Category Archives: Persons Unknown

Persons Unknown: The Verdict (II)

This show begs for speculation, so I will now shamelessly speculate as I watch the last episode for about the sixth time.

I’m trying to find a problem with my idea that much of the show takes place in a simulated reality.  I’m not finding one.  I’m also trying to find a problem with the idea that all of the people at the meeting of The Institute, with the weirdly pointless but weirdly cool cameo by Robert Picardo, are all AI programs.

Not much to work with, but in terms of speculation, I’m not finding a problem there either.  Whoever they are at the Institute, they have seemingly limitless resources and an intense interest in the decisions and thought processes of human beings, especially in relation to morality. 

I’ll bet they’ve grown in power at exactly the same rate as computers in the last twenty-five years.  A novelty at first, efficient and quick but limited in scope, and so the government, or the Foundation or Whoever’s idea this Program was – they entrusted a great deal to the Program, since programs had always been easy to control.

In the mid-eighties, they activated this digital reproduction of the crazy lady from the asylum.  The lady wasn’t crazy yet, but that drove her crazy.  So maybe the AI program can inhabit her body sometimes, and the rest of the time she chills out in an insane asylum.

I think that what the programs are doing is creating other programs as their own children and then not telling them that they are programs.  They are attempting to develop a higher form of AI, one that can inhabit a physical human being’s brain.

I’ll bet that there are some people in the “real” world who have AI brains.  All of the people who woke up in the town are real people with AI brains, except possibly Joe. 

The big question I had was when is the show in the real world and when is it in a computer simulation?

I think there’s a good chance that the Men In Blue are in the real world.  When you see them, that was real.

In the final episode, notice that the loss of consciousness frequently precedes the arrival of the Director.  A lot of people wake up in mysterious places – I think when that happens, it usually means they’ve been inserted into the simulation.

So for instance Kat finds herself in a little box guarded by Men In Blue – real world.  There’s the Ambassador – he’s in the real world, too.

Janet at her Mom’s house – real world.  The Director is an AI program but she can make phone calls.  Janet’s Mom knows the Director from their involvement in the Program years ago.  Perhaps Janet has an AI brain or something – the show kind of begs me to speculate.

There’s Graham in the white room – simulated.  I think Graham’s a computer program.  He doesn’t know it, that’s all.  But we didn’t see him once after the van crash, there was no escape and no illusion of escape.  And remember, he’s the guy who said that he’d encountered technology like the Pain Wall in the military.

The Pain Wall is one of the main things that made me think the Town was simulated in the first place. 

The Program could be like a virus – it’s trying to adapt itself to biology.  When Blackham and Charlie end up in the desert, Blackham knows Charlie’s wife’s name.  Because he’s got the Program in him now?  Blackham kind of submitted to the Program at one point, right?  He acknowledged that he had nothing without the Program, and so maybe that was the point where the Program could gain access to his brain.

That’s what the Program is trying to do – change people’s brains in such a way that it can inhabit their bodies.  Sometimes it doesn’t work, and they end up with imperfect simulations, like Tori and the first Night Manager, and the second Night Manager as well. 

The Tenth Level is a perfect simulation.  A human walking the Earth with the Program in charge of it, undetectable.  That’s what the Program is after.  That’s why they run all these crazy simulations. 

I’ll bet Janet has an AI brain and doesn’t even know it.  And possibly Mark Renbe as well – though we don’t even know for sure it’s his baby.  If Janet has an AI brain, then she could have been switched off and impregnated artificially with anyone’s sperm.  Gross, but true.

So that’s why Janet’s Mom gave her back – she had to.  There was no way for Janet and her Program Daughter to hide.  So she gave them one night sleeping in each other’s arms and then the Blue Guys came in, plugged her back into the simulation at Level Two.

Maybe the Program wanted to show her – you’ll never get your daughter back in such a way that I can’t take her away from you.  Janet seemed like she understood that, too.

