ALCATRAZ 1.9 and 1.10: “The Ames Brothers” and “Sonny Burnett”

ALCATRAZ featured back-to-back episodes, making a two-hour block this week, just like the pilot and first episode.

In the opening hour, the titular Ames brothers are Herman (Travis Aaron Wade) and Pinky (Graham Shiels, ex-Cody, GENERAL HOSPITAL), who used to stage flashy thrill heists back in the 1950s. On The Rock in 1960, they wanted to track down Civil War gold rumored to be stored on Alcatraz. They hatched a complicated plan to copy the warden’s special large keys with the help of a guard named Donovan (Frank Whaley) — but the keys didn’t fit the underground vault they assumed held the gold, and the boys were caught. Transported to 2012, the brothers resumed their quest, again with the help of Donovan, who posed as a park ranger. They wanted to blast their way through that door, but when Doc Soto (Jorge Garcia) stumbles upon Pinky, he gets taken hostage because the brothers see the value in having an Alcatraz expert update their 50-year-old treasure map.

Outside, a big thunderstorm triggers one of those intermittent blackouts that only happen on TV, conveniently knocking out surveillance systems when the plot calls for it. With the monitors back on, Madsen (Sarah Jones) figures out what happened to Doc, but not that the brothers stashed him in the Hole. She and Hauser (Sam Neill) get into a firefight, during which Madsen kills Herman. Doc used a retrofitted safety release to free himself from the Hole, but was immediately recaptured and used a bait to lure out Madsen. She confronts Pinky and Doc escapes in the confusion, only to be taken hostage by Donovan. Donovan beats Hauser to the vault and blows the door, but the room is empty. In flashback, we see it did contain gold bars in 1960… so where are they now?

This episode was bogged down by the tired plot contrivances of the storm-related blackouts and Doc repeatedly being taken prisoner. I realize he’s not a fed or a police officer, but he is a genius, so the writers need to stop portraying him as a dunce. It’s okay for him to be frightened of mad killers and sickened by corpses, but let’s go easy on the “investigating weird noises alone and not watching his back” stuff. He reads too many comic books to pull that crap.

At one point, Doc asked the brothers if Sonny Burnett was a co-conspirator, planting the name in the audience’s minds for the episode to follow…. However, despite featuring a character mentioned in the previous story, “Sonny Burnett” had nothing to do with the Ames brothers.

Back in the day, Burnett (Theo Rossi) was a non-violent kidnapper who always released his hostage after being paid. When he was sent to the rock, he tried to buy protection using his stashed cash — but the loot had disappeared, so he was beaten to a pulp. Deputy Warden Tiller (Jason Butler Harner) took an interest in Sonny and encouraged him to transform his body through exercise, and to hone his killer instinct. In the present day, Sonny figured out that one of his teenage kidnap victims, Helen (Wendy Crewson), who had played along with him to save her own life, had stolen his money. So he kidnapped and killed Helen’s husband, and buried her daughter alive in the same field where he had hidden his money.

This was one of those “meh” episodes, in which the criminal’s actions in the present don’t make a heck of a lot of sense. Sonny hatched one of those overly elaborate revenge plots that always end up tripping up the bad guy and making the audience wonder why he wasted his time. I mean, what was his point?

The good stuff in this episode was back in 1960, where we watched Sonny transform from milquetoast to marauder who realized there are worse things than killing a man.

Which is not to say the 2012 sequences were wasted. Br. Beauregard (Leon Rippy) discovered that the blood of some of the 63s was infused with silver, and gave them special healing properties. Healing properties that just might help Lucy (Parminder Nagra). Ernest Cobb has it, but isn’t Lucy’s blood type. Sonny is her blood type, but his plasma does not have the healing factor.

So now Hauser is more motivated than ever before to round up the 63s — alive.

On a personal note, the name “Sonny Burnett” will always be the undercover name used by Det. Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) on the legendary MIAMI VICE. Every time someone on this episode of ALCATRAZ shouted “Burnett!” I expected a Jan Hammer soundtrack to kick in…

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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