What better place to hash out your problems than a CDC quarantine facility?
Credit: Michael Parmelee/CBS
S1 E17
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For a guy who takes a pill to make himself the smartest person in the world, Brian Finch sure has created a lot of problems for himself. For one, he’s in a clandestine relationship with a possibly nefarious senator and his definitely nefarious henchman, who keep asking him to do illegal things. In return, they won’t murder his family or withhold the antidote keeping him from slowly descending into madness/death. He’s also since discovered that the aforementioned senator ordered the aforementioned henchman to murder his FBI partner’s father, but he can’t tell her about it, even though she’s dedicated all her free time to investigating her dad’s demise because — again — murder/madness/death. Oh, and he’s still trying to keep the whole thing a secret from his family, even though his sister has a) helped him stitch up a bleeding “undercover FBI agent” and b) slept with his FBI bodyguard.

So when this episode kicks off, Brian is dealing with his problems in the healthiest way possible: avoiding them! Instead, he spends his night using his secret stash of NZT pills, listening to police scanners and hijacking NYPD crime scenes around the city. Making police sketches and solving crimes is a lot more fun than confronting your emotional issues, which is how Brian ends up on the bank of the East River, examining the glowing corpse of a city security guard. But he can’t avoid Rebecca forever, and when she finally tracks him down, she’s not too happy to find out that he’s on NZT when he’s off duty. She, however, doesn’t have much time to scold him, as together they watch the most of Manhattan plunge into darkness.

The blackout triggers an all-hands-on-deck situation at the FBI, and while Naz directs the blame toward China or Russia, Brian says the power failures follow the city’s wind patterns, hitting the Financial District and Midtown first and skipping over the lower buildings in Manhattan. He and Rebecca head to the local power plants to check things out, where they find the same mysterious luminous substance Brian saw earlier on the murdered city employee. Somehow, that mysterious substance is interfering with the power plants, and the only lead they have is the security guard, who works in the city’s Department of Buildings. There, the only thing out of the ordinary is the missing blueprint for a government building on 53rd Street, but before they can go investigate, the CDC nabs both Brian and Rebecca and places them in quarantine.

The CDC brings in Sturgeon Reed, a renowned astrophysicist/pseudo Neil deGrasse Tyson, to inform Rebecca and Brian that that mysterious glowing substance now covering their bodies is a bacteria of indeterminate origin — a.k.a. ALIENS. The CDC found traces of the bacteria (which feeds off of electricity) under the path of a meteor shower, which basically means that this is a glowing substance from OUTER SPACE. Hey, Limitless is already a sort-of sci-fi show, what with the whole pill giving you access to the full capacity of your brain thing. I’m totally down with Brian and Rebecca abandoning the whole Sen. Morra plot and devoting the rest of their days to chasing aliens.

But Brian and Rebecca aren’t ready to turn into the new Mulder and Scully yet. The stolen blueprints were for a building on 53rd Street that’s also the home of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where the government sends defaced money to either be cleaned or destroyed. Pretty good place for a robbery, especially during a blackout. The security guard was murdered and the blueprints were stolen well before the blackout, which suggests that someone knew the blackout was going to happen and planned ahead. Disappointingly, that means the bacteria was not actually alien in origin, so Brian borrows Rebecca’s phone to call Boyle and tell him to get over to 53rd Street and check things out. When he hangs up, however, he sees that another FBI agent has been texting Rebecca, and they just found the last hidden NZT pills in Brian’s apartment. Busted.

So finally, Brian and Rebecca have it out. (What better place than a CDC quarantine facility, where you’re encased in plastic wrap and can’t escape?) She’s pissed that he’s been hoarding NZT pills and lying to her about it. He’s pissed that she went behind his back to snoop around his apartment, and he’s still trying to deal with the fact that he knows Sands murdered her father and he can’t do a thing about it. Things get ugly when she accuses him of being an addict, and he shoots back that maybe she’s addicted to him and the high she gets from using NZT to solve impossible crimes. That’s the thing about fighting with someone on NZT: They know exactly what to say to cut to the quick.

NEXT: Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson

While Brian and Rebecca are both still processing what they just said to each other, the CDC comes in with some news. Good news: The bacteria doesn’t have a negative effect on humans! Bad news: They’ve been stuck in quarantine for no reason whatsoever — and the CDC incinerated Brian’s Joy Division T-shirt. Bummer. Even worse news: Boyle went to the mutilated money vault and found that the thieves cleared out an estimated $8 million in cash. So while Rebecca storms out, Brian teams up with Boyle to narrow down the scientists who had the ability and means to create and plant this bacteria in the hopes of causing a blackout. Boyle nixes Brian’s initial idea of walking around wearing a sandwich board with “HAVE YOU SEEN THESE SCIENTISTS” written on it, so they call in the NSA for a little phone-hacking help.

Turns out the NSA definitely HAS been recording all of your phone calls, which is bad news for privacy but good news for narrowing down blackout-causing suspects, and Brian picks out two: Ian Marshall and Sturgeon Reed, who are basically Limitless’ versions of Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, if Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson made a bet about whether or not mankind would discover proof of extraterrestrial life in their lifetime. Desperate to win the bet, Bill Nye Ian Marshall discovered a new kind of electron-eating bacteria, and he released it into the air after a meteor shower, causing the blackout and suggesting that alien life really does exist. What he didn’t do is use that blackout to steal $8 million, so Boyle and Brian hunt down the professor’s research assistant, who teamed up with her convict cousin and used her boss’ hoax to engineer the heist. Case closed.

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But while Brian has been running around Manhattan, Mike and Ike went on a special assignment, picking up Brian’s family and taking them to his parents’ house in Westchester, where they’ve still got power. After Ike and Rachel hit it off in Brian’s apartment last week, she’s been ignoring his many, many texts, and while they’re all sitting around Brian’s parents’ house, Rachel finally tells her mom why she’s been so distracted for the last few days. When Sands showed up at Brian’s place, Rachel noticed Brian fiddle with his record collection, and once he left to go hunt down bad guys with Sands, she found two NZT pills. She shows the pills to her mom, who absolutely flips, and when Brian finally shows up, she calls him out on it.

It’s nice that Brian’s mom actually gets something to do in this episode, especially because most of season 1 has focused on Brian’s relationship with his dad, but it’s a shame that she’s so frustratingly obtuse about the whole thing. If you’re going to throw wild accusations at your son about drugs and government conspiracies, you should at least give him the chance to respond. Instead, she yells at him in front of Mike and Ike, who are immediately curious about the “undercover agent bleeding out in your apartment” that she mentions, and she kicks him out.

So Brian ends the episode feeling more alone than ever. Rebecca, his family, even Mike and Ike aren’t speaking to him, so he finally decides to confront his problems head on — and disappear. He leaves a cryptic note to Rebecca about having to “do a few things” and apologizing for his harsh words. “It’s not just the pill that changed my life,” he writes. “It’s you.” And on that dramatic note, he disappears into the night.

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