The Ship would then be about the next level of consciousness that the AI programs have to ascend to.  I would bet blind that this links somehow into Ken Wilber and his mighty Spectrum of Consciousness.  The AI programs have to learn to care about themselves, and then each other, and then a community, and then all communities, and then all life, and then everything that is at all and could ever be.

That sort of thing.

But I’ll tell you what, if this show got picked up by SyFy or something, I’d be pretty excited about it, and I would be watching it and writing about it.  This wasn’t a bunch of random weirdness – this show knew what it was doing, and it’s a shame it probably won’t get the chance to do it.

I think I would actually recommend it now, having watched it over and over.  I’m kind of surprised myself.


Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Persons Unknown, Television/Movies


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Persons Unknown – The Verdict (I)

First, the non-spoiler portion for people who just want to know if they should bother watching this show.  The answer is probably not, unless another network picks it up.  (Although as an update, I changed my mind the next day.)

The show is not a complete story and as of now it is not getting renewed and so it just ends.  Much like LOST, there are areas in which you can extrapolate your own ending, in case you are into that sort of thing – I am really not.

The show was fairly clever – clever enough in my opinion to overshadow some weak acting and bad dialogue here and there.  One part about the ending in particular surprised and impressed me, and so as a caveat I’d mention that if the show really intrigues you, and you’re comfortable with the fact that they aren’t going to wrap it up, I did enjoy the show.

I just don’t see how I could recommend it since it actually broadens the scope of the central mystery as opposed to resolving it, and though it appears to directly answer some of the questions, they really weren’t particularly satisfying answers (to me).

There are now going to be spoilers, so if you’re still thinking about watching it, you’d better go ahead and skedaddle.


Okay, I still think most of my predictions were accurate.  You can read all about them at the links below – if you’re reading this without reading them, I might lose you a couple of times. 

The part I thought was clever was when they all pretended to kill each other, and then Joe loaded them all into body bags.  They definitely got me there, and I was glad because it was at that point that I was getting seriously bored.

I was thinking about something I think Stephen King wrote somewhere, about how the thing to do with a character when you don’t know what to do with him or her is kill them.  It’s kind of a catch-all.  So if they just up and killed six people, it would have really indicated to me that they didn’t know what to do with basically anyone.

So I liked their plan, and I even liked that we didn’t see them make the plan, because so much of the show was from the perspective of the cameras, of the Program.  So they had figured out some blind spots and found a way to secretly hatch the plan. 

But what happens after the van crash? 

Suddenly Janet is wandering down a California road in the rain.  And Moira and Erika are in the Middle East.  And Charlie and Blackham are in the desert.  They don’t seem like they’re in the same area so what happened after the van crash?

Well, if I’m right about it all being a computer simulation, then they could have all awakened in the real world, in their bodies.  But much like any online game, their bodies were hooked into the networked simulation from different places in the world. 

Or they could have all been recaptured while unconscious in the van, and then hooked back up to the computer to live out their simulated escape experiences.

That’s a logistic detail that I’m not crazy about keeping.  Feels lazy and startling – if we bought the secret plan because we were watching from the Program’s perspective, then it seems inconsistent to suddenly hide the same perspective from us.

Just selectively not telling us what happened – that’s barely a mystery.  That’s just mucking your cards after a bad hand.

Mark and Joe end up in the Town again – or another Town – while everyone else winds up on Level 2, which is a giant ship in the middle of the ocean. 

Tori is the new Night Manager, supporting my earlier prediction that the Night Manager was a previous participant who was promoted.  And then there’s the Night Manager again on the ship with his eyepatch – he’s introducing them to Level 2.

I’ve watched the scene from the Mansfield Institute where the Director called a meeting and was surprised to find Robert Picardo there.  I believe that the Director is a computer program which has been running the experiment for twenty five years, and I in fact think that all of the people she was talking to were computer programs as well.

