BrainDead “The Power of Euphemism…” Review (Season 1 Episode 7)

BrainDead 1

On the latest episode of “BrainDead,” Laurel found herself on the wrong side of the law yet again, while the rest of the team- with the help of a potential new recruit- scrambled to help her out before it was too late, in “The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics.”

We began with Laurel attempting to come clean about her actions- and everything else- to Gareth, in order to explain her weird behavior as of late, including their beyond bizarre sexual encounter, which would have sent even the mildly kinky running for the door.

Naturally, Gareth was disbelieving, even when Laurel pointed out several people watching them, and bet him that one of them, who was wearing headphones, was listening to- what else?- The Cars’ “You Might Think,” which proved correct when she confronted them. Of course, given the story and the circumstances, who can blame him?

Meanwhile, Red set another plan into motion to bring Laurel down, when he called FBI Director Louis Marchant (Jeremy Shamos, “Nurse Jackie”) and put forth a theory that the CHI’s were Islamic terrorist-related, which the man was understandably dubious of, but nonetheless, agreed to meet with Red to discuss the matter…at the gym!

While this call was going on, a new, bigger bug, this one with the ability to fly, crawled out of his ear and onto a bouquet of cherry blossoms, where it lay some eggs. He then gave them to an intern- who spots the bug and tries to swat it, which Red admonishes him for- and told him to take the flowers home, which he apparently does.

BrainDead 6

The next day, Red and Louis meet at said gym, with the intern present and accounted for, but suffering from headaches. Hmm, I can’t imagine why. Red puts forth the proposition that Laurel may have terrorist connections and that she is using them to get to Red, with the intention to have him be the next victim of a CHI.

Louis is skeptical, as the commonly-held notion about the CHI’s is that they are random and not something that can be intentionally caused, per se, but then, after Red pressures the intern to work out harder, his head explodes all over Red and Louis, and this forces him to take Red’s far out claims more seriously, so he starts the process of having Laurel brought in.

To that end, J.K. Cornish (Kurt Fuller, another “Good Wife” alum), shows up at Laurel’s office and tases her and restrains her and takes her back to FBI HQ. However, when Gustav and Dr. Daudier arrive to meet Laurel for lunch and she doesn’t show, they get suspicious and start looking around for infected people.

Much to their shock, there are plenty, leading them to think something bad has happened to Laurel again. Using the high-frequency sounds Gustav recorded, they creep around the Senate and places nearby to try and get a bead on one of the infected, hoping one of them will lead them to Laurel, which proves easier said than done.

Laurel is questioned by a doctor, mostly in regard to health-related issues on her end, which she isn’t sure what to make of. She asks why she is there and is only told that she’s there to help with an internal investigation. The doctor ominously tells Cornish that he should “limit” the lengths of his sessions with her.

Laurel, getting more and more freaked out by the minute, calls out for a lawyer to the cameras, saying that it’s her right to have one present to make sure she isn’t abused, and one comes to observe via a closed-circuit TV. However, Cornish needs the okay of both the Democratic and the Republican Senate in order to proceed, so an emergency meeting is scheduled to that end.

BrainDead 3

Red and Luke meet with CDC reps and the FBI about an unnamed person brought in for questioning with supposed ties to terrorism, saying that they need both of the men’s signatures to proceed with the “enhanced” interrogation techniques, as time is of the essence. Red signs right away, of course, but Luke is a bit more hesitant, though he eventually signs it, too.

While everyone back at the FBI waits for the paperwork to come through, Agent Onofrio corners Laurel on the sly and teases her. He also tells her that he’s actually the only one infected there- the others are just naturally paranoid about terrorism and willing to do whatever is necessary to stop it, even if the information is dubious at best, making it all too easy to do this sort of thing to someone.

Laurel threatens to tell someone about the bugs and he says to go ahead, as no one will believe her anyway. So, she does, to the cameras, and the watching lawyer does overhear and notes that, if she’s mentally ill, whatever she says can’t be taken seriously anyway- but also that it would be illegal to torture her.

Onofrio’s behavior towards Laurel- and her reaction to him- raises the hackles of one of the CDC agents on the premises, Aaron Blades (Glenn Fleshler, “Billions”) and when Luke calls him after Gareth tells him at the behest of Gustav and Dr. D. that Laurel might be in trouble, he manages to let Luke know that Laurel’s there without coming right out and saying it, suspecting that something fishy is going on.

The Power of Euphemism: How Torture Became a Matter of Debate in American Politics

However, another CDC rep denies that they have Laurel, which forces Luke to call an emergency hearing to try and stop the “enhanced interrogation” of his own sister. Meanwhile, Cornish starts questioning Laurel in earnest about her supposed ties to terrorism, pointing out that the ambulance driver of the one that held Dr. D’s dad was Middle Eastern and that she talked to him at one point.

He also has a recording of Laurel talking to Gustav, which is even more suspicious, but she refuses to name who it is she’s talking to, which only makes her look more guilty. I guess Gustav was right to be wary that someone was listening. Good call. On the plus side, the bad guys obviously don’t know who Gustav is- yet.

Naturally, Red is up in arms about the delay in Laurel’s “questioning” and accuses Luke of “coddling” terrorists, which he adamantly denies. Luke, in turn, questions the FBI director about techniques used in interrogation and if they qualify as torture.

Luke gets a tip-off from Blades to ask specifically about “controlled immersion,” which is basically a fancy wording for waterboarding. The Director claims that it is a kinder, gentler way of doing that sort of thing- more like “catching one’s breath” than feeling like one is outright drowning. Yikes!

