“I do have faith, just in things that are real.”
Do you remember those old complicated word problems you’d get in math class? The sort of thing that would say, if Billy is leaving at 9 AM and walks at 5 miles an hour and Freddy is leaving at 10 AM and walks at 7 miles an hour, who is going to get to the fishing hole first. They were questions designed for you to see the tree through the forest, analyzing all the details, determining what information is essential and which is a distraction, and figuring out the most effective way to attack the problem. It seems only fitting that Scorpion, a show consumed in genius, would eventually adopt this template for an episode, but it’s appreciated to see just how morbid a math question it presents the audience. The episode is basically asking how quickly it takes for a shallow cave to fill with water when x is a ten year-old boy and y is the limited amount of air.
Before we’re in all of this high stakes, child drowning tension, let’s not forget that it’s Christmastime in Scorpion Land, and as the gang traverses through a flake-less Los Angeles, they all find themselves reminiscing over their less than magical childhood Christmases, with no one really having a pleasant time. All of this just enforcing how strong the bond of their family has become, and how much they need each other.
Family is certainly on everyone’s minds after a young boy, Owen, stumbles into a cave on the beach, which is met with a rockslide, trapping him in the small space, which is also slowly filling with water. It’s nice to see everyone flipping into overdrive when the stakes of a young boy drowning are on the table, and even seeing these people snapping at each other and watching the pressure get to them is a refreshing angle that goes far.
It’s also a nice change of pace to see everyone discussing the bleakness of this mission, with how so many of their options at the moment could risk collapsing the sinkhole in on Owen. It’s kind of amazing when we see a lot of trial and error going on here as giant drills get inches from Owen’s screaming face. They discuss cutting off Owen’s trapped leg with a bonesaw before realizing that the vibrations from that would collapse everything. Can you imagine that sequence of events being how things played out?
There’s also a very melodramatic, inherently over the top tone to everything here too that doesn’t do it any favors, as Walter yells things out like, “We’re against the one thing humans have never been able to defeat: time.” People repeatedly talk about how Owen is “trapped below the earth’s surface” and unnecessary observations are made like, “These boulders here are trapping the boy” in a very obvious diagram showing a huge rock trapping the exit.
We’re given actual dominoes completing a Rube Goldberg machine in an episode all about the domino effect and the change of command. There’s a live news report sensationalizing the event the entire time that isn’t really needed either, but it’s fine. And of course, there’s the topic of miracles getting continually thrown around between Walter and Paige and whether they’re real or not, with the episode towing the fence on the matter, throwing evidence to both parties. Even when Walter declares it all a miracle in the end, it’s a skewed sentiment.
As Owen panics in his hole, Paige steps in via Skype to talk him out of hysteria. As nice as this is, it makes you wonder why they didn’t just have Paige’s son, Ralph, be the one getting trapped in the cave. He just as easily could have been playing on the beach with Walter and his sister, and Ralph in peril could have brought Drew back into town, demonstrating his love for his family (or lack thereof if he didn’t show). Instead we just get Paige relating a lot of Ralph-esque experiences to Owen, in what’s always just steps away from being an emotional connection. It’s confusing.
In spite of all of this though, and for an episode that has its cast primarily standing on a beach talking to a tablet for its first half, it’s surprisingly engaging and suspenseful. When the team comes to the realization that the sinkhole is going to fill with water sooner than later, we even get a kind of incredible scene where Walter feeds intravenous tubes into Own to feed oxygen into his blood so he can effectively breathe underwater. We get ridiculous exchanges between Owen and Walter, like Owen pleading, “I can’t live underwater!” as Walter screams back “Yes you can!” and it somehow actually manages to be thrilling. It’s in fact probably the best episode the series as produced, and without a doubt the most exciting, cohesive one.
Impressively, we even see Sylvester’s residual PTSD and fear from his incident a few weeks ago seep into his work here, segregating him. In another touch to continuity Toby pushes Happy to reach out to her father on Christmas, while being thematically sound, doesn’t really feel needed. The most exciting stuff is on the beach with Owen and to be pulling away from that only slows things down, even if it has Toby and Happy riding a motorcycle together.
As Scorpion begins to close up its original 13-episode block, it’s encouraging to see that these are the type of stories being told at this point, and that certain elements of continuity are carrying over and the semblance of a larger story is being woven. If it moves forward with this confidence in the back nine of the season, this could end up being a half-decent show.
It’s also pretty wonderful that the gifts received at the end of the episode are a new pair of shades for Agent Gallo, a new fedora for Toby, a wrench for Happy…These almost could be joke gifts, reducing the characters to their simplest details, but they’re treated sincerely and profoundly. And that’s kind of what Scorpion is at the end of the day.