I watched the first three episodes of The Dropout as background noise, like I do with most punishingly drawn-out limited series on streaming platforms. After three hours of sporadic listening, I can usually decide if a show is worth devoting my free time to. Amanda Seyfried will always be my second-best Gawker Woman of the Week, but I wasn’t devoted to the show. Then the fourth episode, called “Old White Men,” autoplayed, and everything changed: enter the Walgreens boys.
The time is 2010, and these men have flown to Palo Alto by way of Chicago and Florida to see about acquiring Theranos technology for potential “wellness centers” to be installed in Walgreens pharmacies. There’s Dr. Jay Rosan (Alan Ruck), the Elizabeth Holmes-obsessed Walgreenss Medical Director desperate to look cool; Wade Miquelon (Josh Pais), the hesitant Chief Financial Officer of the recession-ravaged company; Kevin Hunter (Rich Sommer), a Floridian skeptical pharmacy consultant contracted by Walgreens to check out Theranos tech; and a lackey of sorts named Roland (Andrew Leeds), who has been to Tokyo, where he once ordered a teriyaki dish.
Theranos won’t show them the bunk lab technology, even though that’s why they’ve been dispatched to Palo Alto in the first place, so the Walgreens guys have got a lot of free time on their hands to eat spicy microgreen-salads, gawk at Silicon Valley celebs, and work out at the hotel gym. They’re a pack of squabbling old-school doofuses moved to near-nervous breakdowns by Elizabeth Holmes’s psychological torture in a suburban sushi restaurant and then in a glass-walled brainstorming room, and they’ve got one thing in common: THEY! HATE! CVS! Me too. Walgreens for life!
At one point, fed up with Holmes’s treatment of his company, Wade yells, “We’re fucking Walgreens, and we’re walking!” And they walk, not before signing NDAs. Luckily, Holmes eventually manipulates the boys into signing a contract with Theranos in a very funny scene in which two Dr. Jay, inspired by Katy Perry’s “Firework,” jumps out of a moving SUV to convince Wade to reconsider and locks the door on Kevin, who is begging Wade to keep fleeing.
This is a show obsessed with Walgreens, and understandably, I thought the Walgreens boys were going to be a major plot engine moving forward. Wade and Dr. Jay do appear briefly in the fifth episode, set three years later, issuing Holmes an ultimatum for getting the Walgreens wellness centers up and running. But then for the next two episodes, The Dropout sinks back into being a show about blood samples, malfunctioning machinery, vocal exercises, and corporate hierarchy. Not all that gripping. Imagine what those guys could’ve gotten into in the three ensuing years. Could we get a bottle episode of them all in a conference room during the Duane Reade acquisition (also in 2010), or a spinoff?
In the landmark sixth episode “Iron Sisters,” the whistleblowers finally act out against Holmes. It’s compelling, sure, but it’s nothing compared to when Roland, wearing a Theranos t-shirt over his dress shirt, serenaded Elizabeth Holmes with a blood-themed karaoke version of “What I Like About You.”
Walgreens fucking walked, and I wish they’d come back.