‘Halt and Catch Fire’s characters try to recapture their pasts in ‘Yerba Buena’

A few thoughts on tonight's Halt and Catch Fire coming up just as soon as the baby's first word is “barbecue”…

“I'm not sure I've got another next in me.” -Joe

Joe and Ryan spend much of “Yerba Buena” mapping out ARPANET and related networks of the period, looking to computing's recent past in a way to figure out where a fortune can be made in the immediate future. By the end of the hour, Joe seems to have landed on his next scheme, and as an added bonus gets a clean bill of health from his HIV test, meaning one piece of his past won't be harming his future.

The characters around Joe, meanwhile, spend the episode doing something similar, but with much less success and good fortune: dancing to old songs, telling old stories, and rewriting bits of personal history, all before realizing the past isn't quite what they thought it was, and/or that it can't be brought wholesale into the present.

Gordon and Donna abandon their annual camping trip due to lack of proper equipment, and though they briefly rekindle a flame that's been absent from their marriage since Joe's diagnosis and confession of infidelity, Donna's confession that she never enjoyed the trips in the first place leaves him wondering how many other aspects of their marriage were true and right. By the next morning, the spell has been broken.

Bos takes Cameron on a trip to their old Dallas stomping grounds – her to retrieve her father's motorcycle, him to meet his grandchild – but nothing goes as expected. Cameron can't bring herself to even go up to her mother's house, and when she offends Bos deeply enough for him to leave her standing in the road, she retreats to the comfort of the old Mutiny house (or at least the spot on the roof where she stashed some booze), and then revisits Tom, who may be the reason behind the ring she puts on her finger at the episode's end as a way of coping with the latest betrayal by Donna.

And Cameron's comment about Bos not being her dad has an added sting for him because of the tension between him and his actual son, who calls John out for being an absentee father with an overinflated sense of their relationship, even though – as often happens with distant parents, particularly of a certain generation – he's making a more genuine effort at being a grandfather.

This was a more thematically tight episode of Halt than the show often provides, and even more effective than usual because of how the individual stories kept informing one another. (The different feel of the hour was also signaled by the use of an alternate version of the usual theme song over the opening credits.) Five hours into this season, this is a show operating with supreme confidence, even if only Joe is feeling the same way by episode's end.

What did everybody else think?