Halt Catch Fire Episode 5

Chris Mulkey as Gary and Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark on "Halt and Catch Fire." (Blake Tyers / AMC / January 31, 2014)

Joe finds it something of an adventure to get dressed as we open this week, as he's still reeling from the beatdown he suffered at the hands of John's friends in the last episode. A music montage contrasts Joe's struggle to start his day with a carefree Cameron, who leaps out of bed in her hotel room and fluffs her hair as though she's starring in a shampoo commercial.  

Gordon and Donna are hosting Donna's parents, as Donna's dad (played by character actor Chris Mulkey, one of those "Aren't you that guy, from that thing?" actors if there ever was one) is having a birthday. Gordon seems less than enthused about this. I love Annette O'Toole as Donna's mom, who always has a drink in her hand. 

John is conducting a sales meeting, trying to hawk Cardiff's prospective new PC to a room filled with clients. He handles the first part of the pitch, but when specific questions start rolling in, he struggles with answers, and has to make a hot tag to Joe, who runs wild with details, pleasing the clients. All of John's studying has still left him a step behind, it seems.  

Much to Cameron's displeasure, we learn that Joe brought in a software development team while he sent her on a fairly meaningless trip to Ohio. Cameron sees the team as competition, and they might well be, but Joe tries to sell her on the idea that he was just trying to give her a respite. "Writing the BIOS almost killed you," he tells her. This feels very much like a demotion for Cameron, who is now working as part of a team, and under a new manager that Joe brought in. I don't see this ending well.  

Gordon and his hardware team run a test on their part of the project, and begin celebrating when the machine starts up for the first time. Joe walks in on their party, informing the team that they still have a lot of work to do to deliver what he just promised to a bunch of clients. "Must be nice to have a job where you get to say words without actually having to do anything," Gordon fires back. 

Feeling pressure, Gordon calls on his father-in-law for a favor. He asks him to hook him up with some business associates that might be able to cut him a deal on a screen that would make his machine fit Joe's over-promised vision. Donna's dad reluctantly agrees. 

Joe's secretary, Debbie, alerts him that his father left him a message, and that he'll be in town in a few days and would like to see him. We don't know all of the particulars of their relationship, but we know it's not good. Joe thinks for a minute, then tells Debbie to set up a meeting with him. Joe shows up for the meeting, but gets cold feet, leaving his dad staring at his watch. 

Back at Cardiff, Joe is reluctant to go along with Gordon's plan for the new screen. After some cajoling, he agrees to go to the vendor meeting with Gordon, and commends him for setting it up. Cameron, meanwhile, isn't getting along with her new manager and tells Joe that he has to get rid of him. "I don't have to do anything," he tells her. "Learn to work with people." He tells her not to expect any special treatment because of "this thing we have going on." Cameron then announces that she's "taking this little thing off the table," leaving Joe to sulk. 

Cameron goes to Joe's place to retrieve some of her belongings, where she runs into his dad, Joe, Sr. "You say something with the right authority, you generally get what you want," his dad tells her, when she asks how he gained entry. Joe's dad kind of sounds like the Dos Equis guy. Right on cue, he sweet talks Cameron into sharing a drink with him.   

"I've been to Tokyo nine times," Joe tells Gordon, as he tries to give him some pointers on meeting with Japanese business associates. Gordon hammers out some details, before allowing Joe to close, and they seem poised to hammer out a deal that should fit nicely within their budget. Things take a turn, though, when a tipsy Gordon breaches etiquette by carrying on a conversation with one of the associates at a urinal. No talking at the urinal, guys. It's never cool. For good measure, he tosses in a few potshots at his father-in-law, who the associate clearly holds in the highest regard. 

Sr. and Cameron's impromptu chat at Joe's place is going swimmingly, until Sr. inadvertently uncovers the fact that Cameron's dad died while serving in Vietnam when she was quite young. Cameron sees a lot of Joe in his dad, and tells him so. "You're both disgusting," she tells him, as she calls Sr. out for trying to use her to get to Joe. "I don't think you understand who you've gotten into bed with," Sr. says. "It's only a matter of time before he blows everything up. He always does," he warns her. "Well, you would know," she says. Sr. leaves Cameron with a business card, urging her to call him when she figures out just who his son is. 

"I'll fix this in the morning," Joe tells an intoxicated Gordon, as they argue in the parking lot after their deal has been scuttled. Gordon calls Donna from a payphone (remember those?), railing about his faux pas. She hurries him off the phone, before taking a call from her boss, Hunt. Oh, I've got a bad feeling about this. Hunt compliments her on her recent work, and the two discuss the finer points of baking pie. No, really, they did. I swear. This was, of course, fraught with sexual tension.  

After a drunken visit to his in-laws, where he tried to make amends, Gordon returns home to find Donna playing a synthesizer in the garage. Rather than talking to his wife, Gordon slinks off. Not much good ever comes from not talking things out, you know? 

The next morning, Joe meets with the Japanese business associates as they prepare to leave their hotel. He makes an impassioned plea for forgiveness, and tries to impress how much he understands how important it is to be loyal to family. "He taught me everything I know," he says of his own father. "He told me to swing for the fences, and I've never stopped swinging. The speech seems to do the trick, so score another one for the salesman. Or, maybe not. 

Joe ambushes Gordon in front of his team, and starts to eviscerate him for his behavior the day before, telling him to thank him for saving his relationship with his father-in-law, as well as their deal. Gordon reveals that it wasn't Joe that had saved it, though, but that it was him begging his father-in-law the night before, on his hands and knees, that had done the job. "The deal was done before you ever got to the hotel," Gordon says. 

Cameron marches into Cardiff and tells Joe that she's taking the new software manager's job, and reducing the size of the new team. Say something with the right authority and you get what you want, right? Cameron tells Joe that she ran into his dad at his place. "Did you talk to him?" Joe asks. "I didn't stay long," she replies, not tipping her hand. 

Later, Cameron attends some sort of social function with her new team. I really have no idea what this deal was, but there were girls in bikinis, beer, balloons, and the main attraction involved taking a sledgehammer to a car. John took some swings, and then Joe stepped up and completely destroyed it. I don't understand Texas. I really don't understand Texas in 1983.

Some depth was added to Cameron in this episode, and we learned just a bit more about Joe and what does and doesn't make him tick, but this didn't feel like the most worthwhile hour in the show's short history.