BrainDead S01 E13 – Laugh and Cringe

Previously: Laurel figured out her priorities.

The End of All We Hold Dear: What Happens When Democracies Fail

Dani: The title seems particularly apt know that we know 1) CBS did not renew BrainDead, and 2) a Twitter troll won the election.

Marines: And he keeps on trolling.

Dani: As always, we begin with our singing recapper — only this time he’s performing live for us, right next to the brownstone where Laurel, Rochelle, and Gustav are gathered. The show starts right where the last one left off, with Laurel telling the Scoobs that she knows what the space bugs want, and she knows how to stop them. She says the war with Syria and the internment camps were just a distraction. Rochelle’s like “from what?” but Gustav shushes them because he hears a noise. Hilariously, it’s just our singing recapper (who’s still playing his guitar outside their window). Gustav shoos him away, and the sudden meta clash is just one of the things I love/will miss about this show. (M: +1)

Laurel tells Gustav and Rochelle that climate change extended the cherry blossom season (an impressive feat for a hoax by the Chinese), but it won’t last forever. The bugs have limited time left before the cherry blossoms all die. I’m not sure why the queen can’t lay her eggs in a different flower, but let’s just go with it.

Mari: We’re at the very end. The time for questions have passed and we will just ride with them all the way into the sunset.

Dani: Gustav decides the greenhouse in Manassas is too close to completion to stop the building at this point, so they’ll need to sabotage it, instead. They need the full blueprints for it, and Laurel agrees to ask Gareth for them. Meanwhile, Luke will work on stalling the building of the remaining greenhouses. Everyone starts to leave, but Gustav calls them back for some team bonding. Laurel puts out her hand and says they’re all in this together.

Laurel heads to Gareth’s office, where she finds Red with Gareth’s parents. Red introduces her as “your son’s girlfriend, Lana,” and Laurel corrects her name. It’s an awkward scene, especially since Mr. Ritter has a red “Taking Back America” ballcap on (Run, Laurel! RUN!!!!). The Ritters are there because their son was stabbed in the last episode, and Red doesn’t pass up the chance to blame it on the Democrats’ coddling of inner-city terrorists. Points! Then he apologizes to Laurel, and the Ritters are surprised to learn that not only is she a Democrat, but Luke (who’s “leading the rebellion” in the Senate) is her brother. Gareth comes in, and things get even more awkward when Red mentions Laurel dating Michael Moore.

Mari: He also does a little lip lick thing I wish I could unsee.

Dani: Laurel and Gareth slip away to his office, where she asks for the full blueprints. Gareth promises to try to get them and apologizes for the weirdness with his parents. Laurel assures him everything’s okay by pushing him up against the wall and kissing him thoroughly. (Gentle, girl… dude was just stabbed.) They contemplate locking the door and getting busy, but then Laurel catches Luke on TV. The sit-in over at the Senate is breaking up, so she has to go.

Senate floor. Luke tells Laurel the senators got tired, but she says they have to prevent the hothouses from being built. Luke says the only thing that would bring back the senators at this point is some Major Drama. He thinks for a minute and then pays a Capitol police officer to arrest him and take him out in handcuffs. He starts yelling about free speech and how he’s being dragged away by fascists.

The Democrats, watching from their offices, get all fired up and march off to the Senate. Yay, Luke!

Mari: I’m so wary of everyone ever that my immediate worry was that this officer was going to rat him out. Well done on the show for leading me to this point.

Dani: The show? Or 2016, in general?

Elsewhere, Gareth is searching Red’s office for blueprints to the hothouse in Manassas. He checks Red’s coat for a key to a locked desk drawer and finds a badge for the building site instead. Using a letter opener, he breaks into the locked drawer. Red’s gun is there, and Gareth picks it up and gets his fingerprints all over it. (Ehhhh.) There’s also an old photo of a very pretty, dark-skinned woman.

Gareth calls Laurel to tell her he couldn’t find the blueprints, but she’s excited about the badge. She’s worried he’ll get in trouble for taking it, which is nice to finally see, considering all the times she’s asked for favors. Gareth wants to help regardless, and Laurel says she’ll let Gustav and Rochelle know about the badge. She’s in a hurry to hang up and maybe that’s why she’s not thinking when she says goodbye.