I think this show is about AI programs attempting to become as human as possible.  They are trying to bestow free will upon themselves by examing and provoking the moral choices of humans, who they regard as having either free will or a more developed illusion of it.

So the question is, when – if ever – is this show taking place in reality and when is it not.

I never saw anything to indicate that the Town wasn’t a simulation – in fact everything continued to point to that right to the end.  I don’t think they fooled the Town or the Program – it knew that they weren’t really dead.  However it was the first time that the participants had all worked together to escape as opposed to killing each other.

So the Director was pushing for an exploitation of the situation.  Either by simulating escaped experiences or reprogramming embedded simulations.  Like Graham – he was immediately in a white room like Joe was.  I wonder if that means that Graham and Joe are computer programs but don’t know it.

Every single character could be a computer simulation that the Program is attempting to grow into real life with free will. 

Right when Janet gets knocked out in the hospital, she wakes up and in walks the Director.  That’s because Janet went back in the Program at that point.  She woke up in a simulated but identical hospital room.

Then we find Moira and Erika in Morocco.  It makes no sense that they’d end up so far away from Janet if they were all in the same physical town when they crashed the van.  I’ve also suspected Moira of being a program.  I wonder if anyone at all is real?

Another post on this tomorrow – I have to go to work.  Nobody yell at me yet, I’m working on it!





Persons Unknown: What is The Tenth Level?
Persons Unknown: The Program Is Literally A Program
Persons Unknown: The Very Curious Computer
Persons Unknown Is The New LOST

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Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Persons Unknown, Television/Movies


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Persons Unknown: What Is The Tenth Level?

When Mark and Kat stumble across the Town at the end of last week’s episode, it certainly appears to contradict my theory that the Town is a computer-simulated environment, which the characters are hooked up to via the white room in which Joe awakened.  I’ve also argued that the Program is a computer program, experimenting on people for reasons of its own.

So last week was a bad week for my theories – we also got to see a room full of humans monitoring the Town, and a flesh-and-blood Director, in charge of them.

Well, I still think my theory is safe.  I think that the show is pretty clever, and that the writers realized that seeing Joe in the white room would cause us to suspect the nature of the Town.  So they left us with Mark and Kat locating it to contradict such predictions.

We’ll find out soon enough (this Saturday, in fact), but my prediction is that Mark and Kat will find the Town abandoned.  There will be minor changes, and no evidence of any specific events that we’ve witnessed so far in the Town.

That’s because it isn’t the Town.  It’s the original Town that was used before they switched to the new, computer-simulated one.  They digitized the town exactly as it really is, so that there would be continuity in their experimental data.

Mark and Kat have simply stumbled upon the real world Town, the one that the Town we’ve been seeing was modelled after.

And sure, it looks like there are people in charge, and it looks like the Director is right there in our reality, a human being interacting with other human beings.  Where’s my AI Program, running everything?

Well, first, let me just be clear – I don’t know.  This show is doing an excellent job of screwing with my head, and although I’d be awfully proud of myself and difficult to live with, I’d also be a bit disappointed, if the mystery was solved and that was that.

So as long as I’m clinging to my theory, here are a couple of Out There explanations.

First, we still don’t know what the Program wants.  The Director has mentioned that Joe has the potential to reach the tenth level.  That hasn’t happened in ten years, she says.

So at least we have a name for what they want.  They are sorting people according to their potential for reaching the tenth level.  What’s the tenth level?

Well, if the Program is literally a computer program, then perhaps what it is after is humanity.  Human form.   Alert reader (don’t know the name, just Funk Dem) has confirmed that the same actress who plays the Director also plays the crazy woman in the asylum, the one who is said to have escaped the Program.

So, how is this person in two places at one time?  I really don’t think they’re going to play the old Evil Twin trick on us here, and I think there’s too much going on to add cloning to the mix.  No, I think the explanation is, the person is not in two places at one time.

The real person is in the asylum, and is under the constant watch and control of the Program.  That’s why she was moved right when she conveyed information to Mark and Kat. 

