A man shows up with a post-office box written on a matchbook. He’s looking for someone. “Someone I care about,” he says.
An agent confronts him at a gas station. “You. Who are you?”
“Isaacs,” the man says. “Ring a bell?”
This is how, in episode 8 of Manhattan’s second season, we meet the inveterate gambler and ex-con who is Charlie Isaacs’ father. Brad Garrett plays him with a kind of blustery charm. He’s hard not to like. At least at first.
Off in the desert, Charlie (Ashley Zukerman) is overseeing a test of the globular blasting mechanism that will trigger the gadget. One problem: It doesn’t blow up in front of him.
Instead, it fizzes and flames out. It’s a desperate, sad sight — and the clock is ticking. Their schedule is off. This needs to work.
One scientist who doesn’t turn out to see the test is Fritz (Michael Chernus), who is grief-stricken from the death of his wife, Jeannie — last seen being clobbered across the back of her skull by Nora (Mamie Gummer), the Russian operative who killed her after she discovered Meeks (Christopher Denham) is a spy.
Fritz — and everybody on the Hill — thinks she died in an accident while crossing through a construction site at night. Only we — and the two people responsible — know the truth. Fritz is guilt-stricken and wants to volunteer to be tested on with radioactive material.
Meeks isn’t self-destructive, but guilt is gnawing at him, too.
“They were going to have kids,” he tells Nora later. After staying the night in her quarters, he finds a notebook, describing the spy she’s assigned to monitor in unflattering terms. “Perseus is immature, distrustful of authority, politically unformed. He believes he is more intelligent than he is, which makes him susceptible to flattery.”
She tells him, “Those notes are not about you.” There’s another Soviet spy on the Hill.
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Suspect No. 1: The new boyfriend of Helen Prins (Katja Herbers), a patent attorney who seems to know an awful lot about her work and is planting ideas in her head that this research could be a moneymaker for her in the future — and he would be willing to hide some of it from Uncle Sam, if she’s game.
Col. Darrow (William Petersen) goes to Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) and orders him to help problem-solve what went wrong with the test that day. Winter calls his bluff — go ahead, send him off to the front lines for insubordination. If Darrow wants a working gadget, he needs to meet Frank’s demands — which include discharging him from the military service he forced on Winter and giving a scientist a seat on the target committee that will determine how — or if — the bomb is used.
NEXT: “Hitler just blew his goddamn brains out!”