Sixteen long, long weeks ago is when this TV season officially started getting weird. Prison Break, a critical and ratings smash for Fox, aired its "fall season finale" on Nov. 28, leaving not just fans but Michael, Sucre, T-Bag et al in an utterly criminal limbo as their painstakingly crafted escape plan hit a big shiny dead end. The good news? Prison Break is back with new episodes starting Monday, March 20, at 8 pm/ET. Executive producer Matt Olmstead generously shared with TVGuide.com a sneak peek at what's to come in the first season's back nine episodes.
TVGuide.com: Is everyone there at Prison Break as glad as the rest of us to finally have new episodes on air?
Matt Olmstead: Absolutely. Obviously we've been working nonstop in production and writing, so as far as that, there hasn't been a break, but we're absolutely looking forward to our show coming back. We feel very strongly about the episodes that are forthcoming.
TVGuide.com: You also must be psyched to have no less than 24 as a lead-out. It promises to be quite a night of television.
Olmstead: It really fell into place. For a while there, we didn't know when we were going to come back, but the show's success and the strength came together to make Fox an offer they couldn't refuse, essentially.
TVGuide.com: When last we tuned in, Michael & Co. were literally stopped in their tracks by a shiny new steam-pipe fitting. Does Michael have a Plan B tattooed somewhere on his inner thigh?
Olmstead: Damn straight! He has a Plan B that is a much less-desired plan because it's incredibly risky. He hoped he would never have to resort to it, but circumstances dictate that he must.
TVGuide.com: And if Plan B fails? Plan C?
Olmstead: There is no Plan C. It's Plan B or 6 feet under.
TVGuide.com: Will Officer Bellick, Warden Pope or anyone else learn of the escape attempt any time soon?
Olmstead: Not anytime soon, but perhaps there is a traitor in our midst....
TVGuide.com: Are you talking about Tweener?
Olmstead: Oh, I don't know. It could rhyme with that, perhaps. [Laughs] We try to always keep our characters on our toes, so just when you think it's somebody, it turns out to be somebody else, whether it's with regard to this or something else. But at a certain point someone in authority gets wind of the escape, which accelerates the [Plan B] escape. Everything has to move up, which is another rug pulled from under these guys. If the first 13 episodes were about a methodical execution of a very intricately planned escape albeit one met with some hiccups and setbacks the back nine, concerning Plan B, is just madness. Everything gets thrown at them.
TVGuide.com: The promos that have been airing show Lincoln all strapped into the electric chair. How is it that we aren't about to smell fried hair?
Olmstead: [Laughs] We might. You never know!
Olmstead: Or... people on the outside, like Veronica and Nick, are doing their level best to try to get a stay [of execution] or at least buy some time.
TVGuide.com: The April 3 episode, "Brother's Keeper," features flashbacks to many characters' lives before prison. What sorts of things will we be learning?
Olmstead: Each flashback is basically about the tipping points for every character not just for the cons that either sent them to prison or were major turning points in their lives. I have to tell you, it's my favorite episode. It was written by Zack Estrin and directed by Greg Yaitanes, and it's unbelievable. The beauty of the episode, which fell to 15 [in the order], is that you have invested in these characters over the course of the first 14 episodes: When you do see them on the outside years prior and when you see what happened to them back then, it's explosive.
TVGuide.com: If you had to single out one flashback as being the most shocking...?
Olmstead: The story of Sara, the doctor, is unexpected. There's nothing that we've indicated prior to this that would lead anyone to believe what she went through. Also, T-Bag's story line is very unexpected.
TVGuide.com: How many more episodes until we learn of Abruzzi's fate? I mean, dude was gushing mad amounts of blood after T-Bag cut him.
Olmstead: Rumors have been flying around, but we give a pretty definitive answer of what happened to him fairly shortly.
TVGuide.com: Vice President Caroline Reynolds' [played by Patricia Wettig] master plan seems a bit extreme. I know people can be ambitious, but is there some added wrinkle to the conspiracy that we haven't seen yet?
Olmstead: She's half of a puppet to this company, these people that are pulling her strings, half of the master of her own destiny. At a certain point she gets on the ropes, and she has to either make a power move or "get thrown under the bus." That's where her big decision comes. What she needs to do to survive requires some real nefarious stuff.
TVGuide.com: It sounds like Patricia Wettig landing a fall pilot might not necessarily be a wrench in the works for you.
Olmstead: As far as actors doing pilots and stuff, we just have to work around it. But there's a lot ahead for her.
TVGuide.com: Assuming the boys break out, how might you continue what's been started between Michael and Sara? Once he's out, it's not like he can swing by to ask her to Starbucks.
Olmstead: Absolutely not. But by the same token, it will be an extension of their relationship right now, which is "frustrated." These are two people who would be in the sack by now if they were working together at a law firm. But because of the limitations and constraints of where and who they are... they have to try a little harder, and that makes the times that they are together that much richer. If Michael does get out, their contact and connection would essentially continue the same dynamic it had in prison.
TVGuide.com: Again, assuming they break out, will the guys each go their separate way, or will the situation be such that they need to stick together?
Olmstead: If they do [break out], it can't be like Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run with seven guys in a chain gang running down the road. But remember, dangling out there is Westmoreland/D.B. Cooper's money, and if that does exist, it certainly would be enticing to everybody who wants a piece of that pie. There are things like that they would want and need to work on collectively, as well as the things we've established that they want and would pursue individually. So as opposed to this seven-headed monster running around, it would be about their lives connecting and disconnecting.
TVGuide.com: Is there a pivotal character whom we have yet to meet?
Olmstead: No, I think that we just dig a lot deeper into our existing characters and throw even more intense conflicts and setbacks at them to see how they react. We consider ourselves quite fortunate to have the actors that we do. Believe me, it is very easy to write for these guys.
TVGuide.com: No Season 2 pickup yet, right?
Olmstead: No, but certainly we like our chances. Fox is waiting until we repremiere to see how we do.
TVGuide.com: How much of Season 2 do you have mapped out already?
Olmstead: We're done writing Season 1 and will be done with production by the time people read this, and we're now in the room working on sketching out Season 2. We have basically our "tent poles" mapped out, and now we're getting into the specifics.
TVGuide.com: Before we go, how about one last tease?
Olmstead: I would just go back to Sara. She has a real dark secret in her past that comes to light and definitely informs her character, informs her relationship with her dad and with the governor, and plays out heavily in the back nine of this season.