Tuesday, March 13, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episode 1.08 ("Clarence Montgomery"): Thoughts & Theories


You look like a real human being
But you don't have a mind of your own.
You can talk, you can breathe,
You can work, you can stitch, you can sew,
But you're brainwashed.
“Brainwashed” – The Kinks

Please excuse any typos or errors in advance, as I stayed up very late to finish this rather than wait to post it on Tuesday. There are some episodes of television that stay with me; theories formulate and percolate and prevent my mind from shutting down for slumber. This was such an episode. So grab a Goldie's Carolina tea cake, tape your eyes open and allow me to subject you to some wild speculation...

The 302/63’s

  1. Herman Ames, inmate # ?
  2. Pinky Ames, inmate #2177
  3. Dr. Lucille Sengupta/Lucy Banerjee
  4. Sonny Burnett, inmate #2088
  5. Dr. Milton Beauregard 
  6. Mrs. Beauregard (questionable)
  7. Donovan, guard
  8. Guy Hastings, guard
  9. Ernest Cobb, inmate #2047
  10. Tommy Madsen, inmate #2002
  11. Johnny McKee, inmate #2055
  12. Clarence Montgomery, inmate #2214
  13. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
  14. Paxton Petty, inmate #2223
  15. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
  16. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024

Former inmate Emmett Little was told that Clarence Montgomery had died in Lompoc Prison in 1965 (which is located on the California coast; I actually know someone who works there). Someone took the time to create fake prison transfer and death certificates for 302 people well in advance of the 1963 abduction. This was a meticulously planned and executed undertaking, and there is no way that the Warden was the only one overseeing it all. 


Keep in mind that this episode was originally supposed to air before the two last week, so Doc’s speculation about possible experiments on Alcatraz was a major clue to what was revealed in the next two episodes. 

In the early 1960’s, ten Utah State Prison inmates were indeed subjected to radiation tests and blood samples were taken. That blood was then mixed with unknown elements and then re-injected.  So the colloidal silver revealed in the last episode is a story not far from alleged reality. 


As I pointed out in previous posts, several returning Alcatraz inmates (and one guard thus far) had served in Korea: Guy Hastings, Tommy Madsen and Paxton Petty.  I am convinced that many of the future 63s were brought to Alcatraz based on their exposure to certain chemicals from biological attacks during the Korean War, in preparation for their abduction (and for the “fog” that likely knocked them out en masse on 3/21/63). And now there is another influence from that war that we have to take into consideration: brainwashing. 

During the Korean War, some believed that brainwashing was implemented to confuse captured soldiers so that they would resist escape, resulting in an unusually high number of soldiers deserting their country and joining the enemy after becoming prisoners-of-war.

As was the case with biological warfare, the US government and military still deny the use of brainwashing. 


While there have been very few LOST Easter Eggs on ALCATRAZ thus far, I’m going to assume that Leigh Dana Jackson (who wrote this episode) was a huge fan. Not only is this episode 108, the prison brainwashing room is a nod to Room 23 and the booking number on the rap sheet of the real criminal who killed Ellen Casey in 1958 is 48151623 – and he is from Tallahassee. Nicely played!

“We want to move on, to move forward. But the trauma blocks us. So we repeat it, like a skipping record.” – Dr. Sengupta
We have seen two record players in modern day (Dr. B’s infirmary in New Alcatraz, Lucy’s original hospital room) as well as music played from Hauser’s nerd herd experimental briefcase of tech gadgets in the abandoned cells of modern day – and one in 1960 (at the Warden’s house). From the get-go I have asserted that returning inmates had been brainwashed, and that music played a role in their reintegration process. It appears that I may be on to something. 

It isn’t a spoiler to simply say that next week’s episode involves a musician – and I can’t wait to find out if the returnee relates to any of my left field musical conspiracy theories. 

“Parlay: a discussion or compromise between enemies over terms of truce.” – Warden James
The Warden’s interpretation of the word sheds new light on the scenario where young inmate Harlan was brought down to the dungeon because there was a “subterranean resident who desires to have a parlay.” Harlan’s enemy in 1960 was Cal Sweeney, whom he had elaborately bamboozled. But the look of sheer terror on Harlan’s face when the dungeon door opened seemed to indicate a far more nefarious enemy… 


Montgomery suffered from Wilson’s disease, a rare and inherited condition where too much copper in the body causes damage to the nerves and liver. While Wilson’s has been associated with violent behavior resulting from damage to the central nervous system, it seems quite cruel to have subjected the innocent Montgomery to brainwashing - as many of the resulting effects from that experiment are similar to the side effects of Wilson’s Disease: uncontrollable movement, limb tremors, weakness, personality and behavioral changes, dementia and delirium. 

