Last episode was a bit of a deranged detour. Now we are getting back in the swing of things.
Elliot, Mr. Robot and friends have finally made it to Steel Mountain, with Elliot sneaking inside in the guise of a nerdy billionaire. At the same time, Darlene encounters more difficulty from The Dark Army. Meanwhile, Tyrell is beginning his manipulation of Scott Knowles, the one primed for the coveted CTO position at Evil Corp, as well as Scott’s wife. And Angela flees to her dad’s house in New Jersey after her questionable move in the last episode.
Elliot’s infiltration of Steel Mountain goes rather poorly. On top of the fact that he’s extraordinarily awkward, he has to emotionally crush a nice, lowly IT guy, meets a higher-up who proves difficult to hack, gets lost, and finally crosses paths with Tyrell Wellick. The only thing that would have made it worse was if Tyrell actually did have him killed like Elliot thought he might.
It makes for a rather uncomfortable lunch date, as Tyrell expresses with cold eloquence his disdain at the idea of being a regular guy. This is before he reveals to Elliott he knows he’s behind the framing of former CTO Terry Colby, but doesn’t care.
Ironically, Tyrell’s need to impress Elliot with how above it all he is then exert his power over him ended up playing right into Elliott’s hands. Taking him to the executive lounge allowed him to sneak away and complete the mission of hacking Steel Mountain through their thermostats.
Tyrell returns to the city to have a dinner date with his wife and the Knowles couple. Everything is very cordial at dinner, but also very premeditated. The Knowles’ are wary of the Wellicks, and with good reason. According to Mrs. Wellick, Tyrell’s goal here is to find whatever it is that makes Scott and Sharon Knowles work and take it from them. Damage this power couple’s relationship and they can damage Scott’s status as top pick for CTO, making the way for Tyrell. The route he’s taking with this is by going after Scott’s wife, who rebuffs him when he whispers rude comments to her in front of her husband but does not object when he comes into the bathroom and stares down at her on the toilet, even opening her legs. Ever the creepy bastard, Tyrell merely looks, smiles, and thanks her for a lovely evening.
It seems Tyrell got what he wanted in a sick way. And it seemed like the mission was accomplished for fsociety as well, only for the boys to get back and learn from Darlene that, for some reason, The Dark Army refused to sabotage the backup data facility in China. Fsociety can’t take down Steel Mountain with the backup facility still operational, making the mission pointless. Elliott, with his odd somberness, manages to diffuse the tension between Darlene and Mr. Robot, and even invites a disheartened Darlene to crash at his place.
The clearly-defined theme of “3xpl0its” definitely has to do with flaws or weaknesses. The crux of the episode features Elliot exploiting the flaws in the infrastructure of Steel Mountain, which, as Elliot points out, has “impenetrable” as its slogan. However, what it is really about is finding the exploits in other people.
We see just about everybody’s weakness here. Mr. Robot’s is apparently that he is insane, according to Elliot. Tyrell’s is that he is so full of himself, according to Mr. Robot. Darlene’s impulsivity nearly reduces all of fsociety’s work to nothing.
We’ve even seen Angela’s indecisiveness devolve into completely reckless decision-making. This makes her discovery at the end of the episode more worrisome than it already is: while staying at her dad’s house, Angela happens upon piles of her mother’s old medical bills. It turns out that inserting the corrupted disc into Allsafe may have gotten The Dark Army off her and her dad’s back, it doesn’t really matter since her dad is still crippled with debt.
The discovery of this flaw is juxtaposed with Elliot’s confrontation with his own and its consequences. He arrives home to find his apartment broken into and Shayla missing. Turns out Fernando Vera somehow connected the dots and figured out Elliot was the one who had him put in jail. Psychotic as ever, Vera was happy to exploit Elliot’s weakness by kidnapping Shayla, which goes to show that Tyrell isn’t wrong when he states earlier in the episode that Elliot’s weakness is his need for vengeance.
