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Alcatraz - "Paxton Petty"

Written by DrImprobable on Tuesday, February 14 2012 and posted in Reviews

Tread softly and carry a gun to shoot your enemy in the kneecap.

They say when one door closes another opens. This proves true as Fox continues to not understand the point of Hulu, and started putting Alcatraz on a week-long delay before posting ("Guy Hastings" is just up today); but my roommate informed me that we do actually get their channel on our bunny ears (yeah we have an antenna, what's up 1975?), it's just up on number 26, lost among telenovelas and evangelist spirit cleansings. Anyway, this week's episode "Paxton Petty" ever so slightly slakes some of our curiosity about Emerson Hauser. It also shows how distracting bad writing is when you don't have a good actor to cover it up.

Caution: this recap is basically a 1500 word Alcatraz spoiler.

We open in the 1960s with a seasick young Emerson Hauser on the ferry to Alcatraz. He's bringing our criminal-of-the-week, Paxton Petty, to The Rock. Waiting for him on solid land is Warden James, who spouts his usual grandiloquent threats. Also waiting is Lucy, who gives Hauser a mint after his failed attempt at chivalry. Happy Valentine's Day, folks.

Present day Hauser is still on vigil at Lucy's coma bed, and he plays some classy old music (I confess to being not classy enough to know what it is) while a doctor indicates her condition hasn't changed. She brings up Lucy's DNR requests. Hauser tries to kill the doctor with his glare and very nearly succeeds.

We move to a dog park, where a man is gruesomely blown up by a landmine. I don't care if humans get blown up, but don't you dare hurt innocent puppies. Madsen and Soto show up, and we get a quick-and-dirty background on Petty, sponsored by Apple's iPad. He blows people up because of PTSD from Korea or whatever. Petty is in the crowd and begins suspiciously walking away. Madsen sees this and pursues him, but he has a knapsack full of landmines, and activates one and rolls it at her- she cowers behind a car as he flees, and I wonder how that car's owner will explain that to his insurance company.

We return from our intro to see Soto (understandably) worrying about Madsen's most recent brush with death. He points out these guys must have someone helping them obtain their weapons, making some comic parallels along the way. Madsen spots a bomb squad friend of hers we've never seen before this episode. He's black and he's a good guy, which basically is the JJ Abrams' world equivalent of being a Red Shirt, so I have $100 bucks on him being dead by the end of the episode. (Spoiler: I'm a winner.) Soto is adorably jealous.


We're treated to a gratuitous shot of the bomb victim's charred leg stump in the morgue. [Editor's Note: I nearly choked on the sandwich I was eating during this scene, much to the delight of my wife, who happens to see this stuff all the time (only for reals). ] Madsen and Soto are down there to further establish how the mines work, but also so that the hot coroner lady can reveal she's a comic (specifically the Golden Age Sandman) fan and Soto can drool over her a little.

Hauser, meanwhile, pulls out not Petty's things but his own. We get a glimpse of him and Lucy together in the past. Poor tragic lovebirds. He also pulls out an old note that contains clues to Petty's mine locations. Sam Neill has the fewest lines of any of our main characters, and yet his character is so delightfully complex. They should do an entire episode of him looking meaningfully at things, which would still have better impact than the writers explaining every detail six times.

In the past, Beauregard tortures Petty in an ice bath, trying to find the rest of his bombs, while Lucy voices her dissent at his methods. She wants to fix him in a more civil way.

In the present, Madsen is asking a gun shop owner about the Silver Star they found in the land mines. She figures since most people don't hand those out casually, Paxton probably stole them from the cemetery he worked at.

Speak of the devil, we find Petty in said cemetery. A groundskeeper/security dude of some sort finds him and Petty unhesitatingly kills him, establishing that he is not one of those tortured, misunderstood criminals, and just an asshole.

After the break, Madsen is explaining to the cemetery owner that they think there's someone digging up bodies. The owner is creeped out, though I have to point out that he himself is sort of creepy. She and Soto don't find any dug up graves, but they reason that he could still have stolen Stars in his stash (say that five times fast), which was never found. Hey, did you know his stash wasn't found? And that he planted a bomb they didn't find? Because don't worry, the show will keep reminding you every five minutes. Anyway, since Madsen is 100% more competent than any detectives from the 60s, she searches the mausoleum that is right behind her, which no one thought of in the past 50 years.

In the past, Lucy's idea of civility is drugging someone's tea and administering electroshock therapy. Also, we get treated for the third time to Petty's backstory. He's bitter he didn't get a Silver Star, despite all the people he blew up in the name of Uncle Sam. He starts singing a Korean lullaby, and we slide forward a bit to Lucy playing it for Tommy Madsen. Madsen asks Lucy why he's in the infirmary and why they're taking his blood. He trades her the song translation for a reason why he's being used as a human pincushion. Also he tells us the lullaby is a key to where the landmines are.


