Alcatraz: "The Worst Thing I've Seen This Year" (Season 1, Episode 7)

Flabbergasted

Just kidding. The title is “Johnny McKee.” It’s still really bad, though.

There’s lazy, and then there’s hackwork, and then there’s bad, and then there’s just giggle works bad. It’s rare, however, to see them all in one episode, an intricate tapestry of the dull and the absurd. So I guess that’s an achievement.

Hackwork: We open with Doctor Beauregard telling Hauser he’s tried everything on Lucy Banerjee. It’s just no use. She stays in that coma, dreaming away as her brain activity still registers. The good doctor’s answer: Hauser should read to her. Maybe she’ll respond to his voice. I like to think the look of disgust on Hauser’s face was Sam Neil’s authentic reaction to this bit of tripe.

Giggle works bad: Cut to Alcatraz inmate Johnny McKee. He’s a bartender. A customer pisses him off. He retreats to the bar, pulls out a bag of yellow berries and proceeds to laboriously cut and slice and dice them. He’s into it. Nobody asks him what he’s doing or why he isn’t serving any other customers. He finally brings a round of drinks to the table. The customers convulse and die at the first sip. Nobody asks him what he was so obsessively doing with those berries. Oh, and someone taped it. So the big viral hit on the Internet tonight is four guys going into convulsions at a bar and dying.

Honestly.

Hackwork (or is it just lazy?): McKee’s Alcatraz back story. He’s apparently allowed to keep jars of cockroaches that he stares at. Some prisoner named Cullen tells Johnny to poison another prisoner who sells shivs, or he’ll kill Johnny. Who is in Alcatraz, in case you didn’t know it, for poisoning people.

Giggle works bad: Diego Soto is playing Starcraft 2 on his government computer. Apparently it has an all points search program for anything unusual. Kind of like the BatPuter. It flashes up the viral video. Soto looks stunned and says “McKee,” whose face he can see smirking in the background of the video.

Lazy: Crime scene. By way of background, apparently McKee poisoned seventy gajillion people in 1958. His victims were mostly men, and you can just feel the lame psychological motivation oozing out with a dead plop on the floor. Cuz’ it’s not like this show doesn’t beat uninspired psychoanalysis to death. And since no former Alcatraz inmate can be captured without going through the box of crap from his cell, we’re treated to petrified cockroaches, some stuff about Jules Verne (McKee is identified as a geek by his interest in science fiction), and a picture of a woman with a burned face. I’ll bet you a million of Mitt Romney’s dollars that this woman’s picture is critical to resolving McKee’s pointless and tedious psychological motivation.

Giggle works bad: McKee gets a job as a pool boy. The rich SOB clientele wants their towels, and they bloody well want them now. And clean their monocles while you're at it! McKee pours a thimble of some magic, super deadly chemical into the pool filtration system. Then we see him straightening all the towels as rich SOBs float dead in the pool. Take that you wimps at Occupy Wall Street.

Bad: Soto recalls that previous recaptured Alcatraz inmate Jack Sylvane had the cell next to McKee. We’re treated to a flashback where McKee talks to Sylvane while mixing poison for the murder attempt Cullen ordered him to do. That would be the murder attempt we never cared about and have already forgotten. Then Madsen questions Sylvane in the present. He doesn’t have any actual information pertaining to this case until he remembers that McKee would sometimes kill cockroaches with a plant. Genius extraordinaire Soto instantly links it to a particularly variety of poisonous nightshade, “the only plant that will grow on Alcatraz.”

Really? You know, the island itself, its actual geology, isn’t evil. It’s just an island. I’ve been there, and lots of stuff grows there. They even have a whole walking tour of the gardens that were originally started and maintained by prisoners who behaved well.

Lazy: Of course there’s only one shop in Chinatown that sells this nightshade. Only one. From there, our intrepid heroes track McKee to the abandoned high school he’s been living in. They find a lab and a dead mouse, proof of a super chemical crime in the making. Fortunately, McKee was so good as to write a detailed dissertation about phosgene on the black board and leave it behind. For posterity, I suppose. Oh and the article about Jules Verne from his f***ing Alcatraz box mentions future subways.

OMG!! The evil McKee plans to poison a Bay Area Rapid Transit Train! Which we see he’s already doing. He kills the train driver, stops the train in a tunnel below the bay, and starts releasing his gas.

Giggle works bad: Rebecca, Soto and Hauser have gone from the abandoned high school to Alcatraz, which is not a short trip. In the Alcatraz cave, their supercomputer sees a flashing light indicating a BART train is stalled under the bay. They link to a BART operator and demand to know the quickest way to get there. I’m thinking the correct answer is “there ain’t one from Alcatraz, and who is this?”

Bad: The trapped train passengers are still grabbing at their throats and choking. Which means that while Johnny makes an undeniably mean poisonous berry martini, he’s manufactured a pretty crappy grade of phosgene. And wouldn’t you know it, Hauser and Rebecca arrive on a maintenance cart. In my memory, it was a hand cart like Yosemite Sam used to have, but I know that’s not right. Hauser breaks a window on the train. Everyone’s fine since McKee’s phosgene is so lame (stick to the magic, super deadly pool killer!). In the ensuing chase, McKee falls on to the legendary third rail. It looks bad. Rebecca, apparently unacquainted with the fact that the human body conducts electricity, checks for a pulse. And what do you know? There is one. I guess all those danger signs in subways are exaggerated.

Oh, and that flashback murder McKee was supposed to commit in Alcatraz. You know, the one we don’t care about and have forgotten again. He poisoned Cullen instead. Do you care? I didn’t.

Giggle works bad: Flashback to Lucy in Alcatraz questioning McKee about Cullen’s death. Here it is, folks, the big psychological motivation. You see, McKee used acid to burn the face of the girl in the photograph from his box, you know, the picture that you may also have forgotten about. And Lucy, after taking one very, very deep breath, confronts him with the ridiculous truth: “She was the prettiest girl in school, and she went with you to the malt shop, then lured you to the roof of the gym where she kissed you and got you to take your clothes off, after which the lights popped on and the whole football team (even the lousy kicker) threw firecrackers at you, and one of those cherry bombs hit you in your privates, taking your testicles, leaving you half a man, and you’ve been seeking vengeance on the whole world ever since. Admit it!”

Really. This scene happened.

We conclude with Hauser in the present reading to the comatose Lucy. Just don’t read her this script, for God’s sake.

Will conservatives like this: Only if they’ve been snorting very low quality phosgene for an hour or two.

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