Braindead 1×12: “Talking Points Toward a Wholistic View of Activism in Government: Can the Top Rebel?”

Previously on Braindead: Gareth saw Wheatus’s earbug, and Jonathan Coulton agrees with me that Wheatus really should’ve closed the door. Laurel and Rochelle beat up said earbug. Headmaster Charleston tricked Luke into thinking the CIA wanted him and Laurel to leave Wheatus alone. Daddy Healy is infected. Wheatus ate brains out of Tupperwares. And that’s pretty much season one.

Luke tells Laurel about the whole giving-up-on-the-bugs thing, and Laurel pretty much immediately sees through it. “The real CIA?” she asks. Luke says yes, although let’s remember he was getting a security brief in what appeared to be the lobby of the CIA, so, it didn’t LOOK super real. Laurel asks him why, if her battle royale with Wheatus kept the CIA from arresting him, they didn’t just, you know, arrest him later. Excellent point. But Luke, blind with ambition, says to let the professionals do their jobs.

Laurel brings the news that they need to stand down to Gareth and Rochelle, and Gareth also thinks it’s stupid. Even Rochelle admits Gareth has a point. Laurel veers back and forth between apparently completely believing the CIA is on this, and completely being on Gustav’s side. Gustav’s brilliant plan is to tell Laurel to meet with Wheatus again to discuss that two million dollars he was going to use to get rid of her, and use that time to lure out his earbug and kill it. Yeah, I’m sure Wheatus is just DYING to take another meeting with the woman who almost killed his earbug last time.

Cole Stockwell, the crazy budget man, is wandering into a Senate hearing having a total mental orgasm over something he read in the budget. All he knows, as he tells Luke, is that there’s something interesting in the “farming authorization.” Meanwhile Diane’s gavel is rapping away. Apparently the Senate’s budget committee has the exact same members as its war authorization committee? How convenient. Anyway, Stockwell needs another day to figure everything out, so Luke comes up with the next best excuse: he wants to postpone the hearing because it’s the same day that Native American war veterans are honored and the senators need to go to church services in their honor instead of voting. Ella makes a pretty funny “Well, I can’t argue with honoring Native Americans or they’ll take my ACLU card away” face.

Meanwhile, Wheatus is having Problems. He can’t really remember what he’s supposed to be doing. His best argument is that we should have the holiday “because… you know.” Then he knocks the mic onto his own face, which is even more tragic.

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As soon as the hearing is concluded, with Luke’s proposal to postpone winning the day, Wheatus stumbles into his office and tearfully lets out his earbug to the tune of some very sad violins. Ella busts in to tell him he’s weak and falling apart: “Look at your queen! She’s dying!” “Get out of here!” yells the tortured Wheatus. He musters the strength to tell her to back off, but has to wipe his nose the whole time. Then he sits by his bug and says, “Don’t worry, she’s not getting near you.”

You know the expression “bleeding-heart liberal” is way too accurate when seeing a fictional, murderous, kind of racist Republican senator cry makes you choke up. I was very happy to learn I wasn’t the only one. He’s just so pathetic and sad! I can’t handle it!

Stockwell is frantically trying to figure out the budget, and Laurel is watching uselessly with her nose crinkled, when a guy named Jake shows up with champagne to congratulate her: they got funding to finish their documentary from a foundation against global warming, “The Ocean League.” They hug happily, and he tells her they need to start filming in three weeks to be there for some festival. Of course it turns out the foundation gave them exactly two million dollars. Laurel interrogates him about it, and he tells her that it was the charity’s idea for the film to start up again in three weeks. Laurel can tell it’s Wheatus’s doing, which is amusing since it apparently involved Wheatus donating millions of dollars to an anti-global-warming charity, which he must have HATED. She tells Jake to put a condition on the money that they won’t start in six months. He can’t believe it: who cares about her obligations here when she has the chance to do her real work?

Laurel gets bored of this conversation, as she tends to do, and stalks off to confront poor Wheatus, who’s lying tragically on the couch in his office with a washcloth over his eyes. “I really need to get a lock on that door,” he whines in a trembling voice. He pretends to have no idea what she’s talking about and then pleads, “Do you mind? I’m trying to nap!” Gareth, hearing the ruckus, comes out to ask Laurel if everything’s OK. She tells him to ask Wheatus, since he wants her gone. As soon as she leaves, Wheatus starts crying even harder and tells Gareth he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And even though he’s clearly lying, it’s still weirdly sad.

