BrainDead “Back to Work…” Review (Season 1 Episode 5)

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On the latest episode of “BrainDead”– and the first in its new Sunday night time-slot- we found out whether or not Agent Onofrio (Charlie Semine) was really infected by the Brain Bugs, made a little bit of headway on how the bugs work, and Laurel almost got a deal to help out her team’s research with the CDC, only for it to fall through when most everyone scoffed at the whole bug thing, in (deep breath) “Back to Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Congress and How It Gets Things Done (and Often Doesn’t).”

We picked up basically where we left off, as Laurel talked to Onofrio the morning after their first hook-up, only for him not to hear her through his open ear- which just so happens to be one of the signs of bug infection. Though Onofrio laid the blame on it to tinnitus, less easy to explain was the fact that he washed her sheets in the middle of the night, supposedly because he was a neat freak.

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Or that he was hesitant to kiss Laurel afterwards, seeming to be in one heck of a hurry to get out of there. Later on, he would lay the blame on the fact that he was a recovering alcoholic and had a bit too much to drink the night of the hook-up, while also admitting that he had a significant other he’d lied about, which Laurel found out about the hard way when she came over to Onofrio’s apartment right when she and Gustav were attempting to test him for bugs, after Gustav slipped Onofrio a mickey.

Gustav’s methods were certainly interesting: he put pieces of bacon on Onofrio’s ears, claiming that the bugs were attracted to bacon! Onofrio later put off his situation upon awakening on the drinking: “Last night, I hit bottom. I just blacked out. Woke up with food in my ears.” Lol. Alas, it all happened before the two were able to definitively prove that Onofrio was infected or not.

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On the plus side, after a talk with Luke, Laurel was able to make some headway with their progress in a different way, when he hooked them up with a local entomologist, Dr. Alaimo (guest star Margo Martindale, “The Americans”) to help them prepare for a potential meet with the CDC to plead their case about the bugs.

Though Alaimo scoffed at the screwworm theory, she did point out something that the rest of the team hadn’t noticed: there was a pattern to the bugs’ behavior. Noticing that the bugs seem to be clustered around certain areas, she and Gustav went in search for clues to where they might be coming from or even nesting, with Gustav using a high frequency noise machine, thinking it might alert them to the infected by the noise causing them to react.

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The machine seemed to go off when Onofrio was in the vicinity, but it actually affected a passer-by with a hearing aid, not Onofrio himself, so it was a little un-definitive, hence the whole bacon shenanigans later on. It also didn’t go off when Gustav was near a cherry blossom tree, despite the fact that we know the bugs to be connected to the flowers.

Alas, the bugs were about, as some of them snuck into Dr. Alaimo’s backpack, later infecting her, and causing her to deny the bug thing to Luke’s connection in the CDC, and furthermore, making him into a laughingstock at work, as people taunted him for his buggy beliefs. This, in turn, led Luke to drop Laurel’s pet cause, setting the team back even further just when they were starting to get somewhere.

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Indeed, it was a rough week all around for Luke and Laurel in general, as another pet cause of hers, involving a Afghan War vet, Brett Middleton (Brandon J. Dirden, also of “The Americans”- methinks someone involved in the show is a big fan), who was having trouble getting in clinical trials that could help him recover from a debilitating illness because of the Republicans holding up the financing for such trials in Congress.

Initially, Luke sought to get the process okayed via a vote in a meeting of Congress, but was stunned when Red spearheaded a rejection of the idea, saying Luke was only doing it to make himself and the Democrats look good, as he had proceeded the meeting with a photo op with the vet. So, in exchange, he asked that a kiosk be renamed for- who else?- Ronald Reagan, instead of a man named Sharie, which he felt sounded too much like “Sharia,” as in Sharia Law.

Back to Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Congress and How it Gets Things Done (And Often Doesn't)

In my favorite pile-on of the episode, another Republican also objected to the work “kiosk,” because it sounded “too French.” Instead, they suggested it be renamed the “Reagan Concession.” Lol. This all reminded me of the silliness after 9/11 when France refused to support the US invasion of Iraq (which proved to be the right response, ultimately, IMHO) and some wags decided to “retaliate” in the most ridiculous way possible, re-dubbing French fries “Freedom Fries.”

