cbs elsbeth overnights recaps tv tv recaps

Elsbeth Recap: Death By Corporate-speak


Photo: Michael Parmelee/CBS

Without hammering away at viewers with the idea, embedded within Elsbeth is the argument that the murderers Elsbeth and Kaya catch each week are bad both because of their social contract-breaking violence and because of what, at their core, these people represent. It varies slightly from week to week, but by catching these particular bad guys, our heroines are ridding New York of a particularly insidious pest: solo practitioners of winning at all costs and of protecting their own wealth, power, and privilege. Until “Artificial Genius,” there’s been no possibility of these bad guys making any plausible argument for their actions serving the greater good. (Yes, not even the offing of Linda Lavin’s terrifying co-op doyenne in “A Classic New York Character.”)

This week, Elsbeth and Kaya strike another blow against aggressive self-interest and the scourge of AI by beating would-be tech superstar Quinn Powers (Elizabeth Lail) at her own tech-exploiting game. Days before what would have been an initially successful IPO, no less!

Quinn is the hard-driving yet deeply vulnerable pretty young blonde woman who has taken a high school trauma — being mugged steps from her front door as she walked home from a One Direction concert — and, upon its ashes, built a seemingly robust crowdsourced crime-foiling app, Cerberus. Yes, like the multi-headed dog protecting the gates of the underworld in Greek mythology.

Between her girl next door looks and laser-focused business acumen, Quinn seems poised for unstoppable success. You can tell she’s onto a good thing by the room full of dark gray suit-clad, great uncle-aged investors hanging on her every word in the cold open. In other words, she’s not Elizabeth Holmes, but she’s not entirely not Elizabeth Holmes.

Quinn also proves to be an expert at strategically deploying her status as a trauma survivor, implicitly inviting others to protect and excuse her at every turn. It’s a method that works with nearly everyone, but not with Josh Johnson (Eric William Morris), the stiletto-sharp investigative journalist who approaches her outside the Cerberus offices to request a statement to include in his forthcoming exposé of both her secrets and those within Cerberus itself. He claims to know and have included them all, and he does mean all.

Well. Quinn simply can’t have this pesky journalist ruin all her plans. The Cerberus partnership with the NYPD is going so well, and the IPO is launching soon! She immediately shifts to damage control mode, but unlike most corporate reputation protectors, she doesn’t ask her legal department to draft a cease-and-desist letter, seek an injunction, or even just request some detail about what he’d like her to comment on. Instead, Quinn is inspired by Josh’s dog, a purebred border terrier named Gonzo, to fabricate a dognapper stalking his neighborhood, and then uses Cerberus to gin up a panic about it. In the process, she twists an underling’s arm to circumvent her own quality control requirements — only crimes with ten citizen reports or a confirmed police report can be included — and then uses the ensuing furor around it to mask her murder plot.

But that’s just part one! Quinn also pre-records a 90-minute presentation on the forthcoming IPO and hits play in her all-staff online meeting, but not before demonstrating what an exceptionally gifted abuser of corporate-speak like “accountability” and performative land acknowledgments. After issuing a “humble reminder: don’t talk to the press!” and using her all-caps voice to instruct everyone not to interrupt her, it’s time to set her stopwatch and make use of this ready-made alibi.

Heading over to to Josh’s place in Park Slope armed with a large food service delivery duffel and a cattle prod the same size as her cane (I’m not here to gatekeep assistive devices, and will merely note that Quinn’s use of the cane is very strongly hinted to be cosmetic rather than functional), Quinn confirms that Josh is moving forward with his exposé before beating him to death and then using his corpse’s eyeball to get through his laptop’s security to swap his draft with one of her own. That off-handed use of Josh’s eye, as if he were a thing rather than a person, is the most ice-cold element of the murder. Quinn can’t stick around forever, though — she’s got a Gonzo to dognap and release in the park, and a Q&A to attend. It’s too bad she doesn’t first notice that Gonzo has absconded with her trademark headband, but she has no time for such trifles!

Detective Edwards (Micaela Diamond) from “An Ear For An Ear” is back, and predictably, she loves Cerberus, enthusing to Quinn that “I really think it’s going to change our field … some of these dinosaurs better start taking lessons” in technology. The convenience of Cerberus Blue’s AI, which combs user submissions to create demographic profiles and composite images of alleged perpetrators, is a huge time-saver, and everyone needs to get up to date with it, or “[’they’ll] all be out of jobs in five years!” I need everyone to take a very deep breath and agree that continuing education is super-important in every field, and an app that’s not even out of beta yet is not going to force the collapse of a unionized and powerful organization like the NYPD in the next five years.

