‘Persons Unknown’ 1.11 Recap: “Don’t Sweat the Details”

For those of us who’ve stuck it out this long, NBC’s limited run miniseries ‘Persons Unknown’ drew to a close with a 2-part finale this past weekend. Those of you following this blog should have also been warned that the network pulled one episode from the schedule and made it available exclusively online. I plan to recap the finale soon. In the meantime, let’s take a look at that missing episode, ‘Seven Sacrifices’.

First off, know that the episode is available on both NBC.com and Hulu. (Apparently, Comcast on Demand has it too.) I also checked the Playstation Network, which offers other episodes of the series, but this one isn’t in there. I can’t verify Xbox Live, sorry.

When I first heard that NBC had yanked an episode, I was pretty upset. For all its faults, it can’t be denied that ‘Persons Unknown’ is a tightly written serial mystery. This isn’t a ‘Law & Order’ spin-off, where you can watch self-contained random episodes out of order anytime and never feel lost. This show was plotted out to use every episode as an integral part of the mystery.

With that said, once the network made the decision to shorten the show’s run and get it off the schedule a week early, I can see why it felt that ‘Seven Sacrifices’ was disposable. Having watched it now, the episode is clearly the show’s weakest, and does very little to advance many of the storylines in any meaningful directions. In fact, I’ll just come out and say it, this episode pretty much sucks. But we’ll walk through it anyway…

The action starts with Janet dreaming of her own funeral. She wakes up in her own casket to find little Megan weeping for her. Attempts to get anyone’s attention or announce that she’s still alive fall on deaf ears. Once she really wakes up, Janet goes running to Erika/Theresa, crying about how she doesn’t want to die in the town.

Ulrich has been buddying up to both Bill and Charlie by offering them free shaves in the barber shop. Bill is won over by his charms and tries to convince Charlie that they should get on board with the Program, but Charlie remains skeptical. Eventually, he tries to (literally) slap some sense into Bill and tells him that Ulrich is just manipulating them.

Janet is still pissed at Joe and won’t speak to him. From out of nowhere, she starts cozying up to Ulrich as well, and even tells him that she trusts him. Because he’s now in love with her (an unconvincing plot point thrown in at the last minute during the previous episode), Ulrich brings her downstairs to show her the “Inner Sanctum” monitoring room, and tells her a limited amount of information about the Program. She sees some burn scars on his arm, and he tells her a story about his wife dying in a fire. They have a conversation about how free will is just an illusion. Janet decides to test the theory by kissing him, which drives Ulrich gaga.

When they go back upstairs, Joe turns super jealous and decks Ulrich. Janet has to break up the fight.

Erika also warns Janet not to trust Ulrich. She tells her that they’re all in a prison, and also ‘fesses up about her real identity.

Ulrich has turned completely sappy over Janet by this point. The Program prohibits intimacy of any kind, but Janet has made him question his purpose.

Joe tells Janet that Ulrich’s fire story is a lie. He actually set fire to his own Level 1 town and killed the other candidates there.

While all this is happening, Renbe has a rough plane ride back to the States. He’s hidden the seven thumbs (the “sacrifices” of the title) in a chocolate tin. He sneaks them past Customs but, as he’s about to leave the airport, is arrested for abducting Janet. He tries to slip his bag with the thumbs to Kat, but the cops grab it.

Kat tries to go back to work to write a story about her experiences, only to find that she’s been fired. The newspaper’s been bought by a new company and now only runs serious news. She’s also been evicted from her apartment. A story has been concocted in her own paper that she stole pain medication from kids with cancer and sold it to junkies. She’s totally disgraced.

Renbe sounds crazy when trying to explain to the police about where he’s been and what happened. They think he killed some people and took the thumbs. The case is being turned over to the FBI. Fortunately, detective Gomez (who, if I’m not mistaken, was Edick’s cop buddy) helps him to escape first, because he was taken off the case and thinks something smells funny about it. Or something like that. His motives aren’t clear.

In Program headquarters, an eyepatched henchman with scars all over his face delivers a box of thumbs to the Director. (Note: I must be an idiot. I totally didn’t get that Patchy here was the original hotel manager that Joe beat the snot out of until Mrs. Z pointed it out to me. D’oh!)

Anyway, problem is that there are only six thumbs in the box. It turns out that Renbe hid one thumb in a tequila bottle in Kat’s bag. The Director is furious. After a conversation where she realizes that Ulrich is unreliable, she orders Town 27 to be flushed.

So, all things considered, where does ‘Seven Sacrifices’ really get us? The most plot advancement happens in Renbe’s storyline. He’s back in the States, and he’s down to one thumb. Both he and Kat are broke and unemployed.

Also, we learn that there are at least 27 of these towns, and the Director orders this one to be flushed. That might seem like a major story point, however it will be pretty much unwritten at the beginning of the next episode. (We’ll get to that in a later recap.)

All of that could pretty much be condensed into five minutes of screen time. Otherwise, not a lot of importance happens here. I just don’t buy Ulrich’s sudden change of heart or his love affair with Janet. That storyline feels terribly forced and contrived.

Even considering that Janet is just trying to use him to get information out of him, her behavior doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. And it really doesn’t make any sense at all that Ulrich would be stupid enough to fall for her act, even if he is really in love with her. Nothing about this storyline is believable at all.

In other words, ‘Seven Sacrifices’ is a very frustrating episode. Not much about it is terribly important to the overall arc of the show, but there’s just enough critical plotting that it can’t be completely skipped either. I can see why NBC was willing to dump it. And yet, doing so messes with the continuity enough to make the transition to the finale bumpy.

I’m not ready to talk about the finale itself just yet. We’ll get to that soon.


  1. mlemaire


    I’m looking forward to your recap of the finale. Perhaps, if you’re willing, you can provide some of your overall thoughts of the show as a whole as I’m curious what you thought in the end having followed it all the way through myself. Nonetheless, been enjoying your recaps.

    • Josh Zyber

      Well, let me put it this way. The finale is better than this “missing” episode, but I still didn’t really find it all that satisfying. On the other hand, I don’t regret watching the show either.

      I’ll go into more detail when I write up my recap of the finale. I’ll try to have that tomorrow or Friday, if possible.

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