One of the more overtly allegorical episodes of “The Prisoner” is called “Free For All.” In it, the titular Prisoner is cajoled into running for office. At first he intends to do it just to destroy the system and set everyone free, but as the race progresses he gets more and more into the whole thing, and when he wins, he honestly thinks maxims like ‘Obey me and be free’ make sense. He tries to run the place his way, and is immediately slapped down by those in charge. Why? Because they’d hoped the race would cause him to sort of assimilate himself into the village, which it very nearly did. He came to his senses (Almost accidentally), and they slapped him down and removed him from power.
The moral of the story is obvious and interesting: Elections are rigged, the leaders you see are never the ones with real power, and, of course, no system has ever been ‘fixed’ from within. Very paranoid, but probably not entirely inapt.
Given Tower Prep’s fairly obvious spiritual debt to “The Prisoner,” it’d be interesting to see if tonight’s episode touches on any of those themes, don’t’cha think?
Well, I’ll save you some suspense: They don’t even try. We do, however, get some very interesting revelations.
PLAY BY PLAY
It’s student government election time. The incumbent is Emily Wright. The challenger is the possibly-gay opera dude from a few episodes back. He passes out in biology class after giving a campaign button to Ian. He’s basically out of the race owing to illness. Later that day, Ray, Ian’s evil first roommate, manages to beat him at some made-up sport like Kosho or Buffer or Triad or Pyramid (Which is Triad). Ian realizes he’s lost his abilities.
Gabe, meanwhile, has decided to run for president, and has Suki and Ceej acting as his campaign managers. They run up against a girl named Ross, who’s Emily’s manager. To show her contempt, she hands a button opposing her own candidate to Gabe. Ray and Ian get in a fight, but Ian still wins using strategy. He gets kind of messed up in the process, though. It isn’t his usual clean victory. And Ray gets hurt bad.
If you haven’t figured out who’s doing it, how, and why by this point, you probably should be going to bed a bit earlier than this show comes on.
Anyway, after the requisite running around, Gabe gets infected to, and there’s some intrigue between the headmaster and the nurse (One of only two females on staff that we’ve seen), it comes to a showdown at the big student campaign presentation, in which Gabe - sans powers - manages to deliver a stand-in-your-seats-and-cheer speech composed entirely of platitudes grabbed from other speeches. Everything is exposed, the sick are healed, Gabe wins, it’s all pretty cut and dry.
In the coda, Ross admits to some impressive biological know-how in order to commit her crime. Headmaster and Nurse say they’re impressed, and offer her complete forgiveness if she’ll simply show them how she modified the disease.
In terms of plot, it was pretty straight forward. I totally had it knocked by the first commercial break. I also saw the coda coming, though I was less sure about that. I figured it was 50/50 that they’d kill Ross or enlist her. So I’m cool, but I’m not that cool.
I guess what we’re supposed to take from this is that Student Government in Tower Prep is every bit as much a joke as it is in the real world, since Gabe appears to have no authority in the end, and no one takes him seriously. Pity. I was hoping for a little “Follow me and I will free you” Sixian irony somewhere down the line. Ah well.
What we did get was interesting:
- We know that Headmaster and Nurse were both students at the school 40 years ago (Which would mean they’re both pushing sixty, which seems a bit old, but perhaps it’s a clue?)
- We know that Tower Prep *USED* to be run by a different group than runs it now. There is some speculation that perhaps the original group want it back.
- We know that it is rumored that there are Outsiders who attempt to infiltrate the school for nefarious purposes. It’s speculated that the previous owners and the infiltrators are related, and, come on, that’s obviously got to be the case.
- We know that “Tower Prep tends to take on the personality of its headmaster.” Back in 1971, the Sixth Headmaster (Note the six!) thought the school might run better if no one could access their powers, and invented Chemicadesin to suppress them. It failed badly, and made people sick. The Seventh Headmaster put an end to the experiments.
The Infiltrators stuff was kind of an info-dump with no foreshadowing (Unless Norman from the previous episode is some kind of link, but I saw no evidence of that), but this is all pretty huge.
Which brings up the following questions:
Who are the previous owners? Why were they ousted? How? Why do they want back in? How do the current owners’ goals differ from their predecessors? What *is* the mission of this place, anyway? How many of the people we know are infiltrators? Obviously at least one character must be, and the most likely one, as ever, is Ceej, since neither she nor we know anything about her. By the way, did anyone else notice how she reacted to losing her powers? She was genuinely frightened, whereas everyone else treated it as merely a significant annoyance. Makes me wonder if she's using her powers all the time, and thus relying on them more than the others.
I should mention that despite the malevolence and paranoia, I’m not entirely convinced that Tower Prep is evil. I think it’s possible that they’re actually the good guys, they’re just not particularly nice good guys.
What is Ray’s power anyway? They’ve never said, but it was implied this time out that he’s impervious to harm.
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?
Oh, heck yeah! There’s a lot of Obama gags: Gabe and Emily’s posters, Gabe’s hand-gestures while practicing his speech, and my personal favorite: An overly-elaborate bow to the headmaster, a fairly obvious riff on Obama’s bowing-to Emperor Akihito faux pass a year or so ago. Even the fist-bump at the end could be considered an Obama gag. And of course winning an election as a dark horse candidate, while getting his voters fired up over third-hand platitudes that mean utterly nothing? Come on, how can us conservatives not see the humor in that?