In the summer of 1953 Frank Olson is in the offices of William Sargant, a British mind control researcher working for MI-5, discussing the nature of their two countries' research. Olson recounts various scenes he witnessed and mistakenly confesses to having reservations about his work, and intends to resign his post as Head of the Army's Special Operations Division (SOD). Sargant gets on the phone after Olson leaves to report him. Later that year, we see Olson in the lab at Camp Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, working on a "squirtflower of death" with Benjamin Wilson, on a monkey subject. The CIA Director of Technical Services Staff (TSS) Sidney Gottlieb enters to enjoy the terminal experiment on the monkey.
It is November, 1953. A joint retreat between SOD and TSS at a lodge in Deep Creek, Maryland is underway. Wilson is concluding a report on germ warfare experiments in the U.S. Gottlieb, who is in charge, suggests a toast of Cointreau. More spirited discussion ensues about MK ULTRA and other topics such as the use of chemical weapons in the Korean War. It is soon evident that Olson and others are tripping on LSD. Olson begins to make his true feelings known. As the LSD takes over the evening takes several bizarre turns.
A couple of days later Olson is at home with his wife, Alice. Alice detects that something is wrong with Frank. He laments that he cannot tell her what it is. Monday morning of Thanksgiving week he tells his SOD colleague Vin Ruwet that he wants to resign. Ruwet (who was present at the lodge) recommends against it. Olson agonizes. Plans are made to get help. Ruwet, Frank and Alice stop at a diner on the way to Washington Airport en route to New York City on Tuesday.
In New York City Frank, Ruwet and Robert Lashbrook (Gottlieb's CIA watchdog) visit the offices of Harold Abramson for therapy. Olson is warned that he may have a psychotic reaction to the LSD and that he may hurt his family if he returns home untreated. Abramson assigns them to visit John Mulholland, world famous magician in the employ of the CIA. Mulholland, oracle-like, warns that Frank must chose between his pride and his family, a condition that rouses Frank to great anger.
Wednesday night Olson is at the Statler Hotel with Ruwet. Frank slips out and into the New York City streets, contemplating the web he has found himself trapped in. He admits guilt and indicts himself in the grand macabre scenario. Ruwet and Lashbrook are shocked that Frank is missing, yet they find him fagged out on a sofa in the lobby, wallet and ID discarded, disheveled. Lashbrook releases an objecting Ruwet from duty and takes over full time watch of Olson. Meanwhile, we have seen where Frank was all night: a Greenwich Village Bar having his ear bent by one Billy, a black bohemian with a lot on his mind: money, race, class, and the Man.
Back in Washington early on Thanksgiving Day, Gottlieb declares Olson a threat and proposes action.
Olson and Lashbrook are having a grim Thanksgiving meal at a NYC automat, having returned to the Big Apple on Thanksgiving afternoon. He later sees Abramson one last time and states that Lashbrook has been keeping him drugged.
Friday night. Lashbrook takes Olson to 81 Bedford Street, the CIA safe house fronting as the hipster party pad of one Morgan Hall. A wild party is in force. Turns out Morgan Hall is actually George White, CIA mind control freelancer, and this den of iniquity is his personal playground in which his subjects, drawn from Greenwich Village artists, drug dealers, and seamen, are kept knee-deep in drugs and sex. Olson identifies them all as "guinea pigs." Lashbrook tells White that Olson is in the room. Olson identifies White in his disguise and this sets White off in a rage. White takes a violent action against Olson but Lashbrook intervenes. Lashbrook and Olson leave the mad scene with White taking his ire out on his subjects.
Olson and Lashbrook are back at the Statler Hotel. Olson steals a moment to phone Alice. Later, knocks come at the door. The rest, as they say, is history.
Read about the Defenestration Trilogy