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Persons Unknown: Saved

“This is going to hurt.”

I found myself both attracted and repelled by this episode. On the one hand, the dream sequences seemed to have been filmed with Vaseline on the camera, and I’m desperately worried that the L. Ron Hubbard quote that permeated the episode means this show is actually about Scientology. On the flip side, some of the character interactions were quite interesting, and the religious symbolism had some meat to it.

Blackham has been worn down by everyone’s low expectations of him, and found refuge in cigarettes, which then led him to accidentally slip past the electronic fence. “Where am I going?” he asked. “Nowhere,” he answered himself. If he hadn’t had that moment of exposition, I would have been entirely sold on the story of how the program breaks a person down and, I assume, builds them up. He’s friendless in the town, even as Moira and McNair, Erika and Janet, and wounded Charlie are becoming closer.

But this is really Joe’s episode, isn’t it? The Inception-style manipulated dream sequences (which sounded like they were narrated by Kathy Griffin) were silly, but they revealed something important. Joe had a decisive moment some years ago: he faced down a man in a seedy program-run motel room and shot him. Doing so made him a candidate for advancement in the program. Janet had a similar moment, in the early episodes, but she chose not to shoot Joe. Does that take her out of the running for continued involvement with the program? Is that what they’re looking for? Ayn Rand heroes? Nietzschian ubermenschen?

Renbe and Kat are in San Nicasio, South America. I heard this as San Ignacio last week, but I’m more tantalized by the refusal to mention a specific country, and what this says about America’s view of South America. I’m also impressed that Kat knows Italian and Spanish. Are churros really a popular pastry that far south? Wikipedia says yes. That’s good to know. I love churros.

Kat has really changed her tune. At first, she just wanted to be safe. Then, she just wanted to find out what was going on. But now she says she’s doing this for Megan, Renbe’s daughter with Janet. Five episodes ago, I would have seen that kind of waffling as a sign that she’s up to something. Now, though, I wonder if it’s just inconsistent writing. I suppose only time will tell.

Bits and Pieces:

• Kathy Griffin says “The way out is the way through.” That’s a line that L. Ron Hubbard stole from Robert Frost, who said “the best way out is always through.”

• Erika was given some rather graceless lines tonight, but she’s posturing less, and the camera spent a while admiring her great beauty. Thanks, camera.

• In Joe’s flashbacks, he was wearing glasses, but in his non-padre incarnation, he’s not. I’m tempted to make a comparison to Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. (Hey, all of his discussions with dead GUO guy were on the street, too!) While we’re sticking with the religious allegory, it might be worthwhile to bring up Raskolnikov in relation to Nietzsche. And now I have done so.

• It’s amazing how quickly Kat and Renbe are finding interesting facts. It makes me wonder if they’re being led down the rabbit hole.

Mr. McQuarrie, please don’t let this be a show about Scientology. Please, I beg of you. Also, thank you for shaving Joe's mustache.

Two out of four churros.

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

7 comments:

  1. I just watched the "Saved" episode and couldn't shake that it seemed to be using really hokey religious imagry and themes including the bright white light, number 7, people who were dead retuning, nuns, priests, omnipotent all seeing beings, and silly dialogue such as "Go to hell" "There is no freewill, we have proved it" "you are saved" "you must submit" "this is where I was reborn" "you must pay for the sins of your father" and the guy everyone hates getting on his knees to talk to the ceiling camera. I also thought that it also was alluding to aliens with the whole white room mind eraser probe,etc. I thought the writers were just trying to invoke the audience to start to get into discussing all of their own wild theories and debate a la Lost community.
    It was bugging me so I typed in "The way out is the way through" and of course saw that it is usually attributed to L Ron Hubbard. Really????

    Now I can't get it out of my head and really can't stop laughing about how funny the show is when you put it into the context of that wack job "religion". You can never leave! All the people are "super special" The mental institutions are evil! Bring on the e-meters baby, Xenu is a comin! HA!

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  2. I assure you it is NOT about Scientology, or religion, or philosophy -- it's about humans and how they have pre-conceived notions about choices they make and consequences of those choices, and how complacently we allow ourselves to be manipulated into making choices. That is one reason for using religious aspects of the show, and why symbolism (like the number 7) is used. The two stories in this episode juxtapose impressions of insanity and yes, for that reason some things are a little on the nose. But "the program" knows this, and uses iconic stereotypes because we remember them better. And the quote IS from Robert Frost, not Hubbard.

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  3. Dude calm down, it's a TV show.
    I know that LRH took it from the poem by Robert Frost. Anyone with Google can read that too.
    Take a breath. If you will read my post again you can see that I said that I had a laugh putting it into the scientology context - not that I was claiming that was what the show was about. I am sure you are putting way more thought into it that even the writers. It's a summer fill TV show. Try and relax a bit.

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  4. Keep it civil, dear readers. Otherwise I'll feed you to my thetans.

    (That's supposed to be a Scientology joke, but I don't think I've gotten it right.)

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  5. Josie, I'm glad you understood the episode and explained it because they really lost me. The only thing I got out of it was that they were retconning Joe -- making him a priest sort of shifts the balance from betrayer of the group back to a probable good guy again.

    What's funny is the Google Ad here on the blog just started advertising Scientology. :) It's enough to make you suspect that you're being watched.

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  6. Josie:

    I've posted a few more thoughts on the Scientology connection at personspeople.com

    In short: It's impossible for me to believe that "The Program" isn't inspired by the House that L. Ron built — but I don't think you have to worry that this is a show about Scientology. There's plenty more going on.

    - matthew
    personspeople.com

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  7. Matthew,

    Thank you for your comments and the link. In case anyone is wondering, that's a valid link to a great analysis of Scientology's role in this show. (And he's not trying to sell you Viagra as far as I can tell.)

    Your discussion of the episode raised many interesting point, nearly all of which I agree with (but failed to see on my own when I watched the episode).

    My one sticking point would be that your analysis is far better than the show itself. As you explain it, Joe has the ability to reach out to others, to "touch" them, before he's re-programmed. It makes sense, and I agree (now) that is what the writers are trying to get us to see.

    But I don't think they're doing it effectively. I don't feel a connection with Joe. I don't understand his connection with Janet. The show tells me it is there, but I don't see it happening organically, and that is what I'm struggling with.

    I know I've mentioned this line in a previous review, but I think it's worth mentioning again: Stephen Baldwin saying "It's raining in New York" as he mourns the friend (or lover) he's lost in LA (in The Usual Suspects). It's so poignant, so touching, and it says everything that needs to be said about all that is left unsaid about their relationship. It makes his inability or refusal to mourn publicly into a tragedy. It tells us what has truly been lost--and therefore what was at stake--in the story so far.

    I'm not getting that subtle glimmer of a dirt-encrusted gem from this show. It's all strobe lights and Astroturf.

    ReplyDelete

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