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Rubicon Recap: Inside Baseball

Last week in this very space we preached patience to those not immediately enchanted by Rubicon’s leisurely pace. Full of shadowy alleyways, hastily scribbled codes and long, meaningful looks between infuriatingly uncommunicative characters, the show’s two-hour premiere drew us in with its atmosphere and its promise of a well-deserved payoff waiting somewhere down the line. Slowness, we argued, can be a good thing. Of course, “Keep the Ends Out,” the third hour of Rubicon proves something else entirely: slowness can also be really, really boring.

Here is a recap of what happens in this episode: David’s (crazy?) son comes down from Vermont to meet with Will. He is twitchy, sallow, and white, which really sets him apart from everyone else in the cast. He wants his dad’s motorcycle, which is currently doing nothing in Will’s apartment. Will stays up all night taking the motorcycle apart (as you do) and finds a code written on the back of some duct tape. Also, a handgun. With Ed’s help, Will breaks the code with the power of baseball. Will is being followed by the FBI (who punch him in the liver). Will is also being followed by people who aren’t the FBI. The father of Maggie’s daughter shows up, which is ironic because Miles’ family has left him. Oh, and in the plot line that we don’t understand nor care about yet, Miranda Richardson misses her dead husband “bumping up against her” in the shower and she (sadly) meets Sledge Hammer for a (sad) drink at the world’s leatheriest bar.

That’s it. No, really. That’s it! The most exciting thing that happened was when Will explained to Maggie that bears don’t have to go to the bathroom when they are hibernating!

Look, Rubicon. We like you. Really we do. But there is a baseline of activity that needs to happen in an hour-long show for it to qualify as a “television drama” instead of an “over-the-counter sleep aid” and this week really flirted with the bottom of it. One problem is the very nature of the show: Will, we are told, is brilliant at seeing the connections between things. (We know he is good at this because his job mainly consists of pointedly circling bits of text on pieces of paper. Classic seeing-the-connections move.) But we, sadly, are not Will. We don’t see the connections here. And even if we were Will, we’re not sure if we’d even care. At least not yet: the suicides, moony looks, and long, twitchy nights have made it abundantly clear that these characters exist in a dour and joyless world. So Miles deciding on the spur of the moment to book a Mediterranean cruise for his robot-voiced wife isn’t really raising the emotional stakes for us. Neither is sad Miranda Richardson mooning about in her husband’s secret townhouse. Not even the Super Team’s banter can save us this week, as Grant and Tanya chatter clunkily about bad presidents. (Nothing lightens the mood like a William Henry Harrison gag!)

Maybe it was just an off week. It’s hard to launch a new show, especially one that depends on the dramatic weight of unexplained conspiracies. (Not even genius codebreaker Ed is on his A-game: His big breakthrough is that he thinks David was murdered. Dun-DUN! Oh, really, Ed? It took you this long to piece that one together? Maybe we are as smart as Will because we, the audience, were pretty clear on that little puzzle back in the pilot!)

Instead of complaining, perhaps it’d be better to focus on Arliss Howard’s performance as creepy boss/vitamin-C rich superfood Kale, which is reaching D’Onofrio-an levels of meta-hammyness. First, he approaches Maggie by kneeling down and whispering over her shoulder. Then he walks away from a conversation with her in mid-sentence — before artfully pausing to scrape dogshit off his loafer. And then he conducts an entire conversation with Will while villainously peeling an apple! Seriously! Our predictions for equally subtle acting choices he can make in the weeks ahead include waxing his mustache and filling his office with sharks with frickin’ lasers attached to their heads. But hey! At least Howard is having fun.

Here’s hoping for a rebound in seven days, fellow code-breakers. Until then, here’s the round-up:

THINGS WE KNOW:
• The API office is even drearier than usual on a Sunday. And David’s widow had never seen his office.

• George, the German Muslim guy the team is researching, seems like a good dude. He also zealously obeys security procedures at airports.

• Will is a genius at dissembling motorcycles, not so good at noticing giant, recently-stitched up gashes in their seats that might contain codes and/or handguns.

THINGS WE DON’T KNOW:
• Who is “Craig”, Maggie’s mysterious ex? And what is his problem other than being another pale, twitchy white person in a show absolutely overflowing with them?

• Why do the show’s writers still think having characters gaze at “meaningful” photos is an okay way to impart information? Look, David once let Evan sit on his motorcycle! Miranda Richardson’s husband was once a young man! Sledge Hammer apparently spent his childhood as a member of the Little Rascals! Snore.

• State Senator Clay Davis and his gang are not the FBI but are following Will. They also like to hang out in 24-hour laundromats, so at least they probably smell nice.

Photo: AMC