Events continue to escalate in Sam Esmail’s Mr.Robot, as Fsociety executes their plan to compromise Steel Mountain while the remaining cast of characters continue to spiral in their own tragedies and storylines.
Episode 5, 3xploits, opens with a view in on a villain we might have hoped we had seen the last of. Vera enjoys a spot of limelight (from the confines of his cell and lockdown), meeting with his lawyer to discuss his options. The case seems hopeless, and the utter idiocy of using social media to organize their “business” is highlighted. Coded messages or not, the misstep has landed Vera in deep. The criminal makes a connection as he reviews the evidence against him, provided by an “anonymous” tip. “So that’s you, that’s who you are, the real you.” Vera charges his younger sibling, the idea man behind the social networking scheme that brought Vera down, to exercise leverage for revenge.
We flash parallel to the Fsociety road crew, preparing their entry to the site. A quick bit of legerdemain nets them a physical access pass, allowing them on the grounds of the Steel Mountain Campus. As the team prepares to carry out the remainder of their plan, Elliot delivers another of his monologues comparing human nature to the same set of rules and activities seen in computer systems. This week’s comparison is exploits. “Nothing is impenetrable,” he muses. “All people have exploits, hacks.” He highlights the exploits of his team first: Mobley’s is gluttony; he lacks discipline for his urges. Romero is a know it all and hypochondriac. Mr. Robot? He’s absolutely insane.
Elliot is not blind to his own flaws. He doesn’t like being outside, he likes morphine too much. His mind catalogs his shortcomings as he awaits the first part of their plan: Gain access to Steel Mountain via a guided tour from a low level functionary. While he initially flubs his conversation with Bill, resident tour guide lackey, Fsociety’s digital preparedness fools Bill into allowing Elliot access.
Hard cut to the break-up of Angela and Ollie (that’s proper billing: remember, never give the douche first naming rights) in progress. Ollie plays the part well; crying over being caught, the primary cause of their shared dilemma, and finally being called to the carpet to pay the piper. In short order, we see him push through several stages of grief: anger, bargaining, and guilt all make appearances at breakneck speeds. True to form, Ollie resorts to manipulation, applying pressure to Angela’s housing options, and stating that she is ruining her life. “Maybe,” she responds, “but I also ruined yours.” With that she hands Ollie his badge and the infected CD, allowing the weight of what she has done to sink in.
Back at Steel Mountain, the time comes for phase 2: gaining access to level 2 of the facility, not normally shown on tours. In order to gain access, Elliot needs to lose Bill. What occurs is shocking, almost like watching a trainwreck. “Dig into him Elliot. You of all people do this” Mr Robot whispers into Elliot’s earpiece, like a digital Grima Wormtongue. Elliot does what needs to be done, but struggles with it before and after. Channeling pain from his past, he (metaphorically) destroys Bill, and awaits his key to L2: a supervisor. It is here that things go off the rails, as most plans are wont to do. Their incoming key is not what they expect, and things look bad. Quick thinking by the support crew outside frees Elliot of this new threat, and a new plan is hastily put together. Elliot commences the new scheme, but is stopped short by another wrinkle, as he bumps into Tyrell Wellick of Evil Corp while wandering the halls of Steel Mountain, as and adventurer would bump into a minotaur in the mazelike depths of Undermountain.
Another hard cut, this time to Shayla, who is training for her new job as a waitress a at schtick-laden wings bar. Little of value is gleaned from this other than to show that Shayla is indeed searching for a fresh start. When asked about her work history, she quips that she used to work in “pharmaceutical sales.” When asked what happened, she simply says “Obamacare,” which apparently is reason enough to a 20-something serving beer in daisy dukes (buzzwords don’t needed vetting like real facts, it seems).
Elliot finds himself following Wellick as the the seemingly doomed plan continues to lurch violently from obstacle to obstacle. Wellick points out other power suits following a friendly chats with them; rich men who he casually identifies as financiers of Hezbollah and ISIS. What cause has Elliot to be at Steel Mountain? Data process checks, an AllSafe standard. He is handling it due to overlapping duties and budget cuts.
