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So you’re back for more Persons Unknown this week, huh? Couldn’t wait for The Gates? Happy Town not cutting it for you? Big Brother’s a couple weeks away, so we’ve got some time to kill. Why not waste it trying to figure out WTF is going on in the world’s creepiest smallest town? Let’s get right to it. Janet wakes up in her hotel room. The blinds open automatically on this fine morning. Cool, huh? Now you can see the town outside, with a gazebo and everything. Does it get any better than this? Why yes. Yes, it does.
Moira, the mousy one in the bathrobe, is cutting out Joe’s bio-implant-bug-thingy with a Swiss Army knife. So whoever kidnapped them let them keep potential weapons. Sloppy work again, kidnappers. One at a time she hacks the little buggers out of all the hostages, and stitches them up with a regular needle and thread and no anesthesia. I don’t think that’s as easy as Hollywood makes it out. Thanks for the somewhat disturbing images of each person screaming on the table. After Joe the rest of them weren’t so much fun to watch.
A few minutes later, they’re all back in commission again, heading down to the end of the block to see if they can escape now. Joe walks past the end of the pavement with a rope tied around him in case they have to drag his body back (we can only hope). Janet takes another glance at her fortune–you know, the one that tells her she’ll go free if she kills her neighbor–then she just up and makes a break for it as the camera watches. I’m gonna get sick of typing “as the camera watches”, so unless I say otherwise, let’s just assume the camera’s always watching, ok? Really the only question is what terrible thing’s going to happen to her this time. It’s hard to tell, but there’s zapping involved. And screaming, of course. Lots of screaming in the first 5 minutes.
Then we get the full credit roll for the first time. it’s actually pretty cool. Lots of TV screens and an eyeball superimposed on the familiar security camera. Is anyone else starting to get a bit of a Saw vibe here? Janet seems OK after her run-in with the sonic island fence, although her face is puffy and blotchy. Was she zapped by a Psoriasis Ray? She’s washing it, which doesn’t improve it any.
Because her conversation with the camera went so well last week, she decides to try again. She begs them to at least tell her if her little angel is safe. While she’s deep in conversation with the ceiling, Joe comes in without knocking and notes that her door and drawers are fixed. Janet wonders if the bad guys just want to see them go nuts.
Because the sexual tension between these two isn’t awkward enough yet, Joe touches her face and asks if she’s OK.
The gang’s waiting next door at the Chinese place. They wonder what it was that turned Janet’s face into a Pop-Tart. The Sarge calls it an “Active Denial System”, basically a high-tech microwave that heats up the water in your body, enough to hurt, but not enough to cause damage. Tell that to Janet’s face. So has anyone noticed that there seems to be a lot of bleeding-edge weapons knowledge sitting around this here table? Could we be watching the Tony Stark version of The Apprentice? The Sarge repeats last episode’s idea of doing some recon. I’m starting to wonder if “doing some recon” isn’t his phrase for something you aren’t allowed to talk about in the military. Salesbob gets props for reading last week’s recap and mentioning ragheads and The Truman Show. Well, the word he actually uses is ‘towelhead’, which I guess is supposed to be less offensive. Why, I have no idea.
Tramp Stamp claims that her father is the U.S. Ambassador to Italy (and also a former head of the CIA, according to Cameron) and he’s brought them all here just to teach her a lesson. This is all starting to come together in a Dollhouse sort of way. Cameron and Salesbob want to torture the night manager, since he seems to know more than they do. Everyone else votes to let Sarge do his recon, so he and assigns them parts of the town to check out. Synchronize your watches, meet back here in 2 hours, don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes, that sort of thing. “What Rambo movie did you just pop out of?” asks Salesbob. No one else thinks this is funny, myself included.
Back in civilization (or San Francisco, anyway) our Scruffy Cub Reporter is on the phone with his police contact about Janet’s case. The cops are calling it child abandonment. They say the security tapes are inconclusive and they didn’t even think Grandma was overly creepy. The editor interrupts to complain that his “Headless Homeless” story (I swear I am not making this up) is late and she knows he’s blowing it off to look for Janet. He was the “king of sick” for five years. Guessing she’s the comic relief for this show, because her dialogue is the king of sick. Headless Homeless is due at end of day, no excuses. Much like this recap. I’ll probably be up all night finishing this stupid thing. But if they call me the TVgasm King of Sick, it’ll all be worth it.
