14/21 Season Four, Episode One: Stemwinder I

So Billy interrupts Amanda’s ‘interrogation’…and we cut to some serious activity. Let’s play war!
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 Male Agent Voice: Enemy submarine-based launch. Key map grid coordinates 2-2-4-6.
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The war games seem to have an audience..
(We see Billy and Amanda enter the room)
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Female Agent Voice: Stemwinder war game elapsed time: one hour, 22 minutes, 30 seconds.
(Billy and Amanda join Francine in the back row as she follows events.)
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Amanda: How’s it going?Stem I.avi_001712412
Francine: Huh. Into the dumper. We just lost the downlinks from the HP-1 over the USSR… the land links from Pavepaw’s radar and, uh… their secure frequencies.Stem I.avi_001715415
[Hmm interesting, Francine tells Amanda how the war games are going, and doesn’t seem to mind that Amanda is in the room. If she really truly believed that Lee and Amanda were traitors this is not how she would have responded no?]
(We see a close-up of a map)
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a big X is drawn on Baltimore!Stem I.avi_001722222
Francine: Or, they were.
Billy: That’s it. Twenty kilotons from a Vlota class sub off Maryland just turned D.C. into hot confetti…
[lol- hot confetti!]
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A sub launch is supposed to give the President eight minutes to make up his mind—eight minutes. But our communications fall out after the first blast. We didn’t respond. We lost.
[Okay, can we pause here a moment and consider this plot all? Umm.. help??!! I always feel like I’m missing something with this whole premise! I mean, what am I missing here?
lol this is not rhetorical by the way, really – if I’m missing something help me! Smile They know the radio frequencies were stolen from Dart – I’m guessing all frequencies were stolen, not just the ones that Lee was supposed to hand over to the Russians. Otherwise this plot really doesn’t make any sense!
So anyway, I’m thinking – if this is all just a game they are doing to simulate a nuclear attack.. and they know secure frequencies have been stolen, um why don’t they just not do the war games?
They were extremely confident these war games were going to go well if they had planned on Lee giving some frequencies to Sonja so the Russians had a window through which to watch them succeed at their war games and basically brag about how great they are. When that’s all compromised – why go ahead?! Me confused.. but oh well.. it’s clear they’ve decide to go ahead.. so I’ll go with  it! Maybe they were sooooo confident that they didn’t care about the murder and security breach. but.. it’s certainly blown up in their faces.. Hot Confetti- ouchie!
Any insights into this plot would be greatly appreciated!  I guess the take away here is – US security is in deep do doooo… which means Lee and Amanda are in even deeper do dooooo.]
Francine: I thought Dr. Smyth was gonna… get off his rump for once and put a stop to this?
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Sitting up the front of the darkened room.. we see Dr Smyth get up off his rump Winking smile as he replies…
Dr. Smyth: The National Security Council told the President we lacked proof.Stem I.avi_001747847
[Ohhhh so this is supposed to be the explanation for why the war games went ahead? So a dead body isn’t proof?!
err wasn’t the cost of this game not worth the pay off?! Anyone else thinking this? ]
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Billy: Well, we’ve got it now…
[Billy looks seriously worried! eek!]
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…Fools. The Russians are jamming six or seven of our frequencies.Stem I.avi_001757457
[Whooo okay so that’s probably the frequencies that were stolen, as opposed to the frequencies Lee was always supposed to give the Russians – err yes?]
Dr. Smyth: So—Scarecrow did sell out.
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[Ugh. they failed. Proof scarecrow is guilty: Fools!]
(Dr Smyth lights a cigarette..)
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[Whoooo smk code for bad guy.. only.. this bad guy is high up in this scary place Amanda works at called IFF!]
Amanda: No, Sir! Sir, if you’ll excuse me-
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Dr. Smyth: I will not excuse you…
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[Phew! Amanda is courageous to speak up.. but.. part of me also wonders if she’s also being naive! this is not Billy she’s talking to! Winking smile ]
…  You’re the housewife turned agent, huh?
[Yes! she is an agent in this madhouse! Gah!!! whose idea was it to give her an agent badge?! I mean, I was perfectly happy with that guest pass! She did just fine with that! could fly under the radar, and never had to deal with this ominous Dr Smyth! Bring back the guest pass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rofl. Okay I’m just making fun of myself.. but really this agent badge isn’t so great right now Smile ]
Amanda: Yes, Sir.
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Dr. Smyth: I think you’re just as much a traitor as Scarecrow.
Amanda: No, Sir. Lee and I are not traitors. Now, I don’t know what’s going on… but it seems as if everybody’s asking alotta questions and pointing a lot of fingers and being awfully rude, when Lee’s out there somewhere, risking his life for his country and we should be looking for him!
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[Amanda does a great job of being assertive here, but not getting too emotional- when, she’s gotta be feeling it! I think she’s really professional here. And LOL- it’s so Amanda that she mentions people are being rude Winking smile ]
Dr. Smyth: Oh, we are… rest assured….
[LOL it’s not reassuring to hear Dr Smyth is looking for Lee!]
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…Billy.
(Dr Smyth calls Billy over to him for a private conversation.. not involving Amanda) [But lol she can still hear it]
(Quietly): …Damage estimate?
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Billy: Total. We won’t be secure again for several weeks.  [Yup. Not protected for several weeks was way too high a price to pay to find out if Scarecrow betrayed them. lol when it doesn’t even actually prove that Winking smile ]Stem I.avi_001800400
Dr. Smyth: And the President just lost his bargaining chip for the peace talks. He’ll want to kick a dog, and I don’t plan to be it….
[Blame the president! He wanted the ‘proof’!]
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(Amanda’s looking a lot more worried!!)
… Sweat the housewife and bring me Stetson’s beating heart…
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…Okay?…
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(Dr Smyth walks past Amanda.. Amanda doesn’t make eye contact with him, instead she looks past Dr Smyth and meets Billy’s eyes. Stem I.avi_001814014
Dr Smyth opens the door and looks back at Billy, Stem I.avi_001814314
and finally meets Amanda’s eyes to add the following..)
: ….Hot confetti.
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Great line!
Then, it’s all non-verbal here!
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Thank goodness for photos! Billy glares at Dr Smyth.
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Dr Smyth glares at Amanda..
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He gives Billy a last glare.. and then leaves.
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Amanda looks at Billy.

