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Persons Unknown

Persons Unknown was a mystery-drama miniseries airing on NBC between June 7, 2010 and August 28th, 2010.

Janet Cooper is spending a peaceful day at the park watching her daughter Megan playing. However, after she is distracted by a private eye telling her that she has not paid full charges for him looking for her disappeared husband, she sees someone who seems to have taken off with Megan. Chasing after them, Janet is instead drugged and taken away.

Upon waking up, Janet finds herself in a locked hotel room, the only sign of her captors being a camera in the ceiling. After desperately trying to get out of the room, she is broken free by a man named Joe. They both soon learn that they are not alone in the hotel and there are five others in the same predicament. Each one has been taken with no explanation or idea as to why they are being held prisoner. After exploring the hotel, the captives find themselves in a small, pristine, and empty town, which they cannot leave.

The occupants/captives of the town are:

  • Janet Cooper: A day-care owner and single mother, whose husband left her with no explanation.
  • Joe Tucker: A mysterious man who seems to be taking the role of the leader of the captives. Little is known about his past as he evades the others' questions. He's also The Mole.
  • Sergeant Graham McNair: A fairly levelheaded Marine soldier who is Muslim. He took payment to go and kill someone whom he thought was an insurgent bomb-maker who killed three of his squadmates. As it turns out, the person he was paid to kill was just an accountant who was going to expose some corrupt dealing involving Private Military Contractors.
  • Moira Doherty: A rather skittish school counselor who has a knowledge of medications. Or so she claims. It's later revealed she's a psychiatric patient with "truth issues."
  • Charlie Morse: The CFO of an investment firm who has a wife he describes as emotionally unstable. Well, had - he killed her though it is unclear yet whether it was a mercy killing or just murder. May or may not also have embezzled money from his father-in-law's company.
  • Tori Fairchild: An entitled young woman who is the daughter of an American ambassador. First of the group to be "eliminated", she takes a taxi in the middle of the night and turns up dead in a fountain in Italy.
  • Bill Blackham: A car dealer who proves to be suspicious of the others as well as being rather self-absorbed.
  • Erika Taylor: A mysterious woman who wakes up in the town ( apparently as a "replacement" for Tori, whose dress she's wearing when she first arrives in the town). A former prisoner with multiple tattoos, she has a son in foster care, and was actually on Death Row for un-named crimes, and woke up after being thinking she had been executed. Erika is in fact not her real name; it is the name of her cell mate. Her true name was revealed in "Identity" to be Theresa Randolph.

Other reoccurring characters are:
  • Mark Renbe: A journalist from San Francisco, he's your intrepid reporter trying to uncover the truth behind, initially, Janet's disappearance.
  • Kat Damatto: Renbe's boss.
  • "The Night Manager": Not as creepy as his No Name Given name sounds, he presents himself as... the night manager of the hotel they wake up in. He seems to be in a similar situation as the others, not finding being told he has received a job in a hotel and suddenly waking up there very strange as he has "gotten used to it."
  • The staff of the Chinese restaurant: A benign group who don't seem to know anything more than anyone else about why they are there and are only meant to make sure the captives are fed.
  • Sam Edick: A private eye hired by Janet Cooper to find her missing husband.
  • Tom: Part of the conspiracy along with Joe, he poses as the host of the Chinese restaurant the captives eat at. Speaks pretty horrible Engrish in his role as host.
  • Liam Ulrich: Middle-management at the conspiracy, and Joe and Tom's boss. Replaces the first night manager after Joe kills him. Has a thing for Janet.
  • "Madame Director": the director of the conspiracy, and Liam's boss. Quite the Iron Lady.

