Tuesday, March 6, 2012

ALCATRAZ Episodes 1.09 ("The Ames Bros.") & 1.10 ("Sonny Burnett"): Thoughts & Theories

Without hesitation, let us decant the vital fluid (in this case, wine please) and see which theories are worth their weight in confederate gold…

“What is it about Alcatraz that turns everyone into a liar?” – Rebecca Madsen
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. Kit Nelson, inmate #2046 
  13. Paxton Petty, inmate #2223
  14. Cal Sweeney, inmate #2112
  15. Jack Sylvane, inmate #2024

According to Dr. B, “there were 300 prisoners in Alcatraz.” If you count him (possibly his wife), guards Guy Hastings and Donovan – his math is either off or he is referring to some who did not vanish in 1963. 

So if “not all of them were taken an interest in” – it could very well be that certain prisoners and guards were spared (a la Mrs. Hastings, who was purposefully kept off of the Rock on 3/21/63) or were disposed of after they disappeared… 


Rudyard Kipling

Deputy Warden Tiller speculated that Warden James used a Kipling quote when talking about the wolf pack (Kipling wrote The Jungle Book). Fun fact: the Boy Scouts’ Wolf Cubs (now known as Cub Scouts) were named from and influenced by Kipling’s work.

The Metamorphoses of Ovid 
“Man has to adapt.” - E.B. Tiller 
“There’s no adaptation here. Only survival. Natural selection is pre-determined.” - Edwin James 
“You’re either predator or prey. The sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you can make a choice. Which do you want to be? You have a fire in your belly, a fuel that’s driving you, motivating you to change. Most men don’t.” - Tiller, to Sonny Burnett 
“Quite the transformation.” - James, after witnessing Burnett's mauling of a fellow inmate
As seen in the previous episode (Dr. B provided it to Hauser to read to comatose Lucy), The Metamorphoses is a 12,000-line poem about transformation. We’re starting to witness transformations from the 1960’s that directly affect 2012. 

“You remember when you brought in Mr. Cobb? The injury he sustained to his hand? An injury of that nature should take months to fully heal. Cobb’s took weeks. The 63’s you’ve been rounding up, they’re all in perfect health. And I mean straight from God’s own factory floor. Any ailments they used to have are now gone. In addition to plasma and platelets, their blood contains a third interloper: colloidal silver, which has been known to have healing properties going back to Hippocrates.” - Dr. B 
“Is that what you were doing on Alcatraz?” - Emerson Hauser 
“I merely decanted the vital fluid from the prisoners. What became of it after? God and the Warden only know. But here they are, with blood that seems to keep their murderous bodies in tip top shape; blood that could be transfused to a less-than-healthy body.” - Dr. B
Colloidal silver consists of tiny particles suspended in liquid; it is a controversial element used to treat bacterial diseases and infections.  There has never been scientific evidence to support the safety or effectiveness of colloidal silver, which is probably why the Warden experimented with it on the inmates.

The inmates infused with the decanted blood return in perfect health, likely because colloidal silver is antibacterial and antimicrobial - preventing germs and myriad other health risks from affecting their systems. 

Vampire films and shows have actually employed colloidal silver many times, from Blade (“atomized colloidal silver….it’s being pumped through the building's air conditioning system”) to True Blood (Pam sprayed bill with it in the face). 


The Ames Brothers were seeking gold from the Civil War era. Why is that important? Because the matches used by Warden James were also from the Civil War era. And one Doc Soto has a PhD in civil war history. These are not mere coincidences. 

Alcatraz was created as a civil war fortress. Thus, the cannon in the dungeon along with the gold. The Rock had many cannons on the island when the American Civil war broke out. 

I must admit that I also thought about the movie Timecop; a time traveler from the future hijacks confederate gold. Nerd alert!


What’s behind Dungeon Door number 2? “None of your business,” according to the Warden. Although we see the Warden’s hidden stash of gold behind a locked door, there is more than one dungeon in the depths of Alcatraz.

When the Warden took inmate Harlan down to see the subterranean visitant a few episodes ago, it was seemingly located in a different area beneath the Rock. The keys that are being retrieved by returning prisoners in 2012 open that very dungeon door - a door that Hauser, Doc and Rebecca have yet to access.


Just an observation: in both episodes, there were several allegories and tales featuring various animals. From Hauser’s eagle that flew men to a moon of gold to Tiller’s lion, chicken and fox to the Warden’s wolf pack. Survival of the fittest, indeed! Or, Alcatraz was a version of Noah’s Ark and the Warden was the captain. Your choice. 