All of that is moot as far as Elsbeth and Kaya are concerned because the AI-generated suspect image is unusable garbage, and Elsbeth is suspicious of the entire dognapper furor. Park Slope’s most enthusiastic dog-walker, Mimi (Madeline Seidman), thinks it’s a big nothingburger, because the only missing dog she recognizes from her vast client list is Gonzo. All of those other dogs could easily be fake. Detective Edwards is dismissive, but Kaya notes that Cerberus is keeping the dognapper story at the top of their feed in spite of more recent and more dire problems in Park Slope, including a parking garage collapse and multiple manhole fires. Hm!

What saves the day is a combination of technological tools of widely varying vintages, good old gumshoe detective work, and Elsbeth’s trademark intuitive leaps. Kaya’s encyclopedic knowledge of Josh’s work helps her spot something very off in the tone and voice of his now-fawning profile of Quinn, leading to the discovery that an AI generator, Smart Cheat, produced it. What does a meticulous Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter need with the likes of Smart Cheat? Meanwhile, Elsbeth talks a Cerberus underling into sharing his recording of the all-staff meeting from the night of Josh’s murder, leading her to notice that Quinn’s omnipresent headband is missing during the Q&A — odd for someone so fastidious about this branding touch.

Pulling everything together is Elsbeth and Kaya’s discovery that Josh had a copy of Quinn’s high school yearbook and half of one page had been part of his Quinn Research Cork Board Collage. Someone removed it in a hurry, so off they go to enlist the help of Quinn’s high school librarian. She’s clearly approaching retirement age, but boy is she sharp as a tack, furnishing a copy of the yearbook in question and then goes very old-school with a real live phone book to help them track down Quinn’s former bestie, Ellen Davis, quipping, “If you need something, ask a librarian!” As a former librarian myself, I have to agree!

Following a revelatory conversation with Ellen — she created the data system Cerberus is built on and wanted to scrap it for ethical reasons once she realized that it was too flawed to distinguish between fake and real crimes, and reveals that Quinn’s trauma is real, but that she “gets triggered” on purpose and her limp is very exaggerated — Elsbeth administers the coup de grâce by planting a fake crime story with Quinn about a creepy ex-clown/sex offender in her building. The uncorroborated story immediately pops up on Cerberus behind a paywall, proving that users are paying to receive inaccurate information, and the company is profiting from it.

To her credit, Detective Edwards immediately acknowledges that Elsbeth and Kaya were right about the fake dogs and bogus AI-generated suspect composites. True progress is possible! Securing physical evidence tying Quinn to the crime scene is a bit trickier, involving Gonzo’s reappearance and Elsbeth taking note of the tenacious dog’s habit of hiding things under stoves, but as always, Elsbeth gets her (wo)man in the end.

Meanwhile, on the show within the show, Captain Wagner: Bad Guy or Good Guy?, things are looking officially Not Great for the (presumably) good captain. Elsbeth’s review of the documents pertaining to the Payne Wagner Foundation’s relationship with Flair-All shows that they’re all signed by him alone. A full DOJ investigation is likely imminent, which would be catastrophic to the Foundation and to Claudia’s career.

Wagner decides to get ahead of the incoming firestorm, setting up a meeting with Wally (Ajay Naidu), saying there’s no point in trying to get to the bottom of things with Noonan. After some skeptical questions from Wally and pleading answers from Wagner, Wally is convinced that Wagner was acting from ignorance, not malice, and agrees to tell him everything so Wagner can fix it. Horrified to learn that the warehouse is a deathtrap of a sweatshop generating low-quality clothes that are then distributed as giveaways through the Payne Wagner Foundation. Hundreds of people are working in illegal conditions in their name, and by gum, with Wally’s information, Wagner is going to implement a plan to take down the person responsible!

Without having viewed the final two episodes of the season, here’s my prediction: Claudia and Lieutenant Noonan have been colluding for years. Captain Wagner, heartbroken but devoted, will take the rap for Claudia. My fear is that the situation is worse than that, with the supposedly ignorant Wagner acting as a mastermind all along, but I’m fervently hoping that that scenario is a little too “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” for Elsbeth. Fingers crossed!

Just One More Thing

• This series’ costuming continues to be a delight. When we first meet Quinn, she’s in full boardroom battle dress: a v-neck black jumpsuit layered over an oversized charcoal gray matte silk shirt buttoned all the way up, accessorized with a dark headband, chunky silver hoops, and two very early 2000s prom-style strands of hair peeking out of the headband to frame her face. We know so much about her before she says a word.

• Kudos to Elizabeth Lail for the perfect execution of Quinn’s deeply fake-sincere passive aggressive corporate-speak, which provides this episode’s funniest moment. Elsbeth introduces herself as being from Chicago, and in New York as part of the PD’s consent decree. Quinn, alert only to buzzwords, immediately and meaninglessly replies, “Oh, consent — so important.” Reader, I hooted aloud.


Sophie Brookover , 2024-05-10 05:00:16

Source link

Related posts

Drew Carey Doubles Down on his Insane Phish Tweets


Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Has No Curfew


The 12 Best Movies and TV Shows to Watch This Weekend


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy