Joe Potter wakes up to the sound of music in the mess room. He glances at a
photo of his girlfriend Beth Grey on the mirror and then goes to themes room.
His co-worker Matt Trent is making Christmas dinner, and suggests that they
have a drink and a meal and just talk. Joe warns that he's not big on
conversation, but Matt figures that it's time after five years of mostly
ignoring each other. He suggests that they talk about why they're confined
there in the middle of the snow in a lonely outpost. Joe admits that it was
either the job or jail, but then turns the conversation to Matt. Matt admits
that he talked himself into trouble and that he's a guru of sorts.
Harry is dressing for a party when Matt uses Eye-Link to see through Harry's Zed-Eye implants. He has Harry look in the mirror and gives him dressing and hairstyling advises. Harry then goes to a hotel function room and Matt tells him to walk in as if he belongs. He has Harry pick up an empty bottle to use as a prop, and Harry says that a woman named Jennifer looks appealing to him. Matt has him go over and talk to Jennifer's friend Amy, making Jennifer feel like an outsider who wants to fit in. The two women are with a co-worker, Dawson Welch. When Dawson questions Harry, Matt brings up Dawson's social media pages and gives Harry enough information to bluff about knowing the man. Harry focuses on Amy but has her eventually introduce her to Jennifer while telling a story about a shirtless man on a horse riding down the street.
Jennifer, uninterested, wanders off and Matt has Harry find an excuse to slip away despite Amy's interest. Harry goes to the bathroom and checks himself in the mirror, and Matt and Harry's Internet club watch the entire thing through the Eye-Link. Matt has Harry go back to the party and tells him to talk to Jennifer directly and cynically, establishing a rapport. Harry follows his advice and Jennifer responds to him, saying that she doesn't like parties and only got through the last one using pills. However, she says that she doesn't take them anymore.
As Matt spins his tale, Joe glances at the clock, and then is surprised when he glances at it a few seconds later and the hands have jumped forward an hour and a half.
Jennifer tells Harry about how men try to send messages in her head, while Matt tries to bring up her Facebook page and discovers that she has a private profile. Meanwhile, Jennifer says that she's been at the company for three years and is planning to leave. Harry uses a speech that he rehearsed earlier with Matt and tells Jennifer that she should go for it immediately. As they talk, Jennifer spills her drink on Harry's leg and tries to brush it dry. The Internet club applauds but Jennifer tells Harry that she needs to go off by herself to think.
As he waits for Jennifer, Harry tells Matt that he isn't comfortable with what he's doing, and having everyone look on. Jennifer comes back and overhears him, and Harry quickly stops talking. She invites him back to her flat to thank him, and then kisses Henry, catching him by surprise. After a moment, Harry agrees to go back with her.
Joe wonders if Matt kept watching once the couple was alone, and Matt insists that he didn't.
Matt and the other club members keep watching as Harry and Jennifer go to her flat. She directs him to the bedroom while she gets drink. Once he's alone, Harry worries that it's happening too fast but Matt reminds him that he watched while the others went through the same thing. Jennifer comes in with drinks and tells Harry to get on the bed. Once he does, Jennifer says that they can't wait, and has him take a drink.
As Harry starts to choke and spit up blood, Jennifer say that she can still hear the voices in her because she stopped taking the pills. Realizing that something is wrong, Matt tells Harry to get out but he collapses on the bed. Jennifer says that she wasn't sure whether to kill herself, but Harry convinced her. Now she knows that she has a kindred spirit and they can die together. Harry tries to explain that the voices in his head are real, but Jennifer doesn't believe him and takes a drink of the poison. He tries to fight her off but Jennifer takes out a funnel and pours the rest of the poison into his mouth.
Joe wonders when Matt learned that Harry was dead, and Matt claims that he saw it on the news.
