‘Persons Unknown’ 1.08 Recap: “The Way Out Is the Way Through”

In a strange twist, most of the interesting developments in this week’s episode of ‘Persons Unknown’ happen outside the mysterious town. In fact, very little of note in ‘Saved’ happens in town at all. Most of the time is split between Renbe and whatshername the girlfriend investigating the case in South America, and Joe in… well, we’re not exactly sure where he is. But we finally learn who he is. (Spoilers after the break.)

Last we left things, Joe had simply vanished from the bathroom in his hotel room. Janet has frantically torn the place apart looking for him and found nothing. We find him strapped to a weird table (which looks a lot like those used on Death Row for the lethal injection) in an all-white room. His head and face have been shaved, and there are countless electrodes attached to his nearly-naked body. A strangely familiar female voice on a loudspeaker talks to him from off camera about his “Formal Re-Education.” She repeatedly tells him that the Program needs him, and asks why he broke protocol. He doesn’t answer. “I have to warn you, this is going to hurt,” she says just before zapping him with something through the wires.

Joe has a dream of Tom, who is weirdly serene about being dead and all. He tells Joe that it’s time to part company. Joe asks if they’ll see each other again. Tom responds that they won’t, because Joe has been “saved.” This does not make Joe happy. At all.

The female voice continues to repeat platitudes about how “No one ever leaves the Program” and “The way out is the way through.” Joe has a series of visions and flashbacks that fill us in on his backstory. His name is Joe Tucker. He was a priest working in a mission in South America when he was kidnapped and sent to the town. In one vision, we see him involved in something that looks an awful lot like the test Janet was given where she was instructed to shoot him. Except that he actually followed through and shot the other person. At that point, Tom stepped out from behind the scenes, introduced himself as Joe’s mentor, and congratulated him for passing the test, as if that was the outcome they wanted all along. They wanted to push him to become a killer.

Eventually, we find that the female voice is Tori. She comes into the white room dressed as a nurse. She claims that she didn’t die, that she’s fully on board with the Program now, and that she thanks her father for introducing her to it. Joe isn’t sure if this is really happening or a dream, and neither or we.

At some point during all this, we also learn that the Program always uses seven people. Joe watches as the main cast of abductees are brought into town unconscious. He’s told that this will be a test for him as much as for them. The hardest challenge will not be his mind, but his heart. This is said as he gets a look at Janet. Some of his visions of Janet seem to imply that they knew each other before, but we can’t be sure how much of this is real and how much fantasy. What does seem to be real is that Joe loves Janet, and is willing to break from the Program for her.

On the other end of the spectrum, Renbe and girlfriend (Her name is Kat! I looked it up!) find themselves at a South American loony bin looking for Dr. Angela Barragan, allegedly the only person to leave the Program alive. They discover that she’s not a doctor there, but an inmate. An inmate who they have to restrain in a straightjacket because, “She likes to throw feces at people.” Lovely!

Barragan sure acts like a nutcase. Part of that may have to do with the camera in her cell always watching her. She doesn’t seem to be particularly helpful. Instead of answering their questions, she sends them to go buy her a churro at a particular spot in town. They oblige, mostly because they have nothing better to do. When they get to the spot, what they really discover is a wall covered with photos of missing people, among them “Father Tucker.” They go back to question Dr. Barragan about the photo, and she goes beserk and attacks them. Later, she goes missing from the asylum altogether.

At this point, Renbe is ready to give up and go back to San Francisco to be with his daughter. It’s Kat the girlfriend who pushes him on. She’s completely turned around and now needs to see this through.

Now, some stuff does happen in town, of course. The biggest storyline there has Bill being made to feel utterly worthless. Erika asks him, “If you died, would anybody here give a rat’s ass?” He realizes that the answer is no. In private, Bill has a breakdown and begs the cameras to let him go home. Later, he’s wandering around the edge of town and, without paying attention to what he’s doing, stumbles right past the border where the pain fence should hit him. He can walk right through. Bill recognizes that he’s being let go, and is elated for a moment, but then realizes that he has absolutely nowhere to go. After a moment, he walks back to town, goes to his room, and talks to the cameras again. He thinks he’s on to something here. He thinks that by returning he has somehow proven himself. That’s got to prove something. But what?

Oh, and Graham kisses Moira. Huh.


  1. Ivan Gomez

    It´s Barragan if you would like to correct it, I am trying really hard to like the show, but there are some things that drag me off of it, little details that werent properly produced… Like how fast Tom is burned and dies, or how bad Janet got hurt in her face the first time she runs through the fence but how little it happens in Joe´s face, or how about filming in Mexico city streets and passing them as Rome streets or in the plane where Renbe and co. are leaving Rome, the sound says they are going to “San Icasio”… I don´t know you but i´ve never been in an international flight where they say the name of the last city instead of the first stops of the itinerary (that was just silly and cheesy and considering the town depicted it doesnt look like a place with an airport, let alone somewhere where you will fly from Rome).

    • Josh Zyber

      Thanks for the correction on the spelling.

      I called out the thing about Rome not looking anything like Rome in a previous recap. I agree, that was annoying.

      However, I was under the impression that “San Icasio” was supposed to be the name of the fictional South American country they’re visiting. In which case it would make sense for the airline to announce it that way.

      Most of the other stuff I can write off as suspension of disbelief. Your mileage may vary.

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