Awake: Penguinsanity!

Awake S01E06: "That's Not My Penguin"

If the first five episodes of Awake showed the strength of a man holding on to his family and reaping the benefits that came with it, "That's Not My Penguin" flipped the show upside-down and nearly broke that man's spirit. But more importantly, just as we (and Michael Britten) were settling in and getting comfortable with living two realities, last night's episode kicked us in the groin and dumped a carton of milk on our heads.

In the Hannah-reality, Michael got called in to negotiate a hostage situation at a mental hospital where a schizophrenic patient named Gabriel wired a bunch of bombs and threatened to blow up the joint if he didn't get to see his sister. The problem was his sister was dead, murdered four years ago. It took the episode all of zero seconds to relate Gabriel's condition to Michael's, and that theme permeated throughout the episode. Gabriel was a representation of the worst-case scenario for Michael, a man whose life between fantasy and reality manifested itself in confusion and potential danger.

Once inside the hospital, Michael found himself trying to convince Gabriel, while under the pressure of keeping innocent people alive, to differentiate between harsh reality and cuckoo land. And though the comparisons were fairly heavy-handed early in the episode, it ended up being a clever way to have Michael reflect on his own condition and look at it from an outside perspective.

And of course while he tried to talk Gabriel off a ledge, his own mind screwed with him, further complicating things. Gabriel loaded Michael up with Ketamine after Michael forcefully tackled him, which caused Michael to hallucinate like a Deadhead with a penguin fetish in both realities. Naturally, we began to wonder if Gabriel was telling the truth about his sister being kidnapped, and part of me thinks Michael hoped it was the truth so he could believe in his own situation. But Michael's search for clues proved that Gabe's sister was, in fact, dead.

Or course, the situation wasn't just confusing for Michael. "That's Not My Penguin" was the joker that pulled the rug out from underneath us. Remember, this is a series that hinges on Michael and the audience bouncing back and forth between confidence and doubt. The more we relate to Michael, the more powerful the overall story will be, and questions about Michael's sanity or insanity were sprinkled throughout this episode, thanks to his convincing shrinks. But as confused as Michael was for the duration of the episode, he seemed to have a much better grasp of what was going on than I did.

Off the case, Michael worked on his relationship with Rex, who was taking advantage of some "progressive parenting" by his girlfriend's parents. Michael didn't even know Rex had a squeeze, and upon learning she existed, asked to meet her. He did, it went well, and he and Rex became closer for it.

I think it was that closeness to Rex that caused Michael to do something that saved this episode from being intentionally vague for the sake of being vague and made Michael's character feel remarkably consistent. He lied to Gabriel and told him his sister was alive, so that Gabriel could hang on to a happy ending. It worked, and Gabriel went peacefully. But it also played true with how Michael thinks about his own condition. Michael says that if his sanity is the price of holding on to his family, then he has no interest in making progress. Why should he be the only one? (Note: We do not endorse telling crazy people that their dead sisters are actually sipping Pina Coladas somewhere in the Caribbean.)

"That's Not My Penguin" had a purpose: to let us know that every episode won't end with a warm fuzzy feeling and that Michael is tiptoeing the line between sanity and insanity. But it also reminded us that Michael, even though his world is crumbling around him, is a man of his convictions.



Dream Log
– I had figured out that Dr. Lee wasn't actually in the hospital, but I was still pretty mind-blown when it was confirmed. Was it the drugs or was it the walls of reality becoming increasingly permeable? Was it actually necessary to include imaginary Dr. Lee at all? I'm not sure.

– The penguins reminded me of the mind-trips from ABC's Life on Mars, which featured robots sometimes appearing in the main characters' minds.

– "What's so great about seeing reality for what it is?" AMEN, MICHAEL! Time to chug a bottle of Absinthe!

– I still love how Dr. Lee and Dr. Evans step in, both to walk us through what's going on and slap us in the face to remind us, "But it can also be this way." Awesome stuff.

