Nowhere Man: Episode 03: The Incredible Derek
(The Psychic Episode)
Tom’s Diary Entry:
I look at my life as I would a puzzle, although there aren’t a lot of pieces. Just the things that I still carry from the past and that doesn’t leave much.
Tom made three important discoveries in the last episode. He learned his nemesis is called the Director, the cells of the Organization don’t communicate directly (unless this detail was a lie), and thanks to Ellen’s turnabout, no one, not even other victims of Erasure can be completely trusted. He no longer is as obsessed with who is out to get him, or who can confirm his identity; what’s more important this early in the game is why.
It seems to just have occurred to Tom that he is carrying the biggest piece of evidence of that with him. He thinks he has a photo of an illegal execution, but the Organization thinks he knows something more than that. There must be something he missed in the photograph, something hiding deeper in Hidden Agenda. He begins to enlarge sections of the negative for study.
In the foreground is a soldier with an eagle tattoo. Further back a man smoking a cigar who appears to have a birthmark on his neck. The cigar-smoking man is leaning on a humvee.
Tom enters a small business called Car Finders and tells the proprietor he is looking for a humvee, a specific humvee, and hands over the license plate number. The man, carrying a curious black cat about the shop with him explains it won’t be the first time he’s had to back into the DMV computer. He puts the cat down and gets to work.
The camera closes in on Tom as he is momentarily distracted by the sizzle of coffee dripping onto the empty hot-plate. The cat stares at him intently. He stares back.
Tom pays $20 to find out it’s in a used car lot in Tipton, Georgia, population 37. When he arrives in Georgia the lot is already closed, so he rents a room for $5 from a mechanic named Earl, the owner of a gas station/bus stop/general store/news drop/motel, and decides to take in some of the local color by attending a the show all the businesses have closed early for.
Clearly the worst title choice in the series, the Incredible Derek turns out to be a contact of some significance, and the episode is a buffet of Organization clues (hence the longer-than-normal guide). Traditionally, when the average guy is thrust into the hero’s spot by circumstances beyond his control, he seeks or stumbles upon a wise man who can give him advice and direction. The wise man is often a blind soothsayer, someone whose physical limitations give him unique insight into the plan of the gods.
Derek Bartholomew Williams is a young boy, struck blind at birth by the lightning bolt that killed his mother. He and his father now make a living exploiting what his father claims is the child’s psychic gift in a traveling southern tent show. His father also uses their grassroots fame to take in a little of the local floozy action, habitually leaving the boy alone in the trailer at night and making promises that slip his mind easily.
Back to the show: The lights are dimmed. Derek’s father, over badly-recorded sound effects and using a delivery like a southern revival preacher, describes the mysterious circumstances of his son’s birth and his ability to see the past, present and future with an inner sight. Derek nods to his father and a woman who seems as interested in describing her grandmamma’s ring to the audience as she is in having Derek find it for her speaks into the microphone. Tom, caught in a rare moment of relaxation, seems skeptical and amused.
Derek concentrates, lifting his face to the ceiling as if asking the Lawd for the information. He winces. His hands and feet begin to shake.
He knocks a glass water pitcher to the floor, where it shatters.
Didn’t the Supervisor have a glass water pitcher?
The Incredible Derek begins to speak, in a voice unlike a normal 10-year-old boy’s.
“Damn it, Alyson, What are the rules of the game here? Who put you up to this?”
Tom’s skepticism fades upon hearing his own words from Derek’s mouth. Derek continues stunning Tom with dialogue from his Erasure, and the father explains apologetically to the crowd that sometimes the inner sight is too much for a boy. He helps the whimpering Derek off the stage and promises a show the next evening instead.
At the Williams’ trailer, a blonde fixes her makeup while Derek’s father explains to him just to go to sleep while he gives a woman a ride home. Derek reminds him he promised to go to Aunt Mamie’s. Williams replies that they will, as soon as the tour is over, and adds this lecherous double entendre:
“The pond’s full of fish and it’s a stupid man who don’t go fishin’.”
Tom starts quietly toward the trailer as the car pulls away, but appears to change his mind. Derek’s voice calls out from the trailer, the voice of a normal child now.
“You can’t stay here, you know. They wanna hurt you.”
