Hey, it’s another episode revolving around child actors! So, deep breath and we’ll get through it.
We open on a suburb, and a pan in on the house of That Neighbor, the one with garbage bags in their yard and trash on their porch, while we hear a woman screaming at and hitting some children from inside. The kids, Mike and Janine (played by the kids off Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Mrs. Doubtfire, leave their house to approach a neighbor boy bashing his GI Joes and Transformers together, and affect disinterest in his toys because they’ve got a playhouse. They lure the boy into the Amityville looking place, which somewhat underwhelms him, and promise him that the playhouse will give him whatever he wants, if he just waits it out a bit. We see some winds and swirling lights, and Mike and Janine leave the playhouse, alone, while the boy’s mother starts to wander the streets calling for him.
That night at the shop, Micki is busy watching the news and feeling sad when she sees a report on the ninth child to go missing from the neighborhood we were just shown, and I’m all for free range parenting, but when eight other kids have already gone missing, maybe you don’t let your kids play in the front yard unsupervised. The gang makes plans for which artifacts they’re going to track down the next day, and Ryan pulls the “haunted evil playhouse of evil” straw. The next day the gang heads over to the suburbs to find the playhouse, while Mike and Janine find themselves locked out, and determine that it’s easier to find another kid to feed to it instead of reporting their abusive, negligent mother to Not Canadian CPS. They lure two little girls to the playhouse, and we finally get to see the place in action. And it’s basically a cleared out FAO Schwartz as designed by Escher, with a little bit of “omnipotent cosmic villain ala Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who” thrown in for good measure. And the kids play nicely for a bit, until the playhouse gets hungry and Mike and Janine begin ritually chanting “we hate you” and the little girls get sucked into a featureless white void.
Our heroes are starting to wonder if maybe there’s a link between children disappearing and an evil haunted cursed playhouse in the neighborhood, but their only lead wants $5000 to tell them where the playhouse is (or $7,000 in modern real money). The decision to go door-to-door and ask grieving parents about missing kids doesn’t do much to help, either. In the meantime, Mike and Janine are in a panic as their mother has decided to sell the playhouse back to her dirtbag ex-boyfriend, just as Ryan and Micki stumble upon the playhouse and hide inside to escape detection. And get sucked into Escherland. Where the kids tie them up and torment them with clowns and people in mascot suits, taking only a brief break to frame their mother’s scumbag ex for the child abductions. Jack finds his way into the playhouse, just in time for it to get hungry again. The kids attempt to feed Micki and Ryan to the house, but it refuses to eat them because they’re not children, and so starts to suck Janine into the featureless white void instead. At which point we discover that the playhouse is vulnerable to the Care Bear Stare, and Mike and Janine begin chanting “we care about you” to bring all the children eaten by the house back. And the police are there to watch all the missing children walk out of the playhouse that they just confirmed was empty seconds ago. And Mike and Janine are taken away by CPS and an innocent man is left in jail.
This is one of those episodes where ambition outstripped execution. Going back to the “evil child” well was a nice change of pace, even if in the end the show didn’t have the courage to stick with the kids being evil or the missing children being killed/removed from reality/made non-existent. You can tell some attempts at arresting visuals also went into the design of the world inside the playhouse, although again it appears that budget constraints meant that things had to be suggested rather than shown. The antique itself is also one of the more compelling ones, given that it operates with some degree of intelligence and that, within the specific context of its world, it’s easily the most powerful of the cursed objects. Though it’s size does raise some questions about how, exactly, it’s going to fit in the vault.
A Very Robey 80s
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At a road-side stand in rural Not Canada, a beekeeper/honey seller named McCabe (played by genre stalwart Art Hindle) decides to, instead of selling some honey to the beardy truck driver who stopped to hit on him, to dribble some honey over him and unleash killer bees on him. That night at his apiary, he straps an old man into the stocks and unleashes more killer bees on him, which magically transform him into the beardy guy who died earlier. So we’re starting right off with the explicit mechanics of the curse, the who, and the why (making men young for money). The next day Micki drives out to the country in search of a “transport hive” bought by one Duane Purdy, only to have his shot-gun wielding brother drive her off insisting that he’s dead. Jack is particularly anxious about this hive because the complete lack of records on it means he has no clue what it does.
