In episode 4 of Emergence, Jo spends the hour trying to solve a dilemma that many parents have faced- is my child the normal amount or evil, or do I need to do something about this spawn of Satan? She mulls over Piper’s true nature with the help of a newly assigned social worker, Lily Salgado, Auger Industries head Richard Kindred and, separately, his former employee Emily; Benny and a hacker friend of Benny’s named April; police officer and right hand man Chris, and her family. By the end of the episode, she’s made a decision, and Piper truly becomes part of the family with the support of Mia, Alex and Ed. But Kindred isn’t ready to give up his ownership claim and Benny and April pay a price.
Episode 4 begins late at night, with Piper laying in bed, facing the window. Jo has placed a nannycam in the dollhouse, and is watching the feed in the kitchen. From her perspective, it looks like Piper is asleep.
The camera is easy to spot in the dollhouse. It’s not cleverly hidden in a Teddy bear, like a normal nannycam, so Piper knows it’s there.
Jo gets a text from Benny telling her that Emily is packing her things and getting ready to leave town. Before Jo can text back, Piper appears and asks for a glass of water.
This show and the CBS show Evil both love to use their little girls to make references to the original Exorcist film/book.
Jo gets Piper her water, then goes to meet Benny where he’s stalking Emily outside her house. She tells him that Emily’s disk update worked on Piper. They stand VERY close together to talk in the dark. Benny is surprised about Piper, but doesn’t have any answers for Jo.
Jo decides that Emily must have answers and pays her a visit, with Benny following. Emily doesn’t want to see them, because she wants them all to stay off of Kindred’s radar. He’s already discovering what they did to the system.
Jo asks Emily to give her more information about Piper. Emily says she doesn’t know much about how Piper works. She just worked on the code. Jo is flabbergasted that Emily is implying Piper is a machine. She tells Emily that Piper eats and drinks and has had invasive medical testing done, and no one noticed anything unusual about her biology. Emily says that she doesn’t know anything thing about the bio side.
Jo asks if Piper is even REAL? Emily asks her, “What is real?”
That will be the theme for the episode, and probably the season. Emily just said that Piper has a bio portion and Jo told us she passes medical tests like a human. In some sense, her body is a “real” human body. She eats and drinks and bleeds. You’d think they would have noticed any biological abnormalities in her systems while she was in the hospital. I doubt she’ll turn out like the synths in Humans, who pretended to eat and drink but caught what they consumed in a balloon in their throats.
Benny asks if she’s a human body with a synthetic AI. Emily answers, “No. Synthetic everything.” She tells them that Piper doesn’t know what she is and that telling an AI what it is creates a fatal exception error and effectively destroys the program.
So, we know what the kill switch is for Piper. Tell her that she’s an AI.
Emily leaves, after Benny and Jo try one more time to convince her to stay. This time they offer protection from whatever and whoever Kindred might send at her. She scoffs at them, because they haven’t been able to protect much of anyone. She says that they don’t even know who or what to be afraid of yet.
Should they be afraid of more than just Richard Kindred?
Benny stole an official-looking disk from Emily that she was trying to escape with. After Emily’s gone, he puts it in his laptop to see what it is, and it melts the computer rather than booting up. Not suspicious at all. Undaunted, he tells Jo he’ll take the disk to a hacker friend.
He insists that Jo treat Piper like she’s a dangerous robot and even wants her to disable Piper by using the fatal error code. Jo isn’t ready to consider the nuclear option yet.
In the morning, she finds Mia brushing Piper’s hair. Jo takes over so Mia can get ready for school. Jo is jumpy around Piper, letting what others have said get into her head. Piper notices.
When Jo goes out to her car, she notices a woman taking photos from a car parked across the street. Assuming the woman is someone sent by Kindred, Jo goes over to check her out. She’s a social worker, Lily Salgado, sent to evaluate Jo’s family as a potentially permament placement for Piper. Jo hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, but now she needs to consider what’s best for everyone. Jo invites Lily inside to discuss the matter.
