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Scorpion - Dominoes - Review - "Fall Finale Holiday Special!"

A fall finale will generally do one of two things: it will either end with a cliffhanger that has us biting our nails until the end of the holiday hiatus or it will give us a feel good, holiday episode that we can enjoy every year for the holidays. Scorpion, “Dominoes” is one of those feel good episodes. For a show that deals in high intensity episodes every week, that really felt like the best way to go. The episode was written by the team of Rob Pearlstein and showrunner Nick Santora and was directed by Omar Madha. Pearlstein’s other writing credits include Matumbo Goldberg (on which he was one of the stars) and Medium. Madha is one of the hardest working directors in television and his credits include 24: Live Another Day, Revolution, Person of Interest, and Defiance. Madha knows how to ratchet up the tension.

The main focus of the episode is on rescuing a 10 year old boy, Owen (Wyatt Oleff) from a cave-in that Walter (Elyes Gabel) and Megan (Camille Guaty) just happen to be present for as they spend some time at Zuma beach. It’s always nice to see Charles Malik Whitfield who plays the head engineer even if he had relatively little to do in the episode. Oleff is terrific as the terrified, injured boy who Walter clearly identifies with. In fact, I’d be remiss in not giving Madha a real shout out for his direction on this episode. The scene in the cave in which Walter and Owen slowly go under water is brilliantly shot – as are the scenes of Walter going through that tunnel! Both had my claustrophobic husband cringing into our couch!

We see the entire team once again contributing to the crisis. Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas) diagnoses Owen with a broken rib and collapsed lung, which rules out keeping him alive with scuba equipment. He then helps Happy (Jadyn Wong) build the jack to free Owen’s leg. Paige (Katharine McPhee) helps to keep Owen calm. Sylvester (Ari Stidham) doesn’t help a lot with his statistics, but does come through to try and help with the second cave-in.

If I had one complaint about this episode, it’s with the Sylvester storyline. In the last episode, we saw that Sylvester was terrified to go back to work at all, yet he seems happy to be back at the garage at the beginning of this episode. He willingly goes off into the field to help. He does voice concern over being in a cave recently formed by a landslide, but he does go in and stay in with the team. We do see him botch the first calculation and then not be precise enough for Walter in the calculations for the jack. There is a great shot of Toby in that scene as he notices that something is really off with Sylvester, but that is never picked up on.

Sylvester then disappears and Megan finds him at the bus stop. It’s not really his fear that’s driving him away. He says he can’t concentrate because of his fear and is therefore useless to Scorpion. Megan asks him how he lives when he’s constantly afraid of dying – a question that she is uniquely able to ask him as she lives every day with her mortality front and center. Sylvester tells her he’s never been strong – which is a nice throwback to the opening scene. She simply tells him that’s his problem and walks away.

He then magically appears in the cave to hold up the rock so Cabe (Robert Patrick) and Walter can move the machine that’s breathing for Owen. Everything would appear to be forgiven by the end of the episode. Maybe this is going to be an on-going storyline, but it seems underdeveloped and inconsistent to me at this point. Either Sylvester has a paralyzing anxiety disorder or he doesn’t. While I like that we are to infer that “family” is what has made Sylvester able to tap both his inner and his outer strength – he’s stronger than he thought he was – I would have liked to see this be a more complex problem.

The real focus of the episode, however, is the importance of family and having faith – in them and in miracles. As the episode opens, we get some nice establishing shots of Los Angeles decked out for the holidays. This provides a terrific contrast to the garage, complete with Black Sabbath playing, that is devoid of any sign of the holidays – until Paige arrives. She’s excited to make Christmas special for Ralph (Riley B Smith) and to drag the others into the holiday spirit. She’s dismayed to learn about their horrible childhood experiences. Happy was given back to the state so her foster parents wouldn’t have to get her a gift and Toby was taken to the track by his father only to come home to a mother passed out drunk. Sylvester’s father gave him a weight set, wanting him to be strong, before giving him away to his uncle. As Sylvester tells Paige, he’s big, he was never strong – and that’s the thread we see later in the episode.

Toby tells Paige that Ralph doesn’t believe in Santa, and Paige insists that “you can be a genius and still believe in things that are magical.” Each of the team members is called on to have faith in the episode. Megan doesn’t want to be a part of the study that Walter has gotten her into. She doesn’t want to be a guinea pig. She’s determined that she just needs a miracle. The entire episode shows her that sometimes even a miracle needs a little help from science – and Walter. He re-ignites her faith and she agrees to the study by the end of the episode. Guaty delivers her best performance to date in the episode, and the relationship between brother and sister is really starting to gel.