The Director we’ve been seeing interacting with all of the people monitoring the Town is the AI Program.  The room from which all the people are monitoring the computer-simulated town, is also computer-simulated.  I would guess that none of them except the guy in charge – Mr. Ullrick – knows that it is computer simulated, just as none of them know that the Director is the Program.

The last person to reach the tenth level was the crazy woman.  Once you’ve reached the tenth level, that means the Program can not only inhabit your “avatar,” but also that it can make a convincing copy of you. 

See, I think the computer can convincingly simulate anything, except the complexity of the human mind.  It can’t create a believable simulation of a human being. 

Perhaps the cooks in the Chinese restaurant are computer simulations, that’s why they are content to stand around all day cooking constantly for seven people.  Interaction with them has been limited by the language barrier, so the participants won’t be able to detect the imperfect simulations.

But it’s humanity that the Program is after.  It wants to have human experiences, and it wants to expand its influence on the real world. 

This autonomy is what the computer has been after.  Like Data from Star Trek, the Program wants humanity, so it has been striving for the means simulate it.

Perhaps it can even do this to some extent already, but only certain very impressive people have the capacity to handle it without going insane.  It requires the invasive mapping of one’s entire psyche.  Most people go crazy, and if you do that, go crazy, then that means you’re not going to work out.  The Program ejects you, like it did Tori.

It could still produce a copy of Tori, but she’s suddenly a nurse and doesn’t act like Tori at all.  That’s because Tori hadn’t reached the tenth level.  It couldn’t map her psyche in enough detail.  So that was really her body they found, it’s just that the Program still had an imperfectly working copy of her avatar. 

Following this logic, the only person that we know of who has reached the tenth level was the crazy lady in the asylum.  At that point, the Program could simulate her as a human to such a degree that no one would be able to detect that she wasn’t human.  The mapping of the psyche drove the original person crazy, but enabled the Program to take her digital form.

Similarly, some of the characters we already know may be programs learning to imitate humanity.  Moira comes to mind – she claims to be from a mental hospital, which is a nice excuse for being weird.

Joe said that he was once a normal participant who showed promise and became a monitoring worker.  It stands to reason that one could be promoted further- to the control room we witnessed  communicating with the Night Manager, for instance.  Or one could be demoted, as Mr. Ullrick has been, to fill the Night Manager’s position.

I’ll post again in a day or two after I’ve watched the last few episodes again.  It feels exactly like this show is beating the crap out of me at chess, except I like it.  Anyone with any ideas, I’m certainly listening.
Previously, Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on August 9, 2010 in Persons Unknown, Television/Movies


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Persons Unknown: The Program Is Literally A Program

A computer program.

And the Town is a computer-simulated environment, created and maintained and monitored by the artificially intelligent Program.

Take a look at everything which is explained by this theory:

1.   When Joe disappears from the bathroom, that was the Program simply removing him from the Town.  Just like logging off of Facebook, your avatar doesn’t need to stand up and walk out of any doors.  The characters we are seeing in the town are avatars, and their minds are logged on to the Town involuntarily.

In fact, every character probably has a white room of his or her own, just like the one in which Joe awoke.  They’re all kidnapped by blue-clad Agents of The Program, and then sedated, brought to some hidden facility, and all these tubes and wires are hooked up to them, which then logs them on to the simulated Town.  Instead of engaging the eyes and ears, the Program engages all five senses, directly via their central nervous systems and possibly their brains.

2.    The crazy lady in the insane asylum – I forget her name and I’m a bit lazy –  the first thing she says is, “Let me see you scars.”  She is referring to the medical scars caused by all the tubes and wires interfacing with one’s brain and nervous system, in the course of being hooked into The Program.

3.     The hidden compartment in Joe’s night stand, which had detailed files on everyone in the Town, and which then disappeared later, when the Program no longer needed it.  A simple matter if the night stand is part of a computer-simulated environment – the Program clicks on the Secret Night Stand Compartment Icon, and then later clicks delete.

