“The Dropout” Episode 4 left us intrigued and the future of Theranos in a delicate and fragile state. Everything depended on the scientists and the breakthrough that they were supposed to make. Walgreens was on board and was ready to invest huge sums of money in Project Beta.
Elizabeth Holmes had successfully and strategically played her game, but now she couldn’t even hide behind those reassuring words that not only had a core that was rotten, but was non-existent. She knew that they were years away from developing the Edison Machine completely and bringing it to market. She was bringing in more investment and looking after the branding and marketing aspects, but sooner or later, that day had to come when Walgreens would ask to see a properly functioning prototype, considering eventually it had to be put out in the drug store and used by actual patients.
Elizabeth’s actions from hereon would decide whether she was a fraud in reality or just a passionate entrepreneur who was desperately trying to find her way out, even if it meant bending the rules a little.
“The Dropout” Episode 5: Recap
Dr. Jay Rosan shows Elizabeth Holmes a model of the Walgreens Wellness Centre, where the Edison Machine would be kept. He asked Elizabeth when she would be finally ready with her machine. Elizabeth as always stalls the questions, galvanizing the reality with her void promises and her arty words, the combination of which had been quite rewarding for her.
Walgreens is maybe scared that they will have a pyrrhic victory but what they didn’t know was that victory itself was not assured, leave alone the cost.
Wade Miquelon arrives at the scene and gives an ultimatum to Elizabeth Holmes and a timeline to abide by. He warns her that if in the next six months she wasn’t able to present anything, then the deal between Walgreens and Theranos would cease to exist.
On the other hand, Sunny Balwani, who was now the operations head, was highly frustrated as once again the demo didn’t go as expected, to say it subtly. Elizabeth Holmes was still fighting the lawsuit filed by Richard Fuisz, her neighbor, for the patents. She had hired David Boies, one of the best lawyers in the country, which made it evident that not only did she want to win the case but do so while making a strong statement, i.e., nobody messes with Elizabeth Holmes.
Why Was Richard Fuisz Not Ready To Negotiate With Elizabeth Holmes?
Richard always thought that Elizabeth had considered him this contemptible person, who was once trying to snatch her father’s money and take undue advantage. He thought that after coming so far, if he backed off, then it would make him look like an imbecile, and that somewhere would hurt his ego.
He shows his wife that he had proof to believe that Elizabeth Holmes had illegally put her name on the patent together with the head chemist of Theranos, Ian Gibbons. If Richard knew that she had done no work, and if he got Ian Gibbons to testify, then the truth might come out. So he sends a subpoena to Ian Gibbons, which impacts the latter gravely. The Theranos legal team also became cautious about the fact that no information was leaked. Elizabeth does not disclose, even to her lawyer, David Boies, that she had not done any work so as to put her name on the patent.
Deep down, Richard always had a sympathetic viewpoint towards Elizabeth Holmes. He thought that everybody just used her for their benefit. Her parents used her to elevate themselves from the deplorable condition that they were in, and then the VCs of the company were using her for their materialistic gain. He felt that nobody ever asked her what she liked, but kept the weight of their expectations on her shoulder so that they could live the life they had always imagined.
Was Elizabeth Holmes Responsible For The Suicide Of Ian Gibbons?
Ian Gibbons was an innocent and righteous human being who was alien to the intricacies of the shrewd world around him. When a subpoena is sent to him, he becomes paranoid and gets apprehensive about the outcome. He visits the legal cell of Theranos, but it doesn’t make him satisfied. His wife gave him unwavering support and often lent an ear to his guileless rants and fears. Ian was standing at a crossroad, where he could choose between being loyal or ethical. He knew that if he gave testimony against Theranos, then they would come after him with full force and would make sure that his life became a living hell. If he didn’t testify, then he would commit perjury, and that was something that his clear conscience would not allow. Theranos drafted a letter that said that he was not keeping well and had a drinking problem and made Ian Gibbons sign it. They kept him out of the proceedings, but it didn’t do anything to relieve Gibbons of his misery. He knew that signing the paper meant he couldn’t apply for a job anywhere else, and if he wasn’t a practicing chemist, then he didn’t know what to do with his life.
One night, the endearing Gibbons decided to leave the world, and just like that, the world became a little less innocent, a little less cheerful, and a little less chattery. For once, it also made the ruthlessly pragmatic Elizabeth Holmes stop and ponder. Somewhere she knew that she was responsible for it, maybe too self-absorbed and pompous to blame herself but still, on a subconscious level, it did make a dent.
Ian Gibbons was a simple and adorable man. He didn’t understand business. Chemistry was all he knew. It was his passion. He started working for Elizabeth because he liked the environment more than anything. They were a family who were trying to innovate and think outside the box. But things changed, and he started feeling out of place. When you keep an altruistic person caged in rapaciousness, then he either fights the system or the system makes him devoid of his enthusiasm.
Was Theranos Able To Meet The Deadline Given By Walgreens?
Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes were able to meet the deadline. They launched their machine in the Walgreens Wellness Centre. But there was a catch. The Siemens machine was the existing technology that Theranos wanted to replace with their Edison machine. But they have been successful in doing so.
Sunny Balwani suggests that the Siemens machine should be opened and the technology must be checked. It was unethical and legally wrong to check another company’s technology. But with no other choice left, Sunny convinces Elizabeth to give him the go-ahead. He made a few scientists analyze the insides of the machine. He took a video of the machinery and programmed new software for it that made it look like it belonged to Theranos. They knew that it was illegal, but they were not ready to lose the association they had with Walgreens. It was just phase one, and they thought by doing so, they would keep Walgreens on board and, in the meantime, develop their own technology.
“The Dropout” Episode 5 made us privy to the inspirations and motives of the characters. Some turned out to be righteous, and some had this incessant need to win at all costs. Elizabeth, in the process, realizes that she never did anything in her life, just because it made her happy, irrespective of the result. She had always been very goal-oriented and didn’t know what it meant to do things for fun.
Brendon Morris couldn’t bear the fact that a celebrated chemist like Ian Gibbons, who also happened to be a great human being and shared a great rapport with him, was disrespected and harassed by the organization, so much so that he committed suicide. Maybe he put in his resignation, or maybe Sunny Balwani and Elizabeth Holmes coerced him to do so before they hacked into the Siemens machine.
In the end scene of “The Dropout,” Episode 5, we see a frustrated Richard Fuisz calling Phyllis Gardner, who had taught Elizabeth Holmes in college. She tells him that there was only one thing he needed to know about Elizabeth Holmes, i.e., she was a fraud and had always been one.
The following episodes will shed light on how Theranos navigates its way through the legal gray areas and whether it will be able to develop its technology or not.