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What’s the Connection? What’s the Narrative?” Well, It’s Coming Together Right Here

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 23, 2010 |

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 23, 2010 |

Man oh man, did shit just get real on “Rubicon” last night or what? The episode began frenetically and ended with a cut to black that left me wanting more … but this time, I wasn’t wanting more in that I was unsatisfied, but wanting more as in “I want to know what happens next Sunday.”

Instead of the typical brooding and plodding (I’m obviously not a fan of brooding and plodding), we get a harried Bancroft running up to Will on the street and asking about the seven names. Will brings up Donald Bloom (Michael Gaston, who guested in the last season of “Damages,” one of the most underrated shows on TV, in my opinion), the only X-factor on the list, and Bancroft tells him to access the white papers and to “connect the dots.”

Connect the dots, indeed. Tonight, we connected Will and Katherine; Tanya, talent and alcohol; and Bloom and Kale (Will’s boss, played by Arliss Howard). It seems like the plot is finally coming together (I’m still not sure it’s been worth the wait, but I’m glad it’s happening). The scenes are better connected and the dialogue more poignant than last week. For example, the scene of Tanya (aka Alkie, aka Lauren Hodges in real life) entering the cafeteria with big sunglasses and spilling coffee leads into the one where Kale suggests to Will that she might have a substance abuse problem. Will brushes it off, but Spangler pushes the agenda: “Free spirits can be too free with their spirits” (ain’t that the truth). Will’s also been made aware that he’ll be attending Spangler’s wife’s fundraiser for some appropriately ambiguous children’s charity. Before he leaves, Kale points out that Will missed a button on his shirt. Now that comment - that was the type of line I was waiting for - not banter about bad presidents, not peeks into Miles’ failing (failed?) marriage - but this line. This said more about Will’s scrambled egg state of mind and Kale’s eagle-eye observation than anything in the previous episodes.

Will gets stonewalled in his search for the Houston/white/Bloom papers, which allows the Popovich storyline to work its way back in. Before ripping me a new asshole, a commenter suggested that these API cases merely served to reveal more about the secondary characters; well, commenter, while I’m not as much of a dick as you’d like to believe, I do think you were right about this one. The Popovich storyline here allowed Tanya to shine as a great analyst, but also a sad alcoholic in the wake of her success in front of Spangler. We’re getting deeper into her character, which I hope isn’t eschewed to get into the head of another secondary character (say, Asshole, for example). I’m not saying that one idea needs to be tied into a neat little bow before another, but she’s interesting, and I want to know more.

We’re also allowed to delve deeper into the lives of Bancroft (Roger Robinson) and Katherine (Miranda Richardson). Bancroft toes the line between broken old man and obsessed analyst. He works out the best conclusion for Bloom’s significance and admits his part in the creation of the crossword puzzles, but breaks down when he remembers the passing of his best friend, David. There’s finally some real emotion here and it’s refreshing. Katherine, meanwhile, is still a bit closed off a character for my liking, but we learn that the company Tom left her was not only failing, but that she and Wheeler (David Rasche) have a connection to Spangler. It’s a good start, but her character suffers the most from the same morose and plodding music that has weighed down episodes one through four.

Creeper Maggie is used minimally in this episode, but has what seems to be an important (and oddly intimate) scene with Will. After he learns that Bloom and Kale are familiar with each other (and familiar with assassinating people in the Middle East), he goes to her, visibly shaken. Will falls back on her for an unknown reason; the closeness of their faces and the uncomfortable feeling that they might accidentally trip and make out leads me to believe that their relationship might have been sexual in nature. But then how to resolve the family man persona we have of Will so far? Will’s public nature might be a conspiracy in itself, but I don’t find Maggie compelling enough for him; she seems like the 2 a.m. punching bag who provides the shoulder to cry on but isn’t cool enough to go to lunch with.

The final 20 minutes of the episode provide three key pieces that move the plot forward: a search connecting Bloom and Kale yields only one file (and a top, top secret one at that); Bancroft developed the puzzles that called for the assassinations of oil magnates back in the 80s; Wheeler and Spangler are connected, along with other old, powerful white men who have a vested interest in tracking Will. Also, by the end, we believe that Kale breaks Will and Will breaks Bancroft. Kale does so by encouraging Will to avoid the “mayhem” and then, the next day, has a Glenn Close moment with Will in his office. The men convince each other to stop the search for the connection between Bloom and David’s death. This momentarily switches the old, powerful, scary white man focus from Will to Katherine, signaling that her story should get far more play next week than it has in the previous episodes.

Finally, we’re let into Will’s apartment, where he sits at the kitchen table. It’s a typical “Rubicon” scene: plodding music, fervent writing, pensive Will. I expected the creepy neighbor to appear again, but was pleased to see that Will’s more paranoid and frenetic (and not as broken by Kale) as we thought: he has post-its with key words spread across his carpet in a sequence that only makes sense to his analytical mind. He hears a noise outside (I thought it might have been a gun shot, but also might have been projecting what I wanted it to be) and the scene cuts to black. The episode ends not with a fade, but a solid cut, a solid hour of exposition and a solid viewer committed to coming back next week.

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.

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