Between the Hippocrates reference and Dr. B’s use of the term Elysium Fields, we can now add Greek to the ongoing list of influences on this show. 

Elysium Fields is a concept of the afterlife, where mortals chosen by gods remain after death to live a happy life. Thus, Dr. B’s doubt that Sonny Burnett saw them when he briefly died. 

Hippocrates was an ancient Greek doctor who is credited with revolutionizing medicine. He served time in prison 20 years, and was the first to connect philosophy with medicine (as well as separate religion from medicine – which is quite illuminating when you consider the pious Warden and his maniacal blood-letting project). 

Emerson Hauser: “I know about the keys. What I didn’t know is that they belonged to the Warden.” 
Warden, to Pinky Ames: “You stole the wrong keys.”

Different dungeons, different doors. 


The Ames Brothers indicated that Solitary was a better place to be than the Infirmary. Clearly the inmates knew that extraordinary amounts of blood were being taken from specific prisoners while in the Infirmary. 

And yet…it is fascinating that new inmate arrivals are subjected to 30 days in the Hole. If we were to ponder this in alignment with my ongoing Crazy Theory about “the fog” that knocked the 302 out in order to make them disappear in 1963, I would suggest that there was a mandatory incubation period for new prisoners; that they were subjected to and prepped by chemicals being pumped into Solitary, unbeknownst to all who spent time in there. 


Millions worth of “confederate gold” was unaccounted for after the civil war…and apparently some of it was secured and stored by Warden James. It may be that he discovered it upon his arrival, left over from the era when the Rock served as a Civil War fortress. But where is that gold now, in 2012? It isn’t stored beneath Alcatraz anymore, and likely did not vanish along with the 302 in 1963 (because thus far there is no indication that material items disappeared along with human beings). It could be that the Warden used the gold to acquire the (colloidal) silver…


I’ve joked about many of the local cities and locations they’re using, as I do live in the Bay Area. However, you can’t get any closer to home for me than Danville. So although the real and lovely town Danville, CA is much more suburban than the lushly depicted…it was goosebump-inducing to watch a woman be buried alive, basically in my virtual backyard.


It is safe to assume that there was no colloidal silver in Lucy’s blood, nor was there any in Dr. B’s blood. As Dr. B said, “God and the Warden only know” what happened to the blood taken from specific inmates in the 1960’s on the Rock. So it appears that Lucy really was only brought on for psychological assistance to the Warden, and not to conspire together for the 1963 abduction of the 302…


Dr. B referred to “the 63’s that you’ve been rounding up” while talking to Hauser in New Alcatraz. He was one of the 63’s, but I wonder exactly what Dr. B remembers or if he is being employed at New Alcatraz against his will. If he was programmed before being returned to modern day, it is unlikely that his mission was to help the enemy re-incarcerate and re-animate the inmates. Or is it?

“Why was everyone so interested in Tommy Madsen? The guard Ray Archer, what did he know?”
My initial assessment of Hauser’s involvement with the 63’s has altered dramatically. He really has no idea about the how and why, which indicates how little his beloved ageless Lucy has shared with him. I’m thrilled to hear him ask the questions that many of the viewers are, and that they are heading down a path that will reveal answers to key mysteries while serving up additional head-scratchers. 
“Do you have confirmation Hauser’s human? I know a lot of humans. I gotta say, I don’t see it.”  - Doc
Our favorite Stealthy Spy applied a mysterious solvent to his bullet wound that even the great Dr. Beauregard could not identify (and I love that his Practical Magic medical kit lives in his on-island Hogwarts trunk of secrets). So of course I firmly believe that said solvent was used to slow down the healing process and mask Hauser’s knowledge and use of blood filled with colloidal silver. OR it could be that he applied silver sulfadiazine, which can be used to treat burns - perhaps he was attempting to cauterize and close the wound. 

Among other secrets he is keeping from Rebecca and Doc, Hauser was having his Think Tank nerd herd conduct “weird experiments” in the cellblock for weeks. I have no idea what type of technology they were using, but it resembled a futuristic Ghostbusters briefcase with a large glowing spyPod that played 1970’s disco. I’ve been fixated on their use of music all along, and do not believe it should be discounted that they were playing a song while conducting these experiments.

In the Pilot, Hauser told Jack Sylvane that E.B. Tiller was his friend. I really hope they begin to show us how and when young SFPD officer Hauser became friendly with the Deputy Warden of Alcatraz.

