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|First appearance||"The Routine" (episode 1.01)|
|Last appearance||"Exeunt Omnes" (episode 6.08)|
|Portrayed by||Lee Tergesen|
Tobias Beecher is a main character on the television show Oz, played by Lee Tergesen. He is one of only nine regular characters to survive the entire run of the show (from first episode to last). The others are Bob Rebadow, Ryan O'Reily, Miguel Alvarez, Arnold "Poet" Jackson, Sister Peter Marie Reimondo, Tim McManus and Dr. Gloria Nathan.
Prisoner 97B412. Convicted July 5, 1997 – Driving while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter. Sentence: 15 years, up for parole in four. Parole denied in 2001. Granted parole in 2003. Returned to OZ later that year due to a parole violation.
Beecher, a graduate of Harvard Law School, is a successful attorney, husband and father, but also an alcoholic. One night, he drives drunk — something he had already been arrested for twice — and hits and kills a nine-year-old girl named Kathy Rockwell. He is offered a plea bargain that would have allowed him to serve his sentence in a minimum security prison, but Beecher, not wanting to do any time in prison, instead goes to trial seeking an acquittal. The effort fails and the judge, a family friend of the Beechers, decides to make an example of him and sentences him to 15 years in a maximum security prison with a chance for parole after four.
Beecher's personal transformation forms a major part of the show's drama, particularly in season one. Arriving in Oz without any street skills and having a naturally timid personality, he became a target for abuse and was hardened by his experiences, particularly with his nemesis, Vern Schillinger. He later remarks that, in Oz, he "became the man he always was and never knew". Despite having done some terrible things while in Oz including murdering a guard, Beecher has many moments where he seems aware of how far he has gone and often tries to atone, most notably for his part in the death of Andrew Schillinger.
Beecher quickly learns that he is out of his element after being roomed with monstrous black inmate Simon Adebisi during his first week in the titular facility. Inmate Vernon Schillinger offers to be his new cellmate. Beecher accepts the offer from the seemingly helpful Schillinger, but on their first night in the cell together the leader of the Aryans rapes Beecher and "brands" him by burning a swastika design into his right buttock. Beecher is regularly raped and sexually humiliated by Schillinger. In attempting to deal with the trauma, Beecher starts using heroin and develops an addiction. In preparation for the prison talent show Schillinger has Beecher get a "makeover" by one of Em City's drag queens. Among other tortures, Schillinger makes Beecher beg to have sex with his wife before a conjugal visit, forces him to eat pages of a law book, polish Schillinger's boots with his tongue, and orders him to tear up pictures of his family. In an attempt to reach him, prison psychologist Sister Peter Marie Reimondo arranges for Beecher to meet with Kathy Rockwell's mother. Beecher is too ashamed to speak, and the girl's mother condemns him.
Eventually, Schillinger tires of him and forces him to leave the cell wearing a Confederate Flag t-shirt. Beecher, fearing for his own safety amidst the racially charged environment of Em City, goes to Ryan O'Reily, who provides him with PCP. Beecher then seeks out Schillinger, smashing the acrylic glass wall of Schillinger's cell and sending a broken shard flying into his eye. Beecher almost jumps to his death immediately afterward, but is restrained by guards and put in solitary confinement.
After being released, he confronts Schillinger (who is now sporting an eyepatch) in the prison gym's basketball court. He incapacitates Schillinger by kicking him in the groin and assaulting him with a piece of gym equipment, then defecates upon him in front of other inmates. This earns him respect from inmates such as O'Reily, Miguel Alvarez, and even Adebisi. When a riot erupts in Em City, Beecher sides with O'Reily in the chaos, defending him from an attack by the Muslims, as neither belongs to any strong gangs.
In the aftermath of the riot, Beecher and the other prisoners housed in Em City are sent to other sections of the prison. Beecher finds himself sharing a cell with James Robson, an Aryan member who tries to make Beecher perform oral sex on him. Beecher has by now learned to fight back and bites the tip of Robson's penis off, which ends up in Beecher being sent to solitary.
Upon his release from isolation, Beecher begins taunting Schillinger, threatening to manipulate Sister Pete's psychiatric reports to ruin his chances at parole. Frightened, Schillinger unsuccessfully seeks other inmates to kill Beecher for him. Finally, Schillinger seems to find somebody willing to do the deed: guard Diane Whittlesey, whom he blackmails with knowledge that she had shot a prisoner during the riot. Whittlesey reluctantly agrees to get rid of Beecher if Schillinger will keep quiet. Beecher disappears and Schillinger subsequently meets with Whittlesey to see Beecher's dead body. At this point Whittlesey reveals that she has been recording their conversation. Schillinger is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, lengthening his sentence.
