Blackout is the seventh episode of the third season. It was released on 3 November 2006.
Blackouts all over Los Angeles leave the city in the dark. Don works with his team to figure out if the power outages are an accident or the work of terrorists, before more lives are lost.
It’s late at night. Liz comes home with Don in tow. He saved her from being stood up on a date. They start making out. A man is working at a substation when a truck comes crashing through the fencing stopping after hitting a transformer which causes a large power outage. Don gets a call about the incident, interrupting him and Liz. He has to go, but promises to come back before midnight.
At the scene David brings Don up to speed. DHS is involved with the case, but a small station like that is ‘pretty low end for terrorists’. The worker was killed, but the driver left before they got there. Don takes a look at the vehicle. A two-by-four was wedged in under the pedal – there was no driver.
Megan and Colby are still at the office when Don comes in. The victim is Randy Syles – a scab working for Reno, the power company that owns the station during a union strike. David comes in with information on the truck. It’s been stolen. David and Colby go to look into union workers and see if any of them live in the area that the truck was stolen from. Don checks his watch, it’s after midnight.
Charlie and Larry are arguing over a machine in the Eppes’ house. Alan comes in wanting them to stop. They get the machine to work when Don comes by. He sees the candles and finds out that they had been hit by the power outage. The substation that was hit was so far away that Alan is surprised they were effected. Charlie and Larry explain that it’s common to even out the production and consumption of electricity. They liken it to a game of Jenga where taking out a few stations isn’t going to have a major effect, but the wrong (or right) one being taken down will cause a cascade of outages. Larry thinks that if this is the case there will be more outages.
Kari, Syles’ wife, is being questioned by Megan and Colby. They find out that he had been harassed by some of the striking union members so he switched to working at night so he’d have less trouble. They also find out that another station failed the night before last. Reno also owns that station as well. Don is worried that somebody is trying to crash the whole grid. Charlie thinks he can narrow down targets for another attack. Liz comes in and returns the sunglasses that he left at her place the night before. She leaves for a meeting. Megan asks him about Robin and he says that everything is fine.
Charlie and Larry are working on the case when Amita joins them. Larry reveals that he spent some time trying to live without electricity for a girlfriend. Charlie thinks he’s figured out the station that will get hit.
David and Colby stake the spot out that night with a couple making out in the car next to them. So far there’s no action on the station front. They discuss Megan and Larry before the lights go out in a different section of the grid which was caused by a different station being taken out.
At the station that did get hit Megan and Larry meet David and Colby. Megan and Larry were having dinner when the power went out. Don is off talking to the mayor and David has found out that 60,000 customers were affected by the outage. Their main suspects don’t work anymore though as this station is owned by a different company with no links to Reno. They’re thinking terrorism. A body is found along the fencing who isn’t a worker. He appears to have been electrocuted and his pockets have been turned out. An accomplice didn’t want him identified. Megan sees a tattoo on his neck that shows he spent time in Chino.
Alejandro Munos was a Salvadorian national that was released a few months back. They don’t know if he had ties to terrorism. Don wants to know why Charlie was wrong. Charlie believes the underlying assumption – a cascading failure – was wrong. There must be a different motive behind the outages. David finds out that Munos was in contact with Lyle Donahue multiples times recently. Donahue used to work for the State Utility Commission. He was let go after staging power shortages a few years ago, making a fortune. Colby finds out that he spent time in Chino with Munos. He is now a good suspect. He may have found a new way to manipulate the markets.
Charlie is back in his office working on the case when Amita comes in with an article she thinks would be good for his Cognitive Emergence Theory. Charlie has found that the numbers don’t make sense with market fraud. Amita points out that they’re looking at a large scale reason for the outages and wonders if the small scale outages are the main objective.
At the Eppes’ house Alan is wondering if Don is going to be coming to dinner or if he’ll be out with Robin. Don walks away and Alan presses him for more information. Don gets defensive. Alan wonders about the interaction between him and Liz (Charlie told him) and how that would sit with Robin. Don gets a call from David. There has been a hit on Donahue’s credit card. He and Megan are to follow the lead. Don leaves the house.
