FREE FOR ALL
"I AM NOT
Paddy Fitz (= Patrick McGoohan)
RANKED 3rd For the vivid use of the location, the wit of dialogues with Eric Portmans Number Two and democracy sketched surrealistically as a nightmare. Just skip the logical weakness (why keep Numer Six arrested when a truth test can reveal thoughts?). A quintessential episode.
Don't read any further unless you know
THE PRSIONER already and you want to delve more indepth into theoretical discussions and facts around the history of the production. - Be seeing you!
Arguably, "Free For All" ist the very PRISONER episode with the strongest intellectual input. To McGoohan it is one of seven that "really count". According to Max Hora's "The Prisoner Of Portmeirion" the playlist of this McGoohan mini-series would read as shown below:
2. Free For All
3. Dance Of The Dead
5. The Chimes Of Big Ben
6. Once Upon A Time
7. (The Conclusion) Fall Out
For All" in parts is a surreal nightmarish and disconcerting story,
full of twistings and with lose ends that the viewer must grasp all
by himself. Because of the scenes that involved plenty of people it
is also the most colourful and most lively episode that makes the most
of the visuals of the Portmeirion location.
Because this episode was never dubbed German viewers were unaware of the fact that there is a pub in the Village, the Cat & Mouse Club, where non-alcoholic drinks are served that "look the same and taste the same". One scene was deleted before the episode was finished. It showed a singing Number Six inside the pub entertaining the guests.
RA! RA! ... NO MATTER WHICH WAY YOU PUT IT,
ELECTIONS WHERE THERE ISN'T A CHOICE
Strange enough that in the Village there should be democratic elections (Number Six: "Election? In this place?"). It is about democratic rituals like election campaigns, it is about the power of manipulation as it is about being manipulated by power, the use and abuse of the word by the press. And, as always, it is about self-determination and individual identity. Those issues just weren't quite popular with the German public in 1969. Little wonder that this episode didn't make it to the German screens.
Because this episode wasn't shown on German TV initially people also didn't know about the possibly most delicious exchange of words in the whole series. It is at the beginning of "Free For All" when Number Six' telephone rings:
Two: (on the telephone) Any complaints?
Number Six: Yes. I'd like to mind my own business.
Number Two: So do we. Do you fancy a chat?
Number Six: The mountain can come to Mohammed!
Number Two: (that very moment at the door) Mohammed...?
Number Six: Everest I presume.
Number Two: I've never had a head for heights.
Number Six: Where's Number One?
Number Two: At the summit.
Number Six: Play it according to Hoyle?
Number Two: All cards on the table. You may rely on that.
Number Six: Whose move?
Number Two: Yours only. Confide, and we concede.
Number Six: Elections? In this place?
Number Two: Of course - we make our choice every 12 months. Every citizen has a choice. Are you going to run?
Number Six: Like blazes, the first chance I get.
Number Two: I meant run for office.
Number Six: Whose?
Number Two: Mine, for instance.
Number Six: You have a very delicate sense of humour.
Number Two: Naturally. Humour is the very essence of a democratic society.
This... farce... This twentieth-century Bastille that pretends to be a pocket democracy... Why don't you put us all into solitary confinement until you get what you're after and have done with it?
It isn't that Number Six were forced to be an election candidate. But there is Number Two's insinuation that Number One would be no mystery to him that was also a temptation. Each of his steps he moves he does so as if being under remote control. And in a sense this is true. He gets mangled mentally and physically. After which viewers get the impression that he must have become a different person.
After his "rotten cabbages" speech, as an announcement to run for office for the Number Two position, which is held in a relatively serious manner Number Six later fully manifests the campaigner who promises heaven on earth:
There are those who come in here and deny that we can supply every conceivable civilised amenity within our boundaries. You can enjoy yourselves and you will. You can partake of the most hazardous sports and you will. The price is cheap. All you have to do in exchange is give us information. You are then eligible for promotion to other and perhaps more attractive spheres. Where do you desire to go? What has been your dream? I can supply it. Winter, spring, summer or fall - they can be all yours at any time. Apply to me and it will be easier and better.
The two campaigns meet a short time later in the Village. A battle of words ensues in front of the enthusiastic audience:
your trust in the old régime: the policies are defined, the future
certain. The old régime forever... and the old Number 2 forever?
Confession by coercion, is that what you want? Vote for him and you have
it! Or, stand firm upon this election platform and speak a word without
fear! The word... is "freedom". They say "six of one and
half a dozen of the other"... not here.
It's "six for two and two for nothing" and six for free... for all... for free for all! Vote! Vote!
Number Two asked by Number Six what he would do in his sparetime replies he couldn't afford sparetime. Number Six exaltedly turns to the crowd:
you hear that?
He's working to his limit! Can't afford spare time! We're all entitled to spare time! Leisure is our right!
In your spare time, if you get it, what will you do?
Less work... and more play!
Six! Six! Six! Six!
The end of this episode leaves no illusions. Election winner Number Six is allowed to enter Number Two's famous control room - just to turn the switches. But still this doesn't mean he's in control now.
TEXT: Arno Baumgärtel