Alcatraz: "Paxton Petty" (Season 1, Episode 6)


Another round with the show that has more mysteries than you can shake a stick at, but nary a solution in sight. If you read last week’s review, you know the show finally took a step up. This week? A slight step back. We’ve returned to the criminal of the week motif, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the worst examples of that pattern.

For a change, we open in a flashback. Back in 1960. San Francisco police officer Emerson Hauser is delivering a prisoner to Alcatraz. It’s the notorious bomber Paxton Petty. Along with the warden and guards, he’s met by Alcatraz psychological specialist Lucy Banerjee, his now comatose partner in the future. They flirt over a container of mints. Hauser’s not very good at it. No big surprise there.

In the present, Hauser watches Lucy in her coma. The doctor isn’t hopeful. Elsewhere, we’re treated to some gratuitous scenes of a jogger and various civilians getting blown up in a park. It’s the dreaded Paxton Petty on the loose. Thanks to the miracle of modern computers, Rebecca Madsen realizes he’s in the crowd and chases after him. He tosses a land mine at her and escapes. Seriously. We also meet SFPD bomb disposal expert Tanner, a friend of Rebecca’s.

Some pointless but amusing comic book jokes spice up the stew. Soto analogizes the Alcatraz returnees to Captain America frozen in ice for decades. Soto also recognizes the golden age Sandman on the t-shirt of an attractive coroner. He’s not much of a flirter, either. But in all fairness, I suppose it’s awkward for most people to flirt in a morgue.

Back in the Alcatraz cave, Hauser hauls out an old trunk labeled E. Hauser. Sure enough, his old police uniform is in there, along with an old picture of Lucy and the young Hauser. He still has the old case file on Paxton, too. We back and forth between Hauser checking the verses of a rhyme and the Rebecca-Soto team doing their detective routine. Seems the fragments from Paxton’s earlier bomb were pieces of Silver Stars (the military medal, not some dumb ninja thing). Since Paxton worked at the Presidio from 1952-1954 while awaiting court martial, he must be digging up Silver Stars from military graves.


In another lightning bit of detective work, Rebecca finds Paxton’s whole stash of mines. She also finds some playground turf and sand paint. Howser sends them to a school playground whose name matches a line from his verse while he goes to check out a particular beach.

Lots of flashbacks. We see Paxton being water boarded in a tub to try and make him disclose the location of his final bomb. Lucy then takes over, drugs him, and tries a little electroshock therapy. He sings a Korean song. As fate would have it, inmate Grandpa Madsen happened to serve in the Korean War. Just assuming he’ll know Korean, Lucy plays the song for him. He says he’ll tell her what it is if she finds out why he’s in the infirmary so much, with so much blood being drawn. She says sure. He tells her it’s a nursery rhyme. Lucy then figures out Paxton’s code. The rhyme Hauser was going over in the present is its second verse.

Long story short. Hauser finds Paxton at the beach and steps on a mine. It will blow up if he moves. Later that night, Rebecca and Soto, who’ve been on stakeout at the school all day, see Paxton trying to plant mines. They arrest him and take him to Alcatraz. There, Rebecca goes over Hauser’s notes and figures out what beach he’s at. About time. Hauser’s been standing there all day, and those San Francisco winds get wicked cold at night.

Rebecca brings along Tanner, her bomb disposal buddy. He dies freeing Hauser. Hauser shoots Paxton in the leg. It’s a pointless, pro forma tough guy gesture. Hauser is still a weak link in this show, a grumpy collection of hack writing clichés. I wouldn’t have been all that broken up if the mine had gone off before Rebecca arrived. Tanner at least seemed to have a sense of humor.

In flashback space, we see Lucy quizzing Doctor Milton about Grandpa Madsen. He warns her not to overstep. Then we see her asking young Hauser out to dinner. Why is anybody’s guess since the chemistry between them is mediocre at best.

In the present, Hauser bundles up Lucy and takes her out of the hospital to his modern, underground Alcatraz. He takes her to Dr. Milton and says: “You know her methods. Fix her.”

The end.

Will conservatives like this episode: Ehhh. Take it or leave it.