Last night's episode of Intelligence had its flaws – my god, how awful is Cyber Com's security? – but I will forgive those because this was the first time the show delivered solid entertainment, on purpose. Right up until Riley's little speech at the end.
The episode opens by reminding us of that Chinese operative, Jin Cong, who kidnapped Phlox in the first episode and forced him to implant a chip in someone. Remember how Lillian gave him back to China, which promised to lock him up forever? Which of course failed. So instead, he's breaking into a prison to get a hacker who once broke into Cyber Com.
Meanwhile, Phlox Jr.'s fighting with his printer, which he's anthropomorphized into a lady that's refusing to help him out. Into this slightly creepy freak out, comes a security audit. The audit team features only two talking people: Annoying Woman and Smarmy Dude. Jameson (yes, he was so good last week, I continue to remember his name) demonstrates Cyber Com's gesture-based interface, which apparently scans palms to determine security clearance. Annoying Woman asks what happens when someone loses their keycard. Smarmy Dude says she should be asking what happens when someone loses a hand. One hundred points to Lillian who responds by ordering Jameson to do a "hand count to make sure everyone has two" and then smiles gamely at the auditors and chirps "I feel safer already."
Smarmy Dude then earns his name by asking Riley out. She says she thinks that would be inappropriate, and he responds with "Only if you're lucky." Ew. Gross. Gabriel observes this and forshadows that you can always tell if it "feels wrong." Yeah, I don't think she just knew in her heart it wouldn't work out, so much as the guy was a creeper.
That's when the Cyber Com gets hacked and hit with an EMP. Everyone's running around trying to stop it, and Phlox Jr.'s dealing with Annoying Woman hovering over his shoulder. And the EMP has managed to cause the chip in Gabriel's head to erase all his memories.
Riley takes Gabriel to the lab so Phlox can try to fix his brain. And here's where I start making a list of things I am willing to ignore for this episode: Phlox does an extended analogy of how the brain is like a computer. He talks about short-term memory as RAM and long-term memory as a hard drive. And I'm going to let that go, because they've locked Gabriel in the containment cell for his own good. Which, honestly, they should do more.
Here's another thing the episode did right: It showed Gabriel freaking out over the chip. Without his memory of it, he can't control it and it's flooding him with information. It's painful for him, and this pleases me. Plus, we get to see Phlox talk him through using the chip to access Riley's personnel file. This is the best explanation of how Gabriel uses the chip we've ever seen, even if he's not doing anything interesting of it. And in another moment of genuine hilarity, Gabriel reads a file and says that Riley was arrested for indecent exposure and possession of controlled substances. Which is when Phlox says that Gabriel's got into his file, not Riley's.
The power cuts off, which sets Gabriel free because fictional electronic locks are awful. Riley goes after him, but Gabriel's chip has given him the building's blueprint. Riley's go after him while Phlox tries to get something, anything, back online.
With Cyber Com cut off from the outside, since Lillian ordered Jameson to take a saw to all their fiber optic cables in order to protect the rest of the U.S. government from their hacker, it's a good time to invade. So that's what Jin Cong and his men do. Now, I think they're pretending to be U.S. military, but wow is Cyber Com's security shit. Plus, they're in Virginia, how did this happen? Add this to the list of things I'm forgiving.
So, Jin Cong and his men take over the command center, and shoot Annoying Woman so we know they're serious. Jin Cong's hacker gets to work on the computer, downloading everything about Gabriel's chip. But Jin Cong's clearly looking for something else, which Lillian assures Jameson and Phlox Jr. he won't find.
What Jin Cong's looking for is the Athena List: a list of children with the genetic mutation needed to use the chip. Jameson's all, "Lillian, do you know how dangerous that is?" And Lillian acidly replies, "Yes, Jameson. It's the kind of thing people take hostages over." When he can't find the list, Jin Cong starts shooting people to make Lillian tell him where it is. He points a gun at Phlox Jr., who bucks up all Brave Little Toaster-style and tells Lillian not to tell him anything. He's saved by a timely spotting of Gabriel, but not before this happens:
Phlox Jr.: You like idioms? Well how about . . . Oh my god, I got nothing.
(Jin Cong goes after Gabriel)
Jameson: Really? Nothing? You get a chance like that and you got nothing?
