Season 1, Episode 2
After surviving a visit from IBM, Joe's team must overcome internal differences and begin the technical feat of building the new machine.
True to form, IBM has "filled the skies with lawyers," determined to kill the nascent Cardiff Electric PC program before it can even get off the ground. In an attempt to sow "fear, uncertainty, and doubt," the lawyers interview each compromised Cardiff Electric employee separately. They ask Gordon when Joe first came to him with the idea to reverse-engineer an IBM PC. "That's factually incorrect," Gordon responds. John Bosworth and Nathan Cardiff approached me about a new PC program." Cameron meanwhile is informed that she'll be the first to go to jail should she open the binder that outlines IBM proprietary BIOS code.
Later, in a one-on-one standoff, IBM's Dale Butler concedes that IBM has no basis for prosecution yet. Joe assures Dale that Cardiff's PC will not contain copyrighted material and that any coding similarities will purely be coincidental. "You know the legal loophole as well as I do," Joe says. Before he leaves, Dale asks if anyone at Cardiff Electric knows about the circumstance under which Joe left IBM. Joe doesn't respond.
With the IBM threat seemingly vanquished, Cameron asks Joe what they'll actually be building. "2X FAST 1/2 PRICE," Joe writes on a whiteboard. Gordon tells Joe that what he's asking for is physically impossible while Cameron calls the idea "boring."
A secretary escorts Cameron to her new office, known as the "clean room." Here, she will independently recreate a BIOS for Cardiff Electric’s PC without infringing on any of IBM's copyrighted code. Barry tells Cameron he's legally required to stay at her side and keep her separate from Gordon, lest Gordon divulges to her anything he learned while reverse-engineering the BIOS.
Bosworth begrudgingly introduces Joe to the office as "Senior Product Manager" of Cardiff Electric's new PC division. Joe gives a rousing speech, outlining his vision, and garners applause by saying the Cardiff PC "just might put a ding in the universe." Moments later, Gordon calls Joe out for lifting the quote from Steve Jobs. Joe is unfazed. "I know," he says, "isn't it great?"
In the clean room, Joe shuts off Cameron's cassette player, which blares loud music. It quickly becomes apparent that they differ in their visions for the PC. Cameron argues that no one will care about their PC if it's merely a knock-off. Joe counters that lowering the cost and doubling the speed will make PCs more accessible to the general public, but fails to win her over. "You're just a salesman," she concludes.
Meanwhile, Gordon returns home to tell Donna that Cardiff has prevailed over IBM, and that he now has his own office. With a new wind in his sails, he carries her to the bedroom and they make love. Afterwards, Donna asks her husband who will be writing the BIOS for Cardiff Electric. Gordon tells her a programmer named Cameron, but in a sin of omission, allows Donna to think that Cameron is an accomplished male engineer.
Joe finds Barry asleep alone in the clean room – Cameron, it seems, has gone missing. He tells Barry he'll handle her from now on and finally finds Cameron working in an abandoned storeroom where he accuses her of slacking. When Joe offers to help, Cameron sardonically solicits his thoughts on the code she's writing. Out of his depth, Joe knows he’s being mocked but stays put. Cameron, at an impasse with the work, seemingly has a change of heart. "Alright," she says as she unbuckles his pants. "You really want to help?"
Afterwards, Gordon privately shares his concerns about Cameron with Joe, who agrees and says that they should let her go as soon as she finishes the BIOS.
Donna visits Gordon at Cardiff Electric and meets Cameron in the bathroom. Gordon asks Donna what she thinks of his office. She smiles, but says nothing, still processing Gordon's lie of omission. Back at home after feeling guilty all day, Gordon finally blurts out the truth, but reassures Donna that Cameron will be gone soon.
Joe visits Cameron again, imploring her to pick up the pace. He shoves the BIOS binder onto her, forcing her to spill orange soda on her shirt. "If I copy that code, I go to jail," she reminds him. Joe tells her to change the code just enough to stay out of trouble.
Realizing she has nothing to change into, Cameron goes to the mall to buy clothes more appropriate for the office, but as she tries on each outfit, she finds herself hating all of the styles and what they represent. These clothes are not her. Instead, she shoplifts a pack of t-shirts from the boys' section. As she exits the mall, a group of men pursue her. As they catch up to her, she throws up her hands in surrender. But they are not security guards at all. They are lawyers from IBM, hoping to discuss "an opportunity" with her.
Back at the office, the phones begin ringing off the hook as clients flock to IBM en masse. "We're being raided," Joe tells Bosworth. In the aftermath, Alan, the accountant, assesses the damage – Cardiff has lost 15 accounts and more than 68% of their billings. He estimates that at this rate, the company can survive for two more months. Bosworth erupts at Gordon and Joe for costing half the office their jobs. "Tell me you have a plan, Joe," Gordon pleads with his partner.
Caught completely off guard by the raid, Joe rushes to the basement where he finds no sign of Cameron or the binder. Gordon worries that she’s bringing it to IBM, but stops mid-sentence when he sees some of Cameron’s BIOS code scribbled onto the wall. "It's brilliant," he marvels.
At the end of the day, Joe steps out of his office to find everyone glaring at him. His plan is unraveling. On his way home, he stops by a HiFi store that's going out of business. "How could you not see this coming?" he asks the shop’s bewildered clerk. One by one, he cranks the volume up on each stereo in the store, wrapping himself in senseless noise, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. He's about to lose everything, and he doesn't have a plan.
Dale visits Joe at home and offers him back wages for his time as an IBM employee. "I did over two million dollars in damage to the data center," Joe responds incredulously. Dale says it was recouped in the subsequent insurance claim and offers Joe his job back. Joe refuses.
"Well, I promised your old man I'd give it a shot," Dale says. As he departs, Joe fixates on Dale's briefcase.
Late at night in the empty Cardiff Electric parking lot, Gordon confronts Cameron and asks if she gave the binder to IBM. Cameron fights back, revealing that IBM offered her a job with triple the salary, but she didn't take it. The binder is still in the trash bin, where she left it.
Joe pulls up and excitedly shares his new idea: "It's gonna have a handle." He explains his vision for a truly portable PC. But Gordon scoffs at Joe's detachment from reality, and at the height of an emotional three-way argument, Gordon lunges at Joe for risking his livelihood and future. As the two men grapple, Gordon tears Joe's shirt open, revealing a deep network of scarring on Joe's chest. Joe says he was attacked by bullies on the day of the 1958 NFL Championship, because he was more interested in watching Sputnik come down. He concludes his story by describing how deeply Gordon and Cameron inspired him, and urges them they still have a shot at building a truly great machine. "Progress depends on our changing the world to fit us, not the other way around," he insists. "Something tells me you both need this just as much as I do."
The next morning, Joe smiles when Gordon and Cameron show up for work, his emotional appeal the night before having seemingly been successful. Before she begins her day however, Cameron stops by Joe's office. She brings up the story he told in the parking lot and points out that the NFL game happened an entire year after Sputnik came down and therefore cannot be true. "Is that right?" Joe smiles.