A surprisingly exciting opener, The Recruit looks set to be a real crowd-pleaser for the streaming giants. The series is buoyed by an effortlessly likable performance from Noah Centineo and fast-paced plotting that makes for an entertaining watch.
We recap the Netflix series The Recruit season 1, episode 1, “I.N.A.S.I.A.L.,” which contains spoilers.
One of the breakout stars in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Noah Centineo, is back in a Netflix original, this time playing rookie lawyer Owen Hendricks in The Recruit. This espionage adventure series from creator Alexi Hawley (The Rookie) kick starts with “I.N.A.S.I.A.L.” (this show loves an acronym), introducing viewers to the hectic world of the CIA and Owen’s tumultuous first week on the job.
The Recruit season 1, episode 1 recap
The series opens with a fast-forward to two weeks from now, as Owen watches a convoy of Russians drive through a snowy landscape. Owen calls up his colleagues to warn them of the imminent threat, but they aren’t interested. Owen takes it upon himself to interject and runs at these Russian crooks without any weapons or backup. We then revert back to Owen’s first few days on the job. He’s a naive, eager rookie, working at the General Counsel’s office in the CIA.
Owen’s boss, Nyland (Vondie Curtis-Hall) sends the newbie on his first mission, to dissuade Senator Smoot (sounds like a Star Wars character) from revealing classified information at a public hearing. If he is unsuccessful, he will lose his job. The Senator is adamant that he is going ahead with his unveiling, but Owen manages to scare him with lawyer spiel. This highlights just how book-smart and pragmatic our cheeky chappy lead actually is. He may come across as a cocksure jock, but there is more to this protagonist than meets the eye. The tactics work and Owen keeps his job for another day.
Returning to the office, Owen is met by two co-workers. There’s Lester (Superstore’s Colton Dunn) and Violet (Aarti Mann), who are here to congratulate Owen and hear about all the gory details. They are impressed Owen got to visit the Senate on his second day on the job, but they’re also unbelievably jealous. The duo drops off boxes of letters for Owen to sieve through next. These letters are called gray mail and include an array of threats aimed at the CIA. Owen’s job is to sort through them, finding the genuine threats among all the insignificant ones.
This is followed by a quick montage as Owen reads through the letters, which range from the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. One sticks out though, from inmate Max Meladze. She is a prisoner in Phoenix, who threatens to release classified information if she isn’t released immediately. The letter name-checks: PW Butcher and Selby Shaw. Owen is unsure of the agency’s acronyms and code names, so he asked a fellow lawyer for help. Introducing Janus Ferber (Kristian Bruun), an anxious man, who works with the SOG (Special Operations Group).
Janus tells Owen not to trust anyone or to help anyone in this new employment. Owen coaxes data from Janus with the promise of Adderall in return. Janus explains that PW Butcher, is a cryptonym, referring to an agency code name for a clandestine operation. Owen seeks out another office grunt to help decipher this code further. It is revealed that PW Butcher refers to an operation in Belarus, in 2009 and that Selby Shaw is a pseudonym for a D.O. officer. The office worker is surprised to find out that this asset (Meladze) is privy to such information. This is highly suspicious.
Owen takes the information to Nyland, along with his discovery that Selby Shaw is actually Dawn Gilbane. Owen has written the two names on a post-it note, next to each other. Nyland sets this note on fire in dramatic fashion, explaining that you should never put the pseudonym and the real identity side by side. Owen is still learning on the job, which is quite a refreshing aspect of the series on the whole. Nyland brings in Lester and Violet, annoyed that they didn’t discover this crucial info earlier, they are to work underneath Owen now.
Annoyed by Owen’s early success, they urge him to follow up on this Dawn Gilbane, who is located in Yemen. Owen wastes no time at all, taking a flight straight to the Middle Eastern nation. He’s excited by his first major assignment out in the field and is very eager to please. But on finding Gilbane, he is immediately taken hostage and tortured. The naive rookie has made his first major mistake, one that costs him a fingernail. Gilbane rips the nail from his finger in a painful sequence. This causes Owen to instantly blurt out everything he knows about the case and his whole life story; the lawyer is desperate to forgo another second of torture. This provides some important backstory on Owen, whose father was killed in Afghanistan. He chose this hectic line of work so he wouldn’t have to think about his father’s death for another minute.
Gilbane unties Owen and supplies him with some info on Max Meladze. She is a valuable asset, who moved in upper-level circles with the Belarus chapter of the Russian Mafia. An exhausted Owen heads back to the States with this new data. Owen has been truly conned by his co-workers and learns a hard lesson in the process. Back on home soil, Owen is sent to question Meladze in person. She finds Owen to be amusing, as he reveals important information without even knowing it. Meladze (Laura Haddock) informs Owen of the location of her classified documents as a sign of her cooperation, they are hidden in a storage locker.
Owen is told to take an FBI escort with him on this mini-mission, but he’s too impatient and goes alone. An enthralling tussle with some Spanish crooks ensues as Owen is attacked for these documents. The thugs corner Owen and open the bag, but a cloud of acid is dispersed in their faces. Owen runs with the bag of money and returns to interrogate Meladze further. Here, Meladze makes her demands, but Owen isn’t playing ball. He believes that she needs him just as much as he needs her, they are at a stalemate. Meladze reveals her handler’s name to sweeten the deal.
Good old Janus then informs Owen that Meladze’s handler, ‘Not Bob’ is now the chief of staff for the President. Owen is in way over his head. He stashes Meladze’s bag of money in a hiding spot and reports back to Nyland. Owen’s learned a lot already and keeps quiet about all the many misadventures he’s had since returning from Yemen. Nyland tells Owen to keep him posted. Owen returns to his office to find a subpoena waiting for him on his desk. He calls up Meladze in prison and tells her that he is in, and they are going to work together on this one.
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