Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episode 1.07 ("Johnny McKee"): Thoughts & Theories

Well you know, I've been shoved around
Hey, but I've done my share of the shovin' too
I guess you get what you deserve
Yeah you get what's comin' to you.
- John Mellencamp, “Born Reckless”

Let's hop on the train with our gas masks at hand, and make our way through the manufactured fog...

The 302/63’s

1. Dr. Lucille Sengupta/Lucy Banerjee
2. Dr. Milton Beauregard 
3. Mrs. Beauregard (questionable)
4. Guy Hastings, guard
5. Ernest Cobb, inmate #2047
6. Tommy Madsen, inmate #2002
7. Johnny McKee, inmate #2055
8. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
9. Paxton Petty, inmate #2223
10. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
11. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024


As was the case with LOST, one of my favorite aspects of contemporary television is the integration of literary references that encourage viewers to research and read actual books (versus gadgets). So I was thrilled to see so many books and hear related quotes in last night’s episode of ALCATRAZ.  

The Carpetbaggers – Harold Robbins

I do not see any real connection from to the show. As Dr. B said, it is pulp. At least compared to the others on display in the episode. 

The Metamorphoses of Ovid 

The Metamorphoses is a 12,000-line poem, essentially about transformation. The book is far too dense for me to possibly attempt to explain in any brief manner, but I believe it was used in this episode for two specific reasons: 1. Lucille/Lucy has not appeared to change in any way from 1963 to present day (physically or mentally, pre-coma) and 2. Jack Sylvane told Hauser that he HAD changed (and could no longer dream). 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne

The book is about adventures aboard the submarine Nautilus, which was built in secrecy and roamed the ocean without detection from land-based government. 

The real USS Nautilus submarine launched on 1/21/54, and became the first commissioned nuclear power submarine in the US Navy. Johnny McKee said that the USS Nautilus passed through the SF Bay, but it didn’t depart Pearl Harbor toward the North Pole until 1958.


The man deserves his own section. Jules Verne also wrote an aptly titled book called "The Mysterious Island" and much of his work is very applicable to this show, thematically. 
“Is the Master out of his mind?' she asked me. I nodded. 'And he's taking you with him?' I nodded again. 'Where?' she asked. I pointed towards the centre of the earth. 'Into the cellar?' exclaimed the old servant. 'No,' I said, 'farther down than that.” ― Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Perhaps the secret to the 63’s does lie in the hole beneath The Hole, in the subterranean area of Alcatraz (see crazy theory below)....
“When I returned to partial life my face was wet with tears. How long that state of insensibility had lasted I cannot say. I had no means now of taking account of time. Never was solitude equal to this, never had any living being been so utterly forsaken.” ― Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth
An apt way to describe the experiences of the returning inmates…


McKee rigged sprinklers with Zyklon A, a liquid pesticide that releases hydrogen cyanide in a chemical reaction with water. Zyklon B is more commonly known, primarily because it was used in gas chambers during the Holocaust.

Most nightshade plants have berries that contain poisonous solanine, causing convulsions and death. But there are other plants in the nightshade family with toxic berries that harm but do not kill (see crazy theory below). 


I live here, and I have no complaints about what they’re using in Vancouver to stand in for locations in San Francisco. For legal/clearance reasons, they can’t use some of the real names, as is the case with most shows (thus, SFTA rather than BART for the trains).  But it is a bit disconcerting when they show a crazy man gassing the “East Bay Tube,” as we take the train through that very Trans Bay Tunnel quite frequently. Speaking of clearances – I did laugh out loud that McKee gassed a train full of Golden State Warriors fans. Clearly it was a good deal cheaper to feature that fan gear than the Giants, A’s, Raiders or 49ers.  

“I can help you with that memory; I can help it go away.” - Dr. Sengupta, to Johnny McKee
We now know that her “methods” included electroshock therapy, traumatic memory therapy and acupuncture [auricular acupuncture has been known to treat inmates in prison psych wards; it was developed in 1957, which would have made it a relatively new and experimental method for Dr. Sengupta]. 

The newly unfrozen-in-time Jack Sylvane said that he’s changed because “I don’t dream.” It seems that Dr. Sengupta’s efforts to remove painful memories resulted in the removal of dream capacity instead. That would make sense, considering how many of the returning 63ers seek to revenge or avenge loved ones, with memories more intact and missions activated. 

Flashing back to 1960, Dr. Sengupta asked Johnny McKee if he dreamed about his victims. In 2012, we know that Lucy Banerjee is dreaming while in a coma. We have to ponder whether or not SHE is dreaming about her victims…possibly the 63’s.


Dr. B referred to current day in New Alcatraz as “our so-called reality.” Given that he is ageless, we must consider WHEN and HOW he re-entered, if he returned at the same time as Lucille/Lucy, if he was given a choice to go with the 63’s, if he knows how he lost 50 years and/or if he helped orchestrate the entire event.  It was quite telling that Dr. B called the 1961 book The Carpetbaggers “a MODERN classic." It could very well be that he has no idea what year it is. Look at the man - he does not get out much.

Now that Rebecca Madsen has heard the name Beauregard, I’m hoping she brings it up with Doc, who must have written about Dr. B in his books. If they figure out that he’s still alive, and one of the 63’s – they might finally start to put the puzzle pieces together and discover New Alcatraz.

“You were in prison then, you’re in prison now. Take away the passing of 50 years – nothing’s changed for you.” – Emerson Hauser, to Jack Sylvane

This is a shot in the dark, but I am starting to think that Rebecca’s grandfather is going to discover New Alcatraz; that he went off-mission to “rescue” his fellow inmates from their re-incarceration. 


McKee is the first returning inmate we’ve seen that sought out employment in order to continue their life of crime.  