These two are adorable.

Mari: True story, this happened to me once. I said it and I was like “….ooooh nooooooo….” I think I liked it much more when it happened on the show than to me in real life.

Dani: Paging Dr. Freud?

Luke returns to the Senate, where tons of senators have returned to the sit-in, valiantly singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” once more. Luke gets a call from Red, who suddenly wants to compromise. Luke agrees to meet Red for lunch the next day, but only because he can’t see Red fondling his gun and brainsplatter-Tupperware. While Red’s talking, he notices the scratches on his desk drawer, from where Gareth forced open the lock. Oops.

Luke’s office. CIA “Director’s Director” Bob Isenstadt is waiting for Luke, who has zero fucks to give when Bob threatens him over leaking classified documents. Luke calls in Laurel, so he has a witness to Bob’s threats. Bob tells Luke to stop the sit-in, because they have a witness to the leak. Bob leaves, and Luke tells Laurel he’s bluffing — there is no witness, unless Laurel turned him in. But Laurel realizes one other person knew about the leak: Papa Healy.

Healy mansion. “You Might Think” is playing through the house, which is unusually messy: there are dirty dishes and spilled cups of veggie smoothie all over the table. Laurel finds Papa Healy leaning over the sink. He doesn’t answer her at first, but eventually admits to talking to Isenstadt about the leak. Laurel asks him why he would intentionally hurt his son, but he insists he’s just telling the truth. Laurel isn’t having it, though, and I think the messy house proves that Papa Healy is conflicted about this.

Laurel brings up all the other times Dean has screwed over Luke, including the first time Luke ran for the Senate and lost. Apparently, Papa Healy was so pissed about the loss that he told Luke never to embarrass the family like that again. The memory seems to upset Dean, but Laurel presses on, telling him how Luke used to admire him so much, and how he lost faith in his father after that. Dean gets very emotional as Laurel reminds him of all the ways he’s been a shitty father to Luke. Then she stops because two space bugs crawl out of Dean’s ear. (Gross.) Dean slaps his hand over his ear to stop them, and Laurel begs him to let them out. He refuses and hurries away, but it’s definitely given Laurel something to think about. (M: And possibly have nightmares about.) (D: I didn’t even think about that! This show has conditioned me to not flinch when bugs crawl out of people’s ears. Yet another useless life skill …)

Later, she meets Gustav and Rochelle and tells them what happened. Rochelle thinks Laurel was making Dean experience deep shame, which forced the bugs out of his brain. Gustav doesn’t think politicians are capable of feeling shame, but Rochelle says it’s one of the strongest human emotions, and if there’s any human part of Dean’s brain left they could maybe use this to fight the bugs. Gareth joins them and hands over the badge, then asks to speak to Laurel privately. She seems reluctant, probably because of that whole “I love you” thing.

They walk together for a bit, and Laurel says that she said it automatically, and she’s the commitment-phobe, so he doesn’t need to say anything.

Gareth: What do you mean? What don’t I have to say?
Laurel: Just that we shouldn’t get too serious, you know…
Gareth: Do you think we’re getting too serious?
Laurel: No, I just… wait, what were you gonna say?

Gareth hesitates, and when Laurel asks him again he tells her to chill for a second because he needs a moment. He takes a deep breath and then quietly mumbles, “maybeiloveyoutoo,” but Laurel doesn’t hear him because car horns and street noise drown out his words.

She’s like “what?” and he just laughs and says forget it and starts walking away and OMG YOU’RE KILLING ME, DUDE. Laurel chases him down and tells him she seriously didn’t hear what he said. He looks pained, but he eventually repeats himself.

Gareth: Maybe I love you, too. That’s all. If the world’s gonna end, I thought I should say it.

He tries to leave again, but Laurel tells him he can’t just say something like that and walk away. Especially since she has something more to say.

Aww. See what happens when you USE YOUR WORDS?

