We open in Walnut Creek, CA, present day, as a pleasant-looking man (Michael Eklund) enters a house, walking upstairs to tuck in some sleeping children. Except, hold on, then he wakes the older of the two boys with a hand over his mouth, saying that if he screams, the man will kill his brother. Naturally. This is Alcatraz – what were you expecting?
In present day, Dr. Soto is drawing a graphic novel adaptation of the scene in which Lucy (Hauser’s assistant and probably paramour) was shot by Ernest Cobb (in last week’s episode) in his comic shop, where Chet, his shop assistant, remarks that the good doctor has the “best life ever: super hot partner, secret task force, comic book guru, and you don’t have to go to school ever again.” When the police scanner reveals that a boy was kidnapped in the middle of the night and all that was left in his bed was a chrysanthemum, though, Soto knows exactly what’s happened and springs to action.
In the hospital, Hauser keeps a watchful eye over Lucy, still in a coma. Rebecca and Soto show up, separately, and Soto explains just what exactly he suspects is going on. After a reprimand to him for owning a police scanner (whoops), Soto explains that inmate Kit Nelson kidnaps children on Friday night, leaving a chrysanthemum in their beds, and kills them, returning their bodies on Sunday night. Again, there’s a time crunch on finding these inmates – if they don’t find him in 48 hours, this little boy is dead.
Back in 1960, Nelson’s face is covered in blood and stitches after being beaten senseless by other inmates for his crimes as “child-killer.” The same curtained-off neighbor from the pilot starts cackling, and tells Nelson that he doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of Dr. Beauregard or he’ll wind up on the other side of the curtain. Suddenly, the other doctors pull away the curtain, and that man is revealed to be none other than Tommy Madsen, Rebecca’s grandfather, who says that the pecking order is robbers, murderers, then rapists and child killers. “They didn’t beat you because of what you did – they beat you because of what you are,” Madsen says.
At the Alcatraz Lair, Hauser is canceling Dylan’s amber alerts, and in a moment of tenderness considers Lucy’s sweater that she left at her desk before throwing the chair over. He shows up at the missing boy’s house, telling a freaked-out Soto that he canceled the amber alert because he knows exactly where Nelson is going – right back here. As the finality of what he’s saying sinks in, Soto and Rebecca get upset. Rebecca follows, and Hauser calls that she can forget about finding her grandfather. Coming back, she says that this isn’t about him – there are 302 men coming back, and unless he trusts them, he’s going to be doing it alone.
Soto is at his fifth or sixth diner, asking the owner if Nelson and Dylan had been in to get some cherry pie. Back in the file room, Rebecca is calling him repeatedly, figuring out that Nelson does what he liked to do as a kid, not what these kids like to do. After several different diners, Soto hears Nelson in a booth behind him ordering two slices of cherry pie. Rebecca calls him at that moment, and he conveys what’s happening to her without giving anything away.
Back in 1960, Nelson’s father visits and tells him he’s glad to see he’s getting what he deserves. He says that Nelson’s mother told him that when her own father died, she left her two sons at home over the weekend, and when she came back, Elliott was dead from scarlet fever. However, he said that wasn’t the way he really died and that Kit hated his brother because he was different – he loved life, swimming in lakes, miniature golf, cherry pie; even more, after Elliott died, his plan backfired because his mother ignored him more.
In stark contrast to Cobb’s reaction to solitary confinement, Nelson struggles and yells all the way in. However, standing in the dark is the warden, who gives him a four-match conversation about what really happened to his brother. He confesses to the murder, that it was not difficult, and impresses upon the warden that it gave him sexual satisfaction. He said that when his brother died, that’s when he knew that he had to do it again. With a bonus match, he says that he put the flower on his mother’s bed because it was her favorite.
In the present, Soto tries to stall Nelson until Rebecca arrives, finally blowing his cover by calling out Nelson’s name. In a standoff, Nelson threatens to shoot Dylan if they don’t let them leave, and Rebecca drops her gun, letting Nelson escape with Dylan. Back at Alcatraz, they look through all of Nelson’s stuff and realize he used to work for a company that built bomb shelters, and realize where he must have taken Dylan.
Nelson has Dylan down in a hatch (I see you there, Lost team), asking for food or a blanket. As Nelson lights a cigarette (with the warden’s original box of matches), Dylan knocks out the light with his sneaker and escapes into the forest. Nelson catches up with him, but runs into Rebecca and Soto. He threatens to kill Dylan, and it seems like a catch-22 until Hauser pops up and shoots Nelson in the head.
Back in Alcatraz, Hauser has a word with Soto about how arrested development is what happens when we’re traumatized as children – we get stuck at the age we were when the trauma occurred, for our entire lives. Hauser continues on to say that, to be an expert, someone needs to have studied something for 10,000 hours, and he would bet that Soto has spent twice that studying Alcatraz – but that he needs the adult, not the eleven-year-old who was kidnapped. Obviously pained by being forced to recall that memory, Soto agrees to bring his all to the cases and not retreat into his younger self.
On his way home, Soto stops at Dylan’s house and gives him the comics he’s missing from his collection, giving him a small pep talk about how escaping from a kidnapper gives you a superpower like those in the comics – except his are real. A very touching moment that really brings a lot to Soto’s character.
Back in New Alcatraz, Hauser walks past Sylvane and Cobb with the body bag over his shoulder. He walks into a closed-off room and says, “Dr. Beauregard, I got one for you.” Before he leaves, he says that he may need Beauregard’s help, implying that if Lucy should die, he’ll need the doctor to bring her back to life, as he’s about to do with Kit Nelson. The good doc agrees, turns up some music, lights his cigarette, and prepares to get to work.
The thing about Alcatraz is that it takes these fictional murderers and shows you why they do the things they do, and instead of making them more sympathetic, it makes it even more horrifying (a la Criminal Minds). Ernest Cobb killed a young woman because of his jealousy of his sister. Kit Nelson forced the children to reenact his childhood relationship with his brother before killing them. Jack Sylvane killed as many people as he could who had been involved with Alcatraz while he was there, because he was the one who got to them first (I assume).
I’m super curious to know what the master plan is here – wishful thinking, I know. But why keep all the inmates alive in New Alcatraz? More importantly, why bring the dead ones (assuming there will be more) back to life? What exactly is Hauser’s plan for all of these people – or, really, is it his plan?
Also, should Rebecca be maybe a little more worried about her grandfather? Tommy Madsen seems to have more than one screw just a little bit loose. Next time he shows up in the present, it’ll be in a big way, I’m sure of it.