Tuesday, March 8, 2011

US Television: Breakout Kings, Episode 1.1, "Pilot"

Breakout Kings
Season One, Episode One, Pilot
Original Air Date:  March 6, 2011

When August Tillman, an extremely dangerous and callous killer escapes from prison, U.S. Marshals Charlie Duchamp and Ray Zancanelli form an unlikely team to get Tillman back behind bars.  Using four convicted felons hand-chosen by Zancanelli, Charlie and Ray go on the hunt for Tillman before he can hurt anyone else and get away clean.  Will the new team work out or was it a doomed idea from the start?

August Tillman (Jason Cerbone) is counting as he suspends himself from the upper bunk in his prison cell.  When he reaches 230 he falls to the bottom bunk then makes note of the number on a tally sheet he's been keeping.  At his job in the prison shop making license plates, Tillman deliberately bends a plate and calls it as a defect.  He secrets it away with a stash of other purposely defective plates.  One month later, as he's taking out a trolley of garbage, he sees a woman, Amy Flynn, speaking with guards at the end of the prison alley where the dumpsters are located.  He grabs his bundle of license plates and takes off running toward the truck where the woman and guards are standing.  He unfolds the bundle of plates to reveal they are all attached.  As the truck is leaving the prison, a guard runs a mirror beneath it and we see Tillman under the truck supported by the license plates.  The guard doesn't notice him and allows the truck to leave the prison.  A little over four minutes later, the truck stops at a sign and Tillman makes his move, bashing the drivers window and beating the driver as the woman, the same woman talking with the guards at the prison, screams in the passenger seat.

U.S. Marshal Charlie Duchamp (Laz Alonso) drives up to find Ray Zancanelli (Domenick Lombardozzi) and another man, Jimmy speaking.  Ray is telling a story which seems to not matter much until he makes his point:  Jimmy has been dealing drugs on that street and Ray wants him to stop, now, as there is a school on the corner.  After Jimmy assures him the dealing won't ever happen again and he leaves, Charlie takes Ray to a meeting with a superior at the U.S. Marshal's office.  He's briefed about Tillman's escape and that a former proposal made by Ray has been accepted.  Charlie, from CPA has been brought in to help oversee the program.  Ray isn't pleased about this but he hasn't much of a choice and accepts.

At Coxsackie Correctional Facility in West Coxsackie, New York, Fritz Gunderson (Brock Johnson), a big game hunter (unlicensed) is informed he's being transferred during a fight.  At Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, Sean "Shea" Daniels (Malcolm Goodwin), an "Entrepreneur" is informed of his transfer while "conducting business" with another inmate.  In Muncy, Pennsylvania, at Muncy Correctional Institution, a guard Philly (Nicole Steinwedell) is obviously very "close" to, asks where she's being sent.  She doesn't know and leaves him with a gentle touch.  Philly was Miss Idaho in 2001 and has been a con artist from 1999 to the present.  Finally, at Rahway State Prison in Avenel, New Jersey, Dr. Lloyd Lowery (Jimmi Simpson), a former child prodigy, behaviorist and tenured professor is watching a game between two inmates when he's informed of his transfer.  He takes the opportunity for one last barb to the fellow inmates.

Charlie and Ray assemble the felons and Charlie gives them the details about why it is so important to apprehend a newly escaped prisoner.  Ray takes over telling them they were four of the toughest runners he ever caught and that the Marshal's have decided to use fugitives to help them catch fugitives.  Charlie gives them the deal:  if they agree to help, they will be permanently transferred to Maybelle Minimum Security Prison and they will get some time shaved off their sentences for helping catch Tillman.  If anyone of them tries to escape, they will all be sent back where they came from and their sentences will be doubled.  All four agree to the terms.

Charlie gives the newly formed team the low-down on Tillman.  Six months into a 25-year bid for killing a biker in a bar who insulted his wife, while awaiting trial, he bolted and Ray caught him three weeks later after he'd killed two more people.  Shea makes note of how dangerous Tillman is and the subject of weapons arises.  Charlie makes it clear that no cons get weapons.  They get cell phones while in the field but that is all.  Julianne Simms (Brooke Nevin) brings information that, Jon Phelps, a man Tillman ran with in high school was found beaten to death in his Baltimore home.

