This episode opens in an idyllic Not Canadian suburb, so you know it’s going to be a twisted one. An elderly woman is berating a male relative as they work in the garden, leading him to kill her with a rake and feed her body into a mulcher (as you do, nine years before Fargo). Cut to: Curious Goods, where Jack has just opened a letter that arrived for Lewis Vendredei shortly after his death, in which an admirer sends Lewis a crisp $100 bill in thanks for sharing knowledge “from below.” They check the Manifest against the return address and find the name of a man that, sure enough, Lewis sold an antique mulcher to. Their attempts to investigate further are hindered by Mickey having an argument with her fiancee on the phone. (With a continuity nod that it’s been two months since the series began, which means that the episode’s have been occurring in something like real-time.) Cut to: a large estate, the elderly woman who owns it talking with her lawyer about the approval of the plans to turn the grounds into a park, while a gardener, played by Veronica Mars’ Dad, looks on in envy. Again cut to: an abandoned home, where Jack and Mickey learn that the man who bought the mulcher hasn’t been seen in months and Mickey is getting fed up with the futility of hunting down artifacts and how dealing with her uncle’s pact with Satan has inconvenienced her.
Back at the estate, VM’s Dad sees his boss using the mulcher, which the musical cues indicate that he finds himself eerily drawn to. And meanwhile, Jack and Mickey meet a neighbor of the man the mulcher was sold to, an accountant who was caught fleeing with bags full of money after his mother went missing and is now in a mental hospital. Meanwhile meanwhile, VM’s Dad is hurrying his boss off work early so that he can spend some more time with the mulcher, only to have his reverie interrupted by a homeless man who recognizes him as a guy who owes a lot of money to the mob. So VM’s Dad feeds him into the mulcher, which promptly starts spitting out money. Back at Curious Goods, Mickey’s fiancee Lloyd breaks into the shop to accuse Mickey of not taking their engagement seriously, which is a bit rich coming from the man who was lurking outside a woman’s window while she changed, but it apparently works as the next day Mickey is once again feeling angst for the pointlessness of their task. On the plus side, Mickey and Ryan have finally figured out that posing as antique dealers is their best method for tracking down antiques without arousing suspicion. Jack has more luck talking with the evil accountant, who explains how the mulcher works; the “yield” of the mulcher is based on the “riskiness” of the “investment” or, in other words, the richer the victim the more money it spits out. At the shop, Lloyd stops by again and Mickey tells him the truth about the shop, showing off several antiques recovered off-screen (and a Vita cameo), to the utterly predictable disbelief of Lloyd.
While Jack and Ryan search for the mulcher in the gardens, Lloyd managed to convince Mickey to return home with him, and VM’s Dad quickly works his way up the personal value chain with his eyes towards the elderly woman who owns the estate. Everyone criss-crosses through the garden in pursuit of one another, leading to our climax with VM’s Dad leaping into the mulcher to grab his suitcase full of money when Ryan tosses it in. In a moment of poetic justice, the mulcher spits out only blood and gristle because he wasn’t worth anything. And Mickey decides to stay after all and we find out that her name is actually spelled “Miki” which doesn’t make much sense as an abbreviation of “Michel” so we’re sticking with Mickey.
Despite some weird pacing issues here and there, this is a very strong episode. We get some good character moments from the regulars, good guest actors, and lots of little bits moving the overarching storyline forward. In particular, the little plot holes regarding Mickey’s fiancee are closed, and we get an explicit description of how antiques work in regards to the curses. We even get a, by tv standards, fairly gruesome and horrific antique, which is contrasted nicely with the gleeful attitude of everyone who uses it. It’s a bit of contrived “the evil is within man” bit, but the show doesn’t beat you over the head with it.
A Very Robey 80s
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
Something Out There, 1991, Ronald Kelly
That era of horror novels where they were scrambling to find scary animals to feature was a little weird.
We open on a gym, where a bunch of half-naked, well muscled young men are boxing and picking on the slighty oily janitor, Tommy. Our janitor wants to practice with the antique gloves of “Killer Kelsey” owned by the gym manager, who won’t let Tommy box because he served time for being the muscle in a protection racket, which is an oddly specific moral compass, and the manager’s mood is not improved when Tommy talks about the power he feels when he puts on the gloves. Later, Tommy sneaks the gloves out and puts them on, with this time his shadow somehow coming to life and going off to beat the gym manager to death.
Meanwhile, over at Curious Goods, Mickey has spontaneously remembered that she has a fiance and is creating a picture diary of how she spends her time. Before Mickey can take any photos of her lunch, Jack informs her and Ryan that the gym manager’s widow is looking to sell her husband’s boxing memorabilia, including the items that, to no one’s surprise, he bought from Uncle Lewis. At the gym, Mickey uses her camera to flirt with the boxers and check their gloves for Killer’s, with Tommy and Cornelious, the manager’s protege, taking up most of her time. Later that night, Tommy wins a boxing match, an unprecedented event, but one allowing Mickey to confirm that he has the gloves. And while that happens, one of the boxers who has been mocking Tommy earlier gets beaten to death in the parking lot. In case we hadn’t figured out just how the gloves worked yet.