More arguing ensues, with Red firmly on the side of doing whatever’s necessary to get information on suspected terrorists, while Luke argues against it. The session is being broadcast on TV, which leads to some debates by the media, as well, with Misty throwing her hat into the ring with a salacious report: “Torture? I Hardly Knew Her!” Lol.

BrainDead 9

Gareth, who is closely paying attention, says that Luke is down by one vote for stopping what’s going to happen to Laurel if the vote goes Red’s way. He also points out that a POW who could have been the deciding vote left in a hurry because of some family-related event and if they can get him back for the vote, Luke will win, as he is almost certain to vote against it.

Gustav and Dr. D. are having trouble keeping up with any of the infected, who keep eluding them somehow. Dr. D. suggests that, instead of using his machine to find the infected, that they use his recording of the frequency to attract the infected to them.

It works, but then the person who comes to them is immediately suspicious, which forces the two to “act infected,” which also works. This reminded me of a zombie movie I saw, “Warm Bodies,” in which various characters acted like zombies in order to get past a group of them undetected. It’s a little far-fetched, but I can roll with it, as this show is too silly to take entirely seriously anyway.

As Cornish prepares Laurel for “controlled immersion,” the time for the vote is swiftly arriving. Luke calls his dad, who tells him to stall until he can find the missing POW. Luke does so by essentially filibustering- or whatever you call it under these circumstances.

BrainDead 10

This turns out to be a mistake, as the POW guy left because he was actually going to vote in favor of torture, as it was his party line, aka the Republicans, in spite of his own experiences. So, his leaving was actually intended to help Luke, not hurt him. Whoops!

Meanwhile, Dr. D. tries to figure out the alien language by listening to Gustav’s recordings, which impresses him. She suggests that they play only part of it to see how an infected person reacts. They spot the guy from earlier and play a piece of the recording, which causes the poor guy to run straight into a wall!

They try playing another piece of the recording, which causes the man to raise his hands this time. I don’t know about you, but the minute that happened, I saw where this was all going. Sure enough, the two head to the Senate and wreak havoc by causing turmoil with the vote for or against torture by making various infected people, including Red himself, raise their hands, as if to vote against it, not for it, as planned.

Red objects, even as he votes against things, while other members of the Senate get up and run into walls, which was a hoot. Gustav thinks they should quit while they are ahead, but his actions don’t go unnoticed by Gareth, and you can tell he’s wondering if there’s something to Laurel’s claims after all.

Laurel is freed, and Cornish even gives her a ride back to work, telling her she’s lucky she didn’t have to go through all that, as he had to during his own training as a…um, “enhanced interrogator”? Turns out he’s not infected, after all, and is relatively nice guy- or as nice as someone can be who does THAT for a living.

BrainDead 5

Laurel is reunited with all concerned, including Gustav, Dr. D. and Luke, as well as her dad, with hugs all around. Alas, there is one last twist, as Gustav’s machine goes off and he and Dr. D. realize that Laurel’s dad has been infected as well, which explains why he brought someone to court to vote in favor of something that would have caused his own daughter to be tortured. Poor Laurel- she can’t win for losing.

This was arguably the funniest episode of the show to date, albeit in more of a slapstick sort of way that was maybe one step removed from Mel Brooks or even “Three Stooges”-type territory, what with all the people raising their hands willy-nilly or running into walls. But it just goes to show, even the old tropes work under the right circumstances.

Here, it worked for me because it showed, albeit in somewhat over-the-top and ridiculous terms, how Congress can often run in circles and rarely get anything done, and basically spend a lot of their time hitting walls. Here, that became literal, and I thought it was pretty hilarious, even if it was a bit predictable, once they established that Gustav had the power to do that.

This is actually kind of impressive, being as how torture is not exactly the easiest material to make fun of. Go too far and you’re being insensitive, but if you don’t at least bump up against that barrier of bad taste, it doesn’t work, either.

By tweaking government double talk (calling waterboarding by another name doesn’t make it any less than what it is) and Republican rhetoric to get around it by making ridiculous arguments in favor of it (Red namechecks fictional character Jack Bauer, of “24,” in his defense of torture being okay), this worked for me, even as it made me sad, as it was all too believable that something like this could happen for real.

BrainDead 4

Indeed, that is swiftly becoming the wheelhouse of “BrainDead,” which is to say, satire that works because it’s not too far from the truth, remarkably enough. As over-the-top and insane as a lot of this is, if you take out the whole alien ant thing, it’s not too far removed from the truth, either, which is a hell of a lot scarier than alien bugs taking over, IMHO, because, at least with the bugs, you have a reason for people acting this way.

It will be interesting to see where all of this heads next, as the aliens are obviously stepping up their game and actively trying to take Laurel out now. TBH, I thought that, instead of torturing her, that Cornish was going to simply insert some bugs into her ear by tying her down so she couldn’t resist it.

I guess, what with people watching, he probably couldn’t have gotten away with something like that, but then, I thought for sure he was infected and wouldn’t care about the “rules,” which proved to be wrong. So, I guess the lesson learned is…torturers are people, too? Oh “BrainDead,” you never cease to surprise us.

BrainDead 7

What did you think of the latest episode? What do you think will happen next? Now that Dr. D. figured out how to manipulate the infected with sound frequencies, will the team be able to use that to their advantage in other ways? Might Laurel’s musical studies come into play as well, still? Will Gareth end up joining the team after all? What will Laurel do about her dad? Is there anything to be done? Sound off on this and more down below and see you next week!