First, I like that Phlox Jr. couldn't come up with a badass line. That would have been out of character and it's more fitting that he fails. Second, another genuinely-entertaining-on-purpose moment.
Riley and Jin Cong get to Gabriel at roughly the same time, and both say that they're there to help Gabriel. Jin Cong, however, has done some footwork by having Riley's file hacked and made to look like she's a traitor. So Gabriel turns on her and goes with Jin Cong. Lillian orders him not to help Jin Cong, but Gabriel's all freaked out that she'd do to the children on the list "what she did to [them]." Lillian counters with a slightly-too-pissy for the circumstances comment that he begged her for the chip so he could find his wife. Jin Cong pipes up that Riley totally killed her. Which Riley doesn't deny, but isn't what happened. Riley got Gabriel to safety rather than chancing that he'd be able to defuse the bomb his wife had. That's not exactly killing her.
Gabriel finds the un-networked computer the list's on, and he, Jin Cong, and Lillian go there. Jameson and Riley take out their captors in a bracing display of professionalism. Which stand as a counter to Phlox Jr.'s shenanigans during this. Meanwhile, Phlox has adorably geared up, stopped by the garage where Jin Cong's getaway car is, before heading to the command center. They have a touching reunion, which is then interrupted by Phlox Jr.'s disappointment that his father had a hand in creating the Athena List.
And here's where the episode, which was honestly moving at a clip fast enough to keep me entertained and ignoring plot holes, goes off the rails. Riley goes to stop Gabriel, who spots her on the security cameras. They fight, and Riley manages to disarm Gabriel and get him on the ground. But she's unwilling to shoot him, so he gets a gun on her. She speechifies that Gabriel knows, in his feelings, that she's not the enemy. That he may not remember, but he won't have to, because we don't remember emotions, we feel them. She tells him to stop thinking and ignore the data, because "he's not a machine." Oh good, I'd missed these anvils.
This works, but Riley's speech took so long that Jin Cong and the Athena List have made it all the way to the escape car. Luckily for them, Phlox spent this episode inventing a stun bomb and leaving it there as a trap. So Jin Cong and Gabriel fight, right up until Lillian shoots Jin Cong. She orders Riley to take Gabriel to get his memory back, and she's so focused and angry, I honestly thought she was going to empty her clip into Jin Cong the second they were out of sight.
Phlox manages to reinstall Gabriel's brain from the backup he keeps, or whatever. And he makes it EMP-proof or something. Phlox says Gabriel proved "that the most important decisions aren't made by our minds . . . Where we find our most profound intelligence is after all in the heart." ARGH. I'd almost, almost, have forgiven that line if it had been "profound truth" and not "intelligence." But they wanted to use the title, and I wanted to put my foot through Phlox's face.
Then Lillian and Phlox Oppenheimer for a bit. Phlox is horrified by the list still existing, since he and Lillian decided to destroy it. Phlox says any reasonable scientist would have done it, and Lillian's says "We're not dealing with reasonable scientists, we're dealing with the United States Department of Defense." What, you mean Lillian hasn't bent them to her will yet, like she has the CIA? They ordered her to keep the list, so she's dedicated herself to keeping it safe. But Phlox is still sad, so he quotes the "Now I have become Death" bit. This would be annoying, but at least Lillian calls him out on the attribution.
Objectively, this episode wasn't a huge leap forward for Intelligence. And yet, the invasion-of-headquarters trope worked to give this episode momentum. There was a good pace. And genuinely entertaining moments. Right up until the the speech that wouldn't end, I was forgiving a lot. Because, for the first time on this show, I was engaged in what was happening. Not as much as I am for truly good television — but enough that I wasn't drinking and wishing the episode would end sooner.
Phlox's own speech at the end used up a lot of the good will he earned when he nearly died a few weeks ago. But he won some of it back by looking adorable in his military outfit and inventing a stun bomb from stuff he had sitting around. Similarly, Phlox Jr. wavered a lot. His awful attempt to help Jameson and Riley was uncomfortable to watch. But then he fixed the printer at the end and dropped a piece of paper like a mic, and I was laughing again. As always, I was in love with Lillian's core of steel. It looks like next week's a Lillian episode, and I am ON BOARD with that.