“Ones and Zeroes”

“Ones and Zeroes”

Mr. Robot, S01E02 – “Ones and Zeroes”

Episode Number: S01E02

Original Air Date: July 1, 2015

Time: 47 minutes

Synopsis: After a meeting with Tyrell Wellick, Elliot continues to investigate Evil Corp. fsociety comes up with a plan, while Elliot must deal with Shayla’s unstable drug supplier.

A Job Offer

Elliot stands in a conference room at Evil Corp, watching as Tyrell Wellick and a group of men take their seats around a circular table. Wellick greets Elliot and says he’s interested in making Elliot a job offer as head of cybersecurity for Evil Corp. Elliot is unsure, and Wellick asks the others to leave, then tells Elliot that Wellick has just been named the new Evil Corp interim CTO. He tells Elliot that they’re going to be moving to handling all cybersecurity internally, which means they’ll be canceling their contracts with outside vendors, including AllSafe. Elliot passes on the offer, and Wellick is visibly upset.

Men from Evil Corp drive Elliot home. Outside his apartment, Elliot’s neighbor and drug dealer Shayla is being harassed by her drug supplier, Fernando Vera. Inside, Elliot takes some morphine and gets to work hacking Tyrell Wellick. He finds it particularly easy, then realizes it might be a trap. He destroys his computer hard drives and microwave the SIM cards in his phone to destroy any evidence of his hack.

  • Notes: Tyrell Wellick’s password is olofsson66, his wife’s maiden name and Sweden’s independence date, 6-6. Tyrell Wellick’s email address is “tyrellwellick@evilcorp-intl.com,” and we see it on the screen, so either we’re starting to share Elliot’s delusions—the “real” email address should end with “ecorp.com” or “e-corp.com”—or we’re actually looking through his eyes and his brain is replacing every occurrence of “E Corp” with “Evil Corp” before we get to see it. Wellick’s “Facebook” page shows he attended the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, is married to Joanna Wellick, and is from Vastra Gotaland Ian, Sweden.

  • Characters: Fernando Vera is played by Elliot Villar.

  • Filming Location: According to Untapped Cities, the board room scene was shot at the Trump Soho, located at 246 Spring Street in New York City. Checking out the hotel website, you can review their meetings section and see photos of the SoHi conference room—it’s at the top of the building on the 46th floor, measures 34 x 56 feet, and features a 13 foot-high ceiling.

  • Quotes: Tyrell Wellick: “Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.”

  • Goofs: When Elliot reviews Wellick’s “Facebook” profile, we see the same issues that cropped up in the last episode. It shows that Wellick and Elliot are “Friends” and, in this case, share 1,362 mutual “friends.” But it’s been expressly stated that Elliot doesn’t have a Facebook page, so it’s impossible for him to be “Friends” with Wellick or share any “friends” in common. Also, that seems like an inordinate number of shared friends. Technically, Sweden doesn’t have an independence day, but they do celebrate “National Day” on June 6th.

AllSafe

At work at AllSafe cybersecurity, Elliot is rewarded with a salary bump by his supervisor, Gideon Goddard, for his actions in saving the company. Gideon also asks about the dat file, but Elliot says he “didn’t know what he had.”

fsociety is now a known entity in the world—they’ve gone public with an anonymous video, threatening to release thousands of documents and corporate secrets unless Evil Corp and the FBI meet their demands: the FBI frees former Evil Corp CTO Terry Colby, and Evil Corp must forgive all outstanding debt, dissolve their corporation, and donate all their assets to charity.

Outside the AllSafe offices, an unemployed musician is hocking copies of his “unreleased album,” begging passersby to listen to his music. Angela and Ollie are chatting when they run into Elliot leaving work. Ollie congratulates him and invites him to dinner at Morton’s, but Elliot, seeing two “men in black” approaching, hastily agrees. Ollie and Angela are surprised and suggest a double date with Elliot’s “friend” Shayla. After Elliot leaves, the musician convinces Ollie to take a copy of his CD.

  • Notes: Elliot’s desk was in a different location in the AllSafe offices in the last episode—in fact, the cubicle farm where he works seems to have been completely rearranged or moved to a new location. The voice on the fsociety video is clearly that of Mr. Robot. Ollie only has 48 followers on Twitter, but there are “some taste makers in there.”

  • Characters: The street musician Cisco is played by Michael Drayer.

  • Filming Location: The exterior shots of the AllSafe building are from the Trump SoHo Hotel, located at 246 Spring Street in New York City. The “1109” marker outside was apparently added for the production—the actual location has an address of 246 and sports a sculpture in the same spot.

“What’s the Plan?”