I believe that McKee specifically chose that train at that time to gas. He must have known that there was a Warriors game that night, and assumed that most of the fans would be male. Although much has changed since 1963, the section of passengers they chose to show did not seem to contain any female basketball fans. Score one for the psychopath. 

Once again, we do not see Hauser bring an inmate to New Alcatraz. Johnny McKee might have died, but so did Kit Nelson – and we have yet to see if Dr. B brought him back to life in New Alcatraz. So either the killed inmates are in cold storage, or they are in revitalization chambers. I prefer to think it is the latter. 


Donde esta Deputy Warden Tiller? His absence, two episodes in a row, is blowing a hole right through my agoraphobia/Isaac Asimov theory.  

Can someone please make an animated gif of Warden James saying Ding? Hilarious. But when I hear Ding, I see Fring. Breaking Bad fans will understand. 

Just as Warden James forced a confession out of Kit Nelson with his creepy match game, he assisted Dr. Sengupta to force a confession out of Johnny McKee. To me, it is almost as if the Warden makes it his personal mission to have each inmate confess to their sins before they qualify (in his mind) to be part of the future 63’s. 


It might be possible that  “they” combined the areas of expertise from among the 302 on Alcatraz to create the tools necessary to pull off the events of 3/21/63. So far, those that fit the task: Kit Nelson used to work for a company that built bomb shelters (the subterranean dungeon and/or wormhole), and Johnny McKee used to be an organic chemistry teacher (“the fog”). 

In addition, I think it was a major clue that McKee “pulled garden duty a lot,” as Warden James himself seemed to be particularly fond of the prison gardens (noted in “Guy Hastings”).  The phillumenist is also a horticulturist! The Warden may have been working with or forcing McKee to educate him about the uses of the nightshade plants.  


In smaller dosages, some of the chemicals derived from the plants in the nightshade family can be used as a sedative or to treat motion sickness. Side effects from these drugs may include confusion, agitation, hallucinations, paranoid behaviors, and delusions. Thus…the “fog that took all the stars away” on 3/21/63.   

For the second episode in a row, the Medical Examiner (not coroner, as I've erroneously labeled her previously) Nikki has worn a Sandman comic tee. As I noted in last week’s post, the main character in The Sandman comics was an escaped prisoner named Dream.  Obviously, dreams play a huge role in this episode and the entire series.  But what is even more relevant (particularly for this theory) is that Dream used a gas gun to compel his enemies to tell the truth and also to put them to sleep.  

Nikki is not one of the 63’s, BUT…my conspiratorial instinct suspects that she is Dr. Beauregard’s granddaughter. Her profession, location and conveniently nerdy tees are pointing me in that direction. She is a plant, she knows SOMETHING and may just play a role in the re-entry process of returning 63ers. Who better to help revive those stuck in time than an M.E.? Especially if she was tasked with reviving some who may not have survived or were injured during the 20,000-league journey back from the center of the earth…


Johnny McKee was a huge Jules Verne fan, and noted that as early as the 1800’s - he wrote about “how we would travel underwater.” If those who vanished from Alcatraz in 1963 didn’t travel through a wormhole, perhaps the subterranean area beneath Solitary on Alcatraz was actually a carved out tunnel system for submarines. If you’re wondering how that many subs (enough to hold 302 people) were able to travel the Bay undetected, just remember that a) we are suspending our disbelief here, people and b) Verne's Nautilus utilized that very technology.

And…scene. Thank you for taking the time to read though my analysis and (hopefully) get a few laughs out of the crazy theories! As always, I encourage and appreciate feedback and constructive comments. Please note: due to travel, I will not be able to watch & write about next week’s episode until Friday, March 2. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episode 1.06 ("Paxton Petty"): Thoughts & Theories

To start us off, in honor of Valentine’s Day - an appropriately titled song by an artist relevant to this episode: “Prisoner of Love” by Frank Sinatra.

Alone from night to night, you'll find me too weak to break the chains that bind me.
I need no shackles to remind me, I'm just a prisoner of love.
For one command, I stand and wait now from one who's master of my fate now.
I can't escape, for it's too late now. I'm just a prisoner of love.
What's the good of my caring if someone is sharing those arms with me.
Although she has another, I can't find another for I'm not free.
She's in my dreams awake or sleeping, upon my knees to her I'm creeping,
My very life is in her keeping, I'm just a prisoner of love.

The 302/63’s

1. Dr. Lucille Sangupta/Lucy Banerjee
2. Dr. Milton Beauregard 
3. Mrs. Beauregard (questionable)
4. Guy Hastings, guard
5. Ernest Cobb, inmate #2047
6. Tommy Madsen, inmate #2002
7. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
8. Paxton Petty, inmate #2223
9. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
10. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024


* I have confirmed that the inmate mugshots and dates on the mugshots are NOT canon, and therefore there are no date discrepancies with regard to Petty's Alcatraz mugshot.

Original thought process:
Paxton Petty’s Alcatraz mug shot indicates his arrival date there as 2/8/60. I’m not sure if that is a continuity/prop error or misleading clue, but it certainly does not match up with other significant dates…

Paxton Petty arrested: 9/3/59
Bombs set off: 2/20/60, 3/6/60, 3/15/60
Paxton Petty transferred to Alcatraz: 9/3/60

In addition, the newspaper in the tomb had a headline about the Zodiac killer, and his crimes took place between 1968-1969. Why on earth would the person responsible for providing Petty with his weapon of choice upon his re-entry also leave a newspaper from a year during which he was frozen in time? 


Young SF police officer Hauser was a rookie around 1960, judging by what was likely his initial bout of nausea upon arrival to Alcatraz with prisoner Petty.  