Tom asks what he saw that scared him so much, to which Derek replies, “Death. It’s all around you.”
“Do you see anything now?”
“I see an eagle.”
Tom asks where he can find the eagle, but Derek skirts the issue and gets straight to the point. Tom should leave. He’s bad for them. “Bad for all of us.”
Tom looks over the humvee; the first concrete evidence he’s seen from Hidden Agenda since he took the picture. The salesman approaches, remarking, “Ain’t she a beaut?”
He pulls a cigar from his pocket. We wait for the pencil, but he bites off the end and Tom relaxes visibly. He asks where he can find maintenance records for it before he buys, and is directed to the Tanner Army Base past where Gator World used to be.
Walking past a canon, Tom enters a building and explains to a gruff, suspicious Major that he’s thinking about buying a humvee in Tipton and wants to check the maintenance records before he lays out the cash. He’s directed to Corners.
As soon as Tom enters the Canteen area, a man playing pool seems to recognize him. Tom asks a small group where he can find Corners. A pool ball shatters a mirror dangerously near Tom’s head and Corners bolts for the door.
Here comes one of the most unbelievable premises of the show. No, not the virtual reality, the copies of people, the erasure, here’s what gets me:
Tom chases and they scuffle. Somehow a photojournalist is able to repeatedly hold his own in a fight against someone who has to have been trained in hand-to-hand combat techniques. Tom is distracted enough by the sight of the eagle tattoo from Hidden Agenda that Corners is able to kick him in the face and escape.
Now, come on. I can believe a photojournalist might need to be able to slip into someone else’s shoes, or know how to work a lock-pick, or pump someone for information, and a combat photojournalist may have taken some general-knowledge judo classes, but beat a guy who trains to kill people every day? Only people who train to fight people can beat people who train to fight people. But, anyway, back to the more believeable psychic child and the guy whose complete existence was erased in less than seven minutes….
It’s 1:00 PM, and Derek’s father isn’t home yet from his good deed, or fishing trip, or whatever euphemism you’d like to apply here. Anyway, Tom and Derek leave a note for Williams and go out for a hamburger. While eating, Derek touches Tom’s hand and has another psychic flashback. He knocks over a glass of water.
“Everything they give you, they can take away. Absolute zero.”
Derek says “They’re always in the dark. I look for them but can’t see them.”
He suggests Tom let him see the negatives, sensing Tom’s paranoia, he reassures him, saying it’s okay to give them to him because he’s blind. More concerned with the other patrons than Derek, Tom pulls the negative out from between the seam of his belt. When Derek touches the third negative, he winces; Tom comes to his side and questions him.
“Death. Soldiers. Airplanes!”
Tom explains there were no planes in the jungle and asks about the eagle, but Derek continues, the visions beyond his control, “You gotta keep a step ahead of the game, pal… What you need is contingencies… I got contingencies… Watch out! An alligator!”
Tom sneaks into the failed, defunct tourist attraction, and breaks into the first, and only, house he finds. Harry Corners reaches for the rifle next to his bed. But Tom gets it away from him, “I just want to talk to you.”
Harry is the second tangible item from Tom’s photograph he’s been able to track down, even better than a humvee; Harry could give Tom valuable information about Hidden Agenda, or he could be evasive, or just crazy. Or all three. One thing is certain; he knows who Tom is by sight.
“You should have been dead by now, but you don’t seem to be. So I guess somebody screwed up.”
“I guess so,” says Tom, still holding the gun. “So you know who I am.”
“Probably nobody if I know how they play the game.”
“And who are they, Harry?”
Harry becomes agitated. He doesn’t seem to enjoy being involved with the Organization. In fact, he seems bitter, positively disgruntled.
“What the hell do I look like? 411? Want information, pal? Turn on the radio! Listen to the news! Read a newspaper now and then. They’re a little hard to miss.”
“Who is it, Harry, is it the military? Huh? Some kind of government agency?”
At this, Harry scoffs. “Boy, you really are out of your league, aren’t ya? You don’t have a clue. But you’ve got guts.”
“What are you hiding, Harry?” Tom asks, inspecting the run-down interior. “How come you live so far off the base?”
He pulls away a piece of paneling which has rotted away from the wall, revealing a lining of aluminum foil. “What, are you expecting lots of leftovers?”
