Our cold open this week is a man racing through traffic, desperate to get to an ear, nose, and throat specialist while his head throbs in a way very reminiscent of any number of “head about to explode” scenes from horror films. When he gets to the doctor, he pulls out his hearing aid, resembling a long, worm-like device, before expiring.
At the shop, Micki and Jack are preparing to attend an estate sale auction, hoping to recover several items that had been purchased by an investment banker, leaving Johnny to mind the shop and fill his time writing horror stories based on tabloid articles, as he has apparently been expressly forbidden to write anything based on items in the Vault. One of the stories, curiously, is about a banker whose head exploded in a doctor’s office. Meanwhile, at a dive bar, Adam (played by Wayne Best who appeared previously) and his partner Phil are doing a pretty typical mind-reader act, which is starting to fall apart as Adam is very clearly losing his hearing and thus missing he cues. Phil threatens to fire Adam unless he gets a hearing aid, and so he goes to the very same doctor from our opening, where he feels strangely drawn to a particular device when instructed to pick one out, probably because it’s literally throbbing. He pockets it and puts it in before the next show, at which a talent scout, Randi, for a major late-night talk show is scheduled to attend. The routine bombs, though, when Adam realizes that he can hear the thoughts of everyone in the audience, which is fairly distracting when you’re trying to listen to a coded hint. When he picks out a murderer in the audience, though, the talent scout decides she’s very interested in him and his “rugged” looks.
Unfortunately for Adam, this is one of those “tit for tat” cursed objects, and he immediately starts to feel a crushing pain in his head, so he stumbles out of the bar and into the street. He makes his way back to the doctor’s office, just as Johnny makes the connection between the tabloid story he read and the one item that was missing from the estate sale Micki and Jack went to. Adam projects the overload of thoughts into the doctor, killing him, while Jack hears the struggle between the two over the phone. The gang rushes over to find the doctor’s body, and Adam heads over to Randi’s apartment to put the moves on her. The gang starts tracking down the doctor’s patients, and the next morning Jack visits Phil, who has just received a phone call from Adam quitting, since, well, he’s now booked on the talk show as a solo thanks to last night’s tête-à-tête. Phil, rapidly disheveling attends the show, as do Micki and Johnny, who naturally “overhears” their interest in his hearing aid. Micki decides to use that to her advantage, and use herself as bait to catch Adam so they can get the hearing aid back. This goes about as well as the heroes plans ever do, and Micki barely escapes, so Adam is forced to release the thoughts into Phil, and is caught in the act by Randi, who agrees to keep quiet about it to save her career.
At the studio the next day, Adam meets a network executive and learns that they’re interested in having him be a variety show host, in case you were still under the impression that this show was meant to take place in America. The gang, meanwhile, are trying to discover some weakness of Adam’s that can be exploited, before the power of the hearing aid leads him to aspire to more than just local television stardom, but all they find is Phil’s body. They head to the studio to try and stop Adam, and get locked into a green room by Randi for their efforts. Randi intends to let Adam use them to dump the voices in his head, but the power will only work if he does it to one person (apparently) so he kills her instead. Jack jimmy opens the door and confronts Adam on the stage, challenging him to “prove” he’s really psychic by removing the hearing aid, since it could be used to have an assistant feed him answers from off-stage. This convinces the entire audience that Adam is a fake, and that many thoughts hitting him at once overwhelms him and, well, makes his head explode. Giving our heroes a chance to grab the hearing aid and skedaddle.
Despite the groan-inducing title, this is a pretty good episode. The choice of antique is a bit strange, but at this point we can probably cut the writer’s some slack, having already gone through a pretty good list of things you would already expect to find in an antique store. It’s a pretty standard, by the show’s terms, curse as well; it’s a thematically appropriate power and you have to kill to maintain it or it turns back on you. Clearly this was cursed during one of those periods when Lewis Vendredei was feeling a bit lazy. The guest cast does a good job, and the balance between them and the regulars is good, with the regulars given more to do than just stand around and watch things happening.
A Very Robey 80s
Comments Off on Friday the 13th: Stick It In Your Ear
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
Little Fuzzy, 1984 ed., H. Beam Piper
The “golden age of science-fiction” the more retrograde fans yearn for never actually existed. Even the stories about brave white explorers settling aliens planets have as their moral “accept the humanity of people who don’t look like you.”
Comments Off on Paperback Book Club
Our cold open this episode is somewhat rough, and might merit a trigger warning for sexual violence.