Oh boy!!! We’re in a lot of trouble!!!
We can hear the war games hot confetti continuing on in the background –underlining that things are looking ominous!
Male Agent Voice: Registering direct hit; Andersen’s Base.Stem I.avi_001821021
The scene ends there.
Phew!!! Dr Smyth is a great bad guy, he totally adds tension and suspense to things! Maybe he’ll be a contender for the Season 4 golden teacups?! Smile

I can’t wait to hear what you all think! Especially of the last moments in this scene where there is no dialogue..
I’m getting the vibe that Amanda is feeling connected to Billy… and empathising with him that they (The USA, Billy, Lee and Amanda!) are in lots of trouble. I’m not getting the vibe that Billy is falling into line with Dr Smyth, who I guess is his superior. Billy stays professional, but he isn’t throwing Lee and Amanda under the bus either.
I guess we are left to wonder if Billy is going to sweat the housewife, and bring Dr Smyth Lee’s beating heart. But, the vibe here is that Billy will be looking for an  alternative! Just my vibes.. do tell – what are yours?

Interesting also that Francine stays out of this once Dr Smyth is revealed to be present. She’s going to be interesting to watch. Lastly, Amanda does Lee proud here. She’s keeping things under control, in a really scary and highly emotional situation, pleading Lee’s case (for his innocence and his current safety)- and her own! Amanda doesn’t know what she is dealing with yet with Dr Smyth- and maybe she is only now beginning to learn how ruthless the agency can be – even with it’s own.. [maybe, especially with it’s own?]
….but Amanda seems to me to be assertive and professional. I think she does pretty well here all things considered!