For his own part, Walter tells Paige that he has faith in science. He tells Owen that he only states facts when he promises to come back for him. He bases his going into the tunnel on a 58% chance of it not collapsing. But in the end, in the face of every odd against him, he goes down to rescue Owen and he’s rewarded by being able to save him. Walter may not believe in miracles – he fully intends on telling the reporters that Owen is alive because of the super-oxygenated blood giving his organs more time – but he does come to see the value that faith in miracles can have. It gave Owen’s parents hope, and it re-ignited Megan’s will to try. There’s a really nice moment between Paige and Walter when he tells Cabe that he’s not going to talk to the press because they already have their answer – it’s a miracle.

Walter is clearly a leader for the group, but he also draws strength from the group. Cabe is immediately concerned that Walter will blame himself for Owen’s death and makes sure to emphasize that it’s not Walter’s fault. It’s Megan telling Walter that she has faith in him that lets him come up with the crazy plan to oxygenate Owen’s blood so he can breathe under water. Even science needs help sometimes.
The episode really emphasizes how the team has become a family, but it also shows that what they’ve learned with each other is also expanding their family. Toby finds the letter Happy has written to her father, Patrick (Jamie McShane), and urges her not to forsake her family over fear. This is another nice echo of the Sylvester arc – he overcomes his own fear for his family.
        Wong and McShane are brilliant in the scene at his garage. Happy is once again paralyzed by her fear of rejection and can’t give him the card. However, Patrick finally steps up as her father and admits he’s known who she is from the first time she walked into the garage. He doesn’t let his own fear keep him from telling her that he only gave her up because he thought she deserved better than him and that he’s always loved her. This is another beautifully shot scene as McShane and Wong are only in the same frame together at the very end of the episode when they are truly reunited in the hug.

The final scene shows how the team has really come together as a family. Happy brings her father to dinner, and we’ve seen how awkward the team can be at welcoming new people, especially when it’s a surprise. Not surprisingly, Cabe is the first to really welcome him, telling him he’s got a great girl there. But perhaps more tellingly, Toby is the next to really make him feel welcome. The team exchanges gifts which show how much they really do know and love each other – again in contrast to the stories we hear at the beginning of the episode. Happy replaces Toby’s lost hat, Toby gets Happy wrenches, Walter gets Cabe new glasses, Paige gets Walter a silly sweater, Cabe reads to Ralph, and Megan gets Sylvester to kiss her under the mistletoe. Happy and Toby understand what’s important to each other and the other clothing gifts also acknowledge either what the wearer is or needs. And Cabe steps in for absent father, Drew.

Of course, the entire team work together to give Ralph the one thing that even Paige couldn’t – snow! The entire team has also become an extended family for Ralph. The dominoes were cool – though if they could have done it in one continuous shot it would have been even cooler! The dominoes are also a nice metaphor for how everything is connected. If Walter hadn’t been on that beach and been who he is, Owen would likely have died and Megan might not have found her faith in Walter again. Who’s to say whether that’s science of a miracle? I loved that the dominoes also set off a Happy Holidays sign and then “grew” a Christmas tree before setting off the snow. A tiny miracle in Los Angeles after all! There is one final present for viewers in this scene as it seems that Walter may have finally realized his feelings for Paige and they share a nice moment under the snow together.

There were just a couple of things about this episode, other than the Sylvester storyline not getting the attention I’d like to see it have, that bothered me. I like the tension and fast pace of the storylines – the cases are all time sensitive, but this one especially so. However, having Happy and Toby get stuck in traffic and have to steal a motorcycle and then run out of gas? Don’t try too hard, show! Clearly getting stuck in traffic is an LA commonplace and I liked that they picked up on the fact that motorcycles do drive between lanes in LA, but Toby beating up a motorcycle guy? Even an old one?

My one other complaint actually also contains a compliment. Kudos to Gabel for being wet and covered in sand. I can only imagine how long those takes took and that must have been super uncomfortable – not to mention having the tunnel collapse on him. But now explain how Cabe went in after him and is completely clean – and not a hair out of place while they wait for Owen to be revived?
Over all, this was a good solid fall finale – and one that will make for good, future holiday viewing. It shows us how far our team has come to become a family. The writing nicely wove the themes throughout, and Madha’s directing was exceptional. I’m also continuing to be impressed with the use of location shooting on the show. Are you like me and want the real-life Scorpion team to go after the Sony-hackers? What did you think of the episode? Are you happy to see Walter and Paige growing closer together? Did the cave scenes set off your claustrophobia? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! Happy Holidays, and don’t forget to tune in for the next new episode on January 5, 2015.

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Forever, Defiance, Bitten, Glee, and a few others! Highlights of this past year include covering San Diego Comic Con as press and a set visit to Bitten. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.

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