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‘Prison Break’ bids farewell to the prison

Which escapees can stay free, and who's likely to be recaptured?
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

When the second season of "Prison Break" premieres Aug. 21, even loyal viewers might be forgiven for thinking they've tuned into the wrong show. The great escape finally happened at the end of the first season, and while it’s exactly what fans wanted and were starting to grow a little impatient for, the result is a bit disconcerting.

There are no more blue jumpsuits, no more cells. There’s hardly a prison any longer.

"Prison Break's" new season promises to be a complete reinvention, as the gang now known as the Fox River Eight goes on the lam.

For those who’ve been locked in solitary confinement since the show's fall 2005 premiere, the escape plot began when Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) staged an armed bank robbery to land himself inside the Fox River Penitentiary. His plan: to bust out his brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), who was framed for the murder of the vice-president’s brother, Terrence Steadman.

The conspiracy aimed to get Burrows’ father out of hiding, where he retreated after divulging classified information. Scofield, a structural engineer, designed the prison and in a display of ink that makes Tommy Lee’s flesh look squeaky clean, had the blueprints famously tattooed onto his body. Scofield and Burrows picked up company as other inmates caught on to the plan or could offer money and special access.

The brothers are headed down Mexico way, but will swing by Utah to find the $5 million that old-timer Charles Westmoreland (a.k.a. D.B. Cooper) claims is buried under a silo. The rest of the gang should split off quickly, but with that kind of cash hanging over these kinds of guys, they’re sure to cross paths again.

The season two changes come quickly. Audiences immediately are introduced to FBI agent Alexander Mahone, played by William Fichtner. Although the actor never did get to the bottom of that glowing light in the water on ABC’s canceled “Invasion,” he could be smart and crafty enough to track down Scofield and friends.

Vice-president turned president Caroline Reynolds won’t be seen for a while, but is not completely out of the picture. Actress Patricia Wettig is now on ABC’s “Brothers and Sisters,” but producers say her character’s presence will continue to be felt and still may appear later in the season. Actor John Billingsley, featured only briefly as the not-murdered-after-all Terrence Steadman, has found a new home on ABC’s drama, “The Nine.” Steadman is now played by Jeff Perry, who most recently appeared as Thatcher Grey, Meredith’s father on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Who will stay free?"Prison Break" may be focusing on the "break" instead of the "prison" in its second season, but there should be enough complex plotting and close-ups of Miller's squinty, steely eyes to keep viewers coming back. But will the escapees themselves be coming back to Fox River? Some of them certainly have a better shot at staying free than others.

Michael Scofield
Where he’s been: Staged an armed bank robbery to get in to the prison where his brother, Lincoln Burrows, sat on death row. Scofield is an engineer who designed the place and dons the most famous tattoo on TV, which holds the blueprint to the big house.Where he’s going: To Utah, en route to Mexico. Scofield is chasing a $5 million stash of cash before taking his brother south.Odds he’ll make it: He’ll stumble along the way, but he won’t be going back to Fox River.

Lincoln Burrows
Where he’s been: Convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, he was believed to have killed the vice president’s brother, Terrence Steadman. He was set up as part of a huge conspiracy intended to uncover Burrows’ father, who had leaked some classified information.Where he’s going: To Utah, en route to Mexico, but various scores that need to be settled could throw him and Scofield off course.Odds he’ll make it: The most recognizable and most wanted face of the bunch, he’ll benefit from his brother’s smarts.

Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell
Where he’s been: All-around bad guy, serving life sentence for kidnapping, rape and murder.Where he’s going: Presumably will try to track down a girlfriend, the woman who called him into the cops after seeing him on “America’s Most Wanted” in a brilliant display of FOX cross-promotion.Odds he’ll make it: If he doesn’t bleed to death from the stump that once held his recently axed left hand in place, the career criminal will soon land back home in prison.

John Abruzzi
Where he’s been: One-time mob boss who’s lost some clout while in prison, serving a life sentence for murder and conspiracy to commit murder.Where he’s going: Wants desperately to find Otto Fibonacci, the man who went into witness protection after his testimony put Abruzzi behind bars.Odds he’ll make it: Still has enough clout and protection to stay in the clear for a while.

Francisco Sucre
Where he’s been: Proud Puerto Rican who was only sentenced to five years for robbery, but busted out to be with his pregnant girlfriend.Where he’s going: To New York to find his woman.Odds he’ll make it: Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he’ll soon find himself serving an extra 10 years, minimum.

Benjamin Miles Franklin
Where he’s been: Dishonorably discharged as a U.S. Army sergeant in Iraq after reporting illegal torture. Began delivering stolen goods in Chicago and got caught. Told his family he was sent back to Iraq, but is really serving his sentence.Where he’s going: Wants badly to start a new life with his family, possibly in Mexico.Odds he’ll make it: His desire to reconnect with his wife and kids could lead him right into the arms of the law.

David “Tweener” Apolskis
Where he’s been: Pickpocket and Vanilla Ice look-alike, was serving five years for grand larceny. Snitched on the escape plan before joining it.Where he’s going: Last seen jumping into a horse trailer en route to St. Louis, but this greedy little guy will likely chase the cash in Utah.Odds he’ll make it: Too young and dumb to last long on the lam.

Charles “Haywire” Patoshik
Where he’s been: Psych ward inmate sentenced to 60 years for second-degree murder for killing his parents. Got in on the escape when he figured out what was happening. Was ditched by the group in the first-season finale.Where he’s going: Who knows? He stole a little girl’s bike and just started pedaling.Odds he’ll make it: Not good. Without medication, and wearing a red football helmet on a girl’s bike, he’s likely to stand out in a crowd.

Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia.