The Ultimate Formula for Recapping Alcatraz Episodes

Alcatraz is a fun, solid show about a motley trio chasing down time-traveling convicts (and guards) from the legendary 1960s prison. It's all good creepy fun, if not exactly earth-shattering so far. But it's also true that pretty much every episode seems to include the same basic elements, with a few tweaks here and there.

Which is why we've developed... the ultimate Alcatraz recap formula. Let's put it to work.


This week's time-traveling rapscallion: Cal Sweeney, a bank robber who only robs safety deposit boxes, because that way the Feds don't get involved. His M.O. is completely ludicrous — for every bank, he seduces a lonely/sexy cougar/bank teller and convinces her to turn off the security cameras and make out with him in the secure area where the safety deposit boxes are. And three out of three tellers are dumb enough to go for this obvious scam. Back in the 1950s, Cal would just take the stuff from the boxes and pawn them, but now he goes to the home of one victim from each robbery and gets them to tell a personal story about one of the items he stole, so he can feel some emotional catharsis.

What emotional unfinished business does our con-of-the-week grapple with? Cal's entire family died in a fire when he was 10, and all he has left of them is an old burnt-up tin box. This box is his weakness, and it allows a new inmate, Harlan, to trick him into fighting against the deputy warden, E.B. Tiller, who wants control over Cal's lucrative contraband operation at Alcatraz. Harlan took the tin box but allows Cal to believe Tiller has it — and this leads to Cal getting stuck in the Hole for 30 days, while Harlan takes over his operation.

What unethical things do the "good guys" do to keep the Alcatraz thing a secret? Last week, it was calling off an amber alert for a kidnapped boy. This week, it's busting Cal Sweeney out of a bank where he's gotten himself trapped with a bunch of hostages.


Hurley's cute geeky dude moment of the week: We learn, once again, that Hurley is grossed out by dim sum — although that scene makes no sense. Rebecca tells the cart-pushing lady that she wants "two of everything, and double down on the char siu bao" and a couple other things. That would mean that Rebecca gets like twenty bamboo steamers — kind of a lot of food for one person — and instead she gets like six, which is still kind of a lot. Oh, and Hurley based one of his PhD theses on Batman, because he's a huge nerd. And he sucks at driving and doesn't know how to say the word "tail."

Tough-but-evil Emerson Hauser moment of the week: Actually, he was a pussycat this week. Once or twice he scowls and says stuff like, "You're wasting my time," and "I have jurisdiction over everything because I have eyebrows." But basically, he's a total pushover this time.


What do we learn about Rebecca's grand-daddy issues? Not much. She doesn't even butt heads with her surrogate grandpa, Ray, or her other surrogate grandpa, Emerson. She does actually get to be kind of badass this time, what with the busting Cal Sweeney out of the bank and then crashing the car with him in it. She's really at her best when she's being kind of smirky/touch.


The week's mystery fodder: Let's see... We learn that Dr. Sangupta was working on some kind of weird quasi-Scientology program to erase people's traumatic memories, back in 1960. Also, Cal Sweeney steals a second one of those mysterious keys, and we learn that they're technobabble-ized and laser-cut and generally way too advanced for 1960. (Although how do the good guys know these keys were around in 1960?) The Warden apparently had them in 1960, and they opened a weird subterranean chamber where a monster guy lived. The Warden sent Harlan in there, and told him his future was getting brighter.

How sadistic are the flashback scenes, on a scale of Club Fed to Gitmo? Sort of in the middle. E.B. Tiller stabs Cal Sweeney with a pen. He also unspools a complicated metaphor about shaving, which went over my head. We learn that Tiller was kind of corrupt, and that the warden enjoys giving really fancy toastmasters-y speeches. Oh, and we meet Tiller's sister, who's saucy and kind of awesome. Let's hope she's around in the present day.


This week's random moment of creepiness: Compared to last week's weird "Dr. Beauregard dancing around next to a dead body" scene, there wasn't much this week. Cal Sweeney's seduction of lonely tellers was sort of creepy, and so was his stapling a guy's hand to a table in order to elicit sentimental memories.

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