The Irrational (2023) s01e02 Episode Script

Dead Woman Walking

People are irrational,
but predictably so.
I'm Alec Mercer.
Welcome to Applied Psychology.
You're the science guy.
That's Bill Nye.
I'm actually the behavioral science guy.
You another negotiator?
I would never work in law enforcement.
It pays crap,
and that's saying something
coming from a college professor.
Congratulations, by the way.
The FBI only brings me in
when they're really screwed.
Most people who try this kind
of thing get arrested
or killed, but you were smart about it.
What was it you did back there?
Paradoxical persuasion.
I overly embraced his idea to force him
to think it through enough to
realize it was a terrible idea.
It's called the cocktail party effect.
You're in a crowd.
You're talking to one person.
Everything else becomes background noise
until you hear something
like the word "sex."
See, everyone hears the word "sex."
Are you considering all
the pros and cons right now?
We could talk it through if it helps.
How did you know he wasn't
gonna pull the trigger?
It works about 95% of the time.

Are you seriously playing with fire?
I was burned once before.
The odds of it happening
again are very low.
The odds of it happening
again are exactly the same.
My genius brother taught me that.
Okay, so on the day
of the church bombing,
right before I blacked out,
I smelled fire and something floral,
my old cologne, I think.
I'm recreating the smell,
trying to trigger my memory
for any detail that could help the case.
Guess the FBI didn't get
any more leads on that man
who walked into the bomber's
parole hearing?
Mm. This is the best shot
the FBI got from the security cameras.
This is all they got?
Yeah, not much to go on there.
So Wes Banning was expecting
to be released that day.
He said all the right things
till this man showed up.
Why would Wes Banning throw
his own parole hearing?
So far, he's refusing to talk.
He even got himself put in solitary
so he wouldn't have to answer questions.
Marisa put together a list of logos
from businesses and
organizations from 20 years ago.
I'm hoping to narrow it down.
Smells like an excuse to spend
time with your ex-wife
The one who said she needed some space.

Marisa and I may not be married anymore,
but we're still a great team,
professionally speaking.
Hope all that professional
teamwork doesn't
push her away for good.
I got somebody waiting
for me at my office.
Can you give me a ride to campus?
Uh, pretty sure there's an app for that.
There's no app for spending
quality time with your brother.
I'm good.
I'll take an Uber.

CJ Wright?
This is an unexpected surprise.
I don't think I've done anything
newsworthy just yet today.
Good to see you, Alec.
Why do you smell like 1998?
[CHUCKLES] It's a long story.
You here as a journalist,
or is this a social call?
I need your help solving a murder.
Oh, yeah?
Whose murder?
As in radioactive, highly toxic,
used to kill that Russian spy?
Alexander Litvinenko, yeah.
I covered his story for the "Herald."
That's how I recognized the symptoms.
And you're sure you were
poisoned by polonium?

You know, of all the ways
that I thought I would go out,
I got to admit,
this one was not on the list.
Though there was a list.
I've got hats with bullet holes
in them at home.
Why come to me?
The last time we saw each other,
you were planning to write an article
debunking my research
as pop culture junk science.
It's one of the few times I was wrong.
That's why we never published.
Your work as a scientist was
sadly unimpeachable.
Made me think I could trust you
with this last request.
You know there are ways
to manage this, right?
I understand there are treatments.
Experimental ones,
involving sedatives that could
turn your brain to mush.
My mind is all I have, Alec.
Now can we talk suspects?
I'm doing a piece on a Belarusian
oligarch named Maxim Ivanov.
He's former KGB,
ties to the Russian mob.
The kind of guy who would
have access to polonium-210.
I'm working with an informant
named Yuri,
formerly in Ivanov's employ.
Yuri and I had lunch together
at the Fairmont on Tuesday.
- Do you think that's when it happened?
- Well, the timing makes sense.
If Yuri was in cahoots with Ivanov,
this isn't much of a whodunit.
I have been texting and calling Yuri
ever since I felt symptoms.
No response. So, yeah, maybe he did it.
Or maybe he was the target, and I was
Just collateral damage.
Is there anyone we need to talk to?
Anyone that needs to know
what's going on?
The only one who'll miss me is, uh,
probably my writing partner.
Gene, right?
Yeah. We're gonna have
to tell him, I suppose.
My daughter and I haven't spoken
since the Obama administration.
She sided with her father
during the divorce,
said I put my work first.
She was probably right.
I wasn't well suited
for standard-style parenting.
CJ, you don't think she'd want to know?
I wasn't there for her enough
when she was growing up.
I am not gonna make her watch me die.
Our intuition is usually incorrect
when it comes to how others feel,
especially how they feel about us.
Are you going to help me or not?
All right.
All right.
I will do what I can.

