…And you thought B-Side would be handling the Prison Break recaps. Ha! Alas, you’re stuck with me, sg-dub, TVgasm veteran of such classic reality fare as Project Greenlight, I Want to be a Hilton, Surreal Life, and The Cut. In a sense, I’ve been in “Prison” myself, writing about that dreck for months – and it’s time for me to “Break” free with a dramatic show that people actually watch. So, gee, thanks J-Unit and B-Side for pumping up this show yesterday and today. It’s not like I feel any pressure to recap one of the most anticipated 2 hour premieres of the fall season! Hell, I’m not sure I even know how to write a recap of a show I actually liked…
Hello. My name is sg-dub and I’m an alcoholic. Oops… Wrong blog. Hello. My name is sg-dub and I’m capable of recapping shows I enjoy. [Crickets] Seriously… I swear! Goddamnit, at this point, I’m not sure I even believe that. But without further procrastination, let’s get on with it. I mean, there’s a character on the show named Teabag, so what the hell am I waiting for?The premiere opened with our hero, Michael Scofield, getting a full body tattoo courtesy of the former 4 Non Blonds lead singer. I was wondering what she was up to these days – nice to see she’s getting some day acting work. Michael took it like a man and retreated to his office, which was cluttered with all sorts of articles and computer equipment. I had read a few articles about the show prior to watching and I knew that it was “clever” and contained many clues throughout. So, like many TV dorks around the country, I tried to read and remember what each newspaper clipping headline read as he ripped them off his walls. There was one about insulin therapy for Type 1 diabetes, there was another about – oh hell, the next thing I knew he was tossing his hard drive into the river far below. One reason I missed what a few of the clippings said was because I was aghast at one of the credits that popped up onscreen: Brett Ratner, Director. At that point I almost pulled a Michael Scofield and ripped my TiVo out and threw it out my window. But I had a job to do, Ratner be damned.
The lightning pace of these opening set-up scenes continued as the scene shifted to another day where a smartly dressed Michael was shooting a gun into the ceiling of the bank he was robbing. The cowering teller implored him to just take the half million dollars he already had in his briefcase and make his getaway since her boss was at White Castle and therefore no one could access the safe. Hey, if Harold and Kumar taught me anything, it’s that when a man wants his square burger, a man’s gonna get his square burger – ain’t no little armed robbery gonna stop him. The police arrived, surrounded the building, and Michael promptly gave up. What gives? Two seconds ago he was a full-on gun-toting reprobate and now he’s a capitulating wuss. Hmmmm….
Fast forward a few weeks to his trial, where Judge Dennisa Rodman was presiding. With no argument, Michael pleaded “no contest” and didn’t put up a fight regarding his felony charges. His pretty lawyer, Veronica, was incredulous – she simply couldn’t believe her client was essentially signing his life away. By not arguing these charges, previously non-violent Michael was agreeing to be sent to a state penitentiary! Who would do such a thing?! Hmmmm… And so, he was sentenced to five years at Fox River State Pen with no parole available for a year. And yet, Michael seemed somehow placated and almost happy with all these horrible twists of fate. Is he like some sort of super masochistic gay Oz fan who wanted to live out some crazy prison rape fantasy? Or was it something else?
That answer would surely come soon enough, but first Michael had to be processed and checked into the prison. You’d think with a name like “Fox River,” the prison would have some nice rolling hills, a babbling brook, and a couple foppish Brits in Lands End anoraks cantering about on horseback – but no, it appeared to be a real (slightly urban) prison with a bunch of grizzled criminals in giant granny panties. As each new prisoner was deloused and cavity searched, there was our handsome hero Michael greeting the bitter guard, Bellick. Ah, clever writers; Bellick = bellicose. Bellick is the first complete cliche of the prison drama, but at least he does a good job of it. While completing his check-in, we notice that Michael’s medical report states that he is a Type 1 diabetic. A-ha! A clue! Oh, wait… I think we already gleaned that from his papers back at the office. Damn.
