‘Alcatraz’ 1.04 Recap: “Take the Bank”

As a result of our crowded post schedule last week, I didn’t have a chance to throw together a recap of last Monday’s episode of ‘Alcatraz’. Let’s try to get that done before tonight’s new episode airs. What, you expected us to talk about football here? Please…

The escapee being chased in ‘Cal Sweeney’ is a dapper bank robber (played by Eric Johnson from ‘Rookie Blue’) who seduces homely tellers in order to get into the vaults. Once inside, he drugs the ladies, but isn’t above killing if needed. His weapon of choice is a cattle bolt pistol. Wherever he’s been for the past fifty years, he apparently either had time to read ‘No Country for Old Men’ or see the movie.

Bizarrely, Cal only steals from safety deposit boxes and leaves all the banks’ cash behind. Rebecca speculates that he knows that taking the cash would be a federal crime, while robbing the safety deposit boxes is only considered property theft, and has lighter sentences if he gets caught. However, that hasn’t stopped him from murdering people who get in his way. Also, Cal doesn’t try to unload any of the items he takes. In fact, he shows up at one victim’s house claiming to be an insurance agent, and then forces the man at gunpoint to tell him the story behind the items in his box.

In a flashback, we learn that Cal ran a contraband smuggling operation from the prison’s laundry room. When a guard squeezes him for a cut of the profits, Cal’s attempt to take him out doesn’t go well. It seems that Cal lost his entire family in a fire when he was young, and the only item he has to remember them by is an empty tin box that survived the blaze. When the guard takes away the box, Cal goes crazy.

We also see more of Hauser’s partner Lucy (Parminder Nagra) in the flashback, as the prison psychologist Dr. Sangupta. She has apparently not aged a day since 1963. In the prison, she explains to the warden that she plans to try an experimental therapy that will erase the prisoners’ memories, thus removing whatever triggering events in their pasts caused them to go bad in the first place. Could this have something to do with why they all disappeared?

Back to the present day, Cal’s third bank robbery goes south when the teller sets off an alarm. He’s forced to take hostages in a police stand-off. Hauser cannot risk Cal being arrested by the regular authorities, so he orders Rebecca to sneak in and help him escape. She manages to do so, and on the way out, he delivers the funny line, “Not bad, Bonnie.” At first, this seemed like another anachronism to me. The ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ movie wasn’t released until 1967. Of course, the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow had their famous crime spree in the ’30s, and I suppose that a bank robber in 1963 would be familiar with the story.

Anyway, Hauser brings Cal to his secret prison, and retrieves from him an oversized key much like the one that Jack Sylvane stole in the pilot episode. Cal seems to have been sent specifically to retrieve it. Hauser has a team of nerd scientists examine the key, and they determine that its grooves were laser cut, a technique that simply didn’t exist in the ’60s.

Back to one more flashback, we see that the prison warden had some of these keys, which opened a secret vault in the basement. We don’t get to see what was in there, but the warden shoves Cal in, and Cal clearly isn’t happy about it.

Of the four episodes that have aired so far, this is probably the weakest. I expected the bank robber premise to be a little more fun that it winds up in practice. The idea that Cal steals items not for profit, but to vicariously relive the owners’ emotional connections to them, is also not explored as clearly or thoroughly as it could be. That’s not to say that this is a bad episode, but I hope for a little more out of the next one.


  1. Bob

    “Weakest” – just wait for the next episode! I got lost in all the machinations of who was looking for who and why???? This is a really bad show in terms of what is possible and what isn’t! After watching three episodes now, I have absolutely no clue as to the overall plot or where this is going so it’s down the drain for this one for me.

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