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The Prisoner
Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

The Prisoner: Free for All The Prisoner
"Free for All"
TV episode
Written by Paddy Fitz
Directed by Patrick McGoohan


Number 6 is asked to run for the position of Number 2 in the Village.


Read the complete story summary at Wikipedia


Notes from the Prisoner chronology


This episode must take place before "Checkmate" in which Number 6 successfully puts into practice a method of deducing who in the Village is a prisoner and who a warder, whereas in our current episode, as he runs for the post of No. 2, he tells the villagers he will find out who are the prisoners and who are the warders.


Didja Know?


The writer of this episode, Paddy Fitz, is a pseudonym for Patrick McGoohan himself (so he both wrote and directed this episode). "Paddy" is the Irish diminutive form of "Patrick" and "Fitz" is borrowed from his mother's maiden name of "Fitzpatrick".


Didja Notice?


At 3:05 on the DVD, the number 7, often omitted from any series of numbers in the Village, is evident on Number 6's phone. (We do also see the 7 on Number 6's phone in "Arrival".)


Over the phone, when Number 2 asks Number 6 if he fancies a chat, Number 6 responds, "The mountain can come to Mahomet." The name "Mahomet" is the Latin form of "Muhammad" and is here used in a play on the phrase "'If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain," in the telling of the story of Mohammed, founder of the Islamic religion, as related in Francis Bacon's 1625 Essays. When Number 2 immediately shows up at Number 6's door, he says, "Mahomet?" and Number 6 responds, "Everest, I presume?" Number 6 is referring to Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. Number 6 then asks, "How's Number 1?" and receives the reply, "At the summit." This is presumably a continuance of the word play, Number 2 referring to the summit of Everest.


Number 6 continues with Number 2, "According to Hoyle?" and receives the response, "All cards on the table." The phrase "according to Hoyle" originated in the 18th Century in reference to the authoritative manuscript on the card game of whist published by Edmond Hoyle (1672–1769) in 1742, A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist.


The "maid" who assists Number 6 throughout this episode is Number 58. By the end of the episode, she is seen as something quite a bit more than a maid, but exactly what her authority is is left unanswered; possibly, she is the new Number 2.


Number 2 refers to Number 58 as "a mere Number 58". This seems to suggest that the relatively high number indicates she is not an important person, with lower numbers such as his indicating higher importance in the Village hierarchy...which would make Number 6 pretty important in the scheme of things! However, later episodes have characters with higher numbers than hers (doctors, scientists, etc.) who seem to have a fair amount of authority, so Number 2 may have been misleading Number 6.


According to The Prisoner 6 website, the language spoken by Number 58 is just gibberish written into the script by McGoohan, not an actual language.


At 4:38 on the DVD, Number 58 has set down a breakfast serving dish that is obviously Corningware, as evidenced by the blue cornflower decoration on the side (though the decoration is no longer used on modern Corningware items).


Number 2 tells Number 6 that the Village holds elections for the post of Number 2 every 12 months. Is this just another lie? If true, then why is there a new, appointed Number 2 in every episode?


At 6:00 on the DVD, as Number 6 and Number 2 move to investigate the fanfare outside Number 6's apartment, a silhouette appears on Number 6's television screen. Is it meant to be that of Number 2 as an indicator that the election campaign is beginning?


As Number 6 begins to contemplate running for the post of Number 2, he asks what will happen if he wins. Number 2 tells him, "You're the boss," and Number 6 responds, "Number 1's the boss." Then Number 2 tells him, "If you win, Number 1 will no longer be a mystery to you, if you know what I mean." This may be an indication that Number 6 himself is Number 1 without knowing it, as some later episodes hint.


At 7:37 on the DVD, a number of Villagers campaigning for the current Number 2 are holding blank signs!

blank signs


At 9:54 on the DVD, apparently a balloon pops of its own accord when Number 6 has the audacity to state, "I am not a number, I am a person." It happens a split second before the crowd starts laughing. A few members of the crowd are seen to be Numbers 14, 25, 54, and 260. Number 54 is a man, but it's not the man referred to as the General in "The Chimes of Big Ben"; and in "Dance of the Dead", Number 54 was a woman, Number 6's maid.