“One day this is going to end. We (you, me, Emerson) are going to have to live with whatever we’ve done.”
Between car chases and being knocked out by returned inmates, Doc has realized what he’s now involved with. But he appears to be at peace with it slowly and surely, and perhaps may be considering that this journey will lead him to resolve or confront his childhood trauma.  

Did you see the look of paralyzing fear on Doc’s face when Helen Campbell revealed that she’d been kidnapped as a young girl? Something tells me that we’re going to see a flashback and learn more about Doc’s traumatic incident…and that whoever took Doc as a boy is still alive, in the vicinity and related to one of the returning 63’s. 

We never find out if Ponytail Dude (who met his demise via bolt cutters) is Dandruff Guy, Two Shirts, Glasses or The Whistler. Bummer.


Former guard Donovan revealed that he’d returned to 2012 “less than a month” ago, which is quite telling. It was as if he was specifically placed back on a particular date to scout the Rock and get a job there ahead of time…in order to work with or for other returning prisoners (potentially not just the Ames Brothers). As Pinky said, “Being here in 2012, you think it’s just a coincidence we ran into him on a tour last month?”  Herman responded with, “He was there for the same reasons we were; it’s not coincidence or karma.”   

Among the names of inmates that Doc asked the bank robbing Ames Brothers about (guessing who their accomplice may have been) - the only recognizable names were Cal Sweeney and Sonny Burnett. It makes sense, given that Sweeney was a bank robber and Burnett was an embezzler. We will likely meet other prisoners in the near future named Stroud and Nicky Morgan.


Hey grandpa, stop creeping on your hot granddaughter while she’s sleeping.   

Rebecca mentioned that she and her former partner were chasing Tommy Madsen on the rooftops (in the Pilot) because of a routine breaking and entering. It was clearly a set up so that Tommy could lure his granddaughter into the tangled web of returning Alcatraz inmates and guards from 1963. Whether or not Tommy himself masterminded that mission, and why, remains to be seen.


Two important facts before we delve: a. Sonny Burnett was an alias used by James “Sonny” Crocket on Miami Vice (high five to the writers of ALCATRAZ for that nod) and b. Theo Rossi, who played Sonny Burnett with the same evil joy he infuses into his character on Sons of Anarchy, is the real life beau of Sarah Jones. I only wish that the ridiculously attractive and talented couple had a real scene together in this episode!
“He didn’t kill anyone back then.” – Doc
Like Jack Sylvane, Sonny Burnett’s original crimes did not include murder.  But Burnett’s wires were clearly tampered with before he was forced to re-enter current society (likely as a result of faulty dream removal experiments), and he was programmed to use extreme violence to complete his mission.

Timing wise, Burnett had re-entered current day earlier than previous inmates. He had time to rent or buy a car, as well as find housing. Either that, or his programmers set it all up in advance – along with providing the research and pertinent information about Helen Campbell (similar to the newspapers and bomb supplies that were left in the tomb for Paxton Petty). 
“It won’t work. Right blood type, but no colloidal silver. Burnett’s blood is as normal as yours or mine.” - Dr. B
It seems odd that Sonny did not have blood with colloidal silver, because he had died for 30 seconds back in 1960 – only to come back to life when he should have perished. The assumption is that he had been infused with the decanted, enhanced blood while he was under. But in 2012, Dr. B told Hauser that his blood did not contain the additional elements needed to help bring Lucy back to life. 

Whether or not it was intentional, I interpreted the head that Burnett left in the horse stable as homage to The Godfather


Something to ponder, moving forward: Donovan was a guard on Alcatraz during the same time period as young Ray Archer and Guy Hastings. 

Former guards Hastings and Donovan were both placed back specifically on Alcatraz in 2012. Unlike some of the other inmates who have resurfaced in other locations, the guards are being purposefully placed where they once worked and resided.

“I’m in. Warden James, he invited me to his residence. I’m going to find out what they’re doing to you.” - Ray Archer, to brother Tommy Madsen
Regarding returning guards, only Archer avoided vanishing on 3/21/63 - because he’d already left his post. We have to wonder if his suspicions about his brother Tommy played a role is his departure. Ray said he left the Rock to raise his family, and considering how significant the Madsens seem to be…perhaps that is why he was “allowed” to leave.

“I didn’t show up at sally port yesterday.”
In case you’re wondering, “sally port” refers to a gateway permitting the passage of a large number of people at a time…which is exactly what was needed to stage the kidnapping of 302 people. 

Rebecca’s first clue that Donovan was a 63er: his condescending usage of the word “honey.” Oh to have lived or worked in a prison before the dawn of feminism. 