Ones and Zeroes:
* At the very end, Angela pauses in the middle of her late-night run when she comes upon a fork in the road, bringing to mind Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken. I’ll have to review the next episode soon, because I can’t remember if I ever found out what this signified.
* The episode’s theme is a bit redundant. “D3bug” was all about finding weaknesses to exploit too. Though, I guess there the emphasis was more on the finding than the exploiting.
* We get the first mention of “Whiterose”, a key figure and possibly the leader of The Dark Army. Darlene merely mentioning the name in public causes Cisco serious alarm. From what we’ve seen, The Dark Army is far more cutthroat than fsociety.
* Our hackers hit an obstacle when they encounter someone they can’t manipulate because there isn’t any information about them online. There’s not a whole lot I can relate to in this show, as far as tech stuff goes, but I can definitely relate to that as someone who works for a newspaper. Some people have their whole identities online, and some just have names and numbers.
* Tyrell’s wife Joanna is proving more of a calculating, wolf in sheep’s clothing every time we see her. Here what makes her nervous about Mr. and Mrs. Knowles is that they seem happy and content. She claims she doesn’t drink due to her pregnancy, but quickly downs her whole glass when she gets Scott distracted with his love of wine. Also, she indulges Scott’s wine hobby explicitly to give her husband ample time to make a move on Sharon. Chick is ruthless.
* Angela shows her ruthless side too. In the beginning, she very matter-of-factly tells Ollie she ruined his life and makes it clear she doesn’t care. She and her dad have a good laugh over what a pathetic douchebag he is.
Vera: So that’s you. That’s who you are.
Love the way this show does its cold opening scenes. The way the credits start right as you see Vera come to his realization about Elliott. Right as his expression changes.
Elliot (narrating): And if you can hack the right person, all of a sudden you have a piece of powerful malware. People always make the best exploits. I’ve never found it hard to hack most people. If you listen to them, watch them, their vulnerabilities are like a neon sign screwed into their heads.
Mr. Robot: You of all people can do this, Elliot. You know how it feels when someone makes you small, you understand what happens when someone exposes what you fear most about yourself.
This is one of the most powerful scenes in the show. It was so harsh and sad to see Elliott, a guy who prefers to exploit people discretely or not at all, utterly crush poor, friendly Bill. Then they rub salt in the wound by showing us his Facebook page and the photos of him and his cats.
Tyrell: Those men I just shook hands with? Financiers of Hezbollah and ISIS… I wouldn’t stare.
Tyrell: It seems we both had the idea to work offsite today. Let’s call this fortuitous. Join me for lunch?
Elliot: S-sure… I eat lunch.
Tyrell: (Laughs) So you are like the rest of us!
I’m not sure what Tyrell was doing at Steel Mountain in the first place. Did he come there knowing he would find Elliott?
Mr. Robot: He has a vulnerability. He’s an arrogant prick and he’s proud of it. He cares what you think about him, even though he probably hates that he does. Tyrell Wellick’s greatest asset is his hubris, but it’s also his flaw. And that’s your exploit.
Tyrell: I just wanted to know your weakness. And now I do. Revenge. How ordinary; it’s like our waiter. But even extraordinary people — and I believe you are — are driven by human banalities. And, unfortunately, we’re all human. Except me, of course… I’m joking, Elliot. Enjoy your long drive home. I’m having a helicopter take me back to New York. You take care, Elliot.
He should try a little harder to be a smug prick, huh?
Scott Knowles: If you were me, would you trust you as your right hand?
Tyrell: If I were you, I wouldn’t have even let me in the house.
Elliot (narrating): Every day we change the world. But to change the world in a way that means anything, that takes more time than most people have. It never happens all at once. It’s slow, it’s methodical, it’s exhausting. We don’t all have the stomach for it.
Vera: Hey, brah. Sometimes the universe aligns perfectly. Here I am locked away. Still it brings you right to me.
The show is back to doing what I like, forcing its characters into situations that are tense and discomforting. Four out of four innocent cat photos.
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