Flower of Life
Episode 5 of The Dropout begins three years after Theranos struck a deal with Walgreens. Dr. Jay Rosan shows Elizabeth a life-size model of Walgreens’ new wellness centres. He and Wade Miquelon push her to agree to have the blood testing device ready in six months.
In 2013, Elizabeth’s lawsuit is still hanging over Richard’s head. Both of them are too proud to give up the fight, and Richard has an idea. He digs through records of Theranos’ patents, finding that Ian Gibbons’ name is on nearly all of them.
Ian is depressed, having been stuck at a desk job for the past three years. One day after work, he receives a subpoena from Richard.
Ian feels caught. If he testifies to what he knows to be true, Theranos can sue him. But if he lies under oath, he is committing perjury. He goes to Theranos’ legal advisor, who wants to get him out of testifying.
Sunny is upset that Elizabeth agreed to a September deadline when they have nothing to go on. He tells her she shouldn’t be focusing on marketing, that she’s running away.
She later meets with lawyer David Boies (her representation in her case against Richard) and George Schultz, who informs her of Ian’s subpoena. Elizabeth tells David that, if he wants to win against Richard, he just needs to get him to talk about her.
After their talk, George introduces his grandson, Tyler, to Elizabeth. He’s a big fan and would love to come work for Theranos as an intern.
Back at the lab, Sunny suggests breaking down another company’s product, a Siemens machine, to see how it works and help with their own device, The Edison. Elizabeth refuses. She insists they will figure something out, and they will launch in September with The Edison.
Sunny tells her they are set to lose millions of dollars this year. He asks what would happen if they simply gave up–on the company and on their relationship. Elizabeth refuses to listen.
Meanwhile, Richard gives a recorded testimony to Elizabeth’s lawyer. Just like Elizabeth thought, he goes off on a tangent about her, going so far as to admit he bought their patent for entirely petty reasons.
After speaking with her mother, Elizabeth realizes she can’t give up. She goes back to Sunny to inform him they are going to launch in phases. For phase one, they will use a reconfiguration of the Siemens machine.
Sunny is already one step ahead of her. He has already broken open the machine. He even thinks he can program new software for it that says “Theranos.”
Theranos’ legal advisor gives Ian a letter. She says if he gets it signed by a doctor, he can claim to be unwell and then cannot be deposed.
Ian hates the idea. He knows signing it would mean no one would ever hire him again. If he isn’t a chemist, he doesn’t know who he is.
The next morning, his wife wakes up and looks for Ian. Their dogs stand outside the bathroom door, whining. She tries the door, and it’s locked. She calls for him, but there’s no answer.
The next day, Elizabeth pitches to the Walgreens board to change Theranos’ slogan from needing “a tiny drop” to just “a few drops.”
Sunny calls her out of the meeting to tell her that Ian has overdosed on Tylenol and alcohol. He died in the hospital today. Elizabeth worries this was because of her lawsuit.
She unravels in the middle of her meeting, so Sunny postpones it. He thinks she’s upset about Ian, but it turns out that she’s relieved. Ian now can’t testify. Richard will have to settle.
Theranos’ security enters Ian’s house to take away his laptop, while his wife is left to stand there and watch bitterly.
Brendan writes up a memorial to Ian and emails it to the entire company. Later, we see Brendan walking out of Theranos with his things packed up in a box.
At the same time, Tyler walks in to start his first day as an intern. Mark, the new lab director, introduces himself to the young man.
Elizabeth gives a speech to celebrate that The Edison will launch at Walgreens in 48 hours. She shows everyone Theranos’ new logo, called “The Flower of Life.”
David offers to drop the lawsuit against Richard if he withdraws the patent. Richard agrees, but he warns that he is going to find out everything Elizabeth is hiding.
The episode ends with Richard calling Phyllis Gardner to ask her what she knows about Elizabeth. “She’s a fraud,” she says. “She’s always been a fraud.”
The Episode Review
This episode continues (and I think rightly so) with its harsh depiction of Elizabeth Holmes. The Dropout has taken us on a complex journey so far, where it has proposed two opposing sides of Elizabeth: a sympathetic feminist and a morally deficient con artist. As the series goes on, its portrayal leans heavily to the latter.
Elizabeth’s ethics make yet another steep decline, but it is Ian and his dilemma that steal the show. Stephen Fry perfectly depicts the heartbreakingly despondent chemist who has lost his way.
Although overall a fairly engaging instalment, the last 20 minutes meander and putter out. Each scene closes as if to end the episode, only to start back up again and test viewers’ patience.
We’ve only got three episodes left in the season! With both Richard’s determination and a new face (Tyler) in Theranos, Elizabeth should still worry for the future of her company.