It's George R.R. Martin to the rescue as Brian heads to Russia
Credit: Michael Parmelee/CBS
S1 E18
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Brian Finch has a pretty strict moral code. Even though he occasionally hangs around with some hitmen and corrupt senators, he draws the line at things like murder. But he has no qualms whatsoever about bribery, and most of his FBI cases have been solved with a little friendly manipulation. There was the mob driver who revealed the location of a long-lost dead body after Brian gave him a recording of his late wife singing opera. There was the hitman who confessed to murder after Brian gave him some bagels. There was the Malaysian pirate who released a kidnapped girl after Brian gave him a pinball machine. And now, there’s the Russian prison official who released a prisoner after Brian got him on the phone with George R.R. Martin.

That’s right: Limitless’ obsession with Game of Thrones continues. When we last left Brian, he was leaving Rebecca and hopping on a plane to…St. Petersburg? All of his issues with Rebecca and Morra and his family finally started to bubble over, so he decided to address them head on by trying to track down Piper. Remember Piper? The crazy sniper girl who tried to assassinate Morra before Brian helped her fake her death? She’s the only person who ever got close to replicating Morra’s NZT antidote, and Brian figures if he can help her out and finish synthesizing the enzyme, he can finally be free of Morra forever.

The only problem is that he has no idea where Piper is. Brian uses one NZT pill tracking her to Russia, and the closest he gets is a nightclub in St. Petersburg, where he bribes a sleazy Russian guy for information. (An actual monetary bribe! That’s fairly rare on this show.)

While Brian’s waiting to hear back about what the sleazy Russian guy can find out, he kills time the only way you can in a St. Petersburg nightclub: by drinking lots and lots of vodka. The result is a fun Drunk History-esque sequence, where the rest of the show’s characters act out Brian’s slurred recap of his situation. (Brian’s drunken attempt at Sands’ British accent is a particular highlight.) By the time Brian’s recap is done, the sleazy Russian guy has returned with news from an all-powerful woman named Andrea Who Knows Things. Andrea really does know things, as Andrea’s friend’s girlfriend’s cousin is currently sharing a prison cell with Piper.

“Your friend, she’s not dead or a sex slave,” the Russian guy tells Brian. “She’s in prison. Congratulations.” Yippee, prison! Blow up the balloons and hang up a celebratory banner.

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Prison may be better than death or sex slavery, but this particular prison is not exactly good news. As Brian puts it: “If there was a competition for worst place in the world, it could give 1970s Detroit a run for its money.” Staging a breakout isn’t exactly an option, so Brian turns to his favorite method of getting things done: bribery. This is where George R.R. Martin comes in.

Like most of the people we meet on Limitless, Russia’s deputy prosecutor general, Maxim, has a deep but ultimately harmless and easily exploitable secret. His is that he goes by the name Iron Price on Game of Thrones message boards. (I always knew that the biggest Game of Thrones fans were secretly Russian government officials.) This guy is a rabid fan of all things Westeros, which means that if Brian wants to convince him to get Piper out of prison, he’s going to need to get Martin on the phone to tell Maxim how the entire thing ends. And he does! NZT works miracles. Do you think NZT would help someone get advanced Game of Thrones screeners for this season? Asking for a friend.

Brian’s little bit of manipulation — which would make Cersei proud, by the way — works, and he’s soon reunited with Piper. While he’s eager to get them back on a plane to the States, she tells him she can’t go: She needs one final ingredient to crack the secret NZT antidote recipe, and it’s a rare plant called Roarke’s delphinium. It only thrives in radioactive soil, and the best place to get it is in a bunker in a Russian billionaire’s basement. That’s how Piper got sent to prison in the first place: She got caught trying to sneak in. An extremely reluctant Brian agrees to help her go back for round two, and so the episode turns into your classic heist story involving the fourth-richest man in Russia and the secret radioactive plant he keeps in his mansion.

