Tales From A Red Wheelbarrow (eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt) Part 5: Gus Power

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Tales From a Red Wheelbarrow

I am doing a deep dive into the book Red Wheelbarrow by Sam Esmail and Courtney Looney, which was released recently. Today I am covering May 19th and 20th.

Normally, I write a recap of Mr. Robot called “Who Is Mr. Robot's Landlord.” I also recap Black MirrorGame of ThronesHalt and Catch FireThe FlashBetter Call Saul, and put out new playlists every Tuesday (among other music content).

If you are not familiar with my writing on Mr. Robot, check out The complete #OPS Guide to Season 2 of #MrRobot

Missed Part One? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Two? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Three? Catch Up Now. Missed Part Four? Catch Up Now.

Oh, and did I mention a T-Shirt was coming? You can order it now HERE from Teespring, perfect for Hacking the Holidays (only 8 days until the campaign ends). You can order it in white, blue, red, grey, or as shown here lime he he. You can order a hoody (like Elliot) or a long-sleeved shirt, a regular t-shirt, or even a sticker.

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If you have not seen Seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot, it is possible that there will be spoilers * Spoiler Alert *

Mr. Robot, Elliot Alderson, a Frisky Walrus, and Gus the Bear walk into a bar

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Okay, many people get frustrated by the never-ending battle between Mr. Robot and Elliot Alderson.

First, A Quick Dissociative Identity Disorder reminder/primer, I believe there is Elliot (the entire person the "man with the plan"), Elliot 2 (the dominant personality a nice person that most people really like but who hates doing bad things), and Mr, Robot (his Alter, in charge of doing the dirty work and taking the beatings).

A person with DID is a fragmented whole and not two separate personalities fighting over one body.

But Elliot (Rami Malek) doesn't necessarily know this.

As far as he knows, what is happening to him is similar to what he sees in movies about people with Multiple Personality Disorder (the way Hollywood has always depicted people with DID). 

I think what people forget is that this has been a continuing process of discovery for Elliot.

What would you do if you woke up one day, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, you had an Alternate Personality? How would you react?

Would you know what was happening? What would you do?

Elliot is anti-social and depressed with anxiety and addiction problems (which means he REALLY hates going for help). Despite this, he was trying pretty hard with his therapist Krista (Gloria Reuben) and he wanted so badly to get better (and still does).

Sure, it took him most of Season 2 to figure it all out, and even then he messed up at the end. But, this stuff, I suspect, is not easy to negotiate.

Anyway, Elliot is in jail and he is trying to set up a routine which is so regulated and recyclable that it never leaves space for Mr. Robot to take over (or bores him to death).

If you are wondering why he is thinking this way, my guess would be because he has struggled with addiction.

In a sense recovery from addiction is a process of establishing what (we) addicts call a "program of recovery" which is a structure of routines and behaviors we repeat every day and use to help stop relapses (especially when triggered).

By building up the muscle memory through the repetition of your routine, you will react correctly while triggered.

In a sense, Elliot is saying that Mr. Robot shows up when he is "triggered" and he is trying to create a routine so he can use it to reestablish control when he shows up.

What he is gradually learning, however, is that he and Mr. Robot are truly parts of the same person. As Elliot 2 puts it in the book:

"When he (Mr. Robot) steals my time. These are the ramblings of a psychotic person. I can't believe this is where I am. Why can't I get through this mental block? If he knows it, I know it."

He is more right than he knows, they are different aspects of the same person.

When Mr. Robot doesn't share things it is because Elliot doesn't want him to share things with Elliot 2. Mr. Robot is a protective mechanism that allows Elliot 2 to continue to see himself as morally innocent of most of the things the larger Elliot does. 

So, anyway, Elliot has a routine established and starts talking about how much Mr. Robot hates it. Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) breaks in and tells the story of Gus the Bear who was a polar bear with bipolar disorder who used to swim in his "cell" in a pattern of never-ending figure 8's. Mr. Robot is suggesting that when your entire life becomes a repetitive routine, there is nothing special anymore about you, you become reduced to just a routine.

Of course, he also shares the tale of a masturbating walrus. But it is just a different version of the same story.

I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. And it totally fits with Elliot 2's character as he explains in response to what Mr. Robot shares:

"Okay, I don't have any fear that that is my fate, and even if it is, I still won't be hurting anyone else."

He concludes:

"Focus. I'm trying. It's the only way to get to a point where I have total control."

Exactly, Elliot is trying to use his routine to keep control so that the "bad stuff" doesn't take over. 

Elliot also makes reference here to there being a secret code that could help him get the information he is after. I suspect that is an explicit reference to the inserts and codes inside the book. As you probably know, these have all been solved in r/ARGSociety (if you want even more spoilers). 

Resurrection

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So, writing that reminded me, that another part of the Mr. Robot drama reported during the May 19th entry in Red Wheelbarrow was Mr. Robot quoting the book Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy. This is also the second insert (specifically referenced by Carla here) which is a torn out page from the book itself.

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As I mentioned a few seconds ago, the "code" part of this book has been broken in a subreddit (if you want to find the solution). My job in this deep dive is to consider the words, not the codes (as I am neither a hacker or cryptologist).