Soooo what do you all think? LOL Do you think Lee and Amanda are really dirty? haaaaaaa… 

29 responses to “14/21 Season Four, Episode One: Stemwinder I

  1. With Amanda coming in to the Agency and basically being subjected to all that awful questioning that may have given Francine some pause as to what she may have been thinking. She has never had high regard for Amanda as a possible agent so many she she figures it’s more Lee than Amanda who is a traitor. She says what she thinks and feels and just moves on, no matter how it may make someone else feel. Although, it was pretty funny to see Dr. Smyth stand up as soon as she voiced her opinion.

    That Dr. Smyth is pretty oily and loathsome. Can he really even be considered a good guy? I like all the looks passing between everyone. And I love how Amanda asserts how she feels while remaining professional about it.

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  2. Iwsod, I did see your post on Francine in the last bit and have been mulling it over since then. I think another key that ties some of mine and some of yours together is that emotional little moment in the freezer in “Fast Food for Thought” where she tells Amanda that you can only count on yourself because “people leave”. I would love to know what happened to her in her past that made her so determined to keep herself aloof and suspicious of absolutely everyone, but you’re right, there is a duality in her that she struggles with – wanting to have friends but being afraid to allow herself that.

    Her acceptance of Amanda in the room suggests that, at some level, she recognizes her as the one person she’s met who: a) is completely honest and with no agenda and b) will Just. Not. Leave, no matter how snarky Francine is to her 😀

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    • Whooooo clagjanet I love this!!!! ‘people leave’ – great catch!
      That fits as the root of this whole internal struggle..

      I’m going to guess her dad ‘left’ in some way – no idea what’s ahead or if we ever find anything out, but it screams daddy issues.
      I’d guess her father ran off with a younger woman (explains her reaction to the peacock dance and her cynical views of romance and men), or.. he was physically there but emotionally absent, and couldn’t be counted on to be there for her. Or lol – maybe both!

      I bet there are fan fics around this! If there are, please share over at Nedlindgers any recommendations! I’ll get on to fan fic when my days of writing blog posts are over and I have some time!

      Her acceptance of Amanda in the room suggests that, at some level, she recognizes her as the one person she’s met who: a) is completely honest and with no agenda and b) will Just. Not. Leave, no matter how snarky Francine is to her 😀

      rofl I love it! Francine snark does not get through to Amanda at all, she’s built an immunity due to a long period of experiencing it in small doses 😉

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  3. Did the Soviets learn nothing from the Enigma machine and Bletchley Park? Why on earth would they show their hand and screw up the war games instead of just sitting back quietly and keeping it to themselves that they know EVERYTHING the Americans are doing? Seems short-sighted to me.

    But oh my, that look of panic on Francine’s face does make this all worthwhile. It is nice that just occasionally she bites herself in the ass, although it would have been better if Amanda had gotten to enjoy it in the moment. Ah well, perhaps later when it’s all over she can entertain Lee with the story over a shared entree and two salads at Emilio’s.

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    • Unless the Soviets really did not think they could win a nuclear war (I remember Gorbachev saying something to the effect that no one would win WW3) , and only wanted the Americans to fail so they would be in a weakened position during the talks.

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  4. 😂 😂 😂 This bit is so funny it almost redeems the early ugly. No, there is no rhyme or reason in this first episode of Stems. Poor Billy started out as “pimp Daddy”, then found Dart dead, and hopefully insisted on ending the simulation, but Smyth insisted offscreen “Scarecrow sold us out so the Soviets can see our Best Moves! so let’s show it to them, so we can go after Scarecrow and the housewife [who has clearance to watch the simulation].”

