Clarence Montgomery was the only innocent man imprisoned at the Rock. Now, he’s come back to the present day … except this time he’s not innocent.
Present: A handsome black man tours the room at a swanky party in a high-end restaurant. He and a white woman catch each other’s eyes across the room. She excuses herself to the patio, where she finds the black man. She asks if he’s bid on anything at the silent auction, but so far he says no. They flirt a bit, he says it’s a lovely night for a walk, and she ends up going on a drive on a golf cart with him.
The scene flashes then to a series of bloody images, and when we come back the black man is carrying the white woman across the golf course. Her throat’s been slit — and he’s confused as to how the hell it happened. He keeps muttering “who did this to you?” Which of course is a good “holy crap!” moment.
Flashback: The black man stands in the line at Alcatraz. The white inmates are escorted into the mess hall, and then the black men. Our pal from the opening is sent into the kitchen because the warden wants to see him.
He walks to the back and James addresses him as Clarence. Yup, this is Clarence Montgomery. James offers a ladle of soup to our pal, and Clarence critiques it quite easily. The end result is James offers him the chance to cook the next chef’s meal and supervise the rest of the kitchen. Last time he cooked for white folk, Montgomery says, it ended him up in the big house. However, James still offers him the chance.
Present: Doc is searching for ’63s on the computer system when the dead woman’s name pops up. Doc examines the case, and asks the system — “Clarence is that you?”
Clarence appears at the door of an old black man in a wheelchair. This is one of his buddies from the Rock, and Clarence tells his friend about the murder. He also explains that they took him from his cell every night and took his blood. The other inmate emphasizes that Clarence was innocent. Clarence refutes this, adding “not anymore.” Uh-oh. Baaad things coming.
Flashback: Lily is interviewing Clarence about his past. Clarence is convinced he ended up at the Rock because he was a black man working in a white-person’s country club. However, Lily says it’s because he slit his white girlfriend’s throat on a golf course.
Present: Doc, Madsen, and Hauser are at the crime scene on the golf course. Doc explains Clarence was the first black man to work at a white country club; back in 1958 he fell in love with the owner’s daughter and she ended up dead precisely the same way Megan–the dead girl–did. And the 1958 murder was also carried to the 13th hole, precisely the same way as the dead girl.
No one’s identified Clarence, but it’s the same body positioning as the other murder. This isn’t enough for Hauser though. He wants positive ID. And I don’t blame him.
Flashback: Another black inmate, who I’m assuming is wheelchair man from the present, encourages Clarence to take the warden’s offer of cooking for everyone. Clarence isn’t sure though, so his buddy emphasizes again that the warden’s offering Clarence a chance.
Then Tiller comes in and expresses his immense shall we say … doubt … that it’s a good idea to have Clarence cook. Warden James, Tiller says, believes he can rehabilitate the entire prison population. Tiller doesn’t think this. He even shaves Clarence’s face with a straight razor a bit, which would honestly freak me out. Once Tiller leaves, Clarence stands up and demands to know if his buddy thinks cooking will change that.
Present: Madsen shows Nikki the crime scene photo from 1958. Nikki tells them that the two murders, while similar, were not committed by the same person. Her reasoning is really interesting — the 1958 murder was committed by a left-handed murderer, while the present-day one was committed by a right-handed murderer. Interesting way to figure it out, huh?
Madsen and Doc pull Clarence’s box out of storage to take a look. Hauser comes in, and because Nikki said the two murders weren’t related he doesn’t want them investigating. Madsen maintains the murderer knows everything about Clarence, and so Hauser gives them 12 hours to investigate. Then it goes back to homicide. They find the name Emmet Little circled in two articles in Clarence’s box, and go visit him in Oakland. Oh, and two bottles of pills. Which will be important.
This is the wheelchair-bound man that Clarence visited. Madsen and Doc interview Emmet about his injury and also about Clarence. Emmet maintains his friend’s innocence; in fact he reveals Clarence was planning to run away with his white girlfriend–Ellen–to a house up north. Then she got killed. Madsen then asks if Clarence was right- or left-handed, and Emmet responds his memory just ain’t what it used to be. Which is a signal for them to leave.
Nikki calls them outside; she found a hair sample from a black man that came back with Wilson’s disease. The disease would’ve been treated 50 years ago with Vitamin B6 and Penicillin. The pills Clarence had in his box. Madsen comments Clarence may have been innocent in the past but he sure as hell isn’t now. Uh-oh.
Clarence gets out of a catering van, comments to a chef to cook something for 27 minutes at 350, and then grabs a coat.
Flashback: Warden James is tasting the spare ribs in the kitchen. Clarence thanks him for the chance to cook again, and James tells him his future has now begun.
Clarence looks out into the mess hall, and James gives a speech about cooperation and parlay. He suggests the entire prison population treat this meal as their parlay, and then all the black men go back to eating. Except the whites on the other side of the room stop. James orders them all to eat, and then one of the white men says they’re not going to eat this garbage. Commence the rioting!
