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And I bet YOU’RE glad that I reminded you that Happy Town was a thing. See? I told you that I’ve watched pretty much every mystery show to ever air on American television!
Welcome back to the recap for the premiere of the new show Alcatraz – you can check out the first part of the recap by clicking here. (The premiere featured two episodes – the pilot and episode #2, ‘Ernest Cobb – so separate recaps were written for each episode. This is the second piece.)
In the pilot episode, the principle characters of the show were laid out for us: Detective Rebecca “Becky” Madsen (Sarah Jones), the petite blonde cop who tragically lost her partner; Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge ‘Hurley’ Garcia), the comic book author and Alcatraz expert who has unexpectedly found himself working with Madsen; and FBI agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), the enigmatic former Alcatraz prison guard who is heading up a top secret investigation – and who may have some dark secrets of his own.
The three of them have been thrown together by the murder of former Alcatraz assistant warden E.B. Tiller, who, it seems, has been killed by former inmate Jack Sylvane – the same Jack Sylvane who supposedly died many years prior. And not only is Sylvane alive, he also happens to look exactly like he did back in 1963 on Alcatraz. Emerson Hauser reveals that the infamous prison did not shut down due to rising costs as everyone believes, but rather was closed after all 302 of the inmates and guards mysteriously disappeared on March 20, 1963.
We are led to believe that the only people who managed to escape this fate were the two guards who were on transfer duty that day – one of which was Emerson Hauser himself – and anyone who found themselves conveniently transferred elsewhere prior to the day of the event – such as E.B. Tiller.
The mysterious reappearance of Jack Sylvane is only the beginning – we’re not sure why, but more of these former prisoners are going to keep popping up in present day San Francisco, many of them with murder on their minds – even Sylvane, who wasn’t such a bad guy back in the day. Thus, the series will not only have a weekly case to solve – hunting down whichever inmate has magically come back from the past – but it will also have a series-spanning mystery about what happened to these 302 people and why…not to mention who is behind it all – who is directing them to kill.
Episode #2 – Ernest Cobb – begins with a rehash of the pilot, reminding us that Rebecca Madsen’s grandfather, whom she believed to be a (dead) Alcatraz guard but was actually a prisoner, has not only already reappeared in present day – he’s also the guy responsible for her partner’s death. TWISTS! Also, our resident dream team captured Jack Sylvane, and Emerson Hauser has him stashed away in a secret underground prison that looks suspiciously like a gleaming, modern-day version of Alcatraz.
Back on Alcatraz in 1960, a naked, bespectacled prisoner is being led to his cell – he’s new on the island, and I’m gonna take a stab in the dark that this is our Ernest Cobb. Deputy Warden Tiller informs Cobb that before he can get settled in, the warden wants to meet him…and then a key is lowered on a string to Tiller – the very same key that was within the ‘soft, black bag’ that Jack Sylvane stole from Barkley Flynn in the pilot episode. I somehow doubt that that’s a coincidence.
The mysterious key opens a not-so-mysterious door – one that leads outside to the Alcatraz yard, where the warden is shooting at a line of cans with a wicked looking rifle. Warden Edwin James rattles off some facts that clue us in to Cobb’s crime – it seems that he’s an expert marksman who shot 16 people from a distance of 500 yards, an impressive (but horrific) feat. The warden asks Cobb how he chooses his victims, to which Cobb only replies, ‘Feelin’.’
Apparently, Cobb had been imprisoned elsewhere, but shot a guard in the leg in order to get transferred to the Rock. Why? He wanted a private cell, of course. And if there’s one perk to Alcatraz, it’s that everyone gets their own private – and extremely tiny – cell.
Before Cobb is led back inside, the warden asks him if he has any shooting pointers for him. Cobb tells him simply to drop his shoulder – and of course, when the warden does so, he immediately nails the can he shoots at.
The jail cell door noise that we’ve come to associate with a time segue happens, and we’re now in present day San Francisco. (In the future, I’ll refer to this noise simply as CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM. Because that’s easier and cooler-sounding.)
