Nowhere Man: Episode 02: Turnabout
Our hero’s story arc was set up in the first episode, where everything Thomas Veil knew and loved was taken from him in the flash of an eye, or rather, within the space of one cigarette, reducing his existence to Absolute Zero. Perhaps if Tom had resisted the lure of the Tobacco Conspiracy he would still have his wife and career.
(In fact, Bruce Greenwood, who plays Tom Veil, quit smoking after shooting the pilot, and he still has his wife and career. Coincidence?)
We left Tom at a lonely crossroads in America’s Heartland, his closest friend dead, his mother incapacitated and his wife… well, at first it appeared she was coerced but thanks to Eddie’s sacrifice Tom discovered she was awfully chummy with Dr. Bellamy.
Tom started his quest believing the most urgent matter after protecting the negative of Hidden Agenda is to find someone who can vouch for his identity. Turnabout, a clever title which can be applied in several ways to this episode, is where Tom’s priorities begin to change and solidify, when the “why” becomes more important than the “who”. Creator Hertzog begins the process of using our familiarity with the rules of television, in particular television mysteries, against us.
There are more red herrings than valid clues in Nowhere Man, as there would be in real life, and it’s up to the viewer to accept or discard each detail that Hertzog presents as significant, whether through a close-up, repetition, or a Hitchcock zoom. Hertzog knows you’ve been conditioned to expect every close-up is a clue, and he’s out to make you doubt yourself.
It’s up to you, (and Tom), to discover the difference between Conspiracy and Coincidence.
The episode opens with what will become a familiar refrain over a series of black and white stills of Tom’s last night of existence, and begins what will become Nowhere Man’s trademark cycles of clues and red herrings.
“My name is Thomas Veil, or at least it was. I’m a photographer.
I had it all… a wife, Alyson… friends… a career. And in one moment it was all taken away. All because of a single photograph. I have it… They want it… and they will do anything to get the negative.
I’m keeping this diary as proof that these events are real.
I know they are… they have to be. ”
Veil checks into a hotel under the name Dr. Bellamy (You remember– he stole the doctor’s credit cards and altered his ID before the “accident” at his photo studio.)
Veil’s first act when he gets to the room is to call an old friend, presumably in town, who doesn’t know him. Frightened and again bewildered, Tom hangs up. Then he attempts a much-needed rest and is awakened by the arrival of a van full of men with flashlights and guns. He leaps from the window before they break into his room, but he is caught at the corner of the building.
“You’re a hard man to find, Dr. Bellamy,” says the thug.
In the next scene, Veil is offered a glass of water by the new Number 2.
Alright, he’s called the Supervisor on Nowhere Man. I know a Number 2 when I see one, but I’ll be good.
“What is this place?” Veil asks.
He is in Clear Springs Sanitarium, the base of western operations of the Organization. The mysterious Number 1… erm… the Director is out of the country and expected back within a week to ten days. When Dr. Bellamy disappeared after the fire, and his credit card turned up used in the western jurisdiction, they were ordered to retrieve him. Since no one in the Western division knows what Bellamy looks like, they had to make sure it was him. Number 2 seems satisfied that Veil is Bellamy, so Veil punctuates the conversation by helping himself to a cigar and drilling it with a pencil.
Tom learns fast. He must have had to take on other identities in his role as a Third World combat photojournalist, no?
They have been ordered to treat him with complete VIP courtesy until the Director returns. It turns out the Organization have an unusual arrangement with a sect of non-denominational monks who work in the sanitarium. one monk wearing a red ring stands out. He appears to show some interest in Tom’s arrival.
While walking the grounds, Veil asks how much the Supervisor knows about the subject he was erasing.
“That’s an odd question,” he says, Tom is momentarily distracted when a monk overturns a wheelbarrow.
