Halt and Catch Fire S3 E7: "The Threshold"
I think most fans of HACF will tell you, this show is about a strange but fascinating non-nuclear family, so when stuff happens that hurts members of that family, it can be profoundly affecting. This episode had me on such edge that it took me awhile to roll up my sleeves and start the actual writing of this recap.
Let me apologize for being late today. Unfortunately, I don't get the episodes early like the paid recappers, and these recaps take me four or more hours per recap. All of that said, I do apologize for being late.
Also, I get my transcripts from foreverdreaming.org.
By the way, there was a #BlueMohawkGuy sighting this week. But just one (sigh). Still no spoken lines for the man with the gelatin in his locks. More on this below.
Anyway, it was a really crazy episode, if you have not seen S3 E7 "The Threshold" yet then stop reading now. * Spoiler Alert *
Gordon Knows Joe
Most people would gasp and say "Joe did what?" after hearing Joe (Lee Pace) had admitted, in a filmed legal deposition no less, that he stole the entire guts of the program that allowed the creation of McMillan security.
Not Gordon (Scoot McNairy), heck Gordon didn't even tell his wife (or consult her later about settling with McMillan Security) about his windfall. On what has increasingly become a show about the damage that even small secrets and lies can cause between people who love each other, this is no small secret (his lawyer conservatively estimates Joe has just gifted Gordon 25 Million dollars).
But Gordon knows Joe, he may be the only person on the show that really understands him. He acts only in the interest of whatever his current obsessions are. He knows that there is no way Joe would just give the company to him without it being critical to Joe's larger plans.
Joe is also not being subtle here, he knew his only way to carry out his plans for the backbone of the area internet, after his relationship with the board blew up, was to give up control and find someone else to help him complete his plans. And with Joe maintaining the status quo has never been his priority.
Joe's greatest strength is also his greatest weakness (almost like a character in one of those Greek tragedies) he has the uncanny ability to ferret out the future and a total inability to stop himself from pursuing whatever it is that he sees.
But Gordon knows all of this and he also understands Joe well enough to follow the breadcrumbs. So, he knows about Joe and Ryan's plan pretty quickly. But, at first, his plan is to make Joe watch as he carries out the ARPANET plan himself. In fact, when Gordon goes to negotiate the settlement with Ken Diebold he agrees to give up his rights to everything but the ARPANET plan expressly to stick it to Joe.
Let's come back to this in a second.
Ambition Creates Mutiny + The Friendly Fascism of Donna
At the beginning of this episode, Tom (Mark O'Brian) arrives from Dallas to move in with Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and (apparently) attempt to carry her over the threshold. Ultimately, after a bit of faux argument, they agree to walk in together as co-equal partners in whatever future they are going to try to build.
As I mentioned last week, I don't see this romance lasting for the exact same reason Cameron wanted to marry Tom (he is a rock, the safest option, a calm in her storm). But, juxtapose the negotiation between Tom and Cameron in regards to the threshold with the passive-aggressive warfare that builds for the rest of the episode between Donna and Cameron.
It is rare that you see the nicest person on a show morph into its major villain, but we are seeing Donna (Kerry Bishe) turn from everyone's rock into the person most likely to kill even her closest allies with a smile and hardly another thought.
Donna and Cameron have a discussion where they agree to play nice and do work together about the potential merger and all other issues. They also agree to a dinner with Gordon and Donna and Cameron and Tom.
Cameron says how hard it has been to trust Donna since "the lie" a few weeks ago and Donna admits it was a mistake and that she would like Cameron to trust her again. They agree to an entirely fresh start.
Cameron takes this very seriously and spends the next day working non-stop to put together her plan for doing everything she thinks that would be necessary for Mutiny to be truly ready for the IPO (everything necessary where Mutiny did not lose its soul in the process).
For Cameron, this is a major concession and an attempt to meet Donna halfway. She is honestly baffled at Donna's response when she hands Donna the sheaf of plans and the timetable (one to two years). Part of this is naivete on Cameron's part and part of it is willful blindness. Cameron has spent all of her time thinking about it being an argument between friends and ignoring what is really going on with Donna.
So, what is really going on with Donna?
There are two scenes in last week's episode which I believe show you the motives behind her transformation from everybody's rock into the shows smiling assassin .
First, when Donna is hanging out drinking with Dianne's daughter at Dianne's vacation home this exchange happens:
Daughter: "I can't believe you actually work at AGG."
Donna: "Oh, no, no, your mom's an investor in my company. It's an online service called Mutiny."
Friend of Daughter: "Shut up. Shut up. You own Mutiny?"
Donna: "Yeah, a part of it."
Friend of Daughter: "Wait, are you CamHowe? This is insane. I'm EstimatedProphet."
Donna: "No, no, Cam is my partner."
