Manhunt Unabomber Ted Recap – In the previous episode of “Manhunt: Unabomber Linda Kaczynski has a difficult time getting husband David Kaczynski to accept that his brother might be connected to the Unabomber case. David is in denial, spooked by the Ruby Ridge debacle where public trust was undermined when an FBI sniper accidentally on purpose killed Randy Weaver’s wife.
But eventually David Kaczynski does the right thing, working through an intermediary so as to remain out of the public eye. But FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald gets a tip from former detective partner Tabby Milgrim; the tip leads to the home of Ted’s brother David.
Manhunt Unabomber Ted Recap
Episode 6 picks up with Ted living a rugged existence in his lonely mountain cabin, bathing in creeks, tending a meager garden, hunting for food. His sole means of travel is by bicycle which he uses to get to the library. He is in full retreat from industrial, mechanized, technologic civilization.
Though he has trouble connecting with people, Ted does make the acquaintance of the librarian and her son Timmy at the small local library. That small bonding relationship reminds him of all the things he’s missed in life – family, friends, having children. He’s bitter about it, angry to the core, and begins a letter to his brother David in an attempt to understand himself and to provide justification for his actions. This episode is perhaps the most provocative of all in a series of disturbing installments.
The letter Ted writes to his brother David forms the structure of the narrative in the entire episode. A voice-over narrator is accompanied by scenes beginning in Ted’s childhood, continuing through adolescence, and into adulthood. It’s almost a cliché for violent offenders to claim difficult childhoods are at the root of their problems, but Discovery Channel presents a convincing case for Ted in this difficult psychological profile.
Evergreen Park, Illinois 1953
Ted narrates his first formative experience in elementary school where he says he’s “doomed to be a freak from the start.” He complains of loneliness. At first you think, yeah okay, we all experience loneliness. Nothing out of the ordinary there, Ted. But then we learn that his parents, owing to his high IQ and aptitudes, advanced him two grades ahead so that he’d be in the classroom with older kids. Intellectually gifted but socially impoverished, Ted does make one friend, named Doug, and together they romp happily through the adventures and misadventures of childhood, fashioning spears from sharp rocks and sticks, finding an old car abandoned in the woods, making a campsite beside it. But then Doug discovers girls and Ted feels abandoned. We again think, yeah okay, par for the course. But Ted is embittered and, as he says in the narrative, he tries his “first experiment” in the school’s chem lab where Doug has partnered with girlfriend. Ted rigs a chemical mix to explode in Doug’s face. There is also a scene where a bereft Ted begins a self-harming or ‘cutting’ way of coping with his psychological pain.
The Harvard Experiment: 1958
In 1958, Ted Kaczynski entered Harvard at the age of sixteen. His parents were extremely proud of their gifted young prodigy. But putting an emotionally undeveloped adolescent into a prestigious university populated with older students created additional strain. In one sense, it was a continuation of Ted’s elementary school experience and concomitant loneliness. The Discovery Channel portrait of Ted depicts him as a young man with unrequited and pervasive lack of emotional fulfillment. Again, you could say the experience is common, but at this point in the episode, it’s unmistakable that Ted Kaczynski is well past tolerable levels of alienation.
“I think it was Harvard that really did me in,” says Ted. And also the much idolized Professor Murray. Emotionally needy, Ted considered himself fortunate to be singled out for the special attention of a professor revered by everyone. “He was like a God at Harvard,” the type of person that everyone wanted to be near. Ted was flattered that Professor Murray engaged him in long conversations, ascertaining Ted’s feelings, his anti-technology ideas, his world-view, his motivations. Ted didn’t know he was being singled out for a CIA mind control experiment. He didn’t know that Murray was under contract to the CIA to test the limits of human will. His trust in the professor leads to a scene where Ted is strapped into a wired chair with sensors attached to his head. With scientific observers present, Professor Murray mounts a viscious psychological attack to see if Ted can be turned away from his core beliefs. Murray calls Ted’s writings a “tepid, sophomoric regurgitation of other people’s opinions.” The professors says all of Ted’s ideas were stolen. Other insults refer to Ted as a “creepy beta male shrimp” with “sado-masochistic tendencies.” It gets worse but how much worse can it get? It’s altogether a humiliating, bizarre, and crushing experience.
The experiment that Ted Kaczynski participated in at Harvard was part of the CIA’s vast mind control project. During the Cold War era, communists had refined brainwashing techniques and the CIA responded in kind. The techniques developed as the results of such ‘studies’ were to be use against captured Soviet spies. Ted was essentially a gullible, trusting guinea pig, according to the Discovery presentation.
Adult Ted Kaczynski
The actor Paul Bettany does a fine job of depicting the adult Ted, showing his multifaceted and conflicted personality. At the end of the well-researched but dramatized episode, it’s difficult to resist feeling empathy for the murderer. The mind-games played upon Ted by Professor Murray were horrific and would have a severe impact on an adolescent mind stretched to its outer limits. Ted himself describes his state of existence in one of the long letters to brother David. “They didn’t break me. But I lived on anger my whole life.” He goes on to describe a list of betrayals which accounted for his bitterness. His boyhood friend Doug, his brother David (who fired him), even his own mother (who gave permission for the mind-control experiment) – all these ‘betrayals’ are acted out in one touching scene after the other. “I am 53 years old and a virgin,” he writes. It’s a painful sometimes self-pitying but always haunting picture of the man who became the Unabomber.
“My life wasn’t supposed to go like this,” he confides to David. “Is it still possible to change, to begin again?”
Other episodes of Manhunt: Unabomber reviewed on TV Eskimo:
Manhunt Unabomber Ted Recap characters and cast include:
Jim ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald – Sam Worthington (Avatar, Wrath of the Titans, Hacksaw Ridge, The Shack, Cake, Everest, Macbeth, The Debt)
Ted Kaczynski – Paul Bettany (Legend, Captain America: Civil War, Margin Call, Wimbleton, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Coe, Sharpe’s Waterloo, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World)
David Kaczynski – Mark Duplass (The League, The One I Love, The Mindy Project, Togetherness, Zero Dark Thirty)
Theresa Oakes – Trieste Kelly Dunn (United 93, Banshee, Cold Weather, Blindspot)
Wanda Kaczynski – Bonnie Johnson (Big Fish, The Punisher, Sleeping with the Enemy, The Last Song)