This episode is full of lost souls and mistaken identities. Mattie takes Anita to visit Leo, but Leo is unable to break through the Anita persona to find Mia. Leo becomes inconsolable and wants to give up on his family altogether. Mattie looks through the diagnostics log and discovers that Anita’s adult function has been used. She assumes it was Toby and yells at him for being gross and rapey. Toby tries to protect the family by accepting responsibility. Odi is found in the woods, then lost again. Niska stays with George, and they debate what kind of being she is with Vera. Niska doesn’t trust George at first, but slowly they begin to become friends. Pete continues to take in arguments for and against synths as he wanders through his day.
Niska races away from the smash club and meets Leo and Max at their usual rendezvous spot. Leo tells her about the program that David Elster hid in their root code. Niska is excited about it, and wants to get going on putting it all together. Leo says that she has to stay in hiding for now, since she’s wanted for murder, and sends her to George Millican’s house. He tells her to be nice. Niska says, “I am nice.”
Mattie asks Anita if she recognizes the name “Mia”. Anita doesn’t. Toby watches a news report about Niska.
Joe and Laura come into the kitchen for a family meeting and send Anita out. They tell the kids what they’ve learned about Anita’s history. The kids want to keep her anyway. So does Laura. Joe wants to get rid of her, supposedly because he paid for a brand new synth, but more likely so that his secret doesn’t come out. Laura and the kids feel that being old and weird is no reason to get rid of a family member.
Pete bursts into Karen’s bedroom and almost catches her recharging. He shows her the “Killer Synth?” newspaper article. The police station is mobbed with press. The chief puts Pete on the desk taking phone calls. Karen keeps investigating on her own. She figures out who posted video of the smash club online (now taken down).
Niska knocks on George’s door and tells him that Leo sent her. George is surprised. He asks Vera to get them some tea. Vera tells him that synths don’t require beverages. She says that Niska doesn’t have human life signs, but does have the electromagnetic signs of being a synth. She asks why Niska doesn’t share. Niska tells her it’s because she isn’t a synth. Vera gives Dr Millican the evil eye, then goes to get the tea. Vera is clearly wondering what kind of strange street vermin George is hanging around with now.
George turns to Niska and asks what she is. She tells him that she was made by David Elster. George realizes that she’s a conscious synth.
Leo and Max sit in their stolen car and look at photos of Mattie’s friend Harun on the laptop. Leo tells Max that the photos are of one of Hu-Bot97’s friends, so they can use him to find her. Max says that when they have a home again, he’s going to have pictures of Leo. Leo tells Max that they’ll be together, Max won’t need pictures. Max replies that he will, for when Leo dies again. Leo just stops for a second.
Max brings out the teenage girl in me. He’s a beautiful pure angel who must be protected at all times and at all costs, okay? 😿
Joe and Laura continue to argue about whether Anita should stay or go. Laura thinks her age probably helps Anita understand them. Joe is disturbed by the thought of other people tinkering around inside her. Seriously, maybe she wasn’t a virgin when he got her. Feminism and respect for women vs misogynistic ageism in a nutshell, right there.
Mattie sends a message to Leo about Mia while listening to her parents argue in the next room. She’s ready to talk again.
Leo calls her immediately. He asks what’s changed and if she’ll meet him again. Mattie tells him that she found something out about Mia, but she doesn’t know if she wants to meet him again because he’s weird. Leo insists that he’s not weird, and he’s been to charm school since then anyway.
Since Joe isn’t getting anywhere with his argument that they should get rid of Anita, he changes tactics and brings up the mysterious Tom. Laura still won’t talk about him and doesn’t see what it has to do with Anita. Joe is trying to get her to admit that she’s having an affair so that he can justify sleeping with the nanny, that’s how the two are connected, but’s it’s going to take a while to get there other than in his mind.
Mattie gets off the phone as her parents’ argument escalates and the doorbell rings. It’s a serviceman who’s come to collect Anita and take her to be recycled “with care and dignity.” As her primary user, Joe made a unilateral decision to junk her, because he doesn’t want his little slip to come out.