Mari: Magic.

Dani: Back home, Gustav modifies Red’s construction site badge while Rochelle researches quick and easy ways to kill cherry tree saplings. The dynamic duo head to the store and buy a shit-ton of salt, then they head to the hothouse site. They’ve put all the salt into a wheelbarrow, cleverly hidden with a flimsy tarp.

Almost immediately they’re stopped by a burly construction dude who chastises Gustav for unchivalrously making the “lady” do the heavy lifting with the wheelbarrow. He takes it from Rochelle and happily guides them to “Plot 9.”

Luckily, Burly Construction Dude isn’t too bright. He totally believes Gustav is Senator Wheatus, and everything seems to be going their way until they spot Anthony Onofrio, the FBI agent who went from hunk to skunk several episodes ago. (M: And how.) Gustav and Rochelle turn away, pretending there’s a very important conference call they need to take. They run from the hothouse, and their hasty departure piques Onofrio’s interest. He looks under the tarp, sees the salt, and gives chase.

Senate floor. Laurel finds Luke and tells him her new shame-the-bugs-away theory. Luke doesn’t think Dean will shame easily, but Laurel tells him he cried when she reminded him about Luke losing the election. Luke scoffs at this, assuming Dean was ashamed of Luke for losing. But Laurel tells him no, he was ashamed by what he said to Luke afterwards. The raw vulnerability on Luke’s face sort of breaks my heart and also makes me really, really want to see Danny Pino in more stuff. (M: I just looked at his IMDB. Nothing on the horizon, so that’s a bummer.) Laurel wants to know what else Dean has said to Luke that they could use to shame him, but Luke tells her it was never about him. Dean always loved Laurel more than Luke. (Many feels. Such ouch.) Luke reminds her of some camera she got for her 9th birthday, because something about it might be the key to shaming Papa Healy.

Healy mansion. Laurel has an ancient-looking video-camera hooked up to a television, and when she presses play a home movie with the date stamp 6-14-1996 plays. It’s adolescent Laurel, filming herself in front of the mirror, saying she got exactly what she wanted for her birthday. Aww.

In the present, Papa Healy comes into the room. Laurel reminds him that he bought her her first camera, but he says he doesn’t remember. He correctly guesses that he missed attending her birthday that year, and he doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by the fact. Hmm, not sure shame is gonna work here.

Back in the movie, 9-year old Laurel get excited because she hears her dad’s car outside. She stays upstairs and films through the railing as Dean comes in. Mama Healy wants to know where the fuck he was and why he missed his daughter’s birthday, and she isn’t buying his “I was at the office and couldn’t get away” excuses. She knows he was off screwing some woman. The couple start fighting, never realizing Laurel is upstairs filming the whole thing.

Back in present day, Dean says that’s enough and tries to turn off the video. But Laurel says she’ll turn it off when it’s done. We see more of the Healy’s fight, which turns vicious and explains some of Laurel’s allergy to commitment. Present-day Dean says he didn’t know she was there and looks thoroughly distraught. On the video, kid-Laurel looks into the camera and says she loves her dad. Then she starts crying. Watching baby Laurel cry is too much for Dean, who collapses onto the floor. Laurel crouches beside him as all the bugs rush from his head.

Over in Red’s office, Luke is pacing while Red tries to make him sit in the same chair that Special Prosecutor Lawrence Boch sat in when Red shot him. But Luke’s had enough sitting at the sit-in. Red unlocks his desk drawer and tells Luke the pacing is making him queasy. Luke stands still and tells Red to start talking. Red says “here’s my offer” as he pulls his gun from the drawer — but Luke’s already turned away to answer his cell phone. It’s well-choreographed, so he doesn’t see a thing. Luke paces near the door of Red’s office, trying to calm Laurel on the phone. In the background, we see Red aiming his gun at Luke, trying to get a steady shot. Luke’s pacing makes it tough, and soon Luke ends his call and tells Red he has to go because his dad is sick. Red puts away his gun and mumbles, “Damn Healys.”

