‘Alphas’ keeps rolling out the nerd favorite guest stars. Last week gave us Summer Glau, and now we get her ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ co-star Garret Dillahunt. He plays the leader of a religious cult, which seems like a role right in his wheelhouse. Of course, Dillahunt has played so many different types of characters on TV by now that just about anything is in his wheelhouse.
‘A Short Time in Paradise’ opens with an intensely creepy scene. In a small town revivalist church, the preacher (not Dillahunt) has worked his congregation into a state of ecstatic bliss. With his young son’s help, he douses the building in gasoline and sets it on fire. The father calls for the son to join him on the journey to heaven, but the boy panics at the last second and runs away just as the building goes up in flames, screams emanating from within.
The boy was named Jonas. We next see him as an adult (Dillahunt) attending the same AA meeting as Cameron. But he’s not there because he’s an alcoholic. He’s there to spread his message of peace and religious tranquility. When Cameron and the group leader try to toss this nutcase, the room fills with light and Jonas appears to transform into an angel. Everyone, including Cameron, is enraptured. From that point on, Cameron falls fully under Jonas’s spell. He soon recruits Nina and brings her to Jonas’s commune compound, where they happily work in the garden and have lots of wonderful, blissed out sex.
Unfortunately, not all is well there. Members of the flock who remain under the spell for too long eventually fall catatonic, waste away, and die. Cameron convinces Jonas to let him call Dr. Rosen, who will understand what’s happening and will be able to help. Rosen arrives completely oblivious to what’s going on, but immediately identifies Jonas as an Alpha. He insists that he not receive a blessing if Jonas wants him to help.
Jonas does not appear to be malicious, just deluded into believing that his powers are divinely inspired. He doesn’t want his followers to die, but at the same time, he doesn’t want them to leave him either. Rosen discovers that injecting the victims with L-DOPA will pull them out of their catatonia, but will also break Jonas’s hold on them. One of them describes Jonas’s bliss like being the most intense drug he’d ever taken. Jonas becomes conflicted.
Once Bill, Gary and Rachel realize that Rosen, Cameron and Nina are missing, they track them to the compound. Bill attempts to infiltrate, but is “pushed” by Nina and quickly zombified by Jonas. He tells Jonas that a DOD tactical team is on the way. This situation is going to turn into another Waco. Jonas decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and take all his followers with him to heaven. As he prepares to burn down the building, Rosen steals Bill’s gun and shoots Jonas in the face.
Eventually, with Jonas dead, everyone snaps out of the trance. Bill, Nina and Cameron thank Rosen for saving them. However, Rosen is left badly shaken by his decision to take a man’s life.
In a side story, Gary helps Rachel to work through some daddy issues. She can smell that her father has throat cancer, but the stubborn man refuses to listen or to see a doctor. She gets through to him eventually. Frankly, this storyline feels shoehorned into the episode, and the resolution is kind of pat. Nonetheless, it’s a good episode overall, with a story that might even have some repercussions for the characters in the future. Rosen is left unsure of his beliefs about nonviolence, and there’s bound to be some weirdness between Cameron and Nina at the office.