‘Rubicon’ – ‘The Truth Will Out’: Along came poly

A holiday weekend review of tonight’s “Rubicon” coming up just as soon as I find a cardboard box on my doorstep…

“Who are we working for?” -Will

“Everyone has secrets, Will.” -Maggie

“The Truth Will Out” was a bottle episode, where everything but the brief (and here, frankly unnecessary) Katherine Rhumor scenes and the coda at Will’s apartment took place inside the pre-existing API sets. As I mentioned when “Breaking Bad” did its memorable “Fly” episode, TV series often turn to bottle episodes as a way of saving money that can then be earmarked towards later hours. But if done right – and “The Truth Will Out” was done very, very right – a bottle episode is a reminder of how a good-to-great series doesn’t big guest stars, location shooting, fancy new sets, VFX and all the other things that cost extra. All they need are their regular characters, the conflicts they have with each other (and with themselves) and the world that they live in.

The FBI’s decision to lock down API for a day to hunt for a leak gave Will the opportunity to realize Spangler is the likely villain of his story, and to go snooping in Spangler’s office while the big man was downstairs getting polygraphed. But it also gave us opportunities to learn more about the characters, or in some cases to have them confront things we knew about them.

Miles finally admits out loud to someone that his marriage has been over for months, and it seems like the weight has lifted enough that he might tell Julia (and here gets interrupted by the feds coming to arrest the leak). The erratic readings on her own polygraph force Tanya to confess to her drug use, and yet the experience of being trapped with these people all day seems to finally get her engaged in the hunt for George and associates. Grant’s polygraph scene leaves things ambiguous as to whether he has cheated or is planning to cheat on his wife(*), but either way it’s clear Miles isn’t the only team member with deep marital problems. And Kale is, of course, cool enough that his polygraph test is a waste of everyone’s time (other than those of us who got to watch Kale be awesome and hilarious throughout that sequence).

(*) I don’t know enough about polygraphy – other than the frequent e-mail rants from a friend of mine who works in government and is offended that he and his colleagues are frequently being judged on the basis of what he considers to be junk science that is easy to fool – to say whether it’s possible the machine could get triggered by thoughts of a future event. How did you interpret that scene? Has Grant cheated, or does he just carry lust in his heart?

We didn’t get to see Spangler’s polygraph test, interestingly enough. And given what little we know about what he’s up to, the lack of such a scene suggests one of two things: 1)Spangler, like Kale, knows how to beat the machine (his monologue about how “this country implodes” if he’s the leak suggests he is firmly convinced of the rightness of his actions), or 2)Spangler is powerful enough to have the polygrapher in his pocket, and the test was rigged. But now that Will knows Spangler is connected to Atlas McDowell, and that he was investigating David in the days leading up to David’s death – and also that Ed knew more than he was letting on when the two of them first met – we’re going to have to get to know our arrogant boss a whole lot better in the season’s home stretch.

One possible concern: the show is stumbling along the fine line between showing that Will is an amateur spy learning as he goes, and between this man who was introduced as such a genius acting so often like, as Kale describes it, “the stupidest sonuvabitch in this place.” How many times does Kale need to warn Will about what he can and can’t do and say inside the API offices before Will actually grasps it? Again, Will is new at this, and he’s not a robot, and I can sympathize to a degree with the idea that each new revelation is freaking him out far more than it would if he were analyzing it from the outside, but I fear we’re one or two episodes away from him acting like the girl in the slasher film who runs up the stairs instead of getting outside the house, you know?

Still, “Rubicon” has showed an impressive growth curve over this last batch of episodes. The ratings have been poor, so we’ll see what it is that AMC decides on as the benchmark for renewal. But either way, I hope Henry Bromell has a plan for explaining most of this by the end of season one. We’ve seen enough throughout the season – including in this episode’s scenes involving Will’s team – that there’s a very strong show here with or without the conspiracy. So giving us resolution to that by the season finale wouldn’t automatically spell creative doom for a potential season two.

What did everybody else think?

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