We have to ponder whether or not Dr. Lucille Sangupta specifically targeted young officer Hauser back in 1960. She was unusually aggressive for a woman of her standing in that era, and he was clearly vulnerable and seemingly very sweet and innocent. Lucille/Lucy is ageless and vanished along with 301 others from Alcatraz in 1963. If she was aware of or responsible for what was going to happen, she may have either warned or tried to recruit Hauser. Did he CHOOSE to stay? Did Lucille give him a pass or enough information to prepare for her return (along with the others) in the future?  

Hauser’s old SFPD uniform is stored in a locked trunk on Alcatraz in current day, along with old photos of him with Dr. Sangupta and his Ben Linus-inspired cache of foreign cash and passports. All signs point to the fact that Hauser must actually live in or near the Batcave...and that he is a frequent international flyer. It is possible that during the years when his beloved Lucille was "missing," he was traversing the globe in search of her. Or simply recruiting a top team of nerds for his secret lair.


Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
-  Coldplay, “Fix You”

The real question is this: WHEN did Dr. Lucille Sangupta make her re-entry into modern society, and begin her life anew as Lucy Banerjee? I have a suspicion that the season finale will shed light on this very question, hopefully highlighting: how she and Emerson Hauser found one another again, his reaction to her agelessness, and how they teamed up and combined resources to start hunting down the other 301 people who vanished in 1963. 

Dr. Sangupta used an anesthetic pill that resembled a mint to sedate inmates, and also appeared to give young Hauser one of the same “mints” for nausea upon his arrival when they first met. That he may have been pre-selected for a specific purpose is becoming more and more likely. It is unclear what effect, if any, the mint had on Hauser. But she definitely needed an outside source, off of the Rock, to help complete her mission or assignment. And, sadly, Hauser's love for Lucille/Lucy may have been and remains unrequited.

Can Lucy die? Can any of the returned 63’s die? Hauser himself may not know, which is why he asked Dr. B to work on Kit Nelson in 2012 New Alcatraz after apparently killing him. We have not seen the status of Nelson since, but perhaps he was revived – which is why Hauser then brought Lucy to Dr. B to "fix her." 

It seems Warden James hired Dr. Sangupta, but perhaps did so off the record - indicating his intentions for her assistance with his 1963 project (insert, as they say in The Muppets, a maniacal laugh here). After all, Doc Soto, the Alcatraz expert, knew nothing about a female doctor stationed on Alcatraz.  


“I wrote a book about Alcatraz, and pretty much everything was wrong.”

I can’t wait for the sequel to his Inmates of Alcatraz book: Lack of Conviction – Inmates Inaccurate

Nikki the coroner was sporting a tee of The Sandman, and The Sandman himself (Wesley Dodds) had a girlfriend who was aware of his dual identity. Perhaps we have now been introduced to comic book shop owner by day/civilian investigator by night Soto’s new love interest.



It was a surprise to learn that Dr. Sangupta was unaware of the blood being taken by Dr. B in the Alcatraz infirmary. She obviously had a strong interest in Tommy Madsen, for reasons that have yet to be unveiled. And she trusted him enough to play Petty’s torture tape, to gauge his recognition of the lullaby Petty mumbled after undergoing her “talking cure.” 

Tommy knows about the horrible place beneath Solitary, and I wonder if he will continue to meet with Dr. Sangupta and perhaps reveal what he knows.  

It crossed my mind that the recently returned and off-the-grid Tommy Madsen may have paid a visit to Lucy before she was shot. Whether or not he was programmed to do so or not is unclear, but these two may have more of a history than we've seen. Yet.

“I want to know what happened to me. A week ago I went to sleep a stone’s throw from where we’re standing now. Next thing I know, it’s 2012. And I wake up lying on the floor of a tomb. Tell me how that’s possible.” - Paxton Petty
Guy Hastings remembered specific details about his last night on the Rock before vanishing, but Petty only recalled going to sleep. I have speculated that the “fog” released on Alcatraz that night (see previous post) may have been a type of biochemical agent, and perhaps Hastings simply remembered more because he was awake. 

Once again, we did not see Hauser bring a returned 63er to New Alcatraz.  But we did witness him shooting Petty, without the intent to kill. We should just assume at this point that all who have returned and are captured are then taken to New Alcatraz. Is Hauser purposefully wounding each returning inmate and guard - making them bleed - so that Dr. B has a fresh source and reason to collect samples for testing in New Alcatraz?

This might be a stretch, but…is it mere coincidence that coroner Nikki was sporting a tee featuring The Sandman in the very episode where sand played a major role in the location of Petty’s final landmine? Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, indeed. Wait...

Dream is the main character in The Sandman comics, a personification of all that is not real...and an escaped prisoner.  The comic book series also features flashbacks and immortal characters. Long story short, ALCATRAZ co-creators/executive producers Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien and their writing staff are very clearly fans of the comic book and graphic novel genre, and are infusing their show with geeky hints and nods. I strongly approve. 


Where was Deputy Warden Tiller in the 1960 flashbacks? He was not on the dock when Petty arrived - nor did we see him interact with Petty or anyone else in this episode. His absence seems odd, given what I have interpreted as his agoraphobia (I doubt he left the Rock very often, to avoid crowds and social situations). Something tells me that his sister was involved...

Paxton Petty said that Warden James considered him to be important. Looking back at the Warden’s interactions with Ernest Cobb and Kit Nelson, Petty was not the only inmate to be told as much. 


Alcatraz guard Guy Hastings served in the Navy in Korea.  Inmate Tommy Madsen served in the Korean War. Inmate Paxton Petty was part of the 45th Infantry Division in the Korean War. Following the line of thinking that the 302 who vanished in 1963 were cryogenically frozen in time (see previous entry: Crazy Theory of the Week)… 

In the early 1950’s, North Korea was convinced that outbreaks of disease there were due to biological attacks by the United States. American prisoners confirmed the use of biological weapons by the U.S., but the government denied it and were supported by scientists.