Enough of the real world, though. Salesbob and Cameron blow off their recon assignment, hang out in the hotel bar and make fun of Sarge. You know, this kidnapping thing is actually a pretty good deal. No work, free booze, and all the General Tso’s you can eat. Introductions are made. Salesbob is actually Salesbill. Well, I was close. Cameron’s name is actually Charlie, if you remember from last week. They decide to jump the night manager right after their afternoon bender. Salesbill steeples his fingers as Charlie strokes his don’t-call-me-Cameron goatee. There is much bwahaha-ing. Meanwhile, Sarge is walking along the edge of town, testing out the Smokey fence with his hands.
Tramp Stamp and Moira go into a clothing store looking for something to wear. What’s a party girl to wear in this town? While she gets her retail therapy on, Moira lets drop that she’s a shrink. Who happened to do an ER rotation in med school. Well, I did an Overused Plot Devices rotation in recap school, and I Did An ER Rotation is right up there with I Took A Flying Lesson Once So I Can Land This Plane. Tramp Stamp… screw it, these people have to have names. I’m turning on closed captioning. TORI (yes, really) finds a polka dot dress that suits her and totally strips in front of the security camera. “Here, you creepy pervs! Get your nads off on these!” Get your nads off? I don’t think I even know what that means.
While Moira is getting her nads off watching Tori, let’s check on our other couple, Joenet. They’re hanging out on the hotel’s back porch, looking out at the romantic forest. This leads to the start of a random religion conversation, but it doesn’t get far because Joe only answers questions with questions. He believes in a God, let’s leave it at that. Whew, I’m glad we got that painful personal revelation out of the way. At least on this show they talk to each other. Not like that other show that just wrapped up. Trying to cut back on the Lost references this week.
While we’re on the subject of personal revelations: remember Janet’s creepy mom? She really likes her jigsaw puzzles, and Little Angel better keep her grubby rugrat paws off them..
The recon’s over, and Sarge (McNair, according to the captions) proudly shows off his barbecued hands. And that’s pretty much all we learned from the recon. The night manager drops in and tells them dinner is in one hour, so they should freshen up if they don’t want to get turned out of the hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant next door. Which is a good excuse to show us Tramp Stamp Tori getting out of the shower in a bathrobe. What’s this? Someone’s left her a present.
While she’s considering it, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Moira. Of course. She takes one look at the cocoon in the jar and knows exactly what it is. Of course. It’s a painted lady butterfly. Tori is a bit suspicious of all her knowledge, but Moira says she likes to read a lot about “different things”. Tori, who probably hasn’t read anything since Judy Blume, is mollified, and decides to blame her dad for sending her the jar. “Could you be any more obvious?” she yells at the camera. Not really, no. Moira offers to take the jar off her hands.
Must be Christmas in the hotel, because Janet’s got a present of her own: a few pictures of her daughter, a gun, and a new fortune.
Janet’s moral dilemma is interrupted by the night manager screaming outside. Charlie and Bill are marching him down the street at gunpoint. Their plan–ready?–is to push him across the microwave fence, because the Bad Guys would not possibly fry one of their own and will have to turn it off. This is the dumbest escape plan I’ve ever heard. Sgt. McNair and Joe catch up to them, grab the gun back, and the manager hightails it through the fence without getting zapped. Charlie, right behind him, does get zapped. Janet pulls him back out of danger and she gets a little singed too. Why anyone would go out on a limb to save the two old guys is beyond me, but Moira treats Charlie’s burns while McNair plans the next move with Joe. Why does he keep calling Joe sir?
Meanwhile, Tori’s lying on her bed, looking paralyzed. Don’t celebrate just yet; she’s not dead, just flashbacking to a scene where she confronts her dad in public about some dirty politician secret. Moira drops by for another visit. Tori feels hung over and Moira says maybe she’s depressed.
Come and see, she says, the butterfly’s hatched! Or whatever you call it when butterflies come out of their cocoons. Now I’m no lepidopterist, but I seem to remember from old biology films that it takes butterflies awhile to de-cocoon themselves, and then their wings have to dry out and all this stuff. It takes hours. And time is the one thing they have plenty of in this place, so why rush things? The plot must be served, though, and Moira thinks that setting the butterfly free would be good therapy. “I’d like to do that Moira, I really would!” “Me too!” Did I mention this guy wrote The Usual Suspects? I bet having a bunch of badass characters with crazy accents kind of covers up the flaws in one’s dialogue.
Cubby Reporter… is a sucktastic nickname. The guy’s real name is… Mark Renbe. Which might possibly be worse.