In addition, Montgomery was a chef but those with Wilson’s are supposed to avoid using copper cooking utensils and foods as diverse as nuts, shellfish, chocolate and mushrooms. And to add insult to injury, Montgomery had to drink tap water likely flowing through copper pipes. 


“I was hoping you would tell me know what you’re doing to their blood…between the time I take it out of them and put it back in.” – Dr. B
The Cigarette Smoking Doc is subjecting prisoners to psychological experiments and removing pints of their blood to mix with colloidal silver, but has no idea why. We have to question whether he was and continues to be a passive order taker, or if he knows far more than his few scenes have indicated so far.


Emerson met with the Chief of Police, and it was not the first time. The Chief must be his main source for keeping the 63s investigations relatively unquestioned by other agencies like the SFPD, FBI, etc. Because Hauser himself is former SFPD, he has probably made connections over the last 50 years in preparation for his current assignment and obsession. 
“I know what happened in ’58. You never killed that girl. You were innocent.” – Emerson Hauser
Hauser obviously knew who killed 1958 victim Ellen Casey before Montgomery re-emerged in 2012. But he pretended to be surprised when Rebecca and Doc told him that Montgomery wasn’t her killer. Aside from the obvious surreptitious nature of Hauser’s secret spy operation, I can only assume that he has withheld certain leads until he could play those cards when necessary while capturing the 63s. 


Now Doc is spending all of his spare time and late nights in the Secret Spy Lair on Alcatraz. They really need to speed up his relationship with medical examiner Nikki, or reveal her complicit connection to the 63s…

In many earlier posts, I have overanalyzed the potential significance of each comic book tee that Nikki has sported, and in this episode she switches it up to Black Orchid. In what is likely the shape of things to come for Nikki’s true intentions, the Black Orchid was a master of disguise…often pretending to be someone’s girlfriend, for example. 



Given that Rebecca’s grandfather has gone rogue and appears to be on his own mission, perhaps he somehow escaped the brainwashing that the other 301 who vanished in 63 were subjected to before returning. Almost every inmate and guard we’ve seen thus far in 2011-2012 seemed to be on a programmed mission, with memories in place and wires crossed. But Madsen is on an entirely different path…

“I’m not the same.” – Montgomery 

The Warden created a similar situation for Montgomery in prison that he faced in the real world. He was the first African American chef at an all-white country club, and then the Warden forced him to become the first African American prison chef to supervise and cook meals for white inmates. Without a doubt, I would consider that to be one of his many manipulative pre-brainwashing preparations; agitate and push buttons first, drug and mentally coerce second.

Montgomery knows that they did something to him in Alcatraz, but unlike previously returned inmates - he appears to be more traumatized by what happened to him. He immediately expressed remorse after murdering both inmate Gant and his female victims, which has not been the case with other prisoners in modern day.

“I got a bad feeling about this.” I am unable to think about anything other than Star Wars whenever any variation of this line is uttered. So if it was intentional – thank you, Leigh Dana Jackson. 

Another dead inmate put into Hauser’s SUV, another assumption that he brought the corpse to New Alcatraz for possible revival. 

Random aside: Montgomery’s victim was Megan Palmer. A possible hat tip to Twin Peaks and Laura Palmer?


The gun-toting activist in the wheelchair was released from Alcatraz in 1961, before the abduction in 1963 (in case you didn’t catch it, he was the young inmate trying to convince Montgomery during his shave that the chef opportunity presented by the Warden was a good idea). In 2012, Emmett had no idea what Montgomery was referring to when he said they took his blood and messed with his head; he must have been one of the inmates that the Warden took less interest in, and thus allowed him to leave before the big event. He didn’t ‘qualify’ in the Warden’s mind…


So Montgomery killed the chatty cathy, last seen in the Ernest Cobb episode – and there go our chances of finding out what landed him on The Rock in the first place. Even now, it is not illegal to be annoying. I should know. 


“Our good Warden thinks he can convert you all; convert and rehabilitate you. The Warden thinks you can change. Myself, I’ll admit to doubt but I am itching to see the results.” – Deputy Warden Tiller 
“Mark the day, son. Your new future has begun.” – Warden James
Once again, the Warden played spiritual advisor to another of his incarcerated subjects. This week’s pet prisoner project was Montgomery, and the Warden’s seemingly self-programmed mission with him was “a chance for redemption.” 

“If we were in private, you’d see my true intentions with this bone.” Perhaps the best line yet from the strangely poetic Warden! Although, “bon appétit, you sons of bitches!” is a close second.


One thing is for certain – the Warden and the Deputy Warden were not on the same page regarding treatment of the prisoners. Like many of you, I strongly believe that the Warden was one of the 63s. Tiller’s clear disdain for his superior’s methods likely led to his banishment from Alcatraz – forced off by the Warden because he didn’t feel that Tiller was worthy of the great time traveling escape he’d been planning for years.