Alec, it's not just us here.
The CIA, the NSA are getting involved.
It's polonium, for Christ's sake.
Which is precisely why CJ contacted me.
As a murder weapon, polonium is so rare,
doctors don't even know to look for it.
Litvinenko himself never knew
what happened to him.
Unusual isn't irrational, Alec.
Why use a barely detectable poison
on one of the only people on
Earth who'd be able to recognize it?
CJ Wright, just came in.
Gene, Marisa Clark, FBI.
Gene Hadditch, CJ's writing partner.
Of course.
I'm sorry about CJ.
Yeah. Is it, um
is it true it's
it's polonium poisoning?
Oh, man.
Man, I was really hoping
she was wrong about that.
H-how is she?
Stable for now.
How did this happen?
The lunch CJ had with Yuri,
were you there as well?
Yeah. Could I be a target too?
I mean, d-do I need to get tested or
We don't know anything
about motive at this point.
But I'd have symptoms by now, right?
Almost definitely.
Man, I told her
not to meet with that guy in public,
you know, that it could be a trap.
What made you think that?
Yuri was whistleblowing
on Maxim Ivanov, the oligarch.
People who start poking
around Ivanov have a tendency
to accidentally fall out windows.
Well, we don't know for sure
that Ivanov is connected just yet.
Do you think I could get some kind
of police protection or something?
I I don't feel entirely safe.
I'll talk to the Department.
In the meantime, do you think
you could help us locate Yuri?
Uh, I remember he likes chess.
I I can get my office
to send all the research over,
but, I mean, CJ, is she
Did they, you know,
say how long she has?
That's hard to say with certainty.
It could be two weeks.
It could be two days.

So who's CJ Wright anyway?
Don't you read the "Herald"?
On my phone sometimes.
You ever read that investigative
report about campus sexual assaults?
The, uh, exposé
on the governor's husband?
Those are hers.
She's a phenomenal journalist.
I can't believe
this is happening to her.
There's nothing the doctors can do?
Nothing that doesn't involve
pain and permanent side effects.
Well, how can we help?
Okay, research assistants,
our task is to find someone
who doesn't want to be found.
This is where understanding
human nature could be helpful.
We get him to want to tell us,
make him think it's his idea.
Excellent. How?
The power of free?
- Go on.
- Well, in your books,
you say people can't resist free items.
So we could call Yuri, tell him
he's won a free vacation,
and ask where to send information.
Yuri's already spooked.
An offer out of the blue from a
stranger is gonna look suspicious.
Good, both of you.
How can we neutralize the suspicion?
What if we make an offer from
someone who isn't a stranger,
someone he trusts?

Okay, that shirt he's wearing,
that is a free gift for the top
players from
Well, it seems like
ProChessFans is going to offer Yuri
another free gift.
This is Chris from
Congratulations, exclamation point.
To thank you for being
a valued subscriber,
we would like to send you
a free chessboard
autographed by Magnus Carlsen,
exclamation point.
What now?
We wait.
What about CJ's daughter?
You think she did it?
What? No.
I mean, shouldn't someone
tell her what's going on?
CJ asked me not to.
They're estranged.
I'm trying to respect her wishes.
What about her daughter's wishes?
Yuri is awaiting his free gift.
We got his address.
He lives at the marina.
Oh, well, shouldn't we call Marisa?
Tell her to meet me there.



You missed!
But that's probably for the best!
For both of us!
- Hear me out!
I'm guessing you're a professional.
You like to keep things clean.
Single shot, silencer on the gun.
You're very good at what you do.
The good news is, I haven't seen you.
- I can't identify you.
You can still get away clean.
That's the FBI.
You should probably escape
while you can.