The reporter with the funny hair and funny name meets his police contact in an Irish pub. Yeah, I know. Cops, Irish, I get it. Way to cop out on the stereotypes. (Cop out! See what I did there?) The cop’s only working with Renbe because he owes Renbe something, which I assume will come out later. There’s ugly stuff in Janet Cooper’s file, and I have to stop for breath because the names are coming fast and furious now. I should have turned on captioning two seasons ago. Come to think of it, I did use it two seasons ago when I was doing House. You try spelling “sarcoidosis” without it. Janet’s been through the wringer, her ex-husband (ish; the cop isn’t really clear on that) is a scumbag who left her when she was pregnant, etc, etc. Her interest in Joe is making more sense now. The cop hands over Janet’s file, and Renbe has it for all of two minutes before he gets jumped while leaving the pub with it.
Lucky for us, the mugger’s moonlighting from a Guy Ritchie movie and can’t keep his mouth shut. His client hired him because Renbe’s got no respect for civility, or something. I’m gonna go with Janet’s mom, it’s the obvious answer. Chatty thug pistol-whips Renbe, gets the evidence, and for all I know goes into the pub to chew the bartender’s ear off.
It’s a dark and stormy night back in Happy Town. Wait. Wrong summer mystery? I get them all mixed up. Moira’s excitedly telling the class about Tori’s butterfly, but she uses big words like “chrysalis” and “pupa”, so Salesbill has no idea what she’s talking about. Her science lecture is interrupted by an actual explosion out on the street, which is much cooler. With the storm and the small-town-Main-street vibe, I can’t help but wonder if Marty McFly just pulled up in a DeLorean out there. McNair thinks lightning hit the Smokey fence and this is their big chance to escape. Instead of just I don’t know, sending someone down the street to check, they decide to all jump in the restaurant’s van, hotwire it (good thing they have a car salesman on staff, huh?), drive off and see what happens. (+1 for me because I mentioned hotwiring last week.) But first, Joe says they need a diversion. Why? Just go get in the van! Be glad for the flawed logic, though, because it gives us this:
While Moira brings the crazy to the kitchen help, Renbe visits his boss. She’s worried about him.
He’s decided to bail on Janet’s case and go back to being the King of Sick.
“Oh, nothing to do with that very small bandage on my completely unswollen forehead. Now where were we? I believe you were worried?”
So anyway, our Magnificent Seven steal the van, drive to the end of the street, hit the Smokey fence and… nothing happens. Off they drive into the forest, already celebrating victory, while all of us who’ve seen these shows before are shaking our heads sadly. There’s a bright flash of light as they get up to 88 mph and…
Yep, right back to town. They pull up in front of the hotel, and the best moment of the series so far happens:
Next morning, the camp is still in shock. And by “shock” I mean they’re doing exactly what they would be doing on any other day. Getting up, brushing teeth, setting butterflies free to watch them get zapped by the fence.
Some therapy, says Tori. Moira admits she’s a patient, not a shrink, and she’s got “truth issues”. I knew it. Tori has plenty of experience with “truth issues”, if her flashback is any indication. I’d say Moira’s plan to get her to switch teams just hit a minor roadblock.
Janet’s moral dilemma is getting more poignant by the minute. The phone rings as she looks at the gun and the pics of her daughter (whose name is Megan, BTW). The phone rings, and who should be on the other line but the little angel herself? Too bad this town is on AT&T and the reception goes bad after “Mommy?” And then Grandma takes the phone.
So Janet goes over to Joe’s room and waves the gun at him while showing him her fortune. No no NO. Just shoot the guy. Please. No one will miss him. Too late, Joe’s talked her out of it. She shoots the camera instead… and a new one just pops into its place.
So I have to admit I got a little sucked in by the freaky goings-on this week. With Lost, it was when we learned John Locke was a paraplegic off-island. With Heroes, it was when Hiro time-traveled into post-apocalyptic New York. And tonight, when the van teleported back into the middle of town–what can I say, I’m a sucker for a good “WTF?” moment. Only gripe I have is it ended about 5 minutes too late. Driving back into town should really have been the last scene.
So are they in the Matrix, or what? I got a good Dollhouse vibe from some of the seekrit conspiracy stuff, but I haven’t really bought any of the characters yet. Crackpot theory of the week: it’s a game, and each of the seven prisoners is being “played” in a competition by a different Sinister Puppet Master. Just a thought. It’s sort of starting to get decent, y’all. See you next week!