I do think this book is pretty important to understanding Elliot regardless because the book has been mentioned on the show and also shows up on his desk in the jail during Season 2.

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So, I am reading Resurrection now (not sure why have never read it before), and I will do a separate Red Wheelbarrow post on just the subject of Tolstoy and Resurrection sometime down the road.

More Insider Information About Jail and/or Prison For Your Reading Entertainment

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Let me tell you a secret, I absolutely hate "prison porn." I don't mean porn in prison (which is gross too). 

What I mean is television shows designed to use the idea of jail, people visiting jails as tourists, or actual prisoners for entertainment value. In my opinion, it takes people who are literally at their lowest point, and with no defenses, and exploits them in the worst possible way (for chuckles).

I especially hate shows like Law and Order and CSI that make the Criminal Justice System (CJS) look efficient, seamless, orderly and fair. Look, I was as naive as anyone else. When I first entered the CJS it shocked the holy sh*t out of me how Kafkaesque it was, how surreal, how outside of any ethical idea of justice.

Here is a small little nugget that might help you understand better.

If you are poor or even middle class, you are unlikely to have good representation (like you see on Law and Order or CSI). A decent defense costs over 10k. My defense was at best mediocre and cost about 15k (and I pled guilty).

I remember standing outside the courtroom waiting to go in and counting the number of cases that each public defender had on the docket just for that day. There were public defenders who were representing 30 clients just on that one day.

Think about the for a second.

I am of the opinion, that most everyone in jail or prison is likely guilty of something, but the CJS makes sausage not justice. I hope, for your sake, you never find this out for yourself.

Anyway, Mr. Robot and Orange is the New Black get a pass from me because they try pretty hard to get the details, at least kind of right. And in both cases the protagonists are IN the prison or jail and have done something to get them there. In other words, if you enjoy the show, you have to take the radical step of seeing the prisoner as a human being that you identify with (and maybe even empathize with).

So, Elliot sees a fight between some other inmates in the jail kitchen because a prisoner named Mauricio was angry with a prisoner named Reggie for messing up his tattoo (making a tattoo that said "Dear Maria" instead of one that said "My Darling" on Maurcicio whose significant other was not, in fact, named Maria). 

There are several normal causes of violence in Jail and Prison:

* Getting your "tag" run - someone decides to have someone on the outside look up your charges up. If people don't like what you did they will come after you.

* Debt - most valuable information I was given by anyone was "don't owe anyone any money that you can't pay (in prison) ever." Money is not exactly accurate, items prisoners can get (like say Ramen Noodles) have exchange value in prison. Most debt happens from gambling or not paying for food (or if you are being extorted and didn't pay up on store day).

* Gang beefs - Jail and prisons are run by gangs not just correction officers (who often operate like a competing gang themselves). It is just a fact. 

* Sexual Assault - usually this means that someone who likes to assault people thinks you are weak etc.

* Tattoo's - Okay this doesn't happen often, but it does happen. I have seen it happen. Technically, tattooing is illegal in prison. People have figured out how to take a pretty large number of commissary items and put them together to make tattoo guns and ink. It is really pretty impressive honestly. Anyway, you can get in trouble for messing up a tattoo or for wearing a tattoo someone else doesn't like.

Anyway, Elliot mentions that both Maurcio and Reggie had "crews" which probably means it became a gang thing, which is never good. Truth is, many gangs work together (in a sense) in jails and prisons. But you can always feel the tension whenever gangs are having problems with each other.

In addition, the romantic notions that either the CO's will save you or that if you are in trouble you will be able to defend yourself are both demonstrably false. Correctional Officers are involved mostly in clean-up after fights and most fights in a facility are not mano-e-mano they are usually 5 or 10 on 1.

Oh, also you can't really "buy" protection per se. Yes, you can be extorted for protection money, but really what you are paying for is to not be attacked by the person extorting you.

Oddly enough, despite all this, you can kind of deter violence by exercising regularly, having friends (not too many friends), and standing up for yourself when necessary. This works like putting a "club" on your steering wheel. Someone can still steal your car, but it might look more difficult than the car next to you if it has the club deployed.

Elliot reports that they had a yoga teacher come in. Now that is something I never saw. I guess it could be possible. But, OITNB got this more accurately, usually if a class happens it is because an inmate has petitioned the jail or prison administration and is allowed to teach a class. I guess they also have a meditation class? What is this, club med?

The meditation part is important, because again, it gets to the heart of the Elliot/Mr. Robot relationship. He has a conversation where Mr. Robot suggests that they share a mind full of concentric circles in which they both overlap. Elliot says:

"My mind AKA Him. Then you see that I am you and you are me. Always intersecting."

He also says that he likes prison food but misses "real" food (by which he means fast food). This is just nuts. Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes jail or prison food. It is close to inedible. When I was in jail they had to close the kitchen because of a black mold problem (I wish I was kidding) and they served us hard boiled eggs for breakfast and ham or turkey sandwiches on white for lunch and dinner (with Kool Aid if you were wondering).

People survive in jail and prison on commissary food.

Finally, we find out Elliot really loves fast food and candy (particularly Nerds candy).

