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Rubicon Recap: The Needle and the Damage Done

From the day Rubicon premiered with a (muffled) bang through the whimpering ten weeks that have followed, one word has dominated all discourse about the show: drowsiness. No, sorry, that’s not it. Conspiracy! That’s the one. Rubicon, we’ve been told, is a show about a conspiracy. It’s right there in the press materials! But we have to ask: What, exactly, is the conspiracy? Sure there have been bugs placed in golden owls, files exchanged in parking garages and tomatoes given to crazy exhibitionists, and there’s even a shadowy cabal of rich white men who drink scotch and chortle like its going out of style. (Which it has: Chortling’s heyday was in the mid-thirties.) But surely there had to be something truly sinister and secretive going on behind the scenes, right? All this pursuing of terrorists and scribbling of clues and wrinkling of brows had to lead to some sort of payoff, didn’t it? Well, this week we got our answer!

And it was disappointing. If Will’s wild-eyed basement ramblings to Katherine Rhumor are to be believed (and, uh, why shouldn’t they be), then the bad guys are who we thought they were. Which is to say: Truxton Spangler feeds API intel to his fellow members of the League of Extraordinarily White Gentlemen. The members then profit obscenely from their knowledge. It’s even possible, Will posits conspiratorially, that they might actually cause the global disasters. The suicides of the Professor and Tom Rhumor were most likely guilt-related owing to their involvement in various horrific things. So, to recap: The shocking conspiracy at the heart of Rubicon is that powerful white men occasionally profit from insider information. Really? That’s not a conspiracy. That’s life!

So other than the fizzling revelation of something we all pretty much knew about, what else happened this week? Well, crazy painter lady Andy mutated into a crazy clingy painter lady. After waking Will up by boring holes into the back of his head with the intensity of her gaze, she confesses that she had a dream in which he was in a “Moscow train station with a fake mustache” doing all sorts of spy business. Then she asks if he has to get to work in order to “fire a tranquilizer gun into someone’s neck and steal their identity.” To which we say: Someone hire this woman onto the writing staff, STAT! All of these things sound much, much better than what Will is actually going to do that day, which includes calling a public library in Long Island and almost getting strangled to death by a goon brandishing a weaponized dish towel (more on that later). Anyway, Will leaves Andy unsatisfied either because he really does have to get to work or because he’s finally realized that their relationship is absurd.

Back at HQ, Marshal Mars from Lost and his other spook cronies have come to Spangler, hats in hands: They need to find Kateb — and fast! — but there are numerous false trails. “Our usefulness is questioned far too often these days,” he explains. “We need to get ahead of this one.” Yes, good. As opposed to all those other potential catastrophic attacks that he’s cool to “just kind of roll with.” Anyway, Will wants Tanya back from drug jail to help, and he also wants Maggie back from her own uninteresting plot. Tanya puts everyone at ease by announcing that she’s not going to “blow rails” on the conference table which, like Andy’s tranquilizer gun in the opening, kinda bums us out because that would be more interesting than what actually happens: Grant figures out that Kateb didn’t exist before 2004 so he must be a convert. Soon enough this mind grape is delicately squeezed until it produces the sweet wine of discovery: Kateb is most likely a strapping American named Joseph Purcell. The mission: find Purcell! Wait, they do: and he’s in the U.S.! Uh-oh!

But maybe we shouldn’t get too worried: Will certainly isn’t. He kicks off at midday to use Andy’s phone and fill in the blanks on the Fishers Island photo. Andy disapproves of this. Not because it’s dull, but because she feels that she should be equally important to Will. Because theirs is a love that has withstood the test of time, or at least 48 hours of sweaty panic sex involving a loaded handgun and voyeurism. Then she calls him a pussy. OMG, relax everyone! Don’t you know that Kateb is coming?!?

You know who’s also not worried about Kateb? Possibly because he’s responsible for him? Truxton Spangler, that’s who! And let’s take a moment to celebrate Michael Cristofer’s bizarro performance. Whether he’s bashing a telephone in frustration (after tracing Will’s call to the Fishers Island library) and yet still finding time to say “thank you” to the confused operator on the other end, or merely tenderly wiping some stray Moo Goo Gai Pain from Miles’s beard, Cristofer is always interesting in his performance choices. Definitely better than we expected from the director of the worst film we’ve ever seen! But, right, Spangler is more concerned about Will’s little extracurricular project so, logically, he hires Mr. Roy to terminate him. Only this time, he doesn’t want anything super-suspicious like what they used to off David Hadas — you know, engineering the crash of a commuter train killing dozens of people. No, Spangler thinks painting Will — Will! — as a secret junkie who suddenly offs himself because his wife died nine years ago is the way to go. Definitely no way any suspicions would be raised there. Nice work, Trux!

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned on this show, it’s that Tanya isn’t going to blow rails on the conference table (sigh). But if there are two things we’ve learned it's that all of Spangler’s flunkies are incompetent goons. Ergo, Donald Bloom plants some black tar all over Will’s apartment before he’s done the deed and then sits in the dark waiting for Will to get home. But Bloom doesn’t attack when Will is standing with his back to him in the dark — that’d be too easy! — no, he waits until Will is (a) suspicious and (b) seated to jab at him with a needle. Excitement! They tussle. Bloom quickly changes course and decides the best thing to do would be to smash up the apartment and make it seem like Will killed himself (unsuspiciously!) by strangling himself with a kitchen towel. But poor Bloom can’t even get that right: Using the brute force of his bookish elbows, Will gets free and pops a cap right in Bloom’s plus-size forehead. Where’s your umbrella now, huh, Donald?

When there are a dead body and a couple doggy bags of high quality horse in your apartment, who do you call? Kale, that’s who! Our favorite Super Food is actually kind of a badass this week. Showing up with an anonymous, bald “helper,” cranking up the Rocket From the Crypt, then locking shell-shocked Will in the bathroom while he and Mr. Clean dismember the bad guy. And then — with a little Afghan Whigs playing — they vanish. All tidied up. Except for Will’s shirt. And a smear of blood on the wall. As our old friend Martin Lawrence would say: Shit just got real. Sorry, Andy — not even a tomato is gonna clean up this mess.

What we know:

” Truxton Spangler seemingly uses the API as his personal ATM: designing, implementing, and exposing terrible events in order to be able to afford sixteen-year-old Scotch.

” The show clearly yadda-yadda’d all the interesting bits of Miles and Julia’s relationship as they are now holding hands and playing footsie while investigating Yemeni radicals.

” Katherine Rhumor likes to start her day off with a relaxing pint glass of vodka followed by an afternoon tumbler of crisp rosé. It really takes the edge off.

What we don't know:

” Is Spangler relying too heavily on his Super-Villain handbook? Not only does he order the hit on Will by saying “there’s a problem that needs a clean solution,” but he then swans around Will’s office saying leading things like, “You’ve done good work here” and “I’ll miss you tomorrow what with you being dead and all.” Okay, we made the last one up, but it’s close.

” Grant is feeling extremely smug about his (actually clever!) analysis of Kateb. But what if he’s, ya know, wrong?

” It’s extremely convenient that Katherine was able to find an apologetic suicide note from her dead husband right when she needed it most. Hiding it in a worthless jewelry box in a secret Upper East Side townhouse was a stroke of genius! Anyone else think the business about their anniversary is a hint as to when Kateb’s shit show is due to arrive? That Tom Rhumor. Such a romantic!

Photo: AMC