Scorpion's "Going South" has the team flying to Mexico for less than pleasurable reasons. A kidnapping, internal drama and the sacrifices made for love are the themes for this week.
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All hail #melvester. I’m just so happy that Camille Guaty is back, and with her return, comes a great romantic storyline between her and Sylvester. Megan is at the hospice, happily enjoying a song he has composed for her, and they’re adorable. The conversation flows easily but the elephant in the room is that Walter still doesn’t know about them. Everyone else does, and it won’t be long before he sees the clues that they’ve been spending time together.
Sylvester suggests they spend more time at his place but the ominous fact is that Megan’s illness is getting worse. She won’t be able to leave and take day trips as much, and now she was told she won’t be able to walk without her braces again. She won’t be able to dance again and have the freedoms she used to have. Her life is slipping away; she has no time for regrets or secrets. So she urges him to come clean with Walter. Sylvester just needs to find the right time.
Meanwhile at the garage, Walter summons everyone to watch an interview of him at a local morning show on a TV network. Sylvester makes a first attempt to grab his attention but chickens out. The interview doesn’t go well with the team. While it gives publicity to Scorpion, it does so by misstating facts about their missions and members and by putting all the glory on Walter. He doesn’t see the problem with it, regardless of the fact that his lack of care has hurt the team and the interview only benefits him. They weren’t included and can’t see past it, they feel they’ve been taken for granted.
Everyone retreats to their corners, ignoring Walter’s arguments, when Cabe arrives with a client, Richard Elia (Andy Buckley - The Office, The Bridge) a tech billionaire. Elia’s daughter, Zoe (Mia Serafino - Shameless) was kidnapped by the “La Plaga” Mexican cartel while on a journalism assignment. This new and tech savvy cartel is particularly violent, leaving their victims’ heads on the streets. They’re also prone to publicize their achievements to other cartels via social media. Richard and Zoe are estranged because she’s critical of his practices. The kidnappers had requested a wire transfer but then asked for an additional installment, delivered directly to them. Elia has tried to locate the source of the communications, but none of the members of his think tank have been successful. He wants them to locate the city where they have Zoe to send some of his contractors to extract her.
Easy enough, the guys zero in on the surroundings of Culiacan, Mexico; Sylvester was able to trace it thanks to some of the data for the wire transfer. Elia is impressed and sets off to contact his sources, but Walter stalls him with a suggestion. If they were to go to Culiacan on one of his private jets and with his assistance, they could pinpoint the exact spot where Zoe is being held. Elia accepts right away, offering to double their fee, but the rest of the team is already on alert. Going into cartel territory is not the safest of plans. Toby accuses him of using this case to favor the PR campaign Walter’s got going on, lured by the money and not realizing what’s at risk. But they’re on a time crunch, and Walter won’t fall for Toby’s provocations even if they’re half based in common sense, so he urges Elia to let them use both of his private jets and have two million dollars at hand to execute his plan.
On the plane, the team extracts the holographic strips off the bills so they can set a trap for the kidnappers. Using these strips, they can trace via GPS where the money gets transported and that could lead them to Zoe. Sylvester tries hard to compliment Walter’s idea and Happy sees through it, still upset about Walter’s lack of consideration earlier.
She’s also worried that Cabe isn’t travelling with them, but he’s the only one that can requisition the strips with the State Department and he will meet them an hour after they arrive. They’ll be escorted into town by the Mexican Federales. Walter is sure that he can handle whatever comes, but Toby doubts that he can handle any gunfire from drug lords. Walter is sure that they won’t encounter any of that, they’ll just use the strips and let the professionals track the cartel.
Neither Toby nor Happy are content with this plan or Sylvester’s forced praise of it. I guess that #Quintis is an united scornful front.
