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Alcatraz - "Cal Sweeney"

Written by DrImprobable, Outhouse Contributor on Tuesday, January 31 2012 and posted in Reviews

The most brutalised victim on this show is subtlety.

Welp, we're back, folks. This week's episode picks right up with a snazzy looking Don Draper type requesting access to his safety deposit box. The attractive female teller unhesitatingly has him follow her, which would be sort of weird (how does she know his name? Aren't you required to ask for identification even if you know someone?), but then they start making out. After a bit of snogging, he knocks her out Dexter style and uses her keys to rob the safety deposit boxes, pausing only to admire a sapphire necklace and to murder an Asian man in a way that would make Anton Chigurh proud.

We head back to Alcatraz, 1960, and our criminal is working in the laundry. We establish: 1) he runs the black market within the prison, 2) he's a cold-hearted criminal, no room for love or emotion, 3) he lost something from his cell that he seems rather upset about.

In the present day Rebecca and Soto are enjoying some morning dumplings (well, Rebecca's enjoying them anyway) while Soto explains that he published a Criminology paper on crime prevention, using Gotham City as a model. That's... that's pretty awesome, actually. Could someone on the forum please write up an outline of his thesis? Plus he did it on purpose because he didn't want to do the PhDs, he just wanted to read comics all day, so this was a way to get him blacklisted from the academic community, rather than explaining that to his parents. Good conflict management skills, right there.


Madsen gets the call about the deposit boxes and they find Hauser in the back room. She and Soto have established the perp must be Cal Sweeny, due to the nature of his crime- he only robs the boxes, not the money. (The money is insured, so that would be a federal crime.) (Also, if he never technically committed a federal crime, how did he land in Alcatraz?) They interview his surviving victim, who explains how he conned her. Team Alcatraz decides to contact the owners to find out what was in the boxes, but Sweeny's a step ahead of them.

After our melodramatic intro, we return to Sweeny and one of the box owners. Sweeny is asking him about the contents, and fixates on the sapphire necklace. He begins asking increasingly personal questions about it. When the victim gets suspicious, Sweeny starts waving the necklace around and then stabs his hand with the cattle bolt.

In 1960, Sweeny demands the return of his lost item, but instead is rewarded with a less-than-ideal business partner- E.B. Tiller. Sweeny and his apprentice hatch a plan to infiltrate a party for the warden, so Sweeny can talk to Tiller in private. Because somehow that will help.

Soto and Madsen head to William Barry's (the victim of the robbery and husband to the sapphire necklace's owner) house, where his wife is conveniently leaving her car exactly when they show up. Honestly, the timing of everything in this show is a little too convenient. Of course, the wife and her outrageous orange hair find him dead. Meanwhile, Sweeny's already moved on to a new con, since San Francisco is overflowing with desperate, middle-aged, red-headed women.

Sweeny and his apprentice set up for the party, while Warden James, elocutionist extraordinaire, doles out some light threats. We're also introduced to Tiller's "gimp" sister, who might be mentally challenged but says the first witty thing in this show (it's a joke about her birthday suit). But also, why? Why did they add her character? [Editor's Note: Obviously she's the mastermind behind everything.]

The dinner conversation moves to Dr. Beauregard and Dr. Sangupta, who haven't met yet apparently (though it could be a cover up). Also, the following things weren't the norm in 1960: 1) lady doctors 2) psychologists 3) Indian people. Yet no one seems terribly phased by her, though there is an air of sarcasm when Beauregard addresses her. But she does explain that she's interested in the memories that lead people to commit crimes. So congratulations, now we know why we are supposed to care about these flashbacks every week. She suggests pulling an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and removing their traumatic memories. Aha! A possible reason for how the 63s came to be!

In the present, Soto and Madsen examine Sweeny's belongings, and find nothing but a burnt tin box. Hauser comes in to help them figure out where Sweeny's run off to, and after comparing the bank footage (banks these days must have really high definition security cameras), figure out both tellers have the same flowers. At the flower shop, they get his order history and identify a potential target. Detectives away!

Sweeny's already got his next victim in his clutches, but she's a wily one and manages to trip the alarm before he knocks her out. He robs the boxes, but does a terrible job of leaving unnoticed, and the cops pull up right then (more perfect timing- this is getting absurd). So he takes the bank hostage. So much for trying to get all the criminals without drawing attention to them...