Back in her office, Laurel listens to Melanesian choir music and peruses the Ocean League’s website, once again not doing any actual constituent outreach.

Rochelle and Gustav are waiting in the park across the street for Laurel, speculating that it’s about their next attack on Wheatus. Then he randomly says, “You want to go out?” Rochelle laughs at this, which is kind of mean, but to be fair they have literally never had any romantic chemistry that I’ve noticed. She points out that he lives in a basement apartment, so then he asks if it’s about money, and she makes up having a boyfriend to get him off her back.

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When Laurel shows up Gustav makes a joke about Rochelle kicking him in the groin. Laurel tries to convince them subtly that they have no more avenues left to try, but Gustav has an answer to everything: “We kill Red. We wait until he’s heading home, then we run our car over him. We have to kill the bug in his head. Am I the only one taking this seriously?” Laurel gives up and says she’s done. This leads to a somewhat lackluster fight between her and Gustav where she calls him paranoid and he tells her to go to hell. Rochelle tries to call them back, but they stalk off in different directions. This is another weird moment where it seems like the stakes should be high, but there has been no real building conflict between Laurel and Gustav so it doesn’t feel high. Laurel calls Jake to tell him she’s in.

On the roof of the Capitol, Gareth is being a dick as usual. He gets that he should stop the budget from moving forward if it’s about the “bug issue,” but isn’t she actually just trying to get him to help her with the liberal agenda? Laurel is confused, so he clarifies condescendingly, “I’m a conservative. You’re a liberal. Our priorities are different.” Like thank you SO MUCH Gareth, I don’t think she had caught on to that before. Laurel changes the subject to tell him she’s leaving to finish her movie. “I never finish anything. And I can’t keep creating excuses not to do what I love,” she says. To be fair, Laurel, you won’t be able to finish your documentary if your entire planet is inhabited by bug people. Gareth asks her if the bugs are an excuse, and she pleads that the CIA is involved already. It sinks in that she’s really leaving when she tells him it’s in one week, and he looks a little disgruntled. THEN she says, when she comes back, “if we still like each other then… I don’t know, we can live together, whatever you want.” I’m sorry, they aren’t even officially back together as far as I know, and even if they were, is “turns out we still like each other” really a solid reason to move in with someone?

When Gareth gets back to the office, Wheatus is still in his slump on the couch. He tells Gareth, “They’re coming after me. They smell weakness on me.” Gareth suggests a doctor, but Red tells Gareth “I need you to save me. Please. We used to be close. When I’d drop the ball, you’d pick it up.” Aww! (Ugh, I really am a softy.) Gareth tries to escape, but Wheatus grabs his wrist so hard that Gareth can’t get away. He tells Gareth to get him through this, like he used to. He wants Gareth to sit right behind him the whole time. Gareth tries to demur, but Wheatus still won’t let go of his wrist. Gareth asks what the goal is, and when Wheatus says it’s survival, he asks, “Survival of who?” “Whom,” Wheatus corrects. Gareth gives him a suspicious look. End of scene.

Meanwhile, Laurel is handing her own brother a resignation letter. She says it’s protocol, which, maybe it is in the government, but as far as I know it’s only in movies that people usually quit by actually handing someone a resignation letter instead of using their words. He tells her he doesn’t accept her resignation until they get to the bottom of the budget, and not to leave him in the lurch. Dude, Laurel has been literally no help with the budget issue, unless you count rolling her eyes at Stockwell.

At the budget hearing, Wheatus is trying to legislate effectively despite the dying bug that controls half his brain. He starts out pretty strong: “I believe, as all conservatives believe, nay, as all Americans believe, this budget is essential.” Then all of a sudden his words come out in total gibberish. Ella moves to relieve Wheatus, but he objects that other people are taking time off to procure “a Chinese labia… a Chinese baby.” That’s quite the Freudian slip. He actually cries as Ella accuses him of being sick, and asks where her “compression” is. Poor Wheatus.

