The Prisoner: episode 4 – Free For All – synopsis


Thunder crashes. The credit sequence runs. Number 6 is just finishing dressing when the phone rings. He refuses to acknowledge his number, saying only that it is the number of the phone. It is a call from Number 2, but his voice comes from the TV set, not the phone.
The new Number Two is an older man, hair-thinning, adopting a charming manner. He asks if Number Six fancies a chat, but Number Six replies ‘The mountain can come to Mahomet’ and hangs up. Almost immediately, his door opens and Number Two enters, greeting him as ‘Mahomet?’ Number Six acknowledges the thrust.
Number Two has brought a cooked breakfast with him, laid out by Number Fifty-Eight, a pretty, dark-haired woman in a maid’s outfit. She is initially shy and silent, but when she speaks, it is in an obscure East European tongue that Number Six does not recognise. Number Two describes her as a new recruit, from Records, who is expected to go far.
Their breakfast chat starts with the usual sparring over what the Village want from Number Six. Number Two drops into the conversation that it is the start of their Election Campaign and asks Number Six if he’s going to run. He automatically responds, ‘Like blazes, the first chance I get’, but Number Two is not deflected. He suggests Number Six should run for Office: his.
Number Six clearly does not believe this. Their deliberations are interrupted by the boom of a bass drum, and the band, from outside. It is a carnival atmosphere, with placards saying ‘Vote for No. 2’
Number Six follows Number Two, full of curiosity. The campaign is like an American rally: he and Number Two are driven round to the Colonnade overlooking the stone pond, where Number Two addresses the crowd by megaphone. The crowd respond to cue cards turned over by the Butler.
Number Two bemoans the lack of opposition as unhealthy in a democracy and puts Number Six forward as a new resident with an individualist outlook. Number Six takes the megaphone. He is openly contemptuous of the crowd, all of whom were once like him but who, unlike him, have accepted their imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages. (“They’re lapping it up,” Number Two encourages him). He ends by announcing he is running.
Immediately the crowd cheer and produce placards of Number Six. He is hustled into his own election mini-moke, driven by Number Fifty-Eight, who is grinning and excited,like a happy child.
The following morning, Number Fifty-Eight is waiting outside Number Six’s house. Number Six doesn’t want her, especially as she doesn’t speak English. He tries to walk to the Council Chamber, where he is due to attend the meeting of the outgoing Council. She intercepts him by the Town Information Map, learning how to work it and drives him the rest of the way. Number Six clearly finds her disturbing.
As they drive away, two men leap onto the mini-moke. Number One Hundred and Thirteen writes for the local paper, the Tally Ho, and Number One Hundred and Thirteen b is his photographic colleague. The reporter asks a string of political questions, to each of which Number Six replies ‘No Comment’ and the reporter writes down a bland political answer, until he asks the P’s opinion on life and death. Number Six replies ‘Mind your own business’ and the reporter writes ‘No comment’.
They leap off the mini-moke and rush off. A young man, identical to Number One Hundred and Thirteen b is selling the Tally Ho: Number Six’s interview is already in print.
At the Council Hall, Number Six descends into a steel-lined, high-ceilinged circular room. Number Two sits at a high table before which is a dais which Number Six takes. The Council – twelve people, male and female, differing ages, stand at lecterns numbered 2A – 2L. They are silent and motionless throughout, even when Number Six questions them as to who elected them, who they represent etc.
He loses his temper and denounces the whole thing as a farce. His dais suddenly spins out of control, then takes him underground, releasing him into a red-lighted corridor. He stumbles along this, his equilibrium destroyed, and ends in another round chamber, in which an avuncular, immaculately dressed man is sat at a desk, and offers him tea.
This is the Labour Exchange Manager (another new arrival: came from the Civil Service and adapted immediately). He talks to Number Six is a cheerful, open-handed manner, before imprisoning him in his chair and conduct a test which involves reading Number Six’s thoughts about why he has entered the election – to take over and organise a break-out.
When Number Six is released, he has been brainwashed. He eagerly solicits the manager’s vote, and emerges from the Labour Exchange to throw himself whole-heartedly into campaigning, with Number Fifty-Eight at his side.
The campaign rapidly goes to his head and Number Six finds himself parroting messages about the Village and conformity that he violently opposes. Close to cracking, he tries to flee. Surrounded on all sides, he steals a boat from the jetty, though two mechanics jump on board to struggle with him. He heads into the bay, pursued by Number Two in the helicopter. Though he succeeds in throwing off the two men, he is halted by Rover and returned to the Village.
When he recovers, he once again resumes campaigning, attracting more followers than Number Two. Number Six gatecrashes the latter’s rally, trading exchanges by megaphone from opposite ends of the square, but his constant struggle against the brainwashing starts to surface that evening in the night club. In something of a trance, and acting as if already drunk, bNumber Six demands genuine spirits, not non-alcoholic substitutes and starts to get aggressive. An alarmed Number Fifty-Eight drives him to a deserted area and directs him to a cave mouth.
Inside, Number Six finds an illicit still and a drunken Number Two escaping the pressures of his office, and making his own negative comments about the Village. The brewer is a brilliant scientist who the Village leave alone to pursue his passion and write equations, which they photograph weekly. Number Six accepts a drink, but collapses as soon as he finishes it. Number Two immediately throws off the pretence of being drunk: the drink has been calculated to last until the Election is over.
Election Day is a clear win for Number Six. His box overflows with black rosettes and theer are no white rosettes for Number Two, who concedes defeat and casts his vote for his opponent. Number Six appears to be in shock. Number Two announces him as the winner, but the crowd stand in silence, and disperse when Number Two and Number Fifty-Eight take Number Six to the Green Dome.
In the ante-room, Number Two hands things over and leaves. Number Fifty-Eight leads Number Six into the deserted Control Room. She runs around excitedly, pushing buttons to see what happens, even leading a still-stunned Number Six into the doing the same.
Suddenly, she turns serious. She leads Number Six to look at the whirling pattern of lights on the screen, then, as he stands, hypnotised, slaps him viciously across the face several times.
Number Six comes out of his brainwashing to find himself in control. Ironically, he loses control, pushing buttons frantically, screaming over loudspeakers that everyone is free to go. The Villagers ignore him completely.
A stretcher is rolled into the control room and two men rise through the floor to drag Number Six away. He breaks away, through the door from where the stretcher has come. He finds himself in a cave passage, where four men, in boilersuits and dark glasses are sat in a semi-circle around a Rover. They turn to watch as the two men catch up with Number Six, subdue him and start to beat him severely.
Number Six is dragged back into the control room, semi-conscious. Number Fifty-Eight has taken the dais, wearing Number Two’s rosette. In accentless English she asks if he will never learn, that this is only the beginning. There are many methods they can use but they do not wish to damage him permanently: is he ready to talk? Number Six’s only remaining defiance is to lapse into unconsciousness.
The new Number Two talks to the old Number Two in the helicopter. She asks him to give her regards to the Homeland. Number Six is taken back to his cottage.

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