Counterpart – The Lost Art of Diplomacy
By: Arlene Allen
The latest episode of “Counterpart” opens with a flashback of Howard’s wife Emily (Olivia Williams) getting hit by the car that sent her into a coma. We see Howard (J.K. Simmons) at the hospital, giving a nurse her medical history. Fade to Howard, present day, visiting Emily in a new hospital in a secret location with a security detail on her door. Howard has brought her flowers, as always, and tells her about the promotion he finally got at work. He attempts to read to her, but he puts the book down after only a few messages.
Flash to the Other Side where we see a German commercial on a TV watched by Emily Prime. The commercial shows people stricken by some sort of virus, children wearing masks on a playground with a harsh voice over warning that everyone needs to be proactive in reporting sick people, taking their vaccines. People who refuse to do so face a fine or jail time or worse for failure to comply. Emily has a gun and meets with an old guy who tells her about an authorization code that came from the “Midnight Station,” from whence the fake rendition notice was sent. He also tells her about Baldwin’s arrest on the other side and tells Emily that he’s going to try to pull in some favors to get her a passport to Earth-1.
Back to Earth-1, the abandoned house where Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) had been holed up is crawling with police. Baldwin is in custody and has officers baffled as to why her prints are exactly the same as Nadia’s, the dead violinist.
Quayle (Harry Lloyd) is enjoying some down time with a hooker when he gets a call about an illegal from the other side in our world and is told to get down to the office immediately. It turns out the man on the other end of the line is his father-in-law, who is in the Organization’s diplomacy department. Meanwhile, Howard Prime (HP) is reaching out to both sides for negotiations. He’s also still arguing for our Howard’s promotion into the Strategy department. HP is still furious at Aldrich (Ulrich Thomsen) for the screw-up that got Nadia killed and Baldwin arrested on the wrong side. Aldrich is suitably subdued.
Emily Prime (EP)’s new lover Shaw (Nicholas Pinnock) catches the case to bring Baldwin back to Earth-2 and is assigned to take EP with him. Apparently, her contact came through for her, but Shaw is none too happy about it. It seems that HP holds the key to clearing her name from the accusation of murder following the fake rendition notice she was sent.
Meanwhile, our Howard accompanies Aldrich to the police station to question Baldwin, who has been held in isolation upon negotiations made by Aldrich. Aldrich attempts to question Baldwin in is usual arrogant and nasty manner and, of course, gets nowhere with her. Baldwin sees Howard and says she will only speak to him, which thrills them both to no end. Once Aldrich leaves the room (although he is listening in behind a mirror), Baldwin asks Howard why he intervened and tried to stop Nadia’s shooting. Howard replies with his sincerity and compassion that the shooting was wrong.
HP is meeting with the ambassador to Earth-2 who resides in an embassy here on our side. The ambassador, Lambert, is spoiled and childish, sitting around in his underwear while announcing he’s flouncing off to a luncheon while HP can just wait here and meet with the representatives sent to take Baldwin back. HP tries to pressure Lambert (Guy Burnet) into telling him who sent Baldwin, but Lambert won’t answer.
Quayle meets with his father-in-law, Fancher (Richard Schiff). They talk briefly about a vaccine (the vaccine we saw in the commercial at the beginning, perhaps?) and then move on to the subject of Baldwin. They discuss her value here and on the other side, and who stands to gain the most by having her. She can’t stay here on Earth-1 because the secret of the two universes might get out, but they’re pretty sure if she is sent back she’ll be killed. In short, she’s very valuable. Quayle and Fancher head out to have lunch with Ambassador Lambert.
Shaw and EP are getting briefed and vaccinated for their journey to our side. They will have embassy only contact; they can have no interactions with anyone on the outside or even look at the earth outside. The car that picks them up on our side of the check point has blacked out windows and is soundproofed. Of course, EP expresses curiosity about our world, but Shaw redirects her attention to the mission. They have no idea that it is HP who awaits them at the Embassy. EP absolutely flips when she sees him and HP isn’t too happy with that turn of events either. Shaw is absolutely furious. HP goes on the offensive and refuses to answer any questions at all about Baldwin. He pulls the old “I don’t remember” routine on them both.
