Things go great until they don't on "Halt and Catch Fire," with every new gain paired with a major emotional setback or caveat that undermines key relationships on the show. We saw that last week when Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishe) came together again after the former's sojourn to Texas, only for things to break apart again after Cam learned for sure that Donna lied to her. Joe (Lee Pace) and Ryan (Manish Dayal) move forward with their NSFNET project in this episode, only for things to fall apart when MacMillan Utility catches him doing it against their wishes.
"And She Was" is one of the best episodes of the series because it shows both the show's value of cooperation and its understanding of how even the tiniest divergences from partnerships can damage them, perhaps irreparably. The episode starts on a high note, Joe and Ryan seeing perfection in their early project and fixing up a room to Tom Waits' eternally cool "Jockey Full of Bourbon." Their next meeting goes well, the two framed by a bright window suggesting infinite possibilities before them. Even as they hit a speed bump when taking it to Ken (Matthew Lillard) and the rest of the board, who don't seem to understand the project at all, their agreement with an NSFNET player over the weekend seems to set them up for life. Ryan's wearing a suit now, on the train that he was afraid of missing, and Joe's even hugging him. This will end well.
In the meantime, things at Mutiny aren't going as smoothly: having learned that Donna lied about Diane's (Annabeth Gish) feelings about keeping on Craig and Doug, Cam went ahead and fired them; their next meeting sees Cam framed in profile, Donna full-on as they speak with Diane about the choice to fire them (she's OK with it, but not happy with how it's been handled) and the offer to buy Mutiny. Donna hears the high number and seems receptive. Cam, leaning in, dominant, is less pleased. "I'm not chopping my company up into pieces so you can ring a bell on Wall Street." She's not wrong, but she's still acting like a teenager, Donna like the adult in the room, and when Diane suggests they take the weekend at her summer home, Cam rejects it. Donna goes anyway.
That leaves Cam at home with Gordon (Scoot McNairy), both of whom are hogging the Nintendo from Gordon and Donna's daughters ("It's Joni's Ninendo," the younger one complains as she's told to go outside on her bike) and spending the day trying to beat "Super Mario Bros." There's a fun pair of montages that contrasts Donna and the other two; the first sees Donna walking through Diane's gorgeous home, running her hands over Diane's clothes, set to "Quanto e bella" from the opera "L'elisir d'amore." The place is intoxicating, as bright as the light that constantly shines in from outside, and Donna can't help but undress and try on Diane's long sweater with the light shining through. It's a heavenly scene set to a beautiful song...smash cut to Cam and Gordon in a darkened living room, assembling a new TV to the sound of the German punk group The 39 Clocks' "Shake the Hippie."
Given the friction between the two early in the season, it's been heartening to see Cam and Gordon's friendship grow over the last few episodes, even if it is at least partially motivated by their growing distance from Donna. The two bond over their shared obsession with video games, shown in a fun montage of the light darkening as dissolves take them closer and closer to the television, bleary-eyed but showing no signs of stopping. When they find a shortcut to the next world in "Mario," they're ecstatic, jumping up and down...until Gordon has an episode and collapses, breaking the TV (leading to the next montage). Cam's receptive and empathetic when he talks about his condition, if a bit alarmist (Gordon to her: "No, I'm not dying...well, we're all dying, but it's under control"). The two get another moment to bond over their shared distaste for Joe McMillan and over Gordon's HAM radio (Cameron thinks it's "rad"), but Cam's view of him shifts as she sees how ill he is, his marginalization at Mutiny, and his still painful wounds at having Joe rip off his security program. Late at night, she heads out for a meeting, not telling Gordon where she's headed.
Donna, for her part, runs into Diane's Berkeley-student daughter, her boyfriend and his roommate, all visiting without permission. They spend some time together (the roommate is duly impressed to know Donna's one of the women behind Mutiny) as they get free food and Donna gets magic mushrooms, taking a stroll outside after. The scene captures the extrasensory feelings that come with psychedelics: the grass seems greener, the noises outdoors more vivid, and the camera eases down as Donna lies on the grass, only to be met by Cameron. Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" plays during their reconciliation, Cam leaning in as a high Donna says that she's made to feel like she's less important to Mutiny than Cameron. "How many times do you need to hear that I can't do this without you," Cam asks.