To add to the already mounting evidence that the “fog” Guy Hastings referred to as the last thing he remembered on 3/21/63 before vanishing was some type of dispersed chemical or aerosol cloud – I would offer that the “gas chamber” mess hall was a cover and practice space for Warden James. As seen in this episode, they sprayed fighting inmates with tear gas, but I believe that there were large quantities of hidden dispersion devices or small holes discretely installed throughout Alcatraz leading up to the abduction. 

Also – the MKULTRA 1950’s mind control experiment illegally administered by the CIA that Doc alluded to? They experimented with a pill that could be slipped into food and beverages, as well as into an aerosol - with the goal of causing amnesia. So far, no one remembers what happened to them after 3/21/63. Except, perhaps, Tommy Madsen….


“You think you know who you are, but they push you, and they twist and something in you just snaps. I’m not the same. I’m not innocent, not no more.” – Montgomery 
While my first inclination was to believe that Dr. Lucille Sengupta designed the brainwashing techniques applied to the inmates by Dr. B in the 1960’s (one of her “methods”), it seems counterintuitive to her memory removal emphasis; she was interested in removing rather than implanting specific visceral imagery that caused the prisoners to react violently.  

“Trauma is a roadblock inside our psyche. We want to move on, to move forward. But the trauma blocks us. So we repeat it, like a skipping record. Your record is stuck at the moment you killed Ellen Casey. If you let me in, I can help you. I can take that memory away. All those memories.” – Dr. Sengupta
“It works in one direction; I don’t see why it can’t work in reverse.” – Dr. B
There were two different types of experimental treatments being forcibly applied to the inmates in the 1960’s on Alcatraz: Lucy’s electroshock therapy and the Warden’s brainwashing. I would speculate that the Warden and Dr. B implemented option #2 without Lucy’s approval: implanting memories and images that would later influence their missions and behavior upon return to society. 

“You took her methods into madness.” – Warden James“You asked if it could be done.” – Dr. B.
Dr. B, Deputy Warden Tiller and Lucy were probably unaware of the reasons WHY the Warden used such a technique, but none were in a position to question him. The location of the Clockwork Orange-inspired brainwashing chair appeared to be in a subterranean room, where Lucille was unlikely to wander or have access. In fact, it may be the horrible place that Tommy Madsen referred to beneath Solitary. 
“I can only be what the world wants me to be.” - Montgomery
In the 1960’s, Lucy tried to understand Montgomery’s motivations, while the Warden was fixated on reinforcing and reactivating them. Montgomery was key to the Warden’s future success – more than likely his first 'victory' in the big picture (brainwashing transformed Montgomery from an innocent man into a murderer at an alarmingly quick rate). 
“I can only be what they tell me to be.” - Montgomery
While it may have been LSD, my best guess as to what type of liquid Dr. B used to accompany the brainwashing - one that contained strains of Nightshade.  Some of the chemicals derived from those plants (found on Alcatraz) can be used as a sedative, and side effects include confusion, agitation, hallucinations, paranoid behaviors and delusion.

As always, I am so grateful for your interest and appreciate all of your feedback! I love reading your comments, and ask that they simply be constructive in nature. 

Last week I was lucky enough to watch an entire day of filming in San Francisco while they were in town for finale scenes. This is a spoiler-free site, so I will not be posting any photos or videos from that day until after the season finale airs on March 26! What I can tell you is that is was amazing to watch the action unfold live, and that it was an absolute pleasure to meet and speak with both Sarah Jones’ stunt double and David Hoflin (Tommy Madsen). It was also a huge thrill to see former LOST executive producer/director (and ALCATRAZ executive producer/director) Jack Bender directing the car chases in “my” city and before my very eyes.

One last reminder: I am heading to Anaheim this weekend for the official WonderCon ALCATRAZ panel and pressroom. Look for live tweets and photos on Sunday, as well as interviews here on the site next week and beyond!



Anonymous said...

It works out very well my wife and I don't schedule watching any shows after Alcatraz airs because we spend the next fifteen-twenty minutes or so "kicking around" theories and ideas about what we've just seen and where things tie together, etc. (kind of like doing a post on the show immediately after seeing it, right Jo?) Lucy and Dr. B are working at somewhat opposite ends of the spectrum here. She indeed seems to be "let in" on some aspects of the experimentation but not others. I don't know if this is part of the Warden's sadistic side playing out or if the Warden has been instructed to keep them "at arm's length" to properly fulfill the intent of doing this to the inmates. The "divide" between the good Doctor and Lucy looks to be quite deliberate. Someone wants to see what she can do with inmates before, during and after various "stages" of "treatment." Her performance is being gauged on different levels of different "treatments." This has become quite the medical show, hasn't it? Parminder might have thought her medical career was over when "ER" shut down. Not so fast! Can't wait for next week.

darq said...