At the luncheon Fancher, Quayle, Lambert and Lambert’s advisors get down to the nitty gritty regarding Baldwin. Lambert claims he has no idea how Baldwin got here to Earth-1 or why she is here. Lambert’s people want her back on Earth-2 and silenced. They don’t want her spreading secrets on Earth 1 either. You just know Baldwin is a dead woman either way. The diplomats discuss a trade involving vaccines – there’s those vaccines again. We just know they are going to be majorly important to this story. Quayle and Fancher are driving a hard bargain, haggling because “no one ever accepts the first offer put on the table.” Quayle’s phone rings during the proceedings, but he ignores it as he sees that the call is coming from Aldrich (who’s pretty much on everyone’s crap list).
Back at Lambert’s quarters, EP and Shaw tell HP that the rendition order was false and that someone is setting EP up. She tells him the backstory of how the order came from a code issued by the Midnight Station and that she has had encounters with those men before, when she went to retrieve a man that ended up dead by their bullets. EP gives HP the code that was used to order the rendition on him. HP and EP figure out it’s been Pope that’s been playing them the whole time and it was Pope who issued the rendition order to kill HP and discredit EP.
Baldwin and Howard are still talking, with Howard trying to reach out to Baldwin with kindness. He says he knows it had to be hard for her to watch Nadia die and that they had to have had a shared past. Howard asks her if she played violin, too. He says we can’t escape from who we are. Quayle finally calls Aldrich back while Fancher hammers out a deal with Ambassador Lambert’s people. Quayle tells Aldrich the most he’s going to have to get information out of Baldwin is 24 hours, if that.
HP gives EP a coded message and tells her to go to the church where they’ve both been meeting Pope and light a candle for his mother. He finishes giving her instructions just as Lambert returns to the Embassy. EP returns to Shaw, who had left the room at EP’s request, and tells him HP told her nothing. Nothing at all about Baldwin. Lambert tells them that negotiations have been made to send Baldwin back to the other side.
As Shaw and EP head back to the border, Shaw says they should just put up a wall and seal the two earths off from each other and never look back.
A van comes to pick up Howard, Aldrich and Baldwin from the police station and you just know something bad is going to happen. Sure enough, the van gets attacked by gunmen and one man jumps on the roof of the van and starts pouring gasoline all over it. He threatens to set the van on fire with them in it if they don’t step outside. In sheer terror Howard opens up the van’s door and in jumps Baldwin’s handler from this side. She and Baldwin escape, but spares their lives because of the connection Baldwin has formed with Howard.
Quayle, Howard and HP re-group at Howard’s apartment. Aldrich is in his office freaking out. HP drops the bombshell on Howard and Quayle that his travel visa and passport is being revoked and he will never (legally) be allowed to return to Earth-1 again. He believes that Baldwin and Lambert are connected somehow and that Lambert knows way more about the situation than he’s letting on. They hatch a plot to send Howard back to Earth-2 in HP’s place, which has Howard freaking out. HP says both sides are compromised and Howard is the only one who can infiltrate the dealings taking place on the other side, while HP tackles things from this side. Howard, of course, doesn’t want to leave his Emily, but HP assures Howard he’ll look out for her. Quayle actually thinks this is a good idea, and starts making arrangements for Howard to train to mimic HP.
EP is now back home and takes the code HP gave her back to the church. She lights the candle for his mother as requested (who are the dead people represented all over the church?) and while she is adjusting the frame, she discovers a note and it’s a bombshell. It’s a letter from Emily on Earth-1 to Prime, saying that if someone is reading this letter it means she is dying. It was she who summoned HP over to the other side to look out for Howard and protect him. She could never tell Howard who she really is and what she is doing for his own protection. Whoa! Who is Emily Silk?
Howard has gone to the park by himself and sits down by a Go board to think. He knows for sure he is in over his head (and wait until he finds out just how over his head he is actually in!).
EP heads to her apartment, where she is punctured by a sharp object as she turns on her light switch. It becomes clear she has been poisoned as she gets woozy and collapses on the floor. An unknown assailant steps into the apartment, takes the letter and code from her body and scatters pills around her, implying an overdose. It would appear that Emily Prime is dead!