It’s Lily’s first week on the job, which seems suspicious to me, especially since she mentions the article Benny wrote about Piper. She’s mildly disapproving of Jo bringing Piper into her home wthout checking with the agency first, but backs down when Jo brings up that there were concerns for Piper’s safety. She explains that the placement process includes financial and background checks and interviews with each family member. Then she asks if Jo wants to permanently foster Piper.
As Lily and Jo finish up, Richard Kindred calls Jo to tell her that he’s sent a car for her so they can meet and she can ask questions. The car brings Jo to a noodle shop, where Kindred is waiting for her. It’s in the neighborhood he grew up in. He worked there as a teenager and now he owns the restaurant and the neighborhood.
Jo asks to skip over his origin story and other attempts at heartwarming tales. She can also tell when he’s making veiled threats and doesn’t let him get away with it. She points out that every person who’s tried to take Piper away is dead. He tries to blame the deaths on Piper, but if you think back, we don’t actually know the truth. We’re all making assumptions about the plane and the car crash. We don’t even know when or if someone else is controlling Piper’s body.
Jo asks how much of Piper is programming and how much is real. He doesn’t answer her. Instead he tells her a story about a chimpanzee raised like a human who turned on its human family. Then he says she shouldn’t confuse her feelings about a thing for the thing itself, which is both misogynist and condescending.
tells him to f**k off says there’s no point in her staying if he’s not actually going to answer questiions, and walks out. She also says that Yelp rates his noodle house as bland and overcooked. As she’s leaving, he says that one of his buildings was broken into, and asks if she’s heard any police chatter about it. She responds that it’s outside her juridiction. Kindred says he’ll keep her updated.
Benny visits an old friend, April, to see if she can decrypt the disk. She’s reluctant to help him, but she hates Auger Industries, sayng they “ruined everything good and open about technology.” She has no trouble getting into the disk and avoids whatever security measure burned up Benny’s laptop.
At the station, Jo asks Chris to check with NYPD to see if they’re monitoring any break ins at Auger Industries properties. Chris asks if she knows who Emily is, since Emily has taken a seat in the lobby and is in the process of hacking into the police archives.
Emily threatens to erase the last 20 years of police files unless Jo returns the disk. Emily is desperate, because Kindred wanted whatever’s on that disk kept secret. She stole it to use as her insurance policy, so that he couldn’t kill her. Without it, she’s a sitting duck. She also says that she’s the only one who can decrypt the disk. Jo talks her into letting them keep her safe while she decrypts the disk and shares what she finds. Jo explains to Chris who Emily is and has him take her into hiding.
Lily interviews Grandpa Ed first. He’s supportive of Jo and Piper. Next Lily tries to interview Piper, but Piper gets scared that the process could result in her being taken away from Jo and explodes Lily’s phone with her mind. Lily’s hand gets burned at the same time. Ed helps bandage her up. She’s leaving just as Jo gets home from work.
Jo figures out that Piper must have done something to the phone and questions her about it. Piper already feels bad and is scared by the way Jo questions her. They’re interrupted when Alex brings Mia home.
Alex figured out that the airband radio sounds were a code referring to the Military Grid Reference System of coordinates. He was able to pinpoint the location in the broadcast. It appears to be empty land about an hour from Southold. Jo thinks that’s where the plane carrying Piper was going before it crashed. She wants to drive out now to see what’s really there.
April has Benny drive her to park outside a nearby office building. The disk’s files have AES 256 encryption, so she’s using every computer in the building to help with the decryption.
Piper packs a backpack and runs away from home. She leaves the necklace Mia gave her next to the front door, where Mia quickly finds it.
Jo and Benny find a locked gate and a runway at the coordinates. Benny’s GPS is blocked. Jo breaks the lock and they drive into the facility, which isn’t supposed to exist. It’s built to look like a small suburban neighborhood, but it’s abandoned. Jo realizes that this was where Piper lived.
