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'Halt and Catch Fire' recap, 'FUD'

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"FUD" opens with Gordon, Cameron and John facing a harsh round of questioning from IBM's legal team, related to Joe's reverse-engineering scheme. The crew has been coached well and they stay within the bounds of the law.

That leaves only Joe to face IBM, but the company chooses not to send their legal squad in to question him -- only one executive, a man who knew Joe when he worked for them. The executive makes mention of Joe dropping out of sight for a year, ominously making reference to "what happened that day" when Joe left the company. Joe stands up to the questioning and promises, "If this ever goes to trial, you'll lose, because at the end of the day, you have nothing."

IBM leaves Cardiff without pursuing a lawsuit. It's a good thing, too, or else this might have been the shortest series in basic cable history.

Joe charges Cameron and Gordon with creating a new PC that is twice as fast as IBM's, and he wants it to sell for half the price. Gordon seems pleased to tackle such a project, while Cameron feels that the men in the room are setting their sights too low. Joe leaves them to argue, but John quickly breaks them up and orders them to separate areas, since they're required to be kept apart as one of the conditions of IBM not pursuing litigation.

"I've only got two rules for our new PC division," Joe tells a gathering of Cardiff employees. "One, let's have a lot of fun. And two, let's make a lot of money. And if we get one and two right, well, we just might change the way people work, the way people live and how they interact with each other. We just might put a ding in the universe."

Gordon calls him out later, for plagiarizing Steve Jobs with that line. Joe plays it off and tells Gordon to get some sleep, because "Tomorrow, you start building tomorrow." This guy.

Cameron calls him out for ripping off the line as well. She remains thoroughly unimpressed by Joe. "You're just a salesman," she tells him. I think she's right.

Gordon and Donna spend the evening celebrating Gordon's new project. The subject of the team's new BIOS writer comes up. Gordon doesn't correct his wife when she assumes that the writer must be a man. Oh, no good can come from this. He's either lying because he's insecure, lying because he thinks his wife is insecure, or lying because he wants to keep his options open when it comes to creeping.

"It occurs to me that you think you can do whatever you want here," Joe tells Cameron, after she's relocated her workspace to a basement and done some rather creative drawing on the face of the sleeping lawyer assigned to babysit her. Cameron hits back with some jargon that goes over Joe's head. She isn't going to allow him to intimidate her.

While Joe and Cameron banter, Gordon goes through Cameron's backpack for some reason and finds, among other things, a stuffed animal and a butterfly knife.

Gordon's lie is effective for all of one day. The next morning, on a visit to Cardiff, Donna runs in to Cameron in the restroom, where she introduces herself. Awkward. Gordon comes clean later, in a rather anti-climactic scene. What was the purpose of this? Just to sow some seeds of tension between this couple that we barely know?

We see Cameron shoplifting some shirts at the mall, just to reinforce that she doesn't play by any rules. As she's leaving, men in suits start chasing her. She assumes that they're going to arrest her, but these men aren't law enforcement. They know who she is, and they want to talk to her about a job opportunity.

Back at Cardiff, a crisis begins to unfold as IBM raids their customers, undercutting them on deals and doing everything in their power to hurt their newest competitor in the PC field. When all is said and done, Cardiff stands to lose nearly 70 percent of its business and will only be able to operate for two more months, unless something drastically changes.

"IBM just sliced our throats," John says.

"You knew this would happen, though. It's all part of the plan? Tell me you have a plan, Joe," Gordon begs. Joe remains silent. "Wow. You were just pretending. You're like one of those guys who goes out and reads 'Catcher in the Rye' too many times and then decides to shoot a Beatle, only in this story, I'm the Beatle."

Joe is certain that he can salvage things if he can find someone else to work with the BIOS binder that he gave Cameron. The only trouble with that plan is that Cameron is gone, and appears to have taken the binder with her. She did leave behind some work in the basement that Gordon thinks he can use, however.

Later, the IBM executive pays Joe a visit at home. He brings Joe a small check for some unused vacation days. Joe mentions that he "did over $2 million damage to the data center" and can't believe that the company would give him that money. The executive says that after the insurance claim, they made money, so, no worries. The executive is there for another reason, though. He offers Joe his job back.

"I like it here," Joe says. "Well, I promised your old man I'd give it a shot," the executive says. "I'd say he'll be disappointed, but he's pretty disappointed already." The plot thickens. "You may like it out here now, but let's see what happens when they find out what you really are."

Gordon is sitting in his car, alone in the parking lot at Cardiff, when Cameron strolls by. He lets slip that he and Joe had planned to fire her once her BIOS work was done. Then, Joe pulls up, shouting something about how their PC needs to have a handle. Soon, Joe and Gordon start pushing and shoving, and Joe's shirt is ripped open, revealing a severely scarred chest.

"I was nine. There were some boys at my school who used to chase me. I didn't care about the New York Giants like they did. I cared about Sputnik. I was nuts about it. I was passionate. Nobody had told me yet that adults are supposed to be ashamed of those feelings. I learned that lesson the night the Colts beat the Giants -- '58 championship, greatest game ever played, and I didn't see a single snap. I was hooked up to machines at St. Peter's. To this day, I don't blame them, I don't think they meant to chase me off the roof."

Wait, what?

"After IBM, I went across the country, just looking for answers," Joe continues. "And I read your article and I couldn't stop thinking about it," he tells Gordon. "Open architecture, the idea of it, as a way of life, it kept me up at night. It made me that kid again."

He's still talking.

"And you, when I saw you, everything about you frightens people," he tells Cameron. "I thought that maybe we could do this precisely because we're all unreasonable people and progress depends on our changing the world to fit us, not the other way around. I want to believe that. I must believe that. Tomorrow I will show up at 7 a.m. and I will keep going. You don't have to join me, but something tells me you both need this just as much as I do."

With that, Joe storms back to his car.

The next morning, Cameron and Gordon show up at 7.

Cameron tells Joe that her father used to tell her about that football game in 1958. "Sputnik came down almost a year before that," she tells Joe. She's caught him in a lie.

"Is that right?" Joe asks.

He is, in fact, just a salesman.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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