In the previous episodes of “The Dropout,” Elizabeth Holmes had dropped out of Stanford. Her resources were limited, but she had a big idea—an idea to change the healthcare system forever. But while being on the path to success, she deviated in a manner that nobody had imagined. Once she got stuck in the swamp of greed, it became almost impossible for her to retract her steps back. With every step forward, she was moving towards her doom.
In “The Dropout” Episode 5, we saw that Elizabeth and Sunny Balwani decided that they would use the Siemens machine for blood tests and show to their investors and the general public that, in fact, it was their patented Edison machine that was doing all the tests. Ian Gibbons had committed suicide and was found dead in his bathroom. Elizabeth Holmes had left him with no option. If Ian testified, then it meant that he would be going against Theranos, and if he didn’t, he knew he wouldn’t be able to live with a tainted conscience. Ian told his wife that the moment he testified, Theranos would come after him, all guns blazing. Theranos was clearly responsible for the abetment of suicide.
Without a working prototype, and under immense pressure from Walgreens, Sunny and Elizabeth made a secret plan. They decided to use the Siemens machine while they were in phase one. And then eventually shift to their own Edison Machine as soon as it was ready. So basically, they were ready to commit fraud and risk the lives of millions of people to keep the funds coming. Mark Roessler joined Theranos as the new lab director and Tyler Shultz joined too as a lab technician. Tyler was the grandson of George Shultz, who was an ex-diplomat and politician and was now one of the board members of Theranos.
What Does Erika And Tyler See In The Theranos Lab?
Elizabeth had gotten Errol Morris on board, the famous and acclaimed documentarian, to make advertisements for Theranos. She is seen shooting for one such advertisement at the start of “The Dropout” Episode 6.
Theranos has started testing real people in the newly created Walgreens Wellness Centers. People were amazed at how they had to now give only a drop of blood to get their test results. Little did they know that it was all a big scam, at the helm of which was a young, wide-eyed lady, who spoke in a deep voice that almost felt like it was made up. On the other hand Dr. Richard Fuisz was restless. He was adamant about not giving up, no matter to what extent he had to go. He got in touch with a journalist from the Wall Street Journal, named John Carreyrou, and told him about the fraud being committed at Theranos. John told Dr. Fuisz that unless and until he got some evidence, he wouldn’t be able to print a thing.
Erika Cheung, a new recruit, tediously signed a pile of papers on her first day at Theranos that was now following a very strict security protocol. She was a big fan of Elizabeth Holmes and looked up to her. She meets Elizabeth briefly and tells her how good it feels to be working under a female CEO.
Inside the lab, Erika meets Tyler Shultz. The lab was divided into two parts. In one part, actual tests on live patients used to run. In the other part, as Dr. Mark Roessler puts it, approved tests were supposed to be run on the Edison machine. Erika is a bit confused. She didn’t understand that if all the tests were already running on the Edison machine, then what was the need to run these trial tests? Dr. Mark Roessler changes the topic quickly so that he does not have to answer a lot of questions about the intricacies. He was well aware how Theranos was misrepresenting the test results. Erika gets a little skeptical about the work culture as she sees Sunny Balwani shouting at an employee in his cabin. Tyler tells her that there was a secret lab called Normandy, where the actual tests happened.
Erika is asked to delete the outliers from the data. An outlier is basically an anomaly that needs to be corrected. The outliers were for the Syphilis validation, and Erika couldn’t stop herself from reporting the same. So basically, what she asked to do was to remove the evidence that the machine gave abnormal results and cherry-pick the data. So nobody would get to know whether the tests worked or not. Erika is asked to stay quiet and abide by what Mark Roessler is saying. Tyler decides to directly talk to Elizabeth Holmes. Elizabeth was mostly unapproachable for a normal employee, but Tyler had access to her because of his grandfather. Elizabeth had come to Tyler’s home to meet George Shultz, who was planning her 30th birthday.
Tyler tells her everything about the outliers being deleted, and he was naive enough to believe that she didn’t know anything about it and that she would take some action against it. She does take action, but not in the way Tyler expected her to. Erika was transferred to the secret lab named Normandy. She doesn’t know whether it was a promotion, as Tyler believes it to be, or just a precautionary measure.
Erika, while working alone on Thanksgiving, discovers that even the test results of live patients are being modified. There was a Theranos sticker put on every Siemens machine. Some blood samples were diluted and tested on the Siemens machine itself, and the ones tested using the Edison machine were altered manually, even when the results were inaccurate.
At first, Tyler tries to report the issue to his grandfather, but at the opportune moment, Elizabeth comes and threatens him. Erika and Tyler decide that they won’t keep quiet. They write everything in the mail and send it to Elizabeth, so that they have proof that she did know about the results being inaccurate. Tyler was asked to resign as the mail was sent from his email address, but Sunny Balwani knew that the plan was the brainchild of Erika. Despite all this, they give it one last shot and go to George Shultz, who disbands the whole matter without hearing the side of his grandchild, Tyler, properly.
What Do Richard Fuisz And Phyllis Gardner Plan To Do?
Richard Fuisz goes and meets Phyllis Gardner. They attended the conference at Stanford, where Elizabeth Holmes was called as a guest speaker. They didn’t know how to bring out the truth in front of the whole world. They knew one thing, that the odds were not in their favor. People loved Elizabeth Holmes. They wanted to trust her. They were blindfolded by her resilience and success story. She was the first female self-made billionaire who had the noble mission of improving health care. She had become a symbol of feminine progress.
Even seasoned diplomats like Geroge Shultz wanted to put their faith in her. She had given people like Goerge a false belief that they were involved in a movement that would change the existing world and make it a better place to live in.
Richard and Phyllis contact Ian Gibbons’ wife, Rochelle Gibbons. She tells them that Ian had told her that Elizabeth had not invented a single thing and still had her name written in the patents. They call John Carreyrou once again. He told them he would still need more direct evidence as there was no written record of what Ian had said. Richard tries to contact people on LinkedIn, so that somebody working with Theraonos could come and testify. Finally, he gets a breakthrough.
Did John Carreyrou Find Anyone To Testify Against Theranos?
Dr. Mark Roessler agrees to meet Richard Fuisz in person. He says that he won’t be a whistleblower, but he would point them in the right direction and confirm a few details. Like Ian Gibbons, Mark Roessler had also started feeling guilty. He saw Erika getting fired for just telling the truth. He knew that if he stayed quiet, he would risk the lives of millions of people.
John Carreyrou goes to his senior, who tells him that she cannot give the go-ahead to the story based on the testimony of one witness, who wanted to stay anonymous. Where on one end Elizabeth Holmes was featured in the Forbes list, a handful of people had decided that they wouldn’t keep quiet unless and until the truth was brought to light. Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung decide that they will tell everything to John Carreyrou.
Truth has a distinguished quality. No matter how much you try to drown it in the water, like an inflated tube, it rises to the surface. The fortress of lies that Sunny and Elizabeth had built for themselves was starting to feel the tremors. Their conceit had deluded them into believing that they were invincible, and that was their biggest fault.