Tropes used in Persons Unknown include:

  • Abusive Parents: Janet says that her mother was this. However, upon being interviewed by a reporter, her mother denies this. Though, there was one time where she hit her daughter with a hairbrush until it broke.
    • She also seems to be passive-aggressive toward her granddaughter.
    • Tori's father the Ambassador, who effectively pimped her out to prospective clients as a bonus for doing business with him.
    • Graham's mother, who beat him with a belt until he was fourteen.
    • Moira's father, who sexually molested her while her mother stood by and did nothing. She admits to Graham that she strangled them both in their sleep.
  • Action Mom: Janet. Erika too, sort of.
  • Alliterative Name: Bill Blackham.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Janet gets locked in a bank vault with a knife-wielding Erika.
  • Angry Black Man: Sergeant Graham may seem to be this at first, but he ultimately averts it.
    • Erika, on the other hand, is a psycho who acts like a barely coherent animal. At least, at first.
  • Asshole Victim: Bill gets a beatdown from psycho-girl Erika, not because he did anything to her, but because she randomly decided to steal his clothes.
  • Attempted Rape: Bill tries this on Tori, who responds with a well-deserved Groin Attack.
  • Audible Sharpness: An especially egregious instance— when Erika steals a knife from the Chinese restaurant, the sharpness noise is heard while she's still reaching for it.
  • Ax-Crazy: Erika, with a shovel, a very large knife, and her bare hands. And anti-freeze.
  • Back from the Dead / Posthumous Character: Erika is an interesting variation of these tropes, as she only wakes up in the town after she's died by way of lethal injection. Of course, this just raises more questions about where, exactly, the captives are.
    • Also Tori, first in what were thought to be Joe's delusions and then later revealed to be the new Night Manager for the next group abducted by the Program.
    • Additionally, the Night Manager turns up again after his apparent death as Madame Director's lackey. The same thing happens to Liam Ulrich. Yeah, pretty much everyone that dies in this show turns up again later.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Yeah, they didn't succeed in the fight against their kidnappers.
  • Berserk Button: Reference Megan or her grandmother in front of Janet, and she WILL go Lifetime on your sorry ass.
    • Don't lie to Kat, Renbe, especially not about your ex-wife Janet.
    • Don't mess with Janet or Erika will murder you without anyone figuring it out.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The captives are constantly being monitored by cameras.
  • Blackmail: Bill figures out that Charlie killed his wife, and wants Charlie to help him with this crazy business plan, or he'll tell everyone. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong guy to blackmail...
  • Blatant Lies: At the end of every episode they would have a message saying "All your questions will be answered at the end of this season." ... Yeah, the last episode not only left several things unanswered, but only caused more questions.
    • Ironically, most of the questions you asked yourself in the first episode (Who are these people? Why they are kidnapped and by whom? Where are they?) got answers, but it didn't make the show any less confusing.
  • Blooper: Janet's "Kill your neighbor and you'll go free" fortune is first shown as one straight line, then two. Later when it's changed to "Kill Joe and you'll go free", the y in you is alternately capitalized, uncapitalized, then capitalized again.
    • Joe's stubble seems to change back and forth between episodes. Sometimes he looks like a mountain man, sometimes it will be more closer to a trimmed goatee.
    • Moira lets the peacock scarf blow away (an obvious CG effect) at the end of episode 10, but in the next cut you can clearly see it by her knee.
  • Briar Patching: An epic example is detailed in the Crowning Moment entry.
  • Butt Monkey: Bill thinks he's this. In reality, he brings his grief on himself.
  • Cold Opening
  • Conspicuous CG
  • Da Editor: Kat, a rare female example of the trope.
  • Deadly Game: Played completely straight in one episode. All the food was removed from the town, and they were told to kill each other. The only survivor would be released. If they didn't, they would be left to starve.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Erika is a psychotic knife-wielding man hater who must have done something bad enough to land her getting the death penalty, and her methods of seduction are not unlike that of a wolverine circling its prey.
  • Disappeared Dad: Janet's husband. Or not.
  • Does Not Like Men: Erika.
    "There's your first mistake: trusting anyone... especially a man."
