'Halt and Catch Fire' recap, 'High Plains Hardware'

  • Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe.
Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe. (Blake Tyers/AMC / )
June 16, 2014|By Ethan Renner | For The Baltimore Sun

This week's cold open features an injured bird, Cameron sleeping in her basement workspace and Joe standing naked in his condo, blasting his new stereo. This all comes at the start of what is shaping up to be a difficult day for our crew.

Gordon is tasked with firing 46 members of the Cardiff staff (a result of Joe's ill-advised power play), something that he admits he is not qualified to do. In one exit interview, he goes on about orange groves and unique snowflakes, and isn't very good at delivering bad news.

Joe addresses a team of designers and reveals his plan to build a portable PC weighing "no more than 15 pounds." The team, comprised of a lot of bad mustaches and thick, likely bulletproof glasses, is less than enthused at the ambitious prospect. They decide to name their workspace "The Killroom."

Joe and John meet with a venture capitalist, in an effort to get some cashflow to power their PC program. Joe is slick and smooth, but ultimately transparent; he looks to John to back him up. This is all a little out of John's league, though, and he fails to close the deal.

I really enjoyed Annette O'Toole's work on "Smallville," and I was happy to see her pop up here, playing Donna's mother. She's there to stir up some doubt and unrest in her daughter, who ran into an old high school friend at work. Donna's mom doesn't like Gordon much, from what we can tell.

John calls on one of his connections, someone who can provide the sort of capital that Cardiff needs to get Joe's vision on track, and he and Joe meet with the man at a steakhouse. The money comes with the understanding that John will make all of the financial decisions with regard to the project, a bitter pill for Joe to swallow. But Joe agrees to fall in line behind John. For now.

"You're a talented coder, but right now, you're a bottleneck," Joe tells Cameron over the phone. He's trying to motivate her, as she seems to have hit a roadblock. She rebuffs what may or may not have been a sexual advance from him and goes back to work.

And by "work," I mean, she dances into John's office wearing some bowling shoes she lifted from one of the fired employee's desks earlier in the day. John asks her a technical question, then bemoans the fact that he could be home at this late hour if he didn't have to study. This was an interesting interaction between two characters that haven't exactly been fleshed out yet. I liked it.

Gordon and Donna work over their kitchen table on a hardware problem with Cardiff's design. Donna gives Gordon an excellent idea, which he takes it to his team the next day. The designers are all intrigued by the design, but his neighbor/co-worker insists that it isn't practical and Gordon scraps the idea. This guy makes the most spineless boss you can think of look like a bold, confident leader.

Cameron gets her first paycheck and spends it on what you might expect a young twentysomething to spend it on: convenience-store hot dogs and sodas. I expect that if there had been a Taco Bell around, she might have gone there.

Cameron meets a group of miscreants in an alley outside the store, who they tell her about their plans to vandalize some homes later. She decides that these are the kinds of people that she needs in her life and gets a hotel room, where they all proceed to drink and dance and smoke and give each other bad tattoos.

Joe and John meet with the source of their new capital, a wealthy lady played by the delightful Jean Smart (who was featured in one of my favorite films, "Disney's The Kid," which I need to see again soon). She offers a lopsided deal, one that Joe doesn't want to take. 

"We're not going to be partners," he tells her, "because you're a bored, poisonous dilettante with no taste. Two things destroy companies... mediocrity and making it about yourself. I think you make everything about yourself. That's why you rent your friends and repel everyone else." Joe's protest seems to be for nothing at first, as John shakes hands on the deal.

Joe is not going to be denied, however. He puts the moves on the lady's boyfriend, then lets her in on that fact with some subtle nonverbal cues. This is enough to kill the deal. Joe is heartless and a total mercenary, willing to do whatever he feels he must do at any moment to get what he wants. I think that's the takeaway here.

Later, Cameron visits Joe's condo and admits that she's stuck, a fact that took up entirely too much time to play out in this episode. She's upset and frustrated and wants to roll around in Joe's bed, which I guess will get her back on track? I don't know. I'm not here to ask a lot of questions.

It takes feeling his own blood running down his face, after a car accident with his nay-saying carpool mate, for Gordon to find some semblance of a spine. He fires the man in the aftermath of the accident, then strides away.

He is not, however, willing to deal with the dying bird that we saw in the cold open, which is still aimlessly chirping in his yard as he returns home. Donna is frustrated with her husband because of that and his general lack of confidence, so she takes a shovel to the bird.

I feel you, Donna. I feel you.

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