    Oh, show. WHY? (I’m assuming, maybe wrongly, that they’re assuming the Soviets have ALL the frequencies that Dart had, not just the ones they tasked Lee with giving to Sonja? Right?) Whoever ran such a simulation after this “plot”/Dart’s death (and I think that’s Smyth?) simply couldn’t go ahead with it, unless the simulation was faked…

    There are clearly two Francines in this episode so far.

    Still, glad I watched through to this part, because 😂 😂 😂

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    • “… (I’m assuming, maybe wrongly, that they’re assuming the Soviets have ALL the frequencies that Dart had, not just the ones they tasked Lee with giving to Sonja? Right?) … ”

      Well … some are assuming that … others aren’t. After the Sorcerer (Alexi Makarov) murdered Phillip Dart, he photographed some or all of the paperwork with the frequencies. He did not steal the papers themselves; so it’s speculation whether or not the Sorcerer photographed everything, but a prudent person has to assume he did. A very sly move on the Sorcerer’s part because the head-in-the-sand types in the US government insisted on going ahead with the nuclear war game simulation. Why? Because all the paperwork in Dart’s safe was accounted for. They refused to believe Billy or Dr. Smyth, who said the frequencies could have been photographed and are therefore compromised. I picture them with fingers plugging their ears while chanting “nananana” to avoid hearing that all their work to develop this simulation would not be used before the date of the peace talks.

      “Dr. Smyth: And the President just lost his bargaining chip for the peace talks.”

      The USA plan was for the USSR to be shown a powerful glimpse of the new nuclear war deterrent Stemwinder technology because they believed it would give the US President sufficient leverage to get the USSR to agree to join the peace talks. Peace talks that would lead to a mutual agreement to stop the buildup of nuclear warheads.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really feel for Francine hear. I cannot tell you how many times I have put my foot in my mouth like this (well, not involving war games and Soviets, but involving superiors)

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    • IMHO, Francine redeems herself in this scene. She’s had a shower, done her hair and make-up, and changed into an eye-catching (too eye-catching!) little number. She’s obviously had a gallon of coffee and is being reasonable to Amanda again (I stick by my theory that she was ratty and tired in the blue outfit scene, hence the assumption of guilt of L&A). But maybe she’s had a bit too much caffeine, and has got a bit jittery and garrulous (hence the unfortunate comment in Dr Smyth’s hearing.)

      Dr Smyth – now there is a good baddie (or a bad goodie?) that I love to hate. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he was a double agent….

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      • I wonder if her complete nonchalance to Amanda’s appearance in the room is because we are supposed to have interpreted her comments earlier as awareness that it smelled of a set-up? “Lee and Amanda were the last on the log to see him alive” could mean she is aware that’s a pretty tenuous connection (especially since Amanda isn’t even in the log!) and “We found two sets of prints… would you care to hazard a guess?” could mean she and Billy both know evidence can be planted.

        Alternatively, if she’s seen Amanda and is aware how frantic with worry she is, she may have just shifted to thinking Lee is running a solo defection. Sigh – I still have hope she’ll redeem herself sooner rather than later. Or that the writers will.

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        • Interesting take on Francine clagjanet! I think this idea is possible… yes there are so many ways of interpreting a few of those lines. I got the vibe that at first suspicious was focused on Lee.
          Hmm why did I think that? Maybe because I knew Alexi only had Lee’s prints on that magical glove – not Amanda’s.
          Also, Dart didn’t even think Amanda warranted a professional handshake, so I figured she was a background figure when Lee and Amanda met with Dart- and she would not have touched the safe..
          But! Amanda is confirming she was there also I guess.. because the log only says Lee visited Dart. (LOL again). If she was there when Lee broke his neck, she’s up to her neck in it (haaa).

          I’ve concluded that I’ll have fun pulling apart the inconsistencies and implausibility of it all.. while also checking if maybe there is an understanding of it all I’ve overlooked (that’s quite possible)- sometimes something seems silly and then I learn something that helps it make sense!