The team heads to Baltimore to the Phelps scene where the detective in charge reluctantly allows the rather strange looking team of "special deputies" in and gives them the details of the case.  "P. Vallarta" is written on the refrigerator door in blood leading the police to believe the dead man wrote that as he was dying.  Gunderson disagrees citing that survival is the most primal instinct.  Lloyd confirms this stating if Phelps had the strength to drag himself across the floor to the refrigerator to write "P. Vallarta" on the fridge, he would have instead crawled to the phone to call 911.  Tillman is listening to everything being said in the room as he taped a cell phone to the bottom of a table.  When the Baltimore detective mentions they have his plate number, he stops and changes the plates on the truck he's driving.

Charlie questions the effectiveness of the team since the con woman says the dead guy is a hustler and has no idea what he's into, the professor can't find squat on the computer, the "mountain man" (Gunderson) is in the corner looking for a cat to gut and the "gang banger" (Shea) is looting the joint.  Shea takes several bottles of nail polish remover from a box he carries into the room and tells the Marshals it is used to remove the ink from the dye pack with money stolen from a bank.  Ray places a quick call to Julianne who has information that links Tillman to an unsolved bank robbery with three suspects, two of which have been caught and all of which were high school buddies.  Philly makes a request for a high school yearbook to get a picture and I.D. of the unknown man.  Julie calls about the yearbook and is told one can be mailed.  She needs is sooner and the woman tells her she can be to the school from Brooklyn in a half hour if she takes the tunnels which is an obvious problem for Julie.

The team stop a diner for lunch and Lloyd manages to offend Shea with talk about a shooting at the Hip Hop Awards.  When the bill arrives, Charlie makes a comment to Philly about her having both soup and salad.  She pulls out one of Lloyd's hairs, puts it in her soup, hails the waitress and mentions the hair.  The waitress takes the soup off the bill.  Ray calls Julie asking about the yearbook and she tells him she had the woman at the school scan the pages to send to her via email.  While they're talking she sends the file to Charlie's computer.  When he opens it, they see a picture of August Tillman, Jon Phelps and James "Jimbo" Cantrell (Mark Day) in a car under the caption "Auto Club".  The team get ready to leave and Charlie notices a butter knife is missing from the table and asks Gunderson about it.  Gunderson tells his new boss that it was for the team in case they came across any trouble.  Charlie handcuffs Gunderson to the booth and the team leaves him behind.

August Tillman has arrived at Jimbo Cantrell's house and wants to know where the money they all stole together is.  Jimbo says he doesn't know but Tillman doesn't believe that then drives a nail through his arm.  The team, now down one member, arrives at Cantrell's home and they can hear the television from outside.  They enter the house and find him dead.  Philly and Lloyd talk in the car while Lloyd goes over everyone's files on the computer.  He makes a note of Philly's real name, Philomena Rotchliffer, and asks how creative the kids in the schoolyard got with her name.  As they're talking, Lloyd's phone rings and it's his mother.  Inside the house, Ray calls Julie who tell them there was $500,000 taken in the robbery instead of the $100,000 reported to the media.  As Ray is leaning down to literally pry Cantrell's body from the chair so he can get the cell phone in his back pocket, he sees the phone Tillman has taped beneath a table.  Ray yells into the phone that he'll catch Tillman.  Tillman tells him "not this time" when Charlie steps in to try and talk Tillman into coming in but the latter disconnects the line.

They next go to the home of one of the tellers from the bank and her boyfriend answers the door.  As Charlie and Ray are talking with him they hear a vehicle start up.  The woman is making a run for it.  Charlie goes outside and throws the keys to the teams vehicle to Shea with orders to follow her.  The woman leads Shea, Philly and Lloyd on a chase but they eventually catch and stop her.

