We’ll be back next week. In the meantime, here’s Robey with a gun.
We’ll be back next week. In the meantime, here’s Robey with a gun.
It’s date night in Not Canada, and all the cool kids are going to see Edgar Van Horne, who I will refer to as Billy Drago because that’s who’s playing him and we all care about that more, the hot new ventriloquist who is selling out huge clubs with his dated, corny, ventriloquism act starring the patented insulting dummy Oscar. Also in the audience are Billy’s put-upon fiancee Gabrielle, a friend of Micki’s, and failed former ventriloquist Travis. After a particularly cringe-inducing rap bit, the act gets a bit derailed by a Kaufman-esque rant from Oscar about how it’s time to “pay the piper.” After the show, Billy, at the urging of Oscar, kills the club bouncer, with Oscar, off-screen, making cryptic comments about staying on top.
The next day at the shop, while Jack is off in Florida hunting down cursed Nazi artifacts, Micki gets the wedding invitation from Gabrielle and decides to go see her friend’s soon-to-be-husband’s act, which makes Micki a very good friend because she just volunteered to go see a ventriloquist. The show becomes very pointedly uncomfortable when Billy and Oscar get into a disagreement in front of the audience over Oscar’s abusive treatment of Gabrielle. Backstage, Billy tries to blow off Travis when he attempts to audition for the show, but Oscar insists on seeing his act. When Gabrielle brings Micki backstage, we find out that it’s because Oscar is looking to replace Billy after the marriage. Which leads everyone to conclude that Billy is just an asshole trying to get out of the marriage. Except, as we learn when Billy talks to his agent, he’s actually planning to retire, now that he’s at the height of his career thanks to Oscar, and focus on his marriage. In fact, he’s so serious about it, he even goes to couples counseling, with, uh, Oscar. And while this is going on, Micki and Ryan start investigating when they find out about the dead bouncer.
At Billy’s bachelor party, which Ryan is for some reason invited to, Billy and Oscar get into a fight, during which Oscar bites Billy, as the guests look on awkwardly. And then Oscar calls Travis to make sure he’ll be coming to the wedding. In the morning, Ryan tells Micki that he thinks Oscar is a cursed antique, despite no dummy being listed in the manifest, and then goes off on a tangent about the occult beliefs of the Nazis, because apparently the various hints the writers have dropped before now that Nazi Occultism in involved in this episode were too subtle. During the ceremony itself, Oscar makes a scene, prompting Billy to strangle him, which leads to Billy being dragged from the church and hit by a car. In the confusion, Travis slips in and whisks Oscar away. And then talks his way into taking over Billy’s gig at the club. Or, rather, Oscar does. And afterwards, when Travis gets into a fight with a drunk in the alley behind the club, Oscar hands him a knife nad makes him kill in exchange for celebrity.
Ryan goes to Billy, currently in restraints and raving, to try and find out what exactly Oscar is, but gets nowhere, and so tells Billy’s agent that Travis has no right to use Oscar in his act and needs to return him before Gabrielle takes legal action. When the agent goes backstage after the show, he somehow completely fails to notice that Oscar is now a little person in a tuxedo and not a dummy, until he gets stabbed to death. The news that someone is trying to separate them prompts Oscar to propose that Travis kills Gabrielle. Ryan, meanwhile, heads to Travis’s apartment to see what’s taking so long and finds the agent’s gruesomely mutilated corpse (even by this show’s standards), so he calls…Micki, who tells him that Jack finally called and revealed that the Nazi memorabilia collector he’s dealing with sold an object to Billy Drago…a silk boutonniere owned by Hitler.
This is a very strange episode, all told. We’ve seen a lot more riffing on horror tropes this season so far, and “evil ventriloquist dummy” is definitely one of those themes that supernatural shows seem to feel obligated to do. The swerve that it’s actually an accessory, and not the dummy, that’s the actual evil object is a nice swerve, though the whole “it’s actually Hitler” thing is still very strange, and maybe borderline offensive. Billy Drago is certainly at his Billy Drago-est in this role, chewing scenery left and right, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing probably depends entirely on how you feel about Billy Drago.
