[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Alert: Missing Persons Unit Season 1 finale.]
Is Keith (Graham Verchere) really Keith? That’s been the question all season on Alert: Missing Persons Unit, and now we have the answer.
Jason (Scott Caan) and Nikki’s (Dania Ramirez) son, unfortunately, has not returned home; instead, it was an imposter, Lucas, who used a fellow group therapy attendee’s story to explain where he’d been. For Lucas, Keith’s life — he’d seen his story on the news — was a fantasy, and for his mom, it was a way to make money. In the standoff, Lucas and his mother struggle over control of a gun, and he’s shot (and killed) in the process.
So does that mean that Keith is dead? TV Insider turned to showrunner John Eisendrath to get answers and first tease what Season 2 (not yet picked up) could look like.
Have you heard anything about a second season?
John Eisendrath: As I tell anyone who asks, I’m the last to know. When everyone else in the world knows, they’ll tell me.
Was the plan always to have the season end with it looking like while Nikki has had someone to chase down to bring their “babies” home, there’s no one for her to go after when it comes to her own? It seems that Keith may truly be dead because of an accident.
To be honest with you, I don’t think that when the season began, I knew exactly how the Keith story would end up. I knew that it was always the plan that Nikki and Jason, two people, particularly Nikki, very experienced in looking for missing persons, would be so desperate for this child to be theirs that they would miss the signals that he was, in fact, an imposter. That is what fascinated me from the beginning, that two people so expert at being able to understand this world would, because they were so emotionally connected to the idea of getting their child back, entirely miss the signals that he wasn’t theirs. So that was going to be there from the beginning. Whether that was going to be the end of Season 1 or Season 4, I had no idea. But definitely, I knew from the beginning that Keith was an imposter, that he was not a villain, but a confused young man who had a horrific home life and looked at Nikki and Jason and thought, “that’s a fantasy set of parents I would like to have.”
Did you ever consider having them really find Keith in Season 1?
I always focused on who is this person who’s come and said he’s Keith? I did consider, yes, is their son alive or dead? Would they find him and realize that this guy is an imposter because they have their real son? I’m sure I thought about that, but you do 10 episodes, it’s just not that many. Perhaps if it was 20 episodes or more, we would’ve had more time to consider more of those permutations. But with 10 episodes, I thought the best, simplest, clearest, and most emotional story is, here’s this guy who says he’s Keith. Let’s just focus on him. Who is he? Is he, or isn’t he? That was the most compelling story to tell.
They’re dredging the lake. Can you say if Keith’s body is in the lake?
I believe that they have not found Keith’s body in the lake, but I don’t think there is much doubt that their son — let me put it this way, as difficult emotionally as it is for Nikki and Jason to realize that this person who has said he’s Keith is an imposter, the only saving grace is that their daughter has finally been able to tell her truth and the parents are finally able to do something they were never able to do before, which is genuinely mourn the loss of their son Keith, who they believe beyond any reasonable doubt is in fact dead.
It seemed like there might have been a moment between Jason and Nikki on the couch before he left. But how much of that was about their present and future, and how much was it about their past? Because they did bring up the grief couch thing earlier.
Yes. Wow, you watched it very carefully. I’m very impressed. I think that it is one of those moments designed — and I think that happens in people’s real lives — where the echo of the past, the grief couch, comes back in their present and does foreshadow a potential future. So it is an echo of the past, but Keith’s story this season has definitely brought them together — emotionally, physically, professionally — in a way that will, even without the presence of Keith in the next season, have a ripple effect in terms of their relationship and obviously her relationship with Mike [Ryan Broussard].
Talk about starting and ending the season with the two men in Nikki’s life looking at her with the other through the window.
Yes. Again, I’m so impressed. As a writer, nothing makes me happier than when somebody’s like, “Hey, wait a second. That moment where Jason is looking through the window, I’ve seen that before. Where did I see that?”
What I have always liked about this love triangle is that it is sympathetic. Nikki has genuine feelings for Mike, but in the beginning, when Mike was on the outside looking in, Keith had come back, and she was becoming closer to Jason, not as a lover, but as a co-parent, and Mike wasn’t sure, was this is going to be a love relationship or a co-parenting relationship? He’s on the outside looking in, and he’s worried: Oh my God, what is that going to be?
Then the season goes on, and Jason and Nikki are brought closer together. They do have that moment on the couch, and one has to wonder, oh my God, are they going to rekindle their relationship? I think that when Jason now is on the outside looking in, he’s wondering what it means, just like the audience is. Are we going to continue down a path that might lead to us rekindling our relationship or is the end of the Keith story the end of that? And he doesn’t know. And so he is equally uncertain about his future with Nikki when he’s looking in as Mike was in the beginning when he was on the outside looking in.
And yet Nikki has been honest with everybody the whole time, right? She hasn’t lied to anybody, she hasn’t misled anybody. It’s just a complicated adult situation, which is what I love about it and what I loved about him being on the outside looking in. I hope the audience who watches, half of them, want her to be with Mike, and half of them want her to be with Jason.
I have to say one of my favorite parts of the season was what you did with Jason and Mike’s dynamic.
I thought they were really good together. As actors, they have just such a different flavor and I think they work well together because they’re very different in what they bring, and I appreciate you mentioning that. There’ve been plenty of times during the season where Jason’s like, “I really want to hate you, but it’s kind of hard.”
Yeah, moments like that and then the key and everything …
I love that you point that out because I thought that him giving Jason the hide-a-key and then Jason giving it back was just a very visceral symbol of a complicated blended family. I know what a blended family is. I’m in a blended family. I am not a stepparent, but I have two kids from a previous marriage and two from the marriage that I’m in now. My kids are part of a blended family, and it’s hard. So for me, writing about it, I want to show how it can work. I want to show that people can have incredibly personal, difficult, intense feelings that make them want to dislike the people in this situation, but ultimately rise above and understand that there are bigger things and more important things. And so I’m glad you pointed that out because those are moments that I love that we’ve been able to do.
What else could we see in a possible Season 2?
Well, I certainly think there will be stories to tell about Jason, Nikki, and Mike and their love triangle and what is the future for them. And I think that will be a great story to tell both in how it sort of deals with the aftermath of the Keith story and how that transitions all three of them to a different emotional space.