Halt and Catch Fire recap: 'Miscellaneous'
Joe and Gordon's next project might be dead on arrival, and Cameron and Donna come face to face
Last week’s exceptional two-hour premiere was mainly concerned with setting the stage for the show’s final season. Now, it’s finally time to move forward on this season’s technological gambit: navigate the world of search. However, before our favorite innovators can push forward into the future, they must first rehash some old problems and dynamics. Joe, Cameron, Gordon, and Donna believe they’ve moved on, but the simplest thing triggers memories of past pain to come to the surface.
It’s clear “Miscellaneous” will deal with the past from the first scene of the episode. Cameron is sitting in a bathtub, her eyes fixed on the dripping water from the faucet. That small detail transports Cameron back to when she told Tom she slept with Joe because their kitchen sink was leaking then, too. Tom, via flashback, is convinced that Cameron loves Joe, but she says she doesn’t.
“There’s no loving Joe,” she says.” He’s empty and he just becomes whatever circumstance needs him to be.”
As she says this to Tom in the past, we see her inquisitively strolling around Joe’s apartment, examining this catalog life he has built for himself. That emotionally painful conversation with Tom is clearly on her mind because she’s right back where she was three seasons ago: in a relationship with Joe. Now, she’s forced to wonder if her assessment of Joe is right. Can this relationship work, or it is impossible to love this dreamer? Her memories aren’t the only sign of her apprehension. As we learn later on, she still hasn’t unpacked any of her boxes even though Joe, who really wants to make this work even though her messiness clashes with his pristine aesthetic, has been asking her to.
Gordon, who discovers Cameron at Joe’s apartment when he comes looking for him, is very much against Joe and Cameron getting back together because he, too, remembers how it turned out the last time. He tells Joe as much in a hilarious outburst at the office that morning; however, Joe stops listening because he’s distracted by the Haley’s Comet website. The scene is definitely played for comedy, which is indicative of the writers’ ability to undercut any melodrama with a heavy dose of humor.
From there, we time-jump ahead to Gordon and Joe as they finish signing away their company. Gordon’s bummed about it, but Joe is re-energized because he’s already found the next big thing: Haley’s website. In yet another hilarious scene, Joe and Gordon sit down with Haley to discuss the project. In classic Joe form, he manages to brag about his brilliance himself while also complimenting her. (“The indexing was obviously mine,” but Haley’s execution was “wonderful,” he says.). But Joe and Gordon aren’t on the same page. Joe wants to pay Haley $20,000 for her idea, which Gordon, rightly so, finds ridiculous. It doesn’t matter though: It turns out Haley doesn’t even want the money. She wants to work on the project with them. Joe says yes without even consulting Gordon — you know, her dad — because he’s on a roll.
Meanwhile, Donna is trying to protect her position at work. Trip comes to her with an idea for a web/browser play, and that puts her on the defensive. After everything she’s been through in the past three seasons, she’s very paranoid. She shares her concerns with Diane at a conference later that day, but Diane isn’t too concerned. Donna quickly forgets her fears when she spots a sign for the “MISC: Future of Gaming” panel. Can you guess who is listed as one of the panelists?
Yep, it’s Cameron. In the same way that seeing the Comet website woke Joe up, seeing Cameron’s name does the same for Donna, and she’s ready to lash out. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Cameron clashes with her fellow panelists, who believe Doom is the future of gaming. Though she tries her hardest to stay on message, Cameron is Cameron, and she calls Atari out for delaying the game, much to Donna’s amusement. In fact, Donna steps up to the mic to ask a very pointed question about the relationship between the creative side and business side, which leads to them rehashing the Mutiny debacle in front of everyone. Cameron still blames Donna for everything that happened and doesn’t believe she played a part in it at all. But it’s clear later on when Donna reads a very negative review of Cameron’s new game (more on this in a minute) that part of her still cares for her. (Recap continues on the next page)
Angrier than when she left, Donna returns to the office and chews out the Rover team for not making enough progress on indexing the web and search. Trip’s mild interest in the web combined with that confrontation with Cameron has clearly triggered her, and she takes all of that frustration out on her team. After Diane finds one of the team members crying in the hallway later on, she suggests to Cameron that perhaps she should be a bit lighter.
Joe, Gordon, and Haley convene at Gordon’s home to begin working on Comet. Joe falls into his old patterns again of taking ideas and running with them and ignoring the people he’s working with; however, he does seem much warmer than he did when we first met him. He’s clearly been changed by everything that’s happened. Nevertheless, Gordon notices that Joe’s pushing Haley like he’s pushed everyone else before and decides to put an end to it because he doesn’t want Haley to end up like Cardiff or Westgroup or, at worst, Ryan. Unfortunately, Haley hears her dad say she’s not ready for this and looks heartbroken. This scene along with Donna and Cameron’s argument really drives home how this episode is very much about how easy it is to fall into old patterns.
That night, Joe heads home and comforts Cameron, who leaked her game to a video game magazine that ended up writing a terrible review of it, crushing her spirit. Cameron was convinced that this game would be amazing and convince everyone that Doom wasn’t the future, but alas, that’s not the case. Joe simply says that she needs to brush her shoulders off and move on, but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Needing some space, she heads to the old CalNect office where she runs into Gordon and ends up playing several rounds of Doom with him.
Meanwhile, Donna tries to make amends with the Rover team by having them over for dinner. It’s an incredibly awkward experience as Donna tries to force things instead of letting the night develop naturally. Joanie arrives in the middle of it and relishes watching her mom struggle. Eventually, Donna tries to make everyone take shots to liven things up; it’s mandatory — unless you’re pregnant, she says flippantly. But the woman on the Rover team is pregnant, which is news to her husband and everyone there. Donna feels horrible for what just happened, and that’s when the dinner takes a turn. Donna drops her façade and finally offers her team something real when she tells them a story about being pregnant with Joanie and urges the married couple to kiss their baby whenever they get the chance. As the season premiere told us, this final season is all about connection, and Donna makes one with Rover in that moment.
After bonding with Cameron, Gordon returns home and wakes Haley up to tell her that she can work on the Comet project with Joe but only if she promises to stop doing it if it ever stops being fun. This makes Haley’s night, and she immediately jumps out of bed and over to her computer. There’s work to be done.
The next day, Donna updates the partners on Rover’s progress, but Trip bursts her bubble by telling her about a competitor that has popped up: Comet. That night, Donna meets with Gordon to discuss their rival projects, and it goes terribly. The two start bickering: Gordon believes Donna stole his and Joe’s idea, and Donna is pissed that he didn’t tell her about Haley’s involvement beforehand. Of course money was the thing that disrupted their post-marital peace.
As the episode ends, Joe wakes up to find Cameron throwing out all of her boxes. Is Joe starting to reconsider diving back into this relationship and moving into together? We’ll find out next week.
Although “Miscellaneous” dealt with some of the group’s painful memories, it never sagged or felt like a drag. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was a zippiness to the proceedings, thanks to the writers’ ability to deploy comedy at just the right moments. My favorite scene in the episode by far is watching Joe and Haley discuss Comet as Gordon tries to distract them with lame vacation plans and Joanie makes snarky comments about it all. They were getting work done, but it wasn’t a bore. It was lively and just plain fun, especially once Haley accidentally opens a link to porn site and everyone rushes to close the window. I hope Halt and Catch Fire keeps this up.
Halt and Catch Fire