Officer Vega (Omar Leyva - Gang Related) describes “La Plaga” as a rampant cartel that has taken over the territory, terrorizing everyone. He recommends to lay low as he drives them through the country, but Walter continues to assure them that they won’t be handling any dangerous part of the plan, leading the operation from the hotel. Suddenly, they stop at a makeshift bus stop and Vega drops them there, claiming that if he rides with them into town they’ll be targets for sure.
Toby is convinced that the man is deceitful and, as they’re left in the middle of nowhere to wait for the bus with the money, tensions arise. The guys disperse around the bus stop, and Sylvester sees the opportunity to begin a conversation about his situation with Megan. Just then, an unmarked and beat up van approaches the place; two armed men climb out and point their rifles at them, shouting and threatening as they take the money. The thugs take off; everyone is shell shocked and then Sylvester blurts that he’s been dating Megan. Timing, it is everything.
Toby cannot help himself, rubbing in the I told you so as they finally arrive at their modest hotel in town. He’s sure that Vega was paid off to leave them behind. The truth is that Walter had nothing to do with setting up their escort in Mexico, so he asks him to let go. Sylvester worries that Walter is upset with him because of Megan, but Paige dismisses it, pinning it on the fact that he’s just upset at being robbed. So he sets about getting Megan a souvenir, picking a cuckoo clock that Happy already hates.
Cabe arrives with the GPS to track the money and by the look on their faces he knows that something went wrong; he can’t believe it. Toby throws some of the blame on him as well, since it was through the government that the escorts were arranged. They explain the situation to Elia and he agrees to continue with the plan and remedy the situation. His trust and good graces have become a thing to Cabe and Walter.
The cartel sends another video, making Zoe inform them that if they don’t deliver the money by their deadline, she’ll be sent back in pieces. Walter traces the point of origin of the video but the email was sent from a server that creates an encrypted key every three minutes.
Sylvester plays the ransom video over and over again, getting on Walter’s nerves. Paige considers now that Walter might be upset for reasons other than the downfall of this mission. Sylvester identifies a bird by a statue in the background of the video. It’s a rare species that only migrates within a certain range of shallow marsh. Toby and he differ about how wide the range is, so Walter establishes a radius (using bingmaps, because Google does not exists in this dojo) around the nearby shallow marshes to find a warehouse that could be the location of the cartel. Even then, Toby irks about who was the one that really figured out that vital piece of information.
They set off to a nearby park that fits the description, with a statue and a fountain right up front. Happy spots the tire tracks of a couple of vehicles going out of the compound and Gallo approaches the building; they’re clear to approach. Inside, the building it’s empty; they need clues that might lead them to the cartel’s next stop.
Paige urges Walter to clear the air with Sylvester, but he’s not pleased about him dating his sister and he overhears them. Toby and Happy fixate on the fountain. The lore says that a conquistador killed his unfaithful wife and threw her in there, making the water run red. This is the most famous landmark in the city and it sticks with them.
The cartel made it a point to feature it on the video; the theory being that after they found out Scorpion’s efforts were thwarted, they must have assumed that Elia hired locals to go after them. They’re using the landmark to lure them. Walter questions it. They would only do that if they were planning an ambush and there’s no one there. They then hear a telltale mechanical sound. Above them, a couple of armed robots equipped with motion sensors aim and start shooting at them with machine guns. If you are imagining a T-2 type of thing, stop right there. This is more like a college grade type of mechanical achievement.
They run and scatter around the floor; everyone takes cover behind the few items stored in the warehouse. As long as they’re behind static objects, they’ll be fine. The problem is that they won’t be able to stay there forever. If they move they’ll be shot and if they don’t, the cameras surveying the place will let the cartel know they’re there. A ladder falls and activates a fan that’s near Paige, who’s hiding behind some rusted oil cans. The machine guns aim at the rotating asps, hitting the cans and soon enough they will hit her. Cabe has to incapacitate the machine gun aimed at their portion of the warehouse so Walter tosses a conveniently placed crate of oranges on the floor, distracting the attention of the machine gun shooting at Paige. It works, she runs towards him and lands on top of Walter. Convenient… but the man really does not take advantage of this. Tsk, tsk.
