As BR4VE_TRAVE1ER commences, you might find yourself a bit lost. Elliot and Shayla open things up sharing a meal in a delicatessen. Both seem uncomfortable, and their food remains uneaten. Shayla in particular seems spaced out, adrift. The budding couple shares a a scant few sentences together before the illusion of normalcy is shattered. The end of the scene brings Elliot and viewers back to reality; a reality where Vera’s thugs control things, as evidenced by their sudden action and behavior. The Bystander Effect empowers the gangers, and shows us just how deep in $4!7 Elliot and Shayla have gotten. Maybe its just the neighborhood.
During a short phone call, Vera lays things out for Elliot. Shayla is being used as leverage to force Elliot to procure Vera’s freedom. Vera continues to menace Elliot, as he drifts between threats, both veiled and blunt. He shares the meaning of Elliot’s name: savage traveler, or brave traveler, depending on how far back you go. Bravery and savagery are recurring themes for the episode. We get a peek at how much power Vera might have, as he hatches schemes and has access to a cellphone even while incarcerated. Elliot is tasked with freeing Vera, and soon; the alluded consequences for failure are dire.
While Elliot works out Vera’s demands, Angela is making her own moves to further her agenda. We see her studying the Washington Township scandal, pulling every headline, file, and buzzword with even a hint of value. She works through the night, making phone calls to law offices. She doesn’t have much luck, but eventually is able to meet with an attorney who originally worked the case against Evil Corp. Deeply and obviously jaded, the lawyer she meets with attempts to dissuade her; the case was career suicide for her to begin with, and she has little hope that anything Angela has found will be of use. Angela persists, however, and the two seem to reach an agreement to try to do something. Angela catalogs a list of the items on her mind during their discussion; almost all of them are negative.
Darlene of Fsociety attempts to help Elliot with his task by engaging in a semi-well known digital anarchist trick: the lost USB drive in a public space routine. While her trap does get a bite, the effort is ultimately unsuccessful, and in her failure Darlene exposes herself to the dangers of Vera’s thugs. Now a more active part of the scheme to Vera, Darlene’s tentative position simply provides more leverage against Elliot, who seems to be against the wall.
Tyrell Wellick also feels the pressure through this episode. His machinations have largely been fruitless of late. His most recent manipulations seem to have been in vain, and catch him in an awkward position with the incoming CTO Scott Knowles. As Wellick continues to probe for weakness, Knowles engages in a power play of his own: he bluntly calls Wellick’s motives in to question, and is one of the first characters from the show to do so. He is one of the few people in a position to do so, having a better position in the power ladder than Wellick, and no real previous relationship with him. There is a bit of poetic justice here, as Knowles berates Tyrell in the same financial manner as Tyrell applied to Elliot and the waiter in episode 5. Following a danger-close conversation that would make a human resource manager’s nose bleed, we again get a glimpse at the boiling rage beneath Tyrell’s carefully crafted mask. He feels the need to step back, a move tentatively described as cowardly by his wife. She seems unperturbed however, and her calm demeanor is unsettling, to say the least.
Angela reaches out to Elliot for advice regarding her renewed crusade against Evil Corp and Terry Colby. Elliot, preoccupied with his own brush fire, gives her the answer he thinks she wants to hear, even though he hasn’t really listened to her. The ploy is successful in removing Angela for the dangerous situation that Elliot is in. This invigorates Angela to seek out Colby at his house, but her new found bravery falters when they finally meet, and Colby, not recognizing her despite their meeting in episode 1, dismisses her once again.
As Elliot returns to work, he encounters Mr. Robot on his stairs. How he slipped through Vera’s net remains undisclosed. He warns Elliot about the dangers of returning to work for Vera regardless of the stakes; a warning that drips with irony based on the dangers that associating with Fsociety brings, simply trading digital disasters for physical violence. His plan? Ditch both Darlene and Shayla, as the situation is now a zero sum game. The only way Vera wins is to have everyone die. Elliot perseveres, however; I am increasingly impressed by his ability to concoct solutions while under pressure.
As the episode closes, we witness Elliot enacting his plan to free Vera. Having built a deadman’s switch into the scheme seems to have saved Elliot, and potentially even bought he and Shayla a free pass. Darlene is not present for the event; she exits stage left in the final planning stages, and we are left not knowing what has happened to her. We also see the power politics within Vera’s gang, and have a tentative idea of how things will play out. Elliot’s plan seems to go off without a hitch, but still there are consequences. Fernando Vera turns the malevolence up to 11, and in the closing minutes of the show we see multiple pawns leave play. Vera’s psychopathic exit sets the stage for a costly reveal, a price Elliot had hoped not to pay. Alone and missing a familiar part of his support system, Elliot flees the scene.
BR4VE_TRAVE1ER.ASF is all about flight or fight, bravery or fear, and savagery. Whilst the previous entries in the series were high on psychological drama and digital/social pressures, this episode lurches hard into the dangers of the drug trade, gang activity, and physical violence. While engrossing, the episode as a whole was shocking, and I suspect the ending will leave most viewers in the same boat as Elliot: distraught, numb, and seeking comfort that may not easily be found.
Catch MR ROBOT on USA Network Wednesdays at 10/9c, or stream full episodes at their site.