Afterwards, with Schillinger in the hole, Beecher brags to his new cellmate, Augustus Hill, that his plan worked perfectly. Hill warns him that Schillinger, who now has nothing to lose, will be out for revenge even more than he was before. Beecher is too happy to care. During this time, McManus also forces Beecher to confront the judge who sentenced him. She expresses remorse for her ruling and apologizes to Beecher. He responds that she was right in her ruling, but adds that he can't forgive her. Beecher continues to be haunted by dreams of the accident.
Hill is eventually transferred to a different cell. A new inmate, Chris Keller is brought in, beginning one of the show's most heated and intense rivalries. Keller is a charming sociopath doing time for robbing a grocery store and killing the owner. Later, Beecher receives word that his wife has killed herself. Schillinger brags that the Aryan Brotherhood held a gun to her head and forced her to write the suicide letter blaming Beecher for everything that had gone wrong in her life. As time passes, Beecher is surprised to find himself becoming attracted to Keller, and the two eventually share a kiss in the prison laundry room. Unbeknown to Beecher, however, Keller is working with Schillinger, in order to help the latter get revenge. After using Beecher's attraction to Keller to put him through an emotional wringer and start him drinking again, the two corner him with the help of an Aryan guard, Karl Metzger, and break his arms and legs.
Keller discovers that he has genuinely fallen in love with Beecher, and is desperate to win Beecher's trust. Beecher, however, rejects Keller and refuses to forgive him unless he confesses to his role in the attack. Beecher then kills Metzger. While Keller does confess, Beecher still withholds forgiveness, and ambushes Keller shortly after his release from the infirmary, stabbing him. Although Keller never sees his attacker, Beecher tells him that he'd been the one who attacked him some time later, and also said he didn't at the same time.
The conflict between Beecher and Schillinger continues throughout the run of the series. When Schillinger's son Andy is arrested and incarcerated in Oz, Beecher sees his chance to get even with Schillinger by befriending the young man and arranging to share a cell with him. While Beecher never does anything to Andy and in fact helps him cope with his withdrawal from drugs, he leads Schillinger to believe that he is going to bed Andy, since Andy now likes him. Moved by Beecher's kindness, Andy renounces his father and everything he believes in. Schillinger then arranges to have his own son killed, by having him thrown in solitary and asking a prison guard to deliver heroin to him in the hole, knowing he'd break from his sobriety and overdose on the drug. Beecher's co-conspirators in the plan (Keller and Ryan O’Reily) are happy about the outcome, since they have tormented Schillinger and turned his son against him. Beecher isn't as satisfied, despite having gotten revenge, and he feels guilty for his part in Andy's death. At this point, Beecher is cellmates with former Muslim leader Kareem Said, who convinces Beecher to resolve his guilt by asking for forgiveness from Keller and Schillinger. As the racial tension in Oz intensifies, Beecher and Saïd are the only men of different backgrounds who remain friends.
Beecher finally forgives Keller after saving him from Schillinger's attack. In spite of Saïd's disapproval, Keller and Beecher reunite as lovers in the season's finale.
Beecher tries to resolve his guilt with Schillinger further by having a private investigator at his father's law firm discover his younger son Hank. Schillinger, however, thinks Beecher was trying to turn Hank against him, and orders Hank to kidnap both of Beecher's children. Hank Schillinger severs Beecher's son's hand and mails it to Beecher in Oz. Hank kills Beecher's son before ultimately releasing his daughter. Schillinger also pays another prisoner to tell Beecher that Keller is responsible for the kidnapping. Enraged, Beecher tries to kill Keller.
When Beecher learns the truth, he tries to apologize to Keller, but Keller casts him aside. Beecher has sex with inmates Nate Shemin and Mondo Browne, as he needs to "feel something." Upon learning that Hank Schillinger has been acquitted due to a legal technicality, he approaches Chucky Pancamo in order to commission a hit on Hank Schillinger. Beecher has second thoughts shortly afterward, but when he goes to Pancamo to cancel the hit he is informed that it is too late; Hank Schillinger is already dead. Keller later has Shemin and Browne killed in a plot to undermine the authority of Emerald City's new manager, Martin Querns.
When Schillinger learns of Hank's death, he plots revenge — all chance of which is lost after Keller falsely confesses to having hired the hitman. Keller does so to make himself Schillinger's target instead of Beecher, and not long afterwards he is transferred to another facility. Beecher and Schillinger then are involved in a victim-attacker interaction program led by Sister Peter Marie, who is trying to help Beecher fight his inner conflicts. With Keller in Massachusetts for confessing to Hank's murder, Beecher is up for parole and falls in love with his attorney, Katherine McClain. McClain does what she can for Beecher and Beecher is granted parole. Beecher is protected from Schillinger by Saïd and the Muslims. It is ultimately revealed that Beecher was denied parole; his parole was only a dream. In the library that day, Schillinger and Robson come by to taunt Beecher, but before they can harm him, Saïd appears and stabs them both.