Is it out of the realm of possibility that none of this was a coincidence; that the 63’s all wound up on Alcatraz and may have been specifically brought there for experimentation based on previous exposure to certain chemicals? 


The U.S. soldiers used Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra lyrics to communicate the location of landmines, which is not surprising because both artists frequently performed for the troops as part of the USO. 

Yet another record plays! We have now seen two record players in 2012 (Dr. B’s infirmary in New Alcatraz, Lucy’s hospital room) and one in 1960 (at the Warden’s house). I originally offered that the returning inmates had been brainwashed, and that music played a role in their reintegration process. I’m not entirely convinced that I’m wrong. 

When he was about to “work” on Kit Nelson in New Alcatraz after Hauser killed him, Dr. B put on a record. In this episode, Hauser put on a record in Lucy’s hospital room – and although it did not revive her, we must consider that there is something about the music. Also, young Hauser was listening to the same song on the radio in 1960 that Hauser played in 2012 in Lucy’s room (if I’m not mistaken). 

Again, I could be wrong, but I believe the song they used was “These Foolish Things” by Billie Holiday. Lyrically speaking, it plays like a love letter from Hauser to Lucy. 

A cigarette that bares a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
Still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you.
A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumblin'words
That told you what my heart meant
A fair ground painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you.
You came, you saw, you conquered me
When you did that to me
I knew somehow this had to be
The winds of March that made my heart a dancer
A telephone that rings but who's to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things remind me of you


ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, was used for the first time on a human in the late 1930’s. The doctors applied 55 volts at two-tenths of a second (the exact combination that Dr. Sangupta used on Paxton Petty in 1960) to a patient who was awake, resulting in an oral clarity that was previously non-existent in the man.  

Although Dr. Sangupta’s “talking cure” was not as successful with Petty, I have a feeling that we will witness other inmates that fold under such electricity.  It is fascinating to note that Petty referred to his experience as “the royal treatment.”

“Someone’s helping these guys, maybe unfreezing them.” – Doc Soto
Soto would be the first to tell you that Captain America fell from a plane into the ocean and spent decades frozen in a block of ice, in a state of suspended animation.  Captain America was injected with a super soldier serum that replenished itself, a virus-like organism that altered his genetic and biochemical makeup.

Cryogenically preserved tissue and cells have been successfully thawed and used, but not actual bodies or brains…perhaps until now. 


Among Doc Soto’s 50 or so theories about how the 63’s vanished and are reappearing, he mentioned “a quantum thing” to Petty. I am not a time travel expert, but his description reminded me of a theory I offered about LOST before time travel was officially addressed:
In the Dharma Orchid video, Dr. Pierre Chang referred to exotic matter (hypothetical particles) embedded beneath the island. If you combined that exotic matter with negative energy density, you could stabilize a wormhole. The Casimir Effect can produce a mass-negative region of space-time, which is used to stabilize a wormhole and allow faster than light travel.  
Applying this scientific mumbo jumbo to ALCATRAZ…it might be possible that there is similar matter beneath Alcatraz – put in place by Dr. B, the Warden and/or Dr. Sangupta – that created such a wormhole. Thus, the seismic activity that Hauser was anticipating. And what I believe to be located behind the triple locked door to the mysterious dungeon, as well as the horrible place below Solitary that Tommy Madsen referred to. If you stop to think about how 302 people vanished with no trace of foul play, it might make an ounce of sense that they all traveled down the same rabbit hole after being knocked out by chemicals dispersed throughout the island…

My sincere hope is that you're all enjoying the show and speculation as much as I do. In this day and age of DVRs and online streaming, many viewers are choosing to wait rather than watch ALCATRAZ live on Monday nights. As you might suspect, that is having a negative effect on the ratings. While I personally believe that FOX is going to renew the show, all of us - the vast community of fans with many social networks - need to continue spreading the good word if we want ALCATRAZ to see another season. Save. Our. Show. 

As always, I appreciate and encourage comments and constructive feedback, and look forward to reading your thoughts and theories about this episode!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episode 1.05 ("Guy Hastings"): Thoughts & Theories

Go grab your secret stash from the wall and get comfortable, because we are about to take a few virtual jumps between decades in an attempt to figure out what lies beneath. Lairs and nerd herds and dungeons, oh my!

The 302/63’s

1. Lucy Banerjee
2. Dr. Beauregard 
3. Mrs. Beauregard (questionable)
4. Guy Hastings, guard
5. Ernest Cobb, inmate #2047
6. Tommy Madsen, inmate #2002
7. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
8. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
9. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024

According to Alcatraz expert and author Michael Esslinger, there were about 300 civilians living on Alcatraz at any given time. It is possible that those responsible for the abduction on 3/21/63 took the time to safely evacuate all of the guards’ wives and children, given how Hastings’ family was separated from him before he disappeared. But if you stop to ponder the logistics involved with making sure that 300 or so family members were taken into SF by ferry on a particular day, it really does prove how pre-meditated and extremely organized the entire event was. 

Whatever the reason was behind the disappearance of the 302, ensuring future generations was not on the agenda. Purposefully relocating the wives from the big picture removed any opportunities for additional offspring, leaving only the inmates, guards and prison staff to be suspended in time. 

Thus far, we have only witnessed Jack Sylvane and Guy Hastings’ re-entry into current day take place on Alcatraz. We initially saw Ernest Cobb on a picnic, Kit Nelson kidnapping a boy and Cal Sweeney robbing a bank – but not the exact moment when each first appeared to “wake up” disoriented and out place/time.  

