Halt and Catch Fire S3 E5: Yerba Buena

Can you beat Xenophobe (Or #BlueMohawkGuy)?

Help me come up with a backstory for #BlueMohawkGuy

Sorry for the quality of the screen capture, but I am not so good at that end of things.

Halt and Catch Fire might not specialize in Mr. Robot level Easter Eggs but they did contribute a nice set of social games for us to play this week. One was built around naming games from the Atari 2600 and the other might have been Colecovision (have to watch again).

In addition, we almost got real words in passing from the mouth of my favorite silent Mutiny employee the now infamous #BlueMohawkGuy.  I am as serious about trying to build the cult of #BlueMohawkGuy as many are about the cult of Bill on Mr. Robot.

Anyway, let's get to the recap if you haven't seen S3 E5 "Yerba Buena" stop reading now *Spoiler Alert*

Joe, I Know You So Much Better Now

So, last week I was thrilled that Joe was sticking up for LGBTQ people at a time when that really wasn't very common. It is still awesome, if unlikely, that he did that, but this week I realized that I missed a great deal of subtext in the Joe scenes this season.

In virtually every party scene Joe (Lee Pace) has been in for the entire season, he has left Ryan (Manish Dayal) to go talk to a young man, usually in a corner or a shadow. I didn't think much of it until, in last night's episode, Ryan catches that guy meeting with Joe at home and also catches Joe crying when he thinks that nobody is watching him.

As near as I can put things together, and this was the result of some pretty subtle foreshadowing, Joe had an affair with this young gentleman who later told him that he was HIV positive. Joe went to get tested for HIV and finds out that he does not have the disease (the scene where he is on his porch smiling). The name of this episode is Yerba Buena (an early name for San Francisco) and the exposition from Ryan later suggests that San Francisco is a place of reinvention.  

Earlier in the episode, Joe seems put off by the idea San Francisco being a place of hope (he is terrified of his upcoming diagnosis) and he also suggests that he might not have one more "new start" left in him (again a reference to possibly having what, at the time, was considered an almost immediately fatal virus). Joe's smile suggests that he may have found his Yerba Buena.

Luckily, now that he is excited about life again because he finally has figured out what is coming next.

Let me take a second to talk about "genius."

I coached an academic sport successfully for several decades, I also competed in that sport at a high level. Many of the people I coached and met went on to monster careers in the legal profession, in politics, and in academia. 

I think it is safe to say that I have been around a few geniuses (o at least subject-area geniuses) and one thing I learned is that it is often impossible to explain or teach. In my experience, "real genius" is often innate (even almost accidental).

I know that for me it was even hard to take credit or be proud of accomplishments around talent that seemed built-in (I am not saying in any way I was or am a genius at anything). My point is only that hard work was necessary, but often, what made me or any of the people that I coached "better" seemed talent as much as practiced skill.

This is why people who are really good at doing things often suck at teaching things. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life wasn't becoming a good competitor, it was becoming a good coach for this exact reason. I had no idea what how I did it, I just did it.

Anyway, I think Joe is this kind of genius. He knows what will work when he sees it. If you asked him, or his character, how he knows why something might work, he would probably say something that sounded profound but was really genius talk for "I have no f'n idea."

So, Ryan did what Joe asked him to do last week and looked up and mapped every element of Arpanet (boy doesn't that sound like fun). Ryan puts up the map and Joe looks at it for a bit before realizing that the opportunity is not the computer or the apps at all.

Joe figures out that what is coming will be the internet and the opportunity is the infrastructure for what will become the internet. He also sees that what will make the internet take off is investment and infrastructure.

So, if you were wondering, Joe and Ryan are going to be out in front of the internet revolution by helping to create the infrastructure that will enable it taking off.

Where Donna Makes Gordon So Sad That He Goes Back To His Ham Closet (Or Was It Gordon?)

Donna (Kerry Bishe) and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) are supposed to take the weekend to go camping (maybe glamping, given some of the discussion). They have freedom because the kids are gone and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) is on her trip to Dallas to see her parents.

Ultimately, they decide to forgo camping and play at stay at home fun. In between tense argumentative moments, usually involving the discussion of Cameron and work, they decide to have sex.

Multiple times. 

Then we find out it is the first time they have had sex multiple times since Gerald Ford was President (which means they made it through the rest of Ford, all of Carter, and about 6 years of Reagan if I am remembering the timeline correctly). Isn't marriage grand?

The good news? They at least partially got their groove on after listening to "Train In Vain" by my favorite band "The Clash" (you might have noticed my blog is named after a lyric to a Clash song)

Despite all of the "happy happy joy joy" the bedroom talk swings all the way back to camping. We learn that Gordon and Donna used to go to Yosemite for vacations and that, from the way he talks about it, these were magical times for Gordon. We also learn that for Donna these trips were mostly awful and that she hates camping. She, in fact, hates camping so much that she calls continuing to choose camping is a form of insanity.

To Gordon, this seems to hit him almost exactly like when Alice (Nicole Kidman) told Bill (Tom Cruise) about her sex with a stranger fantasy during Eyes Wide Shut. The male ego is an odd and fragile thing (I certainly know about this). It probably makes sense to remember that despite being the person who actually cheated on his wife, Gordon feels like his wife has left or is leaving him. He seems to feel like he hardly knows her and the lever that unlocked her strangeness was his own infidelity. 

