Xmas is everywhere; it's just around the corner, and well, also Chanukah and most other celebrations including New Years. For Scorpion's mid-season finale, because we have plenty of those these days, the team didn't look away from this celebration; well, they tried, but no such luck.
In a nutshell, as Paige tries to infuse the whole team with Xmas spirit, they stumble upon an emergency case for team Scorpion. A kid is trapped in a sinkhole and only they can employ their varied talents to save him from a sure death. But a lot more happens.
Click on "read more" for the full recap and my review.
So... here we go. If you want to just read the review, scroll to the end.
"My name is Walter O'Brien..." - That never gets old.
Los Angeles is full-on cheer for the holidays; despite the lack of snow, decorations and mirth cover the streets of the city. Paige comes into the garage bearing gifts and decorations on Christmas Eve while the guys lounge to the sounds of Black Sabbath instead of your token Xmas carol. Honestly, I handmade ornaments this year while listening to The Rolling Stones, so I'm with them on this. But I digress.
Paige wants to get them all in the spirit of the season not only to break away from the routine, but also because Ralph is sad since Drew won't be spending it with them. He went to Portland to a tryout for the minor leagues. Really, man? Toby points out that this is typical of the guy, to go away when Ralph expects him to be there. Paige defends him, but only halfheartedly.
Regardless, she will deliver the whole experience for her son, sans the snow. Toby doesn't see the point, given that he bets Ralph doesn't even believe in Santa, yet Paige seems to think there's still some belief in magic left in the kid. She even gets them personalized ornaments. It's cute.
The reality is that none of them have fond memories of their own Christmases as children; misunderstanding parents, foster homes, and dysfunctional and alcoholic parents don't quite scream the perfect recipe for whimsical times. They're totally jaded about the holiday.
Meanwhile, Walter and Megan spend the day at Zuma beach while eating Fatburger. This is what you do in South California. Sorry, East coast. Walter dismisses the importance of the holiday, but Megan counters that it's about sharing with family; he defends that that's exactly what they're doing: sharing. Although, a burger is not a holiday meal - now, had that burger been a Double-Double, Animal Style from In-and-Out, well, now we're talking.
Walter spots a kid and his sitter having trouble lifting a kite, so he wows them with his scientific explanation of how to use the wind correctly to play with the toy. Owen (Wyatt Oleff – Guardians of the Galaxy) is impressed, and Walter is humble about it.
He goes back to Megan and they reminisce about their childhood. He also didn't appreciate the holiday even back then. He had more things to occupy his mind, he says, like the trial study that he's now managed to snag a spot for his sister on. Megan doesn't want to be part of it, though; she fears the side effects and believes that at this point the only thing that would cure her would be a miracle. Walter can't accept that, citing other encouraging efforts such as the cure for Polio. They never gave up; they relied on science, not myths. Megan points out that sometimes, for some things you just have to have faith. He has faith too, he claims, just in things that are real.
They're hit with a tremor then that provokes a rockslide on the cliff nearby. Owen's babysitter screams, calling out for help. He was in one of the caves when the boulders came down. Walter and a beach patrol police officer try to get to him but the cave is sealed shut. It turns out that the tremor caused a sinkhole, and there's a big chance that Owen is "safely" stuck in this hole. They call out LAFD and the Army Corp of Engineers; they need to get him out right away
At Scorpion, the guys continue to work on a nondescript project of theirs, one that apparently has been weeks in the making, when Walter summons them to head over to Zuma and help out. By the time they arrive, emergency services and the news are all over it. Cabe has arrived too. Dan Heather, (Charles Malik Whitfield – C.S.I., Franklin & Bash) leader of the Army Corp of Engineers informs them that the kid is trapped two and a half stories down; the boulders are blocking access to him and they can't use machinery to move them as the vibrations would break the integrity of the sink hole, trapping Owen for good. To top that off, the water is seeping through the cracks and the tide is very strong. Sylvester manages to calculate that they only have one hour and twenty-two minutes to save him. CalTrans has the right equipment to drill but the sand is too unstable, so the Army is digging a tunnel along side the cave but that takes more time.
Trying to get closer to the kid sparks Sylvester's phobias, but the rest of the team continues to work focused. Happy and Walter manage to figure out a way to reach him and slide a cellphone in to Skype with him. They manage to call the kid's parents so he calms down a little and Paige steps in to try to keep him sane, talking about holiday stories and what not. Toby detects that Owen has a collapsed lung, making impossible the previous plan to use Scuba gear to get him out of the hole. On top of that Sylvester lets them know that he didn't account for the rising tide, and his calculations are wrong. Owen has fifty-six minutes left before the water fills the hole.