They’re running out of time and now Elia’s contractors won’t even come into the city. They’re going to have to rescue Zoe themselves.
Happy supposes that the craftsmanship of the machine gun robots has to be local. They could ask around, they’d talk and rat, the enemy is common. Happy grew up in places like this, she thinks she can persuade them. But Walter thinks otherwise and forbids her to go. They receive another email; the cartel recorded their ambush and is using the video to advertise their skills. That was the whole purpose, to flaunt in social media. Walter needs all of their help to figure out their next step, but Happy has fled the scene.
She’s taken off on her own looking for tips on who crafted the robot. While asking the locals, who are dubious of her, she’s spotted and attacked, leaving her unconscious. When she comes to, she’s being held hostage by Paco (Aramis Knight - Girl meets World, General Hospital) - a nervous kid, not older than eighteen. Paco demands that she tells him about her family in the US so that he can request a ransom for her, but Happy is unfazed by the kid and his gun and she overpowers him. He’s no match for her, so he pleads with her - he’s got no family, he’s just trying to get money to survive.
Meanwhile back at the hotel, Walter is not having much luck decrypting the mail server key. Zoe is running out of time. Toby is getting worried about Happy when she shows up, announcing she’d been kidnapped, and comes with Paco in tow. She doesn’t think the kid is a threat, just a hungry kid trying to get the cartel’s attention. Happy thinks that he can lead them to the location of the cartel members, but Walter fights back, thinking that the kid will never talk. Toby looks at Paco; maybe Happy is right.
He starts by bribing the kid with a video game console and a TV set, paid by the US government. He’s basically offering whatever he wants if he’s to give up the location of La Plaga. Toby appeals to his good side, but the kid doesn’t trust him. So Toby pushes further, trying to prove he can trust them and leaves him alone in the room to think it over. Walter doesn’t think this will work, and Toby gets annoyed at Walter’s lack of trust as well. The team is definitely not united about this strategy, pulling at each other and bickering, bringing up the misconceptions and sore spots brought up by Walter’s interview. Toby almost goes too far in his sarcasm criticizing Happy’s trust in the boy, but he’s certain that his plan will work.
Just then, they hear the noise of a window pane closing shut; the boy has fled the scene with their IDs and cash. His plan worked; he took the strips among the things, so they’re able to track him down wherever he goes. Paco rushes to the cartel; he wants to be something that he’s not, trying to appease the people in control and this is going to put him in their good graces.
They pull up the schematics of the building (again, by using Bing’s satellite view) and with this amazing view of the complex they’re able to determine that they’re most likely holed up on the 3rd and top floor. They also see that they have civilians living in the same building and that there are light sensors attached to it. They won’t be able to go in undetected, and the layout of the building sets them up for an impossible entry.
That’s when Walter figures that Sylvester’s cuckoo clock has a light receiver dial, and that when hooked to his tablet and using a laser pointer, it would help them set up a makeshift infrared sort of device that would feed their laptop, allowing them to have a chance at fooling the guards. I have to say, I understood the science… but it took me three passes on it.
They arrive at the compound; what Toby thought it was a great plan now doesn’t seem so good. Especially if he continues to bicker about his problem with Walter and the rest join him in this untimely argument. Cabe has had it and calls them out on it. They need to work together or they’re all dead.
They enter the building, and indeed Walter’s device works, transmitting an image to Sylvester and spotting an armed guard just around the corner. They use this information and Cabe knocks the guy out, swiftly. So far the Gallo gun/punch superpower has been top notch. They separate, Cabe takes the thug’s rifle and heads over to the central staircase while the guys head over to try to access the outside balconies.