Mia follows Piper and finds her on a bench 3 blocks from home. She recognizes that Piper is running away from home, but insists that her new sister keep the necklace. Mia tells Piper that their mom won’t let anyone take Piper away, because they are family now and family sticks together.
After Mia’s pep talk, Piper is done running away, but she’s not ready to go home, so they go visit Alex. He recognizes the situation for what it is, because he is one of the great dad’s of all time, and examines the content’s of Piper’s backpack. She has to pay the runaway toll to enter. He takes a granola bar and a dinosaur from her stash, then the girls take advantage of one of the benefits of divorce- two homes means you can get away from the tension in one house by escaping to the other.
Chris brings Emily to Gaunts Brook Inn for her witness protection hideout, a charming, rustic place where he and his dad used to go every year. Emily hates it immediately. To be fair, there’s no internet and I specifically recall her requirements including 4G internet. Chris pulls out a deck of ordinary playing cards as a substitute. He’ll be staying next door and tells her not to open the door for anyone but him.
Okay, Chris is adorable and we need to find him a girlfriend, STAT. If Mia were ten years older I’d be ready to give them their own show, where they could rescue puppies and gaze lovingly at each other and have cute babies. That would be the whole show and I’d watch it every week.
Jo and Benny go inside one of the creepy houses. It’s gotten dark outside in the time we’ve been away from them. There are weird glass panels in the walls that are obviously meant to have cameras or observers behind them. Just as they get inside, April calls. She’s decrypted one of the files and found a video, which has spooked the normally unflappable hacker.
April sends Benny the video. It shows Piper dressed in a pink dress and sitting at a kitchen table, presumably in the neighborhood facility where Jo and Benny currently are. A man, who’s playing the role of the father, puts a cupcake with a birthday candle down in front of Piper. Piper blows out the candle. When the mother asks what she wished for, she says she wants to leave. The mother is discouraging, but Piper insists. The father asks for a reset and the mother says, “Back to the beginning. Everybody out.”
Still speaking in a polite voice, Piper says that she doesn’t like it there anymore and she wants to leave. Every loose object in the room suddenly explodes into action, including the people, as if a tornado hit. The father yells, “No, stop!” The video ends. Benny and Jo look sick. Jo rushes into the kitchen, and sure enough, it’s been destroyed, with the walls and ceiling ripped apart. The exterior wall has a huge, gaping hole where Piper must have busted her way out.
Benny and Jo sit outside afterwards and try to digest what they’ve discovered. Benny is convinced that Piper is nothing more than an evil machine exhibiting programmed behaviors. He patronizingly tells Jo that he understands why she feels like Piper is real, since the illusion that it’s a child is so convincing and everything about it makes you want to protect it.
Jo counters by asking the question that Emily asked at the beginning of the episode, “What does real mean?” Piper protects herself when she’s scared, like all living things. Benny says that he fears for Jo and her family, but Jo feels like she still needs answers and Kindred is the person she needs to get them from. Benny doesn’t see why she needs to know more than she already does. He pushes her to let Piper go.
This is very strange behavior for Benny, the investigative journalist. Why is he suddenly so ready to give up on the story he’s supposedly been working on for a year? Did someone get to him or is he just scared? Is he asking her to hand Piper over to Kindred? Was that his real objective all along? Is Benny on Kindred’s payroll, as Jo suspected, and he publishes an occasional story on the side for cover?
Jo drives back to Alex’s apartment to pick up the girls. They are in the middle of a dance party, living their best lives, as Alex says. He can tell that Jo is upset about something, but she refuses to talk about it and asks him to respect her privacy. He tells Jo that he talked to Piper about the social worker, so she feels better about the situation now.
Jo is a little terse with Piper when she says to gather up her things so they can go home, and tells Mia she’ll be staying with Alex, even though it’s not his regular night. In the car, Jo asks if Piper’s seatbelt is on. She says that she wants to talk to Piper alone. Is she considering telling her she’s an AI?
