‘Persons Unknown’ 1.04 Recap: “Do You Believe in the Process?”

There’s a lot going on in this week’s episode of ‘Persons Unknown’, called ‘Exit One’. Not the least of these developments is that some characters do indeed find an exit out of town. Sort of. Beyond that is an even bigger revelation at the end. This is a terrific episode all-around, and the best of the show so far. Let’s take a look at everything that happened in the spoilerific recap.

Things start off on an innocuous enough note. Sitting in the gazebo, Janet gently catches a bee in her hand. She’s puzzled because this type of bee should be in winter hibernation, not buzzing out and about. (Janet’s daughter is a big fan of the bug lady at the zoo.) When he gets the chance, Joe stomps on the bug. It seems that he’s deathly allergic. One sting and he’s dead. That’s the kind of factoid that will of course come back around later.

At the hotel, the night manager (now the day manager) delivers a telegram to his guests. The message announces that one of them will be checking out. Who that will be, and what “checking out” means are not specified. On the chance that the message is genuine, Janet suggests that everyone trade contact info so that whoever gets out can contact family members for the others. Joe opts not to participate.

Eventually a beat-up old taxi drives straight into town, safely past the pain barrier. The Middle Eastern driver speaks no English, except to get the name “Janet Cooper” out. Graham speaks a little Arabic, owing to his time in Iraq. What he manages to translate is that the cab is there for Janet, and she can pick one person to go with her. She picks Joe. He remains skeptical of the situation, but grudgingly agrees to go with her. They get in the car, and it drives them straight out of town.

Back in San Francisco, Renbe gets a call from someone with an Irish accent, once more threatening him to drop the story about Janet. It’s confirmed in the conversation that he is indeed Janet’s ex-husband. I don’t really understand how this makes sense. He’s a popular newspaper columnist in the city where she lives, and yet she had no idea where to find him?

Anyway, Edick finds Renbe again and takes back his files. He suggests that Renbe should go talk to his detective friend, who now knows that he’s Janet’s husband. As a consequence of this, he also has to come clean to his editor/girlfriend.

In town, Tori is more convinced than ever that her father is behind everything. In a flashback, we learn that the secret she’s keeping is that she believes he murdered her mother. We also learn that he used to whore her around to his business associates to further his career. Tori gets herself gussied up in a smokin’ hot red dress and makes an attempt to seduce the hotel manager. Although flustered, he tells her that he can’t help her leave. She asks him to give a message to her father, a message that she will be a good girl and just wants to go home. He says that he can’t take messages, but acts like he’ll try to anyway. Later, she announces to Bill that she’ll be leaving soon, as if it were a done deal. She apologizes for beating him up earlier, and makes a pathetic attempt to come on to him for some reason. He’s not interested. Which means that he must be interested in something else more, because c’mon…

Janet and Joe ride in the taxi down a long road in the middle of a deserted countryside. The car gets a flat, and the driver motions for everyone to get out. He’s waving around a kind of scary machete, but not in a threatening way. Bizarrely, he opens the trunk and pulls out a couple of coconuts, then chops off the tops, pops some straws in, and hands them to Joe and Janet. A few minutes later, a giant black semi comes barreling down the road at top speed. Janet and Joe get off to the side of the road, but the cabbie still futzes with the tire. The truck smashes right through the cab, and appears to have run down the driver. However, when Joe and Janet search through the burning wreckage of the car, they can’t find a body.

Bill continues to taunt Charlie about his secret. He has a ridiculous idea for a business venture about privatizing neighborhood parks and making people pay for admission. He calls it “Fresh Airrr.” He tries to blackmail Charlie into financing this scheme once they get out of this mess. Charlie refuses. Bill continues to harp on the idea throughout the episode. Eventually, when Bill makes the mistake of lying down on Charlie’s bed, Charlie smothers him with a pillow. He holds back from killing him, though. This scares the shit out of Bill. Charlie then tells (really orders) Bill to leave him the hell alone. Somewhere in the midst of all this (I forget the exact timing), Charlie also implies that his wife never had cancer.

Joe and Janet find an uninhabited cabin in the woods that is conveniently stocked with food. They spend the night there, and bond more in conversation. By the constellations she sees in the sky, Janet determines that they’re still somewhere in the Northern hemisphere.

In the morning, Joe is awoken by a bee landing on his face. There are more of them buzzing around, and the room is filling quickly. In an extremely suspenseful sequence, Janet very carefully guides him up and out of the cabin.

They walk away and hit another road. They have to pick a direction to go. Janet decides. As they walk, the black truck comes by again. They run off to the side and hide in some weeds. The driver obviously saw them do it. The truck stops for a moment ominously, and then drives off again.

That night, the road leads them straight back to town. Janet is on the verge of hysteria. But they’re cold, and exhausted, and won’t survive the night out in the open. Joe insists that they go back to the hotel. He promises Janet that he’ll help get her out. When they get to the hotel, they go straight upstairs. Janet asks Joe to stay the night in her room, because she can’t be alone.

When everyone else is asleep, a new cab (this one much nicer) arrives in town. Tori knows it’s for her. Indeed, this driver speaks English, and has her name. She hops in and they drive away. No one else sees her go.

And then, the biggest twist:

First thing in the morning, Joe slips out of Janet’s room and goes to the Chinese restaurant. He tells the host (Reggie Lee) that he wants a take-out order with okra. The host feigns ignorance as to what okra is, and asks him to come into the stockroom to show him. The stockroom isn’t a stockroom at all. It’s completely bare. The door closes behind them and the host (whose name is apparently Tom) drops his heavy accent. He immediately yells at Joe for breaking protocol. Yes, Joe is a mole in the camp, and has been working for the mysterious abductors the whole time!

It doesn’t surprise me that one of the characters is a mole, but it does kind of surprise me that it’s Joe. I’ve been suspecting Moira. (Of course, she could be as well, for all I know at this point.)

They have an argument. Joe demands to know what the plans are for Janet. Tom asks threateningly if he’s pulling out of the assignment. The implication being that there will be serious consequences if he does. Joe backs down. The episode ends with Tom asking the enigmatic question, “Do you believe in the process?”, and Joe agreeing that he does.

What the hell does that mean?

My instinctive guess is that all of these people have been brought to the town due to bad things they’ve done in the past. (We already know that Charlie is a murderer, and Janet has some dark secret as well. Bill clearly isn’t a good guy.) The “process” must be a way of either forcing them to atone for their sins, or somehow work out their problems.

Whatever it is, I need to know. I’m officially hooked.

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