Cobb’s programmed mission included taking out Dr. Lucy Banerjee/Lucille Sangupta. Madsen’s programmed mission clearly involved leading his granddaughter Rebecca on to the scent of the returning 63’s. I would not be at all surprised if a future returning inmate goes after Doc, if indeed his parents have ties to a former prisoner or the person responsible for their son’s childhood trauma. And at some point, ex-SFPD officer Hauser is also a likely target. 


I realize that it may have only been a throwaway comment made by Doc in the Pilot, but his statement about double-ups continues to ring true on many levels. Hastings told young guard Ray Archer, “On Alcatraz, no man can do it alone.” And a second cracked framed photo featuring a significant pair of characters (first the older Wardens James and Tiller, and now younger brothers Ray Archer and Tommy Madsen) played a role yet again in the search for the returning 63’s.  It takes two, baby. 


It was surprising to hear Hauser ask about seismic activity on the day that Guy Hastings returned.  Seismic waves are generated by earthquakes or explosions, and I have to wonder if Hauser tipped his hat with that inquiry. Perhaps there is an atmospheric or subterranean disruption at the moment that inmates and guards re-enter, or he is expecting one to occur soon... 

{Side note: we live alarmingly close to the Hayward Fault, so now when we experience frequent tremors - I'll keep an eye out for nefarious criminals with Richard Alpert syndrome}


We know that young Hauser was a police officer in San Francisco in 1963, and presumably for a few years before that. My guess is that he had encountered or arrested young Tommy Madsen and also knew his brother Ray Archer.  We don’t know if Ray’s first job was as a prison guard – it is possible that he applied for the SFPD or even worked with Hauser there before transitioning into a prison guard…

Thinking back to the Pilot episode, when Hauser informed Jack Sylvane that E.B. Tiller “was my friend” – I have to wonder when they become acquainted and how. In 1963, young Hauser was an SF police officer that assisted with prisoner transfers. EB Tiller was a socially awkward Deputy Warden who appeared to suffer from agoraphobia and likely rarely left the Rock.  I assume that they formed a friendship BEFORE the 1963 abduction; when Tiller relocated from the Rock to become a Fed. While both men were not present during the events on 3/21/63, we must consider that they were somehow complicit in what happened.

When Hauser picked up the red phone in the secret lair beneath Alcatraz, he simply said, “I need to see you.” He wasn’t addressing the geek squad of scientists behind closed doors – it was a direct line to someone not on the premises. My money is on Dr. B at New Alcatraz. Time for Hauser to call in that favor and have Dr. B save and/or wake up Lucy from the coma so that she can continue assisting his search and recovery of the 63’s. 

Was Hauser holding rosary beads at the end of this episode, and if so – why?



Ray said that he didn’t think Tommy had killed his wife, but “then I did.” I look forward to more details emerging about the relationship between the two brothers on the Rock, as well as how and why Tommy killed his spouse.
“My grandfather is more important to you than I ever imagined. Which means that you need me more than I need you.” – Rebecca Madsen to Emerson Hauser

After beating him with a tray in the mess hall, Tommy told his brother Ray that “you shouldn’t have come here.” That warning, coupled with Tommy’s knowledge about what takes place beneath solitary and his frequent visits to the infirmary for blood withdrawal – makes a strong case that he knew what was going to happen on 3/21/63…ahead of time. Tommy Madsen was very important to those who orchestrated the abduction and also to Hauser in current day.  I would venture to guess that he was the first to be experimented on before the other inmates and guards were subjected to tests, both with and without their knowledge. 

Additionally, Tommy may have been sending himself to both solitary confinement and the infirmary on purpose, to either get information or treatments…

It could be that Guy Hastings’ mission was to find the evasive Tommy Madsen, who is currently “unaccounted for” or “lost.” He may have gone rogue from his programmed agenda after re-entry into modern society, and perhaps Hastings’ programmers figured that it was better to send a guard (one of the ‘good guys’) after Tommy than a fellow inmate. 


The personal items of the inmates were left as-is when they vanished in 1963, and then boxed up and stored later beneath Alcatraz. And yet Annie Hastings received a box of her father’s items from the prison. Taking the time to provide guards’ family members with their personal affects was a very thoughtful and time-consuming process for those who meticulously masterminded the disappearance of 302 people.  Someone was responsible for making sure that these items were delivered – someone local and not wherever/whenever the 302 were taken.  Hauser referred to Hastings as a “casualty in this.” Clearly, all 46 guards and/or prison staff were casualties that someone or something was willing to sacrifice for their greater purpose…


In the Pilot episode, Ray told Rebecca to “let it go” and walk away from the Sylvane case. In this episode, Ray told her that – regarding Tommy’s crime, “I just had to let it go.” While an obvious comparison to Christian Shephard on LOST might be screaming at you in neon lights, I've moved on (which I highly recommend you can do too, without actually letting go). 
“You and me are in this together.” - Guard Ray to Inmate Tommy
Ray signed up to be an Alcatraz guard knowing full well that his brother was an inmate there (thus, the smile on his face when he saw Tommy – who greeted him with a horrified look and beating). He must have known the risks involved, if anyone found out that he was related to a prisoner. Rebecca surmised that Ray was not surprised by the ageless, returning inmates because Hauser had tried to recruit him, but it is also possible that Ray was warned by Tommy and thus left his position on the Rock before 3/21/63. Ray “left to raise his son” after all… 
Sixteen banners united over the field, where the good shepherd grieves. Desperate men, desperate women divided, spreading their wings 'neath falling leaves. - Bob Dylan, "Changing of the Guard"
Hauser offered Ray Archer a job 16 years ago. Just something to keep in mind...