– Don't look at the ratings. They'll just depress you. (0.9 in the adult demo, 2.54 million viewers. Worse than not good.)


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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Can anyone explain me how could the both partners been on the same reality? I'm mising something? As no one made a comment on that fact...

Continue to love this show I'm hopping that the netwoork give Awake a second chance!!
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i don't know if this has been addressed before and I know it will probably come to "he is crazy/he died in the accident/both realities are a dream" but please amuse me: How is time supposed to run for Michael? He sleeps let's say April 11th and wakes up in another reality and lives the same day again e.g. April 11th or he is now in April 12th?



ps. They made a big mistake bringing this show in a major network. Conventional television is dead, people in US want to see American Idol or NCIS kind of shows in major networks. This is clearly a show for cable tv which is the biggest thing in tv these days. All great shows are on cable, if Breaking Bad or Mad Men or Walking Dead were in major network they wouldn't probably have seen a Season 2 but they are a goldmine for AMC as is GoT for HBO, Dexter for Showtime, etc.
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-Is it possible that Dr. Lee WAS in the hospital and was talking like he wasn't because he's really a part of the conspiracy or whatever? I mean, next episode we get further into that.

-Never saw that one.

-Great episode, Michael was fantastic.

-The dual shrinks is the perfect affect for this show. Love it.

-More viewers, please!!
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I liked this episode, but I had 3 problems with it...



Michael's end-game actions really couldn't be questioned in this episode, he saved the hostages from being killed, saved the perp from being killed, saved himself, so it doesn't matter that he played into some jerk's delusions rather than trying to help him through it. Hell, he couldn't have known how the guy would have reacted to being forced to realize the truth.



Also, Hannah was just entirely too happy-go-lucky throughout this episode, she didn't seem to be remotely mourning anymore, and it doesn't work that way in real life. Granted, having a connection to Michael to help her through really would be a boon compared to the distant relationship he's having with Rex in the other life, but without at least a year's time, it seems too early to have everything be perfect for her.



Finally, my other issue is that Michael's big problems treading the worlds come out mainly in this episode, so they're not really connected that well to the little problems he normally has.



That said, the episode worked, the penguin was whimsy without feeling out of place, having Dr. Lee be a hallucenation made since he was still doped on special K.



Man, look at the horrible ratings, thanks a ton "Up All Night" for being an awful lead-in.
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I really enjoy the premise of this show. It's sad that more people haven't given it the opportunity it deserves. I too have thought about similarities between Awake and Life on Mars. I don't know if it should last more than a few seasons, but I believe it could play out well in at least 2 or 3 full seasons.
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I was getting pretty tired of the lack of continuity between episodes - hard to give examples without spoilers - but this episode made it all fall into place: Michael is an unreliable narrator. Everything you see is from his point of view, seen through the prism of his illness. Now it all makes sense to me, and the continuity "errors" actually tell you something about the disconnect between Michael and reality.
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Well, I for one loved this episode and would be dissapointed if they'd cancel it. I'm more baffled by the poor ratings than the storyline, which is saying something. let's hope for the best....
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Fantastic episode and show. Should not get cancelled. ><
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good premise but boring show, plus i never cared what happened to any of the characters...and apparently most other people didn't either.
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I love this show and it's sad about the ratings. There's a save awake page on facebook and twitter if, like me, you would like to see a second season.
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Seriously, when we first get to see the penguin, I started ROFLMAO (ROF: not literally, obviously)
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Great show! Unfortunately, if you don't see it the premise seems quite "meh", and that was keeping me away from it but once I gave it a try, it got me hooked. Perhaps it needs a more appealing advertisement strategy.



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Weird. I like the premise way more than I like the show.
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A very good episode. I love that this show makes me think and constantly stay aware of everything that is happening on the screen. I wanrt the ratings to go up so it stays around.
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Too bad this epic show is going to get canceled. This was the best episode so far.



Wasn't this the first time ever that his two doctors said opposite things about Michael's mental health? One of them warned him that he was getting worse and the other one was telling him that this was some progress. I thought that was interesting.