Ernest Cobb is laying out an idyllic picnic for one on a grassy hill. Once finished, he brings a slightly less charming item out of his basket – a gun scope. He uses it to observe the crowds of people below, in an area that looks to be filled with midway-style games and a Ferris Wheel. As he does this, he chants a strange phrase: ‘There are 47 slats in the picket fence, four seven. One, two, three, four, one.’ He seems particularly focused on a teenage couple about to get on the Ferris Wheel.
Zip on over to Dr. Diego Soto’s comic book shop, where he’s instructing his co-worker Chet on how to run the store while he’s off on his secret new gig. Chet seems only mildly interested, but Diego is clearly bursting at the seams, wanting to talk about his ultra-cool new job. He blurts out that he’s part of an FBI task force as a ‘civilian authority.’
Just then, Detective Madsen enters, and Chet is shocked to find out that this hot chick is, in fact, Diego’s partner on the ‘task force.’ Diego instructs him to ‘go stock something,’ and Chet leaves the two alone. Madsen flips open Diego’s book on Alcatraz (though he supposedly wrote four, they usually talk as if there’s only this ONE big one) to reach the page on her grandfather, Tommy Madsen. Tommy was supposedly imprisoned for life for murdering his wife, but unlike the other inmates, whom Diego has written oodles about, this is all of the information that’s available on him.
Back at the midway, Cobb seems ready to begin…he pulls the rest of the rifle out of his picnic basket and assembles it quickly. He fires into the crowd three times, killing three innocent victims with a single shot to the chest each. Between the excellent marksmanship, the repetitive chanting, and the creepy picnic lunch, it seems that our Ernest Cobb is a wee bit off-kilter – certainly a sociopath, but perhaps even plagued by a neurological disorder such as autism.
Madsen and Diego show up at the midway, now a crime scene – Hurley is nervous about seeing dead bodies, since he hasn’t exactly hung around a lot of them in the past.
They run into Emerson Hauser and Lucy Banerjee, who point out two dead crows nearby, also shot by the sniper. Dr. Soto is quick to point the finger at one Mr. Ernest Cobb, formerly of Alcatraz, who learned to shoot by killing crows – which he did for farmers after he left his orphanage, as a way to make money.
Soto also tells the gang that Cobb’s M.O. is to do three shootings in three days, then head underground. His victims, however, were always seemingly random – in this case, two teenagers and a guy in his 40′s. Madsen thinks this just means that they don’t have all of the information yet.
Diego and Rebecca head off on their own, with Diego revealing that Cobb always used a Winchester, model 70. According to Madsen, that gun uses the same bullets as an M-40 – so while the SFPD is operating under the assumption that the sniper would’ve used a modern weapon (the M-40), Madsen and Soto know that this probably isn’t the case.
If this is true, then Cobb’s range would’ve been a maximum of 500 yards, rather than the 750 the SFPD are focused on – armed with this information, the dynamic duo head off to a nearby hill that lies approximately 500 yards away. Once there, Madsen starts looking for bullet casings – Diego is sure she won’t find any, since Cobb was way OCD…
…but sure enough, after a few minutes of throwing leaves around she finds a spent bullet casing. Boo-ya. We’re officially chasing after another re-appeared Alcatraz convict, yo!!
Back in 1960 on Alcatraz, Ernest Cobb is being driven quite mad by an overly talkative cuckoo-nuts prisoner in the neighboring cell – so much for the peace and quiet of a private cell, I guess. The crazy dude’s rambling is interrupted by a guy yelling ‘NO!’ – it’s Jack Sylvane, in a recall from the previous episode when he found out his wife wanted a divorce – we’re seeing that scene again, but this time from a different angle. As Jack is led off by guards, Cobb asks cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs where he’s headed…the answer, solitary confinement, brings a light to Cobb’s eye. No two words have ever sounded more heavenly to a sociopath like Cobb than ‘solitary confinement.’
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! Present day, inside of the strange cement bunker somewhere in the woods…Bend it Like Beckham is showing Cobb’s mug shot to Jack Sylvane – she wants to know if they’re buddies, or if they’re working together, or if he knows why Keira Knightley got so gosh-darn famous while she’s stuck doing episodic television.
