Plot: You know this is gonna be a good episode because we start at a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners, with a very uncomfortable chemist named Dr. Sestok. While he tries to prepare himself mentally to make his contribution (not made any easier by all the things the bank has added to make it easier), someone else is breaking into the freezer by melting the wall, and they make off with several samples.
After the case gets bounced around between departments, it makes its way to the Agency, who can use the budget boost handling this successfully will bring, judging by their projector. Like Fawkes, I too attended schools with better AV equipment. Maybe not my junior high, but my high school, certainly. Once at the sperm bank, Fawkes quickly recognizes that a destabilizing catalyst was used to get through the wall, and he knows the guy who uses it, a sleazy thief named Manny Merrick. Merrick confesses he stole the samples for a Dr. Galasyn, who they find at a local university. We learn a couple of things on the way. One, Fawkes attended college for a couple of years, but dropped out because his brother's successes made him feel inadequate. He doesn't put it that way, but that's the implication. Two, Hobbes had an appointment to West Point, because he wanted to see some action. Also, he can't pronounce "MENSA".
The doc has extracted some gene (or genes) from the sperm he thinks relates to intelligence, and built it into a retrovirus, which will increase neural cell production and make people smarter. He has four students willing to play test subject, and gets a surprise fifth when Hobbes grabs him. During the struggle, the syringe breaks and Hobbes' hand is cut. Better him than Fawkes, though, since the retrovirus would have interacted poorly with the gland, killing Darien. Hobbes' intelligence begins to rise rapidly, which seems pretty good at first. Then the return to the doctor's office to find contact information for the students and find one of them in his office, scribbling furiously on the walls. Then she blows herself and the doc up with nitro. Afterward, the changes in Hobbes become more pronounced. Fawkes finds him watching 5 TVs at once, laughing at. . . something. He shows little interest in the fate of the other students, and in fact, quits his job, then starts dropping truth bombs on Fawkes on the way out.
That leaves Darien and the Keeper to find the other kids, but when they do, the kids are together, catatonic. Best to retrieve Hobbes quickly, then. He's back at home, busy on three computers simultaneously. Which doesn't keep him from hearing Fawkes enter and nearly kill his partner. Fortunately, Claire busts out the tranq gun, which brings Hobbes back to his old self enough he can make another flirtatious comment. When we pick up again, Hobbes is in the padded room, in a strait jacket, and it's down to Darien to save the day. Hobbes is the only person left smart enough to figure out how to undo the effects of the retrovirus, but he's not inclined to do so. The fate of the other subjects doesn't concern him, because he says he understands what they've become, so there's no reason to fear. He's beyond merely trying to survive, he's trying to evolve, and then he declares friendship to be an illusion. So Darien brings out the big gun: a sample of the retrovirus. Useless against Hobbes, but it'll kill Darien, unless Hobbes tells them how to undo it. Hobbes thinks it's a bluff, after all, friendship is an illusion, Fawkes is just a man concerned only with his own survival, he won't do it.
Then he does it, and Hobbes comes back to himself enough to tell Claire what to do. And thus, Darien's life is saved, and Hobbes is restored to his former level of intelligence. Which is OK. He's flirting with Claire, and he and Fawkes promise they'd risk their necks for each other again.
Quote of the Episode: Darien - 'Yes, you will. You would die for me, Bobby. See, that's what I know. It's not 'cause it's your job, or your code. It's 'cause I'm your friend. If you think that's an illusion, then you're just plain ignorant.'
The "Oh crap" count: 1 (24 overall).
Who's getting quoted this week: John Oliver Hobbes, who said all men are the same, they always think what they'll get is better than what they have. Bobby Hobbes, who said 'to hell with this'. Hobbes then quotes Edison about how much of genius is perspiration. Schopenhauer said increased intelligence means a greater capacity for pain, and someone said everyone is a genius until they open their mouth.
Times Fawkes Goes Into Quicksilver Madness: 0 (6 overall).
Other: Oh, this episode. I'm not sure if this is my favorite episode of Season 1, but it's in the top 2 or 3. I love the shift in Hobbes, the way he doesn't react so impulsively to things as he grows in intelligence. Heck, he barely reacts to things at all. Every response he makes comes after a pause, like it's an effort to bring his mind back to this place long enough to react. Paul Ben-Victor gives his voice this dead, distant quality which is really creepy coming from the normally more animated Hobbes, especially combined with the relaxed, disinterested posture he takes.
What's interesting about the scene where he disrespects the Official and then quits is, he says a lot of things that are true. He says he realizes how much he undermined his career and personal life with his own insecurities. Absolutely correct. When Fawkes tries to tell Hobbes the gifts he's using aren't really his, Hobbes rightly points out Fawkes wasn't born with that gland, either. He's not wrong about how the Official's power just trickles down through the system. The Official is tougher than he looks, but if Hobbes or Fawkes actually wanted to kill him, they could. He can't stop them by holding up an organizational flow chart pointing out he's their boss.
He could even, depending on your perspective, be right when he says no one at the Agency cared about him, really. I don't think that's true, and certainly, I think it was disproven by everyone's actions. From Claire and Darien busting their humps to save Hobbes, to even the Official giving Hobbes his job back afterward without giving Hobbes any static. But look at the past history. The Official routinely treats Hobbes like crap. Darien makes fun of Hobbes' ideals. Claire pokes a bit of fun at his intelligence (which she also does to Darien, but still). It ignores a lot of other things - Darien risking his neck for Hobbes, Claire's tears when she though Hobbes had died - but Hobbes by this stage thinks of friendship as an illusion, just people huddling in groups for safety. From that perspective, the less pleasant interactions read as a truer indication of their feelings. It's skewed, but Hobbes is at a stage where he's divorced from any emotional context, so it makes sense to him.
And the scene in the padded room. I like stories about the power of friends, and that, yeah. Darien managing to draw Hobbes into an extended conversation. Because Hobbes still cares about Fawkes, no matter what he says about friendship. Hobbes wants his buddy to understand, to know what he's learned, so he tries to explain. And once he's in the conversation, invested in it, Darien can play his trump card. The moment where he pulls the syringe from his jacket, and Hobbes is almost contemptuous, the retrovirus can't do anything to him. Then Darien reminds him, it can kill Fawkes, and Hobbes can't quite believe it. But Fawkes does it, and that breaks through the distance Hobbes had from everyone else, and he saves Darien's life. I am curious whether Hobbes was crying because Darien was willing to die for this, or because he knew he was about to lose his intelligence. I love how as soon as Claire bursts in saying she can synthesize that enzyme, Darien loses the cool facade he was maintaining and bolts from the room demanding she get this crap the hell out of him. It amuses me, but I don't think it hurts the impact of the moment.
I do find it interesting that even up to the end, Hobbes continues to flirt with Claire. Might suggest something about how strong his feelings are for her, that it's the only thing that reaches across the distance between him and everyone else.