At first I found it curious that there was no box of belongings for Donovan, given that he vanished in 1963 while his material possessions remained. But then I remembered that fellow guard Guy Hastings’ daughter had been given her father’s box from Alcatraz. So I assume that Donovan had family, and that if any were living with him in 1963 they were also purposefully sent off of the Rock on the day of the event.   

James: “Knowing your place on the food chain…you of all people should understand that.”  
Tiller: “You’d be surprised what a man’s capable of if he’s pushed to far. I would have thought you of all people should understand that.” 
James: “The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack. Just remember who’s pack it is, E.B., or you might find out what a true predator’s really capable of.”

The relationship between Warden James and Deputy Warden Tiller is becoming increasingly illuminated with each new episode. There is palpable contempt, jealousy, rivalry and even a sense of fear between the two. I can’t wait to find out the status of their relationship in 1963, when Tiller avoided being kidnapped off of the Rock but James’ whereabouts that night are still in question…

“Warden James..has he come back? Is he the one that’s willing to kill for these keys?” - Emerson Hauser
In the Pilot, Doc said that Warden Edwin James has been "long dead.” But we never saw an aged Warden, just an aged (and now deceased) Tiller. So it IS possible that Warden James was a 63er, and has either already returned or is about to! I have a suspicion that he’s already back in 2012, and that Hauser and Madsen are the primary roadblock to the re-acquisition of his keys.  

Of course Warden James delivers the homily in the prison chapel. As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, he figures himself to be some kind of pastor or priest, and plays God with his incarcerated subjects.  

When the Warden asked Herman Ames where he had acquired the wine, he replied, “from God’s own table.” That can be interpreted two ways: 1. The sacramental/communion wine that may have been in the prison chapel, or 2. Wine stolen from the Warden’s table, which we know many inmates gain accessed to as selected food servers.

In addition, Dr. B refers to the perfect health of the returned inmates, as if they were “straight from God’s own factory floor.” He also told Hauser that, “God and the Warden only know” about what happened to the blood taken from the inmates before the 1963 incident. It seems that Edwin James is either a Messiah or time traveling alien preacher. We can’t discount either, in all seriousness. 


Hauser interrogated Donovan after bringing him to New Alcatraz. I assume that he has also attempted to coerce information out of other living and breathing inmates he’d recently captured. It is possible that details provided by Sylvane and others may be the reason why Hauser is always one step ahead of Rebecca and Doc.

So far, we’ve seen several returned inmates killed or at least what appears to be mortally wounded. Add the Ames Brothers to this collection. The obvious guess for their future is that Hauser brought them all to Dr. B at New Alcatraz in order for him to save or revive them…but how so? Using the blood with colloidal silver requires very specific matching blood types, and Lucy’s “methods” do not appear to be successful either. 

Hauser told Rebecca and Doc that, “From now on, I want all of them alive.” There appears to be a crack in the suave spy’s fa├žade; he NEEDS all of the 63’s to be alive for his end game…which remains a giant mystery.


Remember the last post, when I mentioned that perhaps “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? We have 2 new names to add to the list: the Ames Brothers. 

  • Herman and Pinky Ames: metal shop (key creation & duplication)
  • Kit Nelson: bomb shelter construction (the subterranean dungeon and/or wormhole)
  • Johnny McKee: organic chemistry teacher (“the fog”)


As I’ve mentioned before, Dream is the name of the main character in The Sandman comics (which medical examiner Nikki is fond of donning on tees), a personification of all that is not real - and an escaped prisoner.  Dream used a gas gun to compel his enemies to tell the truth and also to put them to sleep.  

Rebecca Madsen is dreaming about her grandfather, returned inmate Tommy Madsen. Given how important the Madsen clan seems to be to the overarching mythology and conspiracy, I believe that Rebecca has implanted memories. My speculation is that when she was very young, someone placed a chip or injected her with something (a la Cortexiphan on Fringe) without her knowledge, and that is was recently activated to correspond with the return of the 63’s. Or perhaps while she is sleeping, the DREAMy Tommy Madsen is pumping an odorless chemical into her room...

A few housekeeping notes: 

  • The episode "Clarence Montgomery" that was pre-empted by NASCAR last week will now air next week. The show's creative team have assured fans that they specifically chose to air these two together instead, and that airing one out of order does not effect the mythology. 
  • Among other LOST items, I am giving away a limited edition ALCATRAZ mug from the premiere on Alcatraz via my charity fundraiser Cancer Gets LOST if you’re interested (and may be adding additional items acquired soon at WonderCon).  
  • I will be attending the ALCATRAZ panel and in their press room at WonderCon on March 18, so stay tuned for live tweets and photos, as well as interviews!
  • While I will be out of the country on vacation when the ALCATRAZ season finale airs on March 26, I aim to download the episode and write about it that week. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read though a double dose of analysis. As always, I encourage and appreciate feedback and constructive comments. 