Luke then considered exposing the Republicans for being horrible people who would let one of their own, supposedly beloved, military men die before letting health care take care of the financing for said trials, before Laurel pointed out that he would, in effect, be sentencing the poor guy to die to prove a point!

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So, Luke conceded the win in exchange for letting Red take the credit for making it happen, and Red got both a photo op and a press conference for his “troubles.” The Republicans also got their Reagan memorial concession stand, albeit redubbed the “Reagan Hut,” which sounds like a pizza place I’d probably skip.

As ever, the most frightening thing about this is how close to plausible it all sounds from happening for real. Some have complained that the show favors the liberals far more than the conservatives, and I suppose there’s some truth to that, though the show isn’t afraid to tweak the Dems on occasion, either. Still, like I said, we live in a world in which “Freedom Fries” were once a thing, so…you be the judge which side lends themselves to silliness more.

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Beyond all that, the biggest development was, of course, the fact that, despite many people’s prediction (including my own) that the whole Onofrio being infected was a fake-out, it was indeed proved to be the case, though it seems likely it happened until after he and Laurel hooked up, as he didn’t start acting weird until then.

Thankfully, the show did point out what myself and others also did, which was the fact that they didn’t also do so to Laurel, despite her being right there in the room, too. What it didn’t do is give a satisfactory answer to that question, unfortunately. Perhaps we’ll find out later on in the season. Either way, the show ended on a big-time cliffhanger, as it was heavily implied that Laurel herself was infected, which was something I never thought “BrainDead” would do.

Back to Work: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Congress and How it Gets Things Done (And Often Doesn't)

In what was arguably the scariest thing on the entire series to date, Agent Onofrio broke- and he broke bad- when Laurel confronted him when he got a little too aggressive with her, trying to force her to “accept” the bugs from him, thus confirming he had them in the process. Showing up with a host of stuff- including the all-important bouquet of cherry blossoms- and an apology for his standoffish-ness, he tried to make it up to Laurel for all he’d done.

Unfortunately for Onofrio, Laurel had already gotten suspicious of him by this point, and even worse for him, she still had possession of some brass knuckles Gustav had tried to give her earlier in the episode. Though she’d turned him down at the time, she had pocketed them anyway, which is how she still had them on hand when Onofrio all but attacked her.

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Slugging away at him repeatedly, we got a first-hand look at how the bugs also seem to affect the person they’re infecting in another adverse way, by making them decidedly hard to put down. Nonetheless, Laurel managed to run Onofrio off, and though she got rid of everything else he’d brought with him as a peace offering, sadly, she did not get rid of the flowers.

It was right around the time Laurel went to bed, the flowers close by, that Gustav finally discovered the connection between the bugs and the blossoms, but when he tried to call and warn Laurel, she’d already turned off her phone. On the plus side, Gustav had given her some anti-bug goodies to protect her, which she used to her advantage, save one crucial element: the padded headphones he’d given her.

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This proved to be her potential undoing, as we saw the bugs handily get past the padding and insulation she’d laid down, crawl up on her bed and head right down her ear canal as Laurel sprung up in her bed and the show ended. Did she wake up in time to evade the bugs? Was it a real fake-out this time and just a nightmare? Let’s hope so, because, while admittedly an unpredictable way to go, that would kind of suck if the lead went down this early in the season.

I mean, seriously, CBS, first Chloe on “Zoo” and now this? To say nothing of the unexpected and not entirely supportive time-slot change! Are you all actively trying to tick off viewers? Sheesh. I’m not saying I’ll stop watching the show if Laurel is infected, but it would suck, as she’s easily one of the most likeable, if not THE most likeable character on the show.

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I certainly don’t mind Gustav or the Doc, but seriously, Laurel was our way into the show, so if she’s lost to us…yeah, that wouldn’t be good, even if it is a shocker. Luke certainly wouldn’t be a valid substitute. After all, the guy has already cheated on his pregnant wife twice, and tonight even considered letting a man die to further his career! Granted, Luke didn’t in the end, but still, without Laurel as his sounding board, he’ll go even further down the spiral fast.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see, but it certainly didn’t look good for Laurel, that’s for sure. What do you think her chances are? If she is infected, will Gustav and the Doc find a way to get the bugs out? Will they ever get the support of the CDC? What do you think will happen next? Make your predictions down below and I’ll see you next Sunday!