Paramount+ this Sunday invited you to fall down a Rabbit Hole with Kiefer Sutherland. Will you follow TV’s erstwhile Jack Bauer on this twisty new journey?
Rabbit Hole — which is now streaming its first two episodes of eight, though we are only here to discuss the first — stars Sutherland as John Weir, a “master of deception in the world of corporate espionage.” We first see John sitting a swank hotel bar, where he slips some bills to the bartender to change the TV channel to anything but news, maybe some soccer. Moments later, some Lehman Bro charges the bar, cell phone glued to his ear, demanding to see the news. John gives the bartender his nod OK, and the anxious businessman sees what is clearly to him a distressing news report. He barks some orders into his phone and storms off.
Afterward, John and an attractive woman (played by Meta Golding) at the other end of the bar catch one another’s eyes, and they get to talking the night away. When the woman, Hailey, not-so-subtly notes that she is staying nearby, John takes the cue and they spend the night together.
And then things start to get weird.
Hailey wakes up the next morning to find John all dressed and taking apart the clock on the hotel room nightstand, looking for a hidden camera and rambling about how he knows that Hailey is a pawn in some blackmail scheme, even though he is long divorced. Suitably freaked, Hailey bids her hook-up good riddance. Then, as John grabs a cab, he grows convinced that he is being followed — a suspicion he shares with Agent Jo Madi of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Unit, an apparent longtime adversary who is waiting for him outside his destination.
Agent Madi shrugs off John’s paranoia, then proceeds to probe him about a hedge fund manager who last night caught wind of a pharma stock’s selloff in Tokyo and quickly unloaded his stake, causing said stock to crater. A client of John’s then swooped in to grab the stock at a steep discount. Thing is, there had been no selloff in Tokyo. And as Madi details her eyewitness’ account, we see the events at the bar from a whole new perspective. We see how two of John’s young associates put a bug in the hedge fund bigwig’s ear about a boner pill causing cancer. That’s when he demanded the bartender put on the news, but the breaking report he then witnessed was apparently faked. (John, we learn, had blackmailed the bartender into firing up the bogus broadcast.)
Arriving at his loft office for DBA Advisors, John waves off Madi’s implied accusations and insists he only does very legal “consulting,” no espionage. Meeting with his team, John commends everyone on the previous night’s work, and there is talk of a big job for “Tom” coming up. But the next day, John takes a meeting with an old chum named Valence, who oversees a data mining giant. Valence asks John to do the thing he does, on a job that requires an extra level of discretion, before handing him an envelope with the details.
At the loft, John briefs his team on the unexpected new job, which involves making it look like a Treasury Department honcho, Edward Homm, is in cahoots with the CEO for a company that is the rival of the one he is investigating. To arrange this impossible encounter, the team uses a traffic jam and a wayward cab ride to deposit said CEO outside Homm’s hotel. One of John’s associates, posing as a dog walker, uses her herd of pups to nudge the CEO closer to Homm, while another discreetly drops an envelope at Homm’s feet. Homm picks it up and asks the CEO lady if she dropped it, and seeing her company’s logo on it, she assumes so.
The end result is a snapshot of the CEO seemingly handing the Treasury Department investigator a payoff, effectively ending the feds’ inquiry into the friend of John’s client.
After delivering the goods to Valence, John spies his hook-up, Hailey, entering a cab across the street. Curious/paranoid, he later confronts her outside her Times Square hotel and asks why she was at Valence’s building. Truly weirded out now by John’s inquisitions, Hailey mutters something about how she found him at the hotel that night using a dating app. Puzzled, John asks about the app, and she shows him his profile, which clearly was news to him. But before he can say anything, the giant Times Square news ticker above shows that John is wanted for the murder of Treasury Department investigator Homm!
John slips away/evades a mounted cop, only to later arrive outside his loft building just in time to see the top floors explode in a ball of fire, with at least two of his associates inside. John later sneaks into Valence’s building/office, to ask his friend what the hell is going on. John accuses Valence of being behind both the incriminating video (of John driving a car into which Homm got into) and “the girl” (Hailey), but they are interrupted by a phone call. As Valence steps onto the terrace to take the call, John sees that Valence had just received an anon text saying, “DO IT NOW.” And before John can act, Valence has climbed onto and plunged from the outside railing, splatting on the pavement far, far below.
John manages to escape the office building amid the chaos (including some that he himself created with a fake “bomb”). Now a suspect in two high-profile murders, we see him return to the remote childhood home he had visited earlier (and also via flashbacks). And there in the house’s basement, we see Treasury Department investigator Homm very much alive but bound to a chair. John, chomping at an apple, casually slides a blindfold back down over Homm’s eyes….
What did you think of this first trip down Kiefer Sutherland Rabbit Hole? Did you immediately cue up Episode 2?