Sylvane doesn’t recognize Cobb, so unfortunately Lucy’s S.O.L. She tries to ask him where he’s been all of these years, what happened to him, how he got here – but he just keeps saying ‘I don’t know.’ He tells her that one minute he was in his cell, and then the next, he wasn’t.
She then pulls out the key – and that good ol’ soft, black bag – that he took from Flynn’s safe. Jack looks uncomfortable, but when she asks him what it opens, and if someone instructed him to retrieve it…he repeats his mantra of ‘I don’t know.’
Throughout this interrogation, Jack has been holding his hands over some glowing lights in the table before him, which we now see are feeding information about his vital signs into a super futuristic computer program, one which tells the lab tech (and Emerson Hauser) that Jack is, in fact, telling the truth. He honestly doesn’t know…anything. This is starting to feel more and more like brainwashing – like the Manchurian Candidate.
Meanwhile, over in present day Alcatraz, Madsen has found Ernest Cobb’s box of personal belongings. Diego hardly pays attention, as he’s more interested in some of the more mysterious facets of the prison, such as the two doors without handles that can’t be opened, or the three buttons in the elevator that can’t be pushed without using a key. I know we’ve seen that the mystery key from Flynn’s safe was used to open the door to the outside yard of the prison, but I can’t believe it’s a coincidence that we JUST saw that key again before hearing this conversation – perhaps this same key works in the elevator as well?
I also have a theory about that weird quasi-Alcatraz where Sylvane is stashed…even though they appear to access it via the cement bunker in the middle of the Redwood forest, I think it actually lies underneath the old Alcatraz prison. When Emerson entered the bunker, they didn’t just walk directly in to the jail – rather, they eventually exited a shiny elevator to enter the prison. Perhaps the bunker is located somewhere near the San Francisco Bay – maybe Muir Woods? – and is simply a way station of sorts, a back door into the ultra-secret 21st century Alcatraz?
The reason I bring that theory up now is because I believe that the three mystery buttons in the Alcatraz elevator – the ones that require a key to operate – could possibly take you to the lower level where the quasi-Alcatraz cells are located. At the very least, there are some creepazoid labs down there – something we could guess from the information given to Sylvane back in 1963 in the Alcatraz infirmary by Madsen’s grandfather.
BUT I AM PROBABLY GETTING A LITTLE AHEAD OF MYSELF HERE.
Anyway, back to the show…Diego tells Rebecca that Ernest Cobb spent more time in solitary confinement than any other inmate on record. Becky wants to know how he was caught the first time around, and Diego tells her that someone recognized him from the FBI’s Most Wanted list – a method they can’t exactly use today, since Cobb isn’t supposed to exist.
Enter Emerson and Lucy. Emerson lets the dynamic duo know that the ballistics report has shown that the casing they found does indeed match Cobb’s gun of choice – a gun, which Madsen reminds him, that would be considered a rare old piece these days. Hence, she and Diego head off to do some investigating. Once they leave the room, Emerson tells Lucy, ‘you wanted children – go babysit.’ Interesting…makes them sound like a former couple, does it not?
At a local gun shop, Rebecca is asking Lucy about Emerson, who Lucy calls ‘a little prickly, but alright.’ Becky asks if Lucy’s been with Emerson for a while, to which she replies, ‘with him, without him.’ SUPER INTERESTING ANSWER, NO??
Lemme interrupt myself one more time with a theory – could Lucy Banerjee possibly be FROM THE PAST HERSELF?? There wouldn’t have been any female guards or inmates, but I’ve already thrown out the idea that some of the guards’ families (who lived with them on the island and would have included women and children) might also have disappeared back in 1963…bear with me here…is it possible that Lucy was Emerson’s wife?? Zipped off to who-knows-where in 1963, only to show up unexpectedly in 2012, not having aged one bit? That would explain their odd relationship, as well as both of the cryptic comments we’ve heard in the past five minutes (‘You wanted children’ and ‘with him, without him.’)