“You don’t belong here.” – Alcatraz Park Ranger to Guy Hastings
Whoever programmed Guy Hastings hid the gun in the wall as part of his assignment, but also the family photos. But Hastings’ wiring was very off because he wasn’t aware that his daughter was still alive when he returned. Unlike Jack Sylvane, who was hell-bent on finding his brother because he’d married Jack’s wife – Hastings’ implanted or restored memories were blurry at best.

Did Hastings leave two gun clips in the hidden wall space because he didn’t intend to harm Ray or Tommy, or because it was another instance of faulty wiring?

They mentioned that Hastings was in the Navy and in Korea before becoming a guard on Alcatraz in 1957.  We do not know in what capacity he served, but perhaps it was at Portsmouth Naval Prison – otherwise known as the Alcatraz of the East. The brig at Portsmouth was modeled after Alcatraz, and used throughout the Korean War. Another interesting fact gleaned from Soto's book above - Tommy Madsen also served in the Korean War from 1952-1953. I would not be at all surprised to learn that he and Hastings were well acquainted long before both arrived on the Rock in very different capacities...


So Warden James has a “little one.” I can’t wait to meet the Mrs. Shall we add her to the list of the 302, or did he arrange for his wife and child to leave the Rock along with the guards’ families?

Deputy Warden Tiller was rather adamant about getting rid of Ray Archer, as if he already knew that Archer’s brother was Tommy Madsen.  Once again, Warden James took a decision out of his hands and assigned authority to someone other than his Deputy. 


According to official (fabricated) records, Hastings and 8 either guards died after a chemical spill in 1963.  Before he was abducted and suspended in time, Hastings recalled being told that there was an “accident” that killed their families, and that the guards were  sick and contaminated. 

I have already speculated about the possibility of cryogenics as an explanation for the frozen-in-time, ageless 302. When Hastings remembered his last night on Alcatraz, he described a “fog that took all the stars away.” Vapors released from cryogenic liquids tend to condense the moisture in air, creating a visible FOG…

Another possible hint was the way that Hastings expressed regret to Ray Archer in current day, about missing all of the years from 1963 to present: “I haven’t been anywhere. You got to…live.”  The re-animated Hastings may not have known what happened to him, but he knows that he was robbed of his family and life – and the look on his face spoke volumes; he really is a casualty once this mission is over, and any life he might have now will not be his own. 

Thank you very much for the comments and RT’s – I have randomly selected two of you to receive an autographed copy of Michael Esslinger’s book Letters From Alcatraz (generously donated by Michael)! If you are @CV_81 or KickinAssTakingNames, please email me your shipping address: jo at jopinionated dot com. 

If you love ALCATRAZ as much as I do, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to continue spreading the good word to your friends, families and social networks. Watching the show live on Monday nights rather than online or via DVR the next day would be a tremendous step toward ensuring a second season and beyond! The ratings are steady but not as high as they could be if more fans tuned in live rather than later on other devices. Live Plus ratings (that include DVR and streaming views) always enhance the ratings, but are not included in initial overnight numbers, which the networks tend to focus on. 

I appreciate your feedback every week and encourage comments either here or via Twitter

- Jo

Friday, February 3, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episode 1.04 ("Cal Sweeney"): Thoughts & Theories

My apologies for the delay of episode analysis - I was out of town and unable to dedicate the amount of time necessary to complete this!

Without further delay, let's gather 'round the dinner table and attempt to re-wire our memories while dining by the candlelight of a demented phillumenist...

302/THE 63’s

By my count, we have now been introduced to 8 of the 302 who vanished from Alcatraz on 3/21/63: 

1. Lucy Banerjee
2. Dr. Beauregard 
3. Mrs. Beauregard (presumably, since she lived on the Rock with him)
4. Ernest Cobb, inmate #2047
5. Tommy Madsen, inmate #2002
6. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
7. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
8. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024


We know that Doc endured a traumatic experience as a young boy, that his parents are professors, that he earned several PhDs to appease them and that their relationship is “complicated.” My guess is that the trauma involved a former Alcatraz inmate or guard (but not one of the 63’s, given Doc’s age), and that the person responsible for whatever happened to Doc either knew or was related to his parents. 

Soto referred to the secret spy lair beneath Alcatraz as the Bat Cave and published a major breakthrough in crime prevention using a statistical model based on Gotham City. So it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that, like Bruce Wayne - he was present when his parents were mugged and killed (which would make him adopted, providing a potentially “complicated” relationship with the folks who raised him).  Like Bruce Wayne, Soto’s super power is the use of his intellect; he studied criminology and criminal psychology (one of his degrees is in Criminal Justice) – resulting in his Alcatraz obsession and expertise.

In the car, Hauser made a comment that the last time Doc drove a car – he was 11 years old (the same age of the trauma). Taking Dr. Lucy Banerjee’s comments about removing traumatic memories into consideration, they are strongly hinting that Lucy and Hauser know exactly what happened to Doc and may have even played a role. 

Doc is an Alcatraz expert and knows more about the prisoners than anyone, and yet he was unaware of Sweeney’s background - about the fire that took his family. Oversight or clue? 

In the Pilot, Doc said that “you have to double up; double-ups are KEY.” Thinking about the double locks that the Warden had to use in order to access the final lock on the dungeon door, Doc’s comment suddenly takes on an entirely new light…


I have watched a good deal of sci-fi and primetime television in my life. So I just have to point out how nice it is to see a female lead actually eat. Often. That Detective Madsen is particularly fond of dim sum is rather appropriate, given that the show is set in San Francisco. I live here and can vouch for the amazing variety of delicious dim sum in the Bay Area. 

