Happy New Year, everyone!
Scorpion kicks 2015 off with a very strong episode featuring the littlest member of their team, Paige's son, Ralph. The episode is dynamic and fresh, featuring as always the team's best attributes and bringing to light issues that had been put on the back burner for a while.
For the full recap and review, just hit Read More.
A first-person shooter goes into a virtual small desert hideout. The image transitions to the reality version of the same place, where a trio working for the US government working to take down a drug cartel waits for their transport; they're stealthily shot and killed. Cut to Ralph; he's been playing the same video game without Paige's permission. He tells her that this online game "got weird" - he unlocked a hidden level. She dismisses it, and tells him to not play unauthorized games again.
At Scorpion, Walter spends the night working on a project that draws the team's attention the next morning. While he lets Happy and Ralph have their way around it, he won't let Toby participate. "You're no good with your hands," Happy claims. I love these two. The mystery around this project is that Walter plans to enter a race for $50 million going to whoever does some significant aero-space advancement... and he plans to employ the money to help Megan's illness. Toby thinks that in reality this is all about impressing Ralph.
By the time Paige drops Ralph off at school, the boy is already taken by Walter's jet engine project and dismisses any plans with his father. Just then, a convoy of black SUVs from the Department of Justice storms in and takes them in for questioning. The coordinates of a safe house were leaked in an online video game named "Overt Target" resulting in the deaths we've previously seen. Only two people decrypted the secret level: the drug cartel that killed the agents and Ralph. They think that Ralph helped design the game using Scorpion's skills or that he had access to CIA information. Paige vehemently denies that anyone in Scorpion would have put Ralph in that position.
The website hosting the game is part of the "dark web" and not available to a regular search engine. The agent is ruthless and aggressive interrogating Ralph, not buying that he "just ran" into the hidden level of the game. He pushes until Ralph admits that Walter was the one to guide him to the site and even taught him some encryption. Cabe stops the interrogation but it's too late, Paige is already fuming at Walter's lack of judgement.
Walter thought that by giving Ralph access to these sites he would see what the smartest people are developing online, but he overlooked that he'd also have access to the darker side. Paige is furious that he's exposed Ralph to dangerous situations. Drew arrives, because, you know, he's the kid's actual father, and he has very valid concerns, even though Walter is dismissive of them.
Drew tries to get Ralph to open up but the kid doesn't trust him; he just wants to talk to Walter. The DOJ isn't buying Ralph's version of the story so Gallo has lawyered up for the meantime - he doesn't want to take any chances with the team. Thankfully, Ralph is released into Paige's care. Six other locations were hacked from the CIA mainframe and the DOJ is aggressive about the investigation; Scorpion needs to find out who the real hacker is. In the meantime, Drew isn't staying put; he wants an explanation for what's going on with his son. This rapidly evolves into a blame game that Paige doesn't tolerate, urging Walter to solve the situation at once.
Finding the identity of the game developer proves hard, frustrating Walter who, once again, scolds the team for not meeting his expectations. The CIA and the DOJ have been drawing blanks trying to find the hacker as well, so Toby reminds Walter that he can't beat them up over taking "too long" to track this guy down. Toby's certain that his intentions were good when he introduced Ralph to the Deep Web, but he's not so sure that Walter understands the responsibilities that come with mentoring a young kid, even though Walter claims he does. The fact is that for these geniuses it's hard to be appropriate; even Sylvester accidentally slips out that he was once arrested in front of Ralph, Drew and Paige's shocked faces. Regardless of this inappropriate moment, Sylvester finds a lead to the game developer's identity.
Drew is very leery of what Ralph has been exposed to even when Paige claims that Ralph and Walter's friendship, and Scorpion as a team, have been beneficial for the kid. I have to say... I'm with Drew on this one. He's right about being protective, and while Paige is doing her part, and certainly Ralph is a different type of kid, he's still a kid that needs to be a kid.