Ok, ok…sorry about that. Back to the show! Madsen seems to know the guy behind the counter at the gun shop, and she shows him a picture of Cobb. He claims he’s never seen the guy, but when Madsen tells him the guy is a suspect in the shootings from earlier that morning, he changes his tune. He admits that Cobb did in fact buy a gun from him – specifically, a Winchester model 70. No name or address on the prepaid credit card. Madsen is impressed that he remembers all of this information, but the guy tells her it’s literally the only Winchester model 70 he’s sold in ten years.
Madsen asks to see the shop’s security footage. We see Cobb purchasing his gun, but what really interests Madsen is the hotel room key that he tosses on the counter – it’s old-school, with a big-ass room number marker attached to it. Lucky break, as not many hotels use anything but those magnetic cards these days.
Off in a nameless hotel room somewhere in the city, Cobb readies his weapon as he sits upon his twin-size bed. Sure looks like he’s waiting for someone, don’t you think?
Back in the Alcatraz mess hall in 1960, the warden is eating a disgustingly fatty-looking steak – and on top of a red and white checkered tablecloth no less, much like the one that Cobb used when he set up his faux picnic. Cobb is brought into the room, and he verbally takes note of the fact that the warden eats alone. Both these dudes must really love those vomit-inducing ‘don’t bother me, I’m eating’ commercials for Carl’s Jr.
Warden James pulls a letter from his pocket – a letter requesting a transfer to a solitary cell in a block with no talking allowed – a letter from, of course, Cobb himself. The warden denies his request, which greatly upsets Cobb as he’s taken away by the guards.
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! Present day, at a seedy hotel where the desk clerk is just replacing a room key on its peg…a room with a number very familiar to us Lost-ies.
(I’m not kidding – I did actually write that at exactly 4:23. I’m a little freaked out.)
As Madsen is dealing with the hotel desk clerk, Diego asks Lucy if she knows how these Alcatraz guys are coming back, and who’s behind it. He also thinks it’s weird that she just seems to accept everything that’s happening like it’s not the biggest thing ever. Cryptically, she replies that how she feels about what’s happening doesn’t change the fact that it IS happening. Slick maneuvering, Maverick! Diego is disappointed in the non-answer.
A smiling Madsen informs them that they’ve got the right hotel – the desk clerk ID’ed Cobb’s picture. (Luckily, he did so off-camera so that the producers didn’t have to pay him more than a background rate.) Madsen, Diego, and Lucy head off to room 123 without waiting for Emerson to show up, since Madsen doesn’t want Cobb to get away while they’re puttering around. Meanwhile, Cobb sits patiently on his bed – a bed which, I get the sneaking suspicion, is NOT in room 123.
Madsen enters room 123 with gun drawn, but it appears empty. After verifying this fact, she shouts for Lucy and Diego to come in. In whatever room Cobb is actually in, he gets off the bed and goes to the window, aiming his gun outside and beginning his weird ritualistic chanting. Uh oh, this can’t be good.
Lucy goes to draw the shade back from the window, upon which is written the words ‘I can see you’ alongside a drawing of a scope sight – the target perfectly aligned over Lucy’s heart. Rebecca shouts for Lucy to get down, but it’s too late – Cobb (in the building across the street) shoots her in the chest. Rebecca immediately begins CPR as she orders Diego to call 911.
Emerson shows up as Lucy is being wheeled into an ambulance – he looks and sounds upset, which leads me back to my theory that he and Lucy were – at some point, anyway – more than co-workers. Madsen tries to get more information about Cobb from Hauser, but he tells her that all she needs to know is that he’s still out there, and he’s gonna keep killing people. Yeah, Hauser’s not happy, that’s for damn sure.
In a nameless bathroom somewhere, Rebecca’s cleaning Lucy’s blood off of her hands. She breaks for a moment to beat up on a poor, helpless paper towel dispenser, clearly blaming herself for Lucy’s situation. At the hospital, Diego gives Emerson the news – Lucy is alive, but in a coma, which may or may not be temporary.
Mad as hell, Hauser heads to quasi-Alcatraz to ask Jack Sylvane if Lucy was a target. Jack, with his usual helpfulness, says he doesn’t know. Hauser says that maybe Dr. Beauregard can jog his memory, and Jack looks alarmed. We haven’t met a Dr. Beauregard yet, unless the doctor from 1960 Alcatraz goes by that name – but I don’t think he does. He seemed slightly sadistic, but not in a mad-torturer sort of way.
