‘Scorpion’ Pilot Recap: “Brilliant Minds Working at Half Capacity”

The fall TV season only just started, and already the worst new series of 2014 has declared itself. Well, I suppose that’s not fair. I have no intention of watching the atrocious-looking new ‘NCIS’ spin-off to see how bad it is. Failing that, at the very least, ‘Scorpion’ (also on CBS, purveyors of America’s dumbest yet consistently highest-rated television entertainment) is a total dog that everyone involved should be ashamed to put their names on. It’ll probably be a huge hit and run for years.

The series comes from the poisoned pens of hack screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. That’s warning #1. The opening credits announce that it’s “Based on a True Story.” To which I must respond: “Fuck you, you fucking liars.” This thing is so transparently fake that the only “true” part of the story is that there was once a person named Walter who liked computers. That’s about as much verisimilitude as this show can muster.

The premise is this: Robert Patrick is Homeland Security agent Cabe Gallo and… Hold on a second, I need to address that. Cabe Gallo? Seriously, “Cabe Gallo”? What the fuck kind of fakey made-up name is that? Argh, already I’m furious.

Agent Gallo has a problem. All the computers at LAX are down! The control tower can’t contact any of the planes in the air. No less than 56 fully-loaded passenger airliners are circling and will all simultaneously run out of fuel and crash into downtown L.A. within the hour. Oh noes!

Now, I’m not an air traffic controller, but couldn’t possibly some other airport with working computers contact these planes to redirect them? Or isn’t there some sort of federal emergency system for contacting them? I don’t know, maybe there isn’t, but this just seems like total bullshit to me that there are absolutely no backup failsafes for this contingency.

Fortunately, Agent Gallo once worked with genius computer nerd Walter O’Brien, who says that he has a photographic memory. Hmm, you’d think an actual genius would know that the correct term is “eidetic memory.”

Anyway, Gallo recruits Walter and his band of super-nerd misfit weirdos (described as “a mechanical prodigy, a world-class shrink, and a human calculator”) to fix the airport computers. Apparently, the Geek Squad was all booked up that day.

This will involve hacking! And mashing away at computer keyboards! And super technical computer jargon like… let me make sure I get this right… “Wi-Fi.” (The 80-year-olds in the target audience all collectively call their grandkids to translate for them.) The whole time, nerds with no social skills do nerdy things and weird out the normals, ha ha ha!! Stupid nerds…

For no apparent reason, it also involves pointless car chases, just to present the false semblance of something exciting happening.

Describing the climax of the pilot episode should sufficiently encapsulate how idiotic this show is. The only way to fix the airport computers is to reinstall some old software, but unfortunately the backup servers storing the old software overwrite it every 12 hours – which begs the question what’s the point of having backup servers that don’t actually back-up anything? One plane that’s in the air happens to have a copy of that old software, and the team manages to get hold of the pilot via a passenger who luckily has an old analog cell phone turned on. Sadly, the pilot can’t email the software because the plane’s Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough or some nonsense.

So, Walter cooks up a plan. With the help of a pretty waitress (Katharine McPhee), he races over to another nearby airport, commandeers a LamborghiniFerrari that just coincidentally happens to be parked on the tarmac there, and guns it down the runway at 200 mph while the jet descends to eight feet off the ground and the co-pilot hangs onto the landing gear to pass down a USB cable that the waitress can plug into Walter’s laptop and download the software before they run out of asphalt.

Yes, this is really what happens in the episode.

Question: They’re at an airport. They’re on a runway. WHY DOESN’T THE FUCKING PLANE JUST LAND?! Then let Walter walk up to it and plug his laptop in. Wouldn’t that be a much easier solution?

And we’re supposed to believe that this is based on a true story? I will repeat what I said earlier for emphasis: FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING LIARS!!!

Holy shit, this show is awful. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Officially, the title is spelled:

Scorpion title

Not that the writers could be expected to know this, but putting a forward slash before the word within the angle brackets is the coding tag for ending a process or function. Yes, by all means, let’s please end ‘Scorpion’ as quickly as possible before future episodes can further infect humanity with their stupidity.


