Scorpion returns from its mid-season break with a case that highlights that the writers really love writing upstairs-downstairs parallel plots especially when it comes to parents and kids.
In much the same way as Walter did as a child, Ralph has been spending time online playing video games. Unfortunately, his last game somehow led to a CIA safe house being infiltrated, and two agents murdered alongside an ex-Jotas drug cartel member. Led by Agent Eckherd (Spencer Garrett), the Department of Justice takes Ralph in for questioning.
All the parallelism!
Except that Walter’s case didn’t end up with dead people, just hacked blueprints from NASA.
Of course, Paige isn’t having it nor is not-really-Ralph’s-dad-but-acts-like-it Walter—especially because Walter was the one who had shown Ralph how to find new games.
At the same time, Drew is back to watch Ralph, who unsurprisingly only wants to talk to Walter after getting Walter into trouble which doesn’t make Drew very happy either.
If Ralph is supposed to act as a parallel of what Walter used to be like as a kid and, thereby, present as a second chance for Cabe (and Walter) to do better hasn’t already explicit, this episode seriously cements the idea. Especially since the conflict with Ralph’s bio-dad!Drew and not-really-dad-but-could-be is a parallel of Walter’s own bio-dad and Cabe’s relationships with Walter, so I’m intrigued to see how the writers handle Drew and Ralph in the future episodes.
Which, the ostensible upstairs plot of hackers and not-videogames and CIA safe houses really brackets that the team may have more to worry about Ralph than just any potential CIA/hacker shenanigans because Drew mentions to Paige that “[he] and Paige had normal childhoods”.
That, even though Ralph is special, the team may be taking whatever chance Ralph has of having a “normal” childhood. Which—okay—Drew and Paige’s definition of normal for a kid probably includes running around at the park, roughhousing, and Super Mario Kart. By virtue of being different, Ralph’s normal is going to be different and that’s okay. The phrase it takes a village is apt especially for Ralph because Drew has been gone for so long. Paige is Ralph’s mom and is obviously going to make all the decisions about safety because she’s taken care of him for so long—like actually checking on what Ralph finds online and the other day-to-day parts of being a parent. Walter, however; assumes that because Ralph is like a mini-Walter, there isn’t a need to check on what Ralph is actually doing. What Walter needs to do then as Ralph’s mentor is to balance having fun with Ralph but also be the grown up when teaching him about the dark web and other things that could quickly get dangerous for a child. Just like Cabe had fun with Walter by giving him new challenges but mentored him too when Walter was dealing with bullies.
If I haven’t mentioned already that I don’t like Drew, I really don’t like him. Being back for a couple of weeks doesn’t make him an expert in Ralph’s life. Paige’s the only one who can really decide what’s best for the kid especially since, besides showing up when Paige calls him, Drew hasn’t really shown much initiative beyond just being around; although after this case, that might change.
Yet, as the team investigates to find the hacker, Nate, they find that Ralph unknowingly helped design the game. He had told the creator the first level was too easy causing the game to change, which to the CIA looks like proof of Ralph’s involvement in creating the safe house level.
So, Toby insults the game designer in a chat, and his response from a cell phone allows the team to track Nate to a gaming convention. To get into the VIP room where Nate is located, Sylvester shows his gaming chops and kills 30 dinosaurs in 10 seconds on an old, arcade-style game.
Turns out Sylvester used to go by El Guapo when playing the game at 16, and Happy finds video of Sylvester playing that’s existed for seven years.
After asking Nate questions, Sylvester and the team realize that Nate’s partner Calvin wrote the extra level. Toby and Nate bring Calvin’s safe back to the garage after Toby picks the lock at Calvin’s apartment successfully from having watched Happy, which Cabe notes that the team has noticed. You, me, and aliens from space have noticed Toby watching Happy. At this point, who hasn’t? Happy cracks the safe to find a hard drive with the other CIA files.
Nate goes to talk to Calvin, but Calvin is actually Donald Chen with a laundry list of previous crimes who stabs Nate in the alley before fleeing.
In the alley, Walter realizes that the surrounding area is the exact match to the first level of the game, so Ralph must lead them in their search for Donald. Drew is not a fan of this idea, but Paige realizes it’s the others’ only option, But! With Ralph’s help, Walter catches Calvin, Nate lives, and Ralph’s involvement is cleared!
Walter goes to Paige to apologize for getting Ralph into the mess but notes that Ralph’s help finding the files saved innumerable lives, and Ralph watching the team use their heads for good will help him learn how to be a grown-up genius one day.
The team isn’t trying to make Ralph a grown-up now.
Walter’s last words to Paige are that, while he cares about his team and their work, what he cares about most is giving Ralph a safe place to reach his potential, and Paige responds that she knows Walter’s trying. So, for now, she and Ralph are sticking around.
Unless the show’s main plot changes, Paige and Ralph aren’t leaving, but Drew definitely wants to make their lives safer from his perspective, so Drew’s involvement in future episodes probably won’t bode well for Walter and the team.
Even though this episode doesn’t hold the same urgency as the last child-focused episode (re: the mid-season finale), it still highlights just how far Walter has come and how far he has to go.
From the very first episode this show has been about found family and growing together, and this “case” is yet another example of just that. The audience has seen Walter change from being what most people would call impulsive, rude, and arrogant into a person who shows that he does, in fact, care about others and just wants to do the best for his friends, Ralph, and, implicitly, Paige. The others have grown too from Toby being slightly less of a know-it-all and with Sylvester confronting his fears and Happy working on her anger.
At the same time, Walter still has a lot to learn about mentoring Ralph, and this conflict with Drew, who wants to take Ralph and Paige with him to Portland, is definitely not over. I do appreciate the parallels of all this father-son stuff, but I also want more Paige-centric plotlines as well that don’t revolve around her being just a mom and just the person who helps the team.
Still, for only being 13 episodes in, the writers have done a lot with character development, and that bodes well for the rest of the season.