Although Michael spent the first hour of the series swanning around with an air of ineffable smugness, heâs soon got the wind knocked out of him by several developments. The good Dr. Tancredi is suspicious over Michaelâs âdiabetesâ â not suspicious enough to check his medical records on the outside, but fussy enough to give him a good case of the shakes. The drugs he needs to cancel his insulin are available only through someone who just happens to be on the opposing side in a race riot; Michaelâs hanging with the Fabulously Gay White Supremacists because they have a bolt he needs for his elaborate prison plan. By the end of the episode, Michaelâs managed to piss off the Fabulously Gay White Supremacists and lose a toe to a greasy mob boss. But the important thing is that adorable kitty Marilyn, who belongs to someone who may or may not be D.B. Cooper, is okay. So long as the cat is unharmed, who cares how much human blood soaks the floor?
All right! More graphic content, for discriminating viewers! Oh, wait -- that's not what it says at all. Those of you who need to exercise discretion, do so. The rest, come on in!
We fade in on the luxurious prison green, where Michael is waxing Westmoreland in checkers. Westmoreland underlines Michael's entire reason for being on the inside: "You're anticipating me three moves ahead. You're a hell of a strategist." Speaking of being three moves ahead, Michael begins planting the seeds for Westmoreland's eventual participation: "You ever think about Boston? You think you'll see it again?" Oh, you writers! So subtle! Westmoreland says, "I'm sixty years old, with sixty years left on my ticket. What do you think?" As Michael sweeps up more checkers, he casually says, "I'm thinking about going." Westmoreland says carefully, "Well, there's goin' and then there's goin'. Which one do you mean?" "The one you think I mean," Michael says, staring intently. Westmoreland laughs and tells Marilyn, "Three days in and he's already thinking about turning rabbit. It'll pass. It always does." Marilyn keeps her own counsel. Then Westmoreland addresses Michael again, telling him that all signs and portents are pointing to a race riot. Michael tries to play it cool, but his expression says, "Shit! I had no idea racial tension could make my life more dangerous in the pen!"
Then the prisoners are all back inside their cells. The African-American inmates seem to be in training for the riots -- lots of shadow-boxing and sit-ups. Or maybe this is supposed to be a commentary on how the prison milieu does not encourage a life of prayerful introspection. Michael's in his cell using a mirror to check out part of his tattoo; its reverse-image reads "11121147" ["hey, that was very close to my undergrad student number! ...Sorry, I'd bailed out on this show in the first hour, but I still want to feel involved" -- Wing Chun], and then "Allen," and then "Schweitzer." Sucre is oblivious to the goings-on, as he appears to be rehearsing for "Syrupy Ballads" night on Prison Idol. And then he fulfills his expository duties by commenting, "Hmmm. Toilet won't flush. That can only mean one thing -- shakedown."
Cue the pandemonium: the guards are rifling cells as inmates try to find ways to hide their contraband. In come the SWAT troops in armor with batons. Michael shrinks under his bunk, his eyes the size of saucers. Sucre explains, "They shut down the water, you can't flush the contraband." "We got nothing to worry about," Michael says calmly, even as he watches Sucre pull out a small plastic envelope full of white powder. Sucre shouts instructions as to how to get rid of it -- I'd transcribe them, just in case any of you are ever in a situation where you need to cover your cellie's ass, but the person doing the closed-captioning on this show appears not to have a working grasp of English. And then Michael finds the shiv Sucre had carefully hidden under the edge of a table. He pulls it out and asks, "What the hell is this?" Sucre snaps, "It's insurance, white boy! Now get rid of it!" Yes. Before Sucre's tempted to use it on you for pulling out well-hidden contraband in the middle of a cell toss. Unfortunately, a surprised Michael turns around, shiv in hand, just in time to see Bellick standing there. Bellick looks like he's just gotten a visit from Santa Claus. After Michael hands over the shiv, Bellick comments, "Rugheads and the billies. Which side are you on?' "That would be neither, boss," Michael replies. I like that he calls Bellick "boss" -- it's very Cool Hand Luke of him. Bellick hypothesizes that perhaps Michael's plotting to go after the COs. Michael cleverly rebuts him by staring into the middle distance. Just then, Pope shows up and asks what's going on. Bellick tells him, "I've got a shank here." I'm not going to be all torn up that I didn't know my shanks from my shivs. Pope asks if the shank is Michael's. Michael replies...by staring. I know, try to contain your shock. There's a moment of tension, and then Pope says, "You're not a good liar. Come on, Sucre, you're going to the SHU." Sucre shuffles out; Michael's all tense. As he and Pope turn toward the exit, Pope orders Bellick along. "I'm not done shaking down this cell yet!" Bellick protests. Pope verbally smacks him a little, and Bellick reluctantly takes his leave. But not before snarling at Michael, "You're in the old man's back pocket, are you? I got news for you, Fish. He may run this place during the day. But I run it at night." Michael stares some more. You know how some animals play dead as a defense mechanism? Michael is clearly of a species that simply stares until any would-be predators are unnerved enough to slink away.