And then, just a little bit later when Donna has the conversation with the hallucinated Cameron:
Cameron: "You Lied To Me"
Donna: "I know, but I... it didn't feel like a lie at the time. It felt like what was best for the company, like what was best for you. I am just as good at this as you are."
Cameron: "No one ever said you weren't."
Donna: "They don't have to say it. It's there all the time. It's deafening. Cam is the genius. Donna is the mom."
So, Donna sees this as her last best chance to show not only that she can be successful but that she can be the sole reason for her companies success. This is her last best chance to show that she is not a secretary or a housewife. This is her chance to be seen by everyone as a genius (just like her husband has occasionally been called or as Cameron or Joe have been called or considered before).
What I am going to say here is going to be controversial among fans of the show, but I am suggesting that Donna wanted to use this issue to wrest sole control of Mutiny from Cameron.
"They don't have to say it, it's there all the time, Cam is the genius. Donna is the Mom."
So, anyway, they all go to dinner and the dialog seems strained and forced. Polite questions are asked and stock answers are given. And after they all go home, everything starts to unravel.
I feel bad about writing this, in fact, the reason this is late is because the episode and this realization upset me so much. I did not want to write this down (or type it or whatever).
Gordon knows this too, he takes Cameron aside and warns her. He lets her know that as much as he disagrees with Donna he can't vote his percentage against her. He tries to warn Donna that he both disapproves and that he won't vote his percentage of votes with her and he sees that she is fully committed. He tells her she is crossing a line (a threshold) that she can't come back from. But you can tell he knows that Donna has made up her mind.
When Donna goes ahead with her plan despite Gordon's warning, she is basically saying that Cameron's only chance is surrender (and she knows Cameron can never surrender on this issue).
The craziest part of this is that Cameron while being a pain in the ass in many ways, has always truly loved and respected Donna. This is not about Cameron at all. This is about Donna being willing to sacrifice her partner and close friend to finally have the credibility and power she maybe never before admitted to herself that she truly wants.
This is the ugly ghost of everyone who used her as a prop except when they needed her engineering expertise or who assumed she liked to go on camping trips (took her real nature for granted) rising from the grave.
Cameron manipulated everyone involved to get Tom to California and over the threshold and Donna is setting the board for getting her over the threshold to becoming the unipolar power at Mutiny (taking Cameron out).
Bos Figures It Out
John Bosworth (Toby Huss) finally explains everything that has been going on with him over most of the season (thank goodness).
For Bos, the episode starts with a mea culpa at Diane's house.
In case you forgot, Diane (Annabeth Gish) and Bos hooked up in his car after they met up for drinks after the opera. The problem was that when Diane invited him over for a nightcap after the car coupling, Bos said no.
Last week, I suggested it is because he still wasn't over his wife leaving him.
After reluctantly opening the door to him, Diane sees an authentically apologetic Bos. He mentions that he felt strange after because he was uncertain about his ex-wife and that he was afraid Diane would be angry when she discovered that he had done time in prison
Diane, in typical Diane fashion, let's him know that she already knew about the prison because she would never invest in a company unless she had done due diligence on every employee.
Thank goodness, I like Bos and Diane (as characters and together). Sure they are fictional characters, but I like my fictional character couplings to be satisfying and make sense too.
So, it becomes clear for the rest of the show that Bos and Diane are becoming a unit (which will become important later). It is important to remember that Bos has been thrown to the side by his wife and son when he needed them most and recently the person he saw as an adopted daughter (Cameron) told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was not her Father.
His son barely talks to him, and only barely allowed him to see his grandchild.
Oh, and Cameron went off and got married without even telling him.
The main reason Bos is in San Fransisco is because he loves Cameron. He doesn't know anything about tech and just came along because he owed and cares about her.
Remember, in relation to all of this betrayal all around him that Diane chose Bos.
So, when Cameron runs to Bos (during the Mutiny wedding party for Tom and Cam) to tell him what Donna is doing and ask for advice, it is amazing that Bos gives her really good advice.
Heck, he even tells her he loves her twice.
He suggests that she "make her case" to all the voting stakeholders and try to persuade them to her vision. He tells her, as Gordon does, that she should not force a choice.
But here is the thing, and I have talked about this before. Cameron is so connection-averse that her "way" when she feels threatened is to run at the threat screaming "go ahead and leave me." Rather than be abandoned, when she senses she is at risk, she sets fire to the house first.
So, because everyone is at the party, rather than take some time and practice her pitch, she calls everyone in and presents her case right then and right there.
Donna barely lets her even get going before cutting her off and presenting the hard-line case for a quick IPO.
Cameron, frustrated and so terrified of abandonment that she is willing to pull the passive-aggressive pin on any grenade (so she can "leave" instead of being abandoned), essentially forces Donna to call the question.
She tells Donna if she loses the vote she is gone and Donna says she will also leave if the vote goes against her.
