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

20 Dec 2014

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.


  1. Great review, Lisa. This was another wonderful episode. One of my favorite things about this show is how they always come together, in the end, as a family. The cave scenes were a little heart stopping, especially when you have kids of your own. The Walter and Paige scene really showed how much they do care for each other. I think it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out the rest of the season. Happy Holidays!

  2. Thanks! The episodes always zip along because of the crisis, so I think sometimes it's easy to miss the threads that run through the episode. I thought the writing, acting and direction were all really good in this episode. Definitely curious to see what happens next with Paige and Walter!

  3. i definitely loved Walter and Paige in this episode and i can't wait to see how they grow closer and closer together and hopefully we get a kiss soon and this episode was very heart stopping and i love how they keep bringing Megan back and i hope she gets cured of her MS because i don't want Walter to lose his sister and i completely loved the end scene with Walter and Paige looking at each other totally in love with each other, even a blind man could see that LOL and the Rube Goldberg Device was awesome, i also love that they gave Ralph and Paige snow, that was so cute

  4. Great review Lisa! I just started this show with this episode. Dahne tweeted something that made it impossible for me not to watch. I watched and I fell in love with the pace and the actors. The story was a nail biter and then it was sweet, holiday warmth. I loved it so much that I binged the entire first half the next day. It's a keeper for me. I love the character interactions. I love how Paige humanizes the group and I absolutely love Walter's mind. I love minds like Walter O'Brien/Spencer Reid/Walter Bishop/Michael Scofield. They are so much fun to watch in action.
    SN- I've never watched Katharine McPhee in anything so I didn't realize, she is a really good actress.
    I also don't want to tell you that it took me 3 episodes to realize that Toby is Finch. I kept asking myself where I knew him from.

  5. I really like how they are developing Walter and Paige slowly. I think both will be reluctant to take it further because of the ramifications of working together and being in a relationship - hard on each other and the rest of the team - but maybe Happy and Toby will show them the way! MS does not have a cure, but this new treatment could slow the disease or possibly put her in remission. I actually wish they'd focus a bit more on MS to educate people more about it. Megan's must be very aggressive - which does happen, but there are lots of people who live with the disease for many years. I had a cousin who was diagnosed in her twenties who lived to her seventies for instance...

  6. Thanks - and welcome! Yep, I fell in love with this series at SDCC and had the pleasure of meeting Elyes, Robert, Katharine, and Walter! Meeting Elyes and Katherine in particular, I can tell you they are very different in real life which makes their acting stand out that much more for me! I love how each episode has a nail-biting case at the center, but there's also the focus on the characters and how they are evolving. I don't want to tell you that I've never seen American Pie... ;)

  7. I have seen this episode at least 20 times since it aired last Monday (no joke), and I have to disagree with you about Sylvester. At the beginning of the episode, he makes note that a few weeks have passed since his hospitalization. It's clear that he is still going through some issues after what had happened to him, but we really don't know what happened during that time lapse. For all we know, Megan could have helped Sylvester gather the courage to return home again. I don't think Sylvester's arc was inconsistent at all. While I do agree that Sylvester's arc could have been explored a bit more, I am not bothered with what the show gave us. I do like the fact that they showed how insecure Sylvester still was; not everything - in my opinion - has to be shown on TV in order for something to have happened. We didn't see the struggle Sylvester most likely went through when he returned to the garage, but it doesn't mean he didn't have it. We are shown glimpses of his trauma still bothering him, and I'm glad Megan gave him a verbal kick in the butt to suck it up and deal with his problems. In "Revenge," Megan coddled him; I can understand that since he was in the hospital. However, I think the fact that the boy was trapped affected her because it affected Walter. That's why she was more abrasive towards Sylvester instead of babying him.

    I don't think Sylvester running in to save the ECMO was random. To me, it shows a level of character development - that when pressured, Sylvester can really pull through in the end. It also shows that Walter doesn't always have to rely on Sylvester's brain for help anymore....

    I explained a personal review of the show in my own words here: that further details Sylvester's involvement in the episode (as well as the rest of the team).

    Anyway, good article. :) I just felt like the above part needed to be said.

  8. By the way, Toby didn't beat the guy up.... he only jumped on him to hold him back.

  9. Good review. Yeah, those in-cave scenes really captured the oppressive claustrophobia of the situatoin. I can't imagine how unomfortable it must have been just to shoot those scenes--even though clearly they were not trapped in a tiny cold cave filling with water while shooting! Also agreed about the running out of gas gambit. This show almost always goes one crisis too far. Just once, I'd like to see everything work smoothly and have them all, at like the 25 minute mark pause, look at each other, realize the mission has been successfully completed, shrug, and go home!

  10. Shelby T Mitchell23 December 2014 at 01:00

    Walter and Paige are a couple in the making. Great review indeed Lisa. Keep on keeping on! As can't wait for 2015!

  11. Actually, he was fighting him - you don't steal a biker's bike by holding him back - he was on the ground when Toby jumped on the bike.

  12. Thanks! Can't wait to see what's in store for us in 2015!

  13. Thanks - yeah, one crisis too many is a good way to describe it. Actually, I don't have a problem with the number as long as they don't wander into cliche-town...

  14. Thanks, and of course you're entitled to your own opinion, but if they don't show it or mention it, it didn't happen in the universe of the show. You can fill in the blanks - but that's fan fiction - which I'm a huge fan of - but it still doesn't meant that's what happened. I should also clarify, that I do agree we saw huge leaps in Sylvester's development - but I would have liked to have seen this story more carefully developed and carried over a longer time. By having it solved, seemingly very easily - he just had to get over himself apparently? - it diminishes this kind of disorder. I hope we do see Megan helping him more in the future....

  15. It's a cliche. The unreliable guy running away but then having a crisis and turning up at the last minute to save the day. Han Solo in the (real) first Star Wars movie being a case in point: taking his money, taking Leia's contempt, sailing off, and then turning up out of nowhere to blast Darth Vader and let Luke make the final run. Same basic gimmick, motivated not by logical and progressive character development but by melodramatic plotting.
    I agree that Sylvester's arc has not been well handled. Yes, we can assume that stuff happens off screen and between episodes, but drama is not real life. In drama, you should actually show the key developmental moments, not leave them for audiences to infer. There's an embyronic arc there: Sylvester guilts out over not going to Afghanistan (or wherever it was), tries going into the field to show he can do it and gets blown up, so suffers a setback. However, they blew it in the presentation by having Sylvester, ONE EPISODE after profoundly regretting letting Walter down by not going on the combat mission, then going all, "ooh, I don't think we should be going on this sort of mission" before getting blown up. Having him commit to that mission and THEN get blown up would have made for a far more plausible rationale for his subsequent backsliding. But I don't think they're that interested in complex and sophisticated character development, to be honest, so much as they are interested in melodramatric plotting and emotional extremes. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


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