ALCATRAZ RECAP: Clarence Montgomery (ep.8)*

By Ruthie

*or "Huh,Wha? We waited for this?"

We begin this week with a handsome bald black man at some sort of charity auction where he gets hit on by some sort of heiress type. Aw, he calls her Ma’am. Clearly he is from my neck of the woods. They go for a wild golf cart ride, and then he says, “I got us a house. It ain’t much to look at but it’s got a yard and a kitchen with a window.” And the next thing you know, he’s covered in blood and running with her body, looking very confused. He arranges her corpse, crying “Who did this to you? Who did this?”
In the past, we see the black prisoners are segregated from the white prisoners. The handsome guy—Clarence—gets sent to the kitchen where the warden makes him taste some sauce. Turns out Clarence is a chef. The warden wants Clarence to cook for some fancy meal, but he insists that the last time he cooked for white people it ended up with him in jail.

Doc reads a police report about the death of the girl on the golf course and recognizes the MO of a 1958 murder. “Is that you Clarence?” he asks. Clarence, meanwhile, is knocking on the door of an old friend. The friend is shocked to see him, and even more surprised when Clarence reveals he thinks he killed a girl. “You were innocent,” the friend says. Clarence reveals that in Alcatraz, they messed with his head and took his blood. (Like what they were doing to Tommy?)
The Six-Million Dollar Chef! This fall on FOX!

In 1960, Clarence has a chat with Lucy, where she asks him if he slit the throat of his white girlfriend. He was the first black chef at a white country club. He makes it clear that he believes he’s in Alcatraz because of the machinations of white people. (In the sixties? Probably so.) Later, in the barber shop, Clarence is getting a shave. His friend tries to convince him to be the chef, and makes a rather inspirational speech, but Clarence has been there, done that and is dubious. He sees it as more machinations. Tiller shows up and is an ass, as usual, which kind of proves Clarence’s point.
In the present, the cute M.E. determines that the two killers were not the same person, because the one who killed the girl in the 50s was a lefty, and the one who killed the heiress was a righty. That’s a bit of a throwaway for us, because we already know he’s innocent. They go through Clarence’s stuff and find penicillin and vitamin B6, and some paper clippings tip them off to the guy in the wheelchair that Clarence went to visit earlier. Emmett Little. He’s a former black panther, and reveals he got shot in the back in the confrontation with police. They ask about Clarence, and the friend insists that Clarence was innocent. He and the girl were going to run away together to a house he’d got for her up north.

The ME calls and tells them she found a hair on the victim (hair? What hair? That man is as shaved as shaved can be!), and it tested positive for Wilson’s Disease, which was treated with penicillin and B6. Clarence is working for some catering outfit.

In the past, Clarence is cooking, and can I just say that with that blue filter we use to indicate the past, the food looks absolutely disgusting? Yuuuuuuck. The blue makes everything look like glistening black poo, so it makes me a little nauseous when the Warden takes a fistful of glistening black poo, eats it, and declares its deliciousness. Clarence looks happy to be cooking. The Warden makes another squirrely speech about how this meal marks the civilizing of the prisoners. The black prisoners tuck in, while the white ones push their trays away. Ahh, the sixties, a less innocent time when having a black man in the kitchen somehow made the food bad? A full scale race war breaks out, and a couple white guys beat the ever-loving tar out of Clarence. It ends when gas explodes from the ceiling.

In the present, Clarence is catering an engagement party. He gazes at a screen showing pictures of the happy couple, when the images suddenly change to flash scenes from the murder in the 50s and the word “guilty.” A minute later, a Liv Tyler lookalike flirts with Clarence, and he invites her out on a walk. In the next scene, they’re hauling away her throat-slit body. The Chief of Police is there, and there’s some kind of problem. The dynamic duo figure out that he was cooking for the party.

In the past, Clarence gets pulled out of his cell and walked past everyone. The guards drag him to a dark room where they strap him in a chair and Dr. Beauregard injects him with something in the neck. They tape his eyes open, and start flashing pictures in front of him. It’s Lucy’s technique—the electric shocks, the drugs, the reminder of the crime. But in Dr. Beauregard’s word, “If it works in one direction, it probably works in reverse.” In other words, kids, Dr. Beauregard for some reason decided to convince an innocent man he was guilty. I really hate that guy.
Logan really changed after he was kicked out of The X-Men

Madsen and Soto catch up with Clarence at the catering kitchen, and Clarence runs. He’s athletic. It’s quite the thrilling chase through a fish market, with Clarence jumping stuff, rolling under moving trucks, throwing fishmongers into the bay, all interspersed with gratuitous shots of fish guts. Of all the chase scenes we’ve seen so far, this one was my favorite.

In the past, Clarence is once again working in the laundry. Tiller comes and acts like an ass again, then Verbal Diarrhea guy, who we haven’t seen since the second episode when the Warden locked him in a cell with the sniper guy, shows up and starts prattling about the spices on the ribs. Clarence starts having flashes of Beauregard’s movie, and then he cuts Verbal Diarrhea guy’s throat and arranges his body in the right position. Dr Beauregard. I really, really hate that guy. I mean. I was really looking forward to the episode where Verbal Diarrhea guy came back.

