Alcatraz Watch: Episode 11 - Webb Porter

“What’s the difference between a violinist and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of five.”

Am I emotional over “Webb Porter” being the penultimate episode of Alcatraz, which hasn’t been picked up for a second season as of this writing? I am not. I’d be even less emotional if Rebecca Madsen and Diego Soto die in a non-tragic double suicide by the end of next week’s finale. But things like that just don’t happen, because the writers are interested in at least partially resolving the show’s mysteries, and not in my abhorrence of the lead characters. But I’ll save all that talk for next week. Tonight, a tale of hairs in a bow. Not that kind of bow. A violin bow. And not those kinds of hairs…well yes, those kinds of hairs.

Webb Porter’s mother tried drowning him when he was a young lad, which Dr. Lucy assumes is the cause of the tinnitus affecting him. It’s the reason he’s spent most of his first year of lock-up silent, with one ear against a wall soothing himself with the vibrations of a humming refrigerator on the other side. I guess Lucy never heard of tinnitus affecting people whose mothers didn’t try to drown them. Medical marvels these people must be.

Porter killed his mother along with four other women, and now he’s under Lucy’s musical therapy care. She plays music for him as a substitution for the ear-ringing. She lets him choose a violin from the Alcatraz Band Room, which takes him about fifteen seconds to master. Sandbagger or savant? We don’t really know. What we do know is that the Alcatraz band, called the Rock Islanders, is predominantly comprised of black musicians. As it should be. Also, someone is making a film reel of the guys performing as Lucy and Porter enter the room. Video proof of Lucy in 1963? Guess where this is going.

The episode builds on Hauser and Lucy’s romantical relationship. They share kisses. They have a date at Ratty’s Jazz Bar, and because creating a jazz bar for just one scene wouldn’t be feasible, this is the same place that present-day Porter buys his current violin. He’s been playing this violin inside the houses of women he ties up before shaving their heads and drowning them in their bathtubs. Though these murders are related to music, and Hauser and Lucy have conversations about her musical therapy with Porter, the first part of the episode is still a “whodunit.” Hauser is kind of useless when it comes to information. He just wants to shoot people after threatening to shoot them. Also, he’s been getting massages after taking a dish full of pills. What’s that about? (That there is a new blue pill in the bunch seems suggestive, as an older guy in an Asian massage parlor alludes to only one thing.)

Because Porter’s blood was found beneath his first victim’s fingernails, Dr. Beauregard is able to ascertain the presence of colloidal silver in his blood. Remember, the thing that’s healed all the returnees’ ailments? When asked if he’s sure the blood will help Lucy’s health problems, the doctor answers, “Certain as the sky is blue. Not that I’ve seen it in some time.” Great line, though I’m not sure what we’re to believe he’s doing in his downtime. Now they just have to catch Porter.

When it all comes out, Porter’s devious plan is pretty much killing long-haired women he met at a fund raiser at the Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has a job stacking chairs. He also auditions, and though his playing is beautiful (“That was excellent. Your bow makes the sweetest sound.”), he can’t read music, so he’s out. He then kills another girl before both halves of the Good Guys independently track him down. We learn the way his mother’s hair was floating in the water as she tried to drown him (“All spread out over the water like cracks on the surface.”) is the motivation for cutting off his victims’ hair, using it as the string for his bows. All spread out doesn’t exactly equal tightly wound bow strings, but I’m not really complaining. Just hearing him tell one woman, “I like your hair,” before violently advancing on her justified the silliness to a certain extent.

Following a creepy moment when Porter plays to the cheers and applause of a room full of nothing, we get a chase scene that goes up into the theater rafters before Porter is caught between Rebecca and Hauser’s gun sights. He attempts to kill himself, but Hauser grabs him and he’s brought to justice. At least, the kind of justice the ‘63ers get. If anyone can tell me how a man in handcuffs climbs down a ladder, I’m all ears.

The episode ends with two relatively exciting scenes. One involves Rebecca and Soto watching the Rock Islander film reel from earlier in the episode, which they found when they were looking for clues of Porter’s identity. (Porter helpfully carved his name into the back of his violin.) They both realize Lucy is a ‘63er, and they ponder the implications, having figured out earlier in the episode that Hauser moved her out of the hospital. Meanwhile, Dr. Beauregard gives Lucy the blood transfusion with Porter’s blood, which he seemed happy to give up after finding out she had also come back, and she opens her eyes in dramatic pre-credits fashion. Dum dum dummmm.

One would expect the final episodes of such a mysterious series to be packed with hints and red herrings and things, but this week was business as usual for Alcatraz. We did get to meet Elmore from Ratty’s, and I have to wonder why he can’t just be the guy who gives Hauser and Soto the ridiculous “Yeah, your suspect was just here the other day,” spiel every week. “You playing Friday?” “Till I’m dead.” Actually, this show could have just been about serial killing time-traveling jazz musicians, and I’m certain I’d be happier.

My problems are the usual ones. They break into Porter’s apartment, which is pretty gigantic for a lowly chair stacker, and are told he’s been living there for months. But he only just started killing people a few days previous? Such restraint for a serial killer. Also, in this apartment, they find his hair-bows, one of which is from a redhead. So they hit the database to find out which Philharmonic fund raiser guests were redheads. They pinpoint the correct girl (out of two) based on longer hair length and the other girl’s extremely recent check-in on “Facesquare.” They head to her residence, where they find her still alive. With all of her hair. So whose hair was in the bow for the redhead? I understand that Hauser and Rebecca would still look her up and go to her house, but I don’t understand why Porter would have already made the bow and had it at his apartment if he hadn’t killed her yet. Maybe I’m just naïve about how these things work. Maybe I'm wrong about everything I've ever written about this show.

I simply must save my writing strength for next week’s two-hour finale. It’s looking to be a zinger, with Tommy Madsen finally becoming a headliner. We’ll find out what’s behind the Warden’s doors, among other things, but the writers are still going to leave things open for a second season, should one ever surface. Television God, help us all.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.