In a seedy bar in Not Canada, pool hustler Danny (played by Luis Ferreira, last seen at the start of the season), is having a bad night and losing badly, much to the annoyance of his fiancee, bar waitress Jennifer. When Danny excuses himself to the bathroom between sets, another waitress is stabbed by a pool cue in the back room. And when Danny comes back, he’s winning again. So, yeah, nice set up for object and nature of curse right there. Jennifer, it turns out, is pretty obsessive about Danny, defending him from her sister’s accusations of being a deadbeat, having their dress fitted regularly despite no wedding date being set, but oddly reluctant to be honest about her very obvious pregnancy. Over at the shop, Jack and Ryan are preparing to leave on a search for a pair of cursed snow shoes, leaving Micki to deal with the pursed pool cue that Ryan has sent his friend Johnny looking for. That night, after Danny makes it into the semi-finals of the Big Pool Tournament, Johnny calls up Micki and tells her about the cue, meeting her at the bar hosting the event. An attempt by Johnny to steal the cue stick gets him tossed out and roughed up, but barely slows his awkward flirting with Micki.

After the tournament, Jennifer is getting chewed out about how unreliable Danny is by Gil, Danny’s alleged best friend, when she stabs him with the pool cue. Micki, meanwhile, goes undercover at the bar as a waitress in order to get her own shot at the stick. She doesn’t get any closer to the pool cue than Johnny did, and Danny, to celebrate, blows off his fiancee to go home with a random woman at the bar. After blowing off more of Johnny’s flirtation attempts, Micki interrogates as subtly as she’s capable of, which is not very, Jennifer about where Danny got the pool cue. Micki just narrowly avoids being killed by Jennifer when Johnny shows up. Micki chews him out about blowing her last chance to get the cue, so he breaks into the bar after it’s closed, finding the bodies of Jennifer’s victims in the process. He brings every pool cue in the bar to Micki, demanding an explanation after she smashes all of them, and she tells him about the curse, realizing as she does so that Jennifer must be the one using the cue.

Micki and Johnny break into Jennifer’s apartment, who is sliding further into insanity, but find no sign of her or the pool cue on the day of the tournament. Meanwhile, Jennifer has gone to surprise Danny before the start and finds him in bed with her sister. So Jennifer kills her sister and explains to Danny about how she’s been using the pool cue to get him to win, and threatens him into marrying her right after the tournament. At the tournament, Danny advances to the final round, and during his practice shot session beforehand the magic wears off. At first he seems inclined to let it go, but Jennifer’s boss threatens to split the hefty winnings he’s made betting on Danny’s games, so he goes next door to the lavish wedding reception that Jennifer has prepared in only a few hours. She takes the pool cue from him and plans to take another victim when Johnny interrupts, and in the scuffle Danny takes the cue and appears to beat Jennifer to death. During the match, though, she appears and stabs him to death with a cake server. Micki gets the pool cue in the confusion and Johnny volunteers himself as the fourth musketeer.

A fairly good episode, for the most part. The twist with the obvious suspect not being the actual killer is nice, but the reveal happens too quickly. The cursed object is the standard tit-for-tat model, though the person benefiting from the curse not being the one fulfilling the terms is a variation on the pattern we haven’t really seen before. The main thrust of the episode is the introduction of Johnny Ventura, played by Steve Monarque (also star of), as another person in on the secret. I wonder how much of the episode was rewritten in response to Monarque’s casting, and how much the imminent departure of one of the regular cast was known at the time of the writing, because there’s a disconnect between Johnny as we see him and Johnny as he’s written. Johnny, as written, is clearly meant to be a much younger character, possibly a man in his late teens, and instead we’re shown a man in his mid-twenties.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Doctor and The Enterprise, 1989, Jean Airey
I was fourteen when I bought this. That’s really all you need to know.

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We open this time with a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes. In the first, handsome American Calvin is charming a prostitute (played by Jill Hennessey in the first of many bit parts in this series for her) in Buenos Aires with a snowglobe, before taking him up to his room to strangle her, and later be executed in an apparently extra-legal factions while a voice tells him he is needed elsewhere. Then, in Nigeria, missionary Brother Antonio is burnt alive after he tries to rape a woman, with again a voice saying he is needed. And in Miami, Nurse Mya commits suicide after watching coverage of her recent conviction for administering lethal injections to terminal patients, with, yes, a voice saying she is needed. And then all three folks are reunited in what is apparently Hell, with the voice being apparently the devil telling them that they need to stop three people connected to their tasks who are interfering with evil satanic plans by collecting cursed objects.

So we cut to the shop, where Micki has just received a familiar looking snowglobe in the mail. Turns out it’s of the Magic Castle, a tourist trap from where Micki grew up, and it was sent by Calvin, instantly appearing and apparently yet another ex boyfriend of Micki’s. Calvin persuades Micki to spend the weekend with him at Quiet Springs Lodge, which the arrive at after passing through a freak snowstorm, to discover the place looks exactly like the Magic Castle. Which raises no alarm bells whatsoever for the woman who makes her living neutralizing cursed antiques. Back at the shop, Brother Antonio, who turns out to be an old friend of Jack’s, shows up to whisk him away to a weekend retreat at a monastery. Ryan tries to stop Jack from going because he at least can recognize when things are too conveniently coincidental, although to his credit, Jack is a bit suspicious of the mysterious snowstorm and the monastery looking familiar. And then Mya, Ryan’s ex, shows up at the shop, though he’s too suspicious of the circumstances to go off with her. While Calvin attempts to seduce Micki and Antonio dodges Jack’s questions about the curiously empty monastery, Ryan makes some research calls.

