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Halt and Catch Fire Episode Four Recap: A Novel Way to Get Press

Looking back to when a writeup in a quarterly could make your company a huge success.
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"The checks you're writing are making innovation happen. Tell me that's not beautiful. That you don't feel the excitement."

Time heals, right? Therefore, after 20 days of the Cardiff PC project, any tensions that existed between Joe and Bosworth, Joe and Gordon, and Joe and Cameron have been smoothed over. 

At least that's the impression that Joe gives at the beginning of the fourth episode of Halt and Catch Fire, "Close to the Metal." The engineering team has just reached a milestone for system speed, and Joe is ecstatic. With a huge smile on his face, he tells Cameron that he's going to call a team building meeting. And--wait. There's this thing. On Cameron's face. It's totally a different look for her. Can it be? Why, yes! She's smiling! 

She's about two days away from finishing the BIOS, and things are looking good for the Cardiff PC. So good that all of this positivity is a little disconcerting. What's going on? 

Back at the cube farm, Joe addresses the team members. Among the many signs that they are doing things right, he says, is that a Wall Street Quarterly (heh, nice in-joke on how slow media was in the early '80s) reporter--who had to "beg to get in the door"--is coming to the office.

Beg to get in the door? Anyway, it's unclear whether the team members really believes him or if they even care.

Either way, the impending appointment with a ticket to publicity has Joe concerned with appearances. And he has a small problem on his hands: Cameron. She's spent most of the past 20 days in her dark and dingy basement office, basically doing nothing but coding and sleeping. It's not clear when or if she showers. She does drink soda, though, as evidenced by the mounds of empty cans littering the floor.

Joe takes his assistant Debbie aside and asks for a little help in cleaning Cameron up. If Debbie could just get Cameron back to her house to take a shower before the reporter comes, that would be great, Joe tells her.

Yes, he is serious. Of all of the things Joe has to worry about, Cameron's hygiene is top of mind? This is really strange. If he's that concerned, can't Cameron just hide away in the basement as she's done for the better part of a month? (And if Joe were truly media savvy, he would realize a light- and shower-deprived blonde coder as attractive as Cameron would be catnip for a journalist.)

Anyway. Enter the journalist, who's appropriately cranky and irritable. He's a buttoned-up guy who'd much rather be working the Wall Street beat than some obscure computer-y backwater. Right off the bat, he tells Joe that he showed up at Cardiff only as a favor to a mutual friend. He's on his way out--with no intention of writing a story--when something goes majorly awry. 

A power surge fries Cameron's computer, and the BIOS is gone. The reporter--who has followed Joe, Gordon, and his team down to the basement--gets to witness Cameron's (understandable!) freakout. And Gordon checks floppy disks to confirm that virtually none of her work was backed up. 

The timing of it all seems a little suspicious. Of course a reporter would be there to witness the project's biggest meltdown yet. But now the annoying reporter has his story, one about a company "flying too close to the sun" as it attempted to take on IBM. 

But if there's something weird and it don't look good, who you gonna call? Ghostb--ah, no. Donna. 

Gordon all too easily persuades Donna to skip an important work meeting and bring their two daughters down to the Cardiff basement. In a move that puts them among the front-runners for Worst Parents of the Year, they forget to feed their daughters dinner--and then they leave them to be babysat by Cameron.

This frees them to work through the night on recovering the BIOS. It's an extremely long and dull process, as it involves Donna hand spinning a disk at a constant speed.

But by the end of the night, Donna has done it. After hours of toil, she managed to recover more than 90 percent of the BIOS. She--in a slightly annoyingly boastful way--describes exactly how she pulled it off. Ah, well; she's allowed. She saved the day.

Once again, though, she fails to get any credit. When the reporter asks who she is, Gordon makes up a fake name. (Though, in fairness, this is partly because Donna's company would fire her if it found out why she skipped work.)

The journalist now seems sold on the story with the happy ending. He turns to the team for quotes. 

Then comes the really weird part--and leave it to Donna to figure it out. The floppy disks that Cameron had supposedly used to back up the BIOS were already full. "Cameron's sloppy, but she's not that sloppy," Donna heatedly says to Joe when confronting him in his office. 

Joe doesn't try to deny it. In another good-Lord-do-not-ever-try-this-with-with-your-business move by Joe, he, in a calm and somewhat sociopathic way, admits to Donna that he was responsible for Cameron's losing the BIOS. He caused the outage. And he had backed all her work up just in case the team couldn't recover it. Joe knew the reporter never would have written about Cardiff if he didn't give him a good story.   

Now for the part that's even more messed up. Joe, on his way home, gets pulled over for speeding-- and two officers pull him from his car and beat him.  

It's Bosworth who comes to the police station to pick Joe up. Earlier in the episode, Nathan Cardiff had told Bosworth to show Joe who's in charge. Bosworth, who has been so likable up until this point, orchestrated Joe's beating. That's obvious, judging from how chummy he acts with all of the officers. (Though we also think: Is Bosworth capable of pulling a Joe, too?)

Looking at Joe's bruised and battered face, you're left thinking it will take a long time for all these wounds to heal. 

Last updated: Jun 23, 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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