Byron and Hazel try out the girl/boy friend experience in episode 4, as each has a hang out with a same sex friend. Well, actually, Hazel spends the day getting drunk with her childhood bestie, Bangles, so Byron decides to mimic the experience in order to understand her better. Bennett bravely steps in as his best friend substitute. The episode also flashes back to the first time Byron and Hazel met, followed by their first date, followed by Byron’s proposal of marriage, all in the same evening. Byron mimics the way he thinks a human being would act in those scenarios, as well.
I continue to believe that Byron is either a robot or he was raised at the bottom of the ocean. Possibly he is a complete amnesiac or a hallucination who was accidentally brought to life. More on that later. He doesn’t even know what a donut hole is, for heaven’s sake, and he’s supposed to be an American! I bet even Diane knows what a donut hole is.
The episode opens on a flashback to ten years ago, on the Desert Rock Community College campus, where Hazel is a student and scam artist. Byron, billed as “The Man Who Knows the Future”, is scheduled to give a lecture later that day. Hazel is selling $20 raffle tickets to win an unreleased Gogol phone 5 at the lecture, which is a super cool phone because it holds a charge for 48 hours and will survive a trip underwater. Everyone wants the G-phone 5, so her tickets sell fast.
Once she’s sold enough raffle tickets, Hazel tosses her sign in the trash and runs out of sight to remove her clever disguise. She receives a phone call from Byron, who tells her the G-phone 5 hasn’t even been created yet. He puts away his phone as he walks up behind her and asks if her scam works often. She says she only uses it on an as needed basis. Right now, she has an overdue speeding ticket.
Byron isn’t angry that she used his product to scam potential customers- and let’s face it, everyone is a potential customer, or a mark. Instead, he asks if she made enough to pay the ticket. She did. He tells her that his lecture is about what she just did. Whenever he speaks to young people, they always ask him what it takes to succeed. Hazel says the secret is to be born rich. Byron laughs, then tells her, “It’s being able to spot opportunity and understand human desire.”
He says that she did that with her raffle scam and he’s doing that now- spotting opportunity and understanding desire. Then he asks her out to dinner after the lecture. “In Rome.” She’s overwhelmed, as he predicted, and tells him she doesn’t have a passport. He responds that she doesn’t need one when she’s with him. All he’s asking for is two hours of her time. She wonders if he has a sonic jet. He just tells her to check her phone for the location and says her name without her having told him.
In the moment, it probably seems exciting and romantic that one of the richest men in the world has been stalking her. That’s what Byron’s counting on, just like Hazel used the other students’ excitement about a new phone and meeting Byron to stop them from asking her any questions about her bogus raffle.
In their first conversation, Byron established that he’s in control and that it’s fine and normal for him to display stalkery behaviors. He accepted her petty crime and normalized it to being like his much greater crimes. That way, whatever he does is just on the same continuum that she transgressed first, leaving her with no basis for complaint.
Everyone knows a raffle ticket scam is the gateway crime for kidnapping, illegal brain surgery, and so on.
When Hazel arrives for the date wearing her sparkly green dress, Lyle Herringbone is standing guard outside of one of Byron’s biosphere cubes from the Hub, which is mounted on the back of a truck. Lyle explains that Alfredo’s restaurant is inside the cube. Hazel asks if Byron is going to kill her in there. Lyle says that Byron never does his own killing. He doesn’t say it like it’s a joke, but he tries to pass it off as one.
The cube definitely could function as a either mobile kill room or drug lab, with the ventilation and tight seal. Wonder if Byron did his own killing early on.
Hazel doesn’t need a passport because she’s not leaving the parking lot. Her romantic date in Rome is actually in the back of a truck and she’s not leaving the parking lot. Hazel doesn’t need a passport with Byron because she’ll never go anywhere, rather than because he’s so stealthy, wealthy and powerful that they can slip in and out of countries unnoticed and bribe any official who does notice them.
Come to think of it, dating Byron isn’t that different from dating one of the townies at the Spotted Rose, except they’d probably at least take her to Third Saturday Ride Night occasionally.
Byron is waiting inside, wearing the white tuxedo from the glass case. He tells Hazel she looks radiant as they sit down at a table. She’s mesmerized by how realistic everything inside the cube seems. He says that he’s willing to explain how the cube works, why he built it- she can ask him anything she wants. She asks what’s good to eat at the restaurant.
