Season 1, Episode 3
High Plains Hardware
Gordon and Cameron struggle to make Joe's vision a reality; Joe and Bosworth seek funds.
Halt and Catch Fire is currently not in season.
The crying of the Clark girls can be heard emanating from the house as Gordon contemplates what to do about a dying bird he finds on his front lawn. Brian Braswell, his neighbor and colleague, counsels Gordon to let nature take its course and offers him a lift to work. "Hey man, don't sweat today," Brian encourages Gordon. "You can do this."
At the office, Gordon is tasked with firing the employees Cardiff Electric can no longer afford due to IBM's recent raid. A group of them wait outside his office door, each in line to be terminated. Terrible at this, Gordon quickly falls behind schedule, prompting Randy, one of the marked employees, to burst in and berate him for the ruin he and Joe MacMillan have brought to "this once great company." Gordon has no choice but to take the abuse until Randy storms out.
Joe tells the skeleton crew of surviving engineers that by year's end Cardiff Electric will release a computer that is portable, weighs less than 15 pounds, has two floppy disk drives, and an integrated screen and keyboard. The engineers scoff. After the meeting, Joe complains to Gordon about the "attitude" of his team. Gordon quickly points out that he just fired 46 people and that his team is now necessarily made up of the only men left with any micro-processing experience.
As terminated employees empty their cubicles, Cameron scavenges their still warm office supplies. The remaining engineers file into a staff meeting room that is to be the nerve center of their new PC project and get to work. Gordon and Brian brainstorm ways to increase the PC's speed without overheating its components, but the engineering challenge proves more difficult than anticipated. Brian jokes that the team will ultimately end up killing each other in this room. "Let's call it the Kill Room," Gordon quips and the space is thus christened.
Toward finding a new way to fund the PC project, Joe asks Bosworth to meet with Aaron Littlefield, a venture capitalist and personal friend from New York. Bosworth reluctantly takes the meeting. Discussing a potential partnership, Littlefield suggests installing an outside upper manager within Cardiff Electric to whom Bosworth would report. Bosworth, suspicious of this new money, bristles at the idea and kills the deal with talk of selling the Cardiff computer at county fairs using "can-do Texas spirit."
At Texas Instruments, Donna discusses a project with Hunt, her childhood friend and current boss. As she leaves, Hunt reminds her to turn in a report that he is eagerly awaiting.
Meanwhile, Cameron struggles to write BIOS code. Nothing she writes feels up to her standards. Having hit an impasse, she calls Joe perhaps hoping to clear her mind through sex. She hangs up when his secretary, Debbie, recognizes her voice.
At Brian's suggestion, Gordon sends the engineers home early to buy some goodwill while the two neighbors continue to work long into the night. Stymied, Brian convinces Gordon to essentially admit defeat by telling Joe that the machine he's specified is unbuildable.
At the Clark residence, Donna's mother complains about Gordon's absence and his failure to shoulder an equal part of their domestic burden. "I love my son in-law, but I don't want to see you worn down to a nub," she tells Donna. She then inquires about Hunt, whom she remembers fondly from Donna's youth. He and his Canadian wife have just moved back to town and Hunt is rumored to be a rising star at Texas Instruments.
Joe meets Nathan Cardiff for lunch, hoping to circumvent Bosworth's resistance to outside venture capital behind the SVP's back. Cardiff surprises Joe however by inviting Bosworth to the meal and ruling that he (Bosworth) will make all financial decisions for the company going forward. Cardiff reveals that he has arranged a meeting with LouLu Lutherford, a local heiress and potential investor interested in the company's PC program.
After a long night at the office, Gordon finally returns home. He asks Donna for input on the computer's motherboard design. Folding the sketch in half, Donna shows Gordon he could double his processing power with a negligible increase in space by piggybacking two boards atop one another in a layered array.
That night, part fancy and part procrastination Cameron dances around the empty bullpen. To her surprise, she discovers that Bosworth is still in his office, educating himself on personal computers. At the end of their chance encounter, Bosworth stops Cameron in her tracks. "You can work here as late as you'd like," Bosworth tells her. "But you cannot live here."
