Episode 6 of The Dropout begins in October 2013. Walgreens is now using The Edison for their wellness centres–completely unaware of its defects.
Richard is still intent on taking down Elizabeth, becoming obsessed to the point where it destroys his marriage. He calls Wall Street Journal news reporter John Carreyrou to convince him to investigate Theranos. John says Richard needs a better source, someone who has worked there.
Erika Cheung starts as an intern at Theranos. She’s partnered with Tyler when she gets to the lab, and she immediately notes the intimidating and tense atmosphere.
Right now, it seems the whole world is celebrating Elizabeth as a feminist icon. She gives a public interview at Stanford, where she mentions how a female professor didn’t believe in her.
Afterwards, Phyllis rants to Richard about what Elizabeth said. She knows she will ruin everything, and all women in the sciences will look bad.
The two of them later show up at the house of Ian’s wife, Rochelle. Like Richard and Phyllis, she wants to burn the company to the ground.
Erika goes about her work, but the shabby nature of The Edisons confuses her. Tyler tells her there’s a secret lab called Normandy where they keep the real technology and run the actual tests.
Her suspicion peaks when Mark, the new lab director, asks her to cherry-pick data. Everyone is very vague and insistent about deleting “outliers,” aka, data points that don’t do what they want them to do.
Later, Tyler brings up this lab “mismanagement” to Elizabeth. She thanks him.
The next day, Erika is moved to Normandy. She’s told she’ll be working with real patient samples. When she gets there, she sees them diluting blood samples and running them through the same shabby technology.
Rochelle gives a statement to John Carreyrou about how Elizabeth never invented anything, though her name is on all of Theranos’ patents. John still needs a primary source to be able to run a story.
Erika tests blood samples alone in the lab. The machine doesn’t work, so she calls a help number.
A woman comes in and overrides the machine’s results. Erika protests that this is a real patient she’s dealing with, but the woman ignores her. So, Erika investigates the lab, finding that the Edisons are just repurposed Siemens machines. This leads her to tell Tyler.
Tyler has a hard time believing Elizabeth would purposefully give people bad results. Erika presses him to help her find the truth. When he doesn’t respond, she insists she can do it alone.
Elizabeth and Sunny head to Elizabeth’s 30th birthday party. Sunny is upset they can’t be affectionate in public. He so wants to go public that he puts an offer on a house for the two of them. At the party, Tyler’s stepmom notices that there’s something between the CEO and COO.
Tyler asks Elizabeth at the celebration if she’s running tests on Siemens machines. She says he has no idea what he’s talking about. She’s obviously trying to intimidate him, so Tyler shows up later at Erika’s to tell her she was right about everything.
Erika and Tyler compose an email to Elizabeth, detailing the lab’s mismanagement so Elizabeth can’t ever claim that she wasn’t aware of it. They sign it with Tyler’s name; as a Schultz, he has less to lose.
The next day, Sunny calls Erika and Tyler to his office. He fires Tyler, and he knows Erika gave him the information. He threatens to make her unhireable if anything like this happens again.
Tyler and Erika then go to Tyler’s grandfather. They try to convince Schultz that Theranos is a scam, but he refuses to listen.
In the meantime, Richard manages to set up a secret meeting with Mark Roessler. Mark points Richard in the direction of Erika and Tyler.
The episode ends with Tyler and Erika calling the Wall Street journalist.
The Episode Review
The thread of Erika Cheung’s and Tyler Schultz’ investigation is one of the show’s more interesting storylines. Though, unfortunately, it introduces us to even more characters we have to keep track of (perhaps an indication that the Holmes/Theranos scandal isn’t the most adaptable history).
But the TV crew works impressively with its material, even weaving in compelling themes about Elizabeth Holmes’ faux feminism.
The Dropout contextualizes Elizabeth’s rise in a male-dominated atmosphere. Many held the real Elizabeth Holmes as a shining example of female entrepreneurship and a feminist icon because of her success.
Skilfully navigating these loaded themes from the show’s early episodes, this episode doesn’t make Elizabeth into a sympathetic character, but uses her character to create sympathy for other women in the industry: women who will be deeply let down by the Theranos founder’s deception.