At last, episode six of Murder in Small Town X delivers on the much vaunted excitement that I had promised in articles past. This baby's got cult indoctrination, exploding houseboats, violent confrontations, conspiracies, hidden affairs, and two separate murders. Whew...that's a lot to keep track of.
The episode begins with the killer...killing. Novel isn't it. Last week, the fact that G.D. Thibodeaux was found at the location of the killer clue cleared him from suspicion as the killer him (or her)self. After all, it would be hard for him to commit violent acts against Brian when he's lying on the floor of his cabin miles away. Knowing this, the killer decides that Thibodeaux has had enough airtime for one series. With little more than a green tinted screen and a bangstick to the head, Thibodeaux ends his stint on MiSTX. He will be missed. Soon after this, Dr. Neva Bowden calls to inform the team of the night's activities. Angel and Kristen head off to the scene. There they discover both of the clues that have been present at the other murders: a mysterious trail of blood, and a .357 bullet casing. After this sweep of the medical facility, Moe, G.D.'s right hand man, takes Angel outside and tells him that he holds the team accountable for the death of Thibodeaux. He hands Angel a cassette. The two then head back to tell the remaining team members the news.
Back at HQ, Fredo informs the team that the cassette is in fact a video recording made on a child's video camera. We then see a flashback of the team exploring Thibodeaux's cabin and coming across the camera in question. When the team turns on the video they are greeted to a black and white image of G.D. himself. On the tape he tells the team that he has been feeling worse everyday, and he doesn't know when his time will come. He admits that he loved Prudence Connor to the point of obsession, and ultimately to the point where he was willing to lie to the police. Connor asked him to lie. We then see a cut of film where Thibodeaux is in full uniform. He tells the team that Connor murdered Nate Flint. She left him at about 1:00 in the morning after they had been bar hopping just like he said. She hated the Flints; she must have murdered them.
Angel doesn't buy Thibodeaux's story. He feels that the pictures of Prudence and Nate indicate a very different relationship than the one which Thibodeaux describes. Nevertheless, Prudence Connor still needs to be investigated. Fredo makes that point very clear.
Track 1: Prudence Connor
Determine her true relationship with Nate Flint
Although the killer clue last week focused on the burnt man's involvement in the death of Oscar Blodgett, the team elects instead to focus on the bank statement which they found last week in Nate's basement. On this statement, it was revealed that a company by the name of Enhanced Power had been paying Nate Flint $9,999 at a time, eventually reaching the sum of $250,000. Fredo now reveals that Enhanced Power is owned by Mind Science Inc. Hayden DeBeck's corporate cult vehicle. Fredo then tells the team that the cult will be holding a "cleansing" today. This is the only time in which outsiders are allowed into the compound.
Track 2: Gen. Hayden DeBeck
Undergo the cleansing initiation
Question DeBeck about the money he paid Nate Flint
The final piece of business on the investigator's docket is to establish the Lifeguard. Since Brian was the most recent victim of Kristen's lucky streak, his video image will select the next one. That Lifeguard is Katie. Normally at this point we'd see Katie selecting which two investigators go on which track, but this minor detail is mysteriously left out (strange editing I tell ya). Instead we just observe that Jeff and Alan have been assigned to Track 2, while Angel and Kristen are left to interrogate Prudence yet again. With Katie's selection as Lifeguard, we now get to see a bit of the political atmosphere in the house. Katie, it seems, doesn't think that Jeff likes Kristen too much. Jeff admits as much, while Kristen holds steadfast to the belief that it is her indomitable spirit which is carrying the day. Yeah, right.
Track 2 begins with Jeff and Alan arriving at the bus stop which will take them to the compound. There they find Sam Larabee, suspect and diner owner. When the two ask her how she got invited to the compound, she tells them that she actually asked to be taken up there. She tells the team that the cleansing process can take her to a good place when her life seems bad. Meanwhile, on Track 1, Angel and Kristen are approaching Thibodeaux's cabin. Fredo's narration tells us that Connor can be found there. At this point our intrepid investigators see the billowing smoke of a fire in the distance. Their pace substantially increases.
