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'Rubicon' recap: Of Cato and Caesar

The opening scenes of this week’s episode of 'Rubicon' showed Khateb, the American Al Qaeda operative, at his prayers in a nondescript motel room in God knows where, U.S.A. He looks like your basic blond, blue-eyed everyguy, except for the prayer rug he rolls up when he finishes. Later, he's on the move: I particularly liked that as he's driving down the highway listening to classic-rock radio; the tune is the Allman Brothers' "Whippin’ Post."

Later in the episode, we see him boarding a pleasure boat and stocking it with all kinds of nasty-looking explosives. We don't find out where Khateb is headed until near the end of the episode, but there were plenty of other things happening.

Spangler had to meet with the angry four-leaf-clover conspiracy members, who aren't happy that the Will Travers problem hasn't been "handled" -- Will fought off and killed a would-be assassin in the last episode. Several want to call off or at least put the brakes on their current plot. "We’re past that point," Spangler tells them. "Just sit tight." He gets a cellphone call from the office, and looks over at them. "It’s started," he says.

Will asks Kale to stash Katherine in a safe place. She tells Will about the note found in the worthless jewelry box during the last episode -- a request from her husband that she continue to observe their anniversary after his death. Apparently every year they watched the movie they saw on their first date: "Meet Me in St. Louis." Maybe there is a message in it; Will asks her to find the movie in her belongings.

Kale and Maggie deliver Katherine to a safe house. There, Kale delivers the speech that explains the series'  title and the suicides of conscience-plagued conspiracy members Bradley and Rhumor. "Do you remember your Roman history?" he asks. He tells her about highly moral and incorruptible Roman senator Cato, who refused to be conquered by the increasingly power hungry Caesar (after Caesar had "crossed the Rubicon"). Instead, Cato took his own life, so, Kale tells Katharine, "his loved ones could make their own peace and go on with their lives."

"My husband killed himself to protect me?" Katharine asks.

"I believe so, yes," Kale answers.

At API, Spangler launches a full-on inter-agency hunt for the former Joseph Purcell, a.k.a. Khateb, and FBI agents swarm the institute, making themselves unwelcome. Will and Grant are dispatched to New Jersey to interview Purcell’s family and friends, along with about 200 other field agents who set up a sophisticated center of operations in a high school gym. "Look at all this stuff," Grant says in amazement. "Why don’t we have stuff?"

Spangler is clearly unhinged when a surveillance photo is hand-delivered to his desk. Finally, some expert and timely tailing work on this show: It's a picture from that morning, showing Kale at the wheel of a car and Katherine and Maggie about to get in. Betrayed by Kale, Spangler is undone, shaking, smoking inexpertly. When Kale comes in, he doesn't know Spangler is on to him.

"Forty years in the intelligence business and I somehow thought I was past being surprised," Spangler says. But he doesn’t tell Kale what he knows and Kale hears it as a reference to the discovery of an Al Qaeda agent on U.S. soil. Rather than a direct confrontation, Spangler gives another of his veiled farewells, like his talk with Will in the last episode. "I couldn't find you earlier," he says. "I’m reminded how profoundly I rely on you." Not catching his drift, Kale says he's not going anywhere; the two of them will be there until they have to be carried out, he says. "Indeed," Spangler replies with a false smile.

By the end of the episode -– remember, next week is the season finale -– Will has linked Tanaz, Khateb, David Hadas and the city of Houston. What is the common thread, he asks Kale over the phone. "Oil," Kale says; Hadas had made a study of the port of Houston and the Galveston area and found that one-quarter of the country's oil comes through that port; if there was some kind of terrorist incident there, it would cause a three-month-long "aneurysm" in the nation's oil-distribution system.

Hadas' findings were in a white paper that I believe we saw Spangler feeding into his office shredder; in any event, it had disappeared from API's archives. Backstop me here, Rubicon watchers: This would explain the clover-conspiracy guys jockeying for a position in oil-rich but unstable Nigeria earlier in the series, right?

At that moment, Maggie bursts into the team’s room to tell them to turn on the news -– someone has just exploded a large ship in Galveston Bay. The TV news people say the terror alert code has been raised to red and that all airports have been closed: "The United States is once again under attack."