One of the themes of this season has been that these people know each other so well by now that they really know how to hurt each other with their word choices.
Cameron goes right at Donna's weakness, asking everyone if they want to lose the person who created the company to support someone who is just "along for the ride."
Donna also gets some really brutal hits on Cameron's marriage to Tom in the process, I mean really mean stuff both ways like:
Donna: "We can't afford to be impulsive here."
Cameron: "You're calling me impulsive? Wow. What's that supposed to mean?"
Donna: "I think people are out there celebrating what that means."
Cameron: "Oh, you mean that bullshit little party you threw to distract me from getting stabbed in the back?"
And then a bit later:
Cameron: "Says the woman that will take any excuse not to go home to her husband."
Donna: Hey. "Why don't we see if your marriage lasts the year before you start doling out relationship advice?"
Well, sadly, the question is called and every single person votes for Donna's position and against Cameron's (most heartbreakingly, even Bos).
Cameron is out of her own company.
It was a really hard scene to watch.
Remember that Cameron was considering starting a new company with "Thing 2" earlier in the season. There is also one other possible place she might land in the short term. Obviously, she could also end up back at Mutiny.
But, I will call this now, the IPO will go relatively well, and then everything Cameron predicted would happen will happen, and Donna will either become a slimy businessperson or fail miserably.
I suspect the Donna we see at the end of this thing is going to be very different than the Donna we first met three years ago.
The Good End Of The Fallout
Okay, Mutiny is in total shock (and maybe ruin). Cameron is out, Gordon is probably furious with his wife, Bos just destroyed one of the most important relationships in his life, and Donna has "Broken Bad."
But there is one good thing, Gordon realized that what he was doing with Joe was what his wife just did to Cameron.
So, he goes and makes things right with Joe.
Joe and Gordon are back together again. Although, Joe has to be a silent partner until the settlement is amicably accomplished between the McMillan security board and Gordon.
Looks like we will get to see, once again, what happens when everyone gets back on the Joe train (including perhaps a reunited Joe and Cameron - I obviously agree with Donna about the wedding between Cameron and Tom).
So everything is back on track for the ARPANET backbone right?
Ryan "The Wild Card"
So, earlier in the episode, Joe talked to Ryan (Manish Dayal) twice about keeping clear of him and not telling the McMillan people ANYTHING about ANYTHING.
What Joe did not count on was that Ryan, despite being kind of a genius, is also kind of nuts.
Throughout the entire process of Joe being forced out, Ryan starts to unravel. It makes sense, Ryan hitched his entire wagon to Joe.
Well, during his interview with Ken Diebold (Matthew Lillard) he says nothing, gets fired, but Ken stokes up his paranoia by suggesting that Joe and Gordon are in cahoots.
Rather than turn on Joe, Ryan takes all his angst and paranoia and decides to turn on McMillan security to get revenge for Joe. As Ryan tells Joe later:
Ryan: I released the source code for MacMillan Utility's security software to the public.
Joe: What are you talking about? It's free, Joe. Really free, like we always wanted. People can tinker with it, they can make it better... or worse, that can happen, too. The point is MacMillan Utility can no longer profit off of it.
Joe: But that's illegal.
Ryan: And I released documents to the media proving that MacMillan Utility was totally on board with charging the public for 2.0 all along, and they only went after you when you tried to stop them. Yeah, it shows that they weren't trying the protect people or... or keep them safe. They were just going to exploit them. And I laid out for the media how you lost your job defending your ideals.
So, basically, Ryan just got rid of the value of the deal between Gordon and McMillan to Mcmillan by making their proprietary software open source and also by turning the public against McMillan security.
So, McMillan security is left holding a turd sandwich of a valueless product while Gordon (and silent partner Joe) take the only independent profitable idea and go off into the sunset.
In a legal sense, McMillan's lawyers who already have to have felt Joe's confession was a bit too conveniently timed (given Joe had just been released from his power in the company) now have been left entirely without proprietary product most likely because of Joe and Ryan (and by association Gordon).
In short, Ryan just f*cked everything 100% up.
Now Gordon will look even more guilty as soon as he files the paperwork giving Joe 49% of their new venture and Ryan has most likely made both Joe and Gordon accomplices in the eyes of the law.
All I have to say here is, YIKES!
I honestly have no idea how they are going to dig themselves out of this mess.
Anyway that is it for "The Threshold"
Why I Am Obsessed With #BlueMohawkGuy
Short form, at about the same time as the show's timeline, I had a Blue Mohawk.
In addition, the first two seasons of the show were set in Dallas where I lived at the time the show represented during those first two seasons.
Just nostalgia :)
What did you think of this week's episode?
What will happen with Cameron and Mutiny?
What will happen with Cameron and Tom?
How screwed are Gordon, Joe, and Ryan?
And, most important, will #BlueMohawkGuy ever get a spoken line this season?
Let me know what you think, leave a comment!