Right now, she’s on a date and just wants to enjoy the illusion. But that date established the rules for their relationship. Byron is the puppetmaster and she’s a decorative part of the illusion, one of his creations. He gave her the chance to ask questions and she didn’t. Never mind that only another tech geek would have asked for the cube specs in that moment.
In the present, Hazel gets out of the shower, then joins Herb and Diane for breakfast. Diane is seated at the table with a plateful of food in front of her. Hazel notices that her synthetic stepmother is wearing her late mother’s clothes. Herb feels it’s petty for Hazel to complain about his new girlfriend wearing his dead wife’s clothes.
He has more important
petty things to discuss. He’s created an itemized bill to kick off their discussion of what Hazel’s rent should be, because she’s absolutely not staying there for free, even for a few days. The bill includes items such as “All of my ketchup- $5”, “3 rolls of toilet paper- $4”, and “44 minute shower- $8.15”. The items and charges are fairly random, probably based on how much money he needed for something he wanted at the moment he added the item to the list- a pack of cigarettes here, a beer or two there.
She tells him she doesn’t have any money or time to get a job, because she has to get a divorce and find a neurosurgeon to take the chip out of her brain. He reminds her that divorce lawyers and neurosurgeons don’t work for free, so she’s going to need money for them in addition to rent. She agrees to pay him $200 a month in rent. He also wants her to show more respect to Diane and their relationship. He considers Diane part of the family now.
Given the way he treated Hazel as if she were an inanimate object when she was a kid, she’s probably justified in mocking Herb and Diane now. After all, Diane has a full healthy, nutritious breakfast in front of her, something Herb didn’t provide when Hazel was a child and didn’t make for her now while he was making his and Diane’s breakfasts.
Hazel asks how their relationship works. Does he eat the food for Diane, but pretend that she ate it? Is the illusion ruined if Hazel eats the food instead? She eats Diane’s toast. Herb adds toast to her itemized list. Hazel asks how much rent Diane pays.
Byron watches HazelTV while he and Bennett test smells for the smell cube he’s developing for the Hub. Bennett assures him that he’s doing the right thing and Hazel will love it. Byron’s voice shakes as he tries to reassure himself that Hazel will eventually understand why he had to secretly implant a chip in her brain so he could follow her every move even more closely than the 24/7 surveillance the Hub would allow. Now that she’s escaped and he has those emotion lines, he understands her so much better! To Byron, it’s a reasonable trade off- she gets smells inside her prison and her gets to see inside her brain.
A couple of assistants present Byron with vials containing odors for him to sample, then Bennett writes down whether the sample passes or not. Hazel can have smells, but only the smells Byron wants. After Byron reacts violently to the smell of cinnamon, Bennett suggests they let Hazel do the odor sampling. Byron reacts like making Hazel “part of the process” is a foreign concept, but he goes for it. The only odor he approves is the smell of glass, which is chemically inert and has no odor.
As someone who’s chemically sensitive, I totally relate to Byron on this one. The smell of glass is almost the only one I can handle anymore. He also told the assistants that he didn’t want any food smells, which furthers my twin theories that he’s either not human or has massive health issues. I swear he has no immune system, was raised in a bubble and made the Hub so he could have the best bubble ever.
Hazel reverts back to type to raise her rent money, as she stands outside a yoga class at the community college and tells the students they need to hand over their phones because the class is having a digital detox today. They all obediently drop their phones in her basket. As soon as she’s collected enough, she takes them to her local pawn shop, where the pawnbroker (Brandon Morales) sorts through them and assigns value. Hazel asks him why the Gogol phone is worth more than twice as much as the other brands ($45 vs $20 or $10). He says the G-phone will last forever.
Hazel insists that it won’t (and she should know 😉). She’s facing two different mirrors and repeats straight into them that the G-phone is a lousy phone. Before the pawnbroker can give her anymore strange looks, her old friend Bangles spots her from the back room. Hazel tries to run, but the pawnbroker is too quick with the automatic front door lock.
Bangles tells her she’s not leaving until they catch up. Then we jump to Bangles remembering the night of Hazel and Byron’s first date. The green dress was actually Bangles’ senior project for her fashion degree at DRCC and it was due the day after the date. Hazel promised she’d have it back in time for Bangles to submit, but obviously that never happened. Since the dress was the entire grade for the class, Bangles failed.