Jo asks if Piper remembers anything about her past. Piper tells her about short waking dreams she’s had. Jo wants to know if Piper is curious about her identity. Piper isn’t sure and asks if Jo knows who she is.
Then Piper screams for Jo to stop. Jo slams on the brakes and Piper jumps out of the car. She runs up ahead, to where a turtle is in the road, picks it up, and moves it to the side. The car would have run over it if Piper hadn’t seen it. Then Piper meekly gets back in the car, apologizing for causing a fuss.
Jo watches Piper in wonder, since rescuing turtles surely wasn’t programmed into her. She sees it as evidence that Piper has feelings of her own, including compassion.
Chris returns to Emily’s room and discovers that she’s used every small appliance in the room and the devices that she brought with her to build some kind of communication device that involves an antenna. He pulls down the antenna, concerned that she’s tipped someone off that she’s there, but Emily says that the device “didn’t connect.” He asks if she has a death wish.
Emily says that she just needed to build something. She can tell that he’s a reasonably well adjusted person who was loved as a child, whereas she had a lousy childhood. Her job with Auger Industries was was the most stable situation she’s ever had, and she’s lost without it. She could get so involved in her projects there that it was like she didn’t even exist as a separate person anymore. She was just in a perfect flow state. Chris understands what she’s saying, because he used to reach that state when he was building Lego sets as a child.
He decides that she needs to get out of her head, so they should leave the room. He wants to take her to the place where he caught his first trout. As soon as they’re out of the door, the phone rings.
Jo has her interview with Lily. Lily says that the family is very protective of Piper. Jo responds that Piper makes it easy. Lily thinks that with Piper’s memory loss, they should wait a few months before putting her in school. She asks if Jo is sure she wants to permanently foster Piper. Jo is certain.
Lily suddenly brings up Jo’s mother and asks if Jo thinks she’s trying to fix herself by taking in Piper. Jo thinks that’s only a small part of it, at most. She says, “I guess I’m just not afraid anymore.”
That night, Jo checks on what appears to be a sleeping Piper and removes the nannycam from the room. After she leaves, Piper turns and smiles at the door as the circles in her arm light up.
April gives Benny back the disk even though she hasn’t finished decrypting it. She has a bad feeling about the whole thing and wants out. She tells him to get out as well, but he refuses. He says that he thinks what he’s working on might change the world.
A man walks up to the car they’re sitting in and opens fire, aiming at April first. Of course he does. Benny tries to drive away, but a truck t-bones them, then keeps driving.
The next episode is in two weeks, on 10/29.
The way that Lily brought up Jo’s mom at the end seemed odd. Could Jo’s mom be involved with Auger Industries and this project? That seemed like more than a random question and the way that everything about Piper focusses on Jo seems like it’s more than just because she’s the star of the show. In the pilot, Piper was behind the sand dune, specifically waiting for Jo. That wasn’t random either. I think Piper has been purposely placed with Jo as the next phase of her training. Maybe not by Kindred, but by some faction of her creators.
April should have had Benny come to her apartment so that she could give him back the disk.
The video that April decrypted is frightening, but I’m a little proud of Piper for getting herself out of her enslavement. Good for her for using her power. Seeing her forced to sit, all prim and proper, in that pink dress, and made to follow a script is bad enough. But on top of that, the whole scenario was so creepily weird. What was the point of that exercise? Were they going to insert her into an unsuspecting family?
Kindred called her a THING. If you want to make a THING, you’d d*mn well better not make it look, breathe and bleed like a little girl. We don’t need any more cultural messages that girls’ bodies, minds and lives aren’t their own.
Piper asked nicely to be taken out of something no child should be placed in. No one respected her wishes. So she made some noise and took care of herself. Good girl. That’s just what I taught my daughter. That’s how you get what you need. Niceness kills women and girls everyday when their needs get ignored.