At 1:51 PM on Track 2, Jeff and Alan arrive at the compound. They are instructed to get in a single file line and walk backwards until they arrive inside the building. Once there they are welcomed by Mary Elizabeth Merchant – the girl that sure does get around. Jeff says that he's not at all shocked to see Mary Elizabeth. Who would be? The girl is a stripper, a church aide, and apparently a cultist as well. Alan echoes this notion, telling the camera that he wouldn't be surprised by anything in this town.
At 2:23 the boys are escorted into some type of washing chamber where Mary Elizabeth watches them clean themselves with a sponge (all of the important parts are covered, though, lest you get the wrong idea about the Fox network). After what Alan tells us is 45 minutes, the duo is led into a kind of auditorium where we get our second surprise visit of the day. It seems that Mary Elizabeth is not the only one who can get around; Rev. Rusty can do it too. As the good reverend takes the podium, Alan admits that he wasn't ready to see him. As a matter of fact, he's a little scared. Rev. Rusty begins his talk by shouting to the attendees: "Are you ready to change your life?" As this builds into a fervor, he changes his subject matter. The world is merciless; they must be equally merciless to succeed. If that weren't weird enough, in steps DeBeck. DeBeck takes this opportunity to explain to the willing vessels just what Mind Science is built on. In this case: order, strength, and logic. If any of the initiates can pass the trials based on these three pillars then and only then will they have a private meeting with DeBeck.
Back on Track 1, Angel and Kristen approach the cause of the smoke they had seen from a distance. It seems that Ms. Connor is making something of a funeral pyre for her departed friend. As the two look on, Connor dispatches with the myriad toys that the team had discovered in their previous searches of Thibodeaux's cabin. At this point the two approach the forlorn garage owner and begin to question her about the events of the last couple weeks. Although Connor seems somewhat willing to talk at first, the presence of sweepers causes her to clam up. She tells the team to meet her at 9 at the Sunset Club. Only when they're out of the sweepers earshot will she tell the team what she knows. Angel just then realizes what the attentive viewer has known from the beginning. There are more skeletons in Sunrise then there probably are in all of New York City.
On Track 2 we hear Alan narrating the trials and tribulations which the duo endured for the entire day. First at 3:43, Alan, Jeff, and Sam are brought into the first of the rooms of trial. There they are asked to order multiple decks of cards, 2 through ace, in all the same suit. Alan says that at this point he and Jeff were doing okay but Sam was already having trouble. After this task is complete, the three proceed into the second room. There they are given stacks of cards and asked to repeat a series of words with each successive repeater adding a word from the stack which they hold. At this point Sam snaps. She just can't take it anymore. Alan (through his omnipresent narration) admits that he wanted to go with her. He was that mentally taxed. It was only just beginning for team 2, however.
Up next is the pillar of strength. In order to demonstrate that they are physically strong the pair is asked to jog behind a bus down to an icy cold body of water. There the reverend tells the two to baptize themselves. Alan admits that he was only able to do this because he didn't want to falter in his competition with Jeff. And so he presses on. All the way to the top of a water tower as a matter of fact. There, he and Jeff are asked to hold brooms out from their bodies parallel to the ground. At the same time they must complete menial mental tasks such as repeating a list of the multiples of seven. Again Alan admits that he held on to his broom only because Jeff wasn't letting up either. Without this competitive force the two might have failed.
