Friday, January 27, 2012

Alcatraz: To Be an Expert

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

So between last week and this week, I got to thinking. For Doc Soto, this is a really cool thing. He was working in his comic book shop and creating stories of his own, but then this giant opportunity comes along to put his knowledge into practice. He's written four books on a niche subject (Alcatraz), so he's uniquely qualified to serve as a historian of sorts. And, as pointed out in this episode, an expert spends 10,000 hours on a subject, and Doc has likely spent twice that on studying Alcatraz. Well, if you were offered the opportunity to serve as an "expert" on something, what would it be for? Why would you be called into such a service? For me, I'm not sure. The most likely answer is The Rocky Horror Show, as that's what my Master's thesis was about. But I haven't gone to the event a hundred or a thousand times like some people have, so I am not the most knowledgeable person regarding the latest in shout-backs and the like. But, at the same time, perhaps I have a unique understanding of the script, having spent about 30 pages analyzing various things about it. And of the history behind the show's various productions, which took up another large chunk of the paper. And then there's the evolution of the extra-textual material, probably my favorite part of my Rocky Horror studies. Oh, and that whole third of the project that was devoted to the process of producing the show and analyzing audience members' reactions to it. I didn't hit 10,000 hours (which is the equivalent of spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years), but I can't think of anything else that would rival the amount of time I spent studying Rocky Horror. What have you spent the most time studying? 

Alcatraz "Kit Nelson" (S01E03): In Walnut Creek (CA), a guy carries a flower and uses a key to enter a home. He turns off a lamp, then goes upstairs and wakes a sleeping child, abducting him. [creepy topic for such an early episode, no? or is that where we're going with this show?] The next day, the guy (Kit Nelson) takes the kid (Dylan) fishing, using poles that he stole from a hardware store. They rent a boat, and Kit soon has both of them in the water. He asks Dylan to hold him underwater as long as possible, which he does reluctantly. However, then they switch positions, but we don't see it. [thank goodness. I think that this would have freaked me out!] They then head to the movies, where the guy makes the kid eat popcorn. They go to have pie, and we find out that Kit takes his victims to do things that his brother used to like to do. Then, they head to a bomb shelter to play checkers. Dylan asks to go home, and soon takes off a shoe, throws it at a lightbulb, climbs up the hatch, and makes a run for it.

Now that you know the crime and what the criminal does, let's look at his past. In 1960, there was a a fight in the Alcatraz recreation yard. Kit is beat up because the other inmates don't like that he beat up kids. [I had never thought about how other inmates might dislike you because of why you're locked up. yeah, perverts don't bode well for most!] The doctor offers Kit a cigarette, but he doesn't take it. He's then abused a bit by the doctor. When his father comes to visit, he says that his mother died and left a dried chrysanthemum. But, before she passed, she told his dad that Kit killed his brother when they were children, and she had covered it up by saying that the boy died of scarlet fever. [I wonder if this show is just going to end up being too much for me, emotionally...] Kit is brought to solitary confinement, where the warden talks to him by matchlight, demanding to know what Kit did to his brother. [well this doesn't seem legal...] He's threatened that he'll have to stay in solitary if he doesn't admit what he did to his brother, so he comes clean, saying that he strangled his brother, that he liked it, and that he knew he had to do it again. The flowers were a favorite of his mother and brother, and that's why it became what he left with the bodies. The warden leaves Kit in solitary anyway. [the whole idea of being in a dark room 24/7 disturbs me. maybe that's part of the reason I take issue with a show half-set in a prison!]

Now, let's look at how our heroes manage to catch their culprit. We see Doc drawing a comic book about his experiences when he hears about the 11-year-old missing boy on a police scanner. He grabs a file and runs out to bring it to Madsen, who is with Hauser, checking on the state of Lucy. This criminal's pattern is to kidnap a boy on a Friday night, then return his body on Sunday night. Madsen and Doc go the house of the missing boy and show the mother and brother a photo of Kit Nelson, whom they recognize as a guy from the hardware store. They go to the hardware store, where they find out that a uniform was stolen along with the fishing poles, so they ask where someone would go fishing around there. [this is starting off like a wild goose chase, no?] When they reach the Lafayette recreation area, Kit and Dylan are already gone, so they head back to the boy's house. They ask his mother about what Dylan liked to do, but they don't match up with what the duo is doing. Doc is working on cracking the pattern when they find out that Hauser canceled the Amber Alert on Dylan. It seems that Hauser is more interested in catching the criminal than keeping the kid alive, and if there are no cops around the house, they'll just grab him when he goes to return the body on Sunday. Doc, of course, is upset that the boy will be dead by then, and heads off to try the cherry pie at every diner in town. [he apparently either remembered that Kit liked pie or that it was a link in the other old cases or something.] Hauser isn't sure that Doc is needed, but Madsen convinces him that Doc can make more out of the clues than they can.
Cr: Liane Hentscher/FOX
Well, by the fifth diner, Doc finds Kit and Dylan, and tries to stall them while Madsen is en route. It's clear that he doesn't know what he's doing, however, and by the time Madsen arrives, Kit pulls a gun and threatens to kill the boy, only letting up when Madsen and Doc are handcuffed to a dumpster, without a gun, keys, or a phone. Back at Alcatraz, Doc goes through the boxes and finds that Kit had some really expensive cigarettes... they find his commissary account and look up where the money came from - he used to build bomb shelters, and that's where he hides with the kids. [time out. I just want to say that Alcatraz is a PAIN to get to, and Walnut Creek is nowhere near there. We're talking about a 40-minute drive PLUS a ferry ride. I realize that they can't set all of the crimes in San Francisco, but I think that this is going to become a problem sooner than later.] They head to the only bomb shelter in Walnut Creek and arrive to hear the boy screaming in the woods. They find him and Hauser shoots the assailant, who, by then, had caught up to the boy.

So, that's the story in this episode. But, before we leave it, let's look at a few other things. For instance, Hauser apparently knows more about Doc's background than Madsen. Hauser confronts Doc about having "arrested development" (when you face a trauma as a child and get caught up in being that age, not growing past it), but he needs to move beyond being eleven years old if he's going to be helpful on this team, regardless of the point that he is an "extreme expert" on Alcatraz. Doc agrees, but isn't able to muster up the courage to explain the situation to Madsen. [well, I'm dying to know!] He does, however, tell a little of the story to Dylan when he brings him three issues of a comic that the boy was missing from his collection: when he was eleven, he was kidnapped, and he got away. He goes on to say that, "once you know you can do that, it sort of gives you a superpower." [...and now we know why he is making a living being a comic book writer. very interesting!] 

But that's not even the most messed up part. Hauser brought Kit's body to his secret underground Alcatraz replica, where THE DOCTOR FROM THE ORIGINAL ALCATRAZ is working! [super-mega-creepy! ahhhhh!]
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