The beta stage is often considered the most volatile phase. Due to the transition from the alpha stage to beta, the probability of bugs and errors goes up. A person or a program loses its root (the alpha). He floats in a disoriented state and craves a foundation. A person is most volatile when he is in doubt. Jim Cummings’ film, The Beta Test, depicts a disoriented protagonist in a beta stage, i.e., he is going to make a jump from singlehood to getting hinged.
A soon-to-be-married Jordan Hines loses his ground when he gets an anonymous invitation for a sexual encounter from an admirer. Will Jordan, in his most volatile stage of life, take the Beta Test?
‘The Beta Test’ Plot Summary
Jordan Hines (Jim Cummings) is a Hollywood agent who works for a talent agency, APE. He is going to be married to his fiance, Caroline Gates (Virginia Newcomb). Six weeks before his marriage, Jordan receives a purple envelope with an invitation inside it. An anonymous admirer invites Jordan to a no-strings-attached intimate encounter at the Royal Hotel. Jordan believes that his college lover, Lisa Morrissey, sent him the invitation. However, in a moment of moral conscience, he dumps the letter in the dustbin.
The following night, Jordan goes out for dinner with Caroline, his best friend and colleague, PJ (PJ McCabe), and PJ’s wife, Lauren. Even at the restaurant, Jordan thinks about the invitation and gets an eerie vision about women hitting on him. At night, Jordan has a nightmare and suddenly decides to take out the invitation from the bin.
The following day at work, Jordan fills the invitation and his assistant Jaclyn drops it in the mailbox. A muddled-up Jordan attends to a Chinese talent, Raymond Lee, and his wife. He tries to impress Raymond to sign the talent for the agency. In the meantime, Jordan receives a royal hotel room card for suite no. 320. He decides to take the challenge but brings a knife with him for safety purposes.
An agitated Jordan enters the room wearing an eye mask and sleeps with an unknown woman wearing a mask. As Jordan commits adultery, he starts feeling confident and good about himself. However, his happiness ends soon as he gets paranoid that someone has leaked his secret sin and will blackmail him. He entangles himself in a web of conspiracies.
Who sent the Anonymous Invitation?
Jordan obsessively investigated the source of the anonymous invitation and the identity of the woman he slept with. He actually believed that it was his college lover, Lisa Morrissey, from Braintree, Massachusetts. But it wasn’t her.
To find answers, Jordan checked the CCTV footage of his building to get the guy’s identity who dropped the invitation in his mailbox. He came across a delivery guy whose bag was filled with anonymous letters. The delivery guy told Jordan that he worked for an app, and probably the guy/girl who operated that app sent those anonymous invitations to the people.
Jordan impersonated a federal agent to investigate a print press that printed the purple envelopes. The owner, Michael, told Jordan about a bulk order for these envelopes three months ago. The order was placed by a person named Johnny Paypal, who managed Purple Envelope LLC.
Through an online portal, Jordan located the company’s registered address and finally discovered the guy sending these anonymous letters. Inside the basement of an isolated house, Jordan found a computer geek, Johnny, who confessed to sending those letters to people based on the data he stole from The Sony Hacks.
Who were the Beta Testers?
When Jordan discussed his problem with his best friend, PJ, he told Jordan that he was probably a target of an online data leak.
In the digital age, all of the information we share online is saved by tech behemoths. And in 2013, these companies started allowing other companies to use this data to target customers based on their interests and behavior. PJ explained that anyone can create a program today and compile all the data from people’s complete digital footprint. One can use it to understand our behavior and use it against us.
According to PJ, the man who targeted Jordan believed he was rich and would easily stray away from a relationship. As per Johnny Paypal’s Beta Test list, Jordan was a highly volatile entity that could be easily threatened and blackmailed.
Why did Johnny send out those letters?
In the film’s first sequence, a Swedish woman, Franklin Ave, received an invitation from Johnny, and she cheated on her husband. Johnny probably knew that Franklin’s husband was a violent and possessive man, and she was craving to find someone loving. He lured her in, and finally, Franklin decided to leave her husband.
She called 911 and reported domestic violence beforehand as she could predict the possibility of violence. The woman requested her husband to leave her and let her go. She also demanded 5000 dollars, which was probably the amount Johnny asked to reveal the identity of her new lover. The husband lost his temper and killed Franklin.
Similar incidents started occurring throughout the country. PJ’s wife, Lauren, narrated an accident on the airplane where a man stabbed his wife with a bottle. Later, Jordan’s client, Raymond Lee, cheated on his wife with a man, and Raymond’s wife found out. She shot Raymond in the car. The African American with whom Raymond shared the bed was suffocated by his wife. Jordan also found out about a woman, Louise Rafferty. She was killed by her husband for cheating on him. Jordan mistakenly attended her funeral.
When Jordan confronted Johnny, he confessed to sending those letters to volatile spouses looking for another escape or a partner. He told Jordan that the first letter was an intro to lure the prey. Once the client took the bait, Johnny sent them the room key. The third letter demanded a certain sum of money to connect the “masked” lovers who shared a bed without knowing each other’s identity. In simple words, Johnny was playing cupid but with a dark twist attached to it. He took pride in connecting people for money and declared himself the internet. Symbolic enough.
‘The Beta Test’ Ending, Explained
Jordan never received the third letter, the yellow envelope, because before it could be delivered, Jordan caught the delivery guy and threatened him not to drop junk mail. However, Jordan obsessively tried to find out about the woman he met at suite no. 320. He even located her in a coffee shop. The woman’s name was not revealed in the film, but she was portrayed by Olivia Grace Applegate.
After unraveling the truth, Jordan came back to his building and tried burning the evidence. However, Caroline caught him red-handed, and Jordan decided to be honest with her. Jordan confessed to cheating on her with an unknown woman. He revealed that he had started drinking and smoking again. Jordan accepted that he lives a pretentious false life and hides under a mask to impress people. That also happens to be a part of his glamorous job as a Hollywood talent agent, when in reality, his work is not worthier than a travel agent.
In the end, Jordan requested Caroline to kill him as he saw a pair of scissors in her hand. However, Caroline forgave her, and Jordan looked at her for a moment and deciphered that she had cheated on him too. Even she got a letter from Johnny, and she filled it. Probably, it was why Caroline decided to spark her relationship with Jordan during their stay in the mountains. She must have felt guilty for her acts, or she tried to bridge the gap.
After the confession, Jordan gave away the tesla that he took on lease to impress Hollywood. The couple left the city together to revitalize their relationship.
The couple left the city for some time. In a diner near the border, Caroline explained to Jordan that adultery is nothing new. People have cheated on each other since humans have existed. In the internet age, it’s just different but definitely nothing new. She believed that they could have spoken to each other about it instead of hiding it.
Caroline symbolically spoke about Johnny and said that there will always be people in the dark who would do everything to corrupt humans. Symbolically, it ain’t just about romance, but politics and other human fields as well. These Johnnies are the Satan of the modern century, who would deceive Adam and Eve to commit a sin. And our job as conscious moral beings is to not let them win. We should maintain our conscience and self-righteousness.
In the diner, Caroline held her belly for a moment. The gesture suggested that she was pregnant (with Jordan’s child or someone else). It could also be one of the reasons why she forgave Jordan. As the couple left the diner, a waitress penned down her number on the bill and handed it to Jordan. She even drew a dark heart for Jordan. The devil tries to deceive him again, and if he takes the bait, it’s all hell for him from thereon.
The Beta Test is a 2021 drama thriller. Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe wrote, directed, and performed in the film.