A New Puzzle From a Lucid Dream

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Elliot awakens from a dream only to find that he was dreaming in code. The picture above is what he dreamed. He reports it at the beginning of May 20th. I don't remember seeing r/AGRSociety solving this one or figuring out what it does, so if any of you are hackers or programmers, it could lead to another Easter Egg. 

Two things here, hopefully, you remember that one of the historical examples I posted last time of lucid dreaming was someone who solved complex math problems (that other people could not solve) through lucid dreaming. I believe this is part of what makes Elliot, as Whiterose (B.D. Wong) called him, special.

Second, he says that it looks to him like Malware code.  But what is interesting to me is that his subconscious, in some ways represented by Mr. Robot, is very involved in Elliot getting back to work.

Elliot also reports that Leon (Joey Bada$$) told him about a group of Russian hackers that got all of the emails and cell phone data from everyone on the Forbes list of "Highest Rated CEO's." Sounds familiar, I wonder if they were cycled through Julian Assange too? Elliot quotes Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride saying that the word Privacy "...does not mean what you think it means." He suggests that privacy is a dying concept. 

While this is indefinitely true, the Russian author Zamyatin did a pretty great job of explaining why freedom and the death of privacy are incompatible in his wonderful book "We."

Ironic that some of the biggest threats to our sovereignty as people and as a country originate in the same country where this book was written. I recommend it, give it a read if you get a chance.

Social Engineering, Angela, and the Reptile House

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Maybe this was intended to be the Zoo Animal period of Elliot's jail time.

Elliot explains that when he was like 13 or 14 years old he got so good at picking locks that he was able to take Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) to the zoo after hours and break into both the zoo and the reptile house at the zoo. It was so cool that they did it several more times and even took Darlene (Carly Chaikin) once. Apparently, Angela loved the reptile house.

For some reason, this inspired him to do some "social engineering" in the kitchen. Shocker, Elliot 2 is back to his social hacking and robin hood work. Only this time, it backfires. He picks the lock on the supply closet to get one of his coworkers (Ralph) a mop which the coworker then uses to beat up Santos. Elliot says he doesn't feel guilty at all, but I am not buying what he is selling here.

If you remember, Santos is the guy giving Hot Carla (Eve Lindley) so much trouble. This is a really important moment in Red Wheelbarrow. Elliot 2 is capable of planning, of anger, and of violence (as long as he thinks it is justified). Not only do I suspect this was a setup by Elliot for Santos from the start, but I believe that just like in the store when Mr. Robot disappears, what really makes Mr. Robot leave is when Elliot 2 does the tasks that Mr. Robot is usually supposed to handle.

It is not just when he feels he has to defend himself, it is when he has rightous anger, that he is capable of committing violent acts. 

In the entries from earlier, Elliot talks about a confrontation after Hot Carla thinks that Elliot is stalking her. When she asks why the fuck he is following her, he ends up telling her he would like to help her in her battles against Santos. She asks what a skinny runt like him could do, little does she know that he doesn't have to carry out violence to make it happen.

In this case, Santos ended up with a broken nose and a dislocated shoulder. 

Proving my point, Elliot explains that he is not a very good actor but he is a pretty good liar and then says "don't you think?"

I suspect that this is in relation to him saying he had nothing to do with what happened. I think this is a wink to him knowing what he was doing the whole time.

He says something else interesting, he says that "relationships are capital in here." That is very true, if the people that matter like you and think you have helped them, they are less likely to see you negatively or try to take advantage of you.

The Red Wheelbarrow Mysteries Continue

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We find out that Hot Carla burned the book "Geek Love" in her red wagon (so Elliot doesn't get to read it too).

In addition, Elliot was figuring out some puzzles and in the bottom of one of the pages is a kid pushing a red wheelbarrow. He starts to wonder about fate and starts talking about, of all things, Astrology (which is a HUGE thing in jails and prisons for real). In his horoscope he is told to ask an Aquarius for help about puzzles that you can't solve. Hot Carla offers up, as an aside, that she is an Aquarius.

Elliot says that he is a Virgo, which is true, he was born September 17, 1985.

Oh, also our friend Leon is still watching the show Mad About You, and liked an episode where Jamie and Paul agreed to decide everything they disagree about with a coin toss. He tries to get Elliot to agree to a game of chance, which Elliot rightly refuses because Leon has told him to never engage in a game that he doesn't know that he will win.

Wrapping It Up

This book is a hard read (not just because I am middle aged and the handwritten text is cramped and small). But, I am still having a great time with this.

There is also new Mr. Robot stuff coming from me soon

You can expect:

The T-Shirt (look above).

An eBook of answers to as many Season 2 questions as I have come up with. It should be out in the next month for sure (I am about halfway done).

And, of course, many more Red Wheelbarrow pieces. Including, eventually, the Tolstoy piece.

Hope you are having as much fun as I am!  You can subscribe using the email signup below or through using Feedburner here.

As always, thanks for reading! Hope you like the T-Shirt.

What do you think Carla will help Elliot unlock?

Has anyone solved or unlocked what Elliot's "dream code" does?

Let me know what you think, leave a comment!