This week on Scorpion… Walter O’Brien and company take the risks to an explosive level!
The team has to stop a nuclear meltdown while dealing with a former member that might open old wounds and rattle the unity of the group. More emotional developments arise and we delve much deeper into their past struggles as a team.
For our detailed recap and our review, please click on “Read More”.
“Plutonium is Forever” opens in the outskirts of the Montero Nuclear Reactor in LA County. Mark Collins (Joshua Leonard - CSI: Miami, Bones, True Detective) breaches the perimeter and gets caught by the military guarding the plant. This is a set up, and he requests to talk with Walter.
At Scorpion’s Headquarters, Paige tries to enforce a routine on her son. She wants Ralph to have a regular life within the Scorpion environment but he gets swayed by the team’s tendency to get lost in their experiments. Being part of the team prevents this, they keep each other in check. She has never seen him this happy, and Walter reassures her that he’s in the right place.
Toby’s problems get revisited; Happy wants him to get over them. In turn, he wants to rely on her for these times when he falls “off the wagon” but she avoids him. Cabe arrives to inform Walter of Mark Collins’ arrest. He is affected by the mention of this name; he hasn’t spoken to him in years. As they arrive to Montero, General Ned Walker (Mykelti Williamson - Forrest Gump, Justified, Touch) is the officer in charge of the reactor’s security. It has been decommissioned and scheduled for dismantling for a while.
Mark used to work for Scorpion, and Cabe takes this with caution. The man talks in a series of codes, for example: stating the number of days it has been since certain milestones. He’s been following Scorpion’s new relationships with Homeland Security closely. He’s a radio expert, a hacker, tracking all signals around him and is very defiant of the government.
Walter is worried about Mark’s mental state; neither Gallo nor the General can follow the references made in mathematical calculations that he shares with Walter. Those are tied to the studies that he’s been keeping in his journals since he stopped working with him and [a]Walter seems in complete understanding of this apparent nonsense.
To solve this case, Walter needs the team to come along for the ride; Collins reappearance signals that something important is about to happen. The General is worried that getting more people involved in this situation could lead to leaks of information but, once again, Cabe vouches for them.
Walter asks Gallo to keep the team in the dark about who’s involved in this case, which makes him extra suspicious. The rest of the team arrives at Mark’s house and spot an antenna that he has built in his backyard. Admiring how over the top it has been protected and the grade of sophistication that it has, right away they figure out that they’re in Mark Collins’ house - there’s not that many people with this level of expertise in California.
While they peruse his lair, Paige learns about Mark: he was an intransigent member of the team that played mind games with them, affecting Walter in a way that prevented him from using his good judgement, making him forget about the importance of Scorpion.
They just need to get the data in his house. They’re not surprised that he’s arrested: in his living room they see the effects of Mark’s madness. Notes, charts, flow paths and figures that don’t particularly make a lot of sense to the normal guy fill every surface and space. Funny enough, I’ve had my writer’s room look like this at times… anyway, moving on.
Paige doesn’t agree with Walter’s approach and keeping secrets. Cabe is also gradually getting more worried about Walter’s grip on the situation; he’s falling for Mark’s appeal again. They find a recording that proves scientists in the reactor had warned that an update needed to be run. Because of this, Collins monitored changes in radiation levels and water temperature. He tried to learn more, but communications went black after the warning for the update was issued. A problem was being actively ignored.
Walter is sure that there must be bigger issue that Mark wants the team to solve, but the team refuses to help. Cabe agrees with him and Scorpion is now in charge of upgrading the power plant. Toby fears that even if they manage to avoid the reactor’s nuclear accident, they might not be able to avoid the team’s own meltdown with Mark Collins back in their lives.
The update is supposed to be an easy procedure, but when they check the system they find that while the reactor was supposed to be in cool down mode, instead it’s overheating. Dr. Fitzsimmons, the lead safety officer, knew of this but he’d been afraid to say anything. Having been transferred to another facility, and without a current replacement, this mistake was overlooked. They need to update the system fast, and only Collins can guide them thru the correct procedure. They only have eighteen hours before it starts to overheat critically.
The team worries that when Mark was part of Scorpion, Walter and he would go into a “Savant Dissociative State”. They don’t believe this is the right time to believe in Collins. Gallo wants Paige to get through to Walter as he’s sure there’s a secret he’s keeping about the true reason behind Collins parting ways with the team.
She digs for information. Why is he allowing him back in? Is it that he really misses his intellectual abilities or that he’s feeling guilty for the conditions that he’s been living in? His decisions make everyone nervous. Walter dismisses her, making her “job” of connecting with them harder.