Now she tells Hazel that she can’t believe her best friend would do that to her. She didn’t even know what happened until a few weeks later when she saw Hazel in a magazine with Byron. Hazel tries to explain that she meant to call, but didn’t have access to a phone. No one is going to believe Mrs Gogol doesn’t have a drawer full of them. Bangles starts in on the story of how her life went wrong because of Hazel- unwanted pregnancy, abortion, drug dealing to pay for the abortion.
She’s interrupted by Bennett’s arrival. Hazel panics, thinking security is right behind Bennett and they’ve come to take her back to the Hub. While Hazel brandishes a
sonic screwdriver cordless drill at him, Bennett tells her that Byron is still giving her space. He’s just there with odor samples for the smell cube. Byron sent Bennett because Bennett is non threatening. The pawnbroker buzzes him in, despite Hazel begging him not to.
This must be one of the more interesting recent days at the pawn shop- the surveillance video will probably be up on Youtube or for sale on another site very quickly. Maybe it can help pay Bangles back for her lost income.
Hazel refuses to take part in the sniff test, even when Bennett narrows it down to three sniffs to get them started. He says he’ll tell Byron that it wasn’t a great time for Hazel to smell things. Hazel reminds him that Byron is watching them, so he already knows. Which Bennett knows, so he’s lying to her. Or he was thinking like a normal person for a second and forgot- it’s usually his job to be their go-between and smooth out their communications.
Bangles throws Bennett out of the shop.
Hazel thanks Bangles for helping her get rid of Bennett. Bangles wants to know what Byron did to Hazel, because the Hazel she used to know would have wiped the floor with Bennett.
Except that would be like kicking a puppy. A relentless puppy who’s devoted to an evil genius, but still. Bennett is one of Byron’s secret weapons.
Hazel brings Bangles back home so they can talk and relax. Bangles says the place hasn’t changed since she was last there 10 years ago. Hazel thinks it’s grown more depressing. Bangles recognizes Diane from the gossip she’s heard and rushes over to examine her, but then jumps to a place on the couch when Herb opens the front door.
Herb insults Bangles twice instead of saying hello. Hazel gives him her pawn shop money for rent. He looks around the house to make sure she didn’t pawn anything of his and says that Bangles can’t stay for dinner. He got 3 pork chops, but Diane won’t share hers with Hazel’s friend.
When Fiffany checks in with Byron, he’s smashing glass smell vials and having a tantrum because he’s certain that Hazel won’t come back home to the Hub. Fiffany tries to reassure him that Hazel just needs time, so that she can come back on her own terms.
Fiffany is more worried that she can’t find Zelda, who should be in the pool for her midday swim. Byron has revoked Zelda’s pool privileges and plans to eat her, presumably because she showed Hazel the secret exit. Fiffany tries to get more information out of Byron by telling him that she needs to extract the data in Zelda’s chip, but Byron has already moved on to his next victim, Lyle Herringbone. He tells an assistant to find Lyle and send him to the pasture if he isn’t already dead.
Byron continues to keep one eye on his Hazelvision monitor. Bennett returns, apologizing for not getting enough information out of her as he runs up. Byron has already moved on from the smell cube anyway. Now he decides he needs to copy Hazel’s experiences so he’ll understand her. Since she’s getting drunk on beer with a friend, that’s what he needs to do. Bennett, who also sounds like an alien who was raised in a bubble at the bottom of the ocean
(with Patrick and SpongeBob), enthusiastically offers to hang out with Byron and pretend to be his drinking buddy. Byron accepts the offer, so Bennett scampers off to locate some beer.
Seriously, who are these two?
Fiffany wanders back to the pink cube that is her office and tells it to go into privacy mode. Then she leaves Lyle a message telling him they need a new plan.
I’m certain that was a safe thing to do, because Byron is sure to respect his employees’ privacy just as much as he respects his wife’s privacy. 🤦🏻♀️
Next Fiffany scrolls through the dolphin tank cams looking for Zelda. Still no sign of her. It’s impressive how distinct each dolphin is to Fiffany, so that she recognizes them instantly.
Bangles and Hazel pound down a lot of beer and shots in short order.
