Tina Rowden / AMC

Is Halt And Catch Fire's Boz Well?

The normally awesome John Bosworth mopes his way through this episode. Then again, everyone's a bit unhappy except Gordon, and isn't it weird to read that sentence?

I make no secret that John Bosworth is my favorite character on Halt And Catch Fire -- that I hold out hope that he gets his own spinoff or at least an episode where it's just him, like, running errands for the full hour. So when Boz spends his time moping on screen, as he does throughout Episode 4, I get concerned. This is just normal character development and not at all the first clue that Boz is going to pull up stakes and go on an extended leave of absence, right? RIGHT?

Consider that he spends the episode telling rapt onlookers a joke involving a bear and an ex-wife but that we, the audience, never get to hear the set-up to this apparently killer punchline. (By episode's end, Gordon asks to hear the joke on our behalf, but Boz snarls, "That thing's out of gas.") After last week's triumphant Swap Meet negotiation, Boz could be taken aback by the fact that Gordon casually mentions how he no longer cuts the imposing figure he did at Cardiff Electric, which comes right after Diane Gould made him feel like a show pony at a Silicon Valley fundraiser. There's a visible discontent from Boz about his role at Mutiny, and it makes me fear for the future of my favorite character.

Then again, discontentment seems to be the norm for this episode. Mutiny's acquisition of Swap Meet is not going swimmingly, thanks to a Cameron-related issue: she clashes with the Swap Meet co-founders, and to be fair, Doug is an unrelenting toolbox. Still, Cameron would like both to be fired yesterday, and while Diane's willing to swallow the buyout cost, Donna fibs to Cameron that Diane put her foot down and nixed the firing. Cue the ominous music -- Da, da, daaaaaah! -- or supply it on your own: I know I did.

Tina Rowden / AMC

Tina Rowden / AMC

Also discontented: Joe. But when is he not? He wants to find the Next Big Thing now that Ryan's convinced him not to charge consumers on the security utility. I guess he's employing Ryan to help him find that thing, despite the lack of evidence that Ryan excels at anything other than twitching nervously. Fortunately for Joe, he may have come across something after insulting a major MacMillan Utility client -- another complete toolbox, and a bigot as well! -- that involves a Department of Defense security issue. Just knowing Joe is poking around the DoD's computer network will make me sleep better at night, I tell you.

The only one not stewing in his own discontentment this episode is Gordon. Yeah, I'm shocked, too. He gets to lead the combined Mutiny/SwapMeet staff on a team-building laser tag outing and is treated to his own 1980s-style triumphant freeze frame as management kicks him out of the laser tag arena. This is clearly my favorite Halt And Catch Fire moment ever that does not involve Boz.

Halt And Catch Fire-ish Element Present?
Business Crisis Of The Week You've just spent a discounted-albeit-still-a-tidy sum buying up your e-commerce rival only to feud over coding. Your new employees and former employees are coming to blows in the office. The co-founder of the company you just bought calls you "a man-hating bitch" while you collude with the other co-founder to cut ties with the aforementioned toolbox. At the same time, you're also telling your business partner that you need to fire both of these guys -- whom you've dubbed Thing 1 and Thing 2 -- while you wind up missing the come-to-Jesus dinner where everyone's supposed to air out their differences.

Got all that? Good. Because I hope future episodes don't include extended riffs on the merits of C++ like this one did.

Cameron Howe: Punk Rock Girl Well, she's sowing discord between Doug and Craig -- that's the aforementioned Thing 1 and Thing 2, if you're not following along -- while also trying to get both paid off and sent on their way, so that's something. If you've missed the fragile, vulnerable side of Cameron, though, you do get a scene where her stepfather calls her to inform her that all of her dad's stuff is about to get sold. It will shock you to learn that Cameron's relationship with her mother is fraught.
Donna Clark: One Tough Mother Donna's got a company to run, man. She's trying to reassure Diane that everything's jake. She's got another Cameron tantrum to navigate. She's even helping Cameron find a house to live, for heaven's sake. (Though if you had Cameron living under your roof, you'd probably have the Century 21 folks on speed dial, too.)
Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves There are sports cars that can't go from 0 to 60 in the time it took from Donna having Cameron's back on the Fire The Swap Meet Guys stance to lying to Cameron about Diane refusing to do do it. "I just hope it's the guys who are the problem" is the actual thing Diane said, and Donna's sudden reversal suggests that maybe she's not so sure.

Fun scene, though, when Cameron and Donna are looking for a place where Donna can live, and the real estate agent assumes they're a couple. When they inevitably start arguing -- you're watching Halt And Catch Fire, after all -- the real estate agent pops her head into the scene and says "See, it already feels like home." Let's add that real estate agent to the John Bosworth spinoff, please.

Gordon Clark: Gloomy Sadsack Oh, this episode starts grimly for Gordon, as he devours assorted microwave lunches of dubious provenance and jots down symptoms -- headache, tremors, nausea -- in his pain journal. And when he gets punched in the ear trying to break up a scrum between warring Mutiny and SwapMeet factions, this looks like another installment in The Short, Unhappy Life Of Gordon Clark. But then Gordon's laser tag team-building exercise ends in triumph, and he and Cameron get a nice bonding moment at the episode's end playing Duck Hunt. This is as close to a win for Gordon as we're ever going to get, and we should treasure it until next week, when he inevitably contracts Dengue fever.
Joe MacMillan: Super Genius I'm getting a little bit tired of Joe floating through his scenes on a faux-Buddhist cloud of zen techno-visionary babble, to be honest, but at least we get to see him (a) erase a white board allegedly containing weeks of work while Ryan hops around in futile protest; (b) humiliate a homophobe with his bone-crushing handshake even if it costs MacMillan Utility 37% of its annual billings; and (c) jump on information carelessly provided by the humiliated homophobe to find a new business opportunity with the Department of Defense. For God's sake, though, man, start wearing some trousers.
The Crumbling Clark Marriage It's been a full episode since anyone brought up Gordon's infidelity, so that's progress. That Donna tells Cameron she can stay as long as she likes will likely undo that progress, but for now, everyone seems to be getting along.
The Wit And Wisdom Of John Bosworth Nope, nothing here. Maybe next time, let the rest of us in on the bear gag, Boz.
Meet The New Guy Not much new insight into Ryan this week, unless you consider "Joe's harried flunky" to be character development. Don't make me swap you out for Diane, Ryan.
Period Piece Accuracy It's true, young people: laser tag is a thing we used to do, and it was every bit as terrible as this episode would have you believe, though we at least had the good sense to not play it with "Goodnight Saigon" playing over the soundtrack. Throw in Nintendo's Duck Hunt and an Elvis Costello from 1982, and '80s kids will be more than satisfied. Northern Californians, however, will see the homes Cameron was looking at and conclude that she's house-hunting on Jupiter, not in the Silicon Valley.
5 / 10
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