“Join me for lunch?,” says Wellick. “S-Sure. I eat lunch” Elliot responds. “So you are like the rest of us.” The plan seems jeopardized again as the two head topside to a food court, by Elliot exercises Wellick’s exploit: hubris. After making a few off-handed comments about the accommodations, Elliot finally gains access to L2, as there is an executive lounge there that is more Wellick’s speed.
Wellick’s menacing persona continues to manifest itself in interesting and chilling ways. He draws comparisons between himself and Elliot, an activity that I can only imagine turns Elliot’s stomach. Wellick launches into a venomous diatribe against the low middle class. He uses their waiter as an example: a man in his fifties, likely on marriage #2, whose peak life potential is a 30k a year job pouring coffee for the superegos at Steel Mountain. “I couldn’t bare it, a life like that. The life of a cockroach whose biggest value is to serve me a salad,” he quips darkly, before donning his practiced smile moments before the waiter serves him a plate of greens. Interestingly, the pair eat beneath a picture of President Obama. This marks the second reference to the commander in chief and his policies within the episode. Does this mean anything? I’m unsure, but I suspect we may find out. Interestingly enough, I find it odd that Mr. Robot’s commercial support is almost entirely Big Pharma and Big Data. Who would have guessed that plug for chronic depression would have bankrolled this time slot?
Prompted by a scare with security, Elliot excuses himself to the executive washroom. A combination of nerves and withdrawals has him making sick in the sink, complete with shakes and sweats. “Am I his (Wellick’s) malware?” he wonders. In a quick turn of fortune that I am going to identifying as deus ex machina, Elliot notices an open door in the washroom mirror; an open door leading to a janitors office that just happens to have the climate control console he needs access to in order to complete the plan. Part way through the installation of the RaspberryPi that is set to them access to HVAC, Elliot gets nervous and returns to the washroom… just in time for Wellick to enter. Here, the bombs begin to drop. Wellick reveals a wealth of information, details that you should receiving in your viewing rather than in this article. Suffice to say, the world of Mr.Robot spins more than just a bit, as these info points wage war on the path of the story, opening new avenues of advancement (and paranoia).
The Fsociety team drives home to NY (as Wellick is flown home by chopper), and we get to see Elliot share a tender human moment with Shayla over a phone call detailing her new job. The whole scene would almost evoke bits of hope, were we not aware that Vera had made a connection. We get to see a similar exchange between Angela and her dad, as they support each other an put the torch to Ollie. This scene is similarly false to the viewer, as anyone watching knows the compromising situation that Angela and her father are in; a situation that, at this point, only she knows about.
Wellick and his female companion begin unraveling the riddle that is the new CTO. We are privy to their machinations (which they carry out in a foreign language within earshot of their musclesuit chauffeur). They attend a dinner party with the potential rival. I’m not sure I can detail for you what all happens during the event, as it comes hard and fast. Suffice to say that their is still a cloak of mystery surrounding the two, and their ability to manipulate situations and plan for eventualities is nigh-frightening. It looks as though nothing can stop their ambitious rise.
On the home front, the Fsociety team at base also suffers from an unforeseen misfortune. The Dark Army does not appear willing to execute their part of the clandestine wealth redistribution plan. After being kicked and banned for their IRC channel, Darlene seeks answers from her contact. She learns almost nothing, other than that the Dark Army had planned to pull out for weeks. Darlene’s composure cracks, leading to a public outburst, and a standoff with the returning Fsociety team, as she holds Mr.Robot hostage with a keyboard and input command. Surprisingly, Elliot is the one to defuse the situation, offering Darlene a place to crash.
The episode ends with Elliot and Darlene returning to his apartment. They find the door ajar, Flipper barking, and a phone ringing on the floor. Elliot answers expecting someone, but the voice that answers is not who he had hoped to hear. Scene, curtainfall, cut, end.
Hate that ending? Me too. Luckily, Episode 6 is arriving shortly.
Catch Mr. Robot every Wednesday at 10/9 central on USA Network… or stream the episodes via their site.