          That said – smk is not much loved for it’s plots! [shock! 😉 ]
          It’s much loved for it’s portrayal of the relationships between it’s characters. This plot (though full of plot craters) aids us in exploring the characters… so while I can’t say I love the plot, I do enjoy it, and I’m not fazed by it because I’m finding what is happening with the characters (I guess including IFF as a character!) is all very new and interesting, and (I think) quite involved.. such a complicated set up is revealing to us many sides of all the characters. Love that!

          For Francine – I don’t know if you saw my earlier ideas on how Francine views relationships clagjanet, and why or how she would be so immediately suspicious of Lee – but I think I also said she feels loyalty, but she fights it. This (for me) fits also with her at times seeming to be a friend and loyal, but at other times being pretty traitorous to a friendship. How? I think Francine switches between the two – because it is an internal conflict.. she has conflicting values going on that are constantly at battle. She values having a cold clinical professional heart, a tough exterior, where nothing can shock her. But, she is also a human being who is capable of attachments (Her attachment to her mother was very reassuring to see and helped me to confirm this – see The Mole and her upset at her Mother’s health crisis).
          Sorry to go all psychbabble 😉 I’m not like half quid I promise.. But for me the inconsistency of Francine fits with how I view her.
          For me her journey is coming to grips with this internal battle.. so I’m really looking forward to watching her closely as this story continues to unfold (even if the plot is kind of surreal 😉 )

          Sigh – I still have hope she’ll redeem herself sooner rather than later. Or that the writers will.

          Whoo this is really interesting clagjanet! Does Francine need redemption?

          I hope we see some clues of what Lee and Amanda make of Francine. I suspect they are under no illusions about her – and don’t think they can count on her when all the chips are down. I don’t think they’d expect her to be there for them. This whole idea that an agent working at IFF can count on anyone at IFF to put their friendship first is not the default- they won’t.
          Lee and Amanda and their connection are the exception.
          What I’m looking forward to learning about through this double ep is – what is Billy? What is Francine?
          I know I’ve written at some upcoming point – these extreme situations bring out a person’s true colours. Or, can even help someone change and grow. So I’m fascinated less by plot craters, and so much more by what’s going on with these characters in such an intense double episode.

          Got my chocolate.. (thanks L&A for sharing!) and I’m ready to continue to delve into the intensity!

          I’m loving loving loving hearing from everyone! 🙂
          I’ll be back tomorrow (my time) to publish the next post.. must close up JWWM and focus on my day job now.
          Byeeeee!

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  6. Do you think Lee and Amanda are really dirty?

    🤔 Hmmmm…. Let me think…

    Well – Lee was dumped into the dusty dirt and garbage of DC’s streets during the last night, he also didn’t shower in the morning and didn’t have a chance to change clothes… not to mention his intensive contact with Sonja before being dumped – so, yesssss, he for sure is dirty. 😇 😉

    Nope, of course I’m kidding.
    Lee still has ‘knight in shining armor’ carved at his bones, loyalty to his country ist part of his DNA – he simply can’t betray that. That’ll be self-denying and wouldn’t be the Lee we know.

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  7. The scriptwriters [Ross-Leming, Buckner, Geiger & Gilmer] were probably influenced by the popular 1983 film “War Games” about a military super computer developed to predict the possible outcomes of nuclear war. In order to do that, a scenario with certain presumptions must be decided and the simulation played out in order to analyze where it succeeds and fails. Then, another scenario will be developed tweaking the initial presumptions again and again until they discover the correct scenario for what they want to accomplish. Please note that it was the USA that decided EVERYTHING involved in this scenario … the actions of the enemy AND the reactions of the USA.

    “The Russians are jamming six or seven of our frequencies.”

    The simulation of a nuclear war initiated by the USSR is a disaster because the Soviets were able to jam frequencies disabling the response from the USA. We know, by that statement, numerous transmission frequencies were used by the USA scenario; possibly, in order to distinguish each of the various government-military departments involved.

