The Prisoner: Episode 04: Free For All
A man resigns, is drugged, and wakes up in the Village…
The new No. 2 persuades No. 6 to run for office against him; a healthy democracy needs political opponents, he explains. No. 6 finds the idea of free elections in The Village ludicrous, but decides to run with the promise that if he wins he will get to meet the real mystery master, No. 1.
No. 2: “Are you going to run?”
No. 6: “Like the blazes, first chance I get.”
No. 2: “I mean, run for office.”
Egged on by Number 2, the militant and individualistic Prisoner makes a political speech to the “rotten cabbages” that form a political rally in the town square; making clear his goal to discover who are the prisoners and who are the warders. The Villagers carry “Vote for 2” placards. As soon as No. 6 announces his intentions people appear brandishing “Vote for 6 placards.”
The whole rally is completed orchestrated, there are even cue cards as are used with live studio audiences to tell the people when to rah, rah, rah. Conformity in the Village is everything; dissent, like No.6’s rallying cry, is futile, but it is tolerated, at least for a time, and as long as it can be harnessed to the Village ends.
Number 6 is assigned a maid and political assistant (No. 58) who can only babble in a foreign tongue and is extremely enthusiastic, talkative, and extremely irritating despite her feminine charms. She gets more and more infuriating as the episode goes on. The dogged damsel follows him everywhere and is impossible to dodge.
Number 6 is questioned by the local newspaper, The Tally Ho. The Prisoner responds with “No comment” to each question but one, but the reporter more than elaborates on his responses (clearly poetic license and not journalistic integrity governs the Village rag). When the final question is posed, No. 6 tells him “mind your own business” to which the reporter writes ‘No comment.” Very shortly thereafter the Prisoner picks up the newspaper purporting to have his interview hot off the press – the headline is “No. 6 Speaks his mind.”
Events in the Village are more than well orchestrated and efficient, they’re pre-ordained.
Inside the Town Hall, No. 6 is brought before the rotten cabbage council as the “prospective opposition candidate.” He breaks procedure and etiquette rules during the council meeting by repeatedly and angrily questioning the vegetative council in an effort to get through to them. No. 6: “Who do you represent?
Who elected you. To what place or country do you owe allegiance? Whose side are you on?” No. 6, accused of transgression, will be forced to undergo The Test. (All motions, including the call for The Test are automatically carried unanimously by Number 2, the silent council remaining silent. However, No. 2 is clearly guided by an all seeing eye reminiscent of the blue evil eye of folklore and of the pyramid an eye on US currency.)
Number Six is put on spin-cycle in front of the “brainwashed imbeciles” (between all the spinning and No. 2’s incessant gavel action he must have one heck of a splitting headache).
From the council chambers he descends to a corridor from whence woozily stumbles into an interrogation by a rather polite bureaucrat who gives him a truth test to determine if his wish to run for office was genuine, or to only suit his own personal agenda. “Honesty attracts confidence, and confidences are the core of our business.” Whatever he thinks is registered as true or false. The test procedure conditions him so that he’ll continue with the election in a more appropriate and establishmentarian manner.
However, his brainwashing evaporates under the irritating influence of No. 58’s incessant gibberish. He runs from his cottage, and makes an escape attempt!
He steals a motorboat, punches out a Village stooge, and fights another who is still on the boat. No. 2 follows in a helicopter. Stooge 2 is ready to best No. 6, but No. 2 sends him a private transmission indicating that he should throw the fight. The man falls out of the boat rather unconvincingly.
Orange Alert is declared, and that means Rover time! His passage blocked by the big balloon, No. 6 slows down, jumps from the boat, and tries to doggie paddle away from it. Nearly drowning, No. 6 is enveloped by Rover; the effect conditioning him all over again. He is ready to run a good Village campaign once more. “Vote for me!” Once again, as with Arrival, the whole escape attempt was manipulated by The Village.
It may seem incredibly stupid that No. 6 tries to evade the oversized inflatable balloon by jumping from the boat rather than cowering in it and ramming it. Assuming Rover is resilient enough not to be popped by the pointy prow of the boat, the impact could at least make it bounce over the boat. If you read the Arrival review then you’ll know that The Prisoner employed a similar tactic — rather than hitting it with the Cart, he jumped from it; at least he didn’t try to beat it up this time! Homer Simpson had it right; all No. 6 needed was a fork (I kid; Rover is far more than inflatable balloon). It may seem stupid of No. 6 to jump from the safety of the boat, but Rover is an intimidating force that has the ability to paralyse its victims, and creates intense fear in its prey. Also, it seemingly has some mind control powers that may knock the sense out of those around it — a sort of confusion field.
No. 6 continues his campaign with real fervour. Goes to the local lounge, The Cat and Mouse, where they only serve nonalcoholic beverages. Clearly the conditioning is causing strange effects in the man as it breaks down. He becomes agitated and demands a drink. He’s brought by No. 58 to a cave where alcoholics can supposedly drown their sorrows in drink away from the watchful surveying eye of the Community, “as long as they rejoin the flock in good time” that is. There he meets a drunk No. 2 who takes No. 6 under his confidence, divulging ‘His true” feeling about The Village. No. 6 drinks, but it is drugged with an agent that reconditions him properly all over again. As it happens, No. 2 has feigned drunkenness, and it was all part of an elaborate ruse.
No. 6 wins the election in a landslide victory.
However, upon taking residence at the Green Dome he is deprogrammed under the watchful eye of No. 58. Having control of No. 2’s Control centre, he deactivates the defence perimeter and uses the PA system to announce to the other Prisoners that they’re free to go. However, the apathetic Villagers just continue on with their regular daily business.
No. 6 makes a break for it but is quickly captured by the Village goons and is brought before Number 2 (but not before encountering a strange group of Rover worshippers).
In a fabulous twist, the silly foreign Number 58 is really Number 2. In a perfect English accent and with sophisticated, authoritative no-nonsense bearing she asks a beaten up and humiliated No. 6., “Will you never learn?” It was all an elaborate ruse to try to break The Prisoner.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”(The Who).
Notes: This is a wonderful, insightful episode for its political commentary – politics is never deep beneath the surface in The Prisoner. Do elections even matter, or are we run by an unshakeable bureaucracy that is set to maintain the status quo? Number 2’s come and go, but the power remains the same – in The Prisoner that power is mystically personified as Number 1, but Number 1 is The System (and we don’t at this stage know who, or what Number 1 even is). Number 6 is elected to office by The People, of course it’s a sham, but he is manipulated, as are all Number 2s, by forces beyond his control. Their interests are not their own. The old regime and the new regime; the same.
The Prisoner: “Place your trust in the old régime: the policies are defined, the future certain. The old régime forever… and the old Number 2 forever? Confession by coercion, is that what you want? Vote for him and you have it! Or, stand firm upon this election platform and speak a word without fear! The word… is “freedom”. They say “six of one and half a dozen of the other”… not here. It’s “six for two and two for nothing” and six for free… for all… for free for all! Vote! Vote!”
Will he ever learn? Stay tuned for more escape attempts and more ball action, same sad site, same sad channel!
Be seeing you,
Logan Number 5
This little Prisoner overview is copyright Greg “Logan” M.H.M. and should not be distributed or reproduced without the author’s express permission.
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