Using her feminine wiles (mainly, by calling him), Mickey lures Tommy out of his apartment so that Jack and Ryan can break in and search it for the gloves. Mickey and Tommy make uncomfortable small talk, including Mickey claiming to have English and Irish ancestry even though all her known male relatives have French surnames and if anyone was going to make a deal with the devil to curse an entire antique shop it would be a French-Not-Canadian. Unfortunately, Mickey’s unwillingness to put out results in Tommy catching the boys in the act. Tommy puts on the gloves to beat Ryan while his shadow attacks Mickey, who discovers that the flash on her camera hurts the shadow/Tommy long enough for everyone to get away.
Our heroes stumble their way into getting Cornelius to agree to a match with Tommy, so that they can disable the shadow and take the gloves, with Jack baiting Tommy into attacking him with the shadows. Using a hand held floodlamp and car headlights, Jack and Mickey are able to dissipate the shadow, causing Tommy to lose and giving Ryan an opening to grab the gloves. Back at the shop, our usual quipy denoument is stalled, partly because we still have ten minutes in this episode left to go, but mostly because Mickey is having an existential crisis about the fact that a murderer is going to go unpunished because the police don’t believe in magic. Luckily, sort of, Tommy breaks in to the shop and threatens to kill Mickey unless they give the glove backs, which prompts Ryan to wear them to beat Tommy into a coma.
Overall, this was a good episode, with some nice character moments for Mickey in particular. Robey’s…interesting…acting style has been commented on before, but in all honesty, for an inexperienced actress she rises to the occasion when given something to actually do in the course of a story other than be “the girl character.” The antique this time around is visually interesting and makes good use of the show’s fairly limited budget, so we can forgive the horribly punny and on-the-nose episode title. Nothing significant about the nature of the antiques is gleaned this time, though, other than a reiteration of the notion that they won’t work for just anybody. Which, of course, makes the fact that they worked for Ryan somewhat intriguing.
A Very Robey 80s
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
The Portent, 1982 ed., Marilyn Harris
“Look out, Martha, that Halloween decoration from the Land’s End catalog is comin’ for us!”
Given the premise of the series, it was more or less inevitable that we’d get a “Jack the Ripper” themed episode.
In a Not Canadian alley-way, a masked man distracts a flower-seller before slitting his throat with an antique scalpel. When a crowd of witnesses gather, the killer runs away, cutting through steel bars with said scalpel to do so. And then we cut to Jack, reading about a scalpel in the manifest, prompted by the eyewitness reports. Mickey, while giving Jack and Ryan one of the most epic case of side-eye in television history, points out that Uncle Lewis noted that the scalpel belonged to Jack the Ripper. Visiting the “completely legitimate” knife store owner who purchased the scalpel, and employing the simple stratagem of “lying”, our trio learns that the scalpel was sold on to Doctor Howlett, a famous surgeon noted for curing utterly hopeless cases.
Meanwhile, Doctor Howlett has just taken up residency at a local hospital stinging from recent bad press, and is being grossly overpaid to turn that reputation around. Howlett is even now working under his former instructor, who distinctly remembers what an absolutely terrible and incompetent student he was. As a bonus he’s even being stalked by a woman who believes Howlett killed her daughter, and the gang interrupts her before she can kill him, because that would leave us with thirty minutes still to fill. (Though, apparently in Not Canada, if a person pulls a gun in a hospital they are immediately locked in a psychiatric ward instead of, you know, being held or questioned by the police.) While everyone sneaks past one another, Jack works out that Howlett has killed dozens of people everywhere he’s gone and that somehow killing people with the scalpel is what allows it to heal people, giving us our first use of the “up side/down side” descriptions of the antiques. A chase through the abandoned wing of the hospital (because of course there is one) ensues, ending with Jack falling down an elevator shaft.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that only Howlett has the skill to save Jack from the injuries that Howlett inflicted on him. Howlett goes out to search for a victim, unsuccessfully, and Ryan manages to lift the scalpel from him when he returns to the hospital, only to give it back when Mickey points out that he’s about to operate on Jack. Howlett eventually goes through with the operation, but forbids anyone else from providing post-surgery care in a not at all ominous manner. Howlett goes to kill Jack, only to be interrupted by the Angry Mother of a previous victim before being chased through hallways by Ryan and Mickey, culminating in Mickey administering an electrocution via defibrillation device which, somehow, results in Howlett stabbing himself with the scalpel.
Despite the promise of the premise, this is actually one of the weaker episodes. The story is hindered by taking place almost entirely on the same couple of hospital hallway sets, and the utter hamminess of the villain. The one bright spot is that the antique in question actually move the meta-story along quite a bit, as it’s starting to be expressly articulated that the antiques work on the “up side/down side” system. We’ve seen hints of that before, but this is the first time it’s really made clear that you have to do something bad as a trade off for whatever benefit the antique provides.
A Very Robey 80s