There is little doubt that Gordon feels wrong, which is why it is so ironic that Train in Vain is what leads them to the bedroom:

You say you stand by your man
Tell me something I don't understand
You said you love me and that's a fact
And then you left me, said you felt trapped

Well some things you can explain away
But the heartache's in me till this day

Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
No way

So, after hearing the difference between the wife he thinks he had and the wife he has Gordon almost immediately disconnects from his wife. He had promised to take Donna to a breakfast place they both used to love for but instead spends the morning working on his ham radio (remember his Ham radio closet?). 

Gordon's insecurities about his wife succeeding while he fails. His insecurities about his illness while she is healthy. His wife also represents his physical estrangement from the world as his faculties are starting to fail him. As he starts to feel strange in the world he is starting to see her as something lost that cannot be recovered. He is starting to see her, like he really sees himself, as already gone.

No matter what happens, I am starting to think Gordon is going to mess around and ruin one of the only truly solid thing he has in his life. 

In Eyes Wide Shut, Bill escapes the nightmare he engages because his ego cannot handle his wife's shared fantasy. Will Gordon escape, or fall down the Ham radio (rabbit) hole?

Bos, Cameron, Texas, and Family

Halt Bos and Son.jpg

I have certainly learned that family is complicated (to say the least).

Bosworth (Toby Huss) has been like a surrogate Father to Cameron and, to some extent, we see why when he tries to reconnect with his estranged son (and Grandson). It takes less than one day for Bosworth's son to accuse him of trying to make up for a nearly full life of being absent in one visit to see his Grandson.

Soon after, he is driving Cameron to see her family and tries to get her to get out of the car and go save some of her Fathers things before her Mom and Step Father sell everything. Cameron lets her Fathers motorcycle get sold and only gets out of the car after she tells Bos that he isn't her Father and never will be. 

Instead of waiting for Cameron, Bosworth tears off and leaves her there.

Poor Bos feels useless at work, almost like he doesn't belong and that all he has left is his sales schtick. The only thing that keeps him there is Cameron, and she just told him to take a flying leap and his real son barely talks to him (and basically told him to go f*ck himself. 

Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that Cameron really came home to see Tom (Mark O'Brian) who is her ex-boyfriend (and a talented coder in his own right). Well, this might be unfair, she does visit her parent's house (and the old Mutiny house I believe). She has a drink from her old flask on the roof as the 4th of July fireworks go off around her.

She has a very complicated dinner conversation with Tom, and you can see what an amazing actor Mackenzie Davis is because she somehow communicates how deeply she loves Tom and how hard it is for her to both communicate her longing, sadness, and inability to close the distance between them on her own.

Something good must have happened between them because when Bosworth goes back to San Francisco Cameron is not with him.

Trust is Hard-Earned but Easily Destroyed

Donna may think that he is negotiating the stress of her husband's infidelity and illness well, but it is clearly wearing on her. 

She spends the first part of the episode arguing with Cameron about adding credit card payment for trades on "Swap Meet." The user base is complaining about not being able to carry out meaningful monetary transactions and Thing 1 and Thing 2 are hot to start capitalizing on the financial potential of their new user base (they are apparently doubling every week).

Cameron is adamantly opposed to the credit card solution because she doesn't want the credit card companies to "own" what is ultimately a unique and new property. She tells Donna not to do anything until she gets back from Texas and then she leaves.

As I mentioned earlier, Cameron returns late, Donna is so frustrated with Cameron's disappearing act that she goes ahead and gives "the Things" permission to start working up a beta for the credit card payment system. And then Cameron returns, she is less than thrilled to hear that Donna has approved the credit card solution.

It turns out that Cameron (perhaps with the help of Tom) worked up a different solution using the same routing number system that banks use to shuttle money from place to place. It is such an elegant solution that Donna backs down pretty quickly. 

Not only that but Cameron, maybe for the first time in her life (or at least in a long time) professes her caring and love for Donna and admits that Donna is the best thing that has ever happened to her. She agrees to always have her back and participates in a meaningful hug. She finally opens up and embraces another human being (maybe a second, we will see what happened to our old friend Tom).

But then, in order to make amends for her previous behaviors, she goes home and calls Diane (Annabeth Gish) to say that she is sorry for being late, for asking her to fire "the Things," and for missing the dinner with Diane, Donna, and "the Things"

Diane tells her that there is no need to apologize, that she is fully invested in Cameron's talent, that she is impressed by the "routing" solution, and that she said it was okay to fire "the Things."

In case you forgot, Donna lied to Cameron about this point on last week's episode.

Yerba Buena ends with Joe hopeful, Gordon about to self-destruct, Cameron devastated, Bos frustrated, and Donna blissfully unaware of the gathering storm.


Who is #BlueMohawkGuy? What is his backstory? Have some fun with this :)

Will #BlueMohawkGuy ever get an actual line?

What is your prediction on Gordon's current path?

What is the song my blog name came from?

What happened between Cameron and Tom?

Let me know what you think, leave a comment!