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Persons Unknown: Identity

Last week, I vowed to say three positive things about Persons Unknown. Here we go: First, they totally hooked me with the bait-and-switch. B, I enjoy Irish accents. Lastly, I gave my cat a cardboard box with a bath towel folded neatly in it, and he spent the whole episode looking supercute, right next to my couch.

The Bait And Switch: In which Josie reveals that she is not very bright.

Last week, Kat and Renbe showed up in what I assumed was our heroes’ town. I spent the first 40 minutes of this episode operating under that assumption. Kat and Renbe were hiding, the blue-jumpsuit guys were running around, and our people were locked in the hotel and then sedated. It made sense.

Until it didn’t. I was preoccupied (not by the cat…well, not too much) with wondering how Kat and Renbe were staying away from the cameras that seem to be everywhere, so I didn’t look for confirmation that they were in the right town. Even when the blue-jumpsuit guys pulled some dead bodies out of thin air, I still thought they’d brought the bodies themselves and then moved them again. (See above, re: not very bright.) It wasn’t until the massive shoot-out and then the quick cut to Moira and Graham sitting in the gazebo that I finally realized I’d fallen for the bait and was now flopping around on the deck of someone’s yacht, thoroughly gutted.

Well, at first, I thought it was just inept editing. But after rewinding it three times I finally caught on. Why the bait and switch? We needed to keep Renbe and Kat in play. We’ve learned that they’re following the wrong path out of the forest (metaphorically). We’ve learned that the Program has numerous small towns all over the world. We also learned that they’re willing to kill their test subjects, which brings me to:

I Enjoy Irish Accents: In which Josie finds joy in the fact that she’s not important enough to be kidnapped, brainwashed, and forced into submission by an evil unnamed organization.

Liam’s conversation with the director, upon mental review, was quite vague. They talked about Janet, the town, and how sad they were that such drastic measures had to be taken. It wasn’t until later that we found out they weren’t talking about our town. Now we know the stakes…well, I think we’d already guessed the stakes. But now we really know them.

Liam should be a fascinating character, but he’s not. Right now, he’s a walking plot device. He caused trouble for Joe and Janet, in one of those Ebertesque idiot plots in which a key point could be cleared up if people just talked to each other. He sedated everyone for some reason, with some sort of wonder drug. Were they brainwashed during that time? Is that why Blackham is all cheery now? (Wait, he was cheery before the brainwashing…oh, never mind.) Why Janet has gotten over her issues?

By the way, those issues? Liam telling Janet that she’s gotten over them is a prime example of weak storytelling. Whenever one character tells another character how the first character feels, an implication fairy dies. Liam’s newfound obsession with Janet—complete with touching a screen on which her face appears—came out of the blue. Why is he so drawn to her? Why is Joe? Don’t get me wrong, she’s a pretty lady. But she’s not magnetic or extraordinary or covered in dozens of plump breasts. What makes her so appealing to Liam, so suddenly, when he knows what’s on the line?

(Irrelevant question: when you heard Liam Ulrich, did you simultaneously think of Angel, Spike, and the drummer for Metallica?)

Cat in a Box: In which Josie learns to be thankful for the small things, and Marcel Mauss grins wryly, up in heaven.

The Program gave our heroes gifts. Meaningful gifts, sure. But not nearly as pleasant or welcome as a nice cardboard box with a neatly folded bath towel in it. (Because that gift can’t be topped, can it?) The gifts said: “We know you. We’ve known you for decades. We’ve been following you since your childhood traumas.” That’s damn creepy. It also raises a few questions for me: Why would they bother? Why do they have that much money, and why are they willing to spend it this way? Why have they picked these people, and what do they want in return? Why am I still bothering to watch this show?

That last question is inspired by the fact that I have begun to feel simply annoyed by this Program. (Yes, that is a pun.) I cannot imagine why the people who work for them, who have evidently undergone precisely this training, stayed. I cannot imagine what this training is supposed to do. I cannot imagine why they would follow such a ragtag bunch of people, which must require a huge financial outlay. I cannot understand how they justify kidnapping, brainwashing, and killing people, or how they could do so without being discovered for this long.

I’m not sure whether we’ll get answers to all of those questions. “Identity” is the 10th episode. NBC will not air “Seven Sacrifices,” which imdb claims is the 12th episode. (It is available on the NBC website.) Next Saturday, August 28th, NBC will air a “two-hour finale,” which I assume will comprise the 11th (“And Then There Was One”) and 13th (“Shadows in the Cave”) episodes. Or perhaps imdb is wrong, and this order makes sense.

What does that mean for us, constant readers? I will review the three remaining episodes. Look for “Seven Sacrifices” sometime this week, and a longish review of the “And Then There Was One”/”Shadows in the Cave” two-parter next weekend, or perhaps Monday if I’m feeling lazy and the LA heat wave doesn’t break. I will assuredly riff on Agatha Christie, Plato, and the troubling camera angles in this show. In fact, it might be time for me to dig out my never-published 2000 word post on Plato and the Lost finale.

One out of four cats chasing a Mauss. (Hopefully this show will come together with all the surprising elegance of that delayed punchline.)

(Once again, I have been unable to find a decent screencap for the show. So, in keeping with the pre-established unbearably cute animals hugging theme, I chose the supercutest cat photo I could find.)

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


  1. Okay, four out of four stars for this review. I laughed out loud five times. Or maybe six.

  2. Great review!
    I missed last 2 episodes, but watched this one. I rather liked it. Maybe because Joe wasn't much in it - I'm tired of him.
    Believe it or not Josie it took me even longer to figure out the trap :) Since I missed last eps I didn't know they hinted on having those towns-twins all over the world, so I didn't realize it was a different one until I read it here. It felt odd for me of course that they couldn't hear those cars driving around even with blinds shut, even probably soundproof blinds - still!!
    But I don't really understand what was the whole point of sedating them? Just to throw us off scent?
    The obsession of Liam is creepy at the very least, and when he tucked her up in bed while she was unconscious - yak!!!
    The interesting part is that now after Moira told her story we know that every single one of them (or almost) have a murder on their conscience. And Erika is not who she says she is - also interesting. Will tune in next week.

  3. Hi Josie, just to let you know, I've just watched the web episode, and its definately episode 11, it's got "Review:Week 10" on the recap at the start and it all seems to follow straight on from this weeks episode, so I'm guessing next week we'll get ep 12/13. Can't wait for it to be over to be honest, only watching now in grim determination to get to the end!

  4. Thanks, Trousers!

    I included a recap of the web-only episode in my latest review if you want to skip the bother of actually watching it. (Although it is kinda good.)


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