As Michael was acclimating to his new home, his sweet and friendly roommate Sucre was explaining the ways of prison life. Just then, while Michael was watching from his cell, a prisoner was stabbed in the kidney by another from behind. “Welcome to ‘Prisneyland,’ Fish,” intoned Sucre. Ah, I get it… The cellmate is comic relief. Too bad for Michael; I have a feeling he’s going to be more of the Whoopi Comic Relief type of funny rather than actually, y’know, “funny” funny. While Michael was bonding in prison, his lawyer Veronica was still losing sleep over her client’s strange behavior. It’s nice to see a criminal defense lawyer who actually cares about her clients… I mean, it’s almost like she had a longtime relationship with Michael. It turns out, she does. Another clue?! And for the record, Michael is prisoner #94941 – another clue?! Yes, actually it is. It’s a clue which says that if you care to remember that, you are a total geek nearing Trekkie levels.
The next day out in the prison yard, Michael seems pensive as he scans the scene laid out before him: The blacks playing basketball over there, the whites lifting weights over there, the Latinos milling about over there… And there are some pay phones! A steam vent! A fire hydrant! A sewer grate! Clues up the wazoo! I half expected a blue dog to start hopping about and a dork named Steve to explain to us what a fire hydrant is. Michael made his way over to the grate and apparently didn’t like the latest issue of Loft magazine, as he serruptitiously dropped it into the sewer. Damn, Loft magazine’s big break on a primetime network TV show and its scene is in a prison sewer. Worst product placement. Ever. Michael then caught a glimpse of a guy working alone in another section of the prison yard. He began asking Sucre about him. Lincoln Burroughs was the name, murdering the Vice President’s brother was his game. He was scheduled to die in the electric chair in one month’s time and he was virtually inaccessible. Unless… Unless one was to get close with the local mafia don, John Andruzzi. Because, in this prison, a deathrow inmate can continue to work amongst the general population, and Andruzzi controlled who got “employed” on the team. “Buy why,” wondered Sucre to Michael, “Do you care about Lincoln Burroughs?”
“Because he’s my brother.” Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod! If only FOX didn’t reveal this fact in its month-long advertising campaign buildup. If only every previewer didn’t explain the entire plot of the show before I watched it, that would have been AWESOME. Despite the lack of surprise, it was still a very impacting scene. And godDAMN that Michael Scofield has some penetrating eyes. After the artfully timed commercial break, we were treated to a flashback wherein an imprisoned Lincoln was talking to a then-free Michael, explaining that he was innocent and was totally set up by “someone” who wants him killed. Flash forward to Michael’s cell where his Hispanic cellie Sucre was writing a letter to his girlfriend. He was proposing marriage to her and was asking how to spell “passion.” “Is that with an h?” Ah, stereotypes… Hey FOX, not all prisoners are bad spellers!
At this point, the show switched to an out-of-place little scene with some kid buying a couple pounds of pot and getting busted by the cops. I’ll rip through this story arc now, because every time the show switched to it, it annoyed me. The kid was LJ and he’s Lincoln’s son. Michael was a father figure to him, but then he went and purposely got arrested and imprisoned so he could be with his brother – in the hopes to escape with him before the execution date. Later, LJ’s mom brought him to prison to get some “fatherly advice” from Lincoln but it fell on deaf ears. When Lincoln expressed exasperation about the fact that he was going to die soon, LJ spat, “You’re already dead to me.” Lincoln then returned to his cell to find a bloody horse’s head in his bed. Got all that? Good, because I will not mention that punk LJ again. And I made up the horse part.