They try to adjust their plans, learning now that they can't pull him out of the hole either because his leg is trapped under a heavy rock. Owen is going into shock so Paige tries to talk him down and bond with him while Cabe tries to find other alternatives with the LAFD. The only solution they have is to amputate the kid's leg, but even then, the vibrations of the bone saw could also cause a cave in. Walter is running out of options; he's frustrated, but Megan reminds him of the Polio anecdote. They kept fighting against an impossible wall and she has faith in him, he can fight that wall. That gives him an idea. They have to move the boulder instead of creating tunnels or even pulling him out.
They calculate that they need a sensitive device to lift the boulder without moving it too much to set off a domino effect that could collapse the cave he's trapped in. Sylvester calculates a range of distance the device should be able to lift but this is not accurate enough for Walter's needs. He snaps at Sylvester and is clearly upset with him, and it doesn't go unnoticed. Happy offers to build a micro-jack but the parts are at the garage. Toby takes off with her. Cabe worries that it would be useless because there's no way they can make it back before the time is up. I wondered about that too. With LA traffic, that kid is as good as dead.
But Walter has it figured out. He needs to get Owen to stop breathing to survive. I know, it sounds crazy, but this is a theory I've mulled over many times over the years, ever since watching The Abyss and having one too many crazy theoretical discussions with my host father in 1998. It's decided that Walter will hook Owen to a pump that will oxygenate his blood, very much like a baby does in-utero, feeding off the mother, providing good oxygen to his system so he doesn't die.
While Walter and Cabe hunt for the necessary equipment, the Army finishes drilling the bigger tunnel to reach Owen. The boys arrive with the pump, but Heather worries they haven't stabilized the tunnel. Walter needs the probabilities of the tunnel collapsing but he can't give those, so he looks for Sylvester.
As this happens, the kid starts to crack; he's convinced he's going to die. Sylvester is nowhere to be found. Walter loses his patience and against all advice he decides to go into the tunnel. Cabe is worried and so is Megan, but he crawls down and reaches him in no time. The water is pretty high. Walter assures him that he will save him, and proceeds to hook him up and convince him that he will be able to live hooked to this pump even when he isn't actually breathing. Have faith in the science, he pleads. Seriously, kudos for finding a vein on this kid in the dark while in the water. Walter, I want you to draw my blood next time I get a physical.
Owen promises that he'll knock on the pipe to signal he's ok once the water covers him, and Walter promises he will come back to free him. The video signal goes down too, but Walter makes it back alive. And finally... so is Owen. He knocks on the pipe.
Meanwhile, back at Scorpion, Toby and Happy are finishing some 3D printing to complete their micro-jack. Just then, Toby discovers that Happy has been hiding that she knows of her father's whereabouts. She actually confesses that she's been working with him for a while, but that she hasn't let him know that she's his daughter. This upsets Toby greatly. While others have no families to go to, while Owen's parents are racing to get to their child, she's has the chance to spend Christmas with her father and she's pushing away this privilege she's been granted out of fear.
Back at Zuma, Megan finds Sylvester away from the site and at a bus stop. He's going away, continuing with the whole theme from last episode. He's beating himself down over the miscalculations and the suffering Owen's going through, experiencing all of his own phobias.
Because he felt like he was down in that cave with Owen, he couldn't concentrate enough to do his job and he deemed himself useless to Scorpion. Megan won't have any of his pity party though. While Sylvester is letting his fears and emotions get the best of him on a hypothetical empathic connection with the kid, Owen is actually experiencing the events and still fighting. Basically, Megan tells him to grow a pair. Coming from a person that's heading toward death herself you can see why she's so angry; she's frustrated and wonders how he lives with a constant fear of death. He could run away but he could also be strong. He argues that he's never been strong... to this, Megan only sees one solution: "It's your problem, you figure it out."
Toby and Happy zip through the streets thanks to an LAPD escort, but they soon hit a gridlock, so they get out of the car and steal a bike from a guy possibly fresh out from Sons of Anarchy, or maybe part of the Boozefighters biker club that Robert Patrick belongs to.
