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Halt and Catch Fire Episode Three Recap: Don't Try This At Work

In which we learn just how far Joe will go to get his way.
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"We used to build products that people would buy. Now we're not even reality anymore."

In the opening scene of Halt and Catch Fire's third episode "High Plains Hardware," Gordon stands glumly over a dying bird in his front yard, looking distraught. Cut to a scene at the office, where he's about to fire 46 people. 

Poor Gordon. He hasn't yet mastered the graces of the C-suite. During one meeting with an employee he's axing, he buries his face in his hand and generally fails miserably at breaking the news, while that staffer remains comically oblivious to what's happening.

Joe, though, wakes up smirking, looking as cocksure as ever. Later in the morning, he addresses a small gathering of engineeers who specialize in microprocessing, describing what he wants them to build. He believes the future of the PC is in portability, and he wants the Cardiff PC to weigh no more than--wait for it--a mere 15 pounds

Yes, you may sometimes not know whether or not your Macbook Air is in your backpack, but 15 pounds  would have been a feat in the early Eighties.

Then Joe attempts to figure out how to, you know, fund the whole project, and springs on Bosworth a meeting with a venture capitalist. But Bosworth realizes that partnering with a VC means he'll lose control and sabotages the meeting, proudly asserting that, yes, Cardiff has absolutely no PC experience, "but by God, we've got heart." The VC gets the message and promptly leaves. 

(Go, Bosworth. It's incredibly satisfying to see Joe get a heaping dose of STFU.)

Aaaaaaand on to plan B: The ever-steady Nathan Cardiff--who, though retired, still has lots of influence over the company--arranges for Joe and Bosworth to meet with a potential bankroller named Louise Lutherford, a woman with more money than she knows what to do with.

This will be interesting. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, we learn more about Gordon's wife Donna. We've gotten hints before that she's brilliant in her own right. After all, she and Gordon once partnered to build a computer together. 

We see the two late one night, working at the kitchen table. Gordon is stuck in a problem about his motherboard, and he not-so-slyly tempts Donna into taking a look. She sees it right away: if he just moves a few components, he can divide the motherboard down the center and layer one half on top of the other, making the design far more compact. 

It's a hit with the engineers back at the office--though, ouch, Gordon neglects to give Donna credit for the idea. It seems likely this dynamic between them--his taking her for granted--will be a recurring theme.  

Everyone is eager to make the design work except for Brian, a good friend of Gordon's and a major Debbie Downer, who points out that no one will help Cardiff mass produce a brand-new board from scratch. Deterred, for now, Gordon goes back to the whiteboard and erases the design.

Meanwhile, the OMG of the show is just about to happen. Bosworth introduces Joe to the filthy-rich Louise Lutherford, who hosts them for dinner at her mansion. Louise is a glamourous Cruella de Vil with a charming Texas accent and an enormously difficult personality. She's boastful, dismissive, and her relationship with her significant other, Travis, seems a bit off. She walks around with him on her arm; he doesn't say a word.

Sensing her power, she gets straight to the point. Her offer: $10 million in exchange for 80 percent the PC project. Oooof. "If there's a better deal for you elsewhere you are welcome to take it." she says, intending to shake Joe's healthy confidence, a malicious smile spreading across her face.

Bosworth promises Joe that he'll try to talk Louise into a better offer over dinner, but then doesn't. He seems to have accepted Cardiff's desperate position.

Yeah, Joe's gonna go along with that. But how he doesn't go along with that is pretty shocking: He comes on to Travis when the two are alone. Travis enthusiastically reciprocates. 

This is a fairly preposterous and high-risk way to thwart a business deal, to say the least. But it works. After the impromptu rendezvous, Joe stares smugly at Louise while Travis looks longingly at Joe. Louise quickly puts two and two together. Bye, $10 million! (Later in the episode, Cameron shows up at Joe's place late at night and disappears into his bedroom.)  

Back at the office, Gordon gets a ride home from Brian, who seems to be distracted by everything but his actual job, and gets into a minor fender-bender. An exasperated Gordon fires Brian on the spot. Maybe Gordon can get the hang of the alpha-male thing after all. 

Or maybe not. Arriving back home a little bloody and very moody, Gordon all but ignores Donna and grabs a beer.

After two days of suffering, the dying bird in their front yard is still chirping weakly. When it's clear Donna won't get any help from Gordon on that front, she grabs a shovel and kills the bird herself. Interesting, that, if a bit heavy-handed: Gordon may take Donna for granted, but it's clear she can get things done. 

Last updated: Jun 15, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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