Paige, Toby and Happy knock on one of the apartments, and this is where Kat McPhee just rocks that Spanish diction. She cons the woman living in the second floor, asking for help for her child. The woman opens the door but immediately knows something is off. They plead with her; they’re there to rescue the girl from the cartel members. The woman gives in and allows them inside and they rush over to the balcony to access the top floor.
Cabe gets to one of the stair landings and shoots, taunting the cartel members to come out. The cartel leader (Javier Calderon - Murder in the First) summons the rest of the thugs. Toby helps Happy to climb up the outside wall of the building while Cabe carries out the distraction. The thugs are quite dramatic, I have to say - but you know, Gallo is the bomb and actually Terminator, so he’s got this.
Happy reaches the top level, now that we have agreed that she’s the in-house Spiderwoman, and gets to Zoe. She starts to untie her but a thug comes out of nowhere and knocks her out, screaming for Paco to come over and guard. As the thug prepares to shoot her, Paco grabs a wood piece and strikes him, knocking him unconscious, saving her. Happy tells him to run away to safety and she takes care of freeing Zoe.
Cabe runs out of ammo and Walter has to rush building a contraption while Happy dangles Zoe out of the balcony by a bed sheet. She climbs out as well and Toby gives Walter and Cabe the signal to move along. The cartel leader goes after them, but Walter plugs a fault proof wedge, locking the door and preventing them from following. They gather at the lobby of the building, checking with Sylvester that he’s done on his end, and they exit, to find that the cartel found a way around via the back door.
As the cartel leader prepares to shoot, Walter draws his attention to the roof. Sylvester has installed one of the robotized guns that they used in their ambush, and calibrated the motion sensor to the area the cartel is standing in. They’ll be shot if they move, and one of them proves them right and gets a few bullets to his knee.
They put a twenty four hour battery on the robot, giving them that much time to get away from the cartel and they exit, leaving some seriously ticked off thugs behind. Toby throws them one last mind game, “Now remember, your nose does not itch…” If I were them, I would have been shot in less than three seconds.
As they drive away they run into Paco, who’s escaping the town. Happy makes them stop and forces Cabe to give him his five thousand dollar watch. Seriously, Happy? I mean the boy saved your life and all, but that watch was given to poor old Cabe by the US Ambassador to Paraguay! She urges the kid to sell it and use the money to move far away.
Back in Los Angeles, Zoe will be alright, and she runs to her father’s arms the moment he comes in. Walter asks the team to give them some privacy and uses this time to apologize for the situation he provoked by the interview. He should have made sure that everyone was included - “He wasn’t thinking,” - Fighting is not good for this team and everyone acknowledges it; Toby and Happy apologize for their behavior as well. Sylvester is happy that everyone made up but he cannot help but be troubled about his own problem with Walter. He did hear him after all.
Paige urges Walter to talk to him but Sylvester is already on a defensive mood. He thinks that Walter doesn’t think he’s good enough for Megan, because of all of his shortcomings, but the truth is that Walter has a different point of view on this whole situation.
Walter feels that while he has been preparing for some time to face the very probable fact that Megan will die, Sylvester hasn’t and won’t be able to bear it. But he fights back; Megan makes him better, she makes him feel good about himself. He knows the risk, but if there’s one thing that’s worth the risk, it’s her.
Let me get another box of kleenex. I’m verklempt.
They hug it out and Sylvester takes off to meet her. She’s surprised to see him there. He brings her the beat up cuckoo clock, which is obviously a running gag by now. He then goes and turns on September by Earth, Wind and Fire henceforth changing the meaning of this song for me. He urges her to dance with him. She’s self-conscious and a little fearful, but he’ll have none of that. Sylvester coaxes her to put her feet on his and dance with him. She holds on to him, still awkwardly fearing a fall, but Sylvester says it all: “I’ll support you.” And so they dance away.
