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Persons Unknown: Static

“Re-integrate yourself into the scenario.”

The Night Manager has the equivalent of a button. It rings and he has to call in to an Irish Pierre Chang, who then connects the call to Ms. Alvar Hanso. The revelation that the Program is not Scientology, but rather the Dharma Initiative does—finally—explain everything. Renbe and Kat, locked in the polar bear cages, will surely make out soon. And I can’t wait to see Michael Emerson again, as I miss his droll delivery.

If you’re not watching Persons Unknown, that paragraph probably didn’t make any sense. But if you’re one of the ever-more selective group of watchers (ahem), then hopefully you agree: some aspects of this show are remarkable reductive. Joe, playing the role of Mr. Clean, even seems destined for some important role in the Island’s…oh, whatever.

When Evil Program Sub-Director Liam Ulrich appeared on screen, I said out loud (to no one, which was a bit pathetic) “I’ll bet he’s British!” I was wrong—he’s Irish—but that distinction doesn’t matter much stateside, where I recently had to tell a friend (who has her PhD) that Ireland and England are not on the same island. ("Are you sure?" she asked.) What does matter is that insular Europeans are evil. With their accents and their tea and calling cookies “biscuits,” and biscuits, “scones.”

Some Americans are evil, too. The Director is a good example. She’s so evil that she doesn’t even wait for her assistant to take the cup of tea away (see? Evil tea!). She’s also a bitch. In fact, everyone who works for the program seems to be really mean. Why would anyone work for them? It’s all bluster and “OMG! I’m so important! Let’s kill a priest!”

So Joe’s approaching level-10 potential? How, and why, does that matter in the larger scheme of things? And on what are they basing this assessment? The ease with which he was re-programmed indicates an extraordinary mental weakness. I can’t imagine it’s difficult to find mentally weak people, so why is he special?

The Night Manager really got the short end of the tea-stirrer this week. He offered Joe some tea (I assume this is not evil tea, just morally ambiguous tea) and got beaten up for his concern. He also got reamed by the evil Irishman and dismissed by the bitchy American woman. I hope they’re paying him a lot, and that he’s not dead. (I think he’s dead.) Because, again, I have to ask: why on earth is he working for these people?

Speaking of impossible things: this Program seems a bit top-heavy. There were easily two dozen people working in the Evil Hub, all staring at screens, probably all drinking tea. But there were only three agents (Joe, Restaurant Guy, and Night Manager) assigned to the in-town scenario? And they had the entire time of Joe’s re-programming to set up his “replacement,” but failed to do so? What are those two dozen people staring at screens doing, if not that? Checking their Facebook accounts?

I still don’t trust Renbe. He’s gone from random newspaper guy who sleeps with his editor to Janet’s violent ex-husband to concerned father who professes his love for that same editor. We’ll learn more about him when confronts Janet, which I assume will happen in the next episode, since Renbe and Kat just stumbled on the town.

Bits and Pieces:

• I forgot to set my DVR to record this episode (sometimes my subconscious has a mind of its own), so I watched it online. There were no subtitles for the Spanish, but it was happily slow enough for me to understand it this week. That was nice. Thank you, Spanish-speaking actors.

Persons Unknown is being pre-empted by gymnastics next week. It will return on August 21st.

I remain completely confused. I feel like there must be something I’m missing, something that points towards all of this coming together. There must be something going on behind the scenes. There must be some activity that the characters engage in (reading, perhaps?) when they’re off-screen. There must be more to the Program beyond self-aggrandizing cattiness. Right?

One out of four cups of tea.

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


  1. Josie, thank you for reviewing it, still... I'm done with it... i basically drag myself throught the previous one and just couldn't bring myself to watch this one.
    Having said that I do want to know how it will end, so I will keep coming back for your reviews, which are by far more capturing than the episode itlesf.

  2. For the record, I'm with you until the bitter end.

    I can't tell whether I'm not supposed to trust Renbe, not supposed to trust his editor, or whether the fact that every emotional scene between them rings terribly false is just inconsistent writing, poor directing, or crappy screen chemistry, rather than a deliberate clue. It makes me sad that I actually have to wonder about this while watching a show.

  3. Dan and I are with you to the bitter end, too. I mostly found this episode confusing, but I really enjoyed your Lost comparisons, Josie.

  4. Hi all,

    Thank you for your moral support. I'm in it to the bitter end, too...but if I didn't have this reassurance, it'd be hard to watch.

    I sort of hate how negative my reviews are. I try not to be this mean. My goal for the next episode is to say three nice things about the show. If it does come back--August 21st might be up in the air.

  5. I shockingly think that these last two episodes were really great actually! It makes me want to see the next one right away... which might make this more of a movie type of series come to think of it.


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