At his apartment, Elliot finds Darlene taking a shower. Elliot leaves his dog, Flipper, with Shayla. On the subway, Elliot is curious how Darlene knows where he lives, but she seems confused. She also explains that she doesn’t live anywhere right now because the person she was dating proposed to her. They get off the subway, then at the last second get back on, leaving two men in black on the platform. Elliot isn’t sure if she sees them as well—all Darlene says is that she likes to “stay on her toes.”

At fsociety HQ, Elliot’s worried about his safety but enters to applause—everyone is thanking him for his awesome work. Mobley, Trenton, and Romero are there, along with Mr. Robot. They all want to know what’s the next step in the plan, and are curious about Steel Mountain, the highly-guarded physical location where they store Evil Corp’s tape backup files. Mr. Robot discusses the plan with Elliot—they plan to blow up Comet, a natural gas plant in Albany located next to Steel Mountain.

Elliot is dubious, but Mr. Robot plans to confuse Evil Corp with multiple data dumps of embarrassing inside information. After that, they’ll hack the controls of the natural gas plant, causing a pipeline explosion. The “Dark Army” is covering Evil Corp’s redundant backups in China. If everything is destroyed at the same time, Evil Corp will be brought down. Elliot refuses to kill anyone and leaves, even though Mr. Robot gives him an ultimatum—help or he’s out of fsociety. Elliot leaves, worried that he’s too involved, and looks to the audience for help, pleading with us to start looking for solutions.

  • Notes: On the subway, all the stops are obscured on the posted MTA map. Darlene’s having a fight with her boyfriend because he won’t let her get a turtle. Mr. Robot reminds Elliot that Evil Corp “slowly killed” his father and that Elliot did nothing about it. And he calls his father a zero.

  • Characters: Although we’ve seen them before, this is the first time when Elliot meets and interacts with the other members of fsociety. Mobley is played by Azhar Khan, Trenton is played by Sunita Mani, and Romero is played by Ron Cephas Jones.

  • Quotes: Mr. Robot: “Are you a one or a zero? That's the question you have to ask yourself. Are you a yes or a no? Are you going to act or not?” Elliot: “Yo... you've been staring at a computer screen way too long, homie. Life's not that binary. Isn't it?” Mr. Robot: “Sure, there are grays... But when you come right down to it, at its core, beneath every choice, there's either a one or a zero. You either do something or you don't. You walk out that door, you've decided to do nothing, to say no, which means you do not come back. You leave, you are no longer a part of this. You become a zero. If you stay, if you want to change the world, you become a yes. You become a one. So, I'll ask you again: are you a one or a zero?”

  • Terminology: Steel Mountain is a fictional company—the closest real world analog is probably Iron Mountain, a large records management and data backup company that maintains several underground and above ground storage facilities under very tight security. A K-hole is a slang term for an extreme state of dissociation from the body after getting high on the drug ketamine—it can also produce vivid hallucinations and altered states of consciousness in the user. A PLC is a programmable logic controller, a small computer usually used in industrial environment. The Dark Army is a fictional group of Chinese hackers who will hack anyone for a price.

Shayla and Fernando

Back at Shayla’s apartment, Elliot wants to retrieve his dog but instead is drawn into a long and tense conversation with Fernando, Shayla’s supplier. Elliot’s already hacked him—the man is one of “the worst human beings” Elliot’s ever known. By comparing tweets from Fernando and his gang with local crimes, Elliot cracked their simplistic code and learned they were responsible for a wave of robberies and murders. He’s thought about turning him in, but Fernando is Shayla’s only Suboxone supplier.

After Fernando leaves, Elliot finds Shayla asleep in the bathtub. Elliot’s worried she was raped, but Shayla doesn’t mind—Fernando gives her a good deal on the drugs. Elliot’s conflicted about taking out Fernando, but decides it’s more important than keeping him around as a source of drugs.

  • Notes: Fernando’s user name is “bigpapi6969” and his password is “eatadick6969.” Elliot’s browser bookmarks bar now shows saved pages including IRC, toolKit_drk, BBC, HufPo, NYT, whitePaper, and classDefs. Elliot says he could go back to digitally counterfeiting prescriptions, something he clearly used to do, but it’s more difficult and less successful.

  • Goofs: Another “Facebook” page and more problems: again, it shows that Elliot is “friends” with Fernando but Elliot doesn’t have a Facebook page.

Two Paintings in the Waiting Area

Elliot chats with his court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Krista Gordon. She wants him to open up, and he compares his options to the two paintings in her waiting room—when both choices are bad, which one do you choose? While talking to her, we learn that he’s turned in Fernando and his crew by sending information through an anonymous tip on the NYPD’s website. Elliot becomes increasingly agitated as Krista pushes him to open up, and finally he yells at her. Later, he researches climate control systems.

