Twelve down: Arabic phrase meaning “Allah is the Greatest.” Eleven letters. Oh, c’mon. Who are we kidding! We’re a loooong way from crossword puzzles now: As we open this penultimate episode of Rubicon (we mean of its, ahem, “first season” coughYEAHRIGHTcough), we are in a sketchy motel room with the dread Kateb, né Joseph Purcell of New Jersey: converted Al Qaeda radical, boat enthusiast, and 90210 extra. When he’s not chuckling over old cartoons and monitoring the parking lot, Kateb is repeating “Allahu Akbar” over and over in fuzzy, washed-out light. Danger is coming! Will must stop it! But first: He must find a classic film on DVD!
But before any of that: He must recover from the night before when a trained CIA assassin tried (and failed) to stab him to death with a heroin needle. (Kudos to commenter MBATTLE for pointing out that there really are easier ways to kill someone and make it look like a drug overdose than merely stabbing at them with drugs. Hasn’t anyone around here seen Michael Clayton?) Actually, Will looks like he could use a little shot of the ol’ skag this morning, just to take the edge off. But instead, he merely cricks his neck and wipes away the last bloody evidence of Donald Bloom with a wet wad of toilet paper. Thus goes the way of all flesh, even the doughy kind.
Meanwhile, over on the EVIL side of town, Spangler meets, nefariously, with the League of Extraordinarily White Gentlemen. The one who looks like G. Gordon Liddy fumes, “We need to put this operation on hold. At least until we sort out this — [nefarious pause] — WRINKLE.” While Spangler sips Sanka and assures everyone that “we’re past that” and “do not mistake fluidity for chaos.” C’mon, Rubicon. If you’re not even going to try to humanize these Bad Guy Bots, then how are we supposed to take them seriously? “You left us exposed!” bellows Liddy. Dude, he left you on a telephone list. You don’t know the half of it!
Right, so, all of the obvious red flags were true: These guys don’t just profit from disaster, they cause it. Which does make us wonder how Spangler manages to keep his job — he is in charge of an organization that writes preventative papers outlining dangerous scenarios, all of which then seem to happen under his watch. Kind of a dealbreaker, no? Or does he have a past with the International Arabian Horse Association that we don’t know about? We guess this does put Will’s trip to D.C. to lobby on behalf of the API in a more sinister perspective. Heckuva job, Spangler!
Anyway, now that “it” has started, all bets are off. Meaning Will is now free to walk in through Katherine Rhumor’s front door as opposed to her basement window. Why? Who cares! Because Will tells her she has to leave. “Is there somewhere else you can go?” Will, she owns more houses than John McCain! Of course there’s somewhere she can go. But first they hubbub about her dead husband’s mystery suicide note. Rhumor has it (sorry) that the couple’s anniversary routine was to watch Meet Me in St. Louis and no doubt polish off a jeroboam of Chardonnay or three. Will is intrigued; he demands to know: Can Katherine find him that film? Hey, professional spy: It’s called Netflix! Look into it!
But back at API, it’s Protocol Delta! FBI agents run around like they’re about to start drug testing everyone. But, no, they’re there to help or something, and also to wander into the Super Team’s conference room, but then they're asked to step outside of it because it’s, like, super-classfied in there. (They should have been able to tell that from the wide-open door.) Will and Grant are dispatched to New Jersey where they interview Adriana from The Sopranos, who tells them “Joey” “didn’t grow up religious,” it just happened after “nine one one” which is something approximately zero people actually call that dread day. Anyway, we gain real insight into Kateb here: Adriana helpfully mentions that “he was never really good at stuff. Not, like, good.” Ah, character development. Thanks to quick-cutting to terror-ville, though, we do see that Kateb is good at a few things, including: ordering way too much fast food, sweatily hate-masturbating, and filling a small boat with a massive amount of explosives. Shows what you know, Adriana!
While Miles and Standard Stiff FBI Agent No. 3 bicker and banter about “population clusters” and “Kateb-related intecepts,” Tanya is all staring out the window dreaming of population clusters ... OF COCAINE. The FBI guy is dubious about the whole “Kateb likes to blow stuff up at 4:20” thing, so Miles proves it to him by having Tanya repeat it. This seems to satisfy FBI guy (maybe because he knows Tanya has some “inside intel” on drug-related happenings?), but he keeps harping on how many people Kateb is going to explode — which makes us think that that’s probably not what’s going to happen.