Later that night, Gareth checks on Red and asks him if he needs anything. Gareth is nervous, because it’s 8:30pm, and the Scooby Gang was supposed to have Red’s construction site badge back by 8:00, so Gareth could return it to the senator’s coat pocket. Red asks Gareth if anyone has been in his office, but Gareth says no. Red thinks maybe Gary the Intern has been poking around and asks Gareth to send him in. But Gareth says he’ll talk to Gary. Red calls Gareth a good guy and says sometimes he thinks of Gareth as the son he never had. Gareth says that’s nice, but Red interrupts him and says sometimes he doesn’t. Then he sniffs Gareth weirdly, like maybe he can smell if he’s lying? I dunno… it’s super creepy, though.

Gareth hears Rochelle and Gustav burst into his office, so he rushes to get the badge back from them. Then he returns to Red’s office, but the senator is already putting on his coat. He feels in his pockets and notices the badge is missing. Gareth pretends to find it on the floor, and it isn’t until Red takes it that we see it still has Gustav’s picture on it. Wow. I haven’t seen this level of ineptitude outside of like… an actual episode of Scooby Doo.

Mari: That picture is PERFECT.

We saw them leave the greenhouses a while ago and pretty immediately. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually ran the whole way here.

Dani: Over at the hospital, Luke and Laurel stand in the hallway outside Dean’s room. Laurel says that all her life she wanted Dean to show some sort of shame for what he did to their mom, and now she has… and it feels awful. Luke tears up and they hug.

Mari: You can imagine that she maybe thinks that shame essentially killed him.

Dani: The next morning, Rochelle meets Gustav with a new plan. They still have a week before the bugs move to the hothouses, which means they’re in the trees now. If they can get all the trees to drop their blossoms before the hothouses are complete, the bugs won’t have anywhere to live/reproduce. All they need is a bunch of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Yeah, because that’s something you can buy in bulk without attracting any attention.

Elsewhere, Gareth and Laurel are mid-sexytimes when Laurel tells Gareth about the shame-the-bugs-away plan. Girl, you need to work on your pillow talk…

Gareth doesn’t think Red does shame, but Laurel points out that he was crying last week (when the queen was injured). Gareth thinks about the way Red always calls Laurel “Lana,” which sparks a memory. He pulls up a video clip of Red on a talk show the previous week, when he was breaking down over congressional dysfunction. Red keeps saying the name Lana and cries about how much he misses her. Gareth thinks the photo he saw in Red’s drawer must be of Lana.

Cherry Blossom Central. Rochelle and Gustav park somewhere near the Jefferson Memorial, their car loaded with giant bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Rochelle says they should try not to draw attention to themselves just as a police car pulls up behind them and flashes its lights. WOMP WOMP.

The cop asks for their license and registration, and Rochelle shushes Gustav when he asks what the problem is. She apologizes to the officer, who claims to have pulled them over for speeding. Rochelle says oh hell no, they were definitely NOT speeding. Things escalate when Rochelle pulls out her phone to record everything. The cop tells her she can’t film him, but Rochelle says you only need one party’s consent in D.C. The cop says not when you’re obstructing police business, but Rochelle isn’t about to back down. Next thing we know, several more police cruisers have arrived, and Gustav and Rochelle stand facing the car with their hands on the roof. Rochelle acknowledges this is bad — and it’s about to get worse, because Anthony “Abuse My FBI Power” Onofrio has just arrived on the scene.

Senate floor. Luke brings pizza for the sit-in senators, but he’s stopped by Isenstadt and Red. Red accuses Luke of having his people steal the construction site badge, but Luke has no clue what he’s talking about. Isenstadt tells Luke to stop the sit-in, but Luke says he should check in with his witness again, because he has a feeling he’s no longer available. Red says this isn’t about Papa Healy, and he does a disability-mocking impersonation of Luke’s father that is beyond disgusting and now also apparently … presidential?

Mari: I’d say it’s more like unpresidented.

