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Season 2 Episode 3

Sense and Antisense

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Oct 03, 1997 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
43 votes

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Episode Summary

Sense and Antisense
Frank assists in the hunt for a man who is apparently infected with a deadly, highly contagious virus. Frank and Peter then begin to wonder if a member of the Human Genome Project could have tampered with the DNA that controls human violence.

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  • If nothing else, season two of Millennium is wildly, wildly ambitious.

    If nothing else, season two of Millennium is wildly, wildly ambitious. There is this interview, conducted by Cinefantastique after production on the second season wrapped.(http://millennium-thisiswhoweare.net/cmeacg/crew_interview.php?name=Glen%20Morgan&id=17) It sounds like all of the writers on the show came with certain big stories they wanted to tell and Glen Morgan and James Wong gave them the room to experiment. Sometimes, that leads to big, exciting episodes. And sometimes, it leads to episodes that try to do too much and end up like "Sense And Antisense." Still, I'd rather watch something that's insane, like this, something that's trying to do too many things, than I would something that just keeps playing the same basic beats over and over. "Sense And Antisense" is a little too full of STUFF, to be sure, but it's also got several scenes of madcap genius in it, and a twist that doesn't quite work but is still ridiculously hilarious in just how gutsy it is.

    Forthwith, a short list of just SOME of the issues "Sense And Antisense" tries to toss into its mix of craziness: the Human Genome Project, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, the long history of scientific trials on humanity's least fortunate, the Rwandan genocide, the threat of manmade plagues decimating humanity, problems in relations between white and black Americans, the Millennium Group's possible interest in biological plagues, and taxi cab drivers' lack of respect for black people. And, honestly, that's probably an incomplete list. "Sense And Antisense" never fails for a topic to toss at the audience, but it seems to buzz by some of them far too quickly, especially for those of us watching now in 2011, who can't really be bothered to find the Human Genome Project as terrifying as the episode wants us to find it.

    In that interview, episode writer Chip Johannessen seems pretty down on this one, and he says he thinks it only got worse through the rewrite process. I can see why he feels that way. He indicates that the original script dealt with racial issues, and that was a topic that many networks were shy about confronting in the '90s, for whatever reason. And that sort of makes sense. The best part of the episode-well, the most cohesive part, at least-comes at the very start, when Gerome, an unlucky cab driver, picks up an African-American man who's clearly come down with the plague to end all plagues.

    Now, I can't exactly call this scene "good." It's filled with some of the most embarrassing "rich TV writers trying to write street slang" dialogue of the '90s. Every so often, a TV writer will come along who's really able to slip into this particular argot, but not everyone is David Simon. Johannessen DEFINITELY isn't, and his characters have a tendency to slip into lecture mode in these scenes, where they're pointing out the PROBLEMS with SOCIETY, man. But the central hook here is a good one. The unnamed passenger is dying, blood dripping out of his mouth. And when Gerome gets him to the hospital, nameless men in suits come after him, and Gerome realizes that the passenger's rants about Tuskegee might have been based in something more than random crazy person paranoia. And so Gerome helps his passenger escape, and the case gets tossed to Frank, who's needing a little cash while on break from the Millennium Group.

    While the basic material here-giant government conspiracy creates a plague it then inflicts on the homeless-seems more like an X-Files episode than a Millennium episode, the first half of the episode does a pretty good job of ramping this up nicely and making it fit within the show as we already know it. A little girl steps into a giant pool of Patient Zero's blood. The task force that's meant to bring down Patient Zero convenes in a large room that is later emptied of all evidence it ever contained anything. Gerome and Patient Zero go to a newspaper to try to convince a reporter of Patient Zero's story-there are "trucks" that come and take the homeless and give them these awful diseases-and the reporter is ready to grab the exclusive… but only after he sees Frank pull up. And then Frank sends Patient Zero back with the government, and the episode rather goes off the rails.

    Up until this point, the episode has just had a nice enough arc about the government, well, kidnapping homeless people and giving them a plague. That's a pretty standard "crazy person proved right" story, and the episode is executing it well enough. But once Patient Zero disappears, things start to get a little nuts, with Frank's shirt smeared with Patient Zero's blood, which ISN'T infected with some weird plague. Instead, Frank begins to realize that he was duped by a government agency that merely made him THINK he was chasing someone who was deathly ill. He brings Peter in on the search, and the two begin wandering the city, trying to figure out just what's going on. And the episode loses its power as it shifts into a pretty strange story about how the Human Genome Project is being used to flip certain genes inside of people and make them more violent than they would normally be. But the episode doesn't really DO anything with any of this. There's a monologue by a crazy homeless person about how we're all trucks, driven by people and forces we can't really understand. There's a scene where Watts intones about how Frank shouldn't really be working outside of the Group's purview. There's a bunch of scenes where Frank figures out that lots of homeless people have been taken and tested, including one where he infiltrates an ambulance. And there's lots and lots of pontificating about just what it all means and how the U.S. government mistreats its people. None of this is bad, but it doesn't fit together in any way, shape, or form.

