--As much as I enjoy the math-related plots of the episodes, and as much as I love the interaction between the Eppes men, those two only really mesh well together in rare instances. That's probably why I liked "Uncertainty Principle" and "Sniper Zero" so much, not to mention "Protest." "Backscatter" is another one of these. The cohesion between plot and character work is necessary for the story, is deeply interesting, and makes the entire episode (from first teaser moment to credits) hang together in a beautifully unified whole.
--The cast are a large part of this. Not just Rob Morrow (though he's clearly having a good time playing this more vulnerable Don) or David Krumholtz, but everyone. Moments like Megan telling Don off for checking his watch AGAIN during that 8-hour "stake-out". Like Don and Colby checking on David after he's been shot at the warehouse. Like Colby reporting that David said that "he wants to come back ASAP. And no, I can't have his desk." Like every single scene Amita has in this episode--I have been so impressed with how her character has been used in the past few weeks. Her talents are coming to the fore, her friendship with Charlie (and Larry) is well played, and in spite of the fact that she seems a little bit startled by being involved in something that includes the Russian mob, she's not freaked out.
--I love that there is consistent character development on this show. Now, admittedly there were some changes (mostly in Charlie) between seasons 1 and 2. Not terribly OOC changes, just fast ones. But this season it has slowed down to a measurable pattern of change. Charlie is not the same guy who couldn't handle the danger of Don's job back in "Uncertainty Principle". He's not even quite as prone to blame himself for things and go off on his own as he was in "In Plain Sight." And while he may have found a better balance between his own work and his work for Don, at this point there's no way he's going to stop working with Don. That's become as much a part of his life as the university.
--And Don...oh, where to start. He's gone through a LOT the past few episodes: losing an old girlfriend to murder, coping with someone shooting up his bullpen and scaring his brother half to death, and then being faced with the loss of nearly everything he has--coworkers, finances, family. Don is very much a man who needs to be in control, and in this episode in particular, he didn't have that and it drove him crazy. I don't think we've seen him lie to Charlie outright before, to protect him, and it backfires rather spectacularly. Don's always been the protective big brother, and now he's having to learn to let Charlie take risks too. He hates doing that, but he let Charlie into this stuff, and there's no way he can cut him off now. Whoops. :-)
--Alan! Alan has also had some changes he's gone through, though we haven't seen it as on-screen as with Charlie and Don. During "In Plain Sight," he tells Don, "You chose this life for yourself. I'll thank you not to choose it for Charlie." But between then and now, even though he does (in this episode) berate Don for dragging Charlie in a case involving the Russian mob, Alan has come to the conclusion that Charlie, too, has chosen this life, has chosen to be involved in Don's life this way. And that there's nothing Alan can do to stop it. In fact, I think he knows that Charlie helps keep Don sane through some of this stuff, and no matter how much he may worry, Alan's a good enough father and wise enough man not to even try to stop that from happening. He even convinces Don at the end of this episode that there's no way to keep Charlie out of it now.
Someone needs to write some Alan-fic about this. Please?
--On the plot side of the episode, I loved the twist, that this vedetta against Don is nothing but a distraction to keep him away from the actual theft that's going down. It was a really well-played strategy, and quite ruthless--I have no doubt that if they'd figured out that Don was onto them at all, they would have gone ahead and found a way to kill Alan or Charlie or someone, to keep the distraction going. It was quite unsettling.
--I loved the scene with Don and the banker guy, in the back of the truck. The bank tech is so determined to save his people, and he knows that Don must be in a similar situation, but doesn't know how to help or if he should. And Don knows exactly how the guy feels, and lets him know that, lets him know how scared he is...and it works. Such a fine piece of acting, there.
--Always nice to see guest stars back, too; what's-his-name from the Organized Crime Unit was around in "The OG" earlier this season.
--Oh my. I almost forgot. Larry may not have been in the episode, but the fact that he called Amita to find out which city he was in ("Cleveland or St. Louis." "Where's the conference?" "Minneapolis.") was completely priceless.
I'm going to stop the squeeing now and go work on a rewrite of a Numb3rs fic. Maybe watch "Protest" again, or "Backscatter"...something with Don-voice....