Episode five of “Scorpion” is all about the trope that might actually be mandatory in procedurals: bringing back the old, possibly evil member of the team. The trope often does a lot to show how and why the old member of the team never quite fit, and it’s all supposed to bring the current team closer together. Every once in a while, that revelation comes after the old member weasels his or her way back onto the team. That’s the route “Scorpion” goes through with the introduction of former Scorpion member and radio “expert,” Mark Collins.
Walter: “He was a member of the team. It didn’t work out.”
Sylvester: “With Collins, ‘didn’t work out’ is an understatement.”
After trespassing on a military-protected nuclear reactor, Mark is taken into custody by the military and agrees to only talk to Walter about his purposes. From the get-go, Mark believes he’s superior to all of the “normals” and “intellectual inferiors” around him who can’t understand, while Walter just allows Mark to verbally walk all over anyone. When Walter decides Scorpion will help Mark and find out what the problem is — the nuclear reactor system needs an upgrade, because it’s falsely saying it’s cooling down when it is actually heating up — the team is absolutely furious. Apparently Mark and Walter would get into rabbit hole genius benders — at one point, they had a 10-day bender and Happy eventually had to force feed Walter so he didn’t starve to death. Good times.
When it’s time to actually work on fixing the reactor, Walter immediately listens to Mark over Happy … only for it to turn out to be the wrong choice. But that’s what their relationship is: Walter always chooses Mark’s side over the rest of the team’s, no matter who is actually wrong or right. Walter sees himself in Mark. That’s where the episode gets troublesome.
The thing is: Walter is not a jerk. He’s just not, which makes him different from Mark automatically. He’s also not oblivious. But in order to have everyone’s testimonies about how he and Mark’s relationship used to be come to fruition in the present day, Walter has to be both of those things. Realizing that Walter understands just how intelligent Mark is is one thing, but having him completely disregard the feelings of his friends and colleagues is a complete 180 that can’t simply be explained by a cliche about old habits dying hard.
The episode is the show’s way of displaying Walter’s feelings of isolation — both as a genius and as the king of geniuses — by having him reconnect with the one person who he felt the most connected to. However, that isolation makes a generally great guy like Walter come off as pretty unlikable most of the episode. It also calls into question his oft-mentioned intelligence, if he can fall into such self-destructive loop all over again, almost immediately. Then the other shoe drops:
“Three years ago I had him committed to an asylum.”
Unfortunately, an asylum didn’t do anything to fix Mark. In fact, he’s actually worse, if that’s at all possible. But Walter mostly feels guilty for trying to get the guy help, not the fact that the help didn’t take, and that’s the problem. Being a genius doesn’t excuse someone from being a bad person. Walter says he had Mark committed to see if anyone could pull him out, just in case Walter needed to be pulled out, but from the looks of it, Mark has never had the compassion Walter has. He’s never been a good person. For that, Walter will never be Mark. So the show really shouldn’t try to compare him to a character as terrible as Mark Collins.
On the plus side, Happy and Walter’s friendship is explored a little more in this episode of “Scorpion.” Thank god for small miracles.