Back at the lab at Alcatraz, Diego and Madsen stumble upon a computerized map showing Cobb’s victims from the past. Looking over their faces, Madsen realizes that perhaps Cobb wasn’t killing so randomly after all, as there is a 15-16 year old girl in every group of shootings. Madsen wonders aloud who the 16-year-old girl in his life might have been, that these innocent girls were ‘standing in for.’ Diego tells her that he grew up in an orphanage but went looking for his birth mother when he was 20 – he found her, and the 40-something-year-old woman slammed the door in his face. Dead end there.
Madsen heads to Cobb’s old cell, carrying along the box of his personal belongings, which she sets up around the cell. Diego shows up with an undelivered letter he’s found – a letter for Cobb, which he never got because he didn’t give the warden this person’s name as a known contact.
The letter is from an Eloise Monroe, who ends up being…Cobb’s little sister! In the letter, she apologizes for their mother being rude to him and asks if they can be pen pals. Cute! Sad he never got to see the letter. Diego deduces that when Cobb showed up at his mother’s door, he must have seen Eloise and resented her for being the child their mother chose to raise. And since Eloise would have been right around 16 years old at the time…whammo, we’ve got our motive. Too bad Eloise died nine years ago, or else the dynamic duo may have actually had a lead.
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! Alcatraz in the past…Cobb gets up, brushes his teeth, and carefully makes the bed. He then sits down on it…and refuses to move when the cell door opens for the morning head count. The guards yell for him to get up, but he continues to sit, chanting under his breath. Losing his cool, one guard enters the cell and socks Cobb in the gut. Next thing we know, Deputy Warden Tiller is leading Cobb to solitary confinement…right where he wants to be.
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! After sitting in Cobb’s cell all night with his former belongings, Madsen finally realizes what the cut-outs in his magazine were for – he had fashioned a home-made scope, using the magazine, a piece of glass, and one of the lenses from his eyeglasses. Brilliant. Using the scope, one can see the city across the bay quite clearly…Cobb obviously used it to gaze upon San Francisco, dreaming of the day he could shoot all those hippie bastards.
Elsewhere in the city, Cobb is taking aim at the parking lot of a shopping mall – first he takes down a couple of crows, then he nails three more innocent victims…pop, pop, pop. This guy is ruthless, and a hell of a shot.
1960 Alcatraz, and Cobb is happily ensconced in solitary confinement. He gets a visit from Warden James, who is impressed by Cobb’s ingenuity in finding the perfect infraction to get his ass tossed into solitary – by doing something so public that the warden couldn’t help but toss him into the exact place he wanted to go. Cobb has won this round.
…except that the warden forgot to mention one liiiiiiiittle thing – he’s decided that Cobb is in need of a roommate. And who better to share his tiny cell than the same talky bastard that nearly drove him cray cray back in his old cell. The dude immediately starts rattling on and on, causing Cobb to completely lose it and scream for mercy. Sounds like my idea of hell, too, dude.
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! Present day. Diego and Madsen are watching a television report about the mall shooting – Diego thinks this means Cobb’s about to go underground, since this was his third shooting, but Rebecca disagrees. She thinks that Lucy wasn’t in his pattern, that he’s still got one shooting to go – and since the episode ain’t over yet, I’m betting she’s right on the money.
Madsen gets an idea…both of the shootings that have occurred in present day have taken place on high vantage points in San Fran. She asks Diego to figure out which of the tallest buildings from 1960 – the ones Cobb would’ve seen through his makeshift scope – are still part of the San Francisco skyline. Looking at a picture from the ’60s, two buildings (which are conveniently right next to each other) immediately stand out as possibilities.
Just then, Emerson Hauser walks in. Madsen asks how Lucy’s doing, to which he replies that she’s stable but they don’t know the full extent of the damage at this point. Madsen and Diego show Hauser the result of their photo safari, and they decide to head straight to the aforementioned buildings to see if they can nail Cobb. Once there, Hauser takes one building, Madsen the second. Hauser shouts that he wants Cobb taken alive.