A Very Robey 80s
Reaper Man, 1992 US edition, Terry Pratchett
It’s county fair time in Not Canada, and the 80siest couple imaginable are enjoying themselves on the midway. About the only attraction they don’t visit is the wax museum of notorious criminals run by Aldwin (returning guest murderer Angelo Rizacos) and his put-upon wife Marie. Aldwin’s also extremely jealous, going so far as to assault another carnie, Danny, when he goes to help Marie when her severe headache causes her to collapse. Aldwin takes Marie’s handkerchief and puts it in the pocket of the Lizzie Borden figure, instructing it to “take the pain away.” And so it comes to life and kills our 80s couple (with an ax, number of whacks undetermined).
At the shop, Ryan has been stood up for a date, again, and so cajoles Jack into going to the carnival with him since Micki is out of town. At the carnival, Ryan has a meet-cute with Marie, and continues to blatantly hit on her even after meeting Aldwin, though he does manage to marvel at how life-like and realistic Aldwin’s sculptures are (which makes sense, given that it was apparently cheaper for the production to pay extras to stand still in costume than rent actual wax figures). After another fainting spell, Ryan meets Danny and decides that he and Jack need to investigate, for reasons, even before Lizzie goes out on another round of ax-murdering cures. The next day, Ryan is determined to interfere in another person’s family life without just cause, Jack learns that there has been a spate of beheadings at the carnival, and Marie finds blood on the Lizzie figure that her husband dotes on. The last of which triggers flashbacks of the murders in Marie, which isn’t suspicious at all. Ryan, meanwhile, sneaks past the police barricade around the murder scene and finds a wax finger lying on the ground, while Jack discovers a long history of beheadings associated with the carnival. Danny meets up with Jack and Ryan during their snooping around and tells them that Marie was a townie who started following Aldwin around, right around the time that the beheadings started following the carnival around, and that Aldwin seems strangely unconcerned over her frequent fainting spells. As Ryan and Jack utterly fail to find anything in the manifest that seems to fit this case, Aldwin sics Lizzie on Danny, and we see that Lizzie bears an uncanny resemblance to Marie.
The next day, Jack finally finds mention of a handkerchief that was given to Madame Toussaud as payment for casting the death mask of Louis XVI, with the connection being that Louis was beheaded just like the carnival victims and sure why not this show has done sillier connections. Jack searches fruitlessly for clues at the carnival, while Ryan talks to Marie and discovers that she can’t seem to remember anything that happened prior to her marrying Aldwin, who interrupts them with a cry of “Hey Rube” and has Jack and Ryan ejected. Back at the shop, the pair are attacked by Lizzie, who wrecks some counters before being incapacitated via improvised blow-torch by Ryan, revealing that, yeah, Lizzie is Marie. Who is made of wax. Just as Jack is about to take the handkerchief away to the vault, Aldwin appears with a gun and whisks Lizzie-Marie away to the carnival. Ryan chases after them, which somehow results in the sideshow catching fire, prompting Marie to (rather gruesomely) melt herself to end the evil. And in our coda we learned that the wax figures were people dipped in wax because of course they were.
This is one of the, and I hate myself for using the word, “tropey” episodes of the show, part of a long run of stories riffing on standard horror achetypes, with House of Wax getting the nod here. The absence of Robey is felt, as without her we get John LeMay once again playing a doomed romance role, and we’ve kind of seen that with his character a few times now already. The antique itself is one of the more complicated ones, what with the bringing wax figures to life that then must behead people to become human thing, which just sort of begs the question of how anyone would ever figure that out without Lewis providing directions.