Megan shows Donahue’s photo to the bar tender. He doesn’t recognise the photo. Somebody else is using the card. They run to the back to where Colby is waiting. They are taken to a car where the card was found. Donahue is found dead. They realise that there are more players in this game and Megan wonders how high things will go before they reach the end.
Charlie rushes into the FBI and finds out that Donahue is dead. He tells Don and Megan that he doesn’t believe it has to do with price fixing. He’s found something, he just doesn’t fully know what it means. He shows them a map with the three zones affected by the outages. They all overlap in most of downtown. There are a lot of targets for robbery, but no robberies have been reported during the time of the blackouts. Megan gives Charlie a notepad with some equations. He takes them to look at while Megan goes to look into accomplices. Don asks Charlie about his conversation with Alan. Charlie asks him about him and Robin, but doesn’t get a straight answer.
Charlie and Larry are back working at the problem. They’ve hit a wall. Larry wonders why other stations that impacted downtown weren’t selected. They decide to look at that instead.
Don catches up with Liz. He finds out that Tabakian is going to give up information on the Salvadorians and she’ll be stuck at a safe house until he’s met with the prosecutor.
Charlie has found something. He finds that 12 stations supply downtown with power. The area that they don’t cover, but the other hree do is very close to the FBI building. It’s the downtown federal detention centre. Donohue was trying to facilitate a prison break. Don and David go to talk to a prison guard. Everything there runs on electricity, but if the power fails then they have a diesel generator that keeps things going. They are secure with no inmate access. Nothing has happened to threaten the generators during the recent blackouts.
Megan is outside thinking when Larry comes up to her. They discuss the case. Larry wonders if there is actually a bigger fish to fry. Maybe they need to look elsewhere.
Don and David fill Charlie in on the prison’s protocols and that they weren’t affected by the blackouts. Megan and Colby found a link between Munos and the prison. He worked for the cartel that supplied drugs to Tabakian. Colby wonders if the blackouts were to cover up an assassination attempt, but Tabakian is in solitary. Charlie believes that the blackouts had to have had some sort of impact on the prison. They probably are low on diesel for the generators and need an emergency fill up so they can keep things going if the power goes out. The truck is their way in as it would be an unscheduled delivery. They believe that the Salvadorians are trying to break in to kill Tabakian.
The fuel truck arrives at the facility. The truck driver shoots the guard and men come out of the tank and break in. Liz gets to the facility and has to check her weapon at the gate. The core team is rolling up. They aren’t getting through to the prison via phone and they see the fuel truck. Megan finds the dead guard. David finds the tank is empty. SWAT is 20 minutes out and even though there are 45 guards in there on their side it will take time to distribute weapons to them. Don decides to make a move now rather than wait. The Salvadorians are making their way through the prison. Liz meets with the ADA as Tabakian is brought to them. The hit squad comes across a guard and they take him out. Don finds a guard and the team brief him on the situation. The facility is put on lockdown. Tabakian expects Liz to protect him. Don, David, and Colby stop some of the hit team and get Liz, the ADA, and Tabakian out of their hiding spot. Don gives Liz his spare gun and they move through the facility. They are ambushed by the rest of the squad. They take out the men, but not before Tabakian has taken a hit. He’ll be fine. Don and Liz are flirting when Colby gets Don. He needs to talk to the warden.
At the Eppes’ house Charlie is snoozing and Alan is reading while they wait for Don to come in. Charlie wants his ‘I told you so’ moment and then they’re both going to get to bed. Don reveals that Robin dumped him the week before. They decide to stay up with Don and watch some tv.
- As well as electrical wide-scale power failure, the term is also used for the medical collapse of individuals, or their apparent bouts of an amnesia-like condition, sometimes as a result of concussion. An interruption in the flow of blood to the brain can be the cause.
At episode's end, Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) is going to the kitchen to make some popcorn for his brother, Don (Rob Morrow), and father, Alan (Judd Hirsch), who are seated in front of the TV about to watch some 'classics'. As the scene fades to credits, the music heard is "Angela", the theme song from the show Taxi (1978); "father and son" are settling in to watch an episode of the show in which Judd Hirsch was one of the stars.
[This appears at the beginning of the episode.] 436 Power Substations, 93,000 Miles of Cable, 22,000,000 Megawatts, 1 Witness