Hauser reaches his rooftop first – no sign of Cobb. But when Emerson looks over at the second building, there he is – and he’s already got his Winchester aimed down at a crowd of people in a park. Emerson, alarmed, runs for the stairs – hopefully he’s headed over to provide some back-up for the mistake-prone Detective Madsen.
Speaking of Madsen, she reaches the roof of Cobb’s building just in time to distract him from taking his first shot. He fires at her a couple of times, then relocates to a spot further down the roof to continue his mission. Madsen seems to be stuck – she knows that in the event of a gun fight, she doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance against Cobb.
Luckily, Hauser chooses this moment to burst onto the scene. He indicates that he’s going to sneak around the stairwell and try to get a jump on Cobb from the opposite direction. To distract Cobb, Madsen tells him about the letter Diego found, about the sister who wanted to be a part of his life. This upsets Cobb, but he’s not deterred from his task. Seeing this, Madsen tries a different tack – stepping out from behind the shelter of the stairwell, she drops her gun and tells Cobb that his sister isn’t out there. This seems to stop Cobb momentarily, but then, near tears, he decides to turn the gun on Madsen once more.
Emerson yells out ‘Cobb!’ Ernest Cobb spins toward this new and unexpected voice, giving Madsen the opening she needs to run forward and tackle him to the ground. Once again, thank god for Hauser, since Madsen clearly wasn’t bagging this criminal on her own.
Hauser asks if Cobb is right-handed. When Madsen confirms that he is, Hauser quickly and without blinking shoots Cobb dead center through the palm of his right hand. Damn! NOW who’s the bad ass marksman??
At the hospital, Emerson watches the comatose Lucy with much emotion suffusing his features. Outside in the hallway, Diego confesses to Rebecca that he doesn’t think Hauser wants him as a part of the team, that he’s not going to be any good at this work. Rebecca tells him that’s too darn bad, because she needs him. That seems like a pretty weak-ass argument to me, and apparently it is to Diego as well, since he mumbles a half-hearted ‘thanks’ and takes off.
Emerson emerges from Lucy’s room, but instead of walking over to Madsen to have a chat, he leaves as well. Madsen is left looking somewhat forlorn, alone in the hospital hallway. Poor wittle baybee!!
Over at quasi-Alcatraz, Emerson shows up, a shackled Ernest Cobb in tow. Before he’s thrown into a cell, he makes brief eye contact with Sylvane – they both looked stunned to see one another. Tres interesting! I can’t WAIT until we find someone who actually has an inkling as to what the fuck has been going on with these disappeared peeps!
Emerson tells Cobb that he’s gonna wish that he was killed today, now that he’s stuck here in quasi-Alcatraz, which apparently is going to turn out to be a hellishly bad place to live.
CLANK-RATTLE-SLAM! Cobb is sitting on a bed, laced into a strait-jacket. Warden James tells him that he’s sorry it’s come to this, but that his penchant for insubordination has just gone too far. But not to worry, the KINDLY old warden has done some homework and found a doctor that can hopefully help Cobb straighten out his mess of a brain.
First surprise? The doctor is a woman. But the bigger shocker…IT’S LUCY BANERJEE!!!! Only in the ’60s she went by the name Lucille Sangupta. I would say ‘holy crap,’ but since I already guessed she was from the past, I’m not totally blown away – though I still think we’re gonna find out that she was involved with Emerson Hauser back in the dizzy.
What I’m more intrigued by is Lucy’s profession – she’s clearly a head shrink of some kind, right? She’s probably not the evil Dr. Beauregard that Hauser mentioned to Jack Sylvane, but perhaps she’s got a certain knack for minor torture herself, eh?
What do you guys think – will we find out that Lucy and Emerson were an item? Will the writers find any other ways to bring a woman back from the past? Cuz that sure would break up the monotony of a new male inmate every week – it’d be nice to think they could have a female-centric storyline every now and again (other than one about Madsen, who’s so far about as interesting as dry toast).
Thanks for reading – I look forward to theorize the heck out of this show with you guys!