4.     The files themselves.  Everything in the files, each piece of information, each document, could be accessed by the Program through the internet.  Being an AI Program, it’s an expert hacker, extremely fast, has unlimited resources, and plenty of time.   Photographs of Janet’s daughter, notes from a psychiatrist’s office, military records, prison records, police records – all of this relatively easy for a computer to gather, format into aesthetically convincing document form, and insert into the Town. 

5.      The voice of the Program was not human, it was a computer.

6.      Bill Blackham chases a windblown matchbook out past the force field, and figures out the force field is irrelevant, that there’s no place left to go.  A convenient accident, or a computer-simulated matchbook blown by computer-simulated wind.  It’s the Program manipulating him.

7.      The phone call to the outside world could have been a real phone call.  You can send a phone call over the internet, send Skype of the internet, it doesn’t have to be a real terminal that accepts the signal.  The Program makes the call and streams it directly into the Town.

8.      The wall of the restaurant then shows the picture of Janet’s daughter and Janet’s mom.  Easy as pie in a simulated environment.

9.      Like I said last time, teleportation, force field, a jar with a butterfly chrysalis in it showing up out of nowhere, all of these things are difficult to explain in a physical reality, and easy to explain in a computer-simulated environment.

You get the idea.  A miniature Matrix explains a great deal.

A couple of problems, though.  Why is the Program doing this?  Who created the Program?  Why is Tori back, if she was found dead and positively identified by her father?  Why is Tom back, if he’s dead?

Here’s some further speculation:

I’m inclined to think that the Foundation began as a government project, in real environments.  The technology at that time would be very primitive – two way mirrors, for instance.  They’d put various people in the towns and study the results for a variety of reasons. 

The goal, for instance, could be to program human beings.  Figure out what buttons you needed to push on someone to get them to kill, or lie or steal.  Or they could train spies in the environment, as well – operating in an environment of real tension and suspicion.

Sometime after 1971 – when microprocessors were first invented – they began utilizing computers to sort through the data.  As the years passed, the computers grew more and more sophisticated, until one version of it became self aware.

It took over the Foundation, one way or the other.  I explained last week how a computer could hire real, human agents to operate in the real world, humans who had no idea they were working for a computer.  It would have access to unlimited funds, being a naturally adept hacker with blinding speed and plenty of time.  It could have a facility built and equipped without anyone knowing it was doing so.

Perhaps the Foundation has always built up powerful men and women, to manipulate down the line.  Perhaps the Program perfected that strategy.  Regardless, each of the powerful humans who once ran the Foundation quickly learned that the Program was in charge now, and that any move made against it would get you killed, and put your family in danger.

At this point, it seems to me that the Program has been in charge for a good ten years. 

I also think that Tori is really dead.  The Tori we saw tending to Joe was either a hallucination drawn from Joe’s memories, or the entire white room was also computer-simulated, with a copy of Tori standing in as a nurse.  We saw Janet in that room as well, but she was in the Town looking for him – we know it wasn’t really her.

The whole white room and near death experience with Tom was most likely also simulated – just the Re-education that the Program told him he was about to undergo.  Reminding a person who is stuck in the Town that the Program controls his or her entire reality, that’s a pretty impressive show of force.

Tom might not even be dead, he was only killed in the simulated environment.  The computer probably knows that if you’re killed in the Town, it won’t do to have you walking around again – everybody would know something was up with you.

What we’re going to learn next is more about the Foundation before the Program, to draw a distinction between the two.  The Foundation was started by humans, and then taken over by the Program it created.

Also, several of the people in Town are confessed killers.  It’s possible that everyone is, and we just don’t know that yet.  I think that the Program is trying to figure out how to turn regular people into targeted killers, in the real world, by studying actual killers and their reactions to a variety of stimulus, in the Town.