Moving on, it turns out that Ralph communicated with "Minidanger" through the game's forum, giving notes that made that person modify the game. So Ralph actually did help design the game, albeit unknowingly. This won't look good to the DOJ and the CIA, and because American agents died, Cabe fears that they could make an example out of Ralph. He could be barred from any online access and be subject to a series of other restrictions that could limit his future. Basically, what would have happened to Walter if Cabe hadn't protected him from it.
Toby sets the bait for Minidanger, tracking his mobile device to a Game Slam in Downtown L.A., where the team ditches Cabe as he looks clearly out of place. See? Why can't you give the man a sports coat or something? Really...
On a curious note, this convention takes place at the LA Center Studios, the building where The X-Files: Fight The Future was filmed. Anyway... the team goes in and after quite a few puns making fun of gaming conventions, they trace the signal to a VIP gaming area where a tournament is taking place. They're not allowed in unless each can beat an old video game, thirty kills in thirty seconds. Sylvester takes the dare, promising thirty kills in ten seconds if the whole team can get in. He shocks everyone with his gaming abilities, reminding the gatekeeper of a legendary gamer called "El Guapo".
They scan the place for Minidanger, but in a sea of gamers donning red capes it's hard to do. Cabe gets impatient and while the guys communicate with each other, Minidanger makes them, blending into the crowd. Toby thinks fast, and takes the stage and the microphone claiming that he's part of the promotional team for the game and urges everyone to take the capes off to find a prize in them. Minidanger doesn't do it and they spot him as he escapes up a set of stairs out into the main hall. Cabe takes the lead after him and, in a move that he must have learned from Xena, takes a battle axe and knocks him down.
Enter Nate, (Octavious J. Johnson - Ray Donovan) he's the mind behind the game. He claims there's no secret level in "Overt Target". He offers full cooperation, and Toby doesn't feel like the kid is lying, but that's not enough for Walter. He pushes Nate to confess how the CIA information got mixed into his game, damaging Ralph's wellbeing. Nate is surprised that Ralph is so young, but he assures him that he never shared any confidential information with him and neither did his developing partner, Calvin. They immediately suspect that Calvin is the one using the game to deliver the hacked information that Ralph found by mistake.
Meanwhile, Drew continues to push Paige about his concerns with Ralph's well being. While she considers that the whole team is good for the kid, Drew worries that he's being treated like an adult and robbing him of a childhood. This strikes a chord in her.
They steal Calvin's safe out of his apartment. Toby insists on opening it himself, but it backfires; it's boobie trapped and it squirts purple dye all over him. Happy is summoned to open it up, allowing for a cute "Grimace" joke. Of course, she cracks the safe in no time. Inside, they find a heavily encrypted hard drive with the six CIA files. They'd need hours to decipher the files to see which information is being threatened; they don't have that time, odds are that Calvin has already sold the information. They need to get to him and Nate offers to go undercover to get him to talk while Sylvester stays behind to keep digging into the hard drive.
The team moves to a downtown cafe where Nate and Calvin hang out, and backup is on their way. Nate gets wired to confront Calvin; he's sorry for what's happened, but points out that Ralph shouldn't have been there in the first place. This doesn't sit well with Walter, of course. Toby coaches Nate on how to probe Calvin (Laurence Kao - The Walking Dead) but he's not playing it as cool as he should, making everyone nervous.
Sylvester discovers Calvin's personal files in the hard drive: his real name is Donald Chen and he has a record for numerous violent and counterfeit crimes. Calvin tells Nate that he's about to launch new levels of the game. That's going to blow the CIA operation if Scorpion doesn't act fast. Nate panics and rushes then, asking him about the hidden level in the game and Calvin takes him out to the back of the cafe where he proceeds to stab him. The team jumps to his aid, and Happy and Toby take off to rush him to a hospital. The DOJ arrives as well, blaming the team for botching the operation. Calvin meanwhile, is loose on his own turf. He's modeled the game after Downtown L.A. They need Ralph's aid to navigate to Calvin's hideouts; he's the only one that has played this game. Drew is not happy that his son is getting involved again, but this is obviously more important than some parental control issues.