    But that's to say nothing of the twist: When Frank finally tracks down the people behind the experiments, he discovers the man in charge is… Patient Zero, who turns out to be a man named Dr. William R. Kramer. Kramer, as it turns out, may have been responsible for the Rwandan genocide, thanks to his research into how to make people start killing each other, and he and his operation disappear into the night, using their food trucks to round up more unsuspecting test subjects. It's a powerful ending, but it doesn't make a lick of sense once you start to think about it. And as the episode closes with Frank trying to figure out just who it is that keeps calling him and hanging up-by bringing over his ol' buddy Brian to install a machine to unblock the blockage on the anonymous caller's caller ID-and growing frustrated with his inability to do so, it all feels like something that should have cohered but didn't. Johannessen might be right. This, though entertaining throughout, feels like something that's been rewritten at least one time too many, to incorporate more and more ideas until the center cannot hold.moreless
Clarence Williams III

Clarence Williams III


Guest Star

Ricky Harris

Ricky Harris

Gerome Knox

Guest Star

Brian Jensen

Brian Jensen


Guest Star

Terry O'Quinn

Terry O'Quinn

Peter Watts

Recurring Role

Stephen J. Lang

Stephen J. Lang

Det. Bob Geibelhouse

Recurring Role

Allan Zinyk

Allan Zinyk

Brian Roedecker

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (19)

    • "Human Genome Project
      accelerated for completion
      by the turn of the millennium."
      ----U.S. Department of Energy

    • Frank: Peter, Rwanda 1994. Thousands of people get up one morning grab a machete and kill the person next to them in a frenzy of blood letting that the world has never seen. He was a research chemist. What was he doing there?
      Peter: In Bosnia, neighbors sent neighbors away for ethnic cleansing. In this country twelve year olds shoot each other in the streets. The world's a violent place. It's in all of us once the switch gets flipped, but you know that.

    • Roedecker: I downloaded everything on every facility within two hundred miles. It started out as a butt-load, but I did what you asked... Eliminate any site that's an obvious PR job. High school science classes. Women's colleges. 4H clubs. Requires some military connection and a stand alone facility.
      Peter: Down to four and counting.
      Frank: What about trucks, they use them to recruit their John Does.
      Roedecker: Got company cars.
      Peter: Try subsidiaries, joint ventures.
      Roedecker: Hold on, hold on.
      Frank: A vehicle that can move unnoticed among the homeless... There... Mobile Soup Kitchen. They donated trucks.
      Roedecker: 5C03. Project contact is a Doctor William Kramer. M.D. Ph.D. in genetic engineering, R.O.T.C. Got his degrees in the G.I. Bill. I tell you. It's the Omega Man all over again.
      Frank: There it is.
      Geibelhouse: I'm suppose to go to a judge and get a search warrant because this place has soup trucks.
      Frank: No your suppose to go to a judge and get a search warrant because we turned patient Zero over to these guys. We're responsible.
      Peter: You'll get it because nobody here is gonna walk away.

    • Frank: We have you on videotape at the Seattle Tribune ranting and delusional. We know what this place is. What happened to you? Did they infect you by accident? Were you experimenting on yourself? How can you keep doing this when you know, you know...
      Kramer: I'm delusional. Did you just hear yourself?... Get out of my way.
      Patterson: Okay. Party's over. If you people aren't our of here in thirty seconds we'll issue warrants for your arrest.
      Frank: The system runs on John Does. That's what you said. Count 'em. How many are there? How many?...What were you doing in Rwanda?

    • Frank: His name is not John Doe. Gerome Knox. That's his name. Gerome Knox.

    • Frank: The human genome project. The biggest science event since the moon shot.
      Peter: Public records indicate they're not that far along. Technically the program's unclassified, but in a way it does feel like a top secret project. The work's divided among five thousand separate facilities each analyzing a tiny strand of DNA. A small piece of the puzzle. The big picture controlled from above.
      Frank: What if during the research, one rogue facility pieced together something about a strand of genes for their own purposes?
      Peter: There's no way the Department of Energy would be aware?
      Frank: No.
      Peter: Untraceable genetic experiments in untraceable human subjects. Not a lot to go to.
      Frank: The other John Does.