Dani: A+

Isenstadt tells Luke they don’t need a witness because they have something better: a sex tape. Luke glances to where Scarlet sits, and she gives him a smug little wave. Well, shit. Luke interrupts the sit-in song (do they seriously just sing this one song over and over?) to thank everyone for participating. He tells them they’ve done great things but their work is now done. The senators are shocked and angry, but Luke insists it’s time to let the majority vote. Isenstadt and Red stand in the back, watching with satisfaction. Dammit.

Stop and Frisk Central. Rochelle keeps trying to coach Gustav on how to act, but this isn’t his first rodeo.

Mari: That line. It was a laugh and cringe.

Dani: It really was, just like much of this show. See also: the incoming administration…

Onofrio comes back and asks what all the fertilizer is for, and Gustav says Rochelle bought a tree. Gustav then asks them to check his work ID, as that will explain everything. He tells them it’s in his back pocket, and the moment he says the word “pocket” a dozen cops draw their guns and scream at him not to move (not that he ever did). Gustav again tells them to get his ID, but this time his voice is shaky because there are multiple guns aimed at him and also because he knows that being unarmed and innocent is no guarantee you won’t be shot if your skin isn’t white.

Onofrio pulls out Gustav’s badge, which identifies him as an NSA employee. He tells them he’s a senior intelligence officer, and everyone automatically accepts this with zero verification. How do they know his badge isn’t a fake? Would it kill them to call the NSA and make sure he is who he says he is? Apparently so, because the police officer apologizes to Gustav and tells them they’re free to go (along with the 1,200 pounds of bomb-making ingredients in their back seat). Welp, my faith in law enforcement is restored.

Rochelle is pissed that Gustav never told them he’s with the NSA, but he acts like she should have known. She tells him it’s insane, but I think the word she’s looking for is contrived.

Over in Luke’s offices, Laurel is watching C-SPAN and sees the budget committee vote to proceed on the budget without splitting off the farm bill (and thus the hothouses). Red applauds and then mocks everyone by saying, “We shall not be moved, my ass.” Classy.

Mari: This show always makes me think things like, “how would that be able to happen and no one say anything…” but then I remember our current political state and realize this show is good.

Dani: I almost feel bad for the writers, because other than space bugs nothing anyone said on this show was weirder than what’s actually happened.

Laurel marches into Luke’s office and yells at him for not even bothering to vote. He tells her it wouldn’t have mattered, as Red had the numbers regardless. Laurel’s mad that he’s giving up, but Luke wants her to stop telling him how to do his job and trust him for once. Quellek the budget whisperer, who was at Luke’s desk the whole time, tells both Healys to shush because he needs to focus. He searches through the budget and emerges with the motorcycle helmet bill, which has bipartisan support. Luke and Quellek try to rush out, but Laurel is all WTF? Luke explains that funding for the motorcycle helmet bill — which is public health policy that crosses state lines — overrides the paragraph in the Farm Bill that funded the hothouses. Red lost; he just doesn’t know it yet.

Red’s office. Red reads the motorcycle bill and realizes that funding for it supersedes the farm bill. He’s furious and screams for Gareth. Gareth isn’t in his office — but Laurel is. Red says it’s finally come down to the two of them, and Laurel agrees. He tells her to come into his office, and I’m really wishing Gareth had warned her about that gun in Red’s desk. Laurel sits across from Red, who says it’s time they talked. Oh no.

Cut to Gustav and Rochelle, who are in Laurel’s office fighting about Gustav keeping his NSA status a secret. Gareth comes in looking for Laurel, and they tell him she went upstairs to find him. He looks concerned and hurries off.

Back in Red’s office, Laurel tries her shame tactic by bringing up Lana, Red’s first love. Laurel knows she looks like Lana, and that’s why Red keeps calling her by that name. He denies it, but Laurel pulls her hair back and it’s obvious she’s right. Laurel researched Lana and learned that she worked in Red’s college dorm. Red fell in love with her, but deep-seated racism and general fucked-upedness made him hate his own feelings. Since Lana was an undocumented immigrant, Red turned her in. Lana and her parents were sent back to Guatemala, thanks to Red. Laurel tells Red that Lana is dead now, which Red doesn’t want to believe. The shame thing appears to be working. Laurel encourages Red to let it out, role-playing the part of Lana while pushing him to confront his guilt. But everything goes horribly wrong when Red pulls the gun from his drawer and shoves it in Laurel’s face.