[QUIETLY] It's the rational thing to do.
Maybe you aren't a professional.
- Ah.
Who do you think you are, James Bond?
I think I threw my back out.
You were supposed to wait for me.
I was planning on waiting for you.
But when I saw that gate forced open,
I got concerned.
No, you got curious.
I ever tell you about my
grandmother's special pecan pie?
What about it?
Got you curious though.
Studies show curiosity is
a powerful motivator.
No. No studies.
Now, on top of everything else,
I've got to explain to my superiors
how exactly you got here before us.
Your superiors should be more worried
about the killer on the loose
currently running
around this harbor with a deadly weapon.
Trust me, every cop
in the city is looking for him.
They should check the boat for
- Radiation?
- Yeah.
We've got a CSI team on there
with a Geiger counter.
So far, nothing.
Nothing on Yuri's body either.
That means Yuri probably
wasn't the poisoner.
Maybe the poison was meant
for him, not CJ,
and the killer just came here
to finish the job.
Why get fancy with polonium
when you could just shoot
the target in the head?
That doesn't make sense.
I hear people are irrational.
They are.
Oligarchs, however, like Maxim Ivanov,
tend toward the diabolically
He can afford to hire the best.
The fact that I'm alive suggests
this guy was not the best.
Maybe CJ was the target after all,
so she received a special treatment,
whereas Yuri
A loose end, a witness.
And the killer didn't need
to get fancy with him.
So what did he see?
We're just gonna ambush CJ's
daughter in the parking lot?
You sure this is a good idea?
Professor Mercer likes initiative.
What if CJ's daughter is the killer?
I mean, in case you hadn't noticed,
she works for ALM Cloud Solutions.
They make computers.
Computers generate static electricity.
Devices that remove static
electricity contain polonium.
So she has means.
Given the victim's her mom,
she definitely has opportunity.
You missed one, Miss Marple.
They're estranged.
She's obviously got some kind of motive.
Plus, there's always inheritance.
Her mom's a journalist,
not Taylor Swift.
Anyway, being estranged is not a motive.
I mean, sometimes mothers
and daughters fight.
That doesn't mean
anyone's murdering anyone.
What, you fight with your mom a lot?
My mom and I never fight.
How'd you know where to find her anyway?
Well, CJ's website said
she went to Columbia.
Figured there was a decent chance
her daughter Nicole was a legacy.
Called her office to find out
her year of graduation,
went through the past two years' worth
of alumni magazines to find
an update on Nicole's job.
You did all that this afternoon?
Oh, there she is.
So she's dying,
and she sent you to tell me?
Not exactly
We just thought you should know.
I see.
So she wasn't even gonna tell me at all.
Because she didn't want to burden you.
This is classic Mom,
trying to pretend it's about me
when it's about her.
It's always about her.
I appreciate you stopping by, okay?
But our relationship is complicated.
And it's nothing that's gonna
change overnight.
It's probably best that
I leave her to go in peace.
- Wait.
- If CJ wants me,
she knows how to find me.
You still sure about the whole
"nobody's murdering anyone" thing?
I'm beginning to think it wasn't Ivanov.
Polonium says it was.
Well, maybe they wanted it
to look like Ivanov.
Yuri was an easy patsy.
Okay, so who?
What about that lawyer, Donaldson?
You know, the one who brokered
the hush money deal
for the senator with the
Porn star. Nah, he died two years ago.
- What?
- Yeah, heart attack.
- He was young.
- 65.
Probably didn't poison me then.
Probably not.
Could you get me a cup of tea?

