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Recap: BRAINDEAD is Playing Politics


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Season 1, episode 2: “Playing Politics: Living Life in the Shadow of the Budget Showdown – A Critique”
Written by Larry Kaplow
Directed by Jim McKay

I just want to start by saying that I am LOVING the beginning recap song by Jonathan Coulton. I wish all shows would start this way. I can’t wait to see the next one.


In act 1, Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tries to spray some bugs crawling toward her in the kitchen before she goes to work, but they won’t die. Welcome to day four of the government shutdown. At the office, an FBI agent tries to question Laurel about Dr. Dauder’s death. Luke (Danny Pino) needs to go to a Democratic caucus meeting. The caucus doesn’t go well, as Luke is blamed for the current situation. The Dems want Luke to find out why the Senator switched sides and then get him to switch back.

Senator Healy and Scarlett getting interupted. (Photo courtesy CBS) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Senator Healy and Scarlett getting interrupted. [Photo courtesy CBS]
Laurel meets with some new constituents, including a little girl with cancer who is trying to visit the Lincoln Memorial; with the shutdown on, she can’t visit.

Luke asks Laurel to get the information out of Gareth (Aaron Tveit). So she goes with him to the Tax Prom.

Meet Gustav Triplett (Johnny Ray Gill), who’s playing chess in the park … several games of chess at once. He notices his last opponent is unresponsive and bleeding from the ear. He’s taking to the hospital and put in the MRI and then … splat his head explodes.

Gustav takes his friend to the MRI. (Photo courtesy CBS) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Gustav takes his friend to the MRI. [Photo courtesy CBS]
Act two: meanwhile, at the Prom, Laurel meets an old friend, Stacie Zara (Nikiya Mathis). Stacie notes that another friend of theirs is there, Abby Summers (Brooke Bloom), and that she has been come super right wing. Laurel notes this strange behavior and discusses it with Gareth. While they’re at the Prom, Laurel overhears Red (Tony Shaloub) talking about the party-switching senator.

Meet Dr. Daudier’s daughter (say that three times fast), Rochelle (Nikki M. James): she’s looking for answers as to why her dad died. She shows Laurel the MRI that Gustav’s friend had that show the bugs moving around.

In act three, Red comes to Luke with a deal: he’ll end the shutdown if the Democrats agree to cut three departments out of the government.

Gustav, home from the hospital, finds a piece of brain in his jacket pocket. The MRI got him thinking: he sets up an experiment, putting the piece of brain in a bag and putting it under a camera clicking away. When he comes back to it later, he finds something left the bag!

Laurel is visited by FBI agent Anthony Onofrio (Charlie Semine), and they discuss Rochelle’s concerns.

Luke, meanwhile, uses Annie, the cancer girl, to put pressure on the Republicans.

Laurel decides to spend the night with her to friends to find out why Abby suddenly had such a deep change of heart. Under pressure, Abby runs out on them.

Luke and Senator Ella Pollack (Jan Maxwell) visit Senator Michael Barneki (Jeffery C. Hawkins) and offer him enough favors to flip back to Democrat.

Luke and Scarlett celebrate at her place. She tries to distract him as the bugs crawl in the window, but he leaves when he finds out that Laurel has been sticking her nose in his business. Luke’s brain is spared.

Luke faces the consequences from the Democratic Caucus. (Photo courtesy CBS) ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Luke faces the consequences from the Democratic Caucus. [Photo courtesy CBS]
In Act four, Luke pays a visit to his sister and accuses her of butting in on his affair with Scarlett.

Red, meanwhile, reveals that Annie’s father is an atheist who believes that Lincoln was gay. Also, Senator Barneki reveals to the press that the Democrats tried to bribe him back to their side of the aisle. Luke’s cache with the Democrats is getting beaten like a government mule.

Act five: the Democrats are madder than a wet hen. Ella even calls for Luke’s removal as Democratic Whip, with herself as his replacement.

Laurel take Annie to the Lincoln Memorial. She sweet talks the guard into letting her ascend the steps to take a picture with the sitting president. Mission Accomplished.

Laurel then starts her own research into exploding heads and comes across Gustav’s video containing his experiment. She sends an email to him.

Stacie and Abby make up. But in the bathroom, the bugs come in. As Stacie screams, Abby turns up the music and has some tea as The Cars sing on … “You might think I’m crazy ….”


This episode was good, but it was mostly “move the plot along” stuff with a few new characters added in. Gustav Triplett seems like a good character, smart and intuitive and just the kind of outside the politics thinking that is needed. Couldn’t help but notice the last name and wonder if he was related to Antoine “Tripp” Triplett, the dead agent from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but that’s probably just coincidence.

So what did we learn in this episode? You can’t kill the bugs with bug spray, they’re strong enough to escape a plastic bag, and they don’t seem to like smart brains. Both Dr. Daudier and Gustav’s friend were both very smart and both their brains exploded when the bugs entered. I don’t think it’s just coincidence.

Questions: does Senator Ella Pollack have a bug in her ear or is she just opportunistic? What kills the bugs other then stepping on them?


BrainDead airs Mondays at 9:59/8:59c on CBS.


Thomas Townley

Thomas spends hours playing games, reading books and comic books and watching genre tv. You should too.

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