Happy and Toby rush through traffic to the hospital; Nate is bleeding out. Toby tries to be resourceful - "crossing a line" - and asking Happy for a tampon to plug the bleeding. These two... It works though. Nate's heart stops so Toby ends up using jumper cables to jump start his heart. They get to the hospital just in time but everything that Toby did is what ultimately keeps Nate alive.
With the new levels about to be released, Ralph and Sylvester guide Cabe and Walter through. Calvin hits Cabe but Walter keeps going after him, catching Calvin before he escapes with the boy's clever aid.
Walter recognizes Toby's role in saving Nate; nobody else in Scorpion could have saved him. Toby is shocked by this recognition and has a brilliant idea that could help Walter's jet engine project. Walter recognizes that he was having way too much fun with Ralph, and Toby reminds him that he has to also be the grown up.
Happy finds out that Sylvester has been keeping his reputation as a gamer under wraps - he is indeed "El Guapo" - there's even an online video to speak of his embarrassing fame.
Drew blames himself for the fact that Paige needs to rely on Scorpion and promises that he will work hard in Portland with the new baseball gig he's got to give them a chance at something else. A chance to have a family, safe, in the same place. But what if she doesn't want something else? The truth is that she can't know what she'd be missing if she doesn't know her options.
Walter apologizes to them but points out that Ralph saved hundreds of lives. Drew appreciates that, but he also thinks that Scorpion is forcing him to be a grown up too soon. Walter differs; they're training him to be a grown up some day, not today, but he can't promise Paige this won't happen again.The one thing he cares for, though... is for Ralph reaching his full potential. He tries to lessen the tension, and Paige appreciates it... but what's next for them?
"Kill Screen" was written by Nicholas Wootton and Paul Grellong and directed by Jace Alexander. I found that this was a very strong start for Team Scorpion in 2015. The episode was versatile and kept the tension and quirkiness we're used to every week. Even the science kept itself in check this time around, allowing us to digest every stunt without questioning them. I like the consistency regarding the issues that we know plague the team; they touched upon the ships, they bring up references to previous episodes, and allow them to not take themselves too seriously. We even see how Sylvester has been working at strengthening his confidence.
Up until now, we haven't had a real opportunity to see Riley B. Smith's potential as part of the talented group of actors that we get to enjoy each week. The youngster carried the daunting situations skillfully enough, dancing around the particularities of this character. It would be really easy to overdo it, but it pleased me that between Alexander's guidance and Smith's skills, the delivery was just right.
Brendan Hines' character has a real tough road to climb with his character as well, though I feel it gives him quite the opportunity. The issues that Drew has with Ralph are very real. In a show that's plagued with numerous Daddy Issues, he has the opportunity to revert the damage done and have a go at preventing any further damage with Ralph. Will he be smart about it? Will he allow for and understand what makes Ralph unique? And on the other hand, will Walter understand that he also needs to allow Drew's presence in Ralph's life? The truth of the matter is that Paige is very aware that she's just peeking into a developing situation that will have her at a crossroads.
Jadyn Wong and Eddie Kaye Thomas' banter amuses me, and I think the dynamic established now for their courtship is enjoyable, leaving the heavier undertones of romantic relationships to Gabel and McPhee's characters. There's a lot more on the line for those two and I like how this is painting to be a complicated dance that should come together with both character's needs and handicaps. Where Walter and Paige keep exploring what seems to be a difficult scenario for both of them, for Toby and Happy, the outlook is different. Each week we enjoy advancement and learning, even when it sometimes feels like they're just trying to one-up each other.
My wish for 2015, besides all the ones I've made already, is that they give Robert Patrick some weekend wear... or address the fact that he doesn't own any. His character is as solid as always, though I'm totally ready for another Cabe-centric episode.
Next week, Scorpion has a double feature. On Sunday, CBS will air a new episode in the coveted spot right after NFL's AFC Championship game at 10pm/11pm ET/PT. Then on Monday, CBS will broadcast another original episode at it's regular time slot.
Images courtesy of CBS Entertainment