I want Madsen and Soto to be more curious, to be asking WHERE the returned and recently captured inmates go after Hauser allegedly gives them new identities and removes them from society. They are both very intelligent, intuitive characters and it stands to reason that they would be suspicious of Hauser’s methods and the whereabouts of the prisoners. 


All four returning prisoners spent time in solitary in 1960. This is not a coincidental fact. 


Just as Jack Sylvane was not a murderer in his previous incarnation as a less-than-model-citizen, Cal Sweeney had simply robbed safe deposit boxes - unaccompanied by a trail of blood.  This further solidifies my theory that the returning inmates have been programmed.  And like Sylvane, Cobb and Nelson before him, Sweeney was provided very specific instructions for his mission. He purposefully hit a few banks and miscellaneous safe deposit boxes (likely to convince authorities that the pattern was random) before getting to his primary target – box 1869. 

It was not entirely clear why Sweeney was so interested in the story behind the sapphire necklace, given the ages of the couple he targeted. While the show has already established sibling issues with previous prisoners, I think it might be too soon to have another motivated-by-guilt-from-wronging-a-family-member episode. Then again, it may not be coincidental that this episode also featured the introduction of Deputy Warden Tiller’s sister.

In my estimation, Sweeney would have been an infant around the time that the red headed Mrs. Victim was also an infant.  He visually reacted primarily to the victim’s comment that the sapphire was his wife’s birthstone. We know that Sweeney was targeting 45-50 year old female bank tellers (including one red head), so my best guess is that Sweeney’s mother was a red head with a birthday in September. Mommy issues, party of one.

While negotiating with Deputy Warden Tiller during his shave in 1960 on Alcatraz, Sweeney referred to the inmates as 300 “nosebleeds.” In 1963, there were only 256 prisoners when they all vanished. So over the next three years, 44 inmates were killed or released. 

Sweeney was not very bright – he did not question why young Harlan was already working as a steward at the Warden’s house, a “top shelf employment” opportunity for select inmates. 

Tiller could have killed Sweeney in the bathroom at the Warden’s house, but chose to only stab him. They may have needed the inmates to remain alive in preparation for the 1963 event – or at least prisoners like Sweeney, who drew the attention of the Wardens and may have been designated for experimentation from the get-go.  Of course the leg wound provided an opportunity for Sweeney to visit the infirmary, where they could start taking/testing his blood…


Now that young Harlan has entered the dungeon, it is unclear whether we will see him again either in 1960 or current day. I certainly hope we are privy to what he experienced and how it affects his returning mission. 


“The Warden tends to look the other way when it comes to the smaller vices and minor infractions. If it were up to me, I’d run this place on the up and up. But it ain’t. So in the meantime, you’re getting squeezed.”
Deputy Warden Tiller definitely aspired to take over for Warden James, but was clearly fearful of the man. We now know that both of them relocated to other positions off of Alcatraz before 1963 and the abduction (likely because they were warned or involved), so Tiller never got the opportunity to run the prison.

Tiller’s demeanor in front of the inmates and in front of his boss was vastly, visually different. He appeared to be much more comfortable in the power position at the prison, and visibly nervous in a social setting at the Warden’s house.  If Elijah Bailey Tiller was indeed named after the Asimov character (see paragraph in earlier post called Isaac Asimov’s Robot Series), his agoraphobia is appropriately attributed and illustrated. 

When Sylvane perused the Alcatraz book on the ferry that featured the photo of the Wardens, the book noted that there were two attempts on Tiller’s life. Was Sweeney’s attack in the bathroom one of them? 

When Warden James gave Tiller a pen for his birthday, his reaction was classic Say Anything exasperation: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”


The wealthy Warden used inmates as dinner stewards at his home, which seemed risky but was yet another indication of his demented sense of entertainment. 

It seems the Warden specifically hired Lucy in 1960 to create or oversee the preparation of the occupants on the Rock for the event in 1963. 



In the last episode, they specifically showed us that Dr. B was wearing a wedding ring while working in New Alcatraz. I am adding Mrs. Beauregard to the list of those who vanished in 1963, and have a strong suspicion that we will see an ageless version of Mrs. B very soon. Once again, we have to remember that family members lived with the prison staff while employed on Alcatraz. There will be more of them among the 302. We were deliberately misled to believe that the 302 consisted of 256 prisoners and 46 guards only…

Dr. B is threatened by and has open disdain for Lucy, so it will be interesting to watch how he reacts when Hauser brings her to New Alcatraz (calling upon that favor he mentioned, for a friend). I wouldn’t be surprised to see her there after she either wakes up from the coma or Hauser somehow arranges a transfer in her current condition. After all, the magical Dr. B may have access to medical equipment designed to revive…

“Inner feelings are of secondary importance to me. When it comes to deviant behavior, their wiring lies in their memories. Specifically, traumatic memories that give rise to these instincts and impulses. If I can remove the traumatic memories and leave a more soothing one in its place, we might be able to correct or adjust their behavior. In essence, we re-wire them.”
For several reasons, this may be the most significant and telling quote of the season thus far. If in fact the returning inmates have been programmed for one purpose and mission only, it seems that their wiring has deviated from the plan. It is quite clear that the traumatic memories of those we’ve seen thus far were not removed at all, and that their behaviors have been anything but adjusted.  Sylvane and Sweeney each retrieved one of the mysterious Alcatraz dungeon keys, but had absolutely no idea why they were doing so. And every prisoner that has returned so far has directly reacted to former flames and family members by seeking out those who have harmed them or reminded them of their pasts. System failure!