The next day, Donna dashes over to Hunt's office with the report she owes him, overdue because she stayed up late to help Gordon. Already on the phone with his bosses, Hunt angrily takes the report and slams the door in Donna's face. Back at Cardiff, Gordon presents the idea for the layered array to his team. They are just beginning to engage with it when Brian kills the idea by saying that no one will mass-produce a motherboard from scratch for Cardiff Electric. Gordon reluctantly erases the new schematic.
Cameron receives her first paycheck and is pleasantly surprised by the amount. After being cooped-up in the office wrestling with the BIOS problem for days, she decides that this is the perfect excuse to get out of the building and clear her mind. Cameron goes to a local convenience store and loads up on junk food. As soon as she walks out however, Cameron is confronted by a group of punks who attempt to scam her for some vodka they can all drink in the alley behind the store. Though initially hesitant, Cameron quickly hatches an idea of her own.
Bosworth introduces Joe to LouLu at her sumptuous dinner party. Sensing Cardiff Electric's position of weakness, LouLu offers to buy 80% of the PC project for $10 million, an insultingly low amount. Joe tells Bosworth that the offer is "insane," and LouLu seems to enjoy watching him squirm.
Over dinner, Joe finally loses it and tells LouLu that her "mediocrity" and self-absorption would destroy the computer project. He dresses her down in front of all her dinner guests. Unfazed, LouLu turns to Bosworth and asks, "Do we have a deal?" Bosworth says that they do to Joe's frustration. LouLu orders her trophy husband, Travis, to fetch some brandy to celebrate. Joe steadily watches him as he leaves.
Having paid for a hotel room with her newfound buying power, Cameron parties with the punks from the alley. She takes a swig of vodka and attempts to dance with them, but real connection eludes her. Feeling even more alone than before, Cameron holes-up in the hotel bathroom and is suddenly struck with inspiration. She scribbles code onto the mirror with lipstick, but it still isn't good enough. Frustrated, she crosses it out and scribbles something else. Finally, she smashes the lipstick and leaves the party and the poseur punks behind.
Joe follows Travis into the library. Travis admits that he knows nothing about brandy, but Joe doesn't say anything. Instead, Joe approaches Travis, touching his hand as it reaches for the requested brandy. He then aggressively kisses Travis, and Travis reciprocates the advance as the sexual encounter evolves. Joe is able to torpedo the deal with this maneuver as he deftly makes LouLu aware of what has happened between Travis and himself.
As Joe and Bosworth return to their cars, Bosworth can't comprehend why LouLu pulled out of the deal so abruptly. Without answering Bosworth's question, Joe proposes that the company should reduce its production timeline to three months, build a prototype on their own dime, then unveil it to investors at COMDEX, the annual industry expo.
Meanwhile, Brian drives a preoccupied Gordon home and carelessly misses a stop sign. After crashing into another vehicle and causing Gordon to hit his head on the dashboard, Brian blames everyone but himself for the accident. Gordon finally sees Brian clearly for who he is and makes a decision. "You're fired," he tells his neighbor and gets out of the car.
After leaving the hotel, Cameron shows up at Joe's apartment. He opens the door, surprised. "I'm stuck," she admits then walks toward his bedroom beginning to undress.
Late that night, Bosworth is still studying computer manuals in his office. Finally, he shuts off the lights and prepares to sleep on the couch. We realize that Bosworth has been living in his office for some time now and that all is not well at home for Cardiff Electric's SVP.
Upon Gordon's return home, Donna tells him that the injured bird is somehow still alive and suffering on their front lawn. Donna asks him to put it out of its misery, but overwhelmed by the day's events, Gordon refuses to do it.
Left with no other choice, Donna goes into the garage herself and grabs a High Plains Hardware shovel. She looks down at the bird, its breathing labored and now covered with ants. Through the window she watches her husband, hunched over, staring off into space. She sighs, lifts the shovel and does what needs to be done.