Matt tells everyone to destroy all of the files and then shuts off his computer and takes his files downstairs to burn. As he leaves the attic, Matt trips over his daughter's toys. His wife Claire comes out and demands to know what he's doing. He has no choice but to explain, and Claire "blocks" him on her Zed-Eyes, making it impossible for them to see or hear each other as more than a blur and muffled noise.
As Matt finishes cooking dinner, he pours some wine and offers a toast to Christmas. Joe drinks down the entire glass and Matt then explains that Claire left him and took their daughter, and he came to the outpost to avoid any reminders of his life. As he talks, Joe hears something moving behind him but when he looks, there's nothing there. Matt seemingly doesn't hear the noise, and assures Joe that he has a regular job and helping friends picking up girls is just a hobby. He offers to describe what he does and tells Joe to stop him when he realizes what he does.
A woman, Greta, waits for her operation at the hospital. A nurse, Fola, comes in with food and Greta hesitantly complains about how the toast isn't cooked to her liking. Fola irritably leaves and a surgeon comes in and administers anesthesia to Greta, assuring her that everything will be okay. However, Greta suddenly finally wakes up and finds herself at the end of a bloody red tunnel. She's lifted out of the tunnel and placed in a white egg-shaped holder, a Cookie. As Greta looks around, she sees her own body on the operating table before everything goes black.
Sometime later, Greta finds herself as a disembodied voice in the Cookie. Matt explains that he's with SmartIntelligence and he's there to tell "Greta" what happened. Greta II is a copy of the real Greta's brainwaves, placed in the Cookie. The real Greta had the copy created after having the Pea implant placed in her brain for a week. It learned how her mind works and now it can control the house to Greta's personal preferences. Greta 2 starts to panic and Matt creates her a virtual body and a white control room so she has something to orient her.
Greta 2 still doesn't understand Matt demonstrates by putting bread in a nearby toaster. He then tells Greta 2 to push a button on the console, although which one doesn't matter because it's all symbolic. Greta 2 does so and the toaster cooks the bread to her exact specifications. Matt says that she'll now run the automated house for Greta, who is asleep in her bedroom. Greta 2 starts screaming in a panic, and Matt mutes her until she calms down. When she refuses to cooperate, Matt programs her for three weeks of total oblivion, set to pass in a matter of seconds.
After the three weeks of enforced solitude ends, Greta 2 begs Matt not to do it again. She can't even sleep and Matt points out that as a computer program she doesn't need to sleep. When Greta 2 still refuses to serve the real Greta so Matt programs her for six more months of oblivion: just enough to break her without driving her insane. Greta 2 eagerly agrees to do anything to avoid total isolation. Greta comes in and Matt tells her that the Cookie is ready. Noticing how attractive the real Greta is, Matt tries out his story about a shirtless man on a horse.
Soon, Greta 2 is mindlessly running Greta's house, doing everything exactly the way she likes it.
Joe accuses Matt of enslaving the AI. Matt insists that Greta 2 wasn't real so he couldn't torture it, and figures that Joe must be a good man because most people wouldn't object. He wonders how Joe ended up at the outpost, and Joe says that Beth's father never liked him and begins his story.
Joe and Beth visit Joe's father Gordon, and it's clear that Gordon dotes on his daughter. As they walk down the road, Joe takes a photo of his girlfriend and figures that Gordon will never like him. They meet some friends, including Tim and his fiancée Gita, at a karaoke bar. Joe sings and then Beth gets up and sings a love ballad while looking out at the audience. Joe drinks too much and Beth finally has to take him home
Later, Joe and Beth host a dinner for Tim and Gita. They talk about how Beth set her friend Tim up at work with Gita. Afterward, Beth finishes off a bottle of wine and goes to bed. As Joe dumps out the trash, he finds a pregnancy test stick that shows positive. He shows it to Beth and she admits that it's hers, but warns Joe that she isn't ready to have a child. Joe insists and Beth, furious, insists that she doesn't want to be a mother. When he keeps arguing, Beth uses the Zed-Eyes to block him. Furious, Joe walks out, hoping things will blow over in the morning.
