A solid, unsettling lead-in to the upcoming season finale

Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX
S1 E10
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Last night’s episode of Alcatraz involved a violin-lovin’ serial killer and some of the most disturbing, yet bloodless deaths we’ve seen in this series so far. And although nothing new was unveiled, we seem set up for a plethora of revelations during next week’s season finale.

Most importantly, this episode gave us a lot more of Young Hauser macking on Dr. Lucy Sengupta than we’ve seen before. He dropped some serious moves on her in our first flashback, impressing her by talking about Nietzsche and revealing that he actually studied philosophy at Yale. Cool! I always wondered what career options are open to a philosophy major. I bet the categorical imperative comes in real handy as a prison guard.

Also back in the ’60s, Warden James (who was less creepy than usual this week) introduced Lucy to her latest challenge, a patient by the name of Webb Porter whose ever-present tinnitus has turned him into a total basket case. The constant ringing in his ear is due to the fact that his mother tried to drown him when he was 6 — ever since then he’s had a hard time speaking, concentrating and not killing women.

Jump ahead to present day, where Porter was teasing lovely melodies out of a violin while a terrified woman was tied up in the next room. “I’m sorry, I’m really, really sorry,” Porter offered before dragging the valiantly struggling woman to the bathroom and drowning her. Come on, dude. Not on the first date.

Maybe its just that Silence of the Lambs scene burned into my brain, but for me, classical music makes a murder three times more unsettling. We barely even saw any blood this time, but the end result was just as scary as the gorier deaths.

The next scene found Madsen and Nikki knocking back beers at a pool hall until they learned about the aforementioned dead girl. Even though Nikki had received the phone call, Rebecca decided to come along, presumably just in case the murder was related to one of the ‘63s. Spoiler alert: It was.

Later, back on the Rock, Madsen shared the details of her latest pro bono murder investigation with Hauser. A comment about the “Tainted blood” (OOOOOOH, Tainted Blood!) she found at the scene piqued his interest. Not simply because he’s looking to recapture the ‘63s, but because he’s desperate to find a returned inmate with colloidal silver in his blood, because its magical healing properties could heal Lucy. Unlike past episodes, last night presented an additional challenge for the team — they had no idea of the inmate’s identity going into the chase.

Knowing that a returned inmate with life-saving blood was on the loose, Hauser was even surlier than usual trying to hunt down this one. He yelled at Madsen for showing up late to a crime scene and for wasting time talking to “boring people,” i.e., potential witnesses.

In his defense, Hauser did have some pretty dire words from Dr. Beauregard motivating him. “She’s slipping away from us, I don’t know how much time we have,” Beauregard told him of Lucy’s health.

NEXT: The musical savant and Star Trek VBack in the ’60s, Dr. Sengupta was trying to get to the source of Webb’s pain. Putting on a soothing classical record, she induced him to talk about his memory of his mother trying to kill him. His recollections of the incident were rather rose-tinted, focusing on “her face over me, so beautiful” and the way her hair “spread out like cracks across the water.” All in all, it was probably the most senselessly romanticized drowning since Jack in Titanic, but Lucy seemed to get what she wanted.

Incidentally, does Lucy’s whole “share your most traumatic pain with me so I can remove it from you” remind anyone else of what Spock’s half-brother Sybok promised converts in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? I think of him every time she goes into her spiel. For those of you that aren’t Trekkers, I apologize for the diversion.

With Porter responding tentatively to her therapy, Sengupta took him to Alcatraz’s music room in hopes that some rhythmic order might alleviate his constantly churning brain. When they arrived, they found a swingin’ jazz ensemble already in progress, overseen by Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller.

In spite of Tiller’s taunts, Porter picked up an instrument and, thanks to his staggering IQ, he mastered it almost immediately. Just by playing what was already going on inside his head. Perhaps not coincidentally, the music Porter played to soothe his savage urges sounded a bit like the violin tune from Young Frankenstein.

Those preternatural violin skills greatly impressed the audition judges for the San Francisco Philharmonic in 2012… at least until they realized he couldn’t read music and promptly sent him home with his violin bow between his legs.

Fortunately for Porter, he could take solace in his latest female conquest. Unfortunately for her, she was tied up in her own house and he was harvesting her hair for bowstrings. Gross. That being said, human hair-stringed instruments could totally be a sketch in Portlandia. After all, it’s animal-cruelty free and self-sustaining.

Although the team was too late to stop Girl #2’s murder, while questioning her neighbors they did glean a valuable bit of info — the man they were looking for was a violinist. Madsen and Soto headed back to the Rock and very conveniently uncovered an old violin with the name “Webb Porter” scratched into the back of it. Detective work!

Using some very 21st century investigative techniques — which Soto hilariously noted were not exactly in keeping with the Privacy Act — Madsen and the good doctor raided people’s credit card histories and found a Philharmonic connection to all the victims.

Meanwhile, Hauser had gone off to do some traditional gumshoeing and essentially figured out the same thing — the man they wanted could be found at the Philharmonic.

The scene where Hauser spoke with that old-timey bar pianist was charming in a Sam Spade sort of way. I could stand to see more of Hauser tromping around the seedier parts of SF, digging up clues and meeting odd characters. That’s much more entertaining than watching two people sit behind a computer running credit card records. (Also fun to see: Young Hauser and Lucy getting frisky in a jazz club during a flashback.)

But thanks to that credit card investigation — and Soto’s mastery of social networking tools — the team managed to rescue the redhead who would have been Porter’s next victim.

NEXT: Lucy’s last chance and Porter’s plunge

By the time Hauser, Soto and Madsen reached the Philharmonic, Porter had just finished performing a cute little set for an audience of zero. Apparently the entertainment-starved inmates at Alcatraz in 1960 were a little more receptive to his outsider musical genius.

Usually Hauser is more than willing to use the returning ‘63s for target practice, but last night he was desperate to capture Porter alive in order to give comatose Lucy a fighting chance. For a second it seemed that Porter was going to toss himself into the undiscovered country to evade capture, but Hauser’s quick hands caught the con before he dove to his death.

Later on, just as Soto and Madsen were thinking they’d never truly uncover the mystery of the ’63s (ditto), they uncovered a game-changing fact — Lucy was a Replicant. Kidding! That’s just more sci-fi geekery. But they did discover that she is secretly one of the returned, un-aged ’63s, thanks to an old film reel Soto was digitizing. Now knowing what the audience has known for some time, Madsen opined that if Lucy were to come out of her coma, she could be the key to some real answers.

And it looks like we won’t have to wait much longer for that to happen. With Webb’s colloidal silver-infused blood running through her veins, the episode ended with Dr. Lucy Sengupta/Banerjee popping her eyes open at long last. Boom! Finally.

I’m relieved that headed into Alcatraz’s two-hour season finale next week, it looks like we’re poised for some real revelations. I’m very intrigued to see how Lucy explains herself to Madsen and Soto now that they know her secret. Also, it was exciting to see Jack Sylvane again, if only for a moment. I hope he plays a bigger role next week.

Best line of the night went to Soto: “Even Al Capone played a little banjo while he was here.”

What are you most hoping to see addressed on next week’s season finale? And what did you think of last night’s episode?

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