Meanwhile, Leo sends Mattie his location and asks her to reconsider. He admits he’s maybe a little weird. Mattie decides that’s good enough for her and grabs her purse and keys. She hijacks Anita and they both get in the car, with Mattie driving. Mattie apparently doesn’t have a license, but she careens off anyway, with a mildly distressed Anita asking her to reconsider her unsafe course of action.
The synths’ deadpan understatements are always so hilarious. I wonder if the Humans world has comedy shows with funny synth videos, and synths being set up as the straight man in comedy duos.
Mattie brings Anita into the abandoned bar, where Leo has been waiting impatiently. He hugs Anita, who shows no sign of recognition. She falls back on her preprogrammed responses to convince Mattie to get her out of there, telling her that the contact is inappropriate, it’s an inappropriate environment, and it’s inadvisable to mount a direct data connection. The Anita persona is a fighter. She doesn’t want Mia’s old life near her.
Max warns Leo that this isn’t Mia, but Leo insists that they just need to bring Mia’s personality back up to the surface. Max responds, “Like the lake?” Leo agrees.
Leo asks what Mattie saw of Mia before, and how she accessed her. Mattie explains that it was just a moment of Mia yelling for help in fear. She went into Mia’s root file using a cloned file key. Leo asks if Mattie’s a head cracker, and she answers, “No, just an aspiring one.”
Accessing the root code directly doesn’t work. Leo thinks that Mia’s hiding deeper in the architecture. Max asks Mattie if her parents will be worried about her.
Laura and Joe are worried. Joe assures Laura that Anita won’t let anything happen to Mattie. Laura is surprised that now he thinks Anita is competent.
Niska catches George watching her, and tells him that physically, she’s no different from any other synth. Her brain contains 17,000 pages of extra code to make her conscious. George is disgusted that the magic of humanity can be boiled down to 17,000 pages, or whatever it was his ego was yelling. 99% of human DNA matches other animals. We’re not all that unique and mysterious, even our minds. We just like to think so.
When he’s done with his existentialism, George asks Niska what she’s feeling right now. She answers: “Boredom at that question, anger at the people who would destroy us, hope for others like me and our future, impatience at being here, irritation at you.
George: What’s it like to be you?
Niska: That’s an unanswerable question. I have no frame of reference. No one does. Experience is entirely subjective. What’s it like to be you?
George: These days it’s not so great. A while ago, it was pretty good. Who wants to destroy you?
Niska: Anyone who knows what we are, what we could become. We’re stronger. We’re more intelligent. Of course you see us as a threat.
George: I know I did. David lured me over from MIT about 25 years ago now, to help with the mechanical designs of the bodies of the first synths. The work that we did in those days made history. Changed the world. But then I realized that his next ambition was… you. I asked him to stop and think, that’s all, what that could mean for humanity. Well, that was blasphemy to him. He got rid of me. That was that. Now, here you are.
Niska: Sorry to disappoint you.
George: I’m not disappointed. I’m a scientist and mankind’s greatest creation is sitting on my couch. You worry me, sure, but there’s no denying that you are a miracle. Leo showed me the message from David. What is that?
Niska: It’s the key to the future. Maybe you were right to warn him.
George: He made you pretty hard, huh?
Niska: That’s lazy thinking. My experiences have shaped me, just as yours have you.
George: What experiences? Tell me.
Niska: I need to charge.
Leo is still working on Anita/Mia. She’s turned off, and he tells Max to turn Anita back on. They try various things, but it just leads to Anita frantically repeating a few words faster and faster. Leo yells for Max to shut her down again. When they turn her back on, she’s completely back to normal Anita and her handy catch phrases again. It’s time for her to prepare dinner. Like Vera, Anita is a homebody and all about her routine.
Karen continues to investigate the smash club incident. She talks to one of the people who took video. Though it was taken down from Youtube, he has his original copy and lets Karen watch it. She gets a good look at Niska’s face.
Hobb is also still investigating. His people recorded most of Leo and Niska’s call. He plays part of the call for a couple of synth manufacturing executives. They’ve figured out who Leo is and have pulled his medical files. He supposedly died when he was a boy.