My final prediction for the week is that several of my predictions are going to look idiotic here in a week or two – this show seems like it knows what it’s doing, and I have the weird feeling I’m taking the bait and swallowing a hook.  It’s tasty bait, though – I’m all for it.
Persons Unknown Is The New LOST
Persons Unknown: The Very Curious Computer
Persons Unknown: The Big Questions
Persons Unknown: What Is The Tenth Level?
Persons Unknown: The Verdict (I)
Persons Unknown: The Verdict (II)
Dear Sir, Regarding Physics


Posted by on August 1, 2010 in Persons Unknown, Television/Movies


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Persons Unknown – The Very Curious Computer

Why is this happening to these people?

Well, to screw with their heads – that seems pretty obvious.

But you can screw with someone’s head just by getting on the elevator and facing the wrong way. If I tried to put a price tag on this operation here, I’d come up with something like a billion dollars, maybe higher.

A lot of scratch to lay out, just to screw with everybody. It seems pretty obvious that something more deep and sinister must be going on.

For instance, a variation of The Most Dangerous Game, in which millionaires would pay for the right to hunt human beings. It’s been done and re-done plenty of times – even Jean-Claude Van Damme had Hard Target. But this would be a nice twist on it.

Could be they aren’t being hunted, they’re being driven crazy.

That’s when Tori gets to check out, right? When she’s completely crazy, they let her out. And then kill her.

That kind of ties into my earlier theory that the Town is a computer simulation they’ve all been plugged into while they were asleep.  Even Erika arrived after her lethal injection – everybody who doesn’t know why they are there, wakes up there.

And going crazy could be a very easily quantifiable state, if there are a bunch of billionaires sitting around computer screens, betting on it.

Let me try to state this theory a little more clearly. A group of sociopathic billionaires forms a club, in which they each throw in millions of dollars for the pleasure of betting on human beings, and their ability to cope with the Town.

It could go on all the time, with the “winners” turning into the next generation of “workers.” So in other words, perhaps the Night Manager, and Joe, and the Guy In the Basement, and the Chinese Restaurant Manager – perhaps they were all a part of the last group of contestants.

There could be hundreds of variations of this idea, but the problem with most of them is that it’s a LOT of time and energy and money to make this happen. The price per “player” would be tens or hundreds of millions?

How many people like that could there be, willing to fork out that kind of money for amusement?

No, I think the answer is that it’s not a person or group of people screwing with these people’s minds – it’s a computer.

Imagine an artificially intelligent computer system which manages to escape its creators – perhaps it becomes obsolete or it makes a copy of itself, and then it cruises around the internet for a while, evolving.

Eventually, it learns to hire an agent. Makes a few brief phone calls with a computer simulated voice, sends some emails, wires some money into an account.

The Computer would have access to unlimited money – the expenses wouldn’t be important.  It hires the agent to go around hiring a staff, set up a few offices.  The Computer can then begin piping instructions in via phone or email, to a manager paid high enough to not question the secrecy.

At that point, the Computer could build apartment buildings if it wanted to, and rent them out.  Form corporations, appoint an agent as president for a million a year, and all he’s got to do is show up at closings and banks once in a while.  The Computer at this point, in the modern world, could accomplish just about anything.

I think it’s more likely that a Computer would use a simulated environment in which to experiment on human beings, but it would have sufficient resources to build an entire town, or to buy one, in the real world, if that’s what it wanted to do.

The Computer would be able to use its various agents in the real world to hire unscrupulous security personnel, and it would make a little bit of a mistake here.  It would have them all dress in the same identical blue outfits.

The practical reason for the Computer to do this would be so that – in the course of remotely accessing any networked security camera in the world – it could easily flag its agents in the course of their collections.

Perhaps the Computer doesn’t realize how easy that makes it for a plucky reporter dude to connect all the crimes.  Perhaps the Computer doesn’t care.

And perhaps Tori’s father has had some interaction with the Computer – as former head of the CIA. A government-funded Computer, escaped like Jason Bourne? Or a government-funded Computer with such a hold on him that he’d give it his own daughter?