    • Knox: Man, I got a rush listenin' to him. That man speaks the truth.
      Frank: Gerome, listen to me now. He may speak the truth but it comes from a place of insanity. He's gone insane.

    • Lacuna: No where on planet earth are people free of the drugs. No. They traveled across Rwandan dirt roads. They ride on Kuwaiti highways. They move through these city streets. Can you hear them? Can you hear them? Do you hear them? The trucks don't care. They don't care, if they're a fire truck or a dump truck. They don't know, if they're a cargo truck or a tow truck. They don't know. But, we know. We know. We know what we are. We know what we do. But nature, that bitch, is full of trucks. Minutes from birth a spotted hyena will attack and kill its twin. That won't make the evening news. No. Mel Malley does. Will attack and gang rape females until they drown, but there will be no trial on Court TV. No. White female squirrels will attack and kill every baby in another female's nest and Larry King will not analyze the handwriting. No. But nature, that bitch, is givin' us conscious so we must be made to do wrong without us knowing. They must make trucks out of all of us. They have the map. The map. They can make us go to any street they want to. Streets that we would never even dream of going down. They flip a switch, we go east. They flip another switch, we go north. And we never know, we have been flipped. Let alone know how.

    • Frank: It's not a John Doe. Look at the tag. D.O.E. The abbreviation stands for something.
      Peter: Dead On Examination?
      Frank: D.O.E., The Department Of Energy.
      Peter: Whoa. Easy Frank. Another leap like that you'll connect all this to why Oswald wasn't in the book depository.
      Frank: The D.O.E. started as the Atomic Energy Commission. Built the atomic bomb. And radiation experiments on humans. Tests on vulnerable groups: prisoners, mentally retarded.
      Peter: They've historically developed unconventional weapons.
      Frank: You know what they've gotten into now.
      Peter: The human genome project.

    • Peter: Could they be using these people for some experiment and slipping them through the morgue when they're done?
      Frank: Using the system to go undetected because no one cares. May we sit in our your autopsy Doctor Clarke?
      Coroner Clark: Gentlemen. We don't autopsy unless something looks to be out of the ordinary. Dilated eye usually indicates organic brain damage. Well, brain damaged street people. It's kind of by definition.

    • Peter: Well you're right we would have passed on it. But now it does have a deeper meaning. And not just the obvious conspiracy. They used you and Geibelhouse believing that when you realizing the consequences of their actions you would walk away. That's why I'm working on making you more than officially a consultant. Because you, and I, the Group. We don't walk away.
      Frank: This isn't even about money now. I'm responsible for this man.
      Peter: We'll take the case.

    • Geibelhouse: Frank. The guy was nuts. Conspiracy this. Conspiracy that.
      Frank: We went to his office. I worked for them. That wasn't his delusion. Now that office is gone. We were used Giebs. He knew that.
      Geibelhouse: How could he know that?
      Frank: I was the only person beside Knox who said I wanted to help him. He wanted to help me. So, he wanted me to know they were lying about the virus. That's why he gave me the blood sample. And I gave him up too. I don't know who or why?

    • Knox: Hey man, you suppose to be a reporter brother? I'm tell you someone is oppressing this man.
      Editor: You know how many times a week I hear that... brother? And from everyone. Asians says it's Black people. Black people says White people. White people say it's extraterrestrials.

    • Petty: The subject that we're searching for is designated patient zero. Two days ago Zero appeared at the Olympia plasma facility suffering from delusions, hallucinations, and echopraxia. He wanted to sell his blood which a routine panel showed to be positive for many things. They turned him over to us. We found what we believe is a hemorrhagic pathogen previously found only in the Congo. Similar in structure to filovirus simea.
      Ginell: Are we talking wearing the yellow space suits here? The whole outbreak number?
      Petty: We're hopeful this is limited to body fluids.
      Ginell: Hopeful?!

    • Frank: Hey, Geibelhouse.
      Geibelhouse: Hope the Millennium group doesn't mind I brought you in on this. These disease control guys give me the creeps.
      Frank: What exactly is this patient Zero carrying?
      Geibelhouse: They keep a tight lip. Which of course drives my guys nuts. Afraid if it leaks out it, we will start a public panic.
      Frank: Any luck with the cab driver?
      Geibelhouse: Good and Bad. Good luck is we got the cabby's name: Gerome Knox. Bad luck is he didn't show up for work and he's not in his apartment. Worse luck, if he's hiding Zero we now got two infected guys.