NEXT: Barry Manilow and octopus hearts

Back in the states, Rebecca and Naz and Boyle and Mike and Ike and the entire U.S. government are frantically trying to figure out where Brian is. They’re not mad, just disappointed. Okay, Naz is really mad: “I just don’t want him to get shot. I want him to come home in one piece so I can shoot him.” Mike and Ike try to be helpful by telling Rebecca what they overheard at Brian’s family’s house about a mysterious bleeding “undercover agent” showing up at Brian’s apartment in the middle of the night. Desperate for a lead, Rebecca heads to Brian’s family’s house to see if they can tell her anything else, and Brian’s dad essentially shuts the door in her face, after informing her that he blames her and the FBI for getting Brian into this whole mess.

Okay. So I know Brian’s family has every right to be pissed at the FBI, especially since last time Rebecca visited the Finch household, she was there accusing Brian of murder. But Brian’s dad seems like the kind of rational guy who would recognize that refusing to talk to the FBI probably isn’t the best way to help get Brian home safe. It’s an emotional scene, sure, but it’s not one that makes a lot of logical sense.

Brian’s unhelpful family means that Rebecca is pretty much out of leads while Brian spends the next week exploring St. Petersburg with Piper. Turns out that St. Petersburg is pretty fun when you’ve got a heist to plan and you’re not sitting in a Russian prison. Sparks soon fly, and by the time Brian and Piper are ready to impersonate a couple of Chicago botanists and attend the Russian billionaire’s benefit party in the hopes of stealing the radioactive delphinium — this episode’s plot sounds even more ridiculous when you start to type it out — Brian starts to wonder if the whole thing is worth it.

He asks Piper to run away with him and never touch NZT again. She, however, says she can’t walk away, not when she knows that NZT is out there and it has the potential to change the future of the world as we know it. Like so many of the other NZT users we’ve met, Piper truly believes that she is a better, smarter, truer version of herself when she’s on the drug: “This is the real me, Brian, and the real me needs the real you.” But as Brian blatantly points out, all that talk of sacrifice and the greater good makes Piper sound a lot like Morra. It’s a long way off, but the issue of NZT is eventually going to come to a head, and people are going to be split between two divided camps: those who think it should be controlled and used by only a select few to benevolently shepherd the rest of humanity along (like Morra) and those who think it should be given freely in order to advance the rest of the world (like Piper). Brian doesn’t fall in either camp, and he may be the only NZT user in the world who thinks the world may be better off without any NZT at all.

But that kind of thinking won’t get him out of his current predicament, so Brian and Piper finally head to Nikola Zukov’s house (the aforementioned Russian billionaire with an affinity for rare plants) to pull off their heist. Brian puts his guitar skills to good use, distracting Zukov and the crowd while Piper slips downstairs to steal the delphinium, but a scary Russian henchman — there’s always a scary Russian henchman — tries to stop her. Even on NZT, the only solution she comes up with is to leave Brian behind while she makes her own escape, which is a pretty terrible thing to do to the guy who saved you from rotting in a Russian prison.

As a result, Brian ends up as the one rotting in a Russian prison — but once again, it’s George R.R. Martin to the rescue! Piper redeems herself by taking her last NZT pill to convince George to convince Maxim to spring Brian from jail.

Maybe that’s why George has had such a difficult time finishing the last book — he’s been busy negotiating the release of various Russian prisoners.

Brian heads back to the U.S., but not before his sister finally opens up and tells Rebecca what she knows about the mysterious bleeding man in Brian’s apartment. It doesn’t take Rebecca long to figure out that that man is Sands — which means the hammer has finally dropped. Rebecca has finally found the connection she was searching for between Morra and NZT, which means that Brian is going to be in deep trouble when he gets back to the States.

But this is Limitless, so we can’t exactly end on such an ominous and depressing note. Instead, we get a nice little coda of “Things Andrea Who Knows Things Knows,” which includes but is not limited to:

1. Barry Manilow did not write the song “I Write the Songs.”

2. A pig’s orgasm can last 11 to 14 minutes.

3. An octopus has three hearts.

4. Black holes aren’t really black.

5. Quantum mechanics theorizes that there are an unlimited number of universes.

The more you know. Thanks, Andrea!

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