Back at the beach, Walter, Cabe and Paige monitor Owen's vitals; he seems to be doing alright. Paige is amazed by the fact that they managed to hook him up and he's breathing under water; it's a miracle in her book. But she spoke too soon; another tremor hits and Walter rushes to try to salvage the pump, standing under a rock that hangs over it. Sylvester rushes in then, out of nowhere, and being larger, he too stands under the rock just long enough for Cabe and Walter to drag the pump out of the way... but it's futile, the rock falls after Sylvester gets away and blocks the lines feeding oxygen to Owen.
He's just minutes away from suffocating, and there's no way the Army can get the equipment there to free him. Walter is desperate, and so he decides to go back in via the parallel tunnel, but Cabe stops him and brings reality to him: Owen has been under water for three minutes with one functioning lung, even Cabe knows that the odds are not in his favor.
Happy and Toby close in, but they run out of gas, so Toby makes the last leg running. Walter can't comprehend that he won't be able to save Owen. Megan goes to him; she really thought they could achieve the impossible. Toby gets there with the micro-jack but everyone still thinks it's a bad choice to go into the tunnel. Walter does it anyway. The kid has been without air for over six minutes now. He inserts the jack and lifts the rock just enough to free him, while the others pull them out from the surface. The tunnel starts to collapse around them, another tremor. Cabe reaches in and pulls them out. They rush Owen to the ambulance and everyone stands at attention; somber faces, worry, but you know that he's going to be fine. He wakes up, and there's cheering and smiles. It's a Christmas miracle.
All the media rushes to the hospital where they're holding them, expecting an explanation to what happened at the beach. They know the science behind it all but even Walter knows that the press is not going to like that story.
Megan, after seeing all of them fight so hard for Owen's life, has decided to kick her own fears, listen to her own advice and going into the drug trial Walter wants her to join. She's going to keep fighting.
Owen's parents are so thankful; they believe that god answered their prayers when he sent Walter and the team to help their son. This argument, of course, makes Walter more than a little uncomfortable, but the kid is happy that Walter came back for him. They let them rest, the press is waiting for them, but Walter sees all that's happened; they already have the answer they want...let them believe it's a miracle.
The situation with Owen gets to Happy. She heads over to her father's shop and tries to come clean but chickens out. He knows who she is though, he's always known, so he calls her out on it. He always knew she was special; he gave her away so she didn't have to grow up having an alcoholic father. They hug. They'll be alright.
Happy takes him to the garage to meet the guys as they get ready for Paige's Xmas dinner. Everything looks so festive. Toby is so proud that she took that step, and Cabe welcomes him, praising Happy. They eat and exchange gifts, and everyone gets what they need: Cabe gets a new pair of killer shades, Happy a new set of tools, even Toby gets a new hat, and Megan steps under the mistletoe... Sylvester kisses her. On the cheek. Come on, guys!
Paige manages to get a super silly holiday sweater for Walter. I really don't know when she found the time for it, and the guys unveil Ralph's gift. They designed an awesome system that delivers not only a great sequence and a Christmas tree, but also showers them with fake snow. The kid is elated; everyone is full of smiles and joy. Walter meets Paige's eyes as the music plays: "All I want is you for Christmas..."
Written by Rob Pearlstein & Nick Santora, "Dominoes" was a fun episode to watch. Always with a healthy dose of science and skepticism, action, and that humorous element that has become a signature of this show. Even in the darkest of episodes, there's always that element of Dramedy. I like it, to an extent.
Being that this the mid-season finale, and having watched an obnoxiously long list of them on every network available, I've pondered a bit more this time about the show.
Robert Patrick was great as always; Cabe has developed a protective nature for all of them that feels natural, and this show has allowed Patrick moments where he's had the ability to showcase some of what he does best. Robert delivers great drama; breaks my heart when his heart is broken, when he's sad for the events of his past, or even when he's just delivering his weekly dose of fatherly advice. Though, I question sometimes the choices in the wardrobe department and how much of those come from directorial choices or even character status. Will he always be super groomed and wear his jacket? Even at the beach? I feel like he could relax a bit, let the rugged side of him take over for a bit. I feel that moving forward I'd like to see more of what we learned in "Rogue Element".
From this whole episode, I'm quite pleased with the state of the two relationships that have been blooming through the previous weeks.
Toby and Happy seem to have set a footing to at least have the confidence to not only hold each other accountable for things in their personal lives that used to be off-limits, but also strive to prove to each other that they're working those kinks out. There's depth even when one does not expect it, when each other's nature, whether it is for comedic timing or deflection, tends to find a sarcastic turn on the topics that make them most uncomfortable. They're consistent with the characters and that's great; they're building characters that respond to their nature faithfully and I'm rewarded with layers that sometimes surprise me.