We open in an attractive park at night, with romantic lighting throughout, with various couples out on a date, including Marcus, a popular boy at high school, and Rachel, a classmate who wants to be a figure skater. Marcus talks her into a race through the woods, an alleged shortcut to the concert they’re going to attend, and stops in a clearing, where he makes it very clear that he would rather have sex. She declines, and then three other boys show up and hold her down while Marcus takes out a knife and orders her to comply, with only one of the boys, Scott, showing any indication that he doesn’t want to be there. Rachel manages to struggle away and run, only to be hit by a car and badly mangled by it in her attempt to escape.
A year later we find Rachel, now quadriplegic, being urged by her mother to “move on with her life” instead of wallowing in her anger. The two go to a yard sale, and while her mother is distracted, a stock Sinister Old Man gives Rachel an antique wheel-chair, claiming that it cured him when he was paralyzed. Meanwhile, at the shop, Micki and Johnny have two relatively easy retrievals scheduled, an umbrella and a wheel-chair, when Micki receives a telegram from Jack telling her that he’s tracked down the Shard of Medusa (previously) and needs her help, leaving Johnny to put away the just recovered umbrella and find the wheel-chair on his own. He arrives at the previous owner’s house just too late to recover it, as Rachel has had her mother set it up in her room and place her in it so that she can watch the world out her window. While doing so, Rachel leaves her body in an apparent bit of astral projection (possibly, her degree of corporealness is never made entirely clear), and goes to hunt down the boys who assaulted her, finding them breaking into the school to steal tests. She corners one of the boys in the chem lab, scaring him into knocking over a shelf of chemicals, which gruesomely burn him to death. As she runs away, she is cornered by the Sinister Old Man, who tells her, in essence, to keep killing in order to let the chair heal her, and when she returns to her body, she discovers that she can move her fingers again.
The next day, Johnny tracks down Rachel, who is refusing her mother’s request to have the doctor investigate her miraculous recover, and speaks to her mother about possibly buying back the wheel-chair. Her mother, despite her obvious unease over Rachel’s obsession with the chair, refuses, so Johnny goes to the local high-school to get more information on Rachel, further blurring the question of how old Johnny is supposed to be since no one bats an eye at this grown man asking questions about a teenage girl. In any case, Scott tells Johnny the whole story about Rachel’s accident and Marcus masterminding the rape attempt, and that Rachel appears to be somehow getting back at them now, to absolutely no sympathy for their plight from Johnny. Scott next meets up with Marcus, and says he wants to go to the police in the hopes it will save them from Rachel, but Marcus threatens to kill Scott if he tries, and reminds them that “it’s our word against hers” which I suppose answers the question of how the investigation into Rachel’s injury went. Johnny tracks down the third remaining boy, Ed, and arrives just in time to see Rachel push him off the roof of the building. When she returns home, she has movement in her arms and neck again, and outside her house the Sinister Old Man smiles approvingly.
Later that night, Marcus breaks into Rachel’s house and threatens her unless she stops whatever is causing his friends to die. Johnny shows up, roughs him up, and scares him off, before moving to take the wheel-chair himself. Rachel begs him not to, refusing to listen to his protestations that the chair is evil and costing her her soul, while she insists that the boys deserve to die for what they did to her. The Sinister Old Man stops Johnny from leaving the house, and warns him that Marcus will return, so if Johnny takes the chair she’ll have no way to defend herself, and in any case, it’s not up to Johnny to decide who lives, who dies, and if Rachel should risk her soul in the first place. Reluctantly, Johnny lets the Sinister Old Man take the chair back to Rachel. While Johnny is, presumably, driving home, Scott makes his way to Curious Goods, where he’s has been found by Rachel, who wasted no time projecting herself out again. Rachel tricks Scott into thinking they’re going to have sex, and then drops the shop’s chandelier lamp onto him, killing him, with Johnny again arriving too late to do more than witness Rachel escaping. At her home, Rachel’s mother demands an explanation for what’s going on, and when told that Rachel is using the chair to heal herself by killing, pulls her away from the chair. Rachel attempts to stab her mother with the knife Marcus left behind when he broke in. Marcus, who was hiding in the house again, knocks Rachel’s mother out and stalks toward Rachel, who is crawling for the chair. The two struggle back and forth, and in the end Rachel pulls Marcus down the stairs, which kills both of them. Johnny takes the chair back to the shop, where the Sinister Old Man attempts to buy it back from him, gloating that no matter what Johnny does evil will always win, laughing as he leaves while Johnny fruitlessly attempts to destroy the chair.
Usually when the show attempts a sympathetic villain, one whose use of the cursed antique could maybe be seen as justified, it doesn’t really work. This episode mostly avoids that problem by very strongly implying that the Sinister Old Man is the real villain of the piece, manipulating Rachel into using the chair and tricking Johnny into doubting himself and the necessity of containing the cursed objects. The episode is also well balanced between the guest cast and Steven Monarque, and there’s a lot of good character development for Johnny now that he’s being asked to carry the story on his own. The rape elements of the story are mostly handled tastefully, with the creative limits of 80s syndicated tv probably deserving the bulk of the credit, since at multiple points it seems like the show creator’s really want to do a riff on I Spit On Your Grave and other rape-revenge films.