A young man is dozing and listening to Figaro on a bench with a giant sign advocating for federal money for the arts. Ella whips out his headphones and he asks what she needs. They chit-chat about whether they are or aren’t on Republicans’ side these days (sort of, is the answer, but they still don’t want Trump to cut art funding!) She asks him to “deal with” Wheatus’s chief-of-staff. Uh-oh!

Stockwell busts into Laurel’s office and announces that he needs alcohol. Conveniently, she has champagne on her desk, which he totally smashes open and pours. She asks if he’s worried about glass, which leads him to reveal that in their twenty-four-hour window to solve the budget, he found an actual window: the budget calls for a bajillion dollars’ worth of glass. Meanwhile, he actually gets Laurel to drink the champagne out of the coffee mug he poured it into, despite the fact that there is actual, non-metaphorical, glass all over the place. Laurel asks if internment camps usually have windows. “No, the whole point is not to have windows,” Stockwell says. I think she could have figured this out herself, but OK. They decide to go on a field trip to the closest internment camp site. “I have one week left here, I want to make it count,” Laurel announces portentously.

They arrive at a construction site where workers are passing along boxes in an assembly line. Stockwell yells at the cab driver over the mandatory 20% tip, then afterward remarks the site is very clean. When the manager of the site comes to greet them, Stockwell introduces himself as “Hardy” after Laurel has already said her real name. She barely contains her eyeroll. The manager is glad to see them: they don’t have any bathrooms at the site, and where are people going to do their business? He rants that they have tons of potting soil coming and they haven’t put up the glass roofs yet. Laurel stares out the window and sees giant greenhouses laid out on the site.

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Back in DC, she tells Luke that the supposed camps aren’t camps—they’re hothouses to help the bugs spread. (I don’t want to be that person, but like, is it actually possible for reasonable people to get mixed up between blueprints for internment camps and blueprints for greenhouses? Did no one notice that these blueprints didn’t have cells, or bathrooms, or anything else that would be necessary to house humans, and that they were only one floor high and were actually just very long and narrow boxes?) Anyway, Luke doesn’t want to hear about this because the CIA is on it. Gareth knocks awkwardly on the open door in the middle. She begs Luke to tell the CIA about this, and he fobs her off, telling her to go see her boyfriend.

Gareth is waiting at Scarlett’s desk outside, and he’s totally shitfaced. He admits he’s drank a little bit. “I need to ask you something, and it’s going to sound wrong, but it’s OK,” he says. Well, as long as you say it’s OK, I’m sure it is, Gareth. Like that time you asked if she’d slept with Michael Moore, and you thought that was an OK thing to ask, so everyone else in the world just had to accept it. His next question is somewhat more polite, but not really less insane: “Marry me.” Then he just kind of wanders off. Guys, I seriously didn’t even think they were back together when this episode started. Let’s just hope they get a lot of premarital counseling.

Luke goes to see the CIA director, Isenstadt, who gets pretty damn icy when he hears what Luke has to say about the hothouses. He tells Luke not to tell him how to do his job, and is about to peace out when Luke gets feisty and says this is his job and he’s supposed to be voting on the farming bill today. When the director tries to get Luke off his back by saying the CIA already knew about the hothouses, Luke gets suspicious and lays a fairly obvious trap, asking the director if he also knew that the bugs are trying to infiltrate the water supply. “We knew about that too,” Isenstadt says smoothly, failing to notice Luke’s smug gotcha face.

Luke finds Laurel waiting in his office in yet another crisp black-and-white business ensemble that I rather love. She has his wedding photo in her lap. “That was a good day,” she says. Sure, for you. You weren’t the one who signed your entire life away to a shallow, self-centered jerk. Anyway, Luke tells her that the director claimed to be on top of the hothouse thing. Laurel, suddenly scared to find out more, starts babbling that maybe they really are. Luke tells her about the trick he played, and then calls their dad—but Laurel presses the button to hang up and tells him he can’t.

