Both the 2012 and 1990 versions of Total Recall rely on the same back story for the main character, Quaid:
- Quaid was working for Cohagen
- Quaid agreed to be brainwashed to think he switched to the rebel side
- brainwashed Quaid spent time helping the rebels
- brainwashed Quaid was captured by Cohagen's men
- brainwashed Quaid was brainwashed again to think he was Average Joe on an assembly line
Both movies start after step 5 has occurred, with Quaid in Average Joe mode. We eventually learn that the Cohagen wants Quaid to get close to the rebel leader -- so why would Cohagen have reprogrammed Quaid as an Average Joe? How did that advance Cohagen's plan?
(As the story unfolds, Average-Joe Quaid actually does manage to get closer to the rebel leader -- but only by fighting off Cohagen's forces every step of the way, and only after going to Recall, which Quaid's "wife" and "friend" had tried to stop him from doing.)