‘Persons Unknown’ 1.07 Recap: Well, That Sure Killed My Appetite for Chinese Food

This week, we’ve officially passed the half-way mark for ‘Persons Unknown’. The show is only scheduled to run for a total of 13 episodes. All of the network promos have promised that the series will have a finite run, and that mysteries will be answered by the end of the summer. I’m not sure exactly how many of those mysteries will be answered, or how satisfactory those answers will be, but I can confirm that episode ‘Smoke and Steel’ already starts to give us some pretty serious clues as to the nature of the forces behind our characters’ abductions. I wish more people were watching this show. It’s getting pretty good. (Spoilers after the break.)

So, Joe’s secret is out. He’s been working for the abductors in some capacity, though he insists that his knowledge is low-level and very limited. He claims that he was originally kidnapped just like all of the others, and only started working behind-the-scenes after going through the “program,” whatever it may be. He describes it as being like a foundation or a think-tank for peace, one that “bets on people.” It’s been running for at least fifty years, and has gone through this routine with thousands of others. “They’re trying to do good,” he says. At least, he seems to believe so.

Watching from his monitors, Tom is visibly panicked that Joe has revealed this much information. When they speak later, he warns Joe that the powers-that-be may decide to “zero out the town” and will “red card” Joe.

Bill wants to hold Joe hostage, but Janet continues to defend him. She believes Joe’s story. This just further drives a wedge into her relationship with Erika. “Whose side are you on, Bright Eyes?,” Erika asks. Of all people, she’s decided to side with Bill on this one.

Speaking privately, Charlie corners Joe at the Chinese restaurant and admits that his wife is dead. (Though he conveniently leaves out the part about how he smothered her.) He tries to bribe Joe into helping him get out of the town, with promises of big rewards once they’re back in the real world. Joe doesn’t refuse, but acts non-committal at best. Charlie takes this as tacit agreement.

That night, the town experiences power brown-outs. Janet hears screaming and rushes outside to find Bill and Erika repeatedly throwing Joe into the pain fence. They expect that his bosses will turn it off when they see him suffer, much as they let the Night Manager run through. But it doesn’t seem to work. He just keeps getting fried. Finally, they lock him up in the town jail.

Later, Erika and Janet search Joe’s room and find a secret drawer filled with detailed files on all the people in town. Joe claims that they were planted, and he’s never seen them. Erika takes the opportunity to read through them, and learns a lot of interesting information, especially about Bill and about Graham.

Out in the real world, Renbe and his girlfriend are still in Italy, and are working to identify Joe from the photo they found in the Ambassador’s office. Eventually, they get kidnapped again (in a park that doesn’t even remotely look like Italy), this time by the Ambassador. Rather than harm them, he gives them some useful information to help their investigation. He says that the organization behind the kidnappings has no name. It is the shadowy power behind all the most important power-players in the world, and has been for generations. It picks people deemed to have potential, and grooms them for greatness. He was a part of and believed in this organization for many years, but has now become disillusioned due to his daughter’s murder. He tells Renbe that only one person has ever made it out of the organization alive – a Dr. Angela Barrigan, currently residing in South America. Then he sends them on their way.

As a result, Renbe and his girlfriend buy tickets for a flight to South America. Some shenanigans lead to them being detailed by security at the airport, until Tori’s Mafioso boyfriend bribes a bunch of people to let them sneak out. They don’t realize it, but he also boards the same plane, in First Class.

In town, Tom receives the instructions – on an official “Memorandum” document – to “render payment” to Joe. He looks distraught. This must be the dreaded Red Card.

Charlie lets Joe out of the jail, reminding him of their Quid Pro Quo. As they start to make their way across town, Tom steps out, brandishing a gun. He orders Charlie to get away. He’s no longer concerned about maintaining his cover. He pushes Joe into the Chinese restaurant. Charlie follows, and in a moment of panic Tom shoots him in the leg. Joe stabilizes the wound, but Tom is ranting at this point about how, “The program saved my life.” Joe calmly asks him to get word of his death to his mother, a Debra Allen Tucker in Portland, ME. Do we finally now know something of Joe’s identity?

Janet is drawn to the restaurant by the gunshot. She sneaks up on Tom and attacks him. In the ensuing scuffle, she grabs one of the deep fryers and throws its scalding oil all over Tom’s face. This leads to him being set on fire. By the time Joe puts the flames out, Tom is a crispy fried corpse on the floor.

I may never eat Chinese food again. Seriously. Ick.

Janet is firmly back on Team Joe at this point. She overheard Tom admitting to planting the files. One of the revelations from those files that Erika leaks out to Moira is that Graham killed people for money. “It’s not that simple,” he claims. When he has a chance to explain, he tells her a story about how he was duped by a Blackwater-like mercenary outfit into assassinating a person he thought was responsible for the deaths of some of his military buddies. But it turned out that the company was just using him to take out a hit on a business rival. How this will play into the greater storyline isn’t yet clear.

The episode ends with Joe and Janet in his hotel room. As he cleans himself up, he tells her that he has a plan to escape. Before he can elaborate, however, he simply vanishes from the bathroom, which has no possible exits other than the door that Janet had been watching. With no warning or sign of disturbance, he’s just gone.

Tune in this weekend for more weird happenings, and hopefully some more answers.


  1. JoeRo

    Don’t deny yourself one of the finest culinary traditions the world has to offer because of one show. That could just as easily have been a KFC deep fryer, full of years-old chicken skin cast offs and waylaid cigarette butts.

    Also I have yet to watch this show, been waiting for the series to end so I can just tear through it in a marathon session.

    • Josh Zyber

      My appetite for KFC was killed long ago. I had some friends who worked there back in high school, and the stories they told me about the things that go into those fryers still haunt me to this day. 🙂

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