Cut to Luke busting in on Dean Healy as he enjoys a quiet afternoon of being a retired political operative with half a brain. He asks to see his hand, and accuses him of being infected. Dean purrs that Laurel’s a “dreamer” and her theory’s “a bunch of sci-fi nonsense.” Luke looks horrified. “Oh my God,” he says in a trembling voice, “I’m on my own.” (Danny Pino brings out the acting chops for this one—before now, few moments on this show have really brought home the horror of knowing a beloved family member is essentially a zombie.) But of course there’s Laurel, in the doorway, proving him wrong. Luke leaves, and Dean tells Laurel she doesn’t want him as an enemy. She sadly says that she might not, but that’s what he is.

In the hearing on the farm bill, Luke looks distressed as Diane announces the end of the debate. It seems he might just be daydreaming about his father, but he rouses himself to action and gets permission to speak. He says that the budget is being shoved down Americans’ throats and that the people should be able to ask questions about the structures being built. He suggests that they carve out the farm bill from the overall budget and have a separate vote. Or Pollack and Wheatus could explain it to everyone. “Those buildings have an important secret use,” Wheatus says. A strong start, but once again he forgets what he’s doing almost immediately. When Luke asks why it’s secret, he says lamely, “Why not secret?” after a lost look at Gareth. Good comeback, Wheatus.

Meanwhile, outside, it’s dark and stormy. Figaro (I’m assuming) plays in the background as Ella’s friend from the park bench waits behind a column with a giant knife (or a tiny sword, really). Then Gareth walks by and fends off the knife with a random pizza box he was holding, as the attacker stabs him in the shoulder. Gareth fights back, and a woman screams in the background. Finally the sword clatters away and they collapse in a heap together on the stairs.

Side note, this whole time the attacker is singing. Opera.

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Laurel rushes into the hospital to see a bruised and arm-sling-wearing Gareth. He says it was a random mugging, not someone trying to kill him, which Laurel doesn’t really believe. She asks what she can do, and he says, “Don’t pity me, please. That’ll only make it worse.” She explains that her look of tender concern is because the last time they talked, he asked her to marry him. He says he was drinking—and joking. That it would make no sense to do that. She admits that she was worried he had died ,and he says it was a joke one more time. They say near-death experiences clarify your priorities, so whatever flashed before Gareth’s eyes as he faced the knife, it apparently wasn’t visions of sugarplums and wedding cakes. Instead of getting righteously angry at him for proposing and then saying it was a joke, Laurel just asks him to come with her to make the documentary. He jokes about a grass hut, but then says more seriously, “I can’t be your kept man. I’m not that person.” Ugh, gross. I mean it’s fair to not want to be financially dependent on someone that you were broken up with about thirty-six hours ago and that you met in… June. But I feel like his comment has a distinct odor of “Maybe those wimpy liberal men would let you make all the money, but I’m a REAL man.” She asks what they should do, looking sad. “We do what we need to do,” he tells her. “I need to stay and you need to go.”

Isenstadt shows up to Luke’s office and asks him what the hell he’s doing. The speech was supposed to stop the farm bill, but the CIA don’t want the bugs to know they’re onto them. Luke points out that he was elected by the people and he has to serve them, and the CIA’s secret plans have to work around him. Isenstadt says portentously that they’re working at cross-purposes, but before he can rip Luke a new one, he develops a little problem. Specifically, a brain fluid problem. “You’re leaking, sir,” Luke says. Isenstadt books it out of there, but stops for a parting shot, asking if Luke’s not interested in being the director. “That depends. Who would I be serving?” Luke zings.

At the vote, Wheatus is wearing sunglasses and his voice has dwindled to a mere high-pitched shadow of its usual growl. “What am I doing?” he asks Gareth pathetically. “You want the bill to pass as is,” Gareth says and lifts the guy’s elbow so he votes properly. Just then Wheatus notices his arm, and Gareth says it was just a mugging. The vote is concluded: Luke’s motion is denied, seven to four, and there will be no bifurcation. “God help us,” says Diane. Luke stares down Isenstadt, who’s shown up to the meeting looking reasonably dry around the ears. Luke goes to the floor and announces he’s protesting. “This won’t stand, this can’t stand!” He’s going to sit on the floor in protest until the farm bill is tabled. Ella yells that this is grandstanding and Luke lost fair and square. Cameras go off like crazy—and senators begin to join Luke. “This is what comes from weakness,” Ella hisses in Wheatus’s ear.