  1. I was going to watch this because I’m a Robert Patrick fan…I have to admit Josh, it sounds stupid enough to be entertaining. Maybe there will be a cross-over with Under the Dome next season. 🙂

  2. Mark

    Josh, HOLD UP….WHOA there Cowboy, why do you have to be so harsh. Were you even truly watching the episode. I think that the show did a good job from the get go and I am going to try and clarify(and question) a few of the things you mentioned in your review.

    First off, the agents name, what is wrong with Cabe Gallo? I am pretty sure there are worse names out there for real people. So it’s something different, not your standard,Andy, John, Larry, Bob, Michael, or whatever other common male name you can think of. Next you’ll say that he(Robert Patrick) is too old for the target demographic that the shows going for.

    Secondly, is the current situation at LAX, which they do detail when Walter and his team are first pulled into situation that:
    1. That there are three airports that are covered by the LAX Airspace Controller.
    2. Several planes have already been diverted before they made it into the LAX controller airspace.
    3. They never said all of them would fall from the sky at the same time but when that will start to happen, two hours from when Gallo walked thru the door. (Later in the episode they reference 2 planes with the lowest fuel)

    Now, I will kind of give you the backup failsafe line. But, let me just say it’s a TV SHOW, I bet I could go thru every tv show similar to this, FROM LIKE EVER, especially one that I love dearly-Eureka, and pick it apart, too.

    Thirdly, I pretty sure he said photographic memory for the humble masses that watched the show on premiere night and will pick it up down the road. I bet if you asked 50 to 100 random people on the street in any large city that they would more likely know the term photographic memory over eidetic memory.
    Let me ask you a question. If Walter was to say during the episode; ‘Let me finish chewing my food.’ Do you believe he should say ‘masticating?’ since he is a genius and an awkward and social inept one at that, which would fit his persona?

    Fourthly, Agent Gallo comes to Walter and his team in their most desperate hour, not at its beginning. The incident happened this morning and well, I am pretty damn sure the government had their top people working on it for the better part of said day:
    1. Why they would never make it to the actual LAX in time(LA, traffic, mid-afternoon), when they are initially picked up.
    2. I bet that Walter did something at the cafe that locked or stabilized it’s internet connection. (I am not tech savory by any stretch of the imagination) Walter knows it’s (connection stability, location is close by, connection speed, etc)
    3. Why they had to race to get to the backup servers-it was the end of the day close to the twelve hour mark for backups and the previous backup happened prior to the software update that had the glitch.
    4. And well it builds tension.

    Fifthly, we have the groups specialties, and what better way to get that out of the way than with a quick line and in simple terms to which I point back two paragraphs. I bet that if Agent Gallo was getting a rundown of the teams skills prior to going out to get them he would have told the other agent; ‘Give it to me in fucking simple terms would you.’ Again referencing Eureka and Sheriff Carter, Agent Gallo is the everyman/layman to this team of genius’.
    Also, it’s not hard to think that Walter picked/resonated to the members of his group because they were most like him in their social awkwardness, lest we forget their skill level, which is off the charts compared to you, me and your average viewer and we have glimpses that tell us so. Hence why Agent Gallo picked them up (luckily for him and the show they are all in one place). Each of their histories boasts a lot of story potential:
    1. How the team got together were brought together
    2. How smart they really are
    3. How many degrees each has
    4. How much trouble they have gotten into with the law
    5. How socially awkward they are
    6. Why/how they got into their specialty
    …the list goes on and on
    Now there is the Waitress, Paige, and while she is pretty and fits into that stereotype they give her a story that works with the shows premise, with having a child genius, which she and we learn during the episode. I believe they did a nice job of showing this not just with the cafe item chess, but with the discussion of what the boy sees in and thinks when looking at an everyday object. It will be interesting to see how the boy plays into the show’s story lines. And like Agent Gallo, Paige is also another everyman for the show.