Megan and Sylvester are another surprise that I find charming and interesting. I've heard arguments back and forth about how likely could this couple be, or even if it's a blatant attempt to have yet another 'ship on this show. The truth of the matter is that as of right now these two characters have found common grounds that actually challenge each other.
Megan, while full of positive energy and a supposed thirst for life, has a side of her that has resigned until now to just let her illness take over. Despite Walter's denial and ongoing efforts to find a solution to her condition, she really didn't have hope for herself, living in the understanding that a sentence has been inflicted upon her but not quite putting any blame on herself for her condition. Then we have Sylvester, who while he's not quite afflicted by a life threatening illness, his own self imposed fears and phobias, his doubts and lack of confidence, have him living in a way that limits human experience, growth, and betterment for himself. Having these two characters confront each other each week is great because they've found a way to question each other's postures about their own lives, no longer so sure that they hold the ultimate truth about their previous status quo. In this week's episode we come to realize that while they could be the opposite ends of a stick, they stand in the same ground where changes needed are concerned. They both need to stop fearing the possibilities; ironic when it comes to Sylvester's genius abilities and somewhat freeing where Megan is concerned. She has nothing to lose but a chance to actually live another day on the tail end of the fight for her life.
Were these two characters to come to terms with this human growth they both need to achieve - living this experience together - I think it would be quite rewarding as a friendship, and then whatever else more. Because after all, aren't we all looking for that person that helps us want to be our best?
While I rationalize the fact that the developments in Walter and Paige's relationship are for the long run, I was expecting a big development in this episode on that front. I get it, he's cautious, and she may be a bit blind at times, but I think gears needs to start shifting to get this situation off of the safety blanket of deniability.
And that leads me to one of the things that I found missing in a way from this mid-season finale: while there was a tremor on the show creating havoc, there wasn't quite an evident one leading us to brace ourselves for what's coming up when we come back from hiatus. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to the formulaic desire to have a show's universe exposed to threats that drive the story forward. This was missing for me in this finale.
What's the cliffhanger for the main characters of the show?
Another question I keep asking myself each week is when this despondent attitude from Walter will come back to bite him. I understand that everyone in the team has to pull his or her weight. I get that we've learned by now he doesn't deal with emotions very well, and so on... but at the end of the day, some of Walter's attitudes are more than a little erosive and inconsiderate to the other members of the team. Not everyone is thick skinned, not everyone will always be at his service. They will eventually pay their dues, and he better be ready for that time.
Perhaps something that's becoming quite clear is that his so-called lack of emotions is nothing but a misunderstood concept. He feels, very deeply, he just doesn't want to acknowledge such feelings, which might well be the biggest obstacle when it comes to him daring to take a risk when it comes to Paige. In any case, I've grown fond of Elyes Gabel as this show goes on; it takes some talent to play a restrained character when sometimes the reflex is to be dramatic, to let those human emotions flow. And they do, they just work on a different level that takes some degree of understanding.
I found that some of the licenses this show takes sometimes are quite the stretch. Maybe it's hard for me to believe that Walter can really do it all, especially to have the skills to hook up lines to a kid's veins in such intense conditions. Maybe I'm just being picky and needed a moment of hesitation that I didn't get.
In terms of the timeframe the events in the episode take place, I found that realism maybe doesn't quite exist in this dojo. I understand the sense of urgency is fueled by such a small timeframe to save Owen, but the LAist in me keeps thinking about LA traffic, and the normal passage of time.
The list of things I liked outweighs the list of details I could argue about and that's a good sign, but I wonder if those elements that bother me are here to stay, because they're somewhat ingrained in the show by now.
I mentioned earlier that I enjoy that the show doesn't quite take itself dead seriously and that it allows for those dramedy moments. The hero always wins and the wounds are not crippling in the broader sense... and I feel that maybe this has to change for the sake of the longevity of this show. But I'm no one to tell Nick Santora how to lead this ship to shore; he has proven me time and time again that he knows his stuff and I'm delighted. I don't know the plan they have in mind, but while there are a few arcs that I see developing for the long haul, maybe I've been lacking an episode or two where those stakes are clearly identifiable, those mythology episodes if you will, and this episode would have been perfect to set the stage. Raise those stakes; make me scared for these characters and their future in achieving their hopes and dreams.
See you in January for more Scorpion, and Happy Holidays, everyone!
Pictures courtesy of CBS Broadcasting.