“The Kentucky Contract” remained focused on the present, as assets set off on new missions and were given some (mostly unsatisfactory) explanations.
This recap of Treadstone Season 1, Episode 4, “The Kentucky Contract”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Interestingly enough, I didn’t even realize that Treadstone Episode 4 never bothered with any flashbacks until I sat down to write this — proof, I suppose, that I was engaged with its competing present-day storylines, in which various CIA “assets” are given new, mostly unsatisfactory explanations, and new assignments. We didn’t even go to Moscow in “The Kentucky Contract”, which I also barely noticed, and which goes to show that perhaps Treadstone‘s underlying Stiletto Six Russian missile subplot isn’t as interesting or necessary as the show thinks.
Either way, we got development in all of the major on-going storylines in Treadstone Season 1, Episode 4, so let’s divide this recap up into its focal characters and see what we can piece together. Cool? Cool.
So, Sam (Tess Haubrich) and Doug (Brian J. Smith) are on clean-up duty in “The Kentucky Contract”, since the former put a bullet through an agent’s head in last week’s cliffhanger ending. Oops. Both of them are rightly confused by the whole matter. Doug tries to hastily explain about what happened in the Arctic — a refresher: he got fired, got into a fight, blacked out, and woke up covered in blood — as though that offers some kind of explanation, but Sam is singularly focused on the matter at hand. It’s time to get rid of the body. My car or yours?
Most wives and girlfriends know how this works. Sam tries to justify it with her medical training, but I reckon it’s ingrained on an evolutionary level, just in case. The teeth, feet, and hands have to go since they’re the bits that give a person their unique snowflake qualities. Doug is nowhere near as blasé about yanking out a dead guy’s teeth as Sam is, which should set some alarm bells ringing, but he’s still too busy babbling about nursery rhymes to notice. Sam thinks they can stay together and just carry on as normal, which is deeply worrying, but Doug doesn’t really question that either. In fact, he thinks it’s not a bad idea, so they just head home to tidy up and get on with their lives.
The problem is that tidying up reveals a briefcase full of floor plans and other tell-tale bric-à-brac which prompts Sam to start fretting about Treadstone, which she thought was “supposed to be over.” Buckle up, folks, the exposition train is arriving at the station. Sam, it turns out, was recruited by the CIA to help train the assets in a top-secret program, and Doug was among them. They taught him how to kill and do other fun things, then they factory-reset his memories and built him a whole cover identity to keep him going until activation. Activation includes a series of triggers that set an asset’s brain into obsessing over a “problem that needs to be solved”, with completion of the mission being the only means of solving that problem. These high-level government assassins are just people trying to quell their headaches by routinely acting on their pre-programmed compulsions. They’re stripped of morals, motive, and remorse — it’s a cruel and inhuman fate when you think about it. Very CIA.
Treadstone Episode 4 ends with Sam and Doug heading out to complete his mission, which he has to do since they can’t just kill and dismember everyone who comes knocking, and people will keep knocking until Doug does what he’s told. Luckily she apparently saw something in his eyes that was worth falling in love with, which is motivation enough for him. Comforted by the fact that his training will apparently kick in when he needs it, she drops him off and he gets in a van full of lairy military types, ready for action. Something to look forward to next week.
Elsewhere in “The Kentucky Contract”, SoYun (Hyo-Joo Han) goes to retrieve Jin Woo (Minjun Woo) and her mother from the clutches of unsavory North Korean usurpers, and she does so violently. Just as she’s thoroughly beating the last man’s face in, Colonel Shin arrives for a friendly chit-chat and lets her know they can be firm friends just so long as she agrees to deliver something for him. In the meantime, he’ll ensure her family is safe, and he certainly won’t hold it against her that she tried to swap his SIM card at a party and awkwardly botched her piano recital. She agrees, not that she has much choice in the matter, and then goes home and has a minor breakdown in which she confesses to Dae (Jung Woo Seo) that she’s not the kind of woman he thought she was and has done terrible things. He says he loves her regardless, which is uncharacteristically reasonable for him but also sweet, so what can you do? She also shares a touching goodbye with Jin Woo before heading off to her rendezvous and being told that she’s going to China. Again, something to look forward to next week.
Matt (Omar Metwally) spends all of Treadstone Episode 4 dealing with Stephen Haynes (Patrick Fugit), who is still in custody and enjoying the advanced hypnotherapy techniques of a reluctant Dr. Wells (Finbar Lynch), who is himself terrified of helping in case the CIA decide that he’s next on their agenda. As it turns out he needn’t have worried. Just as Haynes starts to remember more of his pre-activation life, he flips out, killing Wells, battering Matt, and doing a runner. Matt, vaguely humiliated, calls Ellen (Michelle Forbes) and tells her what has happened. He thinks Haynes is going after his daughter, Lyla Jane, which was a solid assumption since he finds him really easily later and promises to get him a short sit-down with her if he helps to expose who is activating the Treadstone agents. Fair enough.
The Haynes situation sends ripples throughout the intelligence community in Langley, with Ellen and Dan (Michael Gaston) desperate to cover it up lest the public discovers that the CIA is brainwashing citizens into crazy international murder puppets — not that it would surprise anyone, I say while sincerely hoping nobody reads this who might order me killed. Senator Wray is mentioned again in relation to a Russian trade agreement that was conveniently passed in the immediate aftermath of General Kwon’s (Tzi Ma) death, but we’re obviously going to have to contend with him later in the season.
With a present-day focus, a helping of SoYun action — the best kind! — and some much-needed clarity on just what on earth is happening in this show, Treadstone Season 1, Episode 4 was a solid entry that suggests a wild follow-up next week. I’m cool with that.