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'Halt and Catch Fire' recap, 'Giant'

Remember that dead body Gordon saw in the street last episode?

Unsurprisingly, it's haunting his dreams, as we see in the opening scene of "Giant." I've had less than five nightmares in my entire life, but I imagine that might have haunted me as well. Donna checks on Gordon as he wakes up screaming at 2 a.m., and reminds him that she's leaving on a business trip with Hunt in a few days.

The rest of the "Halt and Catch Fire" universe is also awake at this hour, as we see Joe working late at the office. He sends Debbie home, and Cameron joins him for some alcohol and frozen dinners. John, meanwhile, is meeting with Cardiff's chief accountant, who informs him that finances are so bad that the company may have to shut down within two weeks, thanks to the new PC division.

Joe and Cameron's dinner quickly moves from frozen food and booze to sex play with a live electrical current. Their romp is interrupted by a phone call from someone from Joe's past.

That someone is Simon Church, who is waiting for Joe when he arrives back at the office later that morning. Simon is an industrial designer, Joe explains, and he's come to Texas with some potential designs for Cardiff's PC's case. This is a big deal to Joe.

"Wow. All I can say is wow. It's exactly what we wanted," Joe tells Simon. Gordon is less enthused, as Simon has taken some liberties with Gordon's design. "I saw them, but they were too limiting," Simon says of Gordon's designs.

Joe also reveals to Gordon that he's naming their new PC "The Contrail." "It's about soaring, leaving the competition in the dust," Joe says. "No, Joe. Contrail is the dust," Gordon replies. "Look, if we continue to put form ahead of function, we're going to be the ones left in the dust," he adds.

After the meeting with Gordon and an awkward exchange between Joe and Cameron, Simon walks out of Cardiff and takes his designs with him. He wants nothing to do with the chaos here, and I can't say that I blame him. Joe tells John that he needs to get him another designer, a fact that doesn't please John, who had one lined up before Joe swooped in with Simon. While in John's office, we see a shot of divorce papers in his desk. John's whole life is crumbling.

Donna takes a bold stance during a meeting on her business trip, going over Hunt's head and suggesting that their company should drop a troublesome PC product that they're selling. Hunt backs her in the meeting. Everything goes smoothly, so Hunt suggests that the two of them have a celebratory dinner together. This is so silly. If they see this ridiculous plot device through, we'll all have seen it coming. If they swerve us, it's a swerve just for the sake of a swerve.

At home, Gordon is cooking an old family recipe for his kids and telling them stories about their ancestors. He asks them if they're tough, then assures them that they are. "We're all tough," he says, trying to convince himself. He ignores a phone call from Joe as this is going on.

At Joe's place, Cameron asks him if he had ever slept with Simon, apparently picking up on some subtext that I somehow missed. "Ten years ago, I was at a conference in Europe. Simon spoke. I was in the audience. He was... I wanted to be him. We stayed through the end of the event, traveled around the continent for the next month and... he left," Joe trails off.

"And yet, he was in the office today," Cameron says. "I was willing to put up with him if it meant something great for the work we've done," Joe says.

Cameron isn't sure what to make of this, but she knows a good design when she sees one. So, on her own, she goes to a gallery where Simon is viewing a photography exhibition. "Did he tell you I left him?" Simon asks. "Did he tell you why? Because I told him I loved him. And the moment I said it, I knew it was over, so I left the next morning. I tried to spare myself the embarrassment. We had a lot of fun for a while. Late nights, did a lot of stupid things. But in the end, I believe Joe just got bored," he tells Cameron.

This guy is describing a scene from my life in eerie detail, but that's neither here nor there. "...please don't make the mistake of thinking he won't do the same thing to you, eventually," he warns her.

John and Joe meet with another prospective case designer at a strip club, and the designer turns out to be exactly the sort of charming fellow that would take a serious business meeting at an establishment that showcases adult entertainment. The meeting ends with John punching the man out, then asking Joe if he can try to resurrect the deal with Simon. Joe agrees to try, and is thrilled that John did something rash for once.

