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'Halt and Catch Fire' recap, 'Close to the Metal'

"It's difficult to believe in something when your knowledge is so limited," Joe says to John as he gives him an update on the Cardiff PC design.

John has been doing his best to educate himself to the new world that Joe has thrust him into, but he remains a step behind, as Gordon's team is quickly making progress. 

They have broken the 400 millisecond threshold in their machine's response time, "The sweet spot" as Joe refers to it. "We're hitting the radar, people," Joe tells his assembled team. To celebrate, he sets fire to their copy of the IBM BIOS in a trashcan. John and Joe stare each other down through the flames. Joe is the devil, I guess? 

The next scenes set the A, B and C stories for the hour. Joe has set up a visit from a reporter for Wall Street Quarterly. If all goes as planned, a story in the Quarterly could put Cardiff on the map. Joe wants it to go smoothly, and pressures Debbie, his administrative assistant, to get Cameron and her workspace cleaned up.

We also see that Gordon and Donna are still struggling to balance their family life with their careers, and now they have the added pressure of having a man that Gordon fired living next door. John, meanwhile, faces a tough round of questions from Nathan, his venture capitalist friend, who reminds him to keep Joe in line. 

The reporter arrives and seems reluctant to do the story at all, noting that he's only there because he owes someone a favor. But just as he's about to leave, a crisis hits the Cardiff team, as a power surge (brought on by Debbie's vacuum cleaner) seems to have wiped out Cameron's machine and most of her coding work. It seems that she wasn't diligent when it came to backing up her work, and the entire project is in jeopardy. 

"I make your world possible," a frustrated Donna tells Gordon as he arrives late to pick up their kids, later that day. They argue, before Gordon asks Donna to come help with the crisis at Cardiff. I understand why virtually every relationship in television drama is filled with tension and conflict, as it makes for an easy source of material, and everyone can identify with it. But I can't underscore enough how much I hate it in this case. We have never seen this couple happy, so we have no real investment in seeing them overcome their strife. 

"The pain, the dashed hopes and dreams. 5,000 words on that? A byline? I might finally get off this crappy beat and make it back to Wall Street or Silicon Valley where the real action is, all of which is to say, I'm not leaving 'til I get this in all its gory glory," the reporter says after Joe unsuccessfully tries to get his story postponed. Let me tell you, sir, a byline isn't all it's cracked up to be. With the reporter there, the team is facing still more pressure to fix their problem.

Despite Joe and Cameron's protests, Gordon brings Donna in to try to retrieve the data that was lost. "I think she's smarter than you are," one of Gordon's team members tells him. "I knew that the moment I met her," he replies. Aw. 

While Donna and Gordon work, Cameron babysits their kids, who let slip that their parents had referred to her as white trash. So, as one does when presented with that information, Cameron steals Donna's car, drives to their house, and prepares to vandalize it. 

Before she can start tagging the place with spray paint, she's interrupted by a visitor, the fired neighbor, who is drunk and brandishing a gun. He wrongly surmises that Cameron has been fired as well, and encourages her to trash the place. 

Back at Cardiff, Donna succeeds in recovering most of the data that was lost, averting a major crisis and providing quite the story for the reporter. Well, that was convenient. A little too convenient. While Joe spins the reporter, framing the story in just the right light, Donna does some digging and finds that Cameron's work had been backed up after all, and that Joe had manufactured the entire ordeal. 

"You manufactured this," Donna accuses Joe. "Congrats, you got me," he replies. Well. Not much of a climax there. "Look, you can think what you want about me, Donna, but this is their dream too, not just mine. I'd hate to see their trust in me broken over something so minor, so beneficial as this. If you're smart, and clearly you are, you won't tell anyone, not even Gordon," Joe tells her. 

As Donna and Gordon leave the building, they pass Cameron in the parking lot. I guess she returned their car and also dealt with the intoxicated gunman she found breaking in to their home? Once they're home, Donna tells Gordon what Joe did. Gordon wonders if the publicity stunt will work, while Donna is upset that her husband is missing the point. 

The next day, Donna faces some questions at her own job as to why the quality of her work has been suffering. She is placed on probation, perhaps opening the door for her to transition to Cardiff?

Joe is pulled over, harassed and assaulted by two police officers, who accused him of taking a swing at them. John arrives at the police station to pick Joe up. It seems that he's rather friendly with the arresting officers, and decided to pull a little stunt of his own on Joe, to remind him who runs this show. 

If I cared a little bit more about John, or hated Joe a little more, or even better, loved to hate Joe, I would care about who was running this show. 

If I cared a little more about Donna and Gordon, if they were presented in a more positive light, if their relationship was shown to be more than just a series of arguments, I might care about who was running this show. 

If we knew a little bit more about Cameron, and knew what she stood to gain or lose based on the success or failure of this project, I might care about who was running the show. 

In the coming episodes, I hope we're all given a little more incentive to care.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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