Limitless recap: Side Effects May Include...
Dizziness, vomiting, and Bradley Cooper.
Last week’s episode presented Brian with a pretty difficult choice to make: Does he tell Rebecca the truth about the FBI files on her father’s NZT use and face almost certain jail time, or does he keep quiet and save himself? Being the decent human being that he is, he finally decides to give Rebecca the files, which are, understandably, a major bombshell for her. “I want to know why my boss has a file on my murdered father and didn’t tell me,” she says in a remarkably calm voice. Brian, of course, pledges to help her investigate, which kickstarts this episode’s major dilemma and makes last week’s dilemma seem as innocuous as deciding where to go to dinner.
That inoculation against NZT’s nastier side effects, which Senator Edward Morra gave Brian all those weeks ago, is starting to wear off, and Brian is starting to experience dizziness, memory loss, and terrifying, paranoid hallucinations of bugs crawling under his skin. You know, the usual. Brian reaches out to Sands for his booster shot — of course Sands spends his time drinking whiskey in a darkened bar and playing pool by himself, like any proper villain — and Sands promises to get him the shot, as soon as he gets rid of Rebecca. It seems that Sands and Morra would prefer to have as few government agents as possible paying attention to NZT, and Rebecca’s personal connection to the drug makes it more likely that she’ll start snooping around. Brian’s job is to get rid of her in any way necessary, presumably by framing her for pilfering the top-secret FBI documents he just stole and gave to her. If he doesn’t, he won’t just die, but he’ll die screaming in pain, having lost all semblance of his former self. Like I said, it’s a dilemma.
Rebecca, for her part, is a bit preoccupied with the new assignment Naz just gave her: participating in an inter-agency training exercise that pits two teams of government agents against each other, as one tries to defend the country from a major attack planned by the other team. Rebecca is assigned to the Red Team, which means she gets to think of ways to sow general mischief and crown herself “the barbarian queen of New York City,” all while working in close proximity with Naz, the same woman she just learned has been withholding vital information about her dad’s death. Yay for coworker bonding!
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While Rebecca is tied up thinking of ways to burn New York City to the ground — and while Brian is trying to figure out how to a) not frame Rebecca and b) not die — he starts looking into Rebecca’s dad, as promised. According to the FBI files, Conrad Harris checked into a ritzy treatment clinic on the Upper East Side shortly before his death. Brian pretends to be a troubled addict named Mike Ikerson to gain access to the clinic’s files, which reveal that Conrad left the treatment program completely cured. The only irregularity in his file was a weekly meeting with a mysterious “A.E.” Only four other patients met with A.E., and each of them, after leaving rehab, ended up wildly successful — and they all went missing within the same month. Before they died, they’d make a weekly trip to a neuro-pharmaceutical company called Ubient, presumably to get their regularly scheduled dose of NZT.
The only A.E. at Ubient who might fit is a doctor named Andrew Epperly, who used to run human trials on dementia. Brian wonders if he was running human NZT trials on Rebecca’s father and the other patients, but they can’t exactly ask him: He died in a boating accident recently. Instead, Brian reaches out to the top brass at Ubient to ask what they know about NZT, but they deny any knowledge of the drug. To make matters worse, he’s started to get even more disturbing hallucinations, and soon, he’s blacked out, waking up with only a note in his pocket saying Epperly’s alive.
NEXT: Bradley’s back in town
Meanwhile, Rebecca has proven to be pretty good at this whole theoretically sparking anarchy thing. Good enough that the director of the FBI — who was playing for the Blue Team — wants to meet with her in person. But when Brian (whose hallucinations are getting increasingly worse) calls her and tells her that Epperly faked his own death, she ditches Naz and the meeting with the director to track down Epperly. She does, and although he first tries to shoot her when she rings the doorbell, he soon recognizes her as Conrad’s daughter.
That’s when Brian blacks out and wakes up on a rooftop with Senator Morra.
That’s right! Bradley Cooper’s back! And not only that, but he wasn’t really such a bad guy after all — he only wanted to see if Brian would bend his morals to save himself. “I just needed to know what your limits are,” Morra says, as if it’s perfectly normal to threaten your friends and employees with hallucinations and a devastatingly painful death. It turns out that he doesn’t just want a man at the FBI to feed him information about NZT. He’s also looking for a partner to help him change the world — mainly with things like super rice.
Brian, understandably, is a little freaked out, considering that this is the same man who’s threatened his family and friends on several occasions, but Morra turns on that Bradley Cooper charm and tells him that together they could become the kind of leaders who shape the world. For good measure, Morra gives him a gift of five NZT pills — “a discretionary fund” — because he’s such a good guy.
Back at Epperly’s secret hiding place, he tells Rebecca that yes, he did run clinical NZT trials, but he didn’t invent it — and he certainly doesn’t know how to stop the side effects. Instead, a mysterious someone reached out to him with a compound that could help his father’s Alzheimer’s, a compound that makes up NZT. Epperly started trials by giving NZT to his patients, including Conrad Harris, to try to help them, not knowing about the side effects. But even as the side effects ramped up, that wasn’t what killed Epperly’s patients. Instead, they just disappeared. Rebecca’s dad was one of the success stories, but Epperly suspects that he started sharing his NZT with other random people around the city and that he probably got killed for it.
When Rebecca makes it back to the FBI, having missed her meeting with the bureau’s director, Naz figures out that she knows about her father’s file. It turns out that Rebecca was hired at the FBI a month after her father died, and Naz confesses that yes, she did look into Rebecca because of who her father was, but she actually hired her because she was a smart, capable agent. Not only that, but she planned on showing Rebecca her dad’s file as soon as she advanced enough to gain the top-secret clearance to see it.
So it turns out that this episode’s two biggest bad guys, Naz and Morra, were actually trying to help Rebecca and Brian all along. But just in case we were starting to fall for Bradley Cooper’s charm and believe that Morra was a 100-percent nice guy, Sands blows up Epperly’s house, just for good measure. So even if Morra promises Brian that he’d never let anything happen to him, he’s still the kind of guy who’s willing to mail a bomb to an innocent person.