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Alcatraz recap: A Clockwork Clarence

An innocent man turns criminal after some dubious experimentation

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Liane Hentscher/Fox


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After last week’s highly rewarding Alcatraz one-two punch, I was a bit let down by last night’s episode. “Clarence Montgomery” was supposed to air two weeks ago but was delayed because of NASCAR — so it’s actually the 8th episode of the season although it’s airing as if it were the 10th. So that’s the deal if you care about such things.

In spite of a very weak explanation for an innocent man’s conversion to an unstoppable murderer (they made him watch a mean movie!), the actor who brought Clarence Montgomery to life, Mahershala Ali, did an excellent job.

A very strange side note about Ali: He was one of the stars of a sci-fi series that ran on USA Network from 2004-2007 called The 4400. Why is that odd? Well, that show was about 4400 people who disappeared at various times in the past and now find that they’ve reappeared  — un-aged and without any memory of where they’ve been — in present day. Sound familiar? Yeah, a lot of people pointed out that similarity when Alcatraz premiered. The fact that they cast one of The 4400 cast members as a guest star shows that the producers are fully aware of the similarity.

But moving on to the episode at hand. Its cold open was successfully creepy. The inmate of the week, Clarence Montgomery, responded to the amorous advances of a woman at an auction they were attending. At her behest, they purloined a cart and took it for a spin on the golf course greens. Just when things were about to go schwing, a series of images flashed in front his eyes and the next thing he knew, he was running across the golf course with the girl’s bloody, limp body in his arms. Moral of the story: Don’t go golfing with someone until the third or fourth date.

Back at the Rock, Soto was digitally rummaging through reports of the various murders across the San Francisco area, waiting to find one that matched the M.O. of a former inmate. So.. is sitting around and looking at corpses pretty much what he does in his spare time? If so, cool!

Soto noticed a dead body positioned exactly like former inmate Clarence Montgomery’s alleged victim, and so the next morning the team descended upon the country club. Hauser wasn’t convinced the murder was the work of a ‘63, and he was additionally reluctant to take on the case because the local police were starting to push back against the Feds constantly swooping in and stealing their murder victims. But after screwing up his face to its surliest, he allotted Soto and Madsen 12 hours to investigate a possible connection to Montgomery.

Not knowing where to go in 2012, Montgomery showed up at the house of one of his friends (and a former Alcatraz inmate), Emmitt Little. The wheelchair-bound Little was naturally astonished to find his old friend alive and young. For his part,Montgomery offered us an ever-so-slight explanation of what happened on Alcatraz. “They took my blood, messed with my head,” he told Little. “You think you know who you are, but they push you and they twist you and something just snaps.”

It was a fine performance from Ali, but at this point, it would be nice to get a slightly more detailed explanation of what the warden and doctors were doing to the inmates in the ’60s. But with the two-hour season finale of Alcatraz coming up in a mere two weeks, maybe I should just sit tight.

When Dr. Lucy Sengupta interviewed Montgomery back in the early ‘60s, we learned that he was the first African-American head chef at his country club. He started a romance with the daughter of the owner, but when she turned up with her throat slit one day, it was curtains for him (jailhouse curtains, specifically), even though he didn’t do it. Unfortunately for him, he was a black man connected to a dead white girl. Back then, that was sometimes all it took for a jury to put someone behind bars.

NEXT: Romancing the Soto and the Ludovico technique finds its way to the Rock