness in Dallas, Jacob initially attributes her feelings to an initial period of Sara and Joe “building a foundation” together, but quickly cuts to his actual thoughts on the matter: “You don’t need to hit the reset button every time you feel the slightest bit of discomfort…I hate to see both of you throw away everything you’ve been building here just because of some anxious whimsy on your part stemming from the mistakes you made with your ex-husband.” Joe comes to Sara’s defense, noting he believes the two of them “can navigate our engagement without your input.”

In the Clark garage, the engineers test their first computer build with success. After spotting the Cardiff Electric Giant box on a nearby shelf, Gordon begins talking passionately about finding the right idea that’ll ensure great success. Met with cheers all around the room, he continues, “Just two weeks ago, I was ready to walk into Joe’s office and tell him that a portable under 15 pounds — it couldn’t be done. And now, the Giant is gonna be the lightest machine on the market.” He is met with confused stares. When asked about Joe, Gordon snaps out of his state and leaves the garage. 

Donna meets Cameron at the hospital and asks about Lev, learning the guy he was flirting with on Community and was scheduled to meet that day was actually a group of guys that, upon meeting, assaulted him. Donna heads into Lev’s room and sits next to his bed as he slumbers. Later, in the lobby, Cameron breaks the silence lingering between her and Tom by asking what his vote for the Mutiny acquisition was going to be. Tom talks about the financial struggles his mother went through when he was a kid, and reveals his mother was laid off from her job right before her meeting with Cameron. “I don’t want you to think that this is about money. ‘Cause it’s not…This job means a lot to me. And I hope it goes on for a long, long time. But you also mean a lot to me. And I want us to go on for a long, long time. You gave me this job. It’s your company.” Declaring the company “belongs to everybody,” Cameron sets off to call Joe to accept the deal.

Leaving the restaurant, Sara puts her apprehension about Joe into words: “When we came down from the observatory, we talked about moving forward, but the way you’re acting now, the way you’re headed, you’re back-sliding and I didn’t sign up for that…I want you to stop meddling in other people’s companies and build your own, somewhere else, like we talked about.” As Joe tries to assure her their histories won’t repeat, a valet pulls her car to the curb and Sara leaves Joe on the sidewalk.

Celebrating with drinks in Wheeler’s office, Joe begins laying out the first steps for post-acquisition Mutiny for Jacob. When Joe mentions the company’s first game release, Jacob orders a change in direction with a focus on expanding the Community features and moving away from gaming. Citing the immense competition of the burgeoning field of game entertainment systems, Jacob says, “Continuing with online games at this point would be just throwing good money after bad.” After Joe fails to change Jacob’s mind, he reminds him, “A big part of my pitch to them was that they would maintain creative freedom.” Heavy sarcasm drips from Jacob’s response: “Yeah. That was smart.”

After finding a drink in the hospital, Cameron returns to Lev’s room to find Joe waiting. Moving their conversation to the hall, Joe compares the incident with Lev with a memory of bullying from his childhood. “I was 11 years old and I was already running from something…It’s dangerous to really try and connect with someone. It’s so special when you find a person you can be yourself with. You were that. Sara is.” He then tells Cameron not to sell the company, informing her of Jacob’s intentions and the sacrifices she’d make if she did. “And where do you fit into all this?” Cameron asks. Joe replies, “I don’t. I’m removing myself from the equation.” 

Donna finds a solemn Gordon in the bedroom. He reveals the form containing his company Clark Computers’ first order, declaring, “We’re officially in business.”

Arriving home from the hospital, Joe is surprised to find Sara in the living room. Joe announces his intent to resign from Westgroup, saying, “I do believe I am the person you fell in love with. If you want me to go, I’ll go.” Asked what she wants, Sara declares her desire to get married that day and be in California in two weeks. The two embrace upon Joe’s agreement.

When Cameron arrives back at Mutiny, she faces the busy group of programmers. “Let me just make one thing clear: This is my company. And I’m not selling it.”

70%
70%
Very Good

While not as tense and exciting as last week’s episode, this one has finally set up Joe for the ultimate choice he’ll have to make between Sara and Cameron.

There are indications that his choice can go either way. Something as big as his informing Cameron of Jacob’s motives with Mutiny, and something as virtually indiscernible as his uncomfortable reaction to hearing about Cameron being in love, are all signs that indicate certain feelings for Cameron are still there. But then you have the efforts he’s making to have it work with Sara, including quitting at Westgroup, agreeing to marry her immediately, not to mention that extremely powerful line “You were that. Sara is.” There are fewer indications of the old Joe trying to leak out so much as signs of this new Joe trying to stifle old Joe’s natural tendencies. This Ross/Rachel/Emily triangle (Friends reference, if anyone’s wondering) will ultimately boil down to just how much Joe truly has changed.

On a different note, I am curious where this side story with Lev is going. I remember in my review for “Extract and Defend” that I was going to mention Lev’s moment of online flirtation, but I didn’t see it as anything extremely relevant to mention in the recap…that is, until this episode aired. I’m assuming Lev will be used as a plot device to unite or separate characters of the main cast in some way, but while I find the development of the smaller characters great, it seems misplaced, especially when we have little effort put into the development on the other programmers.

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