Veil is given a look at a new Arrival, Ellen Combs (played by Mimi Craven, wife of Wes), a tormented blonde in a straightjacket with a look somewhere between Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman. Her erasure hasn’t been going well because she hasn’t been cooperative. She rocks and continuously mumbles details about her identity to herself to keep herself grounded in reality. Veil watches her case history, filmed on hidden camera. Her husband and children were gassed and taken away in a car wash while she was distracted by some dishes dropped on the floor behind her.
The Director is concerned about Dr. Bellamy leaving the Central area so suddenly. His loyalty is in question. once he uses his expertise to break Ellen, the Director will deliver the Veil file. Tom has some serious choices to make.
That night as he readies for sleep, he finds himself locked in and panics. After much screaming and banging at the door, it flies open. The monk with the red ring, whose face isn’t shown, is standing right outside the door, “It’s the rainy season,” he explains, “The humidity makes them stick sometimes.”
During Dr. Bellamy’s/ Veil’s session with Ellen, he asks, “Are you always this defiant?” He lets her out of the cage. After a heartfelt description of how her life was taken from her, Veil says, “I believe you.” He finds out later the Supervisor was watching him and disapproves of his methods.
Tom appears outraged. He blasts the Supervisor’s methods of erasure and firmly requests that if he wants to listen in on one of his sessions, the price of admission is silence.
That evening, Tom dramatically rescues Ellen from phase 4 Electroconvulsive Therapy, destroying much of the equipment in the room.
The Supervisor speaks to the Director on the phone.
“That’s exactly what happened. From all appearances he’s making an attempt to reassure the woman.”
Veil finds out his rescue has had the opposite effect he intended. Ellen has broken and is feeling much more cooperative. The Supervisor apologizes for suspecting his loyalty. “She’s confused, disoriented, helpless, completely unsure of herself. She trusts you implicitly and is perfectly prepared to accept the reality we’ve presented her.”
Veil is invited to attend her final erasure, Level 6 Amnesia Induction. Prisoner fans will recognize the Manchurian Candidate style of enhanced hypnosis used in this scene.
Veil stops the procedure before Ellen reveals any information and escapes in a conveniently located car (with the keys in it). They make it to Hawthorne Bed and Breakfast, a place suggested by Ellen while under sedation. He tries to explain he’s not Dr. Bellamy, and goes over his own erasure, but she doesn’t believe him.
“How can you expect me to believe anything you say to me?” she asks.
“Give me 15 minutes.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get the negatives.”
Tom returns from a bowling alley with the negatives in a nondescript yellow envelope. Ellen remarks it’s a hell of a way to protect precious cargo.
“Hey, you know, by this time this morning I would have had my hands on my file. I didn’t have to do this,” Tom says, as he opens the envelope and starts fishing around in it.
“Why are you doing this for me? I mean, if the Director had really sent your file—,”
An operator watches a closed-circuit broadcast from the room. Realizing Ellen’s mistake, he reports, “It’s going down.”
Tom backs away, having never mentioned the Director to Ellen, who, unlike Eddie and J.C., is obviously an Organization operative planted to play on Tom’s compassion.
In a last, desperate attempt, she says, “Now who’s being paranoid?”
“It’s okay. I’m used to it,” Tom quips.
After backing out of the room, he is met with Organization thugs. He escapes by performing a classic John Drake Window Dive from a closed second-story window to the hotel pool.
Man! Are these negatives always going to get this kind of beating? Are they even going to last the whole season?
Over the hedges he finds—and steals—a landscaper’s truck (again, with the keys still in it) and loses them after a short car chase.
A blurred image; we hear a woman sobbing. The camera comes into focus on Ellen hugging herself in the cage.
“But, you told me that if I broke him that I could have my life back!” she pleads.
A voice offscreen, (is it the monk or the Supervisor?) says coldly, “You failed.”
And the lights go out.
Nowhere Man reviews are © 2004 by Pet Serano.
Not for reproduction without the author’s express permission.
Nowhere Man names, characters and everything else associated with the series are the property of UPN and Touchstone Pictures.