In Clickbait Episode 1, Pia Brewer (Zoe Kazan) races to find her brother Nick (Adrian Grenier) when he appears in an online video, holding a sign that reads: “At 5 million views I die.”
Clickbait Episode 1 introduces us to the messy, complicated Pia, a hard partier who enjoys drinking and Tinder hookups and shows up two hours late to her mom’s birthday dinner. In the first scene where we meet Pia, she ruins the dinner and then blows off her family to hit the club scene. While she’s out, Pia drops her phone in the toilet and has to stick it in rice in the hopes she can get it working again.
When we next see Pia, she’s at the hospital where she works as a nurse and tending to a regular patient named Vince (Jack Walton), obsessed with YouTube videos. He shows her a creepy new upload that shows a bloodied man holding a sign on camera where he confesses to abusing women. His second sign says that if the video stream reaches five million views. He’ll die. And guess who the man in the video is? Pia’s brother, Nick.
The first thing Pia does is tell Nick’s wife, Sophie (Betty Gabriel). From the first scene of the episode, it doesn’t appear the two women have a good relationship, but given the circumstances, they’ll have to work together. Sophie hasn’t seen Nick since he left for work that morning, over five hours ago. Pia and Sophie take the video to the police and meet with Detective Roshan Amiri (Phoenix Raei).
Clickbait Episode 1 recap: Is there any truth to what is written on those signs?
Roshan asks if they know what the “I abuse women” sign is about, and Sophie claims that Nick is the gentlest person she knows. He would never harm a fly. Well, a flashback shows Nick getting a little rough with Pia at the birthday dinner, so maybe that’s not entirely true.
Sophie is forced to rush home after her sons, Kai (Jaylin Fletcher) and Ethan (Camaron Engels), become aware of the video at school. Views are climbing astronomically high, with thousands of comments calling Nick a rapist and abuser who deserves to die.
Pia gets her phone working again and discovers that Nick left her a voicemail that morning at 1:25 a.m. In it, he apologizes to her for the dinner and asks her to call him back because he has some stuff he needs to talk to her about, and a flashback shows that Pia has been concerned for her brother for a while now. So far, Pia and Nick’s mom, Andrea Brewer (Elizabeth Alexander), hasn’t seen the video and doesn’t appear to know anything about it.
A new video gets posted online, worse than the first. Sophie and Pia are asked to return to the police station. This video shows Nick holding a sign reading, “I killed a woman.” They immediately note that the handwriting isn’t Nick’s this time, which is odd since the signs he held in the first were definitely written by him.
The cops are struggling to find Nick but assure the two women that they’re doing everything they can to track him down. They question if Nick has ever been violent, infuriating Sophie and Pia, who doesn’t understand why they’re treating Nick like a predator rather than a victim. Pia demands they do whatever they can to find him and not bother them again until they actually have something.
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Surprisingly, Sophie is grateful to Pia for lashing out at the detectives, even if it does make her sound hysterical. “I feel exactly the same, thank you for saying those things.” Pia plays her Nick’s voicemail but advises her to keep it to herself and not tell the cops. They already believe what’s written on the cards, the voicemail makes him sound more guilty. Even worse than that is a reporter calling Sophie moments later. If the press has caught wind of the video the views are going to skyrocket and they already have, surpassing one million.
Pia returns to work to ask Vince for assistance. He might be just a high school student, but he’s the only semi-technical guy Pia knows. Vince shows her that there are viewers who want to help find Nick. He points out that many crimes have been solved this way and he’ll do whatever he can to help Pia find her brother.
Returning to Nick’s house, Pia is immediately accosted by reporters staked out in the street. Kai tells Pia they’ve been hanging out there for hours and he’s afraid of leaving the house. By now, Andrea knows what’s happening and the news of the video is broadcasted on the news. All of this attention causes more eyes on the video!
Clickbait Episode 1 recap: Vince finds a clue in the videos
With assistance from other contributors on an online subport, Vince uses clues from the video to discern that the video of Nick was taken in a specific type of XPN delivery van. Pia and Nick’s friend Matt Aldin (X) takes his findings back to the police, who are now scanning surveillance footage going back three weeks of Nick’s routine to see if anyone was tailing him. Now they can search for the van. Pia and Matt volunteer to help them look through the footage but the cops shoot them down. Roshan is friendlier and offers to let them wait outside.
While waiting, Matt tells Pia that he once asked Nick if he could ask Pia out and Nick supposedly said no, because if he ever hurt Pia he’d have to hit upside the head with a 2×4. “He’s fierce when it comes to you.”
As Pia watches the views mount on the video, she thinks back to the night before. Nick reached his breaking point with his sister, claiming that she “hurts” people and he’s sick of always having to forgive her. He kicks her out and tells her to stay out of his life.
Just as the video hits five million views, Roshan enters to tell them that they got a hit on a van that matches the description. They rush to the spot where they tracked it and open the back door. Will Nick be inside? Will he be alive?
The entire first season of Clickbait is now streaming on Netflix.