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Laurel watches on TV as Luke yells that they will not be moved, and smiles proudly. It’s a cute moment.

Wheatus stumbles into his office and turns off the light, seeming exhausted. He pulls some seaweed out of his desk drawer and chops it up and is about to snort it like it’s bug cocaine when Ella comes in. “You came after my chief of staff?” cries Wheatus, who apparently saw right through the “mugging” cover. She comes close and says kindly that it’s for the best to end it, because he’s letting them win. She whips out a gun that Scarlett apparently got for her. “Violence begets violence. Tell her to come out,” she orders him. “Tell who?” Wheatus tries, but she just corrects him, “Whom,” giving him a little taste of his own medicine.

Ella tries to shoot him, but there’s just an empty click, and Wheatus tackles her. He gets the gun out of her grasp, and says, “You know the problem with liberals? They don’t know where the safety is.” He shoots her with a very wet splat, at which point both their earbugs emerge for a similar, but reverse, fight to the death. Wheatus’s earbug is dismantled by Ella’s. “Go for it,” he tells the bug.

Back at the Senate, Luke is making the most of the spotlight, leading the rebel Senators in a chant of “We want to be heard!” In strides Wheatus, his mojo apparently entirely back. He addresses them sternly, telling them “This is not the way to be heard,” while Gareth stands in the far background (a big contrast to before, when he had to hover at Wheatus’s right shoulder at all times). Wheatus points out that this is democracy: that Luke won because he didn’t have enough votes, whereas Wheatus won because he did. Luke demands another vote; Wheatus offers a closed-door session. Then Luke says he can’t stop them, and Wheatus says condescendingly, “Do you need to stop a tree falling in the forest if there’s no one there?” Burn!

On TV, though, Luke looks heroic—he yells that they will not be denied, and Laurel watches happily on her wall TV while her documentary music plays from her laptop. Out in the main office, all of Luke’s staff is clapping. She texts him, “God, you look great on TV.” He’s already grinning, but when he sees that, he starts in on a speech about the founding fathers. Careful, Laurel. If his head gets too big, it might explode. Suddenly the TV is cut off. Laurel texts him to warn him, so he asks Wheatus what he’s afraid of. “Go ahead, keep sitting in, let’s see how well that works,” Wheatus crows as he leaves. Laurel has to inform Luke that the TVs are still off.

Back in his office, Wheatus chuckles to himself and lifts some weights, still in his suit. Gareth stands at the door and remarks that Wheatus is feeling better. Wheatus assents: “Tell your girlfriend to come at me.” Gareth woe-is-mes that actually she’s leaving town, but Wheatus doesn’t believe it: Laurel likes Gareth too much. He gives Gareth a giant hug and calls him sweet—while wiping a stray little nugget of brain matter off his pencil holder and sucking it off his finger. Gross.

Laurel arrives at Luke’s sit-in to bring him into the twenty-first century. He laments that they don’t have video, and Laurel says, “Yes you do.” She lifts his phone into his face. Suddenly his Periscoped video is on all the TVs. Wheatus is not very happy. Gareth explains that it’s Periscope. “How do you turn it off?” Wheatus asks. Gareth tells him that you don’t.

Gareth returns to his office to find Laurel. He’s asking her, somewhat bitterly, when she leaves when she plants a giant kiss on him. “When the job is done, I guess,” she says. He remarks that she’s in a good mood. “Yes, it really turns me on to watch my brother heroically lead a rebellion,” she answers. Just kidding, she doesn’t say that. But that’s pretty much what’s happening here. She says she wants to be part of what’s happening. They kiss again. “So what do we have to do?” he asks. She smiles and just leaves.

Gustav and Rochelle are hanging out in his kitchen and bickering when Laurel strides in. Gustav asks her why she’s here: “Why aren’t you on your plane to… something mean I’ll think up later.” Hee! Laurel announces she’s staying and they should work with her. She knows what their plan is and she thinks she knows how to stop it. And the threesome are reunited!

Thus concludes part one of the finale–read the continuation of this recap here.

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