Since it's now 9:00 PM, team 2 heads off to meet Connor at the sunset club. There the two find Connor sitting at the wheel of her truck. Angel and Kristen get in, and Connor begins her story. She tells them that her father was a Senior Master Sergeant in the army as well as foreman to the Kingfisher cannery. He also owned Dog Island (the place where Oscar Blodgett's Bonny Rose was laid to rest). When the Connor family fell into financial trouble the only way that Kingfisher would give them a loan was to ask for Dog Island as collateral. When the family wound up losing the island, her father became a drunk and a recluse. Connor admits that this caused her to hate the Flints, but before she will tell the team more, she needs to get a beer. Angel and Kristen follow her into the bar. When Connor begins to talk about how she eventually fell in love with Nate Flint, a sweeper approaches and actually goes so far as touching her. Connor's response is nothing less than gentile. She throws him through the glass door and takes off in her truck. The team is left stunned.
On Track 2, the boys are facing their eighth hour at the compound. At 9:27 the final test commences. As DeBeck had said, this final test revolves around the pillar of logic. Alan explains the game. At all times one of the two was forced to hold up a bucket of water suspended at the end of a rope. At the same time, the other must answer logic problems. If a problem is answered correctly, one dish of water is removed from the large bucket. Alan is the first to answer questions. These questions are fairly standard brainteasers, nothing too terribly dissimilar to the kind in Games magazine every month. For example, Alan is asked how a salesman who claims that a parrot will repeat every word it hears can be telling the truth when the parrot says nothing at all. Alan gets this right, correctly stating that the bird must in fact be deaf. Unfortunately things do not go so well for the two as the challenge continues. In short, Jeff and Alan were not the two best people for this job. Alan admits as much when he openly wishes that Brian, the man he voted out last week, were standing there instead of him. The team somehow survives, though, and the promised audience with DeBeck is granted. Once inside, Alan wastes no time asking DeBeck about the transferred payments from Enhanced Power to the estate of Nate Flint. DeBeck doesn't even attempt to cover his actions. Instead he tells the team that he paid the $250,000 to Nate in order to receive the land from the Kingfisher cannery. He also informs the team that he knows who now has the money: Prudence Connor. After all that work, that is the extent of Jeff and Alan's audience. They are understandably upset as they make their way back to HQ.
On Track 1, Dudley has entered the Sunset Club looking for Angel and Kristen. He tells them that he thinks he's found the sweeper that approached Connor out at the docks. The two follow. When they get to the docks, Angel tells Dudley that the two sweepers there don't even resemble the sweeper that approached Connor. As Dudley admits that all of the cultists look the same to him, the harbor is rocked by an explosion. We quickly see cuts of Katie, Jeff, and Alan as they look stunned out over the harbor on fire. Back on the docks, Dudley tells Kristen and Angel that the exploding boat in question is in fact Prudence Connor's houseboat. He'll have to investigate.
The next day, Fredo confirms that the exploding boat was indeed Prudence Connor's. Since no bodies were found at the scene, it is assumed that Connor is still alive. After Angel recaps the information that was discovered about Connor's past, Fredo...I mean the team, decides that Connor is a worthy suspect to pursue. Moe has told Fredo that he has been hired to ferry DeBeck out to Dog Island at 7:00 that night. Team one will be setting up surveillance for this potential meeting between Connor and DeBeck.
Track 1: Prudence Connor
Set up surveillance of Dog Island
Monitor meeting between Connor and DeBeck
Track 2, on the other hand, will be devoted to discovering the cause of the explosion which rocked the harbor on the previous night.
Track 2: Houseboat Explosion
Alan and Jeff arrive at the scorched wreck only to be told by Frank Kovick that they just missed the Coast Guard. He tells them that the Coast Guard believes that the boat was destroyed with some type of plastic explosive, C-4 or the like. After Alan confirms that the boat could have easily been destroyed through these means, Frank Kovick invites the duo up to the newspaper. There, Kovick shows the team a story he's been working on. William Lambert, the mastermind behind the conversion of the Kingfisher cannery, apparently was into real estate deals in Florida as well. The front-page story that Kovick shows to the team is entitled “Anatomy of a Scam,” and Kovick tells the team outright he thinks Nate might have been murdered because he was onto some type of financing scam of Lambert's. At this point Deanna Harris and William Lambert enter the scene. Deanna then hands Frank his termination papers. Frank politely tells her that she's not his boss. Deanna can only respond by telling him that he's right, but William Lambert is. Dudley Duncan then escorts the enraged reporter from his office. After a violent confrontation between Frank and Dudley, Kovick and the investigators wander over to the diner.