    • Roedecker: So what type of calls are these? Are they like phone card solicitations? Are they like the a 'do you have Prince Albert in a can' variety? Or are they like a guy breathing? You know, like treating themself?
      Frank: They're not calls. Just hang-ups.
      Roedecker: Well I'm connecting a ECBH-79 quality identification unit to your phone. The digital readout will reflect the phone number of the person or persons calling you and put an end to this harassment... You owe me 65 bucks... Is that your family? Your wife's a total babe-a-licious. No wonder you're getting calls.
      ([phone rings)
      Frank: Hello... This is it...You ready... Hello? Hello?
      Roedecker: Well. Obviously, whoever called has blocked caller ID. The phone company does it for a price...Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. All you need now is a device to undo their caller block. The LMU-83 will override their override very nicely. Its a little more James Bondian but we are living in a more Blofeldian world.

    • Zero: Trucks. Trucks. They wanna kill me.
      ER Doctor: Whoa. Hold up fellows. I can't let you in here. Where's your ID's? This is an emergency room.
      Patterson: Where is he?
      ER Doctor: Who?
      Patterson: Alright. Listen up. We're from the Center for Disease Control. This area is under quarantine. No body goes in or out. Complete body fluid precautions are to be exercised.

    • "U.S. Military released from
      liability for experiments on
      unwilling and unknowing
      human subjects."
      ----U.S. vs. Stanley Supreme Court (1985)

    • "Control of third world
      populations designated
      secret national policy."
      ----National Security Memo 200 (1971)

  • NOTES (3)

    • This episode features the song "Gyp the Cat" by Bobby Darin.

    • This episode is set in Seattle, Washington.

    • The title of this episode "Sense and Antisense" refers to strands of mRNA. The sequence of nucleotides on single-stranded mRNA is called "sense" because it results in a protein. A sequence of nucleotides that is the complement of a strand of mRNA is called that strands "antisense" because it is the complement of the mRNA's sense.

  • ALLUSIONS (11)

    • The gene mentioned, "5C03", is also the production code for this episode of the show.

    • Character Names: Wright and Patterson
      These character names mostly likely are a reference to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. In conspiracy circles, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was believed to be the destination of debris from the Roswell UFO Crash. Such debris is supposedly held in the perhaps mythical "Hangar 18".

    • Frank: Peter, Rwanda 1994. Thousands of people get up one morning grab a machete and kill the person next to them in a frenzy of blood letting that the world has never seen. He was a research chemist. What was he doing there?
      Frank refers to a conflict between Tutsi and Hutu tribes. Machete-armed gangs of Hutu men went on a wild killing spree taking almost 20,000 victims and killing most simply because the were Tutsi.

    • Peter: What is this place? NSA? CIA? MILAB?
      The NSA is the National Security Agency. The CIA is the Central Intelligence Agency. MILAB in conspiracy parlance refers to "Military Abductions", i.e., abductions carried out by the military (perhaps under the guise of alien abductions) for the purposes experimentation.

    • Roedecker: It's The Omega Man all over again.
      Roedecker refers to the Charlton Heston film The Omega Man (1971). In this film Heston plays Robert Neville, the only survivor of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons.

    • Zero: AC-TG
      This is a reference to the four nucleotides of DNA: Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine, Guanine.

    • Editor: Tuskegee's over man. The president has apologized.
      President Clinton on May 16, 1997 offered an official apology for the Tuskegee experiments.

    • Knox: Thirty years ago people said the U. S. government was using black men as an experiment to die of syphilis was just another wacked-out conspiracy theory like aliens or something.
      This is a reference to the Tuskegee experiments. In the 1930s, almost 400 African American men signed up with the U.S. Public Health Service for free medical care. The service, however, was conducting a study on the effects of syphilis on the human body. The men who signed up were never told they had syphilis. They were misled and denied access to treatment even after penicillin came into use in 1947. The study was exposed in 1972. By that time 28 men had died of syphilis, 100 others were dead of related complications, at least 40 wives had been infected and 19 children had contracted the disease at birth.

    • Zero: MK-Ultra! Cointelpro!

      MK-Ultra was the CIA program's on mind control during WWII. Cointelpro was the FBI's domestic counterintelligence program. Its purpose was to neutral political dissidents.

    • Episode Quote: U.S. Military released from liability for experiments on unwilling and unknowing human subjects
      This quote appears to be taken from a Supreme Court Ruling: U.S. vs. Stanley (1985). This case concerns James B. Stanley a master sergeant out of Fort Knox who brought a case to the supreme court for uniformed experimentation on him. The majority of the court dismissed the claim on the basis of maintaining the chain of command. Dissenting Justices Brennan and Marshall, however, cited as precedence the Nuremburg Trials.

    • Episode Quote: Control of third world populations designated secret national policy.
      This quote is apparently taken from National Security Memo 200. This memo targets a variety of foreign nations for population reduction.