Collins arrives, ruffling feathers. They need to tackle the problem from two fronts: get the reactor to read the correct data, and prepare the system to run the update. He hands out the assignments which doesn’t please the team, especially Happy. They have to run two different computers as well; one is a quarter mile across the campus and so the team divides. Toby and Happy tackle the one outside the actual reactor but sadly, the computer running the system update is far too outdated to withstand the process.
But Collins won’t back down. He is confident now that Walter brought him back for this operation, but is still sarcastic about how he’s turned the team for the best. Walter doesn’t bite; he knows that there were other, more preferable ways to alert of this emergency that he didn’t take advantage of. Mark wants to get back to the great projects they developed together and Paige is stoked by the way they communicate, something that is unbearable to Sylvester.
Happy doesn’t want to move forward with Mark’s plan until a full diagnostic is run on the computers, fearing they could accelerate a meltdown. Collins dismisses her opinion and Walter argues that the diagnostic could crash the system and then a meltdown wouldn’t be preventable. Mark claims that Happy’s opposition to his orders is based on her dislike for him and not on knowledge. This is outrageous to Toby.
Walter decides to follow Mark’s advice, downloading the reactor’s calibrations. Happy calls him aside, questioning his sanity and loyalty, reminding him of how she was the one who brought him back from the aftermath of his friendship with Collins. She won’t stand another ride with this man; she’d leave Scorpion.
Coming back to the control room, Toby hands Happy a note for her to look after the ordeal is over. She scoffs at his sentimentality and runs a circuit test on the computer to try to do half the job safely as they try to put together the reactor’s configuration. It seems to be doing well but the system overloads and the back-up generator explodes.
Happy blames herself for this, but Walter can’t dwell on it - she has to guide them out of the plant, and they have to evacuate FAST. The team takes off while Walter and Cabe wait for the reactor configuration to download. Paige, Walker, Sylvester, and Mark rush to make it out before the containment doors close. Sadly, Walter and Gallo can’t make it out in time.
Happy guides them to a defective door that’s at the far end, but Gallo trips and is left inside the danger zone of the reactor. Walter promises to figure out a way for him to escape. Finding a layout of the plant is near impossible with the expired technology. Pipes burst then, contaminating the area Gallo is in; the team tries to underplay it, but he’s smarter than that. Walter knows that Cabe would choose the greater good: to focus on the bigger picture and try to stop the meltdown than to rescue him. Paige won’t allow him to give up, though.
Collins is surprised that Walter even considers his emotions towards Gallo. This is not the man he knew. Mark knows of a way out based on the diagrams he made of the plant but he needs to check it at his place. Happy goes with Mark, and Paige joins as well to serve as mediator. Gallo takes advantage of this and urges Walter to tell him the truth; if he’s going to put his life on the line, he needs to know if he’s hiding something. Walter confesses that he was the one to put Collins into an asylum.
Mark and Happy find a pipe that will take Cabe to the sea; Gallo makes a run for it, and this is the one scene that makes the whole episode for me. Here’s why: Cabe tells Walter that if the plan doesn’t work out he’s glad he got to know him but Walter is dismissive of what could be his possible last words to him. Sylvester and Toby are APPALLED at his reaction, but this is how Walter copes. We learn something else in this moment; it is confirmed that Cabe had a daughter. She’s the kid from the picture previously seen in the pilot. I had so many flashbacks to The X-Files and the Luke storyline as he pulled out and kissed the dog-eared picture, telling her that he feared that he “might be seeing her soon.”
As Cabe dips into the pipe, Paige prays for him, prompting Happy to comment on her personal view of death. It was an awkward moment between the two women, but still much in tone to what these people are. Luckily, the plan works; Cabe gets out alive, swimming to shore and coming out of the waves to the tone of 2002 Summer hit The Ketchup's Asereje, all the while flaunting some serious ink under his wet white button down. This is the Robert Patrick show, it seems. I laughed so hard. Relief, I tell you.
Also, Nick Santora and Paul Grellong, thank you... now that song is stuck in my head. It'd only taken eight years to forget about it. Anyways...
They continue to try and get the update through to the reactor’s computer to lower the core temperatures. The girls are still with Collins; they worry about the plan, a strong doubt of its effectiveness still lingers. Paige wants to believe it will work and tries to reassure Happy but she steps aside and pulls out the note Toby gave her, finding that he had written “Made you look!” - the clever joke helps her find center. The computer update works, and Happy talks them through the reboot.
This leaves Paige alone with Collins. He claims Walter would treat Ralph just as he did him: an experiment to discard when he’s done. Paige tries to ignore him but the seed is planted, he’s a master at terrible mind games.