Alright, the show really started picking up here, so stick with me. Back in the yard, Michael approached the local mafia guy, Andruzzi (who happens to be the ugliest dude on TV at the moment), to ask him if he could join the work detail. This was, of course, an asinine request from a newbie like Michael. “Oh yeah,” thought Michael, “I’ll show you what you’re missing out on.” He then flung a little origami duck at him and strutted away. Now, I know the social norms and caste systems in prison are different than what we are used to. But when showing a guy up with origami skills is all you’ve got, dude, at least come up with something cool like a robot or even a bear. A duck? That’s just weak. OR WAS IT A CLUE?! As if to tell us viewers that yes, of course it was a clue, the next scene took place in a meat processing plant when one mafia guy mumbled something to another mafia guy. Skipping ahead in the show a little bit, to keep me sane here, the meatpacking mafia guy calls Andruzzi in prison and discusses with him that “somebody knows where Fibonacci is” in the witness protection program. Oh yeah, who? The meatpacker doesn’t know who but he does mention that the proof of this knowledge included an origami duck! Aha! Why do I think Prison Break geeks will latch onto origami ducks as “their” symbol?
As if that weren’t enough with the ducks, Michael visited the hot prison doctor (FOX once again doing its part to further the woman’s equality movement with a female lawyer and female doctor. The fact that they are both young and pretty mean nothing, please move along) for an infected tattoo. Turns out, the good doctor is the Governor’s daughter and not very observant. For as she turned around to read some charts, Michael was able to scamper across the room and drop another origami duck down a drain in the floor. And here I was expecting him to whip up one of those origami roses for the doctor. You remember, those things that the Asian kid kept making and giving to all the girls at the 8th grade formal dance? Not today, as Michael had more important things to worry about, I suppose. Like getting some alone time with his brother, for one. After a church service that morning, he does just that and quietly promises to orchestrate an escape for both of them. Lincoln sighed and said it was impossible but Michael replied, “Not if you designed the place.” Another “hmmmm-worthy” moment.
Phew, what a show. And we’ve got a long ways to go, so get comfortable. At this point I’m unfortunately noticing that Prison Break does not contain (yet) any of those ridiculous plot twists or impossibilities like 24. This sucks for me because there’s really not much to make fun of… The show kicks ass, plain and simple. Christ, please give me a teenage Arab with an afro at some point. C’mon, FOX… I’ll give you an origami duck! Alas, no Behrooz and no lispy IT nerd. Instead we get two guys in suits cryptically informing us that “Bishop McMorrow is not in the fold.” Bishop F’ing McMorrow? Who is that? Dapper men in suits? Why? Like the LJ story arc, I’ll tie this one up here as well. See, Bishop McMorrow is the top Catholic dog in the city and he opposes the death penalty on principle. Lincoln is scheduled to die in a month and apparently he simply must not live any longer than that for some reason. So, in other words, the Bishop can’t be allowed to go through his namby pamby anti-death penalty gibberish, extending Lincoln’s life – even by a day. So the two suits visit McMorrow personally and try to blackmail him, but he doesn’t bite. Later, while the Bishop was sleeping (dreaming pure thoughts, no doubt), an unseen assassin murdered him. Oh, and get this: The two guys in the suits were… Secret Service agents! Screw the DaVinci code, we’ve got Prison Break! Now all we need is the Pope to get involved.
Back at Fox River prison, Michael was meeting with the warden. That would be Warden Pope – no joke. Turns out that the Warden did his homework on Michael and knows he lied on his background check. Uh-oh, the gig is up! Rather than being unemployed, as he noted, Pope knew that he was actually a structural engineer. And? And? The warden would like his assistance with his scale model of the Taj Mahal, which is to be a gift for his wife on their anniversary, not his kid’s science fair project as you’d hope. What if… If the Taj Mahal is in India, and Warden Pope is played by Stacy Keach, and Stacy Keach used to play Mike Hammer… What if Michael is going to get a special hammer to dig his way through the earth to India? So many clues… head… hurting… Despite the generous offer, Michael declines, much to the consternation of the warden. Afterwards, Michael has a meeting with Veronica (his lawyer, remember?) and tells her to find out who’s trying to “bury” his brother.