Fearing for a war between the Aryans and Muslims, Sister Pete suggests Beecher mediate interaction sessions between himself, Schillinger, and Saïd. In the first interaction session, Beecher says he felt Schillinger's attempts to ruin his parole were semi-justified, and that Saïd and Schillinger are very alike, despite drastic differences in beliefs. As the interaction sessions continue, Chucky Pancamo informs Beecher that Agent Pierce Taylor has implicated him in the murder of Hank Schillinger, and that the elder Schillinger will come after the Italians for protecting him. Sure enough, the Italians and Aryans go to war.
Shortly after, Keller is released from Massachusetts custody. Keller's return to Oz is not easy, however; Taylor now has evidence implicating him in a series of murders, and a guilty verdict will send him to death row. Keller is isolated from the general population, and thus from Beecher.
In an interaction session, Schillinger denies any involvement in Beecher's rape. Beecher then attacks him. Afterwards, convicted rapists Franklin Winthrop and Adam Guenzel arrive in Oz, the latter being a friend of Beecher's family. Winthrop is immediately raped by the Aryans; Beecher, fearing for Guenzel's safety, recruits the Italians to protect him. When Robson attempts to rape Guenzel, Frank Urbano saves him. Angered by a failed attempt, Schillinger forces Winthrop to tell the homophobic Guenzel about Beecher's relationships with men. Disgusted, Guenzel rejects his protector, in part due to concerns about other inmates thinking that he and Beecher are lovers.
Schillinger then apologizes to Beecher in an interaction session and shortly afterwards offers him a deal. Schillinger tells Beecher he can see Keller working in the mail room if he allows Guenzel to be transferred to Unit B, without the Italians' protection, where Schillinger will be free to do whatever he wishes to Guenzel. Beecher initially refuses, but then considers giving in after growing tired of Guenzel's verbal abuse. When Guenzel is talking with Biker Max Sands, Beecher warns him of the Aryan/Biker alliance that is being used to set Guenzel up for Schillinger. Guenzel then sucker punches him in front of the entire Em City population and repeatedly pushes Beecher's head toward his groin to simulate oral sex. Beecher gives in to Schillinger's demands and convinces McManus that he can no longer help Guenzel. McManus then transfers Guenzel to Unit B where he is gang-raped by the Aryans with Winthrop watching. Guenzel is then seen in the gym, beaten and bloody.
Stricken with guilt, Beecher asks for Saïd's advice. Saïd counsels Beecher to give up his relationship with Keller and help Guenzel any way he can. Beecher asks Sister Pete to talk to Guenzel and Schillinger; Afraid that Guenzel will eventually inform on the Aryans, Schillinger arranges for Guenzel to "escape", which results in Guenzel's death courtesy of the electric fence. Guilty over Guenzel's death, Beecher confesses to the authorities about Schillinger's involvement, forcing Warden Leo Glynn to sentence Schillinger to solitary confinement for an undetermined length of time. Beecher then sees Keller, who has just been found guilty of murder, released from the hospital, where the two of them share an intimate kiss.
Beecher is transferred to a safer unit, as McManus sees that he has become an Aryan target once again for testifying against Schillinger. Beecher's father, Harrison, in the meantime appeals Keller's death sentence until Winthrop kills him to earn membership in the Aryan Brotherhood. Fortunately, Beecher is paroled, inherits his father's law firm, and gets Keller's death sentence overturned.
Soon afterward, Beecher is sent back to prison after a lonely Keller arranges for him to get caught buying illegal drugs. Keller told Beecher that his ex-wife was terribly ill and asked him to pick up a drug for her that hadn't been approved by the F.D.A. and was thus illegal. After Beecher agrees to do so, Keller anonymously telephones the police and tells them where the deal would take place. Once in prison again, Beecher banishes Keller from his life. In an attempt to make Beecher forgive him, Keller engineers Schillinger's death; during Oz's production of Macbeth (in which both Beecher and Schillinger had been cast), he switches a prop knife for a real one, resulting in Schillinger's death when Beecher stabs him.
Once Beecher realizes what happened, he and Keller get into a heated argument, during which Keller realizes that Beecher would never be able to love him again. The argument ends with Beecher rejecting Keller for the final time, as Beecher pushes him away, Keller commits a final act of betrayal by throwing himself backwards over a railing while screaming "Beecher, DON'T!", effectively committing suicide and implicating Beecher as a murderer. At the end of the series, Beecher is in protective custody to shield him from the Aryans, and awaiting trial for Keller's death. Once the prison is evacuated, Beecher smiles on the bus, knowing Keller was responsible for sending the deadly chemical to the mailroom, as Keller had hinted he would "take care of the Aryans" before his death.
- ^ Sean O'Sullivan and David Wilson, Images of Incarceration: Representations of Prison in Film and Television Drama (Waterside Press, 2004)
- Sean O'Sullivan and David Wilson, Images of Incarceration: Representations of Prison in Film and Television Drama (Waterside Press, 2004)