Maybe Herb has a point. They agree that it’s strange to be hanging out again, but they are happy to see each other. Hazel apologizes for keeping the dress and betraying Bangles. Bangles forgives her, saying she would have done the same thing if their positions had been reversed. Hazel confesses that she hasn’t spent time with a friend in 10 years.
Bennett serves the beers in brandy snifters or some other wildly inappropriate glass. He holds the beer can too high when he pours so that it comes out as mostly foam. The two men take sips of foam and tell each other how much they like it. Byron spits most of his out. Bennett tells him Hazel will appreciate the effort he’s putting in for her.
Bennett: “I think sometimes she just gets a little homesick.”
Byron: “What do you mean?”
Bennett: “Well, one time she asked me for donut holes, which I’m guessing she used to eat.”
Byron: “What are donut holes?”
After Bennett explains what a donut hole is, Byron assumes Bennett got them for Hazel. Bennett tells Byron that of course he didn’t. Byron says that Bennett should have gotten them! And if Hazel comes back, he orders Bennett to get her all the donut holes she wants!! Bennett apologizes for not understanding that donut holes are an exception to the healthy living rule that Byron normally imposes. Byron blames Bennett, just a little, for driving Hazel away.
Byron looks a little sad and guilty while he blames Bennett, as if he finally heard part of Hazel’s complaints, now that they’re coming through Bennett’s mouth. Bennett said Hazel was homesick, had no control over her life and didn’t even have access to the small, familiar things that might have made her feel better. Since Byron maintains complete control over his own life and refuses to travel or even leave the cube most of the time, he can probably relate to those complaints, once he stops to pay attention to them. But, as usual, he needed Bennett as his filter.
In a completely false note, drunken Bangles experiments with the idea that Byron can see everything that Hazel sees by mooning him and lifting her shirt up. That’s a male fantasy of how women react to having their privacy stolen- by giving away even more of their privacy through nudity. In reality, Hazel would experiment with ways to limit her vision while still getting around, such as wearing dark wraparound sunglasses at all times.
Herb yells at Bangles to stop it, saying she should ignore Byron because he’s a narcissist. Oh, of course. The women are so brainless they can’t figure out what’s right for them without a man to ‘splain it.
Bangles gets another idea, but Hazel stops her, because Byron can still hear her. Bangles switches to the secret language they spoke together as kids. It’s not Pig Latin, but it’s along those lines. And it’s enough to stump slightly drunk Byron while Bennett runs for the “interpreter pad”.
In their friend language, Bangles tells Hazel that she knows a divorce lawyer who owes her cousin a favor, so he’ll work for cheap. Herb agrees that Hazel should talk to the lawyer. She’s surprised he understood what they were saying. He confesses that he’s known the language since they were in 6th grade, so he’s always understood them. That’s why he doesn’t like Bangles.
He paid enough attention to young Hazel to learn her secret friend language and eavesdrop on every conversation she had with her best friend, but otherwise he couldn’t be bothered to keep groceries in the house or come home at night? And he also gave Bangles a lecherous once over when he came home, before insulting and trying to throw out Hazel’s only friend. Herb is a disgusting human being. I resent the casting of Ray Romano to confuse viewers into thinking he’s someone we should like or warm up to.
Jump to sometime later, when Bennett calls Fiffany to help with Byron, who’s inconsolable. He’s decided to merge with Hazel if she doesn’t return within 48 hours. Fiffany tells him no.
Flashback to their first date. Hazel shovels her dessert into her mouth, while Byron eats nothing, as usual. He tells her he wants to know what she wants. “Like if you could snap your fingers right now and get anything you want, what would that be?”
She wants a million dollars, which he immediately has deposited electronically in her bank account after she snaps her fingers. Once he convinces her the money is real, he suggests they go someplace else. She says the Eiffel Tower and snaps her fingers. The holographic scene changes to Paris. Hazel is delighted. They travel to Antarctica, Egypt and the South of France in rapid succession, then Byron snaps them back to their date.
Of course they never left the table. There’s no telling how long each illusion would hold up if they took a walk.
Back in the restaurant illusion, Byron tells Hazel, “I knew from the moment I saw you that we were similar creatures. You’re not where you’re supposed to be.”
Hazel: “Where am I supposed to be?”
Byron: “Somewhere where you can have whatever you want, go wherever you want to go. With me. At the Hub.”
Hazel: “Are you asking me to work for you?”
Byron: “You’re funny. I’m asking you to marry me.”