The music theory is intriguing to me. I'm not sure of the connection just yet, but the references certainly could be more than coincidence.

Something fun I found when I was reading about Colloidal Silver. Silver is element 47 on the Periodic Table, and Bad Robot loves numbers 4 and 7 don;t they! XD

I'm always thought that Warden James could not be hte big bad responsible for the disappearances , but it was more of a gut feeling. Glad to have some more circumstantial support that this is a much larger picture and he may not be "The Man in Charge" or is not acting alone at least.

I've been wondering if the fog Hastings mentioned was not literal but more figurative. Maybe the fog was more of a state of mind as Lucy erased memories. Each light going out as the fog rolled in could be a memory being erased...

Of course it still could be some mass dose of a gas or even something to do with cryogenic preservation.

Time travel also seems less and less likely to me now that the non-aging of the 63s has been explained by the colloidal silver. The silver solution in the blood acts as a preserving agent and renders them imperishable. Again I call back to the Corinthians 15:52 quote by our dearly departed yapper, William Gant.

"For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed"

We get the musical connection again with the trumpet. We get the imperishable connection with the Silver preservation, and I do wonder still if the dead part could be cryogenic related. If not Resurrection maybe.

RobPerrin said...

At this point it seems that only the Warden and the subterranean visitant are fully aware of what is going on. Lucy appears to be fully innocent, while Doc B. is involved but not fully informed.

One would think that in the present day Hauser knows everything that both Lucy and Doc B know. I don't see a reason for them to withhold info from him.

As for the visitant, hopefully the season finale snake-in-the-mailbox scene will be a mind-blowing reveal. My guess -- Dick Nixon. Just because.

Zort70 said...

Great recap Jo, but you didn't mention the other LOST connection - Golf courses can be very dangerous places :-)

I was looking closely at the brainwashing, but I didn't see Jacob Loves You.

It looks like Soto is becoming more and more obsessed with capturing the returnees.

If he is spending all his time either investigating or watching the screens he won't have much time to date Nikki.

Also while he is investigating a returnee, the list of potential matches from the computer must be queuing up so lots of work to do back at the bat cave.

Dave Duncan said...

Once again, a pleasure to read :)

For me, it was quite a hard-hitting episode. It opened the door a little to experiments and so on but still left us hanging in some cases.

Dropping little hints is the way for shows to go, none of this spoon-feeding us the answers. Alcatraz is doing the right thing and gradually revealing stuff, like LOST. It's keeping me watching but ultimately not everyone. I only hope it's given a chance to develop further.

Keep up the good work and enjoy the panel.


Valerie said...

As always, I'm tickled by the use of local names. I wondered where in Alameda County the golf course was located (did they ever say?).

I felt so bad for Clarence. Alas!

Great post, of course. :D

Zort70 said...

By the way did anyone see the tweet from Steven Lilien last night ?

"@NatalieAbrams I have a question.... What element is number 47 on the periodic table?"

The response was -

"@StevenLilien Wait a minute, I ask the questions here. Also, silver :-)"

lennyg said...

Thanks for the insight and analysis. Always helpful in organizing my thoughts. Another ep where a returnee makes contact with someone from his past. And the contact doesn't have a cardiac? Wouldn't you freak out if someone suddenly appears in your life after so long and he looks the same?

John Scott said...

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: “It's an odd thing, but anyone who is LOST
is said to be seen in San Francisco."

John Scott said...

Montgomery - Programmed to kill

Racism reared it's ugly head in "Alcatraz" as an innocent '63er black prisoner, Clarence Montgomery, was subjected to a reversion/aversion ultra-violence therapy, a counter-"Clockwork Orange" into a psycho-killer. Perhaps the writers were making a comment on the times: humans are not inherently evil; they're just programmed that way.

Note the timely reference to "Clockwork," as it was a published in 1962. "Clockwork" employed a hybrid language - NADSAT - of Russian and English. Most of those Russian influenced words are slightly anglicized loan-words often maintaining the original Russian pronunciation.

Black, White, East, West: Can't we all just get along ?

Warden James tried to bridge or instigate the racial gap through the prisoners' stomachs. When Montgomery cooks a special rib dinner for the prisoners and staff, the white prisoners -a nod to future skinheads -- do not share the warden's enthusiasm for the food. They refuse to eat what Montgomery has prepared, causing a race riot/food fight to break out in the mess hall with Montgomery (Alabama) caught in the middle. (Que the "Freedom Riders" and MLK) But it takes more than positive reinforcement to counter years of negative programming.

Are we all Manchurian Candidates?

MLK-Ultra-violence references aside, perhaps the writers are developing the premise of the show: We have to move on or we will be prisoners of our past. In '63, Russian and US atomic bombs could make a real Horrorshow