After a chaotic evening with his kids, Gordon tucks them in and tells them a story of a farmer who, wanting to feel special, built a giant. He buried the giant, then had his workers dig it up a year later. The workers were convinced that this was a real giant, "and the people told him to show it to the world. And he did. And people came from all around. And he felt very, very special," Gordon says. He tells the girls that the farmer partnered with P.T. Barnum, the ultimate salesman, but that the two fought, so P.T. Barnum built his own giant.

"And he was such an expert salesman, that everyone forgot about the farmer," Gordon says, "and he was left in the dust, in a contrail." I think he might have made that story up. Oh, the rich symbolism. Later, the kids go out in the yard and start digging for the giant. Gordon tells them that it's not there, but tells them he wants to show the something. We'll find out what this crazy man is doing, later.

Things might get worse for Gordon, as Donna ends up talking about her marital difficulties with Hunt over dinner. Hunt, who knows exactly what he's doing, reminds her of how strong she is, then encourages her to go play the piano in the restaurant, which she does with great joy. If Gordon was not the least-likable man on television, this might have made me angry enough to start shouting at the screen.

John takes a late meeting with his investor, Nathan, cluing him in on the dire financial situation and asking for a loan. John offers to put up his house, and he asks the investor to do the same. "Rule number one, don't risk your own money," Nathan tells him. "If that program is out of money, that is God saying 'Good night and God bless,'" Nathan says. "Once the last dime goes, you shut it down."

Later, as he signs his divorce papers, John has a moment of inspiration and makes a phone call, asking the mystery person on the other end of the line to stop by in the morning.

Joe goes to the gallery to talk to Simon, but when Simon resists, Joe gets his guard up, telling Simon that it's not the case, but the machine inside -- which Cameron built -- that will sell his machine. He leaves just in time, as Cameron is making a drunken scene.

"Showing people who you really are? You should do that more often. Be bolder," Hunt tells Donna in an elevator after their evening together. After a few beats of "will they or won't they," Hunt exits the elevator, leaving Donna alone.

There's a knock on Donna's door a few moments later. Three guesses as to who it is. Donna kisses Hunt, who acts surprised. This also might have been an eerie replay of a scene from my life. This show is messing me up today, folks. Hunt says he was just there to deliver a fax from Gordon, and quickly leaves. Donna calls for a rental car, deciding to leave her trip a night early.

Cameron, Joe and Simon share a taxi as they leave the gallery. They drop Simon off at his hotel. As he steps out to leave, Joe steps out with him to say goodbye. "I just wanted to see you again, Joe," Simon tells him, "...and then I find you with her."

"Yes, I'm with her. What we had was 10 years ago, Simon. Stop living in the past. Why bother with any of that now?" Joe asks. "I'm sick. I just came to say goodbye," Simon answers. He tells Joe that he's still going to do the case, and that he had decided to do so before he even came to Texas.

"I need you to know that the way you felt about me, I wanted to..." Joe starts to explain before Simon cuts him off with "Take care of yourself."

Cameron sees the conversation happening and orders the driver to take off. Joe chases after the cab and gets in. "Are you going to get bored of me?" Cameron asks him. " I don't know," he answers.

Donna arrives home to find her kids asleep on the floor, while her husband is digging an enormous hole in their yard. "I'm looking for the giant," Gordon responds when asked what he's doing. Of course.

I'm not sure that what we needed at this point in the season was another layer of back story for Joe, but that's primarily what we got in "Giant." The plot advancement that we got as far as Cardiff and the PC was very minor, and the marital trouble with Gordon and Donna is my least-favorite aspect of this show.

I like this show much more when it's touching on themes that are just a bit broader, like the relationship between personal connections and technology. I don't quite know or like these characters enough to get bogged down in all of their troubles just yet.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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