Just reminded me of the relationship
formerly known as my marriage.
Are you in pain?
You know, when I was burned,
for a long time,
I didn't know if I'd live.
Sometimes I wanted to die.
But I didn't give up hope.
It's the hope that'll kill you.
Science says the opposite.
Let's focus on the case, huh?
Why kill Yuri unless he saw something?
Did anything out of the
ordinary happen at that lunch?
Well, the steak was a little too rare.
I mean, when I first started
feeling unwell,
I told myself it was food poisoning.
I did not mean it literally.
But there was one other
little bit of excitement.
There was a young couple,
couple of tables away.
Man got down on one knee and proposed.
It was a little over-the-top
if you ask me.
Everyone was watching.
Everyone with an iPhone
and a Facebook account.
I think I've loved you
since the beginning of time.
Will you marry me?
- Say no, girl.
Say no.
Where's your sense of romance?
I lost it somewhere
between "You complete me"
and "I've loved you
since the beginning of time."
You have no soul, young one.
Is this triggering for you?
No, I'm fine.
Me and Marisa are in a good place.
Marisa is at her place,
and you are at my place.
What about that placement is good?
Like I keep saying,
we may not be married anymore,
but our professional
relationship is fine.
We're like Starsky and Hutch.
You don't know them.
Mulder and Scully.
You're seriously dating yourself, bro.
I'm just saying
that maybe we're better off
as work partners, not romantic partners.
Denial is not a great look for you.
Hey, wait, wait, wait,
wait, wait, wait, wait.
Play that again.
- Okay.
- Will you marry me?
Yeah, right there, stop.
Play that slowly.

There. There.
Hey, play that again.
- Will you marry me?
- Okay, stop.
Look, right there. You see it?
It's a different teapot.
Somebody switched it out
in a crowded room full of people.
How did they do that?
Marisa's looking
into everyone who had access
to the kitchen at that restaurant.
A waiter who moonlights as a hit man?
Somebody who didn't like my tips?
As soon as she knows
anything, she'll let us know.
How could I not notice
a teapot being replaced?
My job is to be observant.
I pay attention for a living.
I'm not the kind of person
who misses things.
Trust me, everyone's
that kind of person.
Can I borrow your laptop?
- All right, let's do it.
Come on, let's go!

Count all the players on the
yellow team who pass the ball.
I hate basketball.

Did you notice the grizzly bear?
- Grizzly bear?
Look again.
What kind of sorcery is this?
A very old kind actually.
We call it attentional blindness.
But in this case, we're looking
at misdirected attention.
Magicians use it all the time to
- What is it?
- The experiment only works
because I told you to look
at one thing, the ball,
which makes it shockingly easy
to miss the other.
No distraction,
no invisible grizzly bear.
The proposal, that was the basketball.
It didn't happen by accident.
- Who are you calling?
- Marisa.
That couple, whoever they are,
they were the poisoner's accomplices.
We're actors.
Ooh, stage or screen?
Whatever we can get.
Mostly we do PR stunts,
flash mobs, things like that.
That's not illegal, is it?
So the proposal,
that was one of your PR stunts?
I guess so.
They never really told us
what it was for.
- "They" who?
- The person who hired us.
I got a text from someone saying
they saw our work at another event,
said they had another gig for us.
We were supposed to stage a proposal
at the Fairmont at a specific time.
And they never told you why?
They just offered us
two grand for an hour of work.
That's more than we get most months.
You two wouldn't happen to be available
to perform social experiments
at a prestigious
but notoriously stingy
university, would you?
Let's stay on track.
This is the track.
Whoever hired them must've
seen them in action,
must've known that they were reliable,
authentic, and affordable.
We're going to need all of your records.
You do keep records, right?
Who doesn't have digital records?
All right if I get a coffee?
They're on the other side now.
Sorry, I don't have
the sweetener you like.
That's all right.
I'll take whatever you have.
Any leads on that man
from the parole hearing?
Nothing yet.
Do you remember anything else
about the logo on the van?
I got some possibilities from the book.
Thought this weekend maybe we could
go over them together if you have time.
I can order in from Twelve Dragons.
That's probably not a good idea.
I just don't think
we should blur the lines.
So working on Saturday
would be blurring the lines,
or just working on my case?
I just want to know what the lines are.
This is hard for me.
Did you ever consider the fact
that this might be hard for me too?
I'm sorry.
I'm sorry.

What is it?
Bramble Corp.
The tobacco company?
CJ and Gene did an exposé
on them a couple of months ago,
basically proved they were
marketing their products to kids.
Made a big show of firing
the VP of publicity.
Schulz, Brandon Schulz.
He had motive.
And he had means.
Polonium's not something
you can just pick up at CVS.
I asked my team to do some research.
One of the places
that it's found naturally
Tobacco leaves.
Mr. Schulz?