At this point, the other storylines with the kid and the pot, Bishop McMorrow, and the mafia guys played out. Also, while in the yard, Michael notices his Loft magazine is still lodged perpendicular to the flow of the water in the drainage pipe. And lo! He also notices the magazine did its job and stopped the origami duck he released earlier up at the prison infirmary, when he was getting treated for the infected tattoo! Conclusion: Origami ducks are cute. After his experiment proved worthy, Micheal chatted it up with the resident old guy with an abnormal affinity for an animal. Every prison movie/show has one… This one was named Westmoreland and he had a cat named Marilyn. I’m not sure if any of that matters, but I thought I’d be thorough here since it’s the premiere. While Michael was talking to Westmoreland, Andruzzi and his thugs decided they didn’t like origami ducks and proceeded to beat the crap out of our handsome Michael. Conclusion: Origami ducks are not cute to evil henchmen. Damn you ducks, I’ll figure you out yet! As a result of getting beaten up, the warden decides Michael will spend 90 days in “the shoe.” But since Lincoln is scheduled to die much sooner, Michael pulls his trump card and promises to help Warden Pope with his popsicle stick Taj Mahal. Amazingly, this worked and spared him from solitary confinement. Slick.
At this point, the Bishop was sent to heaven by the aforementioned unseen assailant. When lawyer Veronica heard the news, she decided that Michael may actually be on to something and decided to probe further into Lincoln’s situation. Back in prison, Sucre was enjoying a conjugal visit from his girlfriend who happily accepted his marriage proposal. They banged, he mentioned some concern about some guy named Hector and she left. I refuse to mention this lame storyline anymore – unless it becomes integral. 24 suffers from this same distracting problem too. Anyway, to wrap up the first hour, Dr. Tancredi has noticed that Michael’s blood is reacting to his insulin shots as if he’s not really a Type 1 diabetic but he hardly hears her as he’s staring out the window scanning for what we can only assume are possible escape routes. He was listening, however, as he proved later when he asked the local “drug dealer” to procure him some insulin blocker drug. Also, Andruzzi agreed to get him onto the work detail – since he figured out that Michael and his ducks know where Fibannacci is. And for whatever reason, Fibannacci’s location is the single most important thing in the world to Prison Break’s mafia crew.
The first hour ended with Michael and Lincoln alone in a changing area while Lincoln continued to naysay the escape plan. Before Lincoln could get too down on the idea, Michael revealed one of the totally badass parts of his scheme. His entire upper torso is one giant, elaborate tattoo. But this isn’t just any old tattoo… It contains the actual blueprints (as well as other clues) of the entire prison! Even with the help of the handy dandy graphics department (it was akin to the constellations which look like absolutely nothing at all – even after the planetarium guy clicks on the laser connect-the-dots), we viewers still couldn’t see the patterns, but who cares – that shit was dope.
But that shit only marked the halfway point of the 2 hour premiere. Now that the background plots have all been laid down, I’m sure the second hour won’t require as much recapping. Plus, if you didn’t see the show (which is airing again later this week), you’re still wondering about the title of the recap. Patience, people, patience. First, Michael needed to get cracking on the next phase of his plan: deciphering his tattoos. Even though he painstakingly designed them, he still needed to double check the name “Allen Schweitzer” in an upside down mirror and the numbers, 111211147. Are you writing these clues down? I hope so, because its shakedown time, and all contraband in each cell was about to be found. And wouldn’t you know it, Michael’s roommate had a shank which happened to be in Michael’s hand as CO Bellick came sauntering by. Even more conveniently, Warden Pope was in tow and since he really needs his Taj Mahal built, he saw through the ruse and threw Sucre into “the shoe” for a couple weeks. Good, maybe we won’t have to deal with his distracting dialog anymore.