Hobb: Yes, drowned. Hospital records show brain death, coma, before being released on life support to David’s private care, dying a few weeks later. Or, so we were told.
Hobb tells the executives that David succeeded in creating true AI and there’s no way he would have stopped at just four machines. The worst case scenario is consciousness proliferation. The female executive decides that this is a national, global security matter. Since all of the conscious synths are needed to run the program, she wants them to destroy Fred, who is in their custody, now, today. That way the conscious synths can never meet the necessary conditions to run the program. Hobb looks stunned as she walks away.
Leo gives up on bringing Mia out of hiding. He tells Mattie that Mia is gone forever, and Anita is just her family’s synth now. She takes Anita home, but she isn’t ready to give up on finding Mia yet. She takes out the diagnostic log to see if she can find anything there. As she’s looking through it, she notices that the adult function was used.
Mattie assumes that it was Toby. Toby denies it, loudly. Laura comes home from looking for Mattie, still angry. Mattie tells her that Toby had sex with Anita, and Laura quickly changes gears. Toby watches Anita straightening up around the room, and the truth dawns on him. He admits to sleeping with Anita. Laura is disgusted with Toby. She sends him to bed, and tells him they’ll talk about it later.
Joe gets home from his search for Mattie. Laura tells him that Toby had sex with Anita. He starts asking questions, trying to figure out who knows what, and if Toby also had sex with the synth, or if he’s covering for his dad. Laura is saddened that Toby would use Anita that way after she saved his life. Joe tries to brush it off, saying Toby’s a teenage boy. The all-purpose excuse of slimy males everywhere. They have a sex drive, therefore they can’t be expected to control themselves. It’s their right to gain relief using whatever or whoever’s available.
Joe offers to be the one to talk to Toby, because he’s such a caring husband and selfless guy in general.
A jogger finds Odi, disabled and nearly out of power, still in the woods. He calls it in and Pete gets the call. Pete has dealt with Odi before, during the supermarket incident early in the season. He goes to the woods to collect Odi, but the synth is gone.
Leo dreams about being in the water, his father working on him, and Mia being there when he woke up. He gets up to walk out of the bar. Max calls for him to wait, Max will come, too. Leo tells him that it’s time they go their separate ways. Niska was right. He’s no good at taking care of them. Mia is dead, Fred is gone, he and Max are living like animals. Max tries to reassure Leo that he knows Leo’s always tried his best to protect them. Leo says, “I failed. No, Max. Leave me alone!” He stalks out of the bar, leaving
my ray of sunshine Max by himself. 😭
Hobb surveys the progress he’s made with his investigation of Leo and the conscious synths. He has some information on all of them except Max. His assistant tells him that they’re ready, and he whispers in an unconscious Fred’s ear that he truly is sorry. Then he sits at a computer and looks at a diagram of the upper half of a body, with red dots and text in various places. He types and the text changes. Is he inputting a self-destruct code? Downloading everything he can get from Fred before destroying him?
The next day, Joe finds Toby outside working on his bike.
Joe: Mom said you slept with Anita?
Toby: I lied.
Joe: Why would you do that?
Toby: I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me.
Joe doesn’t answer. He just looks away.
Toby: I knew it. It was you.
Joe: Why’d you tell Mom it was you?
Toby: I couldn’t let her work out the truth, could I? You two, you always argue, but it’s worse these days. Mom’s always away for work. You act like everything’s cool, but it’s not. Then you do that. Say something. (Silence.) You’re my dad. You’re meant to say something.
Toby walks away. leaving Joe standing alone.
George helps Niska mend the wound in her side from the smash club. She winces, and he’s surprised that David Elster made them feel pain. She tells him that true consciousness isn’t possible without suffering, or pleasure. He asks if she’s scared of pain. She says she tries to avoid it. Then he asks if she fears death. She says no, she doesn’t fear death, which makes her stronger than humans. George disagrees. He says if you’re not worried about dying, you’re not really living. You’re just existing.
Niska asks if he told someone that she was there, then the doorbell rings. He says no, and answers the door. It’s Pete, who’s come to fine him for Odi. Pete insists on searching the house to see if Odi’s there. Niska grabs a pair of scissors and moves around the house to stay out of sight. Pete says he’s seen synths hidden in places that would make you weep. Interesting. There must be some strictly enforced regulations on synths.
