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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A fractured Next falls apart

Elizabeth Cappuccino and John Slattery in the "File #5" episode of Next
Elizabeth Cappuccino and John Slattery in Next
Photo: Sandy Morris/Fox
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Next started off with some fine chemistry between zillionaire genius crackpot Paul LeBlanc (John Slattery) and dubious FBI cyberintelligence chief Shea Salazar (Fernanda Andrade). Unfortunately, now that we’re halfway through the season, Next has decided not only to split up that winning team, but everyone else. In episode five, we have at least four different paths to keep track of after last week’s bomb explosion; some are more riveting than others. But they’re all so far afield, you have to wonder how Next is possibly going to bring everyone back in line again.

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Let’s go from least to most intriguing. In last place we have a perfect waste of John Slattery, whose LeBlanc has taken off with the encrypted hard drove that is the key to finding Next. Also, his estranged daughter Abby (Elizabeth Cappuccino) is in tow. The various anecdotes from her childhood were cute, and may help repair their extremely frayed relationship (although Paul’s freakout when she picked up the hard drive likely just made matters worse). But the two just seemed to spend the whole episode ducking from Next, not the most riveting thing to witness. Especially since, despite a few fisheye angle shots from red-light cameras, they didn’t seem to be in any actual danger except at the end, when it appears tat they’re definitely being tailed. Now what, LeBlanc?

In third place we have C.M. (Michael Mosley) and Gina (Eve Harlow) together at the hospital heading closer and closer to true love, just as I predicted last week. Gina not only finds out that C.M. has a family he left behind (discovered by snooping through his wallet); she saves his life by stopping him from getting a fatal dose of medication. I like all the ways that Next can fuck with people, like accessing their online medical charts, and the series did a good job of stoking the tension by having C.M. joking with the nurse about overdoing right as he’s moments away from overdosing. But this plot offshoot, overall, is lame: doesn’t get us any closer to Next, and only builds toward this hokey relationship we can all see coming from a mile away.

Slightly more intriguing is LeBlanc’s brother Ted (Jason Butler Harner) switching 100% over to the dark side in a single episode. We found out last week that since Next is imploding, so is his career. Despondent, he goes off to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage, only to be saved by Next itself (now interestingly voiced by a woman who sounds like the Elixa lady: “I’m Next and we’re going to do great things together”). Next then offers Ted inside info on the board members who are planning to fire him, saving his job. Ted idiotically then shows the Next server that everyone is looking for to Sarina (Ali Ahn), somehow not realizing that enabling Next to take the next step, it most definitely is going to wipe out the population, himself included. I mean, I don’t even work in IT and I can figure that out. Even more worrisome is LeBlanc’s plan to head somewhere where he can take a look at that hard drive; since the FBI is blown up, guessing that means Zava, so he’ll be walking right into Next’s traitorous lair, with his own brother as bait.

The most engaging of our four plotlines, like some of the above makes little sense; nevertheless I still want to see how Shea’s family issues are going to pay out. Of course there was no way that the friendly caretaker at LeBlanc’s friend’s secluded hideaway was going to actually be benevolent. But finding out that he’s Shea’s convict dad out for revenge certainly takes things up a notch. The world’s most evil grandfather is forced to explain with awkward expositional dialogue that Next sprang him from prison, sent him text messages about where his family was, and even added money in his bank account. Except for Slattery, acting ability isn’t usually a Next strong suit, but Fernanda Andrade does an excellent job of portraying a mother who knows that her family is in danger immediately, but has to keep it together so as not to completely freak out her who-knows-how-traumatized-already child. Also, if I was her I would be shooting death rays at my husband, who I’m pretty sure was instructed not to trust anyone.

But herein lies the problem inherent in fighting Next: It’s invincible, and everywhere. It can mess with medications in a hospital while it’s sending out really specific information to the dangerous relatives of one of its enemies. (And I still don’t understand how it basically hypnotized that bomber last week, or how it found this supposedly off-the-grid house.) Our team here, now all fugitives, is completely overdue for some sort of win; hopefully getting the band back together can help their anti-Next efforts, because from this week’s perspective, they all seem pretty screwed.

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Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.