This week’s episode of Intelligence, “Cain and Gabriel,” was written by Pamela Davis and directed by Ken Biller. Biller is well known as a producer, but his directing credits include Perception, Smallville, Dark Angel, and Star Trek: Voyager, giving him lots of experience in the genre. Davis has also written for XIII:The Series, Flashpoint, Miami Medical, and House M.D. This week’s episode picks up a theme we’ve seen before as the team explores the difference between machine and humanity.
As the episode opens, Gabriel (Josh Holloway) is getting a ‘physical.’ Shenendoah (John Billingsley) and Nelson (PJ Byrne) are specifically concerned with Gabriel’s emotions. Shenendoah tells Gabriel that “the chip can exceed your human abilities, but we can never let it exceed your humanity.” The inter-relationship between man and machine is the core of this episode, and it’s explored through three characters.
There is an obvious parallel between Gabriel and Jonathan Cain (Alan Ruck) – the Cain of the title. The two pictures here even parallel each other, but while Gabriel is surrounded by people, Cain is surrounded by machines. The title itself sets up a parallel to Cain and Abel. Cain, the father of murder, is the ultimate bad guy, using murder to get what he wants while Abel was the favorite of God. Luckily, the story does draw a more nuanced portrait of Cain. It’s hard not to sympathize once you know his backstory. He was an athlete – a track star – who worked in the college lab when there was an accident causing him to contract “Miner’s Ataxia.” I couldn’t find any reference to such a disease though ataxia would account for the wasting and slow paralysis and miners do suffer from manganese poisoning which may result in ataxia.
The point, of course, is not the disease itself, but that the disease makes Cain increasingly dependent on the machines to function and live. However, the catch to this is that he becomes increasingly isolated from actual human contact and life itself. His wife tells them that he hasn’t even left the house in years. In fact, the one thing he stresses that he misses the most is the ability to hold his wife – human contact. Gabriel says to him that Cain has become more isolated the more he’s become dependent upon the machines, and that he feels more like a machine because that’s how everyone views him. Gabriel points out that it’s having people around to remind him of his humanity that helps him to retain it.
This is in stark contrast to Gabriel who is constantly reminded by Riley (Meghan Ory) especially that she sees him as a person first and the chip second. Gabriel sees Cain calling him as Cain reaching out for that human contact. Gabriel’s humanity manifests in several ways in the episode. One of the funniest is his worrying about Lillian (Marg Helgenberger) sitting in his chair on the plane because he’s superstitious! Certainly a pure, logical machine would never worry about breaking a game day ritual. Gabriel is also concerned about Lillian throughout the episode.
Lillian is the third character to have to balance humanity with, in her case, regimented protocol which requires her to act in a specific way and prevents her from acting freely. Lillian is so cut off from humanity that she is cut off from her own daughter, Rebecca (Laura Wiggins). Lillian doesn’t even realize that her daughter’s boyfriend has been gone from her life for several months. In stark contrast to Lillian’s precise, military world, her daughter is an artist. Rebecca’s workspace is messy, including her paint-smeared doorjam. By contrast, even Lillian’s away office is pristinely clean and ordered.
Gabriel worries that he’s never seen Lillian let it get personal – he’s never seen her not completely in control or show emotion. Riley quips that he’s never seen her act like him. Lillian is not quite human to him. Gabriel urges her to break protocol and tell Rebecca. He tells her that it doesn’t make her weak, it makes her human. Interestingly, it’s Riley that is able to get through to her and tell her to forget protocol and just be a mom. When she first goes to Rebecca, Lillian is still in commander mode and barks orders at her. Rebecca digs in her heels immediately. Lillian finally opens up and relates to her daughter, agreeing that she was wrong to bark orders and asking Rebecca to trust her and just do what she asks. Rebecca responds to Lillian’s change of tone and agrees to leave.
The final scene between Lillian and Rebecca is a great one, and Helgenberger is excellent in it. Rebecca has finished one of her paintings and shows it to Lillian. It clearly captures an important memory for them both of themselves in an earlier time. As the episode ends, Rebecca reaches out and takes her mother’s hand, establishing a human connection.
There is a also a really interesting and important dynamic in this episode between Riley and Lillian. Riley tells Gabriel that every woman in the service looks up to Lillian because of how far she’s come and how she’s able to hold her own in a predominantly male field. We see Riley open up and use her own very human backstory to appeal to Lillian. Helgenberger did a great job looking shocked when Riley told her about shooting and killing her mother’s boyfriend before he could kill either Riley or her mother when Riley was 14. She also tells Lillian that it kept them from talking for 14 years. I liked that it took another woman for Lillian to accept the human contact. When Weatherly (Tomas Arana) suggests her objectivity might be understandably compromised and that he’s worried about her as a friend, she shrugs him off and tells him she’s perfectly capable of doing her job – the implication is without emotion. She turns the conversation back to the job at hand.
Riley also reaches out on a very human level when she tells Lillian that if Rebecca really knew what Lillian did, she would be proud of her. Helgenberger again does a wonderful job of conveying that Lillian really doesn’t realize how much of a role model she is. This show is a breath of fresh air for women’s roles. Both Lillian and Riley are great characters – active, successful women who more than hold their own in a predominantly male world. I will be very sorry to see this show not get renewed if only for the loss of these two wonderful characters. It is very rare for me to tune into a show for the women characters because they are so often such stereotypical and disappointing roles. I’ll admit that I started watching the show for Holloway, but I tune in eagerly now each week for Ory.
This episode once again features Shenendoah, Nelson and Jameson (Michael Rady) holding down CyberCom while the rest are out in the field. Unfortunately this week we get very little Jameson, but the banter between Shenendoah and Nelson is its usual breath of fresh air. I love watching Billingsley and Byrne play off of each other. Shenendoah gets angry with Nelson for joking when there are lives at stake, and Nelson says it’s just his way of coping, and their banter leads to a breakthrough in the case – it’s just their way of working. I loved their fist bump and when Nelson presses Shenendoah on incinerating the case and Shenendoah admits it’s a “crap shoot!”
It was interesting that when Cain searched for information on Gabriel that he was unable to find anything about him at all. According to the cyber-record, Gabriel doesn’t exist. I suppose if they left any evidence of his life, it might be very curious that it just ends. Once again, it was a delight watching Ory and Holloway. I loved Riley twitting him about his seat on the plane and suggesting that he should save his seat by putting his purse on it. I also very much liked that the episode featured Riley pulling Gabriel out of the line of fire, as well as Gabriel using a table and his own body to shield Riley from the explosion – it is a balance partnership.
I thought this was another great episode. The basic case was interesting, I loved the use of the mule, carrot, and stick analogy. There were great performances, as I am beginning to expect every week now. I also really liked how the basic theme was woven throughout the episode. What did you think of the episode? Were you as shocked by Lillian at Riley’s revelation? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!