The cute ME helps them track down Clarence’s prescription, and then she and Doc arrange a date. Adorable! Our heroes meet up with Hauser and then head to Emmet Little’s apartment. Mr. Little shoots a shotgun at them! He’s trying to protect Clarence from going back to jail. Hauser gets to Clarence’s window. Clarence looks sickly. Hauser says he knows Clarence was innocent, and Clarence admits that he killed those two girls on the golf course. He goes out and asks Emmett for help. He begs Emmett to help him, pleading that he can’t stop and he can’t go back to jail. So Emmett does what Clarence asks, and shoots him. In the next scene, Clarence’s body is loaded up on the ambulance while a policeman helps Emmett out of his wheelchair and into the back of the cruiser.
The Chief of Police complains to Hauser that his cops are restless over the assertions. Hauser hands him an envelope with a photo and fingerprints of the real killer of Clarence’s girlfriend in 1958. Apparently that appeases him, and he arrests the guy. There’s a news conference, and Soto and Madsen muse that it is so messed up that Clarence is finally officially innocent, but only after two girls were dead. Doc begins listing all the weird experiments going on in the prison system in the 50s. He mentions an experiment where blood was taken from prisoners, mixed with radioactive stuff, and then put back in. He wonders if that was what turned Clarence into a killer.
The Bionic Chef, preps and delivers.

In the past, Lucy asks Clarence about the murder of Verbal Diarrhea guy. She wants to help him, to take those memories away. Poor Clarence looks tortured. The warden muses that Clarence was the only innocent lamb in the pasture, and Beauregard smirks, “not anymore.” Beauregard seems to take the murder of Verbal Diarrhea guy as proof of some good job on his part, and goes on to ask the warden what he’s doing to the blood before the Dr. puts it back in. The warden denies he’s doing anything, and just walks away. I wonder if the warden is a 63. Will he come back?

And that’s it. What a bizarre episode. What the heck was the point of that? We spent the entire episode making a big deal out of and proving that Clarence was innocent, and then he starts killing people? And a big deal is made out of what could possibly have made him a killer, but there is absolutely no resolution on that area whatsoever. So the entire episode leaves you feeling kind of disappointed and crappy, like everyone is miserable and the world is a terrible place, which can be a good thing in a tv show if it’s putting that crappy feeling to good use. If they made us feel crappy because all of this was, say, due to the heavy element of racism in this episode, that could be okay. But this was such a “life is capricious! The world is terrible! We are all doomed!” sort of nihilistic garbage-thing, you feel crappy afterward for no reason whatsoever. None. You just feel crappy because it was a downer of a subject, and instead of giving you ANY KIND OF RESOLUTION whatsoever, they leave you with more downers of mysteries. Not even good downers. Not even the kind that make you want to come back next week to solve them. Just the kind that make you want to write emo poetry and go cry on a beach somewhere.

So, we ask ourselves, what is wrong with this show? Not just tonight’s episode, but the whole thing. It had so much promise. It started out looking like it might be okay. But now, no one is watching it. (Who’s reading these recaps? Probably just me and my husband. Hi sweetie!) It’s certain to be cancelled. And why? Where did it go wrong?
"Officer, do we look stiff and uninteresting to you?"  "Huh? You say something?"

I don’t think it’s the actors. They’re cute. Sure, I pick on Sam Neill for mugging, but he’s still fun to watch and his over-the-top ridiculousness actually kinda works for his character. And Madsen and Soto have great chemistry and are both adorable, so no, I don’t think it’s the actors. Is it the directing? Hmm, maybe. But I think the bulk of the blame goes squarely in the direction of the writing. This feels like a show that is written by committee. There are glimmers of great ideas. Hints of something excellent that might have been. Take the Ames brothers from last week. Whoo, there was some potential there. They were terrifying. Even the idea of an unstable, huge, violent man named Pinky? Yes please! The little, maniacal twin who scared me half to death in a few words? They were great! But what did we do with them? One of them was dead in the first half of the episode, and the other just ran around shooting a gun until he got his head broken. What a waste. Or the other episode from last week when the girl got buried in the field and they had to find her before she suffocated? You could have made an entire motion picture on that premise! It would be compelling! But instead, they had it tied up and resolved less than a minute later. Both opportunities were entirely squandered. The writers come up with (or get handed) something that has immense potential to be suspenseful and interesting, and then they just don’t know what to do with it. They flop about a bit like gasping goldfish, and then go right back to the boring, boring monster-of-the-week, police procedural format that has already lost our attention. There isn’t enough mystery, and when there is a mystery resolved, it is stupid.

(Colloidal silver? Really? Did they think we wouldn’t know that it turns people blue? Because it does. Colloidal silver turns people’s skin greyish blue. It has some antiseptic qualities, but it certainly doesn’t cause superhuman healing powers, or else all the people currently taking it for medical reasons would be Wolverine. Did they pick something at random? Did someone go ask the dreadlocked guy at the health food store? Who came up with that?)

"We're doomed. Now there's only three people watching."

Our main cast has been somewhat developed, but not enough. In fact, lately they’ve become little more than prop pieces that track down the criminals. I miss the pilot, when Soto talked about his family and Madsen mentioned things she did growing up. One of my favorite episodes was the one where Soto revealed that he was kidnapped as a child. That was good! It was compelling! But when was the last time the cast revealed anything really personal? Any little mysteries from their pasts? They haven’t. And so they’ve become flat and boring and uncompelling. They’ve started saying things that are a little out of character. All of these things are the hallmarks of either poor writing, or writing that’s being watered down by committee.

And don’t get me started on Lucy. She’s clearly some kind of super genius in the past, and there’s obviously some sort of saucy fun between her and Hauser, but all season she has been a literal prop. A body in a bed that the other actors deliver lines in front of. What a waste of a talented actress! Even when we see her in the past, she’s got diddly to work with. She’s usually doing interrogations. Why aren’t we getting flashes of Lucy and young Hauser slow dancing on the roof in a rainstorm? Because she’s another entirely squandered opportunity.

In a few short weeks, this show will be over, and more likely than not, it will be over for good. All we can hope is that between now and then, something good happens to the writing and the show at the very least, gives us a decent resolution.

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