  • Everything's Worse with Bees: Especially when you're deadly allergic to them and you wake up in a house fucking filled with the things!
  • Fingore: The bodies that Kat and Renbe find have their thumbs cut off - by Stefano, so that he can identify them later.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: All of the town captives, but especially Janet and Erika.
  • Flashback
  • Foreshadowing: The painted lady butterfly that symbolized Tori died very shortly after it was let free. Tori dies soon after she takes a taxi out of the town.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A paper on Tom's desk in "Smoke and Steel" reveals Joe's last name as Tucker.
  • Friday Night Death Slot: Moved there from Monday nights after Last Comic Standing began airing.
  • Friends with Benefits: Kat says that she and Renbe are only this.
  • Gainax Ending: Renbe and Joe awake in another town with a new set of captives and Tori as the new Night Manager. The original group wakes up in what appears to be the original hotel once again but turns out to be "Level 2" of the Program — a barge floating out in the middle of the ocean. Since this is a miniseries there's little chance we'll get any explanation.
  • Groin Attack: Tori does this to Bill when he gets too touchy-feely. Erika does the same to Charlie for different reasons entirely.
  • Hate Sink: Bill Blackham.
  • Hates Being Touched: In episode 9, Joe (post-reprogramming) becomes this to an extreme: he tries to kill anyone who touches him. In one case, he succeeds, because no one's around to help the Night Manager.
  • Here We Go Again: The series starts with people waking up in a hotel. It ends the same way.
  • Heroic BSOD: Janet is prone to these. Moira has a bit of one when Erika tells her McNair's secret.
  • Hidden Depths: Steadily being revealed for one person after another.
  • Hope Spot: Episode 2 has the generator for the Invisible Wall getting zapped by lightning and exploding. They all get into a van and drive away to freedom!...Only to get teleported back to town by a blob of light in the middle of the road.
  • Hot Scoop: Kat.
  • A House Divided: Well duh...This show hits this trope HARD.
  • Idiot Ball: Kat, for terminal Genre Blindness. Also Janet, for not picking up on Erika's blatant cues. Tom lampshades this at the same time as he lampshades Les Yay.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Played very very straight.
  • Ill Girl: Charlie's wife. If what Charlie later told Bill can be taken at face value, however, she may never have been sick in the first place.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Renbe, to the point where he seems to forget he's a columnist for a local newspaper, and not an international detective.
  • Invisible Wall: Whenever the captives reach the boundaries of the ghost town, small implants on the back of their legs are activated, releasing a drug that knocks them unconscious.
    • When they pull the implants out, they try again, and Janet gets burned by the field from an Active Denial System.
      • Beyond that, there's a mysterious ball of blinding light that plops you right back into town.
  • Jerkass: Bill.
    • Especially after he tries to rape Tori.
  • Kick the Dog: C'mon, Erika, hurting Moira is like drop-kicking a puppy.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Erika beating the shit out of Bill for his clothes.
  • Kudzu Plot: Mysterious town full of strangers who have mysterious pasts, convoluted conspiracies, a roving journalist exploring South America to find answers, Deadly Game plot lines, moles everywhere, cameras everywhere, plus secret cameras everywhere, people who may or may not be dead, corrupt political figures, and to top it all off one woman just wants to find her daughter. This show was like the plot of fifteen movies going on at once.
  • Mama Bear: Janet.
    "If anything happens to my daughter, you're going to wish you killed me on day one."
  • The Man Behind the Man: Joe and Tom are working under the command of someone else. Specifically, the as of yet unnamed director of "The Program", a seemingly worldwide conspiracy of some sort.
  • Man on Fire: Tom ends up this way. It is not pretty.
  • Mercy Kill: Charlie killed his wife, claiming it was because he knew no money could save her from her illness.
  • Mind Screw: No seriously, what the fuck?
    • The most triumphant example is the 8th episode. Joe is lying in some weird place, talking to a voice, has flashbacks and then sees his body apparently dead. Then he says farewell to Tom. The last shot shows an empty room while a voice calls for Joe. What the hell was that?
  • The Mole: Joe is revealed as this at the end of ep 4.
    • Another is the maitre'd of the Chinese restaurant, Tom, who seems to be engineering some of the scenarios.
