Last night’s Alcatraz brought back inmate Clarence Montgomery (Mahershala Ali), an African American man sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. In the past Clarence, was a gifted chef at a country club where he fell in love with a white woman named Ellen who ended up dead on a golf course. Clarence maintained his innocence but was convicted and sent to Alcatraz.
When Clarence returns to San Francisco in present day we find him at a country club’s silent auction, chatting up an attractive young woman. They flirt and end up hijacking a golf cart for a midnight joyride onto the course. It seems like Clarence is blacking out and flashing to some disturbing images of brutal murders. When it flashes back, he’s carrying the young woman’s lifeless bloody body visibly upset saying “who did this to you”. He places her down on the golf course and puts her body in a specific position.
Doc is going through the local crimes committed on the super computer set up at Alcatraz and immediately recognizes the placement of the body found on a golf course as that of Clarence’s original victim. The body is taken to medical examiner Nikki (Jeananne Goosen) who confirms that Clarence didn’t kill Ellen back in the 1960’s. The cuts on Ellen were made by someone who was left handed but the cuts on the woman who was just killed were by someone who is right handed (Clarence). Nikki also later confirms from a hair found on the victim’s body; that the killer suffers from Wilson’s disease. The disease is treated with Penicillin and vitamin B – both of which were found in Clarence’s box from Alcatraz.
Clarence visits an old acquaintance in a wheelchair, Emmitt Little (Glynn Turman – yay The Wire!), who is shocked to see him alive and unaged. Clarence is visibly disturbed by what has happened and tells Little that he thinks he killed a girl. He continues to tell his friend that they “did something” to him in Alcatraz. Emmitt reminds him that he was innocent despite the blood on his shirt, which Clarence is having a hard time believing.
Madsen and Doc find some articles about African American rights in Clarence’s box with Emmitt Little’s name circled. They pay Emmitt a visit to see if he knows anything about Clarence’s return. He denies it, saying that Clarence died 50 years ago. He also tells them that Clarence was innocent and sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
Back in 1960, we see that Warden James wants Clarence to be the head chef of the prison cafeteria, as a chance for redemption. Clarence is telling a young Emmitt Little that he doesn’t like the idea of cooking for white folk. Emmitt tells Clarence that it’s a good idea and there is nothing wrong with it. Emmitt is convinced that a change is coming to the prison and to black segregation and this is the beginning. He believes that the Warden is doing something good. Deputy Tiller pays Clarence a visit and isn’t happy about the Wardens decision to let Clarence cook. Tiller’s manner is threatening, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t believe this is a chance for redemption.
Clarence does end up cooking a meal for the prison and seems to be quite happy with it, thanking Warden James for giving him the opportunity to cook and saying he didn’t realize how much he missed it. Unfortunately the white prisoners refuse to eat the food which causes a riot in the cafeteria where Clarence is attacked. The fight is stopped with the gassing of the prisoners.
Clarence is dragged out of his cell and taken somewhere in the prison to Dr. Beauregard. The doctor administers electroshock therapy while showing Clarence violent imagery of Ellen and the words guilty shown over and over again. Beauregard also mentions something about the therapy working “in reverse”. The next day, Tiller confronts Clarence and upsets him by taunting him and saying he’s nothing more than a murderous criminal. After Tiller leaves, the images shown by Dr. Beauregard are flashing over and over and Clarence takes his aggression out on a random inmate, slashing his throat and positioning him in the same way the two girls were positioned.
Back in 2012 Clarence murders another attractive young woman at a country club. Madsen comes close to catching him after she realizes he’s working for a catering company, but he gets away. Madsen and Soto then ask Nikki to track Clarence’s prescription which leads the team to Emmitt Little. Emmitt is prepared for their arrival and they barely get away as he shoots at them through his door making it impossible for them to get into his apartment. Sneaky Hauser finds his way to a back window where he spots Clarence taking his medication. Hauser calls out for him, and tells him he just wants to talk and knows that he was innocent back in 1960. Clarence confesses to Hauser that he killed the girls on the golf course. He comes out of the room and also confesses to Emmitt that he killed the two women. Clarence asks his friend for help, saying he can’t go back to prison. Madsen bursts into the apartment, but Emmitt shoots Clarence, killing him. Clarence is taken away in a body bag, while Emmitt is being put into the back of a police car from his wheelchair.
Hauser meets with the chief of police, who explains that his people are starting to ask questions with the Alcatraz team absorbing their cases. Hauser in return gives the chief a file which gives the SFPD the chance to publicly close the 50 year-old Ellen Casey murder by bringing in her real killer and exonerating Clarence. Meanwhile, Madsen and Soto wonder what turned Clarence into a killer. Doc mentions that experiments were done in Utah prisons where they would take blood samples from prisoners to put radioactive material into it and then inject back into the prisoners. He didn’t think Alcatraz was involved in these experiments but now he’s not so sure. (SIDE NOTE: This actually happened in real life. CLICK HERE to read more about it)
The episode ends with a flashback to 1960. Lucy talks to Clarence saying that if he lets her in she can take away his bad memories, but he insists that no one can anymore. Their conversation is observed by Warden James and Beauregard, who discuss the success of the shock therapy turning an innocent man violent. Beauregard then asks the warden what he does with the prisoner’s blood in between it being taken out and putting it back in. Warden James insists he does nothing with it, and keeps no secrets from the staff.
AMANDA’S QUESTIONS: Is Alcatraz going to be cancelled due to low ratings? Where can I find the recipe for Auntie May’s ribs? What is the real conflict between Tiller and Warden James? Is the Chief of Police in on it? Why did they want to turn Clarence into a killer? By Dr Beauregard saying the therapy works in reverse, is he referring to Lucy’s therapy of removing the bad memories?
Sent to Alcatraz for a crime he didn’t commit, violin-playing former inmate Webb Porter (Rami Malek) resurfaces as a cold-blooded psychopath.