'Halt and Catch Fire' recap, 'Up Helly Aa'

  • MacKenzie Davis as Cameron Howe
MacKenzie Davis as Cameron Howe (Tina Rowden/AMC )
July 28, 2014|By Ethan Renner | For The Baltimore Sun

It's Vegas, baby!

Our ragtag foursome arrives at the 1983 COMDEX in Sin City to sell their Giant, only to find that their reserved hotel suite, where much of their wheeling and dealing was to go down, has been given away. The pending criminal investigation into Cardiff has frozen the company's accounts, leaving Joe, Cameron, Donna and Gordon scrambling to find a solution.

They could do what I once did and sleep in a hotel lobby there, but that wouldn't lend itself to throwing a lavish party for potential clients. Also, speaking from experience, it would probably be about 20 minutes before a guy with a walkie talkie would approach and kick them out.

The crew has also lost their booth on the convention floor, but Gordon hatches a plan to squeeze into a spot marked for some folks who sell printers that he met at the show in 1981. Joe poses as an IBM executive and talks the printer company out of both their floor space and their hotel suite. Too easy.

Joe starts prepping the suite for company, as Gordon and Donna try to get the Giant up and running in the bedroom. On the convention floor, Cameron creates an eye-catching display with a foam block and some spray paint, directing customers to the hotel room.

Cameron's display draws a large crowd to the suite, but Gordon and Donna aren't able to get the Giant to work. With the crowd growing restless, Joe makes the call to do a demo without actually being able to demonstrate anything that the machine can do. "It's Las Vegas, Gordon. Time to bluff," he says.

He puts the machine before the crowd and proceeds to bait and switch. He mentions that Vegas is for having fun, and that it's no coincidence that the world's largest porn convention is taking place at the hotel next door at the same time. He calls in four, um, ladies, who Cameron hired earlier in the day, and orders the crowd to party tonight and come back to see the Giant on the convention floor the next day. "Tonight, let the Giant turn you on," he exclaims. "Please, never tell our daughters I was a part of this," Donna tells her husband.

While the party rages on, Cameron hits it off with a programmer from California. He's close to her age, and wants her to come work with him eventually. Right now, though, he just wants her to go eat pancakes with him. She obliges, and leaves. Joe is sweet-talking a client, but this catches his eye.

"I ate pancakes and watched the sun come up with the Xerox boys," Cameron tells Joe the next morning. "That sounds entirely too wholesome," he responds. Well, she also brought back a piece of the Hoover Dam, so, we know there was some light larceny as well. Joe mentions California and tells her that maybe she should go there. "Maybe we should," she says.

There will be time for personal reflection later, perhaps, but the Cardiff team encounters a real problem when they get to the convention floor. They see Hunt and the Clark's neighbor, who was fired from the Giant project, unveiling a machine called The Slingshot that looks very much like their Giant.

"As Goliath found out, victory goes not to the swift, nor to the strong, but to the little guy who strikes first," Hunt says in his pitch. He catches Donna's eye in the crowd; she rushes at him and shoves him. Joe pulls her away.

The Cardiff team retreats to their room to regroup, but Donna and Gordon shut Joe and Cameron out while they go over some things. "Are you sleeping with him?" Gordon asks about Hunt. "I kissed him. And for two and a half seconds I felt better than I felt in two years," she says. "There were you and me reasons. You can't pretend we were on some moonlit carriage ride... It wasn't an affair, but it should have been."

Donna storms off, while Gordon goes off to sulk. "The Slingshot is faster, it's cheaper. We're dead," Joe tells Gordon, later. Gordon grabs a drink and a screwdriver and sits down to tinker with the Giant.

Joe sits down with Hunt and tries to reason with him. "You're a pawn-shop hack, selling my dream under a cheap plastic mask," he tells him. Joe threatens to sue, but Hunt points out that by the time they see a courtroom, they'll already be selling the third Slingshot edition. Hunt does offer to give Cardiff $2 million -- more than they would get in a settlement, he points out -- to go away.

"We'll never sell to you... I feel sorry for you... You'll never create anything of your own," Joe says. "And neither will you," Hunt fires back.

Joe and Cameron return to the room, where Gordon has been working. He's ripped Cameron's operating system out of the machine, opting for something cheaper that will use less memory. This will enable them to beat the Slingshot on speed and price. "We had a problem, now we have a product," Gordon says. Cameron begs Joe to put things back the way they were, but Joe won't relent. "It's what's right for the machine," he says.

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