While Ryan investigates, Jack is disturbed by the fact that he can hear Micki and Calvin talking somewhere in the monastery. Ryan calls Micki’s former fiancee and finds out about Calvin and a whole string of murders he committed, and his execution, while Jack’s search leads him to a television that shows him what is happening with Micki. With the gig up, Antonio reveals the whole plot to Jack; that Satan has decided to make Micki the mother of his child unless Jack surrenders his soul. Mya gets chewed out by Satan for failing to distract Ryan, and Jack’s search for an escape leads him to the realization that they’re all actually inside the snow globe, because “cursed antiques” is the whole gimmick for the show after all. Mya confesses everything to Ryan, somewhat late, as he’s found proof that all of the old friends visiting are actually dead, including her. Mya leads Ryan into the snowglobe, for which she’s punished by dying again, and Ryan meets up with Jack, though both are unable to actually make Micki see or hear them. As Micki finds herself in Hell’s Boudoir, Jack and Ryan steal Calvin’s car and drive it into the glass of the snowglobe, which knocks it off the table in the shop, shattering it, and freeing the gang.

While it’s nice to get an episode focused entirely on the main characters for a change, they spend the bulk of it on their own, and not really working together. It’s a change of pace, but the dynamic for the characters is always stronger as a group. The antique is a bit of a dodge, too, as it’s pretty much just a Satanic implement and not necessarily one of the objects cursed by Lewis Vendredei. That it’s broken in the end backs that up, but it feels incomplete to just randomly introduce another evil thing without tying it more strongly back into the show’s central premise. It’s also curious that the writers go to circuitous lengths to avoid using words like “devil” or “Satan” in the story, as it’s not a noun they’ve shied away from before.

A Very Robey 80s

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The Nancy Drew Files Case 18: Circle of Evil, 1987, Carolyn Keene
The 80s were…a “you kinda had to be there” decade…

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TRIGGER WARNING: this episode deals with some potentially ugly portrayals of transgender individuals

This episode opens with Howard, a homely record store clerk (played by Martin Neufeld, who we previously saw in The Great Montarro), has turned his home into an obsessive shrine for Angelica, a pop singer played by Vanity, though mostly all we will hear of her output is a cover of Nature Boy. The equally obsessive display he has created at work impresses his boss, as it means the advance woman from the record company might arrange an in-store appearance, but it does rather unnerve the actual paying customers. On his way home from work, he witnesses a smash-and-grab at a storefront, and a, well, mesmer’s bauble the thieves drop. When another passerby accosts him and accuses him of the robbery, Howard tells the man to “drop dead”, which he promptly does. At home, the bauble apparently speaks to him telepathically, and clears up his acne, but is unresponsive when he asks it to make him handsome. And thus Howard leans the mechanism of the curse.

At the shop Ryan is excited about the tickets he’s received to Angelica’s upcoming concert, because Ryan’s musical tastes are at complete odds with his “cool nerd” personality, while Jack has matched a report of stolen goods to an item in the Manifest, the actual bauble of Mesmer. At the record store, Howard’s increasingly inappropriate questions about Angelica disturb the advance woman, so he hypnotizes her into walking out into traffic so that he can steal her backstage pass and take over her position in the tour. He then asks the bauble to make him “into someone she’ll notice,” which appears to mostly consist of taking off the latex around his nose, adding some powder, and perming his awful hair instead of cutting it the hell off. Angelica’s manager, Roger, takes an instant dislike to Howard when he shows up backstage, and Howard isn’t particularly happy that he’s low-man in the hierarchy. So he goes and hides in her dressing room while she’s out signing autographs and spies on her as she undresses. Meanwhile, Ryan and Micki’s investigation leads them to learn that Howard was the eye-witness to the robbery, and the only piece unrecovered is the bauble, and so start tracking him down. When they do, they both note his obsession with Angelica, that people keep dying around him, and that, reports to the contrary, he’s not ugly at all. And for once, they’re ahead of the plot, and realize that he almost certainly has the bauble. While they decide to stake out Angelica, Howard goes to Roger’s hotel room and hypnotizes him into slitting his throat, and then wishes to be Angelica’s lover.

Back at the shop, Jack gives more backstory on the bauble, mostly what we’ve already been shown or had explained to us earlier, with the crucial bit of new information being that you only get to keep whatever the bauble has given you as long as you keep the bauble with you. While Micki and Ryan try to get backstage to see Angelica, stymied by the guards who don’t understand that there are evil magic objects in play, Howard brings the love-spelled Angelica back to his shrine, where she is suitably impressed thanks to said spell. When it comes time to actually follow through with the sex, Howard is reluctant, and comes to the realization that he doesn’t want her, he wants to be her. And so he sort of…merges into her. Micki and Ryan break into Howard’s apartment too late and find only goo on the floor, and rush back to the club to find him. During the performance at the club, which is being broadcast worldwide, Micki notices that the person they think is Angelica is wearing the bauble, and so they snatch it from her when she approaches the audience. This causes Angelica to revert back to Howard, to screams of horror from the audience, leading to Howard’s death when he staggers into some pyrotechnics.

So there’s a long history of portraying transgender people as villains, and it’s pretty clear that the writers of this episode were running with that. You could argue that saving the reveal that what Howard really wants is to be a glamorous woman for a third act twist is an improvement on the usual way the trope plays out, but you could also argue that it just makes it more salacious that way. Even Jack’s “common sense” summation at the end of the episode is ambiguous as to what the “fantasy” that “twisted” Howard was. For 1989, though, while this was pretty far from progressive, it feels not as terrible as most of the portrayals of transgender people I remember. Apart from those issues, this is not a strong episode anyway. Most of the story is on the guest cast, who generally are not very engaging actors. The antique this time is also extremely straightforward, falling into the tit-for-tat of the more generic curses.

A Very Robey 80s

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