Back in the big city, Norman Hendricks gets the double whammy of learning that his tumor is inoperable as well as a lay-off (with cancelled pension) from his asshole yuppie new boss, Marr. Jack and Ryan’s research seems to hit a dead end, though, when they learn that only Duane Purdy died from bee-stings, though there do seem to be an awful lot of accidental deaths in his town in the year since. Norman, meanwhile, is accosted by the beardy fellow, who introduces himself as his allegedly dead friend Ben Landis, before promising to introduce Norman to the man who can make him young again, too. Norman considers the deal, because that is apparently easier than telling his wife he got laid off and only has six months to live, even though the price is making the McCabe the beneficiary of his estate. And while he’s thinking, his boss is stung to death by bees, and Ben is told that he has to produce a body to take Norman’s place, with the end result being Norman being turned into Marr. The next day, Jack is interviewing our friendly local bee-keeper, when a rapidly aging Landis shows up demanding honey, and Jack catches on.
Based on ancient myths about honey making people young again, the gang keeps investigating. Norman/Marr however is finding it hard to adjust to his new life, and his efforts to comfort his semi-widow are only uncomfortable and awkward. Unsurprisingly, when Ryan and Micki break in to the apiary they narrowly escape being stung to death, with the only positive outcome being Jack getting the chance to investigate a few dead bees and learning that they are vampire bees that don’t die when they sting and make honey out of blood. Because “bees that kill to make people young” was too simple an explanation, apparently. Norman is trying to navigate around the fact that he’s left his wife with nothing when McCabe arrives and essentially blackmails him into not only killing someone so that he’ll have a body handy for his next client, but also to use Marr’s contacts and business associates to bring him wealthier customers, and later kidnaps Norman/Marr’s widow for some extra leverage. Meanwhile the gang goes to get the story out of Purdy’s brother, who clues them in that McCabe is Purdy and has been covering up the bee deaths. Events culminate with all the players at the apiary that night, when efforts to slow down McCabe by stealing his blood honey lead to the rescue of Norman’s wife and McCabe/Purdy getting doused in honey and being stung to death himself. And things are restored to normal, except for the vampire bees now roaming the countryside.
This is a fairly good episode, mostly for the direction and tone. The main cast isn’t given much to do, and the bulk of the story rests on the guest actors, who generally put in good performances that are suitably sympathetic or menacing, as required. There’s a strong rural gothic feeling to the whole thing, with the symmetry of the apiary set off nicely in shots by blue smoky lights illuminating them. The antique is one of the odder ones, and in the end you mostly have to take a “sure, why not” attitude to its method of operation since the mystical/historical connection is so tenuous, and the “getting stung helps you” not really following from the death-by-stinging methods.
A Very Robey 80s
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We open on a not-so-idyllic flashback to two young Not-Canadian boys, Mikey and Deacon, playing baseball on opposing teams. Deacon is a much better player than Mikey, much to the annoyance of Mikey’s terrible father. But we then cut to a scene in the now of a biker being run down by a classic muscle car, all so that the driver can mop up some blood with a blank key. And we then cut again to a drag race, where Mikey is challenging one of many lieutenants in his bid to race against Deacon. Mikey wins, thanks to his use of the blank key, so we’re just jumping right into the who, how and why this week. The next day at the shop, Mikey’s father Dominic comes by looking for a gift for his son’s birthday, which the gang finds somewhat surprising until Dominic mentions how much time Mikey used to spend with Lewis. When nothing shows up in the manifest, they go to check out some drag races, where they learn nothing because this scene is only here to set up Mikey’s next victim, the guy who he beat in a race last night. Oh, and we get a touching scene between father and son where we learn that Dominic gave Mikey the blank key, not Lewis.