  • Quotes: Elliot: “How do we know if we're in control? That we're not just making the best of what comes at us, and that's it? Trying to constantly pick between two shitty options? Like your two paintings in the waiting room. Or...Coke and Pepsi? McDonald's or Burger King? Hyundai or Honda? Hmm. It's all part of the same blur, right? Just out of focus enough. It's the illusion of choice. Half of us can't even pick our own...our cable, gas, electric. The water we drink, our health insurance. Even if we did, would it matter? You know, if our only option is Blue Cross or Blue Shield, what the f*ck is the difference? In fact, aren't they...aren't they the same? No, man...our choices are prepaid for us, long time ago.”

Ollie and Angela

At Angela and Ollie’s apartment, Angela hangs up the phone. She’s been trying to call Elliot but he’s not picking up. She’s worried about him. Ollie is trying to get the street musician’s CD to play, but it keeps freezing up his laptop. He gets an email from his other girlfriend, Stella B, and hides the screen from Angela, only half listening as she shares her concerns about Elliot.

Ollie makes an excuse to leave, but he’s really going to meet up with Stella. As he leaves, we see the street musician Cisco watching through the camera on Ollie’s laptop—something on the CD has allowed Cisco to commandeer Ollie’s laptop and hack everything on it, including the camera. He watches Angela climb into the shower. Afterward, he types in Chinese to a contact, saying “we’re in.”

  • Notes: This is the first time we see where Angela and Ollie live. Ollie sneaks out to see Stella by saying he’s going to see his “Arizona buddy Fred.”

Coney Island

Back at the Coney Island boardwalk, Elliot finds Mr. Robot sitting on a railing above the rocky beach, reading from a book. Elliot’s found a way to hack Steel Mountain without blowing up the pipeline. Mr. Robot says he walked away and is out of fsociety but wants to know how Elliot’s father died. Elliot tells him—his father worked at Evil Corp as a computer engineer. He came down with leukemia but made Elliot promise to not tell anyone, not even Elliot’s mom. After Elliot let the secret out, his father pushed him down and broke his arm. Elliot’s father never spoke to him again and died several months later.

Mr. Robot empathizes with Elliot’s father. “Don’t you think you deserved it for betraying his trust?” Elliot starts to say that he was only eight years old when Mr. Robot pushes him off the railing to the rocks below.

  • Notes: Similar to how his father treated Elliot, Mr. Robot also pushes him and causing serious injuries.

  • Filming Location: Shot at Coney Island, it’s easy to see the Parachute Jump Tower in the background of several angles. Built for the 1939 World’s Fair, riders paid 40 cents to ride one of the eleven parachutes to the top. The ride closed in 1964 and has been owned by the City of New York ever since.

  • Goofs: In real life, the Coney Island pavilion where Elliot and Mr. Robot chat doesn’t extend over a sharp fall to rocks and the beach below.

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Critique:

This second episode picks up moments after the first one ended, and brings with it a quick offer from the enemy: a job offer, that is. Elliot passes and Wellick is clearly troubled with his answer, although if Elliot were truly interested in taking down Evil Corp, wouldn’t he jump at the chance to fight from inside the belly of the beast?

Two parallel stories appear on Elliot’s radar at the same time—fsociety announces its existence to the world, demanding Evil Corp close down. At the same time, Elliot must deal with Shayla and her unstable drug supplier, Fernando Vera. I liked this side story but felt it was wrapped too quickly—the evidence Elliot submitted to the NYPD must have been pretty compelling for them to cancel one of their donut runs and arrest Fernando and his crew. That also assumes that no one on the police payroll was on the take or looking the other way on behalf of Fernando’s crew.

I’m also unsure of Elliot’s quick decision to give up Suboxone—he seems to have thought it all out, and it’s the best solution for him at the time. As anti-social as he is, it’s a leap to think that he’s so worried about Shayla—clearly, she’s not that concerned—that he’s willing to take on a local drug gang and give up his only tool to control his addiction.

Mr. Robot has a plan to take out the physical location where Evil Corp’s backup tapes are being stored, and that sounds like a pretty exciting episode of Mission Impossible to me. Or maybe one of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies where, as he escapes with the tapes, dangling from a helicopter, the entire Steel Mountain explodes in an orgy of fire.

Episode Notes:

The title of the episode refers to binary code—ones and zeroes—and Mr. Robot’s comments on making choices.

References:

NOTE: All sites accessed on August 20, 2016.

Greg Enslen is an Ohio author and columnist. He's written and published eight books, including four fiction titles and four collections of essays and columns. Several are available through Gypsy Publications of Troy, Ohio. To receive updates on upcoming titles, sneak previews and appearances, subscribe to Email Goodies. For more information, please see his Amazon Author Page or visit his Facebook fan page.