While last week's episode of Halt and Catch Fire saw Donna start to shine, this week had a broader shift, and a little promise from Cameron. But while things are looking up for the ladies in episode five, things are getting worse and worse for the gents.
Adventure opens with Cameron returning from a trip to Cincinnati. She's refreshed and ready to get back to work. You can see it in her face, and feel it in her attitude. But she comes back to learn that in her absence, Joe has hired a whole team of programmers and managers. Cameron singlehandedly wrote the BIOS, and now? Now she has to answer to a boss, a newcomer who she describes as a "tool" (was that accepted slang in '83?) and you know her anti-authority 'tude isn't going to like that.
Prominently featured throughout the episode is the Ron Kane Wall Street Quarterly piece on Cardiff, titled "Cardiff Bets the Ranch on a PC Business" (how Texas!) with a picture of the ever-so-handsome Joe MacMillan at the very top. You know the self-satisfied Joe is feeling this piece, and feeling himself pretty hard. Although after getting his ass handed to him by the cops in episode four, Joe is not feeling good at the start of the episode. Despite his smooth facade, he's coming apart underneath. It's only going to get worse later in the episode when Joe's father, Joe Sr. comes to town. You know immediately that relationship is going to be a problem.
Meanwhile, things aren't going that well for Gordon either. In fact, Gordon is such a little shit that, defying all logic, I ended up hating him more in this episode than I already did. We start the episode at the Clark home, where Gordon is feeling bright and shiny, home for the morning, receiving praise from Donna, who thinks he's there to celebrate his father-in-law's birthday. In reality, Gordon is an inconsiderate idiot, who was just doing a drive by to change his shirt and shave before going back to the office. Oh, and he brings home a copy of the Wall Street Quarterly, and shows it to Donna, mentioning that she's quoted several times throughout the piece. She reminds him that it's not her but "Susan Fairchild," the fake name Gordon gave to her last week after she fixed everything, who's quoted.
Just to be abundantly clear, Gordon's interactions with his family have become the most painful they could possibly be. In the few minutes he's home, he sees his little girls playing with (haha) a smartwatch—a gift from their grandfather, who actually seems to be more tuned-in to the girls' lives than their own father. Gordon learns that the watch came from a Japanese company called Kazuko, which his father-in-law has the ins with. You begin to see Gordon's little weasel wheels to turn, because you see, Kazuko makes LCD screens, which are absolutely essential to the Cardiff PC project. At first, Gordon turns his father-in-law down for a trip to the golf course to celebrate his birthday, and changes course when he learns he could benefit from it. Meaning, he's only being nice because he wants something. Once again, Gordon is putting his family life on the line for his work life. But his father-in-law, who you can clearly see doubts Gordon and wishes for better for Donna, sets up a meeting for Gordon and Kazuko.
Joe, who at first admonishes Gordon for setting up a business meeting without the help of Joe the smooth operator, is impressed that Gordon actually you know, took some initiative, and decides to roll with for a dinner meeting, although he swoops in and establishes that they're going to do things the Joe MacMillian Way—steak, not sushi, and dinner at a nice place, where they'll be picking up the tab. The dinner goes well! Their new Japanese friends agree to do business with Cardiff. But of course Gordon screws it up. In an effort to keep up with the Kazuko guys, he gets so wasted that he awkwardly trash talks his own father in law while he's in a urinal to one of his very polite new Japanese business associates, which causes them to back out of the deal. Because Gordon sucks and shows his true colors, being that he is not trustworthy.
Naturally, Gordon goes groveling back to his father-in-law, asking him to fix things with Kazuko, and it's so, so painful to watch. Ultimately, Gordon's ass is saved. But once again, not by any effort of his own. Last week Donna saved his ass. And this week, his father-in-law saved his ass.
Meanwhile, Joe has also taken up residence in Strugglesville. He's having a hard time, too. Cameron has decided to break things off with Joe in order to punish him for strapping her with a "tool" of a new manager after she wrote the BIOS all herself. So she heads over to his apartment to pick up her stuff and what do you know, she runs into Joe Sr, who Joe Jr. had already stood up earlier that day.
"How did you get in here?" she asks the man that you immediately recognize is essentially the same slick manipulator as his son. "You say anything with the right authority and you get what you want," he says. You have no doubt as to where his son gets it. Joe Sr. who works at IBM and you can tell is probably a pretty crappy father and has less than noble intentions, immediately sees Cameron as a way to get to his son. He lavishes praise on her, and convinces her to have a drink with him by referring to her as the modern Ada Lovelace, who was the first computer programmer. You think she's about to take the bait, when she calls him out on his shit, repeating the line he first said to her about saying things with authority. But our girl is learning something. She's not going to fall to pieces again like she did when she lost all the code she had written last week. She's grown a spine, she's learning, and she's evolving. And that's very good for the plot and for the hope of the entire show.
So after Cameron burns Joe's father, the next day she's back at the office. With her newfound attitude of authority, she fires her own new boss, tells Joe she's going to be the manager now. And she picks out a team of the best programmers to be her squad to build this sonofabitch. She is resolute, she is strong, and she's going to make it happen—you can just feel it.
Another piece of the plot from last night's episode that we have to touch on is Donna. Oh, Donna, my poor Donna. Not only is she left to shoulder almost all of the responsibility of managing her and Gordon's home life, there's also her job, where she's not exactly being appreciated by her boss, Hunt—who you'll remember was once her boyfriend many years ago—for going above and beyond. But her boss! Oh her more successful, more attractive, more intuitive boss, calls to apologize one night, after he had called her out on screwing up a report that, in actuality she had done quite well. What do you know, Hunt is doing the kinds of things that her husband should be doing and is not doing. On this phone call, you can feel the sexual tension. You can feel it so much, you just know these two are going to end up banging. And how can you blame either of them? Donna is a badass engineer and a mother, and seems to be made of teflon. Her husband also sucks about as much as possible. So you're almost cheering for the two of them.
The episode closes with Joe thinking he's fixed things with the Japanese LCD makers, and learning that it's Gordon's poor father-in-law who did recon to save their asses. He also thinks that his father has taken the Wall Street Quarterly from his house, which is true. But you see Joe Sr. very symbolically leaving the magazine in the lobby of his Dallas hotel. It's very obvious that Joe, in spite of the attractive exterior, is an emotionally complicated person. But we haven't really gotten into what that means in real life yet. He, as a character has not been fully realized, and I just don't quite get what his deal is yet.
That's sort of where we're left. Lots of daddy issues flying around. But also a glimpse of promise from Cameron, who seems to have grown up and grown some resolve in the last episode. In fact, the two main female characters have evolved from hollow shells to some of the most interesting parts of the show, increasingly the most compelling reason to keep watching. Cameron and Donna are going to come together to make this PC thing happen. You just know it.