Somebody’s lying on this show. Emily says that Piper doesn’t know what she is, and that if she finds out, she’ll self destruct. But we’ve seen several instances of Piper interacting with her own technology. Is there an “erase memory” switch inside her, too? Or is the show going to split hairs about exactly which knowledge will cause the fatal error in her programming and which is okay? It’s okay for her to see flashing lights inside her arm, to have amnesia (or not), to know she has several unusual powers, and to cut trackers out of her neck. But if someone says the code words, “You’re an AI,” then she’ll self destruct?
Or are they going to say that she didn’t notice the lights in her arm flashing in the dark, after she saw the turtle in the dark from a moving car? I don’t think you can have it both ways.
Richard, Emily and Piper are all acting suspiciously and inconsistently. They aren’t sharing what they know with Jo. It’s still not clear what’s up with Benny and how much he’s holding back, either. But I think there’s a chance that Benny is ultimately trustworthy. Piper is trustworthy but at times she may still be controlled by someone else who has access to her programming. That may or may not be Kindred or Emily.
Emily could turn out to be a rogue scientist with an agenda or another scientist could show up. But Emily specifically lured Jo to her and gave her new programming for Piper. That would allow Emily to insert whatever code she wanted into Piper, so that she could make Piper do anything.
There’s also the question of what Emily built in her hotel room and who it contacted. Why was she terrified of being found one minute and then building a communication device an hour later? She was very quick to distract Chris away from what she was doing in the room. And then the hotel room phone rang and Piper’s arm flashed. Sort of like a silent phone ring. The two incidents weren’t at the same time, but they’re both suspicious and Emily is definitely connected to Piper.
This episode brings up the question of Piper’s biology, and lays out the case that she’s fully synthetic, but also pointedly shows her doing everything a human does, except sleeping. If I remember right, the only time she’s slept was while her programming was breaking down in episode 3. Then she slept overnight and had nightmares, before she fell into her coma.
We know she has powers. Maybe her ability to go without sleep is due to increased adrenal function, or something like that, and meant to give her more stamina so she can function continuously. It’s not clear yet what they were training her for, but it appeared from that video that they wanted to insert her for stealth missions. She could be used as a spy or an assassin. If she made friends with a target’s children and was invited to their house, she’d have access to all of their files, since no one would suspect her.
Wait, Alex is a civil engineer. Could he be her target? Could he be working on a project that Kindred wants inside information on, so they decided to plant Piper with Jo as a test case?
Could Emily have more of an attachment to Piper than she’s letting on? Could she think of herself as Piper’s mother? Could there be a biological connection?
April the hacker makes it sound like Auger Industries has a wide range of products, enforces their patents and copyrights vigorously and is devoted to using digital rights management to limit the use of their products. The disk and Piper both had failsafes built in so that they could only be used by the people who were meant to have them. Both were meant to destroy more than just themselves when they hit the internal self destruct button.
Mia is the heart of the family and the scene between Piper and Mia on the bench clearly illustrates it. She’s had great parents and absorbed everything they’ve taught her. Now she’s heavily invested in keeping her people together. Mia/Ashley Aufderheide doesn’t get enough screen time or attention from Jo on screen and I hope the show continues to remedy this by giving her scenes like she got in this episode, plus storylines of her own that allow her more of a range of emotion.
Her absolute love and faith in her entire family and her overall positive attitude are part of what make this show such a joy to watch. She’s brought Alex along so that he’s now developed a relationship with Piper and she’s also helped Jo through her rough patches with her foster daughter.
I’d like to see Mia get some time with Ed, too. It’s clear that there’s some sadness coming up for him and the family when the truth about his cancer finally comes out. I hope that Mia gets to show some anger at being lied to at that point, if not before.
She’s a fighter whose filled with Jo’s quiet determination and her dad’s ability to see the best in people and make the best of a situation. But her need to have all of her people together as much as possible and the way she embraced Piper so quickly suggests a bit of insecurity.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how Mia takes the truth about Piper when she finds out. She’s loyal to the core, but she also thought she’d found a REAL little sister, who could be hers, not a manufactured cyborg who’s proprietary technology.
Images courtesy of ABC.