Cameron buys an Airsteam
Credit: Bob Mahoney/AMC

Comet and Rover’s search-engine rivalry is in full swing in “Tonya and Nancy,” which begins with Joe and Gordon checking out their competition’s work. Neither of them is very impressed, naturally, because the algorithm has a relevance problem. Joe gives it a C– and Gordon goes with a D–, but Cameron, who is hanging out at the Comet headquarters, checks out and thinks there’s something there. She gives it a B–, stating she believes they just need to come up with a more sophisticated algorithm. From the moment this episode begins, you can already see where this is heading.

In the wake of her game being postponed indefinitely, Cameron is feeling kind of lost going through a midlife crisis of sorts. She bought motorcycle, which inconveniently breaks down on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. There, Cameron sees an open plot of land…

Flash forward six weeks: Cameron is now the proud of owner of said plot, and she decides to buy an Airstream and park it there until she’s ready to start building. Once she and Joe christen the new RV before even buying it, Cameron drives it out to the vacant lot and sets up a little campfire situation with some lawn chairs. I mean, what else are you going to do when your career has stalled and you have no idea what’s coming next?

In the six-week time jump, Rover is still struggling to keep up with the now expanding Comet. Joe and Gordon have hired a bunch of surfers whose job it is to surf the web and find websites to add to the index under their given category. For Joe, what separates them from Rover is that Comet is all about the personal touch: These experts in comedy, music, or what have you are using their knowledge to share what’s worth checking out on the web. And in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing web, Joe and Gordon hire library services specialist Katie Herman (Anna Chlumsky) as Comet’s chief ontologist.

We first meet Katie in her very charming job interview, which reveals almost everything you need to know about her. She’s wicked smart and knows her stuff. Joe and Gordon test her skills by asking how she organizes her CDs, and she runs down this very detailed method that’s actually quite impressive. Her enthusiasm is also exactly what this company needs, and in no time, she helps up Comet’s game by instituting a weekly indexing contest. The grand prize? Throwing a pie in Joe and Gordon’s faces.

Comet’s success is really getting to the Rover team, who are impressed by the fact that the site even offers blurbs now with its picks of the best websites on the internet. At Rover, on the other hand, the coder is just struggling to improve the algorithm, and leadership is divided as Tanya and Bos keep butting heads. Elliot, one of the members of Rover, keeps asking Donna for a term sheet, but she refuses until they show her the results.

AOL reaches out to Comet with an interest in acquiring the search engine, and Cameron asks Joe to really consider their offer. For the record, she thinks he should take it because she’s worried their business model — the personal touch — actually isn’t scalable. But when Cameron invites Bos, Gordon, and Joe over to the Airstream for some beers, Joe tells her that he and Gordon are thinking about going the venture capitalist route. Cameron is disappointed; she clearly was hoping he’d cash out and come hang out in the woods with her as she tries to find herself. While Cameron and Joe talk it out, Gordon tells Bos that AOL lowballed them, so they’ve decided to play it out. (Recap continues on the next page)

In case you forgot, Bos is still in the hole for a huge amount of money, and he’s looking for any way to dig himself out as quickly as possible. Upon hearing about AOL’s offer, Bos has a meeting with Tanya and suggests that they recommend to Donna that they sell. Tanya’s gut tells her that’s not the right move, but Bos pushes her, so they take the idea to Donna — which doesn’t go well because they don’t present a united front. Can I just say that I love no-B.S. Donna? Sure, she’s cold and kind of mean, but it’s hard not to be in awe of it.

“This is 101 bulls—. Do better, both of you. And when you head out that door, I want to see you head in the same damn direction,” she says. On the way out, Tanya lets Bos know that she knows exactly why he wanted to sell the company.

Meanwhile, a storm rolls through the area one night when Cameron is out in her Airstream and creates a whole host of problems that she was not ready to deal with. It’s clear why the show is taking Cameron down this whole midlife-crisis route, but it never quite comes together for me in this episode, because you can see the writers moving the pieces along to get her to the point where she does what the story needs her to do: help Rover with their algorithm.

Once the storm passes, Bos comes by the Airstream to help fix the plumbing and everything else that went wrong the night before. While he’s there, Cameron discovers that he sold his boat, so he finally comes clean about his financial woes. Hearing about Rover’s issues piques Cameron’s interest…and she asks which part of the algorithm they’re stuck on.

Flash forward a month: Donna and the rest of the V.C. firm are celebrating giving Rover a term sheet after they finally figured out the algorithm. But Donna isn’t an idiot. Once she’s done toasting and shaking hands with everyone, she pulls Rover’s coder aside and asks who wrote the new algorithm. Cut to Joe’s apartment, where Cameron is guiltily sitting on the floor as Joe rants about how Rover’s latest improvement could kill Comet.

While Rover’s success definitely portends trouble for Joe and Cameron’s newfound relationship — which already seemed somewhat doomed when Joe admitted to Gordon that he hated going out to the Airstream — I’m far more interested in the effect it’ll have on Haley. Earlier in the episode, Haley’s team wins the indexing competition, and she triumphantly returns home clutching a surfboard trophy because Comet spends just as much money on prizes as the Teen Choice Awards. Haley’s success at work is bleeding over into her home life and she starts asserting herself more, especially when it comes to dealing with Joanie, who walks all over her. Imagine how crushed Haley will be when her mother’s company crushes Comet, her creation.

But, that’s the great thing about this show. We know both Comet and Rover will ultimately fail, but the journey to that point and how it affects its characters is far more interesting than the company’s actual efforts. How will both Comet and Rover’s failures impede Joe, Cameron, Donna, and Gordon’s attempts at finding some peace with themselves? While I didn’t love this episode, it still makes me excited about where the season is heading.

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Halt and Catch Fire
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