There is a more interesting and very mysterious thing: How come people don't watch this show?
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Wow this episode was fantastic, it pretty much blew my mind. I totally didn't expect Dr. Lee to be a hallucination! Haha and the penguin was cute. This show just keeps getting better and better; I hope the ratings get better - I want it to stay! C'mon people! Start watching it!
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I was a little surprised that the possibility that Gabe was experiencing a similar double-life to Michael's wasn't raised. He did say that sometimes he saw his sister so if he wasn't subject to heavy medication (which I suspect would be normal for a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia in a ward), perhaps he would experience a similar phenomenon to Michael's dual reality.
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I love this show, what a great episode, it really did well walking the line of Michael's insanity/sanity. Plus the moment when Michael's looking for the ring and the penguin and Michael have this moment and the penguin starts bobbing it's head and Michael takes the imaginary penguin's advice and confronts his son... I lol'd so much, that was just like a magic moment.



I think the Dr.Lee hallucination was very important. I mean the penguin was an obvious hallucination because of the Ketamine, but Dr.Lee not actually being there was a mind blower. Michael had a moment where he realized how he's losing the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy (more so than usual), it was a very scary realization.
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So this is what keeps me Awake after watching the show-does the guy wake up each morn to a new day, thus skipping a day in each reality, or does he live each day twice? Consider the implications of each possibility!
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90% sure he's living each day twice, otherwise we'd be missing interactions with people he was having on what, autopilot? Which begs the question, is he a moron? Why not win the lottery? Answer, because the writers are desperately trying to not definitively confirm both realities so they are avoiding the most obvious thing that would occur to everyone by day 3.
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Well, probably because almost nothing is the same in each "universe" except for a few small links here and there. Why would the lotto numbers be the same?
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I remember the scene with imaginary Lee thinking Lee wouldn't say this things about Michael in this situation and thought it was sloppy writing. I didn't make the connection, that Lee was imaginary. So instead of bad writing it was good writing. Something was off, but not knowing what.

Also the last scene with Lee bugged me the whole scene he wasn't wearing any glasses until the end when he was taking them of. This made me think the story is either told non linear or Michaels is making everything up his mind is fractured and he is locked up underground himself.
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Best episode after the pilot. I really hope they continue focusing and experimenting with Michael's mental state delivering multiple possible interpretations of what's going on rather than 70% case-of-the-week, 20% family drama and 10% oh wait I live in 2 realities I think my mind might explode from the implications of that.
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Am really liking this show despite the obvious mental health issues inherent in the show which totally creeps me out. An yeah I also really liked Life on Mars, more for the procedural aspect of it. I thought the cop aspects of it were pretty well written and under-appreciated.
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LOM US, UK or both?
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another excellent episode from an excellent show.

That penguin was too adorable. I just kept cracking up when I saw it.

I also think I may just have to buy a copy of "That's Not My Penguin" for when I have kids. That book title just sounds like an awesome children's book.



And I guess I have accepted that Awake will almost certainly not return next year, unless some NBC exec has a personal interest in it (from my lips to god's ears...) I can't go around demanding that all of my favorite network tv shows (Fringe, Community, Awake) be saved-that's giving too much credit to the average American's taste. And at least Kyle Killen can be satisfied that Awake has now aired 3x as many episodes as Lone Star. On his next show: "This time, I'm really hoping we can make it past 10. I know that's a lofty goal, but you don't get anywhere by settling."

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I'm loving this show, and thought this was a great ep. Hope more people figure out what they're missing!
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I've loved this show since Day 1, but I honestly didn't think it would have material for more than one episode. I'm glad it's unfolding well.



Imaginary characters are becoming so common in American TV shows, or at least coincidentally in the shows I watch. Yet, I always fall for it. The jokes on me! And this time it wasn't different.



I don't get why the penguin. So, there was Rex's children's story book about a penguin. So what? What was so significant about the penguin? Just a crazy detail meaning he was just getting crazy(ier)?