He's ready for you.
Do you know why I use job interviews?
'Cause no one will suspect
you're interrogating them?
That's one reason.
The other is, it's practically
an invitation to boast,
to overshare a bit to prove
one's mettle as an employee,
even if that means admitting
to breaking the rules.
Sorry the place is so bare-bones.
But so far, we've raised
half a million on Kickstarter.
Typical start-up situation.
Uh, and thanks for the opportunity, man.
I don't get a whole lot
of calls these days.
You mean after CJ Wright's article?
You mean her hit piece.
I actually thought
it was quite flattering.
You did?
Sure, you were working for the bad guys.
But you were just doing your job.
And you were doing it very well.
You were able
to successfully market Bramble
as the eco-friendly cigarette company.
It's kind of like turning water
into wine, isn't it?
Yeah, it's a skill set.
A valuable one.
And if it hadn't been for that article,
you'd have been a star.
You want to know what's crazy
about that whole thing?
I approached them.
Offered them exclusives,
even threw in some cash for
fair and balanced reporting.
You tried to bribe two
highly respected journalists
to be shills in your PR stunt?
Yeah, the whole thing
would've been a win-win.
But CJ had a brand to protect.
I mean, she could've just said no.
But instead, she got me canned.
Why not just make a deal with Gene?
Gene's a nobody.
CJ is the star.
And he tried to talk her into it,
but it was like, no, no, no.
You must've been pissed.
At first, yeah.
But then I viewed it as an opportunity
to get in with more
eco-friendly companies.
The eco initiatives at Bramble,
what were they exactly?
Bramble patented a, uh, cleaning process
to extract impurities.
What kind of impurities?
Tar, lead, polonium-210.
Must've been a lot of radioactive
waste leftover from that process.
Oh, yeah, tons of it.
And disposing of it is expensive.
But that's where I came in.
I found them a deal on that
for half the standard rate.
How'd you find this bargain
basement hazardous waste disposal?
It's one of my strengths.
I ask because I have a friend
in cosmetics manufacturing.
If you could put me in touch
with your liaison,
I'd be super grateful.
You didn't hear it from me.
CJ would freak out if she knew
about his little side hustle.
- You mean Gene?
- Yeah.
Funny enough, he's got
a cousin in the business.
Said if Bramble went with them,
he could personally guarantee
the savings.
So, uh, you want to tell me
more about the job?
Well, any luck?
It's just like the grizzly bear.
What are you talking about?
The answer was right
in front of us the whole time.
We just didn't see it.
Are you gonna keep
giving me Wordle clues,
or is there someone I can arrest?
Not yet. I'm gonna need proof
and a ride.

I got your messages.
I I thought about what you said.
Listen, I appreciate
what you're trying to do.
But to be honest,
I just don't know if I'm ready.
I get it.
But you came over here for a reason.
The thing is, I was like you.
I used to be mad at my mom
a lot over stupid things.
Mostly she thought
I wasn't working hard enough
and that I wasn't living up
to my full potential.
And no matter how hard I worked,
it was never good enough.
So I stopped trying.
I stopped calling her.
I stopped talking to her
more than I needed to.
I stayed at school
during holiday breaks.
I just always thought, um,
there'd be more time later,
you know, to sort out our differences.

And then she died.
I am so sorry.
I guess I'm still trying
to prove something to her.
I probably always will be.
That bracelet,
it's your mom's, isn't it?
I mean, every time
we mention her, you touch it.
I can't tell you what to do.
But I can tell you
what I wish I had done.
Go visit her.
Hey, come on in.
You want something to drink?
Sorry, I wasn't expecting company.
I got beer and sparkling water.
Um, iced tea?
Why not?
How's CJ? I, uh
I haven't talked to her this afternoon.
Uh, not so well actually.
- Is she, uh
- She's alive.
But I have a feeling
it won't be long now.
I'm sorry to hear that.
So am I.
The truth is, uh,
I I don't know
what I'm gonna do without her.

You know, it may be terrible to say it,
but maybe now the world
will finally see you
for who you are,
everything you do.

