The Prisoner: The Schizoid Man   Rewatch 
July 25, 2014 6:58 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Number Twelve is given the assignment of impersonating Number Six.

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posted by DevilsAdvocate (14 comments total)
12, of course, is 6 doubled, so that's a fitting number. But 24 is 12 doubled, and I'm not sure what to read into that.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:14 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

This again is Six besting Two -- at least until Two turns the tables at the end of the episode.

They really like doing the "we're going to let you think you've escaped and then bring you back" gag on Six; how many other episodes have either ended with that, or had it as their entire theme?

It's ambiguous to me exactly when Two realizes that Twelve is really Six. During the taxi ride? Earlier? Does he know that the "Six" Rover killed was not the real Six? (And wait what Rover is a killer as well as a retriever?)

Technically, the doubling of McGoohan is really quite well done: some judicious split-screen for the side-by-side two-shots, especially the introduction in Six's apartment; the rest is alternating one-shots and/or body doubles. (It helps that they picked fencing as then they can mask McGoohan and his double's face. Also one amusing shot: when Six and Twelve enter the Green Dome, one of them is facing camera and the other is very obviously facing away.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:38 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think 2 figures it out pretty early, but isn't sure -- to me there's a subtle warmth in the last scenes that he doesn't show earlier in the episode, though he's still very cagey about it.

Such an edge of tragedy to this 2, and to 12 -- 12 dying so soon after losing his wife; 2 having to watch 6 imperfectly impersonate his dead friend (in fact, having to watch 12's murderer impersonate him).

It's rather shocking that 6 commits murder this week, and very cold-bloodedly. We don't normally see him perform an act of such violence, and I can't offhandedly remember another time that it happens, though I'm sure there's an obvious example that I'm missing. I guess 2's plan did get under his skin, even if it didn't work at all otherwise.

Another Prisoner episode about acting, in many ways; this time, it's about having a persona and a type, playing yourself as not-quite-yourself. 12 conspicuously tests 6 on things McGoohan was good at and that helped him early in his acting life -- the boxing, the Shakespeare. (Though it's not quite as explicit as "Once Upon a Time," which also throws in his proficiency at math and initial job at a bank.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2014

(Re 6 killing -- oh, right: "Fall Out." Though I don't think any of "Fall Out" is literally happening even on the level that the rest of the show is.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 4:06 PM on July 25, 2014

It's rather shocking that 6 commits murder this week, and very cold-bloodedly.

I didn't get that — I don't know that 6 expected Rover to kill the double. I don't think we've seen Rover definitively kill before, have we?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2014

-I hadn't rewatched the episode when I wrote my first comment, and having done so now, I think I agree that 6 didn't mean to kill 12 -- though he sure recovers fast from watching the death of his twin, and it's very odd that Rover's suddenly homicidal nature is mentioned and then handwaved away. (It's part of a generally off-model quality to the episode, in which 6 smokes and has the capacity to hang out, and in which people call Rover by name.)

I also disagree with my own memory of the episode; I think 2 totally figures it out at the end of his first postmortem conversation with 6.

-I've always been intrigued by 6's relationship with Jane Merrow's 24 -- he really seems to like the woman, in a gruff and somewhat patronizing/paternal way, and it's singular that he trusts their rapport as proof of his own identity. We so rarely see 6 tolerating a friend, much less a female friend who seems interested in taking the relationship further, and I'd really like to know how that came about.

-"Physical advantage of growing a mustache overnight?!"

-Further to my remark about acting: "When they come to film my life story, you've got the part."

-12 is 6 pushed up to 11. He is intolerable.

-The two 6's with their guns are giving us strong "Double Elvis," though Prisoner toys with the image of a multiplied icon without an intervening artist. (I don't think this means anything much, but it's a great image and I hope it's a deliberate nod; "Double Elvis" preceded the show by a few years.)

-So why does Rover kill 12? Why is he programmed to use lethal force on the second man to use the password? Is the whole episode secretly about 2 putting an elaborate hit on 12 -- or 6? Is Rover autonomous? Or is he taking orders from 1, not 2?
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:09 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think so. Also worth noting that Six has been on the receiving end of Rover a couple of times before; incapacitated, but not killed.

Come to that: why does Rover kill the man that it identifies -- by dint of being "the double that didn't speak the password" -- as Six? It doesn't make sense, especially against the background of the "don't damage the tissue" instructions that previous Twos have received and given. The AV Club recap notes that "it makes you wonder just how sentient Rover actually is."

But cold-blooded, yes; Six certainly doesn't show any remorse about the outcome.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:14 PM on July 25, 2014

aaaand I really should have previewed before hitting Post.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:15 PM on July 25, 2014

12 is 6 pushed up to 11. He is intolerable.

Worst Odd Couple ever.

(Red Dwarf played with the same "tightly-wound character meets double, drive each other crazy" idea as comedy: Me².)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:28 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've always wondered what this episode has to do with the idea of being "schizoid." The disorder was codified in the '40s, and the word was apparently in the air in the late '60s, since King Crimson used it too (though that could've simply been a reference to the show).

In the sense of individuality and difficulty connecting with others, the term matches 6 quite well; in the rather more key sense of being imaginative and living mostly in intense fantasy, not so much (though, honestly, who knows what's in his head). It does strike me as the kind of diagnosis that the Village would slap on 6, but I'm not sure whether the usage is that thought-out, or merely meant to suggest the incorrect popular image of schizophrenia ("split personality"), in keeping with the episode's actual theme. Maybe the term had a pop meaning at the time that would make the title more logical?

The title was later reused for an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as a tribute to McGoohan, who was originally supposed to play its villain.
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:09 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Apropos of "the kind of diagnosis that the Village would slap on 6," 2 more or less does it in "Dance of the Dead," dismissing 6's memories as fantasies:

Number 2: This is your world. I am your world. If you insist on living a dream,
you may be taken for mad.

Number 6: I like my dream.

Number 2: Then you are mad.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 9:14 AM on July 26, 2014

The murder of number 12 could also be due to the fact that Rover, or whoever or whatever was controlling him realized the game was up, and this was an attempt at salvage. Two Sixes (12!) with the same password means something has gone very wrong. It would be very like The Village to have control within control.

There's also a neat symmetry in that the Village's plan is thwarted by a photograph and so is Sixes escape (though that was infinitely less likely to work). He finds the photo of Susan, and so when she's mentioned tries to play along, when a puzzled reaction to who the hell 2 was talking about would have been more convincing.

A like that jumped out at me was "If ever you do challenge me to a duel your safest bet would be battlaxes in a very dark cellar"

"Large axes in a dark cellar" is supposedly how William Petty, a subordinate of Cromwell's who completed the Down Survey of Ireland answered a knight's challenge to a duel. Interesting line, given McGoohan's Irish Catholic heritage.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:23 PM on July 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

That's a great catch, Grimgrin.
posted by thesmallmachine at 8:32 PM on July 28, 2014

The deck of cards is the stereotypical mind readers deck. They are still messing with the mind control gadgets.

Was McGoohan right or left handed?

We know the white jacket is false because he says "I am number six!" Our Hero never accepts his Village identity.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 PM on August 8, 2014

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