    • The Night Manager, though that doesn't really come as a surprise.
    • Bill did a Face-Heel Turn somewhere off screen as revealed by his I Never Said It Was Poison comment to Charlie. Presumably, he helped the Program re-capture Charlie and possibly the others as well)
  • Mr. Exposition: Moira seems to know a lot about insect species, advanced military weapons, bio-implants, and performing small surgical techniques. With little explanation.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Tori.
  • Mugged for Disguise: To get out of Tori's dress, Erika beats up Bill and takes his sweatshirt and pants.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Looks like Erika has "dibs" on Janet and wants Joe to stay out of the picture, or she'll have to take drastic measures. Which she does, by poisoning him with anti-freeze.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Tori's father spread this image about her, and forced her to "entertain" his clients.
  • Mysterious Past: Joe seems dead-set on keeping his past very mysterious.
  • Offhand Backhand: The mysterious rescuer ends Kat's screeching by clocking her with his gun.
  • Ontological Mystery
  • The President's Daughter: Tori. Well, Ambassador's Daughter.
  • Primal Stance: Erika, when she's in Ax-Crazy mode.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Erika: "Stay away from Janet. I got dibs."
  • The Reveal: Renbe is Janet's disappeared husband.
    • Moira's a mental patient. Charlie killed his wife, who may not have been ill in the first place. Joe is a mole. McNair fulfilled a contract killing. The head of the Chinese restaurant staff is putting on an act.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The "painted lady" butterfly that appears in Tori's room. She lampshades it by speculating that it's a metaphor from her father that "couldn't be any more obvious". It's a reference to how her father used to essentially pimp her out to his clients.
    • Whether this or Faux Symbolism, but when Janet confronts Joe on the rooftop, she ends up in a classic crucifixion pose. At which point, the fact that her initials are JC becomes notable.
  • Sadistic Choice: Janet's fortune cookie gives her one: "Kill your neighbor and you'll go free."
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Tori tries to seduce the night manager to get information about how to leave the town. It doesn't work, since the night manager claims he doesn't know anything.
  • Secret Test of Character: Janet and Erika getting locked in the bank vault together seems like one for both of them... until we find out that it's actually a test for Joe and Tom to see how they will react.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Moira
  • Sexy Mentor: Kat, who's sleeping with Renbe.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Villagers seem to be at least partially aware of the weirder aspects of The Town and the blue jump-suited men (who they call "Los Azules") that work for the organization.
  • Sickly Green Glow: The toxic gas inside the gas masks.
  • Sleep Cute: Moira and Graham have one in "Identity".
  • Soft Glass: Erika busts through a window at one point and doesn't even get her dress torn.
  • Stepford Smiler: Janet's mother. The Night Manager.
  • Super Window Jump: Erika does this when she wakes up.
  • Tattooed Crook: Erika, which is how the others found out her name.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Sergeant Graham is black and Muslim. Erika is black, female, and lesbian (threefer!).
    • The actress who plays Erika, Kandyse McClure, is mixed-race, too.
  • Universal Poison: Averted.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: My there seems to be an awful lot of people who don't even blink when they see armed men in suits chasing people at top speed while pushing civilians aside...
  • UST: Janet and Joe, becoming more and more apparent with every new episode.
  • Viral Marketing: Done rather lazily. Every episode gave an ad about a blog run by a rather unimportant character. The blog was only updated about three times, and most of it short two or three sentence posts in Italian.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot
  • Vorpal Pillow: Charlie smothers his bed-ridden wife to death with a pillow. He also smothers Bill Blackman for a short time to get him off his back.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Bees for Joe. In episode 4, after temporarily getting out of town, he wakes up in a cabin surrounded by a hive.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Stefano pistol-whips Kat because "you [Renbe] won't do it".
  • Yandere: Get between Erika and the object of her desire, and she will murder you.
  • Your Head Asplode: Ulrich in "And Then There Were None"
  • You Wake Up in a Room

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