    Sixthly or lastly if you like, The Climax. The team had to get the old uncorrupted/glitch-free software from the plane in the air that they were able to into contact with. Again going back to their location LA in the afternoon (i.e.: logistical nightmare on short notice) they needed to get to a nearby airport, which they do SAY is too small for the large passenger plane in question to land at.
    Which leads to the decision to hack the traffic lights and use them to get there with haste, well along with speeding. Why did Agent Gallo go after them is well because he is Agent Gallo and he still believes he is in charge, but I think he more so follows, and which leads to story development for Agent Gallo, when he sacrifices himself so that Walter, the one he knows can finish the job can get to the airport.
    Now onto the last bit. Walter decides to do this because of all the set backs during the episode and that is to do a hardwired connection, which IS the best possible option to complete the mission. This fits into the storyline that came before it not just for story itself, but to show that Walter picks the one option that his intellect sees as having the least probability of failure. And yes if this was real life they would probably have a 1% chance of success but its a TV SHOW for crying out loud. Hell, in the opening minute it shows how smart Walter really is when we learn he hacked NASA and had an immunity agreement and extradition waiver signed and ready when the Special Ops crew busted down his bedroom door.

    I not sure if you gave the show your undivided attention, but I hope that this laundry list of details for the premier episode might have you give the show another look. I went into it for a fun filled hour of escapist television and came out the other side with a smile on my face and some anticipation for what this group of genius’ will do next episode, and the rest of the season, to save the day. I actually went back and watched most of the episode again, too.

    PS: The shows title, like Agent Gallo’s name issue above, what’s wrong with it. How it is written connects to what they will be doing a lot of the time-hacking, and in a techy way tells what they are trying to do-stop bad things from happening. So, after a fashion it fits perfectly and is more than just a title for the show.

      • Mark

        I totally agree with and understand ‘To each there own’, everyone has there own taste. It just felt to me while I read the review that you went into it with blinders on and didn’t really care what was happening on screen, hence why it read like you totally missed half the show. So, felt the needed to stand up for it since I had a fun time watching it.

        I am a fan of the lighter fare with a good mix of action, comedy, and a little drama sprinkled in to keep it interesting, like Eureka I mentioned above. Also, Warehouse 13(which did get pretty dark if you think about it), Castle, White Collar, Chuck, just to name a few. Don’t get me wrong though I watch a little bit of everything. I try to keep my tv show watching diet balanced with several categories.

  3. Luke Coffey

    Dear Josh like Mark i’m also a fan several goofy an improbable shows and he does appear to be right you didn’t watch this show or you would have know the car is a ferrari 458 and not a lamborghini

  4. Neil Thorson

    It was fun! The FX were great and although the plot improbable it held my attention for the full hour. I’ll stick around for the next episode, at least.

  5. I really enjoyed the pilot episode but was troubled by the “based on a true story” shit at the beginning just as much the author was if not more. Google got me to this article. That being said, its a good show meant for muggles, so Josh got a little too defensive imho (fair enough its your article). Overall a good show. Good acting. Good jargon. Definitely not a f*ckin chance based on a true story other than Walters iQ(?). Im from CA and would have probably heard if planes were falling from the sky and there were Ferrari driving supergeniuses it would be on the god damn news. Good show. Grab some popcorn Josh. Stress is the #1 killer, even if you’re right.

  6. W0NK042

    Loved it. Good (silly) fun, in an old-school Saturday afternoon telly kind of way (Like Night Rider/A-Team/Airwolf/etc). The only part of this show that they could do without, is the “Based on possible lies of someone that’s never proven the fact(s)” at the beginning but (with the real Walter O’Brien as a show producer) I don’t see that happening.

    • W0NK042

      *Knight Rider

      (The above comment is to short, hence I am writing this filler. Thanks for taking the time to read this, as well).

  7. andi brehme

    i just watched the pilot because i was bored like * and read that douches ama on reddit (so funny!).

    now i have to say: Josh was right. and he is an a***ole for NOT MAKING IT CLEAR TO ME HOW AWFUL THIS PIECE OF TV-CRAP REALLY IS!!
    it physically hurts my brain memorizing this AWFUL, TRULY AWFUL tv show.
    though that fat guy cbs uses for they viral marketing is just so hillarious!

    i deeply hope that the officials at cbs believed that walter guy and made total fools of themselves, so this AWFUL show will be an example for them and they start creating wonderful pieces of tv-masterpieces from now on!

    thank you and good morning!

  8. vryc

    Yup. Pablum of the highest disorder. This show has all the hallmarks of thoughtless gloss associated with prime tv shows: snappy editing, roll-the-eyes cliffhangers, art-rock music cues… the list is always consistent with these cookie cutters.

    Anytime I see the words, “inspired by a…” my hackles go up. Inspired is just another term for “completely made up with no connection with any sort of reality” in the movie/tv business.