You know, uh,
kind of my biggest fear
that it'll only prove that,
you know, without her I'm nothing.
Oh, uh
Uh, taste okay?
Um, sit down.
You know, whoever did this
to CJ was really, really smart.
- You think?
- Oh, yeah.
Look how well he covered his tracks.
Um, polonium usually leaves
a nice little trail.
Whoever did this was some kind
of criminal mastermind.
Well, I mean,
not too much of a mastermind.
I mean, he he left his victim alive.
But I think that was intentional.
I think he was playing with CJ.
He wanted to see if he could
beat her at her own game.
I I don't know too many people
who'd beat CJ at at any game.
I don't think it's gonna be
as thrilling as he imagines.
Oh, yeah? W-why is that?
The killer out for revenge
wants to look his victim in the eye
at the moment she realizes he's won.
Whoever did this to CJ will
never get that satisfaction.
What kind of victory is that?
Ah, excuse me.
Hey. Any luck?
Of course.
I'll let him know.
It looks like CJ's condition
has taken a turn.
She's fallen into a coma,
and they don't expect her
to come out of it.
[MUTTERS] It's hard to
imagine the world without her.
Um, could I get some time alone
i-if you don't mind?
Of course.


For once, you got nothing to say?
I'm sorry it had to end this way.
But don't worry.
It'll all be over soon.
But before you go
I wanted you to know something.
It was me.
Yeah, I bet you are.

You never would've guessed
that I could pull off
the perfect crime.
I played fair.
I gave you a chance to solve it.
But I beat you, didn't I?
The world will never know.
But I'll know.
And now,
in the moments before you die,
you will know that I beat you.

I guess I'm a lot smarter
than you thought I was.
Not that smart.
I wouldn't do that.
Cuff him.

Did you really hate me so much?
Thank you.

You're here late.
Lost track of time, I guess.
Nicole told me CJ's gonna
get the treatment.
At least they'll get
a second chance, right?
Thanks to you.
Rizwan told me what you did.
This whole situation with CJ and Nicole,
it reminded you of your mom, didn't it?

You never told me how she died.
She was late for a meeting,
crossed against the light,
and, uh, got hit by a car.
An unexpected loss like that
takes longer to heal from.
So it seems.
You're still playing
the "what if" game, right?
What if she had left
five minutes sooner?
Five minutes later?
Or what if she'd just waited
for the light?
What if we hadn't fought
the night that she died?
You know, whenever
feelings of loss start,
there's a temptation
to go deeper into it.
We think that it respects the dead.
But a better way to think of it
would be to remind yourself
of the good times.

What if it doesn't work?
What if I can't remember the good times?
Then you call me.
And we'll talk about her and find them.

Gene thought that he'd
committed the perfect crime.
It had all the elements
of a perfect murder story
pride, revenge,
a virtually invisible murder weapon.
But he couldn't stand the fact
that no one knew about it.
Some of the world's
most notorious killers
might not have ever gotten caught
if it hadn't been
for their fatal narcissism.
But rarely do their victims get
a chance to talk.
In CJ's own words,
"Someone once told me"
Things are looking good, CJ.
Thank you.
"It was possible to miss
a grizzly bear in the room.
"Seems like I missed more than one.
"I was always operating
one step ahead, in the future,
"trying to beat a deadline,
"trying to outdo my last accomplishment.
"Turns out looking three steps
ahead is the easiest way
"to miss the thing
that's right in front of you.
"So now I find myself
living in the moment,
paying attention to every detail"
Hey, Mom.
You did not have to wear
that old thing on my account.

Actually, I, um
I never take it off.
"Because you never know
when it could all disappear."
Help me carry on ♪
"And when you get that
once-in-a-lifetime "second chance,
you want to be there for all of it."
The Lord said to me ♪
Time is a healer ♪
Time is a healer ♪
Love is the answer ♪
Love is the answer ♪
I'm on my way ♪
I'm on my way ♪
The Lord said to me ♪
The Lord said to me ♪
Time is a healer ♪
Time is a healer ♪
Truth is the answer ♪
Truth is the answer ♪
I'm on the way ♪

Lost my way ♪
Did it work?
You know ♪
I remembered something.
I've tried ♪
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