Cabe congratulates Walter on pulling through, bewildered that his reaction to saving millions of lives isn’t more effusive, but Walter is perturbed by the real motivation for him to commit Collins years ago. He wanted other people to help Mark out in case this were to happen to him as well. Old fears come to surface: What if he becomes like Mark and can’t be pulled out? His motivation was not selfless at all. Cabe calms him, assuring him that he did the right thing.
Regardless, Collins is the one making him question himself. Just then, Walter figures out that Mark has played them. He’s planted a trojan horse that prevents the update from transmitting in full. They need to go to his house and use the antenna he has built in the backyard. Walter calls on his team’s trust even when they have enough grounds to not trust him anymore, and Cabe prepares for the possibly of having to resort to stronger means.
The warnings go off, alarms go crazy, and they rush into Mark’s house. The antenna’s access codes to send an analog signal are protected by a code which can only be deciphered by Walter, based on Mark’s deranged numerical cues.
At this point, Collins breaks down, rehashing the shortcomings he blames on Walter. His disdain for the team is strong. He doesn’t care to save anyone because his life ended the day Walter destroyed their partnership and sent him to the asylum. The importance of this confession tells them that’s the clue they need to decipher the code; the date. Mark tries to stop them but Cabe shoots him in the leg. They rush and make the transmission as everyone stands on attention, Paige holds on to dear life, her hands gripping her skull, and then... it works. The temperature goes down, they’ve saved Los Angeles again.
Afterwards, Walter blames himself for not paying more attention to Collins, but Gallo reminds him that he was focusing on a friend, trying to do good by him, trusting him once again and that’s what didn’t work out. They were good intentions. Walter questions that that justification implies he feels guilt, which is an emotion. Cabe reminds him that acting like a human being is never a mistake - it means that they’re evolving. Cabe is proud.
Mark still rides the guilt train on Walter as he goes to say goodbye. The jealousy runs deep. He claims that he’s so much better and that he deserved a spot on the team. But Walter assures him that Paige brought what was missing in Scorpion, someone that binds them. Collins promises to see him again, revengeful, but Walter hopes that’s not the case.
I’m sure we will.
Back at HQ, Walter thanks Happy for rescuing him from Collins’ grasp back in the day, and promises to not let her down again. He asks about Toby going after Collins to defend her honor, but she deflects again, dismissing Toby’s intentions. We know better, and she knows better too… I ship them. I hope they make it complicated.
As Paige and Ralph come to bring the group a new bonding project, she pulls Walter aside to ask about his true intentions with her son and her. She asks for his honesty and she doesn’t want to be a tryout; she has been bit by the comments Mark made. Walter assures her that she’s one of them, they can’t do it without her.
As the show continues each week, relationships grow stronger and as they say, the plot thickens. I have to admit while watching this week, for whatever reason, this show reminded me of the now defunct Alphas. Scorpion is grounded more in reality though and I think this is why the show is captivating audiences quite fast. People find an easier way to grasp familiarity in the situations, as outlandish as it may sound.
I like that the backstory that we’re being fed every week is consistent, making the past more graspable than just a simple notion. It is clear that one of the arcs that the writers have set to develop is the team’s inability to connect emotionally like a regular Joe does. This has been presented in different ways and with different consequences. I wonder though if we will reach a point where this is not so spelled out for us. I think that moving forward, since the show has started to settle and the stakes are established, it would be great to have this arc be developed with more subtlety. I’d like less “You have a problem with emotions” and more “I’m proud of you for allowing me in…” - I guess that what I’m asking for is texture to those statements.
As you can imagine, I’m absolutely delighted with Robert Patrick’s time on screen, though I’d like his character to have the opportunity to tell the story for a change and be less about the questions. I know too that this is the nature of his character, he’s in a position where he’s learning along the way what Scorpion can do, but I think this is something to contemplate in further episodes. Like I pointed out, his scene with his daughter’s photograph was simply… great. Can we have some more of that?
On the same note, I have to give it to Katharine McPhee. I hadn’t had the experience to see much of her acting in the past, not having followed her career closely since American Idol, but she’s growing solidly in this character. I believe her worry for the team and her son, and being the “emotional” aspect of the team grants her the ability to actually explore those arenas. I believed her when she feared deception, falling for Collins’ mind games. I believed her when she swooned as Walter told her how important she is to the team. I like her character because her doubts have morphed to show different and interesting points of view about her basic fear.
Another thing I haven’t talked about this show is the cinematography. I’m a big camera geek, and I really enjoy the show every week because of the quality that Robert LaBonge has brought to the show. His work with Director Jeff T. Thomas is great not only on a performance level but also because they’ve taken the care to show Los Angeles as a different character than the usual starlet town. It’s refreshing and it satisfies me a lot. They make great use of interesting locations and angles, and you can tell they’re having fun with it.
This show is here to stay.