Valerie Noble said...

I love the Bay Area locales. I think it's one of the reasons I really enjoy this show (even though I know it's not filmed here).

I find it creepy that Tommy is watching his granddaughter but why is he watching her? Is he protecting her? Is he waiting for her? I love all the mystery!

I love Doc.

I hope we see more of Sylvane. :)

Another fantastic post!

lennyg said...

Great post. I was asked why the few people besides the trio who see the prisoners 50 years later and know who they are don't completely lose their minds. Good question. Sooner or later someone is going to recognize a returnee. San Fran must have its share of Alcatraz 'experts.' What do you think?

maven said...

Very insightful, Jo. I also agree that Warden James and Tommy are behind the whole 63er mystery.

The episode of the Ames brothers was very artfully shot, since it was taking place at Alcatraz 2012...very eerie lighting.

Jorge did a great job being taken as a hostage...very physical acting!

Just Thinking said...

Nice connections and research again Jo!

About the prisoners being turned into killers- I think Sylvane had killed a prisoner and that was why he was sent to Alcatraz. But I agree he didn't seem like a "killer", and did seem programmed when he came back.

Sonny has turned himself into a violent man on purpose, to survive in Alcatraz though. Not too far to murder from gouging a man's eyes out. He also didn't seem programmed, didn't seem to have a '63 mission, and didn't have the silver in the blood. Maybe he just escaped from whatever is holding the '63s?

Also- it seemed that Hauser probably wanted live prisoners because he needs blood for Lucy. I thought his line to the Dr to "Walk away" when he was disappointed was terrific.

Farnsworth said...

The "Alcatraz" Dirty Dozen

EB Tiller, in the Lee Marvin role, finds his latest "Dirty Dozen" recruit for his Mission Impossible: Sonny Burnett, a John Cassavetes-Victor Franko look-alike. The elder sadist Ames boy is a Telly Savalas Maggott look-alike. (fyi - Savalas was in the "Birdman of Acatraz") No doubt Clarence Montgomery will be the Jim Brown of the role. Warden James could pass for Ernie Borgnine.

sportsattitudes said...

Jo, great post as always. Lots of things for fans to think upon. When I saw the ad for next week's show at the conclusion of this week's two hours, I was disappointed since I too recalled it was the same ad for the show that was pre-empted by the NASCAR race. Networks are notorious for doing this sort of thing. Viewers expect to see shows like Alcatraz in their original planned order, regardless of who may or may not think or spin that our overall understanding will be impacted. You could make the case if this upcoming episode is so "disposable" as to be seen out of sequence maybe we're all making more out of Alcatraz than we should be? I can't give anybody involved a "pass" on airing Alcatraz episodes out of their original planned sequence.

SG_Tess said...

Good article Jo.
This show just keeps getting better and better. So who else thinks it will be Tommy's blood that will save Lucy?

Jbones72 said...

Warden James used the gold maybe to finance the experiments? I agree that we will probably see him in the present before the end of the season. Hope the ratings were good this week after the Terra Nova news! Great job again!

KickinAssTakingNames said...

Another great analysis, Jo.

I also believe that something fishy is going on during that initial 30 days of solitutde. At first I thought it was simply meant to subdue inmates before being put in the general population, but the way it was brougt up this week leads me to believe there is much more to it than that. Of course there is, it's Alcatraz! I can't believe I initially thought it was something so simplistic. I should know better by now.

My gut tells me that Dr. B is in on the whole thing, and that Lucy is not and was only brought on for her particular expertise to help them pull it all off. I also am thinking at this point that Warden James is definitely a 63er.

Interesting point about all the animal references.

I also found it interesting that there was another kidnapping story. There is more to be learned about Doc's own traumatic experience.

And finally, Sonny Burnett is hot. Despite the fact that he gouged someone's eyes out.

Daryl said...

I just wanted to say I love reading your review/recap every week! I always pick up stuff I missed out. Appreciate the effort!

tenspot uk said...

I think the warden is from the 1800s. He has a different manner to everybody else, older ways of thinking. I believe he was the main civil war gold robber, who without realising, stole the arc of the covenant, gold believed to have alien properties. He stole it, hid it on alcatraz island, and it somehow reacted with some silver and made him jump through time to 195? Where he made himself warden of the facility, then used the coloidal silver to react with the gold to cause jumps