At 10:03 on the DVD, we can see that the loudspeaker used by Number 2 and briefly loaned to Number 6, is a Tannoy, a Scottish manufacturer of loudspeakers and public address systems. The speakers seen throughout the Village in numerous episodes are also Tannoys.


Seeing the pre-made campaign signs with his picture and number on them that are suddenly whipped out when he announces his candidacy, Number 6 realizes he's been manipulated into running for office by Number 2 himself. Still, he obviously decides to go through with it.


The photograph of Number 6 used by the Villagers for his election campaign is the same one seen on his resignation card in the openings credits that play at the beginning of most episodes.


At 11:00 on the DVD, a tuba player in the marching band is seen to be Number 16. Two different Number 16s are seen in "Arrival" and "A Change of Mind".


The Village newspaper reporter who "interviews" Number 6 introduces himself as Number 113 and his photographer as Number 113B!


At 13:36 on the DVD, the newspaper photographer is using a Mamiya camera. Mamiya was a Japanese manufacturer of high end photographic equipment.


When Number 6 refuses to answer his questions, the reporter writes down canned answers on his notepad. The answers are all pretty much of the type that politicians like to give, general and positive-sounding with no specifics.


As the two reporters finally leave Number 6 alone, a man is already selling copies of the Tally Ho with Number 6's "interview" in it! Also, notice that the man is identical to Number 113B who was taking the photographs, right down to his clothing! Is there some particular meaning to the various dual personages occasionally seen in the series? Recall that a double was seen in "Arrival" (the repairman and the gardener). And a double of Number 6 appears in "The Schizoid Man" and "Fall Out" (and possibly in "The Chimes of Big Ben"). One of the two reporter doubles is seen again at 24:47, attempting to get a statement from Number 6 as he leaves the Labour Exchange office.


The latest edition of the Tally Ho has the headline "No. 6 Speaks His Mind" and is written by "our own reporter". Most of the page is made up of random fragments of sentences from other sources, yielding nonsense paragraphs. There is a mention of "White Fang" in quotes, possibly a reference to the classic 1906 Jack London novel about a wild wolf in the Yukon that is captured by humans and gradually domesticated over a period of time; this may be an intentional comparison with Number 6's ongoing plight in the Village. There is also a lengthy section of the actual Number 6 canned "interview", in slightly larger print, which can be read on freeze frame, retyped below:

   The security of the community will be his primary aim, said No. 6 in an exclusive interview.
   The forthright candidate for the post of No. 2 is determined that the citizens be safeguarded against all threats to their welfare.
   "I have every confidence in my chances," No. 6 told our reporter. "I admire No. 2 as a man and I pay tribute to his achievements. But the time has come for a change."
   No. 6 insisted that it would be a hard fight, "but a clean one."
   We must put the well being of the Community above everything else, he declared.
   "I did not seek this opportunity to run for our highest office," said No. 6, "but I accepted the call when it came, because it is my duty as a citizen."
   No. 6 said that his platform would be "an opportunity for everyone and freedom for all. I shall fight for the rights of all of us, and I shall not shirk the decisions that have to be taken."
   In a true democracy like our community, every individual has a special responsibility to express his mind by voting for the right candidate.
   No. 6 said he believed in absolute frankness with the electorate.
   "Cards on the table is my motto," he told our reporter. "Everyone has a choice in this matter, and I know they will vote for the candidate who gives it to them straight from the shoulder.
   "To have the vote is a great democratic asset which must not be abused," No. 6 reminded an enthusiastic election meeting. "You must feel free to mark your cross in the right place."
   No. 6 said he entered the contest with enthusiasm for a system which gave the ordinary citizen the right to run for the highest office.


At 16:19 on the DVD, at the town hall, the election council is headed by Number 2, with councilmembers shown as 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, etc. Might these councilmembers all be former Number 2s? Or are they all just subordinates of Number 2, predestined to mouth his own opinions in any matters before the council?


The throne-like seat in the council chamber has a an eye-like symbol on the triangular back of the chair. It flashes with a blue light. The eye and triangle is reminiscent of the all-seeing eye of God, in modern times often associated with the (some say ancient) fraternal order of Freemasonry, which has been associated with a secret cabal to bring the Earth into a one-world government by some conspiracy theorists. Recall that, in "The Chimes of Big Ben", Number 2 implies that he considers the international community of the Village to be a blueprint for world order.