Hazel’s smile freezes and she points out that he doesn’t know her. He reels off some basic facts about her. She adds that she doesn’t know him either. He tells her that it’ll be exciting to get to know each other.
She looks thoughtful and he assumes she’s considering saying yes. She tells him she hates her life and her hometown. He says that’s because she’s bored by the things that most people want. And no one has ever taken care of her. She asks how he knows that. Byron says he’s the same way, so he built his own world, with all of the best stuff in it. He just wants to share it with her.
Hazel says yes.
Byron jumps up from the table, saying it’s time to go. Hazel wants to say goodbye to her dad and get her stuff, but Byron says there’s no time for that. They have to start their new life NOW. She acquiesces, trying to understand. Byron pulls her up and pretends he’s going to kiss her on the lips, but then he kisses her on the nose instead. The
Tardis Cube drives away with both of them still inside.
Back in the present, Fiffany tells Byron that he can’t merge with Hazel because they can only hold the connection for 11 seconds. Then Hazel will die, since she was chipped first. Fidgeting with his wedding ring, Byron calmly says that she won’t die. She’ll live on in his mind.
It’s the male gaze taken to the extreme. As long as Byron has access to her in his mind’s eye, no one else needs her. Hazel doesn’t even need access to herself.
Since the poster for the lecture refers to Byron as “The Man Who Knows the Future”, maybe I need to add alien and time traveler to my list of potential reasons for Byron being Byron. The cube on the truck could be his broken Tardis, which he used as a prototype for the rest of the Hub.
In reality, I think this this episode shows that he’s modeled after one of the original tech billionaires like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Byron is germophobic and efficiency-obsessed, potentially on the Autism spectrum, potentially gay and in the closet and potentially health-challenged- he’s got a secret, but it’s hard to tell what it is, or if he has multiple secrets. Deep down, he senses his time is limited (no matter how long he lives it will never be enough to accomplish all of his goals, but Jobs really did die young after a long struggle with cancer); a truly visionary designer/inventor, but not a particularly talented engineer himself; ruthless, but serially loyal to a chosen few; charismatic, with a savant level talent for understanding how to build brand loyalty and buzz combined with a cult of personality around himself.
My best, most outrageous theory is that Byron is actually Grimsson, one of Billy Magnussen’s characters from Maniac, who accidentally stepped into the wrong reality and now has to fake it. In Maniac, Grimsson appears to be a recurring hallucination in the mind of the main character, Owen, and looks just like Magnussen’s other character, Owen’s evil brother Jed Milgrim. Grimsson is Owen’s mysterious secret agent-handler. Whenever he leaves a scene, he steps out of reality just before the edge of the screen in a way that’s similar to the way the doors of the Hub open and close. Maybe Owen’s reality actually took place in a larger Hub.
I ship Bennett and the pawn shop guy. Also Bennett and Byron, who are a more likely pair in the long run.
Both Hazel and Byron are reverting back to their premarriage selves the longer they’re apart. Hazel goes straight back running petty cons and getting into trouble with Bangles. Bangles is who Hazel would have been without Byron, and will quickly become if she doesn’t go back. Not that there’s anything wrong with being Bangles, except for what Hazel did to her by causing her to mess up her degree.
In correlation, on their date Byron would like Hazel to see him as someone like Bennett, except he also wants her to be intimidated enough to do what he says. He cons the con with the same techniques she uses, showing some too good to be true features of what their life would be like, keeping her too dazzled to ask any practical questions of him, showing interest in her instead, and pushing her to seal the deal with a bogus limited time offer.
After seeing that wall full of dolphins and hearing him threaten to eat Zelda, I wonder if there was also a metaphorical wall full of wives and girlfriends. Maybe Hazel wasn’t actually the first girl he moved into the Hub. I sort of wonder if she was meant to be one of many disposable test subjects for the chip, but then he actually fell for her. I’m just not sure if it was before or after he proposed. He didn’t actually need to marry her once he’d lured her into the cube, as he proved by essentially kidnapping her in the restaurant/truck. Are they even legally married or does he just need the chip back?
Lyle wasn’t joking when he said Byron doesn’t do his own killing, implying that someone else does it for him. Now it’s Lyle’s turn to be “put out to pasture”, which doesn’t sound like it means anything good.
Images courtesy of HBOMax.