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There’s No Special Sauce in this Sh*t

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 16, 2010 |

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 16, 2010 |

I got angry when Comcast interrupted the fourth inning of the Phillies (eventual) winning game over the Mets to remind me to watch “Rubicon.” Then I remembered I could wait until the post-“Mad Men” episode and pretty much get drunk and tune out because Comcast’s description was all I really needed to know:

When Will and Spangler travel to Washington, D.C., the team are left to make an important decision on their own. Meanwhile, Katherine discovers a mysterious voice mail that was left on Tom’s cell phone the day before he died.

Good job, Comcast. That was dead on.

Besides a number of meal-related montages (I have to wonder if the show is sponsored by the coffee industry), the same relentlessly plodding music and a couple pathetic attempts at one-liners, there wasn’t much more to the episode. Once again — “Rubicon” isn’t delivering on its once-promising premise. Much like Will and his coworkers, we’re given spotty intelligence from various sources and left to deduce the plot on our own. Look, I’m not an idiot and I like complication. I do appreciate the thrill of the unknown, but not when it comes to simple plot elements. We have no idea why precisely Will and his boss seem to be groveling to various old white men in D.C. or who the men are who are following him or why Alkie is an alkie or why Maggie is such a creepy bitch. Hell, I think Katherine (Miranda Richardson) said about 12 lines this entire episode and three of them were to order Chinese food. We don’t know enough about the characters to relate to them and, at this point, I don’t care what the conspiracy is. And I especially won’t care if I have to wait until season three to find out. Note: a commenter asked if this was a one-off or a multi-season show. No idea on that and I’m guessing AMC doesn’t know either (this is the network that waited until the season finale of Breaking Bad to announce they had finally renewed it).

Here’s what we do know: Will has a creepy neighbor and they watch each other through his kitchen window. We’re supposed to think this is sexy or interesting, but it’s not, it’s just weird. Will goes to D.C. with his big boss, Spangler, to sit in silence as old white men argue among each other for agency funding. While there, he receives intel from a super-disgruntled “friend” and learns that the seven names in David’s code were all ex-CIA and only two are still making the rounds. One guy, Donald Bloom, didn’t hit on the intel radar and, because of this, we’re supposed to assume that he’ll be important in future episodes (and might be one of the people following Will at the end of the previous episode). That’s as far as we get with what we are to assume is the main plot line. So far, nothing else about the puzzles, the code and gun, or David’s death.

In the as-yet-unconnected parallel narrative, Katherine gets the crime scene evidence from her husband Tom’s suicide back from the cops and finds a cell phone that still has battery life (what this magical cell phone battery is made of, I want to know, because my Blackberry dies in like four hours). On it is a message from her and from someone named “James” who warns Tom to stop what he’s doing or else (what exactly IS Tom doing?). Through a series of slow-moving montages in the goddamn secret townhouse, Katherine learns that James and Tom ordered Chinese food together and James paid. By the way, I didn’t know that Chinese restaurants kept take out records of its clients. This is some Benson and Stabler type sleuthing luck on Katherine’s side and as wholly unbelievable as the rest of the show.

Meanwhile, while Will’s getting a new briefcase and being lauded by his boss for bringing nothing to the table except his silence, the team of Alkie, Asshole and Miles is charged with deciding whether an Indonesian warlord should be assassinated. Wait - what happened to the Popovich subplot, you ask? Pushed to the wayside, my friends, as there are suddenly more pressing issues to be analyzed. This is how shit goes down at the agency. Anyway, the Indonesian guy is a member of Al Qaida and kills innocent children and then everyone freaks out over their role in the moral and legal implications of having this guy assassinated. Now, I understand that international espionage and murder aren’t light issues, but I can’t help but feeling like the moral drama is forced. The writers of “Rubicon” seem to have forgotten that they’re delivering to an audience who is routinely exposed to meth labs and gratuitous screwing on its network’s other two original programs and don’t bat an eye (at least I don’t). This isn’t shocking. Somehow, the pain of the decision to have this guy killed or saved doesn’t resonate with me. Maybe I’m cold, but maybe I’m also just bored and want some goddamn action. In the end they decide to have him assassinated and they drink.

At the end of the D.C. trip, apparently everything has gone well (what “well” means we don’t know and probably never will because the D.C. trip doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of the series), and Will and Spangler (the big boss) drink.

Katherine doesn’t drink but probably should. I mean, she just got her dead husband’s bloody shirt in the mail and is forced to walk at a snail’s pace through many rooms decorated with rich mahogany.

I drank and it made everything about this mess of a show a lot easier to handle.

Adrienne Saia Isaac is a journalist and Philly expat living in Colorado with two pair of skis, seven Phillies hats and her pit bull mix, Juno. Her main goal in life (besides finding gainful employment) is to drink whiskey out of Lord Stanley’s cup with Chris Pronger. You can read her rants and rambling at Ex-Pat’s and Geno’s.