A bunch of white inmates walk up to Clarence and begin beating the crap out of him. A whistle rings out, and then smoke pours down to stop the fight.
Present: Clarence is at another swanky party. He glances up at the digital picture frame, and sees images of Megan’s death. A white woman walks over to him and strikes up a conversation. Clarence then says it’s a lovely night for a walk. Ah crap … she dead now. I guarantee it.
Doc, Hauser, and Madsen are at the new crime scene. Yup, that white girl from the previous scene is dead now. Hauser is waved over by the Chief of Police, who informs him they have a problem that can’t be discussed in the open. Doc and Madsen meanwhile look around, trying to figure out how Clarence got in. Then they see the catering van, and notice there are two dishes on the menu that Clarence had recipes for in his box. Oooo … the connections!
Flashback: Clarence is sitting in his cell writing a recipe down when a guard comes to collect him. He makes the mistake of saying it’s not his work time, and the guard hurls him into the railing as punishment. The guard walks Clarence down Broadway to the jeers of the white inmates, and eventually he’s taken to a basement where Beauregard waits with a chair.
The guards strap Clarence into the chair and even stick a pipe into his mouth. After they leave, Beauregard injects something into Clarence’s neck, and then places an electroshock headset on Clarence. Beauregard turns on a film of violent images and a jury declaring Clarence guilty of murdering his white girlfriend. Then he comments that electroshock works one way, so why not the other? He sends voltage into Clarence’s head for a quick second, turns it off, and tells the inmate to “enjoy.” I get the sense they’re trying to turn him into a killer.
Present: Madsen and Doc go to the catering company Clarence works for. Clarence freezes when he sees them, and then shoves his coworker toward Madsen before booking it. He leads her on a merry chase through the docks, and only escapes when he rolls beneath a truck. Madsen is forced to wait, and when the truck drives off, Clarence is nowhere to be found.
Flashback: Clarence is working in the prison laundry when Tiller enters and offers up a lecture about turning criminals into men. After he leaves, a talkative white inmate wheels in a batch of sheets and offers his compliments to Clarence for the ribs the other night. Clarence is listening to him talk, but those violent images suddenly appear in his mind.
He picks up the safety knife used to cut ties on the laundry bundles, and quickly slashes the inmate’s throat. He’s right-handed incidentally. As the other inmate bleeds out on the floor, Clarence rearranges the man to look exactly the way Ellen did in the crime scene photos. Spooky much?
Present: Hauser and Doc meet Madsen where Clarence disappeared on the docks. Madsen hits on a way to track him though, so they head back to Nikki and ask her to track prescriptions for penicillin filled in the last week. One of them is for Emmet Little, Clarence’s pal, and Madsen comments she owes Nikki a drink. Then so does Doc, and Nikki suggests tomorrow. Doc freezes for a minute, confused, before Madsen rolls her eyes and leaves. Then he at last gets it …. and I had a bit of an “awww” moment there.
Doc and Madsen meet Hauser at Little’s apartment. They head upstairs and knock on the door, only to jump back when Little fires a shotgun through it. Hauser slips out the fire escape while Madsen engages Little, who’s adamant that Clarence not go back to prison. He’s convinced God gave Clarence a second chance, and the police aren’t going to take that away from him. Anyone else think he crazy?
Hauser talks with Clarence through the window of the apartment. He knows Clarence didn’t kill Ellen in ’58, and he also knows Clarence killed those two women on the golf course. That’s why this has to end, Hauser says, and so Clarence walks into the main room where Emmet holds the fort down. He admits the murders to Emmet, and asks for his help. Clarence doesn’t want to go back to prison … so Emmet turns his shotgun on his friend and blows him away. OK, I did not expect that one.
Hauser meets the police chief on a park bench. The chief expresses his displeasure at keeping cold cases open, and Hauser scoffs at him. However, our friendly FBI agent does pass along an envelope containing the name and fingerprints of the man who really killed Ellen Casey in 1958.
Doc and Madsen watch the press conference on TV where the police chief declares Clarence Montgomery exonerated after 50 years. Madsen comments on how messed up this all is, and then wonders how Clarence became a killer. Doc rattles off a list of some of the odd experiments happening in the 1950s. He never expected something at Alcatraz though. At least … not until now.
Flashback: Lily interviews Clarence about the murder in the laundry. He emphasizes again his innocence, and she tells him she can take the memories of the murder away. Clarence, on the other hand, is dubious about her chances.
James and Beauregard look on from afar, and the warden congratulates the doctor on turning Clarence into a killer. Then Beauregard asks what the warden does to the blood between the time he takes it out of the inmates and puts it back in. James replies that he doesn’t do anything to it. After all, what kind of warden would he be if he kept secrets from his staff? Umm … a super creepy one?
If you missed the previous episode, be sure to read our ‘Alcatraz: The Ames Bros/Sonny Burnett’ recap.