Thanks to a quick flashback of Michael reviewing some prison specs and the number 11121147, we learned that that corresponded to a particular machine screw. Before we could wonder too long about this, Michael was out in the yard walking and feeling around underneath the bleachers. Unfortunately for him, these weren’t just any old set of bleachers, these were the “Creepy sex offender child rapist stereotypical gay prisoner bleachers.” I HATE when that happens… you go out for a day at the ballpark to catch the local minor league ballclub and before you know it, some wild eyed pedophile is all up in your face telling you to toss his salad. What I’m saying is, I felt for my boy Michael. The leader of the deviant gang was named Teabag. Yeah, that’s right… this show somehow slipped the name Teabag past network sensors. And if you don’t know why I find that funny, then you didn’t get the “toss my salad” reference either and oh… you need to live a little. Come hang out at the TVgasm offices and you’ll be tossing salads while teabagging before you know it. It’s called “initiation.”
Anyway, it turned out that not only was Teabag a rapist and sexually manipulative, he was also racist. While FOX accepted “Teabag,” they didn’t go for the N word so we are stuck with a season of hearing the derogatory term “rugheads.” I guess I can live with that. Bottom line: Michael didn’t get the screw from the bleacher that he needed and showing up to try again would be crazy since he’d have to deal with Teabag’s creepy gang. But he needed that damn screw for some reason so the very next time out in the yard, he was back at it, slowly unscrewing the the thing. Tsk-tsk, nobody gets a screw without a Teabag in those parts, so although he did get it out, Michael was summarily beaten and his screw was taken by one of Teabag’s minions. It was then that we learned this gang referred to themselves as “The Family.” Hmmm, what other show on TV right now has a contemptible band of gay and gayish jerks with a name eerily similar to “The Family?”
Out in the free world, Veronica was busy poking around in an effort to make sense of what was going on – all the while making sure to look good while doing so. We learned that Lincoln’s murder case was an open and shut one, with a clear motive and a murder weapon that was found at his house along with the victim’s blood. Well, at least we know that Lincoln didn’t live in Los Angeles, as that certainly wouldn’t be enough to convict. All that was missing was a videotape of the actual murder… no sooner did I think that did a guy gave Veronica a surveillence tape of the actual murder being committed. I don’t care how many origami ducks you butter up a jury with… it would be hard to convince them that Lincoln was innocent. However, Veronica visited Lincoln in an effort to set the record straight. According to him, it was all a set up and he did enter the garage with a gun but he was told that he’d be shooting a “scummy drug dealer,” and that when he got to the car, the person in it was already dead. Riiiiight. Veronica left the prison in a huff.
Meanwhile, Michael was still fixated on that screw, even asking Andruzzi for help in getting it back. While engaged in this discussion, the singularly obsessed guard Bellick was sifting through Michael’s cell. Just when it looked like he was about to quit in frustration, he noted a pad of paper with the telltale indentation of writing on it. So he used the old Bloodhound Gang pencil shading trick and was able to discern the words, “Allen Schweitzer, 111211147.” Knowing he was on to something, Bellick tore off to begin dissecting the prison records and visitor logs. Instead of fixating on Michael, the guard should have been more aware of the rising tide of racial tension. The prison was gearing up for a full on race riot and no one seemed to notice. Shivs and makeshift knives were being passed around like Hepititis C and HIV. Shit was about to go DOWN.
Since Michael needed the screw from the “Hitler Youth” Teabag group but also needed his insulin blocking drugs from one of the black leaders, he was caught in the middle of the race war. In one scene, the drug dealer guy watched as Michael attempted to steal his screw back, got caught, and out of necessity, befriended the gay racist guys. Since they were more or less the leaders of the white power movement, this didn’t sit well with the black contingent. Shoot, if there was ever a time for some goodwill origami, that time was now. Unfortunately, before Michael could fold even one piece of paper, the blacks ambushed him and knocked him around a bit. Uh-oh, this meant he wouldn’t get his insulin blocker and that meant the hot Dr. Tancredi would realize he’s not diabetic which meant that he couln’t continue to hash out his elaborate escape plans. Arrrrrrgh!