Cut to the garage, Walter works away on his plane turbine when Elia goes to thank him for their work. He notices the huge thing and asks him about it, offering even to put a good word in for him since he knows the anonymous donor that’s financing the competition, but Walter wants to do it on his own. Elia also makes another offer, to work on his think tank with top of the class perks. While the offer is incredible, he’s already where he’s got to be… but the question is out, could he be happier elsewhere?
I joked on twitter that the last time I’d seen Robert Patrick in Mexico was in an X-Files episode titled “John Doe” directed by none other than Michelle McLaren. Recreating a foreign country setting in Los Angeles can be either the easiest thing or the hardest thing depending on cast, locations and mood. So that’s why this week, I have mixed feelings about my review, mainly because it’s hard to pass judgment when I know as a producer what passing for believable entails. But as someone quite in touch with the latin american culture, I always cringe at the portrayals.
This review gets even harder to write when I remember that I went to school with the Art Director. But anyhow.
I think that as of late, as much as I criticized The Bridge, that was a show that got it right in terms of how things look south of the border. Scorpion is a different animal, I know, but it would be unfair of me to not expect a bit more. Even when detailed nods are given to LA all the time, in this case, I wasn’t expecting a detailed recreation of Mexico. But even when there’s a lot of value in what they did, and this show is more technicolor than monochrome, there were some factual things that I couldn’t buy…like the bus stop in the middle of nowhere with a signage as such, and the fountain that’s supposed to be the most famous landmark in that town, just abandoned with no pomp or circumstance...and someone happened to put a warehouse next to it. Alas, each storyteller makes the choices they oughta take.
The rest of the art department work for the episode was actually great in portraying the slums. I’ve seen first hand slums like these, and director David Grossman made great choices to translate what’s interesting and claustrophobic in them. In that effect, even the trash was well placed.
But what about the story?
Jealousy is not a term I’d like to use to describe what sparked the conflict within the team, even when some of the reaction might be rooted in that. Earlier on, I really criticized Walter’s tendency to be so independent or even egotistical about his ways, knowing that it was bound to rub someone the wrong way at some point. Despite his apology and the final scene acknowledging the unspoken appreciation for his team, I don’t think that he’s going to stop doing things that make the team feel they’re taken for granted sometimes. I think he will continue making mistakes. I think others will assume he’s going to continue to make them, and that could be a great source for drama. The acceptance of their evolution, as Paige pointed out, is nice, but it’s also something to maintain and get used to.
Development wise, I couldn’t be more satisfied with Melvester. The choices made for this relationship are great because each of them know what the stakes are, playing that tug-of-war between fear and bravery upon what could be their future. Ari Stidham has embraced the needs for Sylvester, to be not only able to conquer his own fears but also conquer Megan’s. Camille Guaty’s work is subtle; from the last time we saw her, the toll that the illness has taken on Megan is not only seen by dialogue but the weight that you see on her slump, and the sadness that seeps out even when she jokes around with Sylvester. It has to be some special kind of hell to live a moment in your life where every part of you vibrates full of energy and the other part of you pulls the other way.
Had that last line of dialogue of their final scene have been “I’ve got you,” instead of “I’ll support you,” I think I would still be crying, but that’s just my personal taste. Also, this scene should have been the ending of the episode. I like my bookends to remain bookends.
The rest of the ships, while not ignored, were not as central as Melvester.
#Waige is firm on the standstill since Walter decided that he wasn’t the best choice for Paige. His ambitions get in the way, and you have to question sometimes: Does Walter O’Brien really need a significant other? As romantic as the notion is that everyone does, who’s to say that’s the rule? Still, this doesn’t keep Paige from evolving the suave touch she has on Walter, persuasive and influential to every move he makes.
#Quintis keeps adding layers upon layers each week, and for this episode, I was satisfied by their performances. They were laced with some familiarity that Jadyn Wong and Eddie Kaye Thomas play very well; annoyance, they’re masters at it.
As always the invitation is to watch every Monday at 9 p.m. on CBS. Just a few episodes left for this very successful first season.