Alcatraz Watch: Episode 6 - Paxton Petty

By Nick Venable 2012-02-14 05:17:49 discussion comments
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Alcatraz Watch: Episode 6 - Paxton Petty image
A Rant in F. You Major

“Hey, psycho. You switch to decaf yet?” Rebecca Marsden says to Tanner from Bomb Squad, in the bloody aftermath of multiple landmine explosions. This question coincided with the bile rising from my stomach to esophagus as Rebecca and Soto entered the episode. And when this hopelessly hackneyed question was complete, I wondered why I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of the landmine victims.

For all of Alcatraz’s faults, from armchair scripting to a reliance on coincidences, Rebecca is the sorest of all hangnailed thumbs. Little of my ire is cast at Sarah Jones for being merely ineffectual, for how does one use thespianism to enhance a clichéd nuance-free void? If I had to describe her personality, I would struggle to arrive at “street smart,” which isn’t quantifiable enough to matter. Soto uses lame elementary comic references, so why can’t Rebecca have had a party-hearty youth or a passion for alchemy? Even a fear of spiders. Something beyond shallow familial references that deal directly with current plot developments. Until then, her shitty jokes and lectured exposition are the bane of my television viewing. I’m just saying.

The Part When I Remembered There Was A Whole Episode To Talk About

Another week, another criminal arguably more murderously notorious than 97% of real-world criminals previous to 1960. This week: Paxton Petty, Landmine Killer. (Have no fear, landmine advocacy groups.) A Korean War vet, Petty (James Pizzinato) watched his successes become overshadowed by a self-perpetrated landmine explosion killing a group of Korean children, his defense being the children were already militarized soldiers. He was court-martialed and didn’t receive the Silver Star, third-highest of all military honors, like the rest of his Division. So to get back at the government, he started killing civilians. Perfect plan. In his 2012 awakening, he’s back to old tricks, using Silver Stars as the mine’s shrapnel. He steals the hard-to-get Stars from dead soldiers, running his operation out of a crypt in a military graveyard.

If I were watching for fun instead of writing, I wouldn’t get so stuck on these plot details being tossed about willy nilly. I’ve never been to a military graveyard for research purposes, so maybe I’m just naïve. Assuming one can use public record to find out what soldiers received Silver Stars, is there also a listing of who was actually buried with them? I can’t wager how much of this metal would be needed to fill the multitude of mines he has, but I’m guessing it takes more than a few random tomb robbings to find enough. And where was his welding machine? Maybe he set himself up with all the mines in the past, and didn’t have to currently worry about icky dead people. I think we can all agree on the message being conveyed here: War makes you crazy, or don’t mess with America, or something.

The episode’s emotional undertones once again reside in Hauser and Lucy. Hauser of the 1960 San Francisco Police Dept, is the one escorting Petty to Alcatraz, where he meets and is immediately enamored by Dr. Lucy, offering her “rides back to the mainland” and other hyper-sexual conquests . (Or maybe innocence prevailed.) There was still a fourth set of mines undiscovered, and Lucy’s treatment (politeness plus sedatives and electro-shock) are more effective than the stubborn Dr. Beauregard’s (water torture) at getting a clue from Petty. The clue: a Korean lullaby.

Lucy talks with Tommy Madsen, himself a Korean War vet, who tells her the lullaby was code, where each line contained a veiled mine location. Lucy tasks Hauser to figure out what the last clue, “Twin Trees,” refers to. And of course in present time, Petty’s mines follow the same pattern, using the second verse from the lullaby. Not a second verse! What’s the point in utilizing the second set of clues if you’re the only landmine mass murder in existence and you don’t want to get caught?

While Soto and Rebecca chase the shrapnel angle, involving an awkward explanation from an assumed “random piece of metal” expert, Hauser sits in the big computer room and talks to himself. He inputs the clues from the verse, and almost magically, the computer pinpoints singularly specific places. Are we really to believe a city as large as San Francisco contains only one place with the word “spring” in it? And how is “windward” the word Hauser assumes has to be the clue? Regardless, he heads to Spring Beach, where he catches Petty in the act of burying mines. Alas, Hauser steps on one, and is stuck standing there as Petty takes his gun and phone and heads to the next location, Windward Elementary, which Soto and Rebecca have been staking out at Hauser’s command.