Right now you’re wondering, so what’s up with the mafia guys? Good question, as Andruzzi was visited by a couple of corny-looking mobsters who essentially told him that he needed to get the information out of Michael as to Fibannacci’s whereabouts using any means necessary. At this point, the white power guys hated Michael for pissing off Teabag, the blacks hated him for pissing off the drug dealer guy, the mafia guys hated him for withholding info on Fibannacci, his lawyer hated him for lying about Lincoln’s case, the guard Bellick hated him for being just too damn handsome, and I’m sure Westmoreland’s cat hated him too – but cats hate everyone, so that one doesn’t count. (His nice little roommate, Sucre, was still stuck in solitary in case you forgot.) And also remember the blacks and whites were on the verge of war and ding-ding-ding, Leeeeeet’s get ready to rumble! There’s the bell and random white guy stabs random black guy and then everyone goes crazy, stabbing anyone of a different race – pretty grizzly primetime fare. The key during the fight was that Michael was able to steal his giant screw back from Teabag’s boytoy who then promptly got murdered. So now Teabag REALLY hated Michael.
With all this excitement on the inside, which resulted in a 48 hour lockdown, the show then chose to focus on the outside. Veronica got the name of a kid named Crab Simmons and sought to find him. She approached Crab’s mom and after asking her of his whereabouts, she was told that Crab was dead. Just then, we were shown a profile of a face peeking through the upstairs curtains at Veronica. “Hey, weren’t you the bald chick in that Empire Records movie,” the person screamed. I lied, the mystery person didn’t say anything, but it was at that point in the show when I realized where I’d seen Robin Tunney the actress before. But the mystery person did contact Veronica and convinced her to meet.
Leticia Brown was the mysterious window watcher and while appearing to be a meth addict jonesing for a hit, she had some very compelling information for Veronica. Crab Simmons was her brother (I think) and Leticia knew that both Crab and Lincoln Burroughs were innocent pawns in a much bigger game. Her intense paranoia was a bit disconcerting as she kept noting that “they” were never far away and that they had to be super careful from here on out. Veronica thought it was all a bunch of hooey, but as the camera pulled away, there were those two prick Secret Service guys eating hotdogs with wires in their ears. As if we didn’t have enough to keep track of, the next scene was of a bucolic house in Blackfoot, Montana where an older well-to-do woman was busy chopping garlic. The same Secret Service guys were on the phone with her explaining the situation with Veronica snooping around. The old lady responded, “Anyone that’s a threat to what we’re doing is expendable.” Wow, she’s a regular Mother Angelica.
OK, the premiere came to a close back in prison where Michael, now with the screw and with 48 hours worth of lockdown to deal with, was busy scraping the giant screw on the cement floor of his cell. Was he fashioning a shiv of his own? Was he making skates for his origami ducks to cruise around on? No… he was shaving down the end of the quarter inch diameter screw into a hexagonal shape. In fact, one could call it an allen wrench. But for what? The Schweitzer toilets installed in each cell perhaps? That’s right, “Allen Schweitzer” was an allen wrench for the Schweitzer toilet mounting bracket which, when removed, could facilitate an escape. Bravo, Prison Break… it’s so rare to have an actual clever moment on network TV, bravo. Also, after the lockdown was over, the black drug dealer guy gave Michael the drugs he needed just before his weekly checkup. Amazingly, the insulin blockers worked their magic immediately, so he’ll be able to continue to visit the infirmary under the guise of being diabetic. Boy, I wish I knew that trick during the wrestling portion of gym class back in the day.
Michael’s little victories were interrupted the next day out in the yard when Andruzzi and his gang cornered Michael in one of those hidden-away sheds with sharp garden implements that every prison has. Andruzzi was pissed and needed to know where Fibonacci was hiding out. In order to get this information from him, Andruzzi’s thugs took off Michael’s shoe and clamped a set of mean-looking loppers onto his pinky toe. If he wouldn’t give up the info, they’d chop off his little toe. It wasn’t quite Chase cutting his hand off a couple 24′s ago, but damn… this was still pretty badass.
Needless to say, Michael’s little piggy won’t be going to any markets again. What did you think of the premiere? Was it as good as it was billed? Who was the old lady in Montana? Why was that kid named Crab? What other questions do you have?