    “Dr. Smyth: Damage estimate?
    Billy: Total. We won’t be secure again for several weeks.”

    It would be fair to assume that they chose a scenario and decided to give the Soviets a glimpse, via just one frequency to control, out of the many. When many (or all) of the frequencies were stolen from Dart’s safe, they will now have to create and implement a new frequency for every one of the departments involved. I’m guessing those frequencies were assigned for many different war game scenarios over the years between various government-military departments. That means they can’t test any other scenarios knowing they must presume the Soviets currently have all the frequencies that were in Dart’s safe.

    What confuses and confounds me: Dr. Smyth, Billy and Francine are acting like their chosen scenario is a total bust. Lee is extra busy right now avoiding capture since Amanda isn’t there to guard his back. So I’ll just fill in for him with the silver lining here. Exactly HOW were the Soviets able to “see” the USA response when they (the Soviets) jammed the frequencies which caused the “no response” from the USA? Without any interference, this scenario was developed to be a success and, by allowing one frequency to misfire by giving it to the Soviets, was akin to the USA allowing a wild card to be played. Is it so bad that the Soviets now assume the USA is not so advanced, when what actually happened was NOT the scenario the USA developed? Yes, having to reset transmission frequencies is a time-consuming PITA (pain in the …), but the USSR does NOT get to see the true plan. Ay-yi-yi !!

    This aspect of “the plot” is so incomprehensible … I need a scotch whisky (hold the rocks) to avoid a brain freeze!

    Liked by 2 people

    • This aspect of “the plot” is so incomprehensible … I need a scotch whisky (hold the rocks) to avoid a brain freeze!

      Poor Nancy – Cheers! 🥃 (sorry, just got some with the rocks…)

      Here – get some ‘first aid’ 🍫 +🍷

      It’s yet another ‘plot’ which is devoid of logic – we should be used to this by now, shouldn’t we? 😉

      Like

      • Got any ‘first aid’ left for me????!!!!
        I’m sticking with Lee and Amanda through this rollercoaster no matter how many whiskies/vodka (ice cold) it takes! 🙂

        I’ll try and get back here to respond properly when I can – as always- I’m lovin hearing from you all!!!

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      • Thanks for the liquid first aid, Lee&Amanda. Take some whisky yourself — p.r.n. — if in danger of a brain freeze, it will thaw you out. Then pass it along to iwsod.

        “It’s yet another ‘plot’ which is devoid of logic – we should be used to this by now, shouldn’t we? 😉”

        Yeah, you’d think so, but … hope springs eternal !!

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    • Nancy,

      This aspect of “the plot” is so incomprehensible …

      Thank you. I can’t imagine why they ran with this “plot”. I’m not about to rewind 😂 but didn’t this start off with some Kremlin dude having an axe to grind against Lee because Kremlin dude was in Siberia for a decade? Oh, they’ve lost that plot entirely, and thrown Reagan-era American government under the bus in doing so.

      I’ve read all these Tom Clancys (RIP) and I think he did something like this (but …”very good” and “not exactly” the plot of the entire book); I love stuff like this usually. At this point, all I can do is 😂

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      • “I’m not about to rewind 😂 but didn’t this start off with some Kremlin dude having an axe to grind against Lee because Kremlin dude was in Siberia for a decade?”

        Yes, “Kremlin dude” is Alexi Makarov aka The Sorcerer, who is operating outside the jurisdiction of the KGB. Just like the frequency Lee handed off to Sonja was Rostov and the KGB’s wild card to play during the Stemwinder simulation; I consider The Sorcerer himself to continue be a wild card for Rostov and the KGB’s plans. Kremlin dude (not KGB sanctioned Rostov) blew the cover off the Stemwinder frequencies and we can bet our last ruble Kremlin dude has more evil deeds in store for Lee. He desperately wants payback for Lee having ruined his career in the KGB.

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