Flashback to Tiller's party, where he receives an uninspired speech and a pen. E.B. (or Elijah, if you prefer) overreacts to spilt coffee, and goes to the bathroom to wash it off, where Sweeny corners him. He wants his box back, and to convey this, gives Tiller a swirly. But Tiller learns the pen really is mightier (hur hur hur) and stabs Sweeny in the leg. Sweeny gets solitary, which seems to be where the 63s go to time travel.

In the present, Hauser pulls some federal jurisdiction bullshit and Soto (still trying not to call him Hurley) and Madsen plan to break in through the vents, because a five-year-old wrote this part. She goes in unarmed, and when Sweeny confronts her, tells him she's going to break him out. And that she knows who he is. He is intrigued.


Madsen's plan centres around a duffle bag we don't get to see the inside of, but which is obviously a costume. Hauser is still arguing with the local police force to slow them down. Suddenly, there are gun shots, and a smoke bomb, and everyone clears out of the building, including Madsen and a cop, who suspiciously does not stick around to keep helping, but instead gets in her car. Surprise! It's Sweeny.

Hauser's vehicle is blocked by an ambulance, so he has to sully himself by riding after them in Soto's Camero. They bicker like an old married couple, and it's hilarious, and then Sweeny pulls a gun on Madsen. Hauser criticises Soto's slow driving, and we learn that the last time he drove he was 11, so obviously it's related to his Traumatic Past. The writers on this show really need to look up "subtlety." Rebecca breaks away from them with the power of police sirens, and they let her go.

Flashback to the most egregious abuse of subtlety in this whole show (which is saying something), where the apprentice just flat-out explains that Sweeny lost his entire family in a fire. The only thing that survived was the old tin box. Cal's protégé slides the box over, continuing the horribly written taunting, and it's clear he's pulled a power play and set Sweeny up. The student has become the master. Right before Cal is led off to solitary, he crushes the box, and by extension, his attachment to the past. Yeah, nice try with symbolism, show.

Madsen asks what Sweeny went through so much trouble to steal, and he holds up a jewellery bag. But he won't open it, because he's not supposed to. Madsen ignores this, realises Sweeny's going to kill her, and also realises he wasn't around when seatbelt laws really took off. She crashes the cop car into a parked car, knocking him out. She also takes his gun and the bag, but we don't get to see what's inside. Yet.

Soto and Madsen reflect a bit on the work they've done, and Madsen shows him what's in the bag- another big key, obviously to a cell or something else large and important. Hauser asks for it, and she plays ignorant, and someone actually had the gall to make Sam Neill say, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way." She agrees to give it to him if he tells her what it's for, and he nods. He takes the key, and then doesn't tell her anything.

Hauser takes the key to his secret-cell-within-a-secret-cell (cellception?), where a handful of scientists run analysis on it and Sylvane's. All we find out is that they aren't identical and were laser cut, which shouldn't have been possible in 1960. 

In our final scene, Edwin James is leading the protégé down to some damp, dark cavern, where he uses those keys (and another) to open an old door. He tells the kid not to be shy, and pitches him into whatever's behind that door.

I have to admit, I'm actually caught up in the intrigue a little bit now- what was Lucy actually doing to the inmates? What's behind that door? Was Hauser actually in on whatever was happening or is he cleaning up after the mess? What irritates me (besides the complete lack of subtlety about absolutely everything) is that Rebecca doesn't really seem to care that much. She's just along for the ride. Soto wants to ask questions, but he's too scared of Hauser (and let's face it, Sam Neill is sort of creepy) to bring it up, but Madsen is tough and capable of standing up for herself. So why does she let him walk all over her? It doesn't seem to fit her character. Also, what was with the whole sapphire necklace thing? They set it up like Sweeny was into the wife or something, and then kind of forgot about it. Was it just supposed to show that he was sad he didn't have any personal items to his name? I guess when the show does try subtlety it completely misses the mark. I'll stop before this gets any longer- I try not to speculate because just recapping all the minute details with a dash of sarcasm takes up enough words.

Written or Contributed by: DrImprobable, Outhouse Contributor

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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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