Work on a film set is going slow, much to the annoyance of aging diva Tanya Sloane, because her leading man William Pratt has disappeared. A few extras are alternatively disappointed at not getting to catch a glimpse of Pratt and grateful for earning some money without actually having to do anything. While a heavy-breathing voyeur watches, one of the extras goes back to the set to look for her purse, only to get a flood light dropped on her head and her blood sopped up and put in a jar. At the shop the next day, Micki is excited to be providing set dressing for the film with presumably uncursed antiques. On set, the director is annoyed at the police slightly delaying filming, but Pratt is actually around today, along with his Very Important box, so no points for guessing who the killer is. Once filming actually starts, Pratt is smitten by the sight of Micki, which we can tell because we suddenly get slow-motion close-ups of her face as she walks by. Their meet-cute is interrupted by the news that a muck-racking journalist has made his way into Pratt’s trailer, asking slightly threatening questions about how someone can go from complete and total unknown to biggest box office star in the world in only a few years because this is apparently his first day as an entertainment reporter. Unsurprisingly, after making veiled threats at Pratt, the reporter is killed in his hotel room that night by a room service waiter, who leaves with some blood.
On set the next day, Pratt deliberately sabotages a scene with Tanya in order to get the director to replace her with Micki. While she’s getting made up, Ryan learns that Pratt does his own make-up, using his own personal make-up kit, which triggers his suspicions that something is up because we’re now in the second act and none of the regulars are looking for an antique yet. Micki’s scene goes off perfectly, but Tanya calls her agent who calls the studio, scuttling Pratt’s plan. Ryan, meanwhile, starts digging through the Manifest, much to Micki’s annoyance, especially when Ryan points out the rather high death rate associated with the movies Pratt works on, though after they argue Jack does manage to find a listing for a make-up case once owned by John Wilkes Booth, because historically there really haven’t been all that many famous evil actors. While Micki gets ready for her date, Tanya broods in her trailer about the lack of respect she gets, when Pratt interrupts her. He beats her to death with an award trophy, sopping up her blood and dripping it over his make-up case. As he applies the make up, we see that Pratt is actually badly deformed, but when he steps out of the trailer he’s handsome again.
Pratt treats Micki to an exotic lake-side dinner, and tells her about himself, notably his loneliness and his desire to make a version of “Beauty and the Beast” in which the Beast stays ugly, as well as various other lamentations about how people only care about you if you’re attractive. Jack checks up on the name of the man who bought the make-up case with a theatrical agent friend of his, and finds out that the man was a badly disfigured, but talented, actor who could only get bit parts in horror movies, who ended up in an asylum after killing the boyfriend of a costar he was infatuated with, using an ax, which caused her to fall off a cliff for reasons. Ryan searches Pratt’s trailer and finds out that the actress who fell off a cliff is a dead ringer for Micki, but he fails to find the make-up case before Pratt takes it with him on a trip with Micki to the same mountain cabin where the deaths occurred. Since Ryan got a love scene last week, it’s Micki’s turn now, and in the morning she gets to see Pratt’s make-up start to wear off, prompting a brief road-trip for him to kill a gas-station attendant in an ultimately failed attempt to recharge the make-up kit. Pratt’s mental state deteriorates to the point where he’s unable to tell the difference between Micki and Diane, the actress he was obsessed with, and he eventually shows his fully deformed face to Micki. Jack and Ryan arrive in the cabin in hopes of rescuing Micki, and instead discover that she has managed to calm the now completely delusional Pratt. And in our denoument we learn that Pratt has been returned to the asylum, and to reassure Micki that she did see good in him, Jack tells her that William Pratt was the real name of Boris Karloff.
Last week the show riffed on Phantom of the Opera, and it’s Beauty and Beast this time around, and overall this works out better. The bloody make-up case making someone handsome doesn’t really jive with the whole “John Wilkes Booth” angle, other than it’s a name people will recognize, but the nature of the curse is appropriate. A lot of good work is done by John Bolger, playing Pratt, who manages to make the character extremely sympathetic despite being a murderer.
A Very Robey 80s
A Very Beefcake Bolger