Elsewhere, Kale remains on his Yoda tip: calmly criss-crossing the plot, cleaning up dead bodies, and ferrying Katherine Rhumor to (yet another!) safe house. This time, though, he brings Maggie, because someone in the writers’ room remembered that she’s in the credits. Also, Kale lectures the two quivering ladies about Caesar and the Rubicon river and how Tom Rhumor shot himself post-schvitz in order to “protect” his wife. Here’s the key, though: Kale says that neither of them are to leave! Which, of course, means they both do. First, under Will’s orders, Maggie runs off to Andy’s apartment to pick up a
tomato history book. Psyche! She’s really just sneaking around in the bathroom recovering all of Ed’s crazy papers. (What is it with this show and bathrooms!) Andy stares at Maggie (pictured here) and asks if she, Maggie, is also sleeping with Will. “Sleep with him?” she answers. “That guy just stays up all night clutching a baseball bat and thinking about disassembling motorcycles!” Except not really. She leaves.
Katherine, on the other hand, leaves for a much nobler purpose. She must track down a copy of a well-regarded film! Because there is absolutely no other way to find it in Manhattan circa 2010 where definitely there are no video-rental shops, art-house cinemas, bookstores, or computers with BitTorrent on them. So she goes back to her most recent giant house and quite easily finds a box helpfully labeled “TV ROOM/DEN/PLOT ADVANCEMENT,” which contains the movie. Uhh, that’s it. It should be noted that no one makes any attempt to stop her or anything — we guess Mr. Roy just snapped a photo of Kale, Katherine, and Maggie together, messengered it over to Spangler, and spent the rest of the day in his bathrobe with his family.
Kale is mad at Maggie for leaving Katherine. Grant is mad at Will for leaving him in New Jersey. Spangler is mad at the universe, but especially Kale — we can tell because he gives Kale one of his patented, “It wouldn’t be the same without you here” a.k.a. “I’m going to have you killed tonight” speeches. Will isn’t mad at all, though, because, for once, our former genius has figured it all out. After banishing the FBI he demonstrates to Miles that everything — everything! — is connected. That Donald Bloom’s travel records match up with Tanaz’s. That they were working together and using David Hadas’s policy paper on the vulnerabilities of oil tankers in Galveston as a blueprint.
Too bad he doesn’t have a time to appreciate his breakthrough, as everyone then does what all good fictional characters do in a time of crisis: turn on the television and make solemn, horrified faces as a news anchor delivers the exposition. Kateb has done his dirty bomb work. By blowing up a tanker in the Gulf — so soon after the BP spill — he has caused what Miles calls an “anyeurism in the energy system.” They failed! API failed! This is a surprise, but then not really because they just spent precious hours interviewing the real housewives of New Jersey and tracking down beloved Judy Garland films, instead of stopping the bad guy, you know? Will goes home, shares a touching moment with his formerly bloody pipe, and then collapses and cries. We know just how he feels.
What we know:
” Joseph Purcell became Kateb for all sorts of clichéd reasons like being “lost but not in a sad way” and wanting “someone to tell him he was the special one.” On the plus side, he has good taste in classic rock (Allman Brothers Band! Kansas!) and excellent penmanship.
” Spangler is freaked out by Will and Kale working together and possibly figuring out the truth about him.
” Will’s long-gestating question of “Who do we work for?” turns out to be a good ‘un. All this time, all this research, and it’s all to fatten the pockets of a group of stock villains that would be laughed off of an episode of Scooby-Doo. It’s enough to make a policy analyst elbow someone to death.
What we don't know:
” Why is Spangler so freaked? Presumably his whole “running an intelligence apparatus that actually designs terrorist plots” has been going for a while. Or was David really the first of his grunts to get wise to it and thus necessitate a massive train crash? What’s the life expectancy of your average API worker, anyway?
” How long has Kale been suspicious of Spangler? Why did it take Will’s cartoonishly amateurish efforts at spy games to get him off the sidelines?
” How is this all going to end? The API failed. Kateb blew up the tanker. Maybe next week we’ll all just get together in Katherine Rhumor’s screening room and watch Meet Me in St. Louis. Why not? It looks more pleasant than any other place we few, we proud, we massively disappointed Rubicon watchers might end up.