The woman, Carmen, is taken in for questioning where she insists she had nothing to do with the robbery.  She ran because her visa expired a year ago and she thought they were there because she was illegal.  Ray brings Lloyd in to talk with her.  He starts by asking what she had for breakfast the morning of the robbery (a bagel), what she saw when the gun was produced (a gun pointed at her), behind that (a man) and then behind that (she was looking at the gun).  He goes back over her day starting with cereal then a robbery.  She corrects him that she ate a bagel and not cereal.  He keeps talking then abruptly veers off by asking who farted and shifts the attention to Charlie.  He keeps going with the issue of who cut the flounder, angering Charlie, until the woman stops them insisting they clear up the matter before them so she can leave since she had nothing to do with the robbery.  Charlie grabs Lloyd and pulls him from the room telling him he's going to send him back to prison.  Lloyd tells Charlie the woman wasn't involved since she wasn't interested in changing the subject as a guilty person would be.  Philly and Julie had been looking over bank surveillance footage in the other room and Philly agrees.  The man who came to Carmen's aid at the bank, Kyle Ferro, is who they are looking for as he completely disappeared after the robbery.  August Tillman meets with a man who gives him a bomb with instructions that to detonate it, all he needs to do is press pound on the phone twice.

Lloyd is alone in the office with Julie and he notices her strange and withdrawn behavior.  He diagnoses her with social anxiety and panic disorder (with just a twist of depression).  She isn't comfortable talking with him and he finally tells her that group therapy and shrink visits are hogwash as it's in their financial interest for her to stay afflicted.  He tells her to go one block outside her safe zone, sit on a park bench and ask a complete stranger for the time.  The next week, ask two strangers for the time.  She needs to stop waiting for a wrecking ball to knock the problem down as a crack in the dike will do.  Ray comes in with lunch and orders Lloyd to leave Julie alone.

At briefing, they discuss Kyle Ferro and Julie finds Kyle and his brother Frank (Tony Nappo), bought a bar in Richmond, Virginia together.  Ray wants to go to Richmond and has to talk Charlie into agreeing, but he does.  In Richmond, at Kyle's home, August Tillman has a woman and her daughter held prisoner.  He's fine waiting for Kyle to come home as he wants to take care of the situation in house rather than over the phone.

When the team stops for gas, Shea looks longingly at a truck left unguarded by a patron who went inside to pay for his gas.  Knowing what he's thinking, Lloyd steps up behind him and, after relaying a story about an experiment he did while he was teaching with 5-year-olds regarding rewards, tells him that he will not go back to a 25-year prison sentence at a maximum security prison just because Shea wants to bolt.  Philly, who overheard the conversation agrees and tells them if anyone of them thinks of escaping to let her know so she can go too.  In the mens room, Charlie takes some medication he needs.  Shea wants to know what Lloyd did to get 25 years but Lloyd refuses to tell.  Ray and Charlie return to the team and Shea expresses doubt that they can get Frank to speak with them about Kyle.  Philly tells him to take her shopping and she can make him talk.

At the bar, Lloyd and Philly have gone in as a couple.  She's dressed seductively and definitely getting Frank's attention.  She makes her move and he invites her (and her husband that likes to watch) back to his place.  Outside in the car, Shea suggests to Ray and Charlie the team needs a name and he thinks it should be "Breakout Kings" which both men find amusing.  Philly successfully seduces Frank and manages to steal his cell phone.  She excuses herself to let her husband know they're ready and checks his phone but can't find Kyle's number.  Frank enters the room and his phone rings alerting him that she's got it.  He demands to know who she is and she admits she is a con that was hired by the U.S. Marshals.  Frank calls his brother who has entered his home and gets hit by Tillman.  Ray and Charlie go into Frank's to save Philly and Lloyd.  Frank takes Philly hostage and Ray shoots a light to get Frank off guard.  Charlie and Frank argue over the shooting and Charlie is clearly having health problems.  Philly steps in and breaks the two apart and tells them to use the cell phone to get an address to find Kyle using redial.