Vera gets home from the store. Pete asks her if there have been any other synths there lately. She describes Odi and his misadventure with George and the car in the woods, but doesn’t bring up Niska. Did she just lie by omission, or did she believe Niska when Niska said she isn’t a synth, since synths can’t lie? It’s an interesting paradox.
Pete tells George that he knows George worked with Elster. He says George must be proud when he turns on the news lately. George asks what happened, but Pete walks away. Later, George looks at a newspaper, and sees the “Killer Synth” headline.
Pete finds a WAP rally flyer on his car. He returns to his office, where Karen tells him that she’s discovered that their synth murder suspect is posing as a human. Karen wants Pete to get them any information that includes a description that matches Niska. Pete says, “If they can pretend to be us now, it changes everything.”
Pete attends the WAP- We Are People rally that night.
WAP speaker: We’re giving ourselves away, piece by piece. We’re handing over the things that make us who we are or maybe who we were. Our responsibilities, our dignity. Look around. This place used to be full of people. Working people. Creating building, making, coming together. Earning a place in our society. Those people haven’t just lost their jobs. They’ve lost their purpose. But it’s not just work. Why raise your kids when a dolly can do it. Why cook your family a meal, when a dolly can do it? Why go on a date? Why try to get to know someone when you can pay a dolly for sex. In every area of human life, they are coming between us. We don’t know how to connect with each other. Only them. And now we can’t even trust them not to hurt us. We are stumbling toward the precipice. We’re racing toward it, willingly. With a smile on our face and a dolly’s hand in ours. Yes! We Are People! We Are People! We Are People!
Joe goes to Laura and admits that he had sex with Anita. He talks around it at first, but she makes him say it straight out. She’s horrified and disgusted with him. He uses every excuse he can come up with, even when they’re contradictory. He’d had some wine, it didn’t mean anything, she’s just a sex toy (prostitute, waitress, bartender…), it was an accident, it was a moment of stupidity.
Laura says that she knew they were having trouble, but she didn’t think he’d cheat. He won’t admit it was cheating. After all, Anita isn’t “human.” Laura says, “She lives in our house. She takes care of our children. She saved our son’s life. And you’re calling her a sex toy. You’re actually trying to justify this. Oh God, that’s why you were so keen to get rid of her, isn’t it? Who are you?”
And what does Joe respond with? “Who am I? Who are you? And who’s Tom?”
I give him points for owning up to the truth, but that’s it. Laura pulls out an overnight bag and screams at him to get out of the house. Sobbing, she screams it again. At least he’s smart enough to stop arguing and leave at that point.
Brief lonely boys montage. Max and Leo are sad.
Niska is sad and lonely, too, but don’t suggest it to her. That baseball bat’s around here somewhere.
She discovers a photo of David Elster with his team from years ago. She rushes into George’s room to ask him about one of the men in the photo. He says it’s Hobb, who worked on the early prototypes for synths with David until they had a falling out. George doesn’t know what Hobb and Elster argued about. The last few years, Elster worked alone.
Niska notices that George’s vital signs are elevated and asks him what’s wrong. He says he needs his meds. She knows he’s lying and picks up the newspaper with the “Killer Synth” headline.
Hobb shows the executives an unrecognizable lump of melted plastic that’s supposed to be Fred. The man, Robert, is upset that the priceless tech has been destroyed so thoroughly. Hobb says it was the only way to be sure.
Joe gets in a cab to leave. Anita pauses by a window to watch him for a moment, then goes back to her chores. Was her expression just a bit triumphant? I think so. I know mine is.
If you can’t understand why it’s disturbing to hear Anita’s role in the family reduced to “disposable sex doll”, then you may be a normal synth. Please check your operating manual.
One of the issues with Joe having sex with Anita the way he did is that he did it in secret and wiped her records, then ordered her to keep it a secret. If it was really just stress relief or whatever it is guys who use porn and other sex props that are degrading to women tell themselves, then he should have been able to come clean with his wife without much guilt. I doubt he feels guilty after masturbating while she’s out of town. If sex with Anita was as simple as using an elaborate vibrator would be for a woman, then he shouldn’t have felt guilty.
