After being put in a (literal) box in the last episode, Huck returns to Pope and Associates traumatized and muttering “Seven Fifty Two” over and over again. As the team tries in various ways to shake Huck from his trance, we flashback 14 years, to when Huck was a Marine returning from Kosovo to his girlfriend. (Turns out those rumors of Huck being a spinster back in the day weren’t true – Huck was just keeping secrets from his B613 colleagues.)
In this episode, we see Huck become the super spy assassin that he is today (or, rather, that he’s trying not to be today). And in the process of going B613, Huck engages in all kinds of torture: drills and knives and saws, hammers and guns and plastic wrap! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen torture this season. You might remember that Huck was the victim of some pretty brutal torture himself when the Pentagon was trying to pin him as the one who shot the President. Thank goodness the team got him out of that one.
It seems pretty clear that explicit torture with drills and knives will cause someone to feel pain and possibly spill secrets, but what about the hole Huck is thrown in near the end of the episode? This is a very different kind of torture, known as sensory deprivation. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease found that subjects who were put in a chamber that blocked out sound and light experienced hallucinations after as little as 15 minutes. And in 1963, the CIA published the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation manual, which discussed the power of sensory deprivation to make “the regressed subject view the interrogator as a father-figure…strengthening…the subject’s tendencies toward compliance.” This might explain why Huck’s B613 superiors throw him in the hole in an attempt to re-loyalize him.
So is the U.S. really using torture, sensory deprivation or otherwise? This is, of course, a controversial topic, but a very recent, nonpartisan, independent review of the use of torture by the U.S. since 9/11 concluded that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” This report, put together by The Constitution Project, discusses the use of waterboarding, keeping prisoners awake for days on end, and stripping them of their clothing, among other practices.
So, torture has, at least at one point in recent history, been used by the U.S. government. But what about a group like B613? What’s the reality of a group of assassins and torturers in a top-secret, off the books program? Rumors of black ops (or covert operations) carried out by the FBI and the CIA have long been circled, but due to their top-secret, classified nature, we may never know if a group like B613 currently exists
We do know, however, that for Huck, the scars of his past with B613 haunt him to this day. Huck snaps out of his trance near the end of this episode thanks to a little Olivia Pope magic, but is he fully recovered? Or will The Hole and the memory of seven fifty-two haunt him for the rest of his life?