I believe that Lucy failed her original task, and that she has returned from 1963 to correct her mistakes, make adjustments and try again. Thus…New Alcatraz. I have changed my opinion about Hauser’s knowledge of Lucy since the Pilot – and believe that they are working together to capture the 302. Hauser’s funding and technology, coupled with Lucy’s experience as a time traveling scientist and familiarity with the prisoners - makes for quite a dangerous and powerful team.

The nerd herd working behind closed doors on Alcatraz was likely the responsibility of Lucy, but now that she is in a coma – they must work with and for Hauser. I will be curious to find out if we will get to know anyone else on their team, or if any of them withhold information they discover until Lucy is able to return.


This was the first time we did not get to see Hauser bring a returning inmate to New Alcatraz. We last saw Sweeney in the police car after Madsen crashed - and it seems like a deliberate choice to keep his New Alcatraz entry from us.


The obvious guess is that Tiller’s sister Geri was locked up below Alcatraz in the dungeon. While Tiller likely resided on the Rock along with the other staff, I would be very surprised to find out that they kept her there caged like an animal. Even for those in charge with a clear lack of humanity, it seems far too monstrous and cruel. I would suggest that there was not be a person per se down there, but rather a machine or system designed and/or overseen by Lucy.  Geri was not the only guest at the Warden’s table for Tiller’s party, and Harlan could have caught the eye of another “subterranean resident who desires to have a parlay.” The mysteriously silent Mrs. Beauregard could be considered as another option for who was behind 3-lock door number one…

Though we don’t know yet whether Deputy Warden Tiller was aware of or used the dungeon like Warden James, I believe that Lucy did. She may have programmed Sylvane and Sweeney to retrieve two of the three keys upon their return – but her end-game and purpose is murky at this point. We have to ponder whether or not she herself placed the keys with Barclay Flynn and the safe deposit box, why she did so, and where the third and final key is (as well as which inmate or guard will be programmed to obtain it). 

If we are to assume that the dungeon is the place beneath Solitary where horrible things happen (which inmate Tommy Madsen referred to while in the infirmary) – it is safe to also assume that Madsen had been taken there. He lived to tell the tale, so perhaps Harlan will as well. 


We have now seen record players both in 2011 (Dr. B’s infirmary in New Alcatraz) and 1960 (at the Warden’s house). If the returning inmates have been brainwashed, perhaps music is used as part of the reintegration process.  Dr. B put on a record as he was about to revive Nelson…


The show has not outright mentioned time travel, although most viewers and fans seem to have concluded as much. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear Hauser mention that he needs to find out “how the prisoners jumped.” To be honest, I’m hoping that they take a more complicated, less obvious route. I’d much prefer to watch them unravel the mystery of suspension in time and cryogenics.

I also noticed that both Dr. B (at  Tiller’s dinner) and Sweeney (meeting with Tiller at the prison) made casual mentions of nosebleeds in two separate contexts. Anyone who watched LOST probably also thought about the nosebleeds that resulted from time jumps… 


Forget Spinal Tap. The writers on this show know something more about the number 11 than we do.  Soto last drove when he was 11, the same age he was when the trauma occurred. Inmate Kit Nelson went after 11-year old boys. And so on. If we want to delve into super nerdy territory, there are 11 space time dimensions in M-theory. String theories, gravity and quantum physics may certainly be considered as we contemplate exactly how the 63’s are reappearing…


One of the prisoners is named Pinkner - a nice shout-out to Bad Robot and Fringe executive producer Jeff Pinkner.

The inclusion of a mystery box (Sweeney's tin) is no surprise to fans of shows produced by Bad Robot. If you have not already watched the incredibly illuminating video J.J. Abrams' Mystery Box, I highly recommend it. 


With Dr. B (Leon Rippy) and Geri Tiller (Geri Jewell) at the same table in this episode, it was a mini Deadwood reunion. ALCATRAZ co-creator and former executive producer Elizabeth Sarnoff was a story editor and producer on Deadwood, my second favorite show of all time (after LOST, of course).  Fun side note: on Deadwood, Geri Jewell played Jewel and on ALCATRAZ , she’s playing Geri. 


With inmate Kit Nelson, Warden James utilized matches to force a confession out of him. The Warden then left the remaining matches with Nelson in Solitary, and we saw him with the same matches after he’d returned to contemporary society. Inmate Cal Sweeney’s sole possession was a scorched tin box, the only item from his family and past that remained after a fire took everything.  A fire, I might add, that Alcatraz expert Doc Soto had no knowledge of.  I would further offer that the tin was a tobacco box, another item collected by phillumenists like Warden James...

To me, it seems feasible that the Warden was responsible for the fire that robbed Sweeney of his entire life. Perhaps Doc was unaware of Sweeney’s past because the crime was undocumented. Someone in a position of great power, like the Warden overseeing the worst criminals in America, may have had the reach to cover up certain details when necessary.  
“Your future just got a heck of a lot BRIGHTER, kid.”
In addition, although laser cutting was not available until after 1965 (keeping in mind that this is a sci-fi show where suspension of disbelief is always mandatory) - the lover of light himself may have also had a hand in the creation of the system that carved the keys to the dungeon and quite possibly related to HOW they suspended the 302 in time. Lasers are wireless transfers of electromagnetic energy and radiation, emitting light through optical amplification. I am not a scientist, but somehow it seems possible that this is all related…

To reward your patience for my delayed posts and for spreading the word about this site, I am going to give away two copies of the book “Letters from Alcatraz” by Michael Esslinger. If you’d like to be entered to win one (your choice: book or Kindle version), simply re-tweet the link to this post or leave a comment below! I will randomly select the winners and announce them in next week’s post.

Once again I thank you for the comments and feedback, because without you - I am yet another voice in the very crowded television analysis blogosphere. I appreciate your interest and the word-of-mouth, and look forward to your thoughts about this episode!