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Persons Unknown: The Way Through

“I hate this place.”

I’ve mentioned elsewhere how much it irks me when the writers don’t seem to realize that the characters interact off-screen. Consider me irked.

This episode didn’t pick up where we left off: an entire week of digging has passed since last week. Now, maybe it’s just my inordinate fondness for The Great Escape, but I think that an entire tunnel-digging episode would have been fabulous. You can learn a lot about people when you’re digging together. Digging is hot, boring, dirty work: at the end of the day, over Szechuan eggplant and eggrolls, you’d tell stories. Funny stories, sad stories. You’d open up, because you’d be too tired to shut down. But our characters don’t seem to have done that. They seem to have just…dug.

In silence.

Without even changing their clothes.

That plan didn’t work, or the signal fire. I’d thought the fire would catch, and the people would be trapped in a blazing town with no way out. Instead, the Dharma Initiative dropped off a box of not-enough gas masks. Not surprisingly, the point of the gas masks was not to protect our heroes, but to punish those selfish enough to keep their own masks. Perhaps this is some self-help workshop, like The Game.

And now I’m out of things to say about the plot. That was fast.

Moira continues to be an interesting character, for two reasons: she dribbles out information in odd bits, and she definitely seems to latch onto people. It almost seems like a Survivor strategy: she continues to portray herself as a victim in one-on-one encounters, which means that at least two people will now inadvertently cast themselves in the role of protector if she’s in harm’s way. The second reason? She’s the only character who talks about anything!

Well, except for Blackham and Charlie, who seem to have an odd bond. Blackham saw what appears to be Charlie smothering his wife; Charlie, meanwhile, implied to some people that his wife is alive, but told Blackham that it was a mercy killing. Then Blackham revealed that he’s not really a used-car salesman. That man has an odd effect on his surroundings: he seems to incite people to violence. If he’s a plant, I don’t think he’s the only one. But he might just be playing his own game. A slimy, seedy game.

Janet, meanwhile, had a bit of a breakdown and then pushed through it. How interesting would it have been if there’d been just a hint that she and Joe were sleeping together? Or—even better—if we’d gotten a hint that two unlikely characters, like Charlie and Tori, had indulged in some cold comfort a few days ago, and were now avoiding each other? A touch, a shudder, a glance…I’d hoped for that sort of subtle layering from McQuarrie, but I’m not getting it.

I continue to hold out hope, but this episode really didn’t do much for me. The previews for next week look promising, though.

Bits and Pieces:

• “Never bring a bat to a gun fight.” Love this variation on The Untouchables.

• Tori: “There are some gasses you can’t see?” Is that a serious question?

• The Symbol of the Week is the tiny spoon and the big barrel of ice cream. The spoon will definitely snap before Janet finishes that tub.

• Renbe is being set up. Oh, and the private dick’s name was Edick. Funny.

I couldn’t find a good screenshot for this episode, perhaps because only twenty people are watching this show. So the image is of adorable baby panda stuffed animals hugging. I’d love to watch a show about baby panda toys trapped in a town, talking in their little voices about how to escape. “Oh, no! What do we do now, my panda-friend?” "Eek! We are in peril!" As long as they all survived, of course.

One out of four tiny wooden spoons.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Yeah, I found this one grating too. I wonder if Janet turning out so unsympathetic was intentional. Blackham stealing a mask right when he thought he was going to dies is understandable. Her demanding a mask right off the bat because her life is more valuable than everybody else's--and actually expecting people to agree!--and getting all indignant because Charlie doesn't want to die in the name of her mighty superiority even though he helped save her life when the gas first spewed out is just... Urgh. I hate her.

    I may be remembering this wrong, but I thought Charlie never admitted to anything. Blackham kept finishing off his sentences.

    Finally, I don't know. With my life at risk and all them cameras creepily watching my every move, I don't think making whoopy would be at the top of my list of things to do. I mean, that's how celebrity sex tapes get released.

    You're a braver person than I, Josie.

  2. Reshoot this show using panda stuffed animals as the characters? I am SO there, my friend.

    I really want to like this show, but I just don't. Josie nailed it: the writers are missing every opportunity to truly develop these characters into people we care about--and as characters like Sayid prove, flawed people can be just as compelling as goody-goody ones (yeah, I'm looking at you, Jack from the season one).

    I'm having FlashForward feelings about this show--I so want it to work, but in my heart I know it doesn't and it probably never will. Still, I'll stick with it. In recent years I seem to have come down with a touch of masochism. Wonder if it's communicable.


  3. I enjoyed it more than "The Gates", but I agree that they're missing golden opportunities for great drama and character development. Or they're giving nearly all of it to Moira. Dan and I guessed in advance what the gas masks would do.

    Do you think they'll cut their losses and stop showing it before the end, like "Happy Town" and "Day Break"?

  4. Hi all,

    Dimitri, he didn't say anything, but he didn't deny, either. If someone accused me of killing a loved one and I hadn't done it, I'd do everything I could to change their minds. Then again, these characters aren't really acting like real people.

    KAM, we should start pitching the idea to studio heads. Who doesn't love pandas, after all?

    Billie, I spent a solid 10 minutes wondering how I could have missed an episode of Persons Unknown, and whether or not this mysterious "The Gates" episode of which you spoke was any good. But now I get it. So that wasn't any good? I forgot to record it. Oops.

    The promos promise that all will be revealed by the end of summer, but even if they keep that promise, there's no guarantee they won't play with the airdates like they did with Better Off Ted. I hope it gets better; I had such faith in McQuarrie.


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