In the present, old Hauser is using a glorified Google Maps to find places that match the key words from the song, because there aren't multiple locations that match words like "pines" and "sunset" in San Francisco.

At the cemetery, they find that Petty broke out of the mausoleum, not into it. Thus, he must have respawned there. They also find landmines and spray paint.

They confer with Madsen's bomb squad buddy Tanner (who emasculates Soto all over again), who is mind-boggled by the fact Madsen found Petty's hide out. Madsen and Hauser argue over the phone about the subtleties of spray paint hue, and Hauser gets more irritatingly cryptic than usual and tells her to find a park with the word "Windward" in it. Meanwhile, Hauser searches "sunset" and sandstone (the colour they decided on for the paint), finding a beach.

The park is clean, but Hauser is driving into trouble. Petty's at the beach setting mines, and of course Hauser steps right on one. Also, we establish Petty is kind of a doucher.

Madsen and Soto stake out the park, and Soto makes a joke about an actual "transparent suit" and they should give him more funny lines because this show needs more comedic relief. To their surprise, Petty shows up. Madsen kicks him in the back and handcuffs him. She realises Hauser's in trouble when she rings him and finds his mobile in Petty's bag.

Madsen locks up her criminal in present-day Alcatraz (full circle) and threatens him to tell her where Hauser is. Paxton tells her Hauser's dead, but she knows he's lying and asks what he wants. He, rather reasonably, demands to know what's going on with the time travel. His little monologue is both poorly written and poorly delivered. I'm glad they don't focus on him at all in the flashbacks. She tells Soto to chat it up with the psychopathic bomber while she digs through Hauser's stuff.

Soto's bullshitting about time travel, Madsen finds the song with the clues circled, and Petty is rambling about his Star again. He gets all high and mighty about his importance, and reveals the existence of a "lady head-shrinker." Soto is confused, because lady doctors weren't a thing on Alcatraz, when Madsen interrupts him. Damn. I was hoping that we'd get Soto and Madsen finally asking some questions about this whole hullabaloo. (Aside: has Rebecca really already come to terms with the my-adopted-uncle-is-my-real-uncle thing?)

Flashback to Lucy circling the key words from the lullaby. She explains his technique and mentions the undiscovered bomb for the fifth time this episode. Beauregard speaks to Lucy about Tommy Madsen, telling her to mind her own business.

In the present, Soto and Madsen find Hauser on the beach.

Bomb squad shows up. Tanner is dusting around the bomb while Madsen and Hauser talk again about the bomb they never found. Of course Petty has jerry-rigged the bomb, making it super hard to dismantle. Tanner accepts the challenge, though. His plan is to have Madsen and Hauser run for it and then quickly cut the wires on the bomb. That... that doesn't seem like much of a plan. Did the writers even consider the idea of not killing off this dude?

Sure enough, Hauser and Madsen make it behind the sandbags, and Tanner cuts the wires but gets blown up anyway. If they knew the explosion wasn't going to be that big (and they'd established that they aren't), why didn't Tanner also hide behind the blast wall and they just let it explode harmlessly in the sand? It's not like they were going to destroy a building or something.

Madsen cries a bit over her lost friend, and Hauser takes a more direct approach, shooting Petty in the kneecap. I really admire his coping mechanisms. Hauser also threatens to shoot him in the head, thus extracting the location of the fourth bomb from 1959 out of Petty. It's diabolically genius, and Sam Neill's awesomeness continues to salvage this show.

Quick flashback to Hauser stuttering hopelessly and promising Lucy he'd find that last bomb. He also asks her out to dinner. Romance!

Present day in the hospital, and Hauser is telling comatose Lucy they found the last bomb. He then takes matters into his own hands all over again and takes her out of the hospital to Alcatraz 2.0 and gives her to Beauregard, saying, "You know her methods. Fix her." Talk about an offer you can't refuse.

In review, we establish that Hauser and Lucy had a relationship in the past, thus his genuine concern over her present condition. Also, the inmates wake up in random locations; they're not all from Alcatraz like Jack Sylvane. And finally, Lucy must have been at least partially responsible for this not-aging/time-travel thing. The dialogue and writing on the show are still pretty terrible on an episodic basis, but the overarching theme is coming together in a way that seems almost coherent. If they don't milk it too much, I'll stay on board. But also I'd be happy if they just turned this show into a biography of Sam Neill/Emerson Hauser's life, replete with many kneecap shootings. [Editor's Note: Next week features the return of the one prisoner Sam Neill hasn't shot...yet.]

Written or Contributed by: DrImprobable

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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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