On Track 1, Angel and Kristen are busy setting up a camera system in the cabin on Dog Island. As the two begin to finish up, they are disrupted by the sound of a powerboat. Prudence Connor is on her way.
In the diner, Frank admits to Jeff and Alan that everything he has ever held dear is gone. He has lost both his family and the paper. When Frank then tells the team that they lied to him when the didn't tell him Sam was at the initiation the day before, Jeff goes completely berserk. What started as a fairly simple questioning process, ends with Jeff telling Frank that he can't relate to him because he would never cheat on his wife and child. Alan seems understandably alarmed by this total shift in Jeff's mood.
At the same time, Kristen and Angel have retreated to their surveillance location where they now discover that the camera they set up is not transmitting audio. They have pretty pictures but not a plot to put it with. In the main cabin, Connor has arrived and has begun to set up drinks for herself and a guest. When she lies down on the bed her mystery man arrives: Jimmy Tinker. Jimmy is carrying a black bag in which the viewer can see money. Kristen and Angel cannot see what the bag contains and can most definitely not hear what the two clandestine lovers are discussing. As Connor strips down and gets ready to enjoy Jimmy Tinker's many charms, the team calls HQ and updates Katie on the proceedings. Before the couple can get down to the nitty gritty, however, Connor receives a call. Apparently there has been a change in plans. We, the viewers, can hear that Connor is talking to DeBeck and that he has asked her to change their meeting time and place. Jimmy is very much against this change. Nevertheless, Connor agrees to meet DeBeck at some out of the way place on the mainland.
That night, we see Rev. Rusty driving DeBeck to his meeting with Connor when two lights appear in front of the general's car. In response, Rusty is forced down the rather steep decline on the side of the road, causing the car to roll several times. When the car finally comes to rest, we see DeBeck staring straight down the barrel of a bangstick. Bang, bang, the General's dead. Or so it seems...
The next day, the team receives a call from the manager of the Trekker's Motor Lodge, who has called the team to tell them that a mysterious person in black has ransacked the burnt man's old room. The manager, however, was able to chase the thief down, causing the truck which had been carrying the stolen items to have it's tailgate come loose. All of the stolen items were scattered across the road. He has called because he believes that the team can recover these items. After this call, we see Kristen discussing the merits of the Connor as the Sunrise Killer theory. There is no question, Kristen bites on absolutely every suspect that comes across her radar. First it had to be the mayor, then Lambert, then Thibodeaux, and now Connor.
The team now assembles in the main room where Fredo tells the team the news about DeBeck's car crash. Since there are no bodies (and apparently no blood?) the team cannot say whether DeBeck or Rev. Rusty has been murdered. Thus the two must stay on the board. Angel then recaps the discoveries that he and Kristen made at Dog Island. Luckily, Fredo has something to add. The "analysts" (dubbers) at the police lab have been able to extract some of the audio from the malfunctioning camera. Now it’s obvious that Connor and Jimmy set up the little photo session that resulted in the photographs that the team found on the scene on day 1. Since they talk about taking the chump for $250,000, it can only be assumed that the two were blackmailing Flint for the bribe money paid by DeBeck. Since Connor and Jimmy were going to meet DeBeck at Dog Island, it also appears that he has something to do with the whole operation. At this point Katie expresses her belief that a huge conspiracy was at work in the town of Sunrise. The killer is just playing the players in this conspiracy off of each other.