-- Kelly Scott

Above: Miranda Richardson as Katherine Rhumor in 'Rubicon.' Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/AMC


Comments () | Archives (6)

Awesome episode! Can't wait for next week and- I hope!- a season two!

Do we know that was Khateb, or could there be more than one pleasure boat streaming toward more than one target? If it was our guy who sunk the tanker in Galveston Bay, was it a suicide attack? I think not. He's still out there with more damage to do, or at least a little run to make.

Also, it seems to me that Spangler is cornered. He can't exactly "take care of" Will + Katherine + Kale + Maggie (with Miles teetering on the edge of knowing too much), unless he can figure out a way to "take care of" them all in one fell swoop, and that would total the series, perhaps even too darkly for a one season only "mini-series" that's not being renewed. I hate to lose Spangler, a classic villain, but if somebody's got to go, and that appears to be the case, better him that Will or Kale.

I hope AMC renews this show. It's the best series on television right now, and I'm including HBO and Showtime (sorry, Dex). I can't wait until it's over, so I can go back and watch them all to see the clues I missed first time through.

I'm not certain that Kale wasn't cognizant of Ingrams veiled words. Remember Kale doesn't trust anybody. And Kale's remark that he doesn't picture either of them leaving until they are carried out may be a veiled threat in itself. Ingram is scared of Kale because he said before, he still sees Kale as the man he met in Syria with blood on his hands. Kale is a bigger threat than Will.

So far this was the most eventful, although sort of rushed episode (I know, unthinkable in this show). Specifically - Setting up Katherine for wandering off, a classic formula situation for something awful to happen...but no. Will shows up at work, and ...somehow... Spangler already knows the killing didn't work (at breakfast no less), the extensive interviews with the relatives in New Jersey...do nothing but distract, and we still have zip zero and nada on Al Kateb (other than he likes dinosaur rock acts, and 70 year old cartoons). Mr Bloom, I assume, planted the boat, and bombs, etc, and based on the crying scene, I assume that is the end of Kateb...but it was Spangler's shop that made the ID in the first place which would have been ultra easy to derail or slow up...if Will and Kale were not wasting time on Katherine, he might have come up with something at 2:20 and blown the whole thing...who knew Truxton was such a gambler.
On the other hand, if I was Kales's BF, I'd plan a trip to Montreal or Toronto for a month - look at leaves maybe, make sure the insurance is paid up and the pre-nup is air tight, call the doorman to see if the "cat" is ok before returning.
Nice parallel though, with Will ending up crying in his crappy room, just like Kateb.
The Nigeria connection is a little more remote - as in the Atlas people seem to be making a bet on a spike in oil prices (although less US consumption would reduce them). My guess is that it will be the first move for next season, along with who will replace a soon to be offed Truxton (all those Ceasar parallels, lets recall Brutus' role in things).

Thanks for the recap! I love this show and hope next week's episode is not its last. I'm glad Kale finally filled us in on how the title fits into the show. I couldn't figure out who had "crossed the Rubicon." I thought maybe it was Hadas or Will, whose investigations had taken them too far to turn back, even when threatened with death. Now it seems it is Spangler and the clover-guys. But is Kale Spangler's Marc Antony or Brutus? I can't wait to find out.

Good recapitulation and analysis, with one exception, as follows:


"I couldn't find you earlier," he says. "I’m reminded how profoundly I rely on you." Not catching his drift, Kale says he's not going anywhere; the two of them will be there until they have to be carried out, he says.

The line, "Not catching his drift...", should be qualified; i.e., it should be revised to "There's an ambiguity concerning Kale's studied response: he may have caught, but purposely not acknowledged Spangler's veiled accusation, or he may have missed it entirely.

Based on all we know about Kale it's the former, not the latter. He simply wants to play it out on his strategic terms, not Spangler's.

As for Cato and Roman history, Kale's gloss isn't quite complete; Cato the Younger sided with the Roman Optimates as he was jealous of Caesar's successes, and the Optimates, far from being pure were angry with Caesar largely because his exploits devalued the price of gold, reducing their net worth. However, Kale's point is still relevant and fast-paced television doesn't allow a complete exposition.


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