    Scorpion is CBS so it’ll probably get at least a full 2 seasons which means 43 episodes more than it should have (since a Pilot is almost a given in the industry). Although barely better, at least Person of interest deals with larger issues and expresses an actual opinion about some of them (not that I’m a huge fan of that show either) rather than pander to the middling fair that is the average (very) tv viewer. I guess it’s enough that this show is out there assuaging someone’s grief-stricken boredom that they call a life. In that respect, it’s good for something.

  9. TVViewer

    PEOPLE!! GET A FUCKING LIFE!!! It’s a damn TV Show for pete’s sake. So what if nothing but the guy’s name, business name, and that he’s a hacker, are the only TRUE things about the show. IT’S!!!! A!!!!! FUCKING!!!! TV SHOW!!!!

  10. Daniel

    I’m sorry, Josh, but you are being way too kind.

    These ‘geniuses’ don’t have the problem solving skills of a vaguely smart high school student, and most of the ‘explanations’ of what is happening and why are totally, horribly invalid.

    I couldn’t watch the whole episode, but then again, I didn’t have to.

    Let’s ignore some of the non-technical weirdness like helicopters of heavily armed US troops swooping down on some Irish farmhouse, and go straight to the hard core “it doesn’t/can’t work that way”.

    1. The wifi doesn’t work because the plane is moving too fast??? Range, maybe, Speed? Not a chance. The doppler shift versus a wide frequency signal? No effect.

    2. Airplanes and ground communications systems using the same software? No.

    3. Automated update of critical communications software? No.

    4. Updating such software without lots and lots of regression testing? Never.

    5. Using the same software for military comms? No. If you have to, just send a few fighters to lead the planes to the right runways.

    6 Radios aren’t necessary to land planes. They are not going to stay up till the fuel runs dry… pilots are not suicidal. They will find an empty runway, land, and taxi out of the way. Their maps will show multiple alternatives, including regular airports, private fields, and military bases. No falling out of the sky.

    6. Every plane on the ground, approximately, will have a radio. The ones that are down for maintenance will have no power, and even in the stupid scenario the hack writers came up with, will have the old sofware…. as will the system manufacturer, and the developers.

    7. Some private planes will have handheld radios for the VHF aircraft band. For that matter, half the smartphones on the aircraft will have FM receivers if you just want to tell them what to do… seems to me there’s an emergency broadcast system designed to take over all the radio stations… And different aircraft models for different airlines will have different radios, with different software. Even unlocked amateur band transceivers can operate on 121.5 Mz (the emergency channel everyone is going to go to, with at least one of their multiple radios).

    8. Creating a power surge by turning a switch off and on? Too bad we blow up all the electronics and lights in our house when something big like a refrigerator or washing machine or furnace starts or stops… not.

    9. Unlocking a secure facility by messing with line power? Really? By blowing out the lock circuits so it then unlocks? Every electronic lock I’ve seen fails in its current state… if it was locked, it stays that way.

    I’m sure there was lots more stupidity, but about 20% of that turkey was all I could take. Apologies to maligned turkeys.

  11. Daniel

    Oh, and

    10. If you want to get something in/out of a plane, you don’t use the Wifi, you use the satellite uplink that’s backhauling the Wifi to the internet.

  12. Ted Mosby

    ABSOLUTELY AGREE!!!!! – WHILE THIS SHOW HAD ENORMOUS POTENTIAL to elevate TV…. TV for educated smart, enlightened individuals it, instead as you so clearly nailed is hack written!!! The dialog & the situations are just so ghod damn awful.
    I WANTED this to be great. I still hope the writers all die & the network sees fit to outsource the writing to someone with a partial frontal lobotomy to really improve the mental capacity of the team by leaps & bounds…. but if not, R.I.P. Scorpions.

    P.S. I love K.M.’s appearance. So, I continue to suffer through each episode; hoping that they will force her to wear sleazy lingerie or at the very least some slutty bathing suits! – Perving out is all that is left for this show.

  13. Magic Physicist

    I know this was already mentioned but the start of every show bugs me with the

    So then what is the beginning of the code?

    Why not a backwards BBcode [/b]Name[B]

    When you are typing code all day and even at the start of the show you tend to think about that the entire time.


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