Harry presents that knowing smirk again. “That’s why I’m ahead of you; why I’m ahead of them. It’s aluminum foil—not the cheap crap—the heavy duty stuff,” he leans in toward Tom and whispers conspiratorially, pointing to his temple, “If you keep them out of your place, you keep them out of your space.”
Tom is dumbfounded, unable to decide if Corners is being helpful or crazy. Harry doesn’t seem to notice. He continues, “Didn’t you ever wonder how they always knew what you were thinking? Where you were going?” he laughs, “Never thought about that, did ya? Gotta keep one step ahead of them, pal, always in front of them. What you need is contingencies…”
Tom recalls Derek in the diner, using the same words.
“I got contingencies.”
Tom interrupts Harry’s train of thought and threatens him with the gun again.
“You’re in my photograph. What happened in the jungle, Harry?”
For the first time, Harry almost looks unsure, confused, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What happened in the jungle?” Tom demands again.
Corners says he hears a noise. He peeks out a window.
“There’s nothing out there, Harry.”
But there is. Headlights come on and their blinding light flows into the house thanks to bullets riddling the siding. Tom takes cover. Harry seems more concerned with moving a file cabinet. When he can’t get it moved, he bolts for the window and yells, “He’s here!”
The assailants can’t hear him over their own weaponry, and Harry is cut down. Tom dives out of a back window and takes off.
After his near-death experience, Tom returns to Earl’s garage. Earl returns his bag to him and says its time for him to leave. The room is reserved. Tom appears suspicious, but he doesn’t press the issue. Williams pulls in, demanding to know where Derek is. Tom explains he hasn’t seen him, but they go to look for him together.
One of the ops workers at the tent says Derek left, saying Tom had to stay away from the canon. Tom now knows Derek hitched a ride to the Army base. The Major denies anyone has seen Derek, so Tom and Williams double back to check.
Back at the shop, Earl is speaking to the sheriff on the phone, saying “There’s something going on around here.” He looks up from the phone and TV to find a well-dressed man stands calmly in the doorway smoking a cigar.
Tom sneaks back into the base and finds Derek. Williams catches up and explains, “We have to get out of here. There’s a parade coming through the main gate and they’re not carryin’ tubas.”
Army trucks and an ambulance, led by a black government-dignitary-type car enter the gate. The suited man with the cigar steps out to inspect the soldiers, who are hurriedly getting into formation for the surprise inspection. Tom, Derek and Williams watch from the brush outside the camp. The man in the suit and the major have a discussion, the major treating Mr. Suit with the utmost respect, stressing that the operation is going very well.
The ambulance backs into the camp as Mr. Suit returns to his car. The doors swing open and the entire staff of the base is massacred.
Mr. Suit turns to one of his men and inquires about Veil, who says they have a dozen men on it. Mr. Suit replies they have an hour to find him because the local yahoos have already called in the law.
Tom, Williams and Derek return to the car. Derek warns that the soldiers are behind them; then they open fire on the car. Further up the road a road-block is being set up. Tom and Williams agree that Tom has to leave the car, but Derek refuses to let him go. He has another vision and repeats dialogue from Harry Corners.
“What you need is contingencies. I got contingencies!”
Derek says, in his own voice this time, “We have to go there.”
The three fugitives enter the house. At first Tom doesn’t understand how this will help them. Surely the place will be searched. Derek repeats, “Contingencies.” Tom inspects the file cabinet which was so important to Corners, and finds a trap door beneath it. The three of them huddle in the basement as the stomping of combat boots rains dust down on them.
An hour later, Tom lifts the door and peeks. Finding the house clear, they all return to the surface, then to Tipton. Tipton is quiet…too quiet. “It don’t feel right,” Williams says. Tom enters Earl’s store, finding the TV still on, and the phone off the hook and beeping. The jukebox is still playing in the diner, smoke still rising from the cigarettes and food half-eaten on the plates. A cigar has been left in one ashtray.
They return to Derek, who is waiting in the car.
“Nobody’s here, right?”
“Son, you got any idea what happened here?”
“Airplanes,” Derek replies.
Tom and Williams hear airplanes in the sky, and two painted in camo pattern pass by overhead.
Tom says, finally understanding, “Death, soldiers, and airplanes.”
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.