Television & Film

Recap: BRAINDEAD tries to Wake Up the Grassroots


[All photos courtesy CBS]

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Season 1, episode 4: “Wake Up Grassroots: The Nine Virtues of Participatory Democracy, and How We Can Keep America Great by Encouraging an Informed Electorate”
Written by Robert King and Michelle King
Directed by Allan Arkush


Act 1:We open on two neighbors, a man, and a woman, greeting each other going into their apartments. As they sleep, the bugs crawl in and they get taken over. They awaken more leftwing and rightwing than before: in fact, downright hostile. This causes them to ram into each other’s cars.

Meanwhile, Laurel (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Agent Onforio (Charlie Semine) are out for drinks, discussing all the head explosions. Watching them is Gareth (Aaron Tveit) and the conservative news anchor Misty Alise (Megan Hilty). They discuss the One-Wayers. Gustav (Johnny Ray Gill) then walks in with his cat in the carrier: he has some bugs, but he needs a CAT scan … on his cat.

At the hospital they discover half of the cat’s brain is missing. They also notice that that the cat’s ear drum is busted from the bugs entry. This means anyone affected will be off balance and deaf in one ear.

Gareth takes a look at Laurel’s documentary project. He considers funding it, but sleeps with Misty instead.

Laurel goes to work and meets the man who was taken over at the beginning of the show: he’s mad about possible cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, really threatening. She finally gets him to leave, but he seems off balanced.

Gareth chats up Misty while spying on Laurel.
Gareth chats up Misty while spying on Laurel.

Act 2: Luke (Danny Pino) wants Laurel to go the DC police about the off-balanced man. But Laurel just wants to let it go.

Luke goes to the Republican Majority Leader Andre Amarant (Wayne Duvall) and tries to negotiate a deal to reopen the government, he tells Luke that he wants to compromise with the Moderate Democrats, but they’ll have to talk about it out of sight later, they plan to meet in the park tomorrow.

Laurel notices that the CDC was issued a news bulletin on the head explosions: they’re blaming it on blood medications. Laurel, Gustav, and Rochelle (Nikki M. James) look for answers as to why the CDC came up with that answer.

Gareth makes a $500 donation to Laurel’s doc. Laurel thanks him and they discuss the shutdown.

After they part ways, Noah (Michael Esper), the crazy left winger, accosts Laurel on the proposed cuts to the NEA, especially cuts to public television. He whips out a butcher knife … that he got from a PBS pledge drive — it’s from The Splendid Table. She tells him off and briskly walks away from him.

Laurel has a lot on her mind, so does the next person she meets …

Act 3: Luke and Senator Amarant meet in the park and discuss a plan, they land on sequestration so they can get the government reopened and kick the can down the road a bit.

Laurel, after the near attack by Noah, looks for his constituent file, only to find out that Scarlett (Paige Patterson) cleaned out the files.

Laurel and her companions head to the CDC where they talk with Dr. Dexter Wu (Marcus Ho). He’s unconvinced by the evidence they provide, he wants a human subject to examine.

So they pay a visit to Abby (Brooke Bloom). Abby refuses to go with them so Laurel calls in Agent Onofrio to take her into protective custody. She seems to consent to going with him … until she jumps from her balcony to the pavement below … dead.

Laurel is not very happy with Gareth sticking his nose in her potential love life.
Laurel is not very happy with Gareth sticking his nose in her potential love life.

Act 4:The One-Wayers are meeting with Gareth, getting their website put together. Especially the link section on how to make homemade bomb-making materials. “Why do we need bombs?” Gareth asks. They tell him they’re gonna start a revolution.

Laurel deals with Abby’s suicid., Onofrio seems to think she might have been depressed. He was told this by Stacey.

Senate is called to order by a quorum of 3. They immediately call for a 15-minute roll call vote on the sequestration bill. The other senators race to the chamber to vote.

Across town, Senators Wheatus (Tony Shaloub) and Pollack (Jan Maxwell) are arguing vehemently on TV when Red gets the text to vote. They both rush to get to the chamber, but the subway is closed.

The vote passes and the government reopens.

Red tells Luke, “You’re dead.”

Being late for a vote? Crisis! Forgetting that the subway is shut down? Priceless!
Being late for a vote? Crisis! Forgetting that the subway is shut down because of your own actions? Priceless!

Act 5: Laurel had a drink with Rochelle and discuss Abby. They wonder whether the infected coordinate their actions.

Laurel watches an update on TV about the reopening of the government. She then brings up a clip from another program. Red is calling it “a senatorial coup d’état.” They then focus people protesting in the streets, including NPR lover Noah. She closes the computer and lies down next to Anthony, staring intently at his ear.


This episode has a lot. We learn what part of the brain is affected by the bugs and what symptoms the affected display. We get to see a looming dog fight for Laurel’s affection set up. We get to see how crazy the bugs can make a normally sane person (ala Noah, the NPR fanatic.) We also get a masterful piece of legislative work by Luke and the Republican leader that reopens the government … for now.

The question also gets asked whether the bugs coordinating their plans. With Abby’s suicide and Stacey covering it up, it sure seems that way. But if they are, does that mean they’re only coordinating on ideologue lines or are they all coordinating one big plan together, each one adding a little to the mix until it’s too late for our little “Scooby” gang to defeat it?

At least the trio of unlikely heroes now know what to look for in the bug’s subjects. They have poor coordination and deafness in one ear from the initial attack. You know what this means: we’re gonna see a lot of closeups of ears in the coming episodes.

I would also like to say bravo on how they reopened the government in this episode. I was cracking up after the three senators took to the house floor using the rules to get the sequestration bill passed. They did the homework and passed with flying colors, outwitting Red and Ella. However now this might lead to some unhappiness for Luke as Red will strike back and strike back hard using his nutty One-Wayers. Will they try to ACTUALLY start a revolution? Will he actually try to kill Luke? It seems that the possibility of his trying is strong as the bugs are definitely murderous. We still aren’t sure about the fate of the bug stricken right winger from the beginning of the episode. Is she alive or dead? I don’t remember that the audience received an answer.

As for Dr. Wu at the CDC, couldn’t they examine Abby’s body? They would see the remaining bugs in her head and the missing portion of brain, wouldn’t that win them over?

BrainDead now airs Sunday at 10/9 Central on CBS. (This time because of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Kind of ironic, isn’t it.)  It can also be found on Amazon Prime Instant Video. For more information, visit the official website.



Thomas Townley

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

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