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Halt and Catch Fire Recap: “Play With Friends”

halt and catch fire s2 e4

I’ve got to hand it to Donna. She puts up with a lot from Cameron that most people find inexcusable. This week Cameron came pretty close to going over the line and right into a ditch with Donna… who somehow managed to forgive. But there is no relationship more volatile than Joe and Gordon who this week found themselves working together again. Surprise! And… they were even getting along!

Gordon and Donna have their hands full with their daughters. Gordon is getting them ready for school and helping his wife get out the door to work. When his youngest insists she’s sick but has no fever, she does what every kid would: goes to the other parent for sympathy. But Donna is too busy dealing with the fall out of Gordon’s Mutiny hack to get sick and breaks free of her daughter’s hug. In truth, that was a pretty sad moment on the show and even Gordon seemed surprised by Donna’s behavior.

Joe goes to one of the higher-ups at his new company to propose using the computer system at the oil company and leasing it out to companies that need more bandwidth. The idea seems pretty brilliant, and we know that sharing that kind of storage can be done. But the concern about security is real and Joe doesn’t do a very good job convincing his superior why this is such a good idea. But, Joe is at a further disadvantage because everyone knows the nepotism involved in his being hired and being given data by Mr. Wheeler… and there isn’t much respect for him because of that. He’ll have to go rogue to prove why this is a good idea… and guess who he’s bringing on board to help him do it?

Cameron and Donna have decided they can’t pay their employees their salaries because of the security breach. Rather than ask Gordon to pay for what he did (which would have been a pretty logical request for Cameron to make), they decided to offer stock partnerships instead of salaries. Tom is the the first to agree, but they lose some people who can’t take the risk. Bos’s disapproving look seems to suggest that asking your employees to work 24 hour days to repair your system and then not paying them anything might not be a great idea. His answer to their money problems is to go after the biggest users, get them back online first, and maybe others will follow. Time to send salesman Bos out into the field to win some gamer hearts. He also suggests running an ad and posting that they’re higher to get confidence back into the hearts and minds of subscribers.

Quick detour question that I’d like people to explain please: is Mutiny some kind of Texas only gaming site or are disks only sold in Texas stories? Because every single gamer we meet and hear about seem to be living remarkably close? And Bos is going on “in person” sales calls. Okay, back to the show!

Joe goes to Gordon’s house for a meeting. Gordon is in a ridiculous looking red track suit and has gone on a real health kick. They’re still teasing this health crisis and it’s getting a little frustrating (especially in this episode). Gordon went to the doctor with a nose bleed but didn’t go back when stuff got worse. Joe proposes his plan to Gordon and asks him to be the engineer that sets up this new rogue system. Gordon agrees to do it… before finding out it is completely under the table and off the books. They meet at a bar to plan how they’ll meet at Joe’s company (that scene seemed unnecessary). And Gordon convinces Joe to let Mutiny be his first lease, for way less ($3 an hour). Way to go Gordon!

Donna’s Community completely took off, and they’ve been adding more and more discussion threads, with some people not even playing games. After all, the overlap between gamers and cat people wouldn’t seem very high (lies, all lies). And that was a nice way to address the internet’s future wasteland of adorable cat videos and memes… had to start somewhere. Even though Community is doing great, Cameron doesn’t see the value and decided that along with backgammon and checkers, Community needs to get cut to save space. Donna is furious and as she’s walking out in a hough, gets in the way of a nerf gun. She grabs the gun and shoots one of their employees before throwing the gun at him (we feel ya Donna).

Everyone seems to want to not only shoot these toy guns but also shoot at people. Even Gordon tells Joe “I’d like to punch you in the face,” and they’re getting along in this episode. Cameron is annoyed with Tom who walks into a meeting late, and comes close to falling asleep at work. Turns out (this was so not a shocker) that Tom had to take a night job to pay his bills… because you know, Cameron isn’t paying anyone! She finds out when she makes a late night run to the store for some candy and sees him grabbing shopping carts. He jokes he’s thought up a game called stock boy, which probably would be a fun game for a few minutes on an iPhone even now.