There's an apology and a forgiveness, an intense connection between the two as the camera moves back to Donna, cranes above, and reveals nobody else is there. It's a deeply sad scene, less a hallucination than a moment of vulnerability that Donna wishes she could have with her friend right at this moment, as well as an acknowledgement that she means something to their partnership. Friendship is difficult, and "Halt and Catch Fire" brings to life the disappointment and frustration that comes with trying to make a friendship work when the ground is shifting underneath — whether it's between Cameron and Donna, Donna and Gordon, Gordon and Cameron, or any of them and their fraught relationships with Joe McMillan.
Cam's meeting, it turns out, is a 1:30 a.m. appearance at Joe's, not, as he expects, to get back together, but to demand that she give Gordon credit for his work. The scene has key shots through Joe's glass bar, separating the two and showing how little attention Joe pays to people who need him. He's unwrapping champagne not for them, but as a sarcastic celebration of the ring on Cameron's finger...she did get married to Tom last week, as the final shot of the episode suggested. "So what's his name...does it matter? You were happy for a moment, and you thought the person standing closest to you was the source." Joe's enigmatic nature makes it equally possible that he's being earnest when he tells her he's been there (he has, last season, with Sara) or that he's messing with her head...or a bit of both. She's not falling in his arms again, but demanding: "You need to give Gordon credit." Cam has grown over the last few seasons, but part of it is desperation: Gordon needs something, anything.
He'll get it: a furious Ken meets with Joe to tell him he's removed his authority, killed his network deal, and told him that if there's one more destructive move from him, he'll lose everything. He's framed like Ned Beatty in "Network" telling Howard Beale that he's meddling with the primal forces of nature — Joe has lost his autonomy, so he might as well lose it all. A great transition (a camera moves back to a monitor, and in the same shot we move to his deposition) gives the illusion of him sitting with that news for however long he needs before spilling the beans that he stole Gordon's product. It's hard to say exactly how this will turn out for Joe and Gordon, but lord knows it won't be pretty.
Donna returns home, looking and feeling clearer, ready to mend her relationship with Cam. One problem: her room is empty, her bed made up. Gordon receives a late-night call on his HAM radio from Cam, who reveals that she got married to Tom and that he's on the way. Gordon's voice over the radio is warm but a bit taken aback: "Wow, that's incredible. I'm really happy for you." Cam lets out a throaty thanks, "I'm happy, too." She's leaning on the radio, her eyes and lips conveying something else. No doubt there's a part of her that is happy, but Joe's in her head, if not as a fantasy then at least as a voice of doubt in how she's moved forward. A cut outside the room reveals her new home is bare. "And She Was" sees Cameron, Donna and Gordon (probably not Joe) in some ways better off than they were at the start of the season, but the path forward is murkier than ever, their friendships messier. Happiness has been elusive since the move to California. It doesn't look like it's about to show up anytime soon.
-Bos (Toby Huss) and Diane go to the opera, where they have a brief tryst. They're kindred spirits, but there's something reluctant in their relationship. They've both been hurt before.
-Bos doesn't mind Cam and Donna being late to a meeting because he's able to get to spend time learning about opera, specifically "Turandot," which he pronounces "Turan-DOTT." He doesn't seem too pleased when Gordon corrects his pronunciation.
-Donna tells a story about her drunk college boyfriend leaving her outside naked during finals week. Diane's daughter hopes she dumped him. "I married him."
-Gordon and Cam's "Mario" adventures show how ridiculous the act of playing video games looks to anyone not actually playing video games.
-The episode is named after the Talking Heads song of the same name. Between "Heaven" showing up in the season 2 finale and "Burning Down the House" playing earlier this season, they're turning out to be one of "Halt and Catch Fire's" favorite bands. I'm not complaining.
-I was on vacation last week and didn't write about the episode, but Bos' fraught meeting with his son and Donna and Gordon's stay-in date were all kinds of heartbreaking, weren't they?