The penultimate episode of COBRA Season 2 begins with the reveal Firestorm is back online and raising fears about the water supply. "Water systems would be a prime target for a cyber attack," says Fraser Walker, director of Crisis Contingency Secretariat, with his usual talent for the obvious. Prime Minister Robert Sutherland doesn't seem particularly concerned about stamping Firestorm out again (the arrest in last week's episode seemed like they'd caught an insignificant player). However, conspiracy theories about the water are particularly prevalent in the area of Kent devastated by the Thames Estuary explosion.
Chris: “...You can put the word ‘quantum’ in front of any other bullshit, and all of a sudden it looks high stakes.”
Labour leader Chris Edwards is in Kent for the announcement of the party's candidate for the area, Francine Bridge. Flood damage is still very much in evidence, and angry residents mill around with signs protesting the water contamination and the enigmatic message "Stop quantum algorithms." The reactions to Francine are not friendly; a bystander uses a racial epithet, and it's a hostile environment. Chris, anticipating trouble ahead, asks if she and journalist Hari Misra had any intimate relationship.
Audrey is also aware of the conspiracy theories wildly being thrown around since her brother, Cary, lives there with his wife Tina (Claire Lamms) and their son. When Audrey visits, she and Tina fight over the propaganda; Tina believes every online rumor or piece of gossip, and is irrational and fearful. Cary is on Audrey's side but can't get her to change her mind.
At the latest COBRA meeting, Home Secretary Archie Morgan-Glover suggests that significant powers may be taking turns to make cyber attacks, just in case you were expecting a denouement soon. No one knows why since no demands are being made on the British government. The U.S. had acknowledged that the documents Hari received before his disappearance were genuine; Sutherland orders some small-scale reprisals against the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, Fraser has some disturbing news. A child is sick with amoebic meningitis, a water-borne disease, usually fatal. It's virtually unknown in Britain, and conspiracy theorists have seized on the boy's illness.
In addition, the movement to stop quantum algorithms has adopted the symbol of a long-defunct Chilean right-wing group. In addition to warning people not to drink the water, Firestorm is pushing followers not to vote. Robert's reaction is to push harder with sanctions against the U.S. and China. Robert, Archie, Anna, and Joseph then head over to meet with the Tory candidate for Kent, Rodger Hawkins (Neil Stuke). He dismisses his opponent, describing her as being mimsy, lefty, and soft on all sorts of issues. Anna asks him not to make the fight about race. Ominously he says he won't have to.
But when he's in a pub in Kent (incidentally drinking beer, despite Robert's advice to drink water in public), he cracks about Francine not being used to clean water "where she comes from." Anna is furious about the racist implications of Hawkins' comment. If she saw Joseph as an ally, she certainly doesn't now. He tells her in no uncertain terms that the Kent constituency must remain Tory and reiterates that his personal feelings toward the candidate are immaterial. When they're about to eviscerate each other, Robert asks for a word alone with Anna, and just as Joseph leaves, Fraser arrives to tell them the boy has died. And while no other cases have been reported, conspiracy theorists will have a field day.
Joseph, clever and ambitious, has his own agenda. In a meeting with Archie, they discuss their concern about Robert's state of mind and paranoia. Is he the best leader for the party? (I think we know their answers to this one.) The third official in the meeting, Eleanor (MI-5), reports the U.S. Embassy has revealed it's about to make a significant move on China, with the implication that Britain should back off. Britain is a weak player globally — Archie almost explodes with rage — and Eleanor amends that to "significant but not sovereign." She has also discovered that Firestorm's resurrection was outsourced to a rogue country and aided by Russia, as we might expect.
The anxiety and potential violence we saw in Kent are shared by the rest of the country, with demonstrations and fire settings targeting stores, drugstores, and doctors' offices. We haven't seen Francine campaigning since her announcement that she's running, so we don't know how effective she is in Kent. Rioters in Kent set fire to the Labour H.Q., not a good sign for her campaign. Tina has joined the demonstration, but Cary persuades her to come home. Rodger, meanwhile, has become a loose cannon, launching a racist meme on Twitter and earning support from future constituents in Kent. Archie orders him to delete the meme and apologize to Joseph. Rodger jeers at Archie, calling him a spent force.
Anna meets Francine in a bar and confesses her anxieties about aging: hot flashes, the deterioration of her career and her relationship with Robert, and the lack of respect from male colleagues. Francine is sympathetic, but she's fired up, with ambitions to rise higher in the government, and wants Anna to work for her. Anna returns home and furiously discovers her teenage children have posted a "Stop quantum algorithms" sign in the window before she's interrupted by Rachel Sutherland, upset about being the front page interview, which she claims distorted everything she said. Anna tells her to wait it out. The press will move on to another topic, maybe get away for a few days.
Archie heads out to privately mourn the anniversary of his son's death, but before he goes, he warns Mott to keep an eye on Hawkins, who he now admits, Anna was right about. Hawkins goes exactly as rogue as one would expect, openly encouraging Firestorm and announcing he will not drink the water in Kent either. Mott lets Archie know that they've lost control of Hawkins, "he's flipped on us." Archie sighs, realizing he's got a mess to clean up when he gets back, not that he'll ever admit to Anna he should have listened to her in the first place.
Taking Anna's advice to talk to Robert, Rachel tells him she's going to visit her daughter in Chile, packs up, and exits. Robert is outraged and turns viciously on Anna. Anna has been disloyal, Rachel's abandonment is her fault, and he knows she's been talking to Francine. She's fired! Anna retorts that she's resigning minutes before Robert's next press conference. Eleanor receives notice of a new threat, Cerberus, and tells her staff to stop the press conference. But Robert is already at the podium, although he pauses for a long time.
An aide steps forward with a glass of water which Robert picks up with shaking hands. He seems to be hallucinating. The glass smashes on the floor as he collapses.
Next week, all will be revealed in the final episode. Or possibly not, because that is the way of COBRA.