Recap: Alcatraz 1×04 – Cal Sweeney

This week, we open with the undercover lover of a bank teller, who takes him to the safety deposit box room for some off-camera making out. Once there, he knocks her out with a syringe and uses a cattle gun (the same one from No Country for Old Men, basically) to pop open a few different safety deposit boxes. After emptying them of valuables, he exits the premises. And there we have him – 1950s bank robber Cal Sweeney (Eric Johnson, “Rookie Blue”).

Back in 1960, Sweeney runs a smooth operation inside Alcatraz trading cash for contraband, like cigarettes. He’s pretty much the king of the low road, even training his protege Harlan (Steven Grayhm) – that is, until Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller gets a whiff of what’s going on. Tiller says that if it were up to him, he’d run the prison on the straight and narrow, but since the Warden overlooks minor goings-on, he’s going to have a cut of Sweeney’s business. Thinking Tiller stole his only worldly possession, a small burned tin box, Sweeney refuses, and Tiller reminds him that, in this world, it’s only when you go against the grain that you get nicked.

In the present, Rebecca and Soto are having lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, and we unpack a little bit more of his baggage. He got his degrees to please his parents, but was later blacklisted from the theoretical field for crime prevention theories based on Gotham City – he would rather be disgraced than disappoint his parents (“it’s a complicated relationship”). They get the call about Sweeney, and meet Hauser at the bank, where they interrogate the woman and try to find the owners of the items in the boxes. However, slick-as-pomade Sweeney is already paying a visit, allegedly to take inventory of what was stolen so he can file insurance – and also get an unofficial appraisal. When the owner won’t give him the story of why a sapphire necklace is important to his life, Sweeney uses his cattle gun to nail his hand to the table. When the gang arrives, the homeowner has been shot in the head and Sweeney’s moved on.

In 1960, Sweeney and Harlan have weaseled their way into being stewards for Tiller’s birthday party at the Warden’s home, having cooked up a revenge for Tiller stealing the tin box. Over the meal, Dr. Sengupta reveals that she has both an MD and a post-doc in clinical psychology, and Dr. Beauregard drunkenly makes fun of her, calling her Mrs. Senguppy and implying that she’s going to perform magic on the inmates rather than psychology (hello, racism). To try to salvage the situation, Tiller intervenes to say that most of the inmates are just “wired wrong,” but she says these are due to traumatic memories and that she thinks she can rewire them. After an awkward moment, the Warden proposes a toast to Tiller and invites him to open his gift, a fancy new pen, saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword, and that the vessel with which a man releases his thoughts lends power to them.” Harlan takes this opportunity to spill tea in Tiller’s lap, after which Sweeney follows him into the bathroom. Sweeney unhappily agrees to Tiller taking 50% of his income, but when he demands his box back, Tiller still insists he doesn’t have it. When Sweeney waterboards him, Tiller stabs him in the leg with his new pen, saying he’ll be locked up in “the hole” for thirty days, at least.

In the present, Rebecca, Soto and Hauser figure out by studying the crimes that he’s using the tellers to gain access to the deposit boxes. They find his next target by paying an unnecessarily on-camera visit to the flower shop, but by the time they get there, Sweeney made his surprisingly first mistake of robbing banks in 2012 and tripped the alarm. Surrounded by police, he whips out a gun and takes everyone hostage.

Hauser pulls together a plan where he stalls and Rebecca sneaks Sweeney out of the bank without the dozens of officers around knowing. After crawling through the vents, Rebecca and Sweeney drive away, but when he realizes they’re being tailed by Hauser and Soto, he tells her to lose them. Now anxious that she’ll get shot, she realizes Sweeney isn’t wearing a seatbelt and slams her car into a parked vehicle, knocking Sweeney out and handcuffing him to the steering wheel.

When the trio arrives back at Alcatraz, they pin Sweeney’s mugshots to the Captured wall and stare down the long, long row of still-missing. Rebecca agrees to return the key that Sweeney stole from a last deposit box to Hauser if he explains what’s going on. He agrees, she hands it over, and he says, “Maybe another time” and walks off. Burn, girl – should’ve clarified that request a little further. Can’t mess around with Sam Neill.

When Hauser takes the key to the scientists underground, they compare it to the one Sylvane had on him in the pilot and realize that they were laser-cut – a technology that wasn’t available when the keys were made. Alarmed, Hauser demands that every lock on the island be imaged to find out what these keys unlock. He suspects they may have something to do with how the prisoners got off the rock, and is desperate to find answers.

Finally, back in 1960, Sweeney still has a case of the sads about his tin box and talks to Harlan through the wall between their cells. As Harlan talks, though, Sweeney realizes he’s been betrayed by the only person he trusted, and Harlan slides the box back to him. Furious, Sweeney is carted off before he can come up with revenge against Harlan, who says that by the time Sweeney gets back, no one will even remember who he was. However, not all is sunny for Harlan, who we next see walking down a set of dark stairs with the Warden, the path lit only by flashlight. Apparently someone down here got word of Harlan’s betrayal and wanted to have a word with him, which naturally freaks him out. The Warden removes both of the special keys and uses them to unlock an inner lock, which he swings open to a pitch-black cell, and directs Harlan inside, saying that his future just got a whole lot brighter.

What did you think of this week’s episode? No New Alcatraz tonight, but something tells me we’re not done with this underground secret cave cell. When Tiller was killed in the pilot, I thought for sure he was gone, but he’s showing up regularly, and I love it. What do you think awaits Harlan in that dungeon? On a broader note, what do you think about Harlan? He’s obviously up to no good, but he has to have some sort of bigger plan. I wonder when we’ll see his episode, since there’s obviously more than meets the eye with him.
One thing I’m really curious about is what Sweeney meant when he started to tell Rebecca that he was supposed to find the key. Actually, let’s back up – he didn’t even know it was a key (though I find that hard to believe since it was in a small drawstring bag). We saw that he was looking for specific safety deposit boxes – whose was the key in? If Hauser knew whose box the key had come from, that might give him a little more insight into what the key was for. We know about the keys, but this is one of the few things Hauser appears to really know nothing about.
Also, I need to know more about Lucille Sengupta/Lucy Banerjee immediately. She is clearly awesome and clearly a little bit scary, and I’m dying to know more. She and Dr. Beauregard are working with Hauser, no problem, and clearly they “jumped” as well, as he put it in this episode. There’s obviously a master plan that they all know about, and we, like Rebecca and Soto, are being kept almost entirely in the dark. I’m ready for Rebecca to step up and insist she get some answers. It seems a little silly that she literally risked her life only to be told “maybe next time.” What did you think?
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About Bailey

I'm a writer and a feminist. I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of television.

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