‘Persons Unknown’ 1.10 Recap: “There Is No Success or Failure Here, Only Results”

We’re in the final stretch for ‘Persons Unknown’ now. The 2-hour series finale airs this weekend. Just remember, even if you’re caught up through this past weekend’s episode, ‘Identity’, you’re still missing one episode that NBC pulled from the schedule and has only made available online. Be sure to check that out before catching the finale. In the meantime, let’s take a look at ‘Identity’, which is another strong episode with a pretty clever twist.

The first thing I happened to notice about ‘Identity’ was that Jonathan Frakes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ fame directed the episode. Apparently, he also helmed earlier episode ‘Incoming‘ and the first half of the finale. Frakes has directed his fair share of TV over the years, as well as a couple of ‘Trek’ movies, and there isn’t anything that stands out as the work of an auteur here. So this little factoid shouldn’t be too terribly surprising. His name just happened to stand out to me as the credits played.

Anyway, we last left things on a cliffhanger. Renbe and girlfriend Kat stumbled out of the South American jungle (or, in this case, forest) and into the town. Freaky. If you were expecting a fiery reunion with bitter ex-wife Janet, you’re out of luck this week. Circumstances prevent them from meeting just yet. Soon after arriving in town, Renbe and Kat are forced to hide out in the Chinese restaurant when a swarm of well-armed guys in blue jumpsuits flood into town.

Meanwhile, our abductees are placed under lockdown in the hotel. Liam Ulrich has stepped in as the new hotel manager, which Joe finds particularly shocking. Ulrich informs the characters that some “modifications” are being made around town. As gratitude for their patience, each guest has been left a gift in his or her room. Skeptical at first, they all open their gifts to find meaningful personal items.

Bill receives an old football and an obituary for his favorite high school coach. Erika opens a poster for her son’s Class President campaign. In Janet’s box is a stuffed bunny. It was her favorite toy as a young girl. Video on the TV in her room plays to let her know that the captors have been watching and studying her entire life. Janet is deeply unsettled by this.

Charlie finds the first page of a newspaper with a story about the SEC investigating him for embezzlement. The last page is missing. Ulrich brings him the page later in the episode. It turns out that Charlie has been cleared of all charges. (Generally, a real newspaper would lead with that information, not bury it at the end of the article. But this is TV, so we’ll suspend disbelief for a moment.) Ulrich hints that the Program cleared everything up on his behalf, which of course implies that Charlie was actually guilty.

Graham gets a belt, and Moira a scarf. By episode’s end, they exchange stories. The belt was one that Graham’s mother whipped him with, until he was old enough to fight back, and beat her with it instead. Moira can top this. Her father molested her, and her mother knowingly let it happen. She stangled both in their sleep with that very scarf. That’s the real reason she was in the mental hospital.

Joe is given his Bible, and in it is a photo of a woman. Even more important than his gift, Joe also has all of his memories back. Vivid in his mind is the fact that he shot Ulrich dead some years earlier. It was his first test after being kidnapped by the Program. Asked if that means that he failed, he informs the others that, “There is no success or failure here, only results.”

Joe tells everyone about his past as a priest. Janet is really interested in his celibacy. Like, really really interested. She brings this up a lot. When she finds out that the woman in the photo was a love interest that he broke his vows for, she turns extremely jealous and pissy. She feels that she just can’t trust anything about him.

Something that I’ve been harping on for a while now is finally addressed. It has always struck me as odd that “Erika” would have a tattoo of her own name on her arm. Was she afraid that she’d forget it? In private, Ulrich reveals that, in fact, her name is actually Theresa. Erika was her cell mate. But he assures her that she can be whoever she wants now. “One life ends, another begins.”

The guests are all also treated to lavish meals. Of course, the food is drugged. They all pass out for several hours. Something is happening around town that they’re not supposed to know about. Most of them wake up feeling pretty good, though. Probably a side effect of the drug. At breakfast, Ulrich announces that the lockdown is over.

While sneaking around town out of sight, Renbe sees the blue men carrying seven bodybags into the town bank. After the blue guys clear out, he and Kat run over and start opening them. He’s afraid that he’ll find Janet and the people in that photo he took from the ambassador. Fortunately, he doesn’t recognize any of the bodies. All of which happen to be missing thumbs. Except one. Stefano (Tori’s boyfriend) has been hiding in one of the bodybags. He chopped off and collected the thumbs so that they could identify the bodies later. Smart thinking.

When the blue men return, Renbe, Kat, and Stefano overpower a couple of them and steal a jeep. This leads to a shootout in the middle of town and a car chase.

But…. Wait a minute… We cut to Moira and Graham sitting in the town gazebo, and they don’t hear or see anything.


Zing! Nice misdirect, writers! Very well done. The town in South America is a brand new Program facility. We still have no idea where our main characters are. I didn’t see that twist coming at all.

Eventually, the blue men gain on Renbe et. al. Stefano sacrifices himself by jumping out of the jeep and allowing himself to be captured so that Renbe and Kat can get away (with the thumbs).

As the episode ends, Ulrich notifies Janet that she has a telephone call. It’s her mother on the other end of the line. Her mother tells her that little Megan is fine, and that she (the mother) loves her (Janet). Janet is skeptical about everything to do with this call. Ulrich assures her that it’s genuine (and we see the mother on the other end). That only causes Janet to question her mother’s motives.

As well she should. As her mother talks on the phone, there is what appears to be a human head in the closet behind her. Maybe that’s just a wig mannequin, but that portion of the frame is left out of focus. It’s weird, is what I’m saying.

Ulrich files his report with the Director, who chides him for developing feelings of sympathy for Janet, just as Joe did. He protests that no such thing has happened, but she sees through him and orders him to get his shit together. This sudden connection between Ulrich and Janet comes from out of nowhere and feels forced. But I’ll reserve judgment on this storyline until I see how it plays out.

After the episode, NBC advertised this week’s finale, but made no mention at all of an online-only episode to watch in-between. The network is really just going out of the way to piss all over the show at this point, it seems.

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