Donna is sitting in the bathtub, hiding from her daughters who she can’t stand to see when she’s this upset. Gordon offers to get them fed and ready for bed, and buy her some take out (after listening to her vent). I’ve said it, before, I’ll say it again. I really like Gordon at home and like watching their family dynamic. Which makes Donna’s question of, “Would I be a bad mother if I hide out here until they went to sleep,” pretty heartbreaking. Gordon’s half-smiling “Yes” is pretty brutal… but also right. Donna clearly feels bad about putting Mutiny ahead of her kids.

So what does Cameron do? Blows all that up at work. Donna asks Cameron if she’s ever gone on Community and tells her to give it a try before taking it offline. She throws out the challenge that Cameron wants it gone because, “You just don’t like it or it doesn’t come from you.” In response, Cameron decides to do a private chat with Tom and vents about Gordon, writing, “Gordon’s the guy who saddled two kids on her and now she’s trapped.” But she made that comment public (by accident) and Donna is understandably pissed. She sees the lack of respect she gets from her male employees when that went online, and she’s especially angry that it was said by Cameron. Cameron who is supposed to be her partner, but also because they just had that bust of a meeting when asked if they want kids. Cameron has always been judgmental of Donna putting family before her career. When they first met, she used the word mom like it was a curse word. But talking about her daughters was way over the line, and Donna’s right to be on the brink of quitting.

But she doesn’t, and instead uses it to convince Cameron that anonymous messaging (which she thought she was doing) is a good thing. Cameron thinks about that idea, and by the end of the night, she decides not to take Community down (yet). They also take the Mutiny picture (yearbook style) and get photobombed, which is the best picture of the bunch. And after “mom” goes home, Cameron and the rest at the house live out their first-person fantasies with a nerf game of war. As suggested at the meeting, Cameron wants a first person shooter game online (which is pretty hard to do), but realizes that personalizing it is the best way to get attention. Instead of shooting computer targets, create avatars of users we can shoot is a new way to game. She and Tom clearly love the idea (and each other… terrible joke by me. I’m sorry). But I still ask… does this company have insurance? We know the response to video games in a few years, and having a game encouraging you to shoot actual people (even if not in real-life) seems like a liability.

But, hey, at least they have the space to do that type of work. Gordon is working at Joe’s office that night, complaining that he can’t personalize things for clients. While Joe goes out to get him a Coke (not coke, but Coca-Cola). Gordon passes out on the floor, and is getting up just as Joe walks in. I have to say I’m surprised to see Joe so genuinely concerned for Gordon… maybe he’s really changed. By the end of the night, Tom and Cameron are on the verge of a relationship and Bos is full time at Mutiny. And Donna is hiding in the bathroom with a pregnancy test. We’ve heard all episode that she thought she’s had a flu, and with all the comments about her being a mother, there is nothing surprising about this end of episode reveal. But the storyline still has potential.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Joe’s total commitment to the Don Johnson Miami Vice look is pretty hilarious.
  • Kerry Bishe’s performance this week was “amazing.” Her silent responses to all those offenses she endured this week were perfect.
  • Bos and Tom’s final meeting was an oddly awkward, yet perfect moment.
  • Bos’ explanation to a mom why her son plays online games makes him even more likable this season. He knows he’s not one of the gamers/coders… but he actually does understand the way they think.
  • I like the fact that Cameron wants the tagline of her company to be “Play with Friends,” now that she’s going to have a first person shooter for subscribers to go against subscribers.
  • Why is Cameron using her old hot tub as recycling bin? And why is the mannequin in the hot tub?
  • Three dollars an hour seems ridiculously cheap to lease a computer network as big as we saw at Joe’s company. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, $3 in 1985 is now $6.63 in 2015. That jump is kind of nuts!
  • Quote of the week (two this week actually because it was a good episode):
  • Donna telling Gordon, “There is no honor among gamers,” because of how many subscribers have left Mutiny… and foreshadowing Cameron’s behavior this episode.
  • Gordon telling Joe, “You sound like my girls on a road trip,” when he starts pressuring him to finish up and hurry the job… because it honestly made me laugh.

Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.

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