They enter Kyle's home to find the woman tied up.  Tillman took Kyle and her daughter.  Tillman calls and tells Ray to back off or he'll make the girl suffer and it will be on him (Ray).  Charlie takes information from the woman about Kyle's current physical description and when she mentions the scar above his ear from when he was hit in the bank, Charlie likens it to the injury Amy Flynn had.  He knows Amy and Tillman were working together.  Julie has information that Amy Flynn quit her job citing stress after the attack.  She tells them what kind of car Amy has and gives them information the couple may be headed for Quebec.  Shea who ran product to Canada and knows where and how would be the best way to get into Canada undetected.  They get a plane from the Richmond field office so they can get ahead of Tillman and Flynn to save the girl.

At the border crossing in North Troy, Vermont, Tillman and Flynn arrive.  When they pull up to gas up their car, Shea and Philly go into action.  They drive up behind them acting like a couple who is having an argument.  Shea gets out of the car and the two continue yelling back and forth.  Philly threatens to leave and hits Amy Flynn's car getting their attention even more.  Shea apologizes and wants to pay for the damage but Amy declines.  He insults her drawing Tillman out of the car.  Ray draws on Tillman who produces the cell phone that can be used to detonate the bomb which Shea has discovered when he checks on the girl.  Charlie orders Ray to stand down but Ray continues to hold his gun on Tillman.  Charlie orders a stand down several more times before Ray finally complies.  When Tillman backs up to Amy's car Charlie fires a shot hitting Tillman in the shoulder.  As Tillman reaches for the dropped cell phone, Ray steps up onto his hand so he cannot reach it.

Julie is sitting on a park bench.  When a man walking his dog passes, she stops him and asks the time.  Lloyd calls his mother from Maybelle Minimum Security Prison in Hudson, New York to tell her he can call her more often, about the deal he has with the Marshal's and that he finally helped someone other than himself that day.  She tells him "you could have done so much more, Lloyd, so much more" then hangs up on him.  Philly checks her bank account at the Bank of Denmark and sees she has $1.3 million.  Shea hangs up a paper with "months earned" next to a photo of his wife and child in his new cell.

Ray and Charlie are sitting in Charlie's car outside the house where Ray lives.  Ray asks what version Charlie heard and the latter replies that he heard Ray stole some money.  Ray tells him the story of what happened.  He stole enough money from a bust to buy a car for his daughter because her step-father told her her real father couldn't afford it.  Ray is in a halfway house instead of a prison.  He gets out to go inside and Charlie reminds him he still has a gun "no cons get weapons".  Charlie's wife calls and he tells her he's feeling great and on his way home.

When I first watched this show the very first thing that went through my mind was "Oh, wow, this is like White Collar for blue collar criminals!"  Yes, there could be comparisons drawn between Breakout Kings and White Collar.  Both shows use the premise of a convicted felon working with law enforcement agents to solve crimes.  However, I think that's where the comparison stops.

I like the cast that has been put together for this show.  I immediately took to Ray Zancanelli, Shea and especially Dr. Lloyd Lowery.  Ray is one of those tough-guy cops that I like so much.  I never would have thought he had taken money and was a 'con' himself.  He seemed like such a straight up cop from the get-go.  Shea is street-wise and doesn't miss a beat.  Then, there's Lloyd.  The way Jimmi Simpson portrays him reminds me almost of a Steve Buscemi-esque character.  He's odd, quirky, maybe a tad creepy and paranoid but you can't help but like him because of all those characteristics.  Charlie Duchamp took me a little getting used to as did Philly but I quickly warmed to the both of them.  Charlie is a bit intense at times and he really should take it easy a bit more--for his sake as well as everyone else.

I'm left wondering if at some point we will see Gunderson return to the team or if he was a one-time only thing here as his character seemed to be a good choice.  He was a bit strange but he was smart.  He knew straight off that things weren't what they appeared to be at the murder scene the team attended.  I kind of hope so as I wouldn't mind seeing him back in the least.

All in all, this first episode kept my attention from beginning to end and I enjoyed it.  I currently have no complaints with the writing and casting choices.  I'm hoping that the show continues to be as good every week as this first week was.  If so, I can most certainly see Breakout Kings quickly becoming a favorite show.

Breakout Kings airs every Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. (Eastern time) on the Arts & Entertainment Network.
For more information:
Breakout Kings Official A&E Site:
The Internet Movie Database:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1590961/
TV Rage:  http://www.tvrage.com/Breakout_Kings

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