Thanks to the “plot generator” portion of the cerebellum, it doesn’t take much imagination to see where this is going. Rebecca stops Petty, but realizes Hauser is in trouble. Petty won’t talk. Rebecca finds everything Hauser was doing on the computer. They find him on the beach. (I imagined them walking up to Hauser surrounded by a moat of urine.) Bomb Squad arrives and finds out this particular mine is more complicated than the others. Hauser is safely removed from the scene. Tanner painstakingly removes the detonator from the mine and holds it up in a self-congratulatory manner before the damned thing goes off and kills him anyway.

Did I mention Tanner was black? (Because the name sure wasn’t giving it away.) Despite anything I may have said in the past, the Fate of the Black Bomb Squad Officer is officially the most predictable moment this show has given us.

Because his legs were sore from standing upright for so long, Hauser shoots Petty in the leg and wittily extracts the location of the “Twin Trees” mine. He finally has the information Lucy wanted all those years ago. But he can only tell it to her coma-ridden body. A doctor asks Hauser if anyone had ever talked about a DNR. At the episode’s end, he takes Lucy to Dr. Beauregard and tells him to fix her. Why wouldn’t he have done this already? Is the grudge between these two so strong that he might have refused to work on her? Whatever.

The mystery aspect is shortsighted in “Paxton Petty.” (I kind of hate the quirky group-thought names these guys are given. I kind of do not hate saying “Paxton Petty” though.) Tommy Madsen only agrees to share information about the lullaby if Lucy can find out why they keep taking so much blood from him. Incidentally, he’s remarkably un-pale for a low-blood Swedish guy trapped inside a building 23 hours a day. The only thing Lucy gets for her inquiries is a dirty look and a threat from Beauregard. Then later, Petty tries demanding information about why he went to sleep in 1963 and woke up in 2012, with only a handful of days having transpired in his subjective timeline.

Alcatraz is the kind of show that glosses over neater moments, such as when Soto realizes Petty broke out of the crypt instead of into it and must have re-appeared in there, and relying on dumber moments, such as Petty having a spare landmine to roll at Rebecca as she pursues him. As suspense, I understand it. But I don’t understand why the man responsible for a minutes-old landmine explosion would be standing amongst the cops and citizens with a landmine in his goddamned jacket! Not once was he described as a veteran landmine specialist who is also a fucking brainless mong. Anyway, I now leave you with saving graces and damning lapses.

The Good and the Bad

There were a few genuine chuckles in this episode. Lucy offers the freezing cold Petty a cup of hot tea, which he drinks and speaks arrogantly about knowing of the mind games Alcatraz doctors play, showing them the palmed pill he refuses to take. Lucy tells him the pill is a mint and that she drugged the tea. It was nice to see Pizzinato’s face lose that horrendous smirk he hammed the whole episode. Even his IMDB page is nightmarish.

Hauser, angrily in reference to spray paint Rebecca found in Petty’s stash: What color was the paint? Rebecca: Tan. Sandstone.
Hauser: Those are two different colors.

Hauser, standing still while Tanner works on the mine beneath him: You don’t have to be here, you know?
Rebecca: Oh, I know. I just can’t see from up there.

I liked the teeny bit of gore make-up in the autopsy room. But did Nikki, or however she spells it, absolutely have a t-shirt for a comic book beneath her white jacket, especially one that Soto happens to have every single issue of? I’m all about Soto getting laid, but still…

Petty gets offended that Soto didn’t write about him in his books. Then we find out Soto didn’t even realize there was a female doctor on the island. I’m not sure why a cover-up of Lucy’s existence is interesting, but it could be.

I realize now I wouldn’t know playground turf if it hit me in the face.

Why would Petty send that damned poem with his ransom note? Does 651,000 equal out whatever he feels he’s owed by the government? How did he figure this out? On a computer that he’d never seen before? Why wasn’t his mind flipping blown when he realized the existence of cell phones? Would this not have been a very Dick Tracy marvel to witness? Damn, these guys acclimate so easily.
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