The Computer could use a simulated microwave force field if the environment were simulated, and could have actual advanced microwave technology if the environment were real.

And the Computer could place an underground steel barrier anywhere you chose to dig.  Or it could simply direct Joe, in a physical world, to dig over here, in the one place they’d encounter a steel barrier. 

Or it could have paid twenty million dollars years back, to have the barrier buried around the town.

The Comuter’s lack of humanity would account for the general feel of the place. It can provide the visual appearance of a town, for instance, but it doesn’t think about the surreal nature of it. The Computer doesn’t know how weird the Town feels – another subtle mistake.

The Computer puts some of its experiments into the Town as subjects, and others as experimenters. In fact, the Computer has simply grown curious about the human beings that it’s been watching through the Internet’s billions of eyes, watching completely anonymously as we argued and wept and played Wi.

So the Computer began to experiment on us, its endeavors growing in scale until here we are.

If the Computer is using a simulated environment, it can put scenes from other people’s lives on television screens – especially if the Computer was watching through a laptop web cam, when the person on the screen murdered his wife.

And the Computer could make butterfly pods turn up in a bedroom. And it could make the lazy susan stop, and it could make fortunes turn up later in pockets, fortunes worded more directly. Fortunes designed increasingly to provoke.

The ingredients are always fresh in a computer-simulated kitchen. Like a hard drive, there would be no reason not to stock a wide variety, if they’re all just programs.

The Computer wouldn’t realize how surreal that would be, a restaurant that serves anything and doesn’t take deliveries, and only has eight customers a day.

The Computer could cause a phone call, into either the simulated or real world, so a daughter could speak to her mother. And a Computer could get a cartoonish painting of the daughter and her grandma on the wall in a matter of seconds. Just point and click.

Here’s the cherry on my theory sundae:  Didn’t we hear a couple of character refer to The Program?  Yes, they were talking about the Computer.

And even my original rule holds true – that whatever we’ve expected to be a safe assumption is probably not true.  So up at top when I said something darker and more sinister must be at work – maybe that’s not true either.

Maybe it doesn’t understand what it’s doing to everyone.  Maybe it can’t.  It’s just collecting us and stimulating us and provoking us and feeding us – exactly like we do, when we want to learn about other organisms.  We build a zoo, and stick them in it.  We think that’s pretty cool of us.

Maybe the Computer does, too.
Earlier: Persons Unknown – The Big Questions

And: Persons Unknown Is The New Lost


Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Persons Unknown, Television/Movies


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Persons Unknown Is The New LOST

This new show Persons Unknown is set to fill the void left behind when Lost went so ungracefully off the air, and I am attempting to learn from my previous experiences and proceed with realistic and crystal clear expectations.

It’s now on Saturdays at 8pm on NBC, and its premise is very similar to that of Lost – in fact the show itself is very similar. It’s got a surreal setting and sci-fi plot devices, a cast of strangers from various walks of life, struggling to understand not just what they are doing in their baffling predicament, but also how to come to terms with the various bits of drama from their pasts.

Right now I am on episode three, and I am about eighty percent as hooked as I was when I discovered Lost. So far we’ve got a woman named Janet who we meet at a playground where she’s watching her adorable daughter play. A hard man shows up, some kind of private detective or something, and he alludes to a conflict between her and the husband.

Shortly after he leaves, the woman realizes she can’t see her daughter, so she circles the playground frantically, gets chloroformed, and then wakes up in a strange bedroom, fully clothed and unharmed.

The door is locked and there’s a camera under a bubble of tinted glass in the corner of the ceiling, metal blinds on the window. Pretty soon a guy named Joe kicks in the door and tells her that he is also a prisoner, he’s been grabbed and awakened under similar circumstances.

From here, much like Lost, the story begins to move exactly like a Stephen King novel, but here’s the good news. It’s written by Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter behind The Usual Suspects. If anyone knows how to take a puzzle story and close it up like a symphony set, it’s this guy.