Fredo then reveals that the killer left the now notorious red and black envelopes in the rolled over car of Gen. DeBeck. It must be red envelope quiz time. This week's question: What rank was Connor's father? Kristen once again gives one of her intuitive answers. This time she believes that Connor's father was a lieutenant. Angel on the other hand decides to ask their resident army man, Alan. Alan tells Angel that Master Sergeant is the highest enlisted position. Angel immediately knows that this is the correct answer. Kristen seems somewhat reluctant, but she ultimately allows the team to answer Angel's way. The team is indeed correct. Angel has once again won the day. As a reward, Sam Larabee is eliminated from the potential suspect list. What a relief.
As the day draws to a close, the black envelope politics in the house come to the fore. It seems that Jeff has asked to leave the house, and so Kristen is making sure that the whole group knows to vote for Jeff and not her. Alan flat out commits to this arrangement. As we will soon see, though, Alan is hardly a man of his word.
When the team takes to the voting booth, we see that once again this will only be a two horse race. Angel enters first and holding to his promises from the week before, keeps from voting for Kristen. He instead votes for Jeff. Kristen begins by telling the camera that she will not be voting for Angel, instead (we can only assume) she will be voting for Jeff. Alan begins his voting session like Kristen, extolling the camera with stories of Angel's virtue. I can only assume from the events in this episode that the players have always been asked to comment on each of their fellow competitors before they vote. It's never come up before now, and it doesn't seem to change any aspect of the game so I will just leave it at that. After Alan tells the camera why he won't be voting for Angel, he reveals the truth behind his duplicitous nature. After telling Kristen flat out that he wouldn't vote for her, Alan does just that. Two votes for Jeff, one vote for Kristen. When Fredo goes to tally the votes, it seems evident that this one will win up in a deadlock. After all, Jeff can't rightly vote for himself now can he? The vote is indeed tied. Fredo informs the group that it is the Lifeguard's duty to break ties. Because Jeff and Kristen were both selected by the group, Katie's decision is pretty easy. She will send them both. Jeff will be sent to the storage house behind the Mind Science compound while Kristen explores the Sunrise junkyard.
At this point in the show, the players are quick to dispense with the pleasantries. Jeff and Kristen are sent out to meet their respective fates with nary a word about the effect the vote has had on the house. When the two cabbies ask the players about their feelings towards the night's activities, Kristen admits she's scared but Jeff slowly works his way into some type of macho stupor. Jeff it seems is excited about going out on the black envelope mission – a point which he makes very evident as he plows through the storage shed kicking over things and yelling in what I can only imagine is a very model-ish way. Kristen meanwhile is approaching the search in the sane scared way and probably fully expecting that her "abilities" will carry her through the day.
Unfortunately for Kristen that is not to be the case. Although the producers momentarily make it look like Jeff is this week's victim, that honor goes to Kristen who after five trips was finally subdued by the killer. Jeff meanwhile finds the killer clue. In this case a flaming sword with the letters "OSL." What that means, we can only guess.
And so the stage is set for the show's finale. At this point my boy Alan is still alive and kicking, but the game can virtually be won by anybody. Since Fox has not released the details about how the endgame is played, the two-hour season finale next week is sure to be full of surprises. I guess at this point I should throw in my two cents about the identity of the killer. Personally I think it's pretty easy to eliminate Jimmy Tinker, Emerson Bowden, and (surprisingly) Prudence Connor from contention. In fact I think that the killer is most likely William Lambert, although at this point I'm giving even odds to the "resurrection" of Hayden DeBeck. Since the series is already obviously influenced by many of the murder mysteries which have come before it, I wouldn't be surprised if Hayden engineered his own death Scream style (interestingly, his photo is not crossed out in red on the Fox website, as are all the other murder victims). In any event, all of our questions should be answered next week. I haven't been this primed for a finale since The Mole.
Until next week...
Richard Hoeg is an Economics major at Hillsdale College and very thankful that he won't have to propose to his girlfriend on an imac in the Outback with Jeff Probst breathing down his neck.