Persons Unknown S1E3: The Way Through
Chicago Tribune TV critic (and T Lo galpal) Mo Ryan said something about this show that put it in perspective for us. She said that it was akin to a crossword puzzle; something mildly amusing to occupy your brain and pass the time. We think that’s dead on. The reason we’re saying this is because last night’s episode wasn’t great by any stretch but like all of them, it keeps us just interested enough to keep coming back, especially because they’re promising answers in the short term, as opposed to dragging them out for multiple seasons.
So we find out the abductees have been in PU-ville for a week and they’re still wearing the same clothes, which is kind of gross. They’ve hit on a new escape plan, one that didn’t even occur to us: digging their way out past the pain fence. Our first reaction was “Hunh. That’s pretty smart.” But then we realized they were doing it, as they do everything, in full view of the cameras watching them. How could they have possibly thought that was going to work? Well, it didn’t, because it turns out that there’s a wall buried under the town just to prevent this sort of thing and when they literally hit the wall, the cavern is filled with gas, forcing them to abandon the project.
Janet is growing increasingly erratic and potentially violent, which really makes us question what the “ugly stuff” is in her past that the cop alluded to last week when he was talking to the reporter. She seems a little…off. Sure, she’s got her daughter to worry about, but as Charlie said, she’s got a lot of nerve assuming she’s the only one in the group who has family who needs her.
In fact, we found ourselves questioning the motives and background of nearly everyone this episode. Douchey used car salesman (whose name we can’t remember or be bothered to look up, so it’s D.U.C.S. from here on out) is an even bigger douche than we imagined AND he’s not a used car salesman. So what is he? His actions this week went quite a bit past just being douchey and entered the realm of sexual assault and cruelty bordering on sociopathic. He was holding back laughter at several points when other characters were in distress and he ripped Charlie’s gas mask off while the gas was being pumped in. We were really hoping he was going to die and were ready to cheer but he’s got too many unrevealed secrets to die yet.
And speaking of secrets, Charlie apparently gave his dying wife a mercy killing. Here’s what: for one, we wonder how the hell the Persons Unknown got footage of him killing his wife, but what was really notable was that he was wearing the outfit he woke up in during episode 1, which implies he was kidnapped the same day he killed his wife.
To be honest, if we had to pick a mole, everything points toward Moira, who not only has a wealth of knowledge on the exact topics the abductees were faced with, from medical implants to butterflies to invisible poison gases, but she is also making a concerted effort to insinuate herself into various people’s good graces. Last week it was Tori and since that didn’t go so well, this week it’s Graham. She told him a story about being an orphan and pretending to be crazy so that she could stay in the psychiatric facility, but we don’t find that at all believable, especially since she already admitted to Tori that she has “truth issues.”
Granted, she was one of the ones wearing the poison gas mask so that needs to be considered when pointing fingers.
And besides, there’s no guarantee that any of them are moles. This episode made it more clear than ever that the goal of the Persons Unknown is psychological warfare. They’re using various tricks to turn them all against each other: trying to get Janet to kill Joe, revealing to D.U.C.S. that Charlie killed his wife, delivering only 3 gas masks to a group of 7, etc. Plus they’re doing everything they can to ramp up the need to get out, especially with Janet. She got a phone call from Megan last week and this week there are posters of her daughter and her mother happily having ice cream together. Whatever they’re doing isn’t random, but it isn’t quite clear yet either. At any rate, it makes sense that there would be a mole in the group but it’s not necessarily a given because it could just be another tool to get them to turn against each other.
And why is Janet being singled out, both in-story and out of it? She’s the only character that someone is looking for in the outside world. Surely the disappearance of the daughter of the Italian Ambassador would be some cause for concern but the only person who has generated any interest (from what we’ve been shown) has been Janet. And like we said, she’s been singled out quite a bit for mind-fucking by the P.U.
Which brings us to our major twist of the episode. Creepy, annoying reporter dude is revealed to be Janet’s ex-husband. We wish we could say we saw that coming, but we didn’t, mainly because we think the writers cheated a tiny little bit. Sure, the pieces all fall into place: he’d never met Janet’s mother nor had he met his daughter, so there was no chance they’d recognize him (although they both could have seen pictures of him); he mentioned to his editor that he knew Janet had been abused as a child and when asked how he knew it, he hemmed and hawed and said, “It’s complicated.” He stayed on this story, risking his life for no good reason that made any sense to us, but now makes sense. It’s possible pudgy, non-threatening middle-aged P.I. guy was lying, but everything does kind of add up.
But here’s our criticism: they cheated because there was no emotional reaction at all from this character about anything he was researching, not even meeting his own daughter face to face. We’re sure he’s got good reasons for being so sneaky, but in retrospect, some of his reactions come off a little cold.
Okay, bullet points:
* This show makes us crave Chinese food every time we watch it.
* Tori kicks D.U.C.S.’ ass and gets in a great line in the process: “I have intimacy issues that sometimes result in violent outbursts. My therapist doesn’t think I’m making progress.” But that wasn’t just a violent outburst, that was indicative of some fairly advanced hand to hand combat training.
* Graham talked a bit about seeing some pretty dark things during his tour of duty, which in turn re-affirmed his faith for him. Connection? The thing is, almost anything on a show like this could have meaning to it. His military background has to have some sort of bearing as to why he’s there.
* Then there’s Joe, the only character aside from Moira who doesn’t seem to have anything shady in his past but whose reticence is making him seem more suspicious as time goes on. He certainly latched onto Janet pretty quickly. That could be a love connection or it could be something more sinister. There was something a little funny about the drugstore having only his favorite ice cream in stock.
* There are all sorts of automated systems in the town, from gas vents to replaceable cameras. Add to that the underground wall and the fact that everything in the town was doused with flame retardant to prevent them from starting any fires and we were glad to see the abductees got a little common sense and figured out this simply isn’t a place you can leave. Everything has been planned for. Figure something else out, people.
* You might have missed the quick shot in pudgy, non-threatening middle-aged PI’s office of PNTMA PI standing next to Tori’s father, the former head of the CIA.
* That white noise phone call bit with the reporter was genuinely creepy.
* Seriously, people. Kill the night manager.
Full episode, in case you missed it:
[Screencaps: projectrungay.blogspot.com - Video: nbc.com]
Labels: Persons Unknown