Gareth bursts into the office just then and charges Red. They wrestle for control of the gun, and Laurel joins the fray when the gun gets pointed at Gareth’s face. The three fight for the weapon, and when it eventually goes off everyone just stands there for a moment, looking at one another. (M: Classic.) Then Red hollers in pain, because they shot him in the butt. Hey, you know what that means!

With her host injured, the queen space bug zips from Red’s head and flies toward the door. Gareth and Laurel chase after her, but before they can reach her Gary the Intern opens the door — and steps right on her, killing her with one giant squish. Score one for the interns!

Mari: It’s nearly anticlimactic to have the intern enter stage right and unknowingly step on the bug. I giggled a lot.

Dani: I legit LOL’d.

Gary apologizes for making a mess and promises to clean it up. Then there’s a horrible screeching sound, as all the bugs in D.C. exit the brains of people and head to their dead queen. Thousands of bugs crawl through the halls of the Russell Building, streaming under Red’s door. Gareth and Laurel end up climbing on top of Red’s desk as the bugs form a massive circle around the squished queen.

Back outside, Rochelle and Gustav are waiting for the ammonium nitrate to make the cherry blossoms fall from the tree. Rochelle is still sniping at Gustav for making them run around doing crazy shit for the past 13 episodes when he had NSA clearance and all sorts of government connections. He says he was on leave (imagine yourself as Gustav’s boss for a moment…), and he also thinks the only reason it’s bothering Rochelle so much is because she has a massive crush on him. She eyerolls and leaves, but the sight of some fallen cherry blossoms stops her. Then the wind blows, and pretty much all the blossoms fall from the tree. Gustav and Rochelle hug as the blossoms rain down around them, and Rochelle needs to get on board because my heart will always ship these two.

Mari: I’m almost certain Gustav is right. I think it was easier for Rochelle to dismiss him when he was a random weirdo. Now he’s an employed weirdo with government clearance and well…

Dani: Back in Red’s office, the massive mountain of space bugs is slowly dying, and our singing recapper returns to wrap up the season.

With Luke moving to NYC right before another massive financial crash, they set up the premise for Season 2 perfectly. CBS declined to renew the show, but we can always hope for someone like Amazon to revive it. Make it happen, Bezos!

Mari: I’ll keep the hope alive. For now, though, this show gets filed away in Traumaland with our other one-season wonder, FireflyAnd that is some very good company.

Thank you for joining us on this journey! 


Dani (all posts)

I’m a serial procrastinator with mild OCD, so instead of writing my next novel I’m probably counting the ice cubes in my drink to make sure it’s an even number. I am also low-key obsessed with Dutch painters, Norse mythology, and Canadian bacon.

Marines (all posts)

I'm a 20-something south Floridan who loves the beach but cannot swim. Such is my life, full of small contradictions and little trivialities. My main life goals are never to take life too seriously, but to do everything I attempt seriously well. After that, my life goals devolve into things like not wearing pants and eating all of the Zebra Cakes in the world. THE WORLD.




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  • I have to say hat Gustav being NSA was my favorite part of the episode. It made all the crazy stuff with the phones in earlier episodes just that much better.

    Also bummed about the cancellation of this show because its a quirky, fun, little show that probably should have never been on one of big 4 networks. If it had been on USA, it probably would have gotten a second season.

    • I liked that turn of events too, primarily because I had written him off in a way? I guess I just made assumptions about him that his announcement about being NSA made me confront. It was well done in that regard.

      So bummed. It was some of my favorite media of 2016 so of course. Of course. And I agree that a big network wasn’t the place for it, which makes the cancellation even sadder.

  • Blinvy .

    I was so sad this wasn’t renewed. Network execs be crazy.

    I wish they’d concluded something about Luke’s wife and daughter. Poor baby Grace. Maybe they were saving it for season 2? That we’ll now never get to see. :'(