When Britten was injected with what was supposed to be ketamine and woke up in the blue/green reality, I thought he was going to look for Gabriel and his sister, and perhaps rationally trying to solve the mystery behind the missing/dead sister. Chances are she would still be alive in a different reality. But instead he goes wildly looking for a ring, which took him through a tangential family plot and led him to the discovery of Rex girlfriend, all of which didn't help the case (in which his life was at stake) at all. At this point I was completely lost as for his motivations.



What a trip this episode was! Certainly very enjoyable, and got me thinking a lot. But I can understand why audiences who prefer open-and-shut procedurals or another soap by Shonda Rhimes would have problems with this show.
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Actually starting to come around to this show, had an awful slow dry start filled with too much procedural stuff. This episode however was really cool
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Wow, I didn't figure Lee wasn't actually there until he said it, but I do feel it was necessary, because doesn't that mean that we can't be sure that Gabriel actually injected ketamine, and therefor that maybe the illusions weren't drug related at all?



I hate that the ratings are so bad, I'm really loving this show. Oh well, let's just enjoy it as long as it lasts.
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Interesting observation. It was illusion-Lee that said it was ketamine, confirming what the lady shrink (who could be a dream) had said. In fact, who's to say the injection happened at all? With this show we can't be sure anything. My head's spinning!
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I don't know why the ratings are so awful for this show, as it is quite good. The whole injection of drugs thing, which seems a little out of place, was necessary to make us doubt if Michael was hallucinating because of the drugs or not.



Anyway, good episode.
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The ratings for brilliant shows like Awake and the ridiculous shows like Idol or 2 and 1/2 Men make me hate the world!
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No kidding, eh? Awesome shows get cancelled and pure drivel takes their place in many cases.
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With Awake you have to watch every episode to know what's going on similar to Lost and the average TV viewer does not want to make that kind of commitment. Part of the problem with Awake might be that it is airing on NBC, which is not known for good programming as of late. Even though the hot tennis coach wasn't in this one I still liked it. ;) When Britton was seeing the penguin the look in his eyes was priceless! He must of been fearing he was crazy.
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I love the consistency andbeautiful story telling Awake has to offer week after week, and i totally didn't catch on the the Dr Lee thing until the end but it was great all the same
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I am gonna miss this show when its gone... It makes me do all kinds of mental exercises...
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With those ratings I don't expect to see Awake back ext season but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.
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Brilliant episode! As you said, just as we were getting comfortable we are shoved to the edge of an abyss. Comfort, thy name is schizophrenia! Reality is just an illusion caused by an excess of sanity.

The question is, of course, where does all that lead us? As was mentioned elsewhere (pace!), what about that accident-flashback scene which left Britten standing on a hill all by himself? Is it ALL an illusion?

But I'm still worried about that tacked-on conspiracy-on-a-park-bench scene a couple of episodes back. That doesn't sit well in the story flow but is the only hint we're given that there's an actual reality behind it all. But then, better not worry about it; reality is overrated, isn't that what they're saying?
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Yes! Thanks for pointing out that scene! Think about the flashback: a) Therapist 1 says his son is dead b) Therapist 2 says his wife is dead c) then we see him alone at the hill d) he looks down and there is no car to be seen. Are these all images of the truth Michael finally sees but decides to forget again to continue living a lie? Biggest support for "it's all an illusion"-theory yet :)

Now that parkbench scene......meh. Yes, it destroys a lot given that it's not from Michael's perspective. So it still can be interpreted as his subconciousness making up conspiracy theories (stupid but it works....). Just hope they never mention it again.

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It probably wasn't intentional but to me the penguin was a reference to Fight Club and every time it showed up on screen I was all 'Sliiide'.

Very interesting was that at the end I felt that the shrinks switched places and were advocating from different stands than usual.

Overall, amazing episode.
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I too thought of Fight Club with the penguin
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The best episode so far imo. Love this show! Also; penguins.
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I love penguins too, particularly because they are my neighbors...
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