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'Rubicon' recap: Of Cato and Caesar

October 11, 2010 |  9:11 am

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