We open with a significant flashback, to Robert E. Lee writing a letter to Jefferson Davis, explaining his refusal to surrender despite the massive losses just suffered at the Battle of Antietam. Oddly, this sequence isn’t in black-and-white, which is the coding the show has consistently used for “travel to the past” before now. As refugees and wounded trickle into the Confederate camp, mysterious stranger Atticus Rook (played by Tom McCamus, who previously appeared as Count Frank) advises Lee to stay put, as the Union forces are just as badly wounded. And then Rook, posing as a doctor, robs the dead (helping one wounded soldier to that condition) and runs through a glowing portal in the woods when he’s discovered. Which brings him back to a modern day room where an antique “magic lantern” style projector is displaying a scene from the Civil War on the wall.

The scene cuts to an antique auction, where we learn that Rook is selling his latest collection of rare Civil War antiquities, with the gang from Curious Goods there trying to track him down in the hopes of finding out who Rook may have sold the magic lantern he bought from Lewis Vendredei on to. Because Rook is a “picker” of antiques and would never keep any for himself, especially not a cursed one. The gang can be dumb sometimes is what I’m getting at. They do, finally, manage to gain some clues when Rook flat out lies to Jack about purchasing anything from Lewis, and Ryan finds out from Rook’s date that, for a celebrated antiques picker, Rook never actually travels anywhere other than his apartment and the diner she works at. Later that night, as Ryan snoops on Rook, Rook takes his girlfriend back to his apartment and explains to her how the magic lantern work, including killing her to activate the time portal. Which of course leads to Ryan getting sent back in time, again.

Ryan makes contacts with the locals, (with a now sepia-toned past–thanks, editors!) cobbling together a sort of plausible cover story about being a Yankee bounty hunter pursuing Rook, befriending Abigail, the young widow of the soldier Rook killed to steal a bullet-damaged whiskey flask. Rook gets cornered by Abigail’s father while trying to steal Lee’s sword but manages to kill the old man and escape, leaving Ryan trapped in the past, and conveniently framed for the old man’s death. Jack and Micki, meanwhile, manage to find a photo of Ryan at Antietam while trying to find more clues about the magic lantern, because sometimes they’re a little slow on putting together the whole “Ryan disappears when we’re dealing with a cursed item tied to a specific time in the past” thing. Rook, meanwhile, decides to kill the police officer canvassing his building about the dead body found outside earlier, and in the process breaks the slide he needs to get back to the past. Rook is forced to contact a semi-rival whale collector who had shown off his extensive collection of period slides earlier in the episode, with Micki and Jack following along secretly, and Micki ending up in the past with Rook this time. Ryan’s brilliant plan to turn himself in to Lee to warn him about Rook manages to backfire spectacularly, leaving Micki to steal a horse to rescue Ryan and Abigail to delay Rook. Micki and Ryan manage to make it back in time, with Rook running a little slow and ending up embedded in a wall. And the question of just how he made so much money selling inadequately aged antiques with no provenance is never answered.

This isn’t a great episode, but for no particular reason. The antique itself is rather dull and operates on the usual rules, and the effect isn’t dynamic or interesting. It’s a Ryan heavy episode, too, and although it avoids the usual “Ryan falls for a girl who is almost certainly going to die” routine that most Ryan stories have, it still has the usual problems of not giving Micki or Jack much to do. On top of that, Ryan manages to not have much to do this time around either. That they cast the same guest actor as the villain in two different time travel stories is also suggestive of a certain laziness.

A Very Robey 80s

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