Come morning, Beth packs and leaves. She still has Joe blocked, and drives away as he tries to communicate with her. When Beth doesn't come back, Joe goes to her workplace. Tim and Gita tell him that Beth resigned and then disappeared. Joe looks through his photos of Beth only to realize that the block keeps him from seeing her in the photos as well.
One day, Joe sees Beth on the street and realizes from her block-silhouette that she's pregnant. When he tries to communicate with her, someone calls the police and they issue a restraining order against him. Joe writes letters to Gordon to give to Beth, but never gets a response. The only place he knows where she'll be is at Gordon's house once a year on Christmas. Joe goes there and sees Beth with her baby. However, the block shrouds the baby as well.
After four years, Joe buys a wooden rabbit sculpture and leaves it for the child. He realizes from the silhouette that she's a girl. He continues leaving her presents for the next few years. One day Joe is watching the news and realizes that he can see Beth's photo... because she died in a train crash. The block ends when the blocker dies. Joe goes to Gordon's to see his daughter for the first time, bringing a snow globe. He follows the girl, May, inside to the kitchen but when she finally turns, he realizes that she has Asian features and looks like Tim. Shocked, Joe realizes that Beth was cheating on him.
Gordon enters the kitchen and tells Joe that there's nothing for him there. He sends May to her room and tells Joe that Beth never saw his letters because he tore them up. The old man picks up a knife and tells Joe to get out, and Joe instinctively hits Gordon in the head with the snow globe. Gordon collapses back into a chair and dies, and Joe stares at him in horror as the bird clock on the wall chimes the hour.
Joe realizes that the clock in the outpost is the same one that was in Gordon's kitchen. The mess room has changed so that it is now identical to Gordon's kitchen. Matt doesn’t seem to notice anything and asks Joe what happened next.
Joe, shocked, walks out of the kitchen and goes to the nearest town. He keeps drinking until the police pick him up for the murder. However, he refused to say anything about what he did because then it would become real.
Joe starts to panic and asks where they are and what job they do. Matt ignores his questions and asks him what Joe did.
The police eventually tell Joe that May hid until Boxing Day. When she found Gordon dead, she went outside to get help... and froze to death in the yard.
Matt sets the snow globe on the table next to Joe and asks if he confesses. Joe finally speaks the truth, and Matt pats him sympathetically on the shoulder... and then talks to an invisible presence, saying that he knew he could get Joe to confess. Joe stares at him, shocked, and Matt apologizes for misleading him... and then disappears as he removes the virtual helmet. He's in an office at the police station, and the officers congratulate him on getting the confession. Matt explains that while it took him 70 minutes, he first put Joe through five years of virtual existence.
The head officer, Gainsborough, goes to Joe's cell. Joe has a surgical scar on his forehead, and Gainsborough says that they extracted a confession from the copy of his mind that they made. She wishes Joe a Merry Christmas and goes back to her office. She tells Matt that he's free to go now that he got the confession. However, one of her officers, Holder, tells Matt that he's now on the register for Peeping Tom, pointing out that he failed to report Harry's murder. Matt wonders what that involves, and Gainsborough says that from now on he'll be blocked from everyone.
Matt leaves the station and sees a world made up of gray silhouettes that he can't understand. His own blocking blur is bright red, marking him as a Peeping Tom.
Joe looks outside the outpost window and sees May's body lying in the snow outside.
In the station, Holder's partner Fenn tells Gainsborough that he's going to turn up the time so that it passes a thousand times faster per minute for Joe 2.0 in the Cookie. He figures that it's what Joe--or at least his copy--deserves. Gainsborough agrees and tells Fenn to leave it on Christmas Day.
Joe discovers that the radio is playing Christmas music and won't stop. He destroys the radio but another one instantly appears. Joe destroys it, and another appears, and another, and another…
Written by Gadfly on Oct 21, 2016