During the council meeting, Number 6 refers to the Village as a farce, a "20th Century Bastille that pretends to be a pocket democracy." The Bastille was a French fortress built in the 14th Century which became a state prison in the 17th and 18th Centuries until stormed by angry peasants in July 1789 at the start of the French Revolution.


Meeting with Number 23, who offers him tea, Number 6 tells him he does not take sugar in it. This was previously established in "The Chimes of Big Ben". Number 23 reads from Number 6's file that he gave up sugar 4 years and 3 months ago on medical advice. It can be assumed when we see Number 6 exit Number 23's office into the Labour Exchange office, that Number 23 is the current Labour Exchange Manager (also listed as such in the end credits). A different Number 23 was the Labour Exchange Manager in "Arrival" and yet another Number 23 is the doctor who treats Number 56 in the Village hospital in "Checkmate". Not to mention the Number 23 who appears in "Hammer Into Anvil".


During the fight on the boat at 28:12 on the DVD, numerous buildings that are not part of the Village can be seen on the coast in the background.


The man whom Number 6 tosses overboard at 28:18 on the DVD appears to be Number 68. Notice that 68's clothes are already soaked through before he is even thrown over (obviously from a previous take)!


At 31:57 on the DVD, the calendar device on Number 6's bed stand appears to show a date of the 10th. The month is not visible.


At 33:16 on the DVD, some citizens listening to Number 2's speech are Numbers 73, 66, 105. This is yet another Number 66, three of whom were seen in  "Arrival"!


One of Number 6's followers is seen to be Number 64. Different Number 64s were seen in "Arrival" and "Dance of the Dead".


At the pub at 35:46 on the DVD, we see a young woman serving drinks who is Number 255.


At being offered non-alcoholic gin, whiskey, or vodka, Number 6 laments, "Bet you can't get me tiddly." "Tiddly" is a British slang term for "tipsy", i.e. slightly drunk.


The Village pub is seen to be called the Cat and Mouse. The name is likely a reference to the games played by the powers-that-be on the citizens of the Village. A sign painted on the entry arch of the pub says "Members Only". What does it take to be a member? Are all inhabitants of the Village members?


Number 2 refers to the cave where one may get a drink of moonshine as the Therapy Zone. He describes it as a place where one can be an alcoholic in privacy, without surveillance, as long as one returns to the flock in good time. But it also turns out to be yet another means of drugging Number 6, so is this speakeasy actually one at all? He goes on to imply to Number 6 that he doesn't like the Village, but this may be part of the misdirection they're using on him.


We see at the Village polling place that the votes are not exactly anonymous as each citizen merely drops their preferred rosette into the corresponding box while the candidates themselves stand there watching!


After the voting, one of the citizens in the chanting crowd is seen to be Number 12.


As Number 6 rides off in a taxi to assume his post at Number 2's office at the green dome, the soundtrack music playing is that of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", a French folk song from the 18th Century or earlier.


As Number 58 cycles through surveillance videos on the screen in Number 2's office with Number 6, a video of Number 6 himself appears for a few seconds. It's not a live shot of him because the background is different and he's wearing different clothes (possibly the regular world clothes he was wearing when he arrived in the Village in "Arrival"). So, are all the images presented merely recordings, not a live feed?


Near the end of the green dome scene, Number 58 starts to repeat "Tick, tick" to Number 6. What is the meaning? Is it meant to be like the ticking of a stopwatch, telling him his time in the current game is about to run out?


Number 58 slaps Number 6 seven times to bring him out of his hypnotic stupor. Is there a significance to there being seven of them considering the number is usually omitted from most number sets in the Village?


Attempting to escape apprehension after his attempt to free the Villagers, Number 6 runs through a door that takes him into a cave-like area where four men are sitting and staring at a Rover. What is the significance of this shot?


As the old Number 2 flies off in the helicopter, the new Number 2 tells him to give her regards to the homeland. Which homeland would that be?

Memorable Dialog

the first chance I get.wav
a delicate sense of humor.wav
Number 1's the boss.wav
Number 1 will no longer be a mystery to you.wav
militant and individualistic.wav
the one and only Number 6.wav
I am not a number.wav
rotten cabbages.wav
who are the prisoners and who the warders.wav
no comment.wav
this farce.wav
the desire to be a human being again.wav
no alcohol here.wav
you are free to go.wav
this is only the beginning.wav

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