TV Recap: “The Dropout” – Episodes 1, 2 & 3

Hulu’s latest miniseries is an adaptation of the podcast, The Dropout, which tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes, who defrauded investors with her now-infamous company Theranos. Amanda Seyfried stars as Holmes, who, as we’ll see in the first episode, had an interesting childhood and an even more interesting personality.

Episode 1: I’m in a Hurry

The episode is intercut with recreated scenes from Holmes’ actual deposition in court on July 11th, 2017. This is used as a fun framing device, allowing us to jump through different periods in Holmes’ childhood. She had a comfortable upbringing, but was always seen as an awkward child by both her family and peers.

One thing that always stayed with Elizabeth was her immense desire to make something of herself, much like her idol, Steve Jobs. Even as a teenager, she knew she wanted to create something, though at this point, she’s not sure what, and become a billionaire. A key thorn in her side however, is that no one really seems to take her aspirations seriously.

Prior to attending Stanford University, she takes part in a group trip to Beijing, and it seems she’s the only one truly interested in the key idea behind the trip, learning Mandarin. That is, until she meets Sunny (Naveen Andrews). Sunny is an older man, on the trip just to learn Mandarin, but he and Elizabeth immediately hit it off, creating a platonic, but caring partnership. Sunny is the first person in Elizabeth’s life to really care and show interest in her desires.

Following her trip to Beijing in 2001, we jump to her freshman year at Stanford University in 2022. There, she was able to impress Channing Robertson (Bill Irwin), Professor of Chemical Engineering, enough to give her a spot in his class, even though she was just a freshman. From there, Elizabeth has the idea of a portable blood test that pricks your finger, instead of drawing blood, and tries to sell the idea to both her professor, as well as fellow professor Phyllis Gardner (Laurie Metcalf).

By the end of the first episode, Holmes' college life isn’t going too well for her. She makes things awkward with Sunny, gets raped and is the victim of a stray bullet in her car’s window. She has also dropped out of college by this point, with the single-minded focus to start a company to focus on her blood test invention. The episode ends with her making up with Sunny, and their relationship being pushed even further, into a romantic one.

Episode 2: Satori

Episode 2 moves the timeline forward to 2006, where Holmes has officially set up her company, Theranos, and has begun active tests on the RDX Metabolic Profiler. Although she has a good team around her, they seem to be coming into no luck into actually getting the prototype to work. Part of that team includes an experienced biochemist Ian Gibbons, played by the wonderful Stephen Fry, who comes to work at Theranos based on Elizabeth’s charisma and the strength of her idea.

Another big issue is money, and it’s running out quickly. Theranos needs help from an investor, and through some slick talking that Holmes will become known for, she miraculously gets two investors, Don Lucas (Michael Ironside) and Larry Ellison (Hart Bochner), to tentatively invest in the project, despite there being no working prototype. Throughout all of this, Holmes is increasingly becoming more difficult to deal with, by firing one employee and making the rest work more hours. One of the things we notice about Holmes is her ever deepening voice, as she intentionally would lower her voice in order to appear more serious.

In order to get the investment, the Theranos team has to show off a successfully working prototype to a pharmaceutical company. In fact, they did get one test of the machine to work in the lab, under very specific circumstances. However, upon traveling to Switzerland to make the pitch, the machine would not function correctly. Instead of saying they didn’t have a working prototype, Holmes decided to fake the test, by showing their single successful test instead. It worked, they got the funding.

Back at Theranos, a Christmas party is taking place in celebration of the investment, and Holmes perhaps gets a little too drunk. The episode ends as she tells the truth of the situation to her partner, Sunny, and one of the main creators of the machine, Edmond (James Hiroyuki Liao) also learns the upsetting truth.

Episode 3: Green Juice

The third episode of The Dropout brings us forward a year to 2007, where Elizabeth is attending the launch of the original iPhone, becoming one of the first to purchase one. Another Apple related victory comes when Elizabeth is able to poach Ana Arriola (Nicky Endres) from Apple to invest and work at Theranos.

“Friend of the family” Richard Fuisz (William H. Macy), who also works in the biotech industry, is upset that Elizabeth didn’t come to him at all for any help with the project, and so decides to invent something that would require Theranos to license his invention if they want to put a blood test in anyone’s home. On finding out this news, Elizabeth spills coffee all over herself, ruining her shirt when she goes to tour Theranos’ big new facility under construction. It is here that members of the board start to cast some suspicion on the lack of progress with the device.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Elizabeth and Sunny is starting to strain, with Sunny upset at being pushed out of the business side of her world. He decides to go into Theranos while Elizabeth is on a business trip, just to take a look around, and he discovers a workplace full of people that just don’t respect Elizabeth. Later in the episode, things get even more heated, as Elizabeth refuses to drink a green juice that Sunny bought for her, leading to a huge argument and more spillage.

Elizabeth and Edmond head to Nashville to test the machine on willing participants, however as it still doesn’t actually work, Edmond develops a crisis of conscience and has to excuse himself. Upset with the lack of progress, Elizabeth brings in an outsider, Brendan Morris (Bashir Salahuddin) to develop a different version of the device, which ends up being no more than a glorified “glue machine,” but as this shows actual progress, it’s decided to move forward with this version. This causes friction amongst the other members of the team, leading to many leaving the company or being fired, such as Edmond and Ana.

Elizabeth’s voice keeps getting deeper and deeper, shown through scenes of her practicing a line in a deep voice in front of a mirror. Most of this is in vain, as Don Lucas calls for a vote of no-confidence in Elizabeth as CEO, and the board thus elects to remove her as CEO. However, in her typical fashion, she is able to convince them to let her stay by bringing in Sunny as COO with a $20 million grant. There’s just one problem, she hasn’t actually asked Sunny. Fortunately, he’s on board, and the episode ends with the two getting ready to get to work.

The first three episodes of The Dropout are now available to stream on Hulu, with new episodes releasing weekly. Be sure to stay tuned to Laughing Place for our recaps of the remaining episodes.

Sign up for Disney+ or the Disney Streaming Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu) now
Luke Manning
Luke is a fan of all things theme parks and self-proclaimed #1 fan of Joffrey’s Coffee, who lives in Kissimmee, FL