A Very Robey 80s
Comments Off on Friday the 13th: Crippled Inside
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1987 Signet ed., William Shakespeare
The best dirty jokes are the one’s people don’t realize are dirty anymore.
Comments Off on Paperback Book Club
Cold opens! We have cold opens now! In this one, a family of monster hunters, two brothers in the field, Dad and Sis in the tracking van, are closing in on a demon when it gets the jump on the younger of the brothers and impales him on a handy piece of farm equipment.
Over at the shop, while a handy readout in the corner counts down to midnight, Micki reassures Jack that the power surges are a result of the oncoming storm and nothing that requires a late-night electrician visit, though frankly his anxiety seems more motivated by the fact that, with Ryan deaged he’s now legally co-owner with Micki. There’s also a mysterious package from a museum containing an Enochian Dagger, used by demon worshipers, which wasn’t bought from Lewis Vendredei but donated in his name several months ago. We then cut back to our monster hunters, who flashback to some time in the past when they rescued Sis from…a demon worshiping cult. Sis and her tracking equipment have located a much more powerful source of negative energy than the demon, somewhere in the heart of the city, while Bro notes that everytime they get close to this monster, Sis somehow manages to lose track of it. But Dad decides to go to the city because the monster is probably headed there. Because sure. Also, there is technology to track evil and the heroes don’t use it?
At the shop, Micki and Jack are putting the dagger away, while Jack expositions the nature of demon worship and summoning to Micki, when Jack cuts his hand in the dark and both note that the blood drops on the floor drain away oddly. So naturally they call Johnny to come help. Not for his expertise, but because there’s probably going to be some heavy lifting involved. Our monster hunters meanwhile, have tracked the demon to an abandoned farm, in between flashbacks to that time they killed a bunch of people and the time Sis talked Dad into tracking down the demon. When Johnny gets to the shop, they pull up the slab on the floor of the Vault and find an entire demonic temple in the sub-basement, with tunnels leading into the sewer system. Jack finds the demonic contracts, and also realizes that Lewis Vendredei must have built the vault to contain demons that escaped, in case anyone has been mulling over that loose plot point for two seasons. Oh, and the demon kills Bro over at the farmhouse.
Micki notices, while trying to read the demonic contracts, that one appears to be dated with “today’s” date, which means, according to Jack, that tonight at midnight is when the contract is due, which means that both the demon and person it’s contracted with will be heading back to the temple tonight. Jack also figures out that the demon, Ahriman, has been tasked with killing the enemies of the cult that summoned him, and if he kills them all before the contract runs out, the cult members killed by the monster hunters will be resurrected. Just as the gang starts to realize that they need to set a trap for the demon and it’s summoner, Dad and Sis show up and immediately presume, with some nudging from Sis, that Jack, Micki and Johnny are the remaining demon cultists. Our heroes get locked into the temple, while the demon hunters go to prepare, and Johnny makes a plan to break back into the vault and use the items there to defend themselves and stop the demon, which Jack objects to because evil. While they break out anyway, and Dad wires up the shop with explosives, Sis goes upstairs, lets the demon in and reveals the mark which indicates that she’s the one who summoned it, surprising no one. Dad barely survives an encounter with the demon, and the gang subdue Sis and discover her mark, which, when everyone is locked into the vault, prompts Sis to finally confess her plan, which somehow is still not enough for Dad to get a clue. After a grenade mishap, Johnny struggles with the demon and Dad stabs Sis with the Enochian Dagger in the confusion, ending the contract and sending the demon back to hell via a convenient pit. And now the shop has a huge, demon-warded and sealed sub-basement for storing more antiques.
After the big, game-changing, extra-length opener to the season, I’m not sure if I like coming back to an episode that bucks the format a bit. The antique, the Enochian Dagger, is a bit of a cheat, since the real menace is the demon summoned at some unspecified point in the past, with the Dagger acting mostly as a deus ex machina for the resolution. It is nice when the show opens itself up to the suggestion of a supernatural reality outside the antiques, but we then spend a good chunk of the episode following the demon hunters around, and frankly they’re not interesting or well developed characters. The only notable thing about them is that Sis is a traitor, and that’s pretty baldy telegraphed right at the start. The main cast isn’t given much to do, either, but stand around the shop and read papers and exposition at each other.
A Very Robey 80s
Comments Off on Friday the 13th: Demon Hunter