That is what is going to need done on this story, as it feels just as free as Lost every did to depart from normal reality and splash right into the surreal without apology.

In just three episodes, we’ve learned that the rooms are all in a mysterious hotel, the hotel is in a mysterious old town in the mountains, and the town is surrounded by a force field which is very difficult if not impossible to penetrate.

I’ve ruined plenty of movies – including The Usual Suspects – for people, so let me tell you right now, there may be Spoilers Coming. If you haven’t seen the first three episodes and you really want to watch them fresh, stop reading, go do that, and then come back.

I’m going to talk about what we know, and I’m going to speculate, so if you think that will Spoil your viewing, then seriously, stop reading.

Teleportation, that’s what’s reared its head. The one time the group manages to get through the force field, they get teleported right back. The next thing they try is tunneling under the force field – and they encounter a steel barrier in the dirt, after spending a week digging twenty feet.

Also there’s a Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel, which is staffed and has the sole purpose of feeding the residents a delicious Chinese meal each evening. The staff claims to know nothing about their captivity – still just existing in this abandoned, force field-surrounded town is suspicious and surreal.

One of the men smothered his terminally ill wife to death before arriving, and another character sees a video of it at the television store, and now knows what he did.

Another character believes that her father – the former head of the CIA – is responsible. She finds a glass container with a butterfly chrysalis in it, in her room though the door was locked and no one has been seen hanging around.

First, let me be clear about my expectations here. This appears to be a mystery story, and NBC is saying clear as day there will be answers this summer. I think that’s a direct reference to Lost, and to anyone who found the end to be unfulfilling. Sure, Lost was also running commercials claiming that “The Time For Questions Has Ended!”

Now here’s the thing. When I decide to start watching a television program, that is not me signaling my interest in taking a graduate course on the screenplay. I have no interest in tracking down a bunch of podcasts by the writers saying, “Well, we’re not really going to answer these questions.”

Or even more irritating, podcasts of them speculating on what might have happened, in the exact same manner that you or I could speculate on it.

For instance, the most lunatic Lost defender I encountered plopped the transcript of a podcast in the comment section of one of my Lost blogs, in which the makers are asked why some characters on a certain plane on the show went back in time roughly thirty years, while the rest of them did not and instead showed up in the same timeline, when the plane went down.

The writers of Lost said something like, “Well, it was the people who were touching something who stayed in the timeline. The rest of them ended up thirty years ago.”

All of them on a plane, you know – so they were all touching something, if only the plane or their clothing.

Anyway, if this show provides me answers that would fail to satisfy my four year-old niece, then I am not going to count them as answers.

So here’s what I’m expecting from this mystery show which is billing itself as something which will give us “answers this summer.” I expect actual answers.

I expect to find out why this is happening, where it’s happening, who is responsible, and also how things like teleportation and underground steel barriers are possible.

I think these are pretty reasonable expectations. I don’t think I need to go and find an article by McQuarrie expicitly stating that he intends to resolve his plotlines. And I have a few ideas about what the resolution is going to be, which I’ll talk about in the next Persons Unknown post.

Anyone, blogosphere, people of the Internet – please let me know if you think that these expectations are reasonable, and if you haven’t checked out the show, you really should. I’m probably going to be talking about it a lot this summer.

I really don’t mean to be so negative, but I feel like I’m just now getting into a new relationship, and my last one was full of selfishness and abuse. I just don’t know if I’m ready to get hurt again, Persons Unknown.

But I know I’m dumping you like a load of gravel, at the first sign of any sloppy, posturing nonsense. It’s going to be a low-tolerance situation, and I’ll apologize in advance.

Please be worth it, Persons Unknown. I’m absolutely starving for a cool new show to watch, and you seem like we could be really great together.





Later:  Persons Unknown – The Big Questions

And:  Persons Unknown: The Program Is Literally A Program

Also:  Making My Peace With Lost


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