Episode 3 of The Dropout begins in June 2007, showing Sunny getting stopped for a “random” inspection at the airport on his way to buy an iPhone. iPhones have just been released, and Elizabeth Holmes has the privilege of meeting with the woman who designed them, Ana Arriola.
Elizabeth convinces Ana to jump ship from Apple to Theranos, maintaining that outsiders like them must stick together.
Elizabeth’s mom, Noel, goes jogging with Lorraine and learns something about Richard. Lorraine lets it slip that Richard has been researching Theranos to file a patent to compete with Theranos.
Noel warns Elizabeth that Richard is trying to sabotage her company because of petty resentment that she never asked for his advice. But Elizabeth thinks he’s bluffing. Unfortunately, she later finds out that Richard patented a home blood testing device, which she will now have to buy from him.
Elizabeth meanwhile puts off showing the failed prototype to Ana and the Theranos board. Board member Avie Tevanian is suspicious that the Novartis contract hasn’t come through for the company.
Elizabeth lies to him that they have plenty of pharmaceutical interest. She assures him that they are participating in a trial with Pfizer on actual patients–the same trial Edmond and Rakesh thought was out of the question without a working prototype.
Afterwards, she’s late to meet Sunny for a date and is on her phone when she joins him. When she informs him that she’s going through with the Pfizer trial, he doesn’t understand why she would test a faulty machine on people. “Everybody does trials,” she says before moving on.
Sunny offers to help her out at the office, but she refuse. She can’t have anyone find out about their relationship. She can’t give anyone a single reason to doubt her.
When the time comes for the Pfizer trial in Nashville, Elizabeth and Edmond instruct a woman with terminal cancer how to test her blood with the profiler.
Edmond leaves in the middle of the explanation to get some fresh air. He feels terrible, lying about a device that doesn’t work. Elizabeth repeatedly insists that this is just how things are done.
While Elizabeth is gone, Sunny deceives Ian into believing he is a consultant. He takes a tour around the lab, asking Ian several questions.
Meanwhile, Avie brings up concerns with Don Lucas. He shows that Theranos has no contracts and no data to support Elizabeth’s projections. Don insists that he trusts her and advises Avie to resign from the board. Avie agrees, but on the condition that Don start asking more questions.
Back from Nashville, Elizabeth gazes at herself in a mirror. She repeats over and over, as if trying to convince her reflection, that the patients know they are in a trial.
In the lab, the engineers wonder what Elizabeth’s new hire, Brendan Morris, has been up to. It turns out that he’s working on a completely different prototype, which many of the engineers view as a betrayal.
Elizabeth tells them she simply wants something that works, even if it doesn’t follow her original vision. Ian then lets it slip that a “consultant”–Sunny–came by the lab.
When she confronts Sunny, he doesn’t take it. Now that he’s looked at her research up close, he knows she is far from where she needs to be. Not only that, but employees don’t respect her. She goes to bed repeating to herself the phrase, “This is an inspiring step forward.”
A few months later, Elizabeth decides to go with Brendan’s machine moving forward. She fires Edmond. Soon after, Rakesh comes to Edmond’s place to tell him he quit.
Ana, who just met secretly with Avie, accuses Elizabeth of proceeding with the Pfizer trial on terminal cancer patients with a proto she knew didn’t work. She then quits along with her entire design team. This leads Don to tell Elizabeth that he is going to call for a vote of no confidence in her as the CEO.
The board votes to push Elizabeth out, maintaining that she “needs adult supervision.” But she has a plan.
Elizabeth starts to cry in front of them. She agrees she needs supervision. That’s why she’s bringing in an “old friend” of hers (Sunny) as the COO, while she remains CEO. She says he has promised $20 million to Theranos in return. She then begs Don to give her another chance.
Her ploy supposedly works, and she convinces Sunny after the fact to go along with it. The episode ends with Elizabeth cleaning up to look more CEO-worthy and drinking her healthy green juice. She’s turning over a new leaf, so to speak.
The Episode Review
By episode 3, The Dropout’s conflict starts to feel repetitive: The blood testing device isn’t where it needs to be, Elizabeth lies to buy more time, Theranos is jeopardized, and the cycle repeats.
Its saving grace is Elizabeth’s character arc and Seyfried, whose desperation and unravelling draws the eye to where you can’t look away.
That gripping ending creates a nice symmetry to the first three episodes, while firmly establishing Naveen Andrews’ place in the series. It’s a turning point in the series, and one neither Elizabeth nor Sunny can easily come back from.