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‘Awake’ Review: “That’s Not My Penguin”

Awake
NBC

Awake’ injects us with its sixth episode in “That’s Not My Penguin” where Britten (Jason Isaacs) finds himself in a hostage situation in one reality, only to be knocked out and forced to look for clues in the other, all the while confronting his own psychosis.  Yet another strong, contemplative balance of intellectual with procedural, “That’s Not My Penguin” is another strong example of why ‘Awake’ remains thrillingly unpredictable week to week.

Now, you’ve seen the episode and want to know how the show fares toward the ending run of its first season, whether or not the show can hold up under its continually convoluted premise!  We’ve seen the latest, so what does “That’s Not My Penguin” bring, crazy visions, or actual engaging drama?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about the sixth episode “That’s Not My Penguin”!

In a mental hospital, Dr. Lee (B.D. Wong) leads a group of students to observe Gabriel Wyatt, a schizophrenic patient who got lost in his own delusions, and tried to blow up a building.  As he describes the patient, the show’s editing compares his symptoms with that of Britten, who finds himself increasingly forgetful and unable to distinguish between worlds.  It becomes an especially dangerous likelihood for those who eschew proper treatment.

Still having difficulties with the phone bill, Britten misplaces a seemingly minor piece of evidence from a case in the blue world, a small ring emblazoned with the word “wild.”  In the red world, Britten and Vega receive a call that a mental hospital has been taken hostage, and arrive on the scene to confer with Gabriel Wyatt, who has the building rigged to a number of bombs.  After some soothing negotiation, he allows Britten to be the one to deal with him, while demanding the return of a sister that authorities know to be dead already.

Dr. Lee arrives on the scene as the local expert brought in, explaining that Gabriel had a brilliant mind and close relationship with his sister, until she was murdered by her boyfriend four years ago.  Since then, Gabriel had grown increasing delusions that she’d been kidnapped, and is unlikely to be reasoned with.  Begrudgingly, they allow Britten to enter the facility unarmed, with the intention of leading Gabriel within sight of a sniper.  Hannah objects, having found out about the hostage situation from TV, but Britten heads in to be patted down by Gabriel.  Gabriel explains that he’d be crazy not to attempt to rescue his sister, while Britten notices that Gabriel’s bombs are tied to a dead man’s switch.  Britten has to act quickly to make sure that the unsuspecting sniper can’t kill Gabriel, also noting that Gabriel claims his sister is being held by a Dr. Wild.  Say, isn’t that the same name that was on that ring earlier?

In the chaos of keeping Gabriel away from sniper fire, Gabriel injects Britten with ketamine, knocking him out and sending him to the blue reality.  Britten doesn’t even notice his son having brought a girl over, and rushes out to the station to find the “wild” ring, believing it to be some clue to the other reality’s hostage situation.  Sessions with Dr. Evans theorize that being injected with ketamine in one reality has hallucinogenic effects in the other, as Britten keeps seeing a mysterious penguin following him (yeah, seriously)!  Evans actually feels this latest development to be a good thing, that “linking yourself with a schizophrenic” means that Britten is confronting his own fear of madness.

Still unable to find the ring, the penguin seems to motion Britten toward his son, where the son reveals that he found the ring and gave it to his girlfriend.  Once the two settle out that they shouldn’t be keeping secrets from one another, Rex agrees to introduce Emma to his father and retrieve the ring.  Later that night, the three get along famously, and Britten leaves them alone with the ring in tow.

Waking up back in the red reality, and still groggy from the effects of the ketamine, Britten sees that Dr. Lee has been allowed into the hostage situation to treat him.  The power goes out, signaling an imminent attack, and Britten convinces Gabriel to allow him a phone call, just barely reaching the SWAT team quickly enough to inform them of the dead man’s trigger.  While Britten notices the penguin present in this reality as well, Gabriel explains that he needs to keep his sister alive in his head, that he needs to keep himself a little crazy.  Vega then calls to inform Britten that they have not record of a “Dr. Wild,” but that Wild was the name of the cemetery in which Gabriel’s sister was buried.

Dr. Lee sees this as a positive sign, that on some level Gabriel knows his sister to be dead, and Britten could eventually lead him to that realization.  Britten starts to lead Gabriel to the truth, before he realizes the significance of the word “Trip,” on the back of the photo to be an affectionate nickname from the sister, standing for triple.  Unable to take away the delusion from Gabriel, Britten instead convinces Gabriel that his sister is indeed alive, but escaped her “captivity,” and left a tender message for him.  Placated, Gabriel finally stands down.

While Dr. Lee commends him for saving the day, Dr. Evans in the other reality worries that he didn’t learn the lesson from a dream that was trying to show him the cost of his fantasies.  Just like Gabe, Britten has to want to get rid of his fantasies before he actually can.

That’s the least of Britten’s worries however, as during a session with Dr. Lee, it comes out that Lee was never actually allowed inside the hostage situation, that Britten in fact hallucinated his presence the entire time!  Dun dun dun…

While it’s still not any follow-up on the conspiracy theory twisting that closed out the second episode of ‘Awake,’ this show continues getting better in the effective way it manages to balance intriguing case situations with real drama of Britten dealing with his illness.  It still might get a bit confusing at times, but those paying enough attention will find themselves rewarded greatly.  The show isn’t always the easiest to follow, so creating some world-specific threats might do well to separate this show from other gimmick-based properties.

What did you think of “That’s Not My Penguin?”  Does ‘Awake’s’ still seem too slow and involved for you to get into?  You’ve heard our take, now let us know in the comments below if you’ve “awoken” to this fascinating series as well!

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