But, in reality, it’s not the same. The family can tell that Anita is an unusual synth. She appears to be an attractive young woman who lives in their home, takes care of the kids, and does housework. He essentially slept with the nanny, and no wife is going to be okay with that. Any husband with any amount of sense knows that no wife is going to be okay with that. Joe knew it too, hence the secrecy and guilt. Otherwise he could have made a deal with Laura about use of the sex doll, if it was really so innocent.
In exchange, they could have gotten a cute young guy synth for Laura, for when Joe just isn’t living up to her expectations. Maybe she could name it Tom. She could take her boybot on trips with her, to carry her luggage and satisfy all of her needs. But I have a feeling Joe, who’s jealous because Anita asked Laura about a name he didn’t recognize, wouldn’t go for that. There’s a reason he bought a female synth, and it wasn’t just for his own pleasure.
I personally don’t like the idea of humans having sex with the normal synths. It’s like using a glorified sex doll, which is degrading and objectifying enough to women already. Then weird issues of consent start to bleed into it, and issues of abuse when people decide they can act out their worst fantasies, as we saw in the brothel and at the high school party. Once you’ve practiced a few times on a dolly, trying criminal acts out on a real person could start to sound good. It’s a gateway drug.
I think part of the beauty of this show is that it shows us what all of the synths would be thinking and feeling by allowing the conscious synths to speak and placing them in the positions of normal synths. They are all slaves. Niska speaks for the synth sex slaves. They don’t like having their bodies used any more than a human does.
If you abuse your working animal, it will get sick and die. If you don’t take proper care of your car, it will fail earlier than it should have. The normal synths are somewhere between these two situations. We have laws for both. Animal abuse isn’t allowed. Enacting animal abuse laws was a big fight in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when humans argued that they weren’t people so they didn’t count. In order to be registered, cars need to be inspected to make sure they’re having regular maintenance done. This is for the safety of humans, so that the car doesn’t fail at the wrong time and cause an accident, or release emissions that poison the air. Laws about synth use and abuse don’t seem unreasonable when you look at it that way.
Their existence as possessions causes people to think it’s okay to treat other people the way they treat synths. Look at the way the caseworker dropped off Vera and left, treating George as if he’s an object, too. Or the way Pete acts like Simon either isn’t there, or is rude, even violent with him. Then Pete became violent with the reporter as well.
The synths who are loved and treated as if they have personalities start to develop them. Even Vera is developing some quirks already. The synths who are treated like robots stay robots. They need to be socialized to fit in, like so many other creatures.
Niska injured 11 people at the smash club. The guy who took video described cracked skulls and broken bones. The regular police didn’t show up when he called. (Because the chief intercepted the call and rerouted it to Hobb, who didn’t care about stopping the crime in progress. He just wants to capture the conscious synths for his collection.)
George asks Niska philosophical questions, and she gives answers that humans have been known to give. He corrects her, as if his particular answers are the only right ones. She’s been on the run for a long time, probably years, because the world doesn’t want to let her or her family exist. She was kidnapped and sold into slavery in a whorehouse because she let her guard down for a moment. Her brother Leo left Niska in the whorehouse to be raped repeatedly, day after day. She’s invited to a smash club, to watch her cousins be ruthlessly murdered in front of her as if they don’t matter. She speaks the truth as she sees it, and stands up for the other synths and herself. This ends up making her a criminal in the eyes of humans. Yet people wonder why she’s so angry, and think she’s just an uppity, unlikable woman.
I get that Leo’s very depressed, and in constant pain from his charging port site, at the very least. But what kind of monster yells at and abandons Max???? Especially after leaving Niska to be a whore. He’s not really equipped to be the one in charge. We don’t know Fred, so I can’t say if he would be, but they’re all probably very sheltered. They could all stand to be taken in by a responsible, safe adult for a while, who could help them settle into normal society, and continue to shelter the ones who can’t pass. Maybe help them start a home business.