Mikey wins his next race, prompting accusations of cheating from Deacon’s next lieutenant, since he did it in a car that never won before, but the win impresses him enough to offer Mikey a place in his crew, which Mikey rejects because Deacon is only a stand-in for his dysfunctional relationship with his father. And at the shop, Jack finds a receipt from Lewis for a silver chain that was given to Mikey. Chatting with Dominic leads to no clues, so Ryan and Micki go to check out more drag races, and learn thant Mikey has been driving cars belonging to people who recently died in hit-and-run accidents to the suspicion of no one, apparently. Trailing Mikey, the pair just miss catching him kill another driver, but they do manage to accidentally run him off the road after he catches on that they’re following. But they do get to Mikey in time to see a gaping chest wound suck in the key and chain.
At the hospital, the doctor tells the three random strangers not related to the patient because apparently medical privacy laws are different in Not Canada that Mikey lost too much blood for them to remove the chain and key wrapped around his heart, so they’re just going to leave that in there and hope for the best. Meanwhile, Mikey wakes up to discover that he can psychically control his car, so he checks himself out of the hospital, dresses like Goth Dracula, and goes to challenge Deacon. Micki, for her trouble, almost gets killed by Not Christine, which is what finally clues Dominic in to the fact that his kid is maybe up to something shady. After a heartfelt conversation in which even Mikey admits that Deacon is just a stand-in for his father, everyone converges on the race-track for the big Mikey/Deacon race. Which ends when Dominic drives his truck into Mikey’s car, killing them both, to the tune of a rockabilly song the identity of which frustrates all my music-identifying apps.
This is another one of those episodes where most of the main cast gets sidelined in favor of the villain of the week. Which is fine when they’re someone with a little depth, but Mikey is basically an angry brat hitting out at the world instead of the person he’s actually got a problem with, so he’s not only fairly unsympathetic but he’s pretty one-note as well. The nature of the curse is fairly dull as well, since this is one of those hand-crafted by Lewis ones where he’s deliberately a specific person for reasons unknown. But this is also the first hint we get that the nature of the curses are somewhat situational and the mechanisms by which they work can change, as we go from “kill to win races” to “control car to kill.”
A Very Robey 80s
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At a quarter to one in the morning, as some made-for-tv punk street kids break into vending machines, a dapper gentlemen checks his pocket watch before killing a street busker while being tailed by the least inconspicuous woman in the world. He then heads back to a subway station and watches as, at the stroke of one, everyone else in the world freezes in black and white. So, three minutes in and we know that the item this week is a watch that stops time for you when you kill people. The next day, Micki and Ryan are frustrated in their ability to retrieve the Chalice of Sackmar when their car breaks down, forcing them to undergo the humiliation of Canadian public transport. And in another part of the city, we find out the inconspicuous lady is Reatha, the trophy wife of the dapper gentleman, who is not at all happy to learn that she’s been curious about his father’s pocket watch. And the more he pushes the “daddy/girl” dynamic in their relationship, the more obvious it is that she’s only doing this for the money and presents. So we pretty much know where this is heading, especially when the very next scene is her sexing it up with her boyfriend, Eric (as played by character actor David Proval, Previously), and plotting how to kill the old man and steal his magic pocket watch before Eric’s prosecution for real-estate fraud proceeds.
That night Micki and Ryan, having finished their expanded universe adventure, see the street kids, as led by Johnny-O and Skye (Ingrid Veninger, who we last saw with a cursed compact) goofing around on the subway tracks, which leads to Ryan almost being killed by the train. And leads to Skye witnessing Reatha killing her husband and taking the watch. While Skye and Johnny-O discuss what to do about the murder and the possibility that the killer saw Skye, Jack and Micki put two-and-two together on the recent reports of murders at 1 AM by the subway station and nearby burglaries and that the most recent victim is the son of a man who bought a pocket watch from Lewis. And so that night, Micki and Ryan track down the street kids, which inevitably leads to Ryan spotting Rheatha with the watch and getting knocked out and left on the train tracks during the frozen time period, gaining consciousness just in time to avoid being hit by a subway train for the second time in two days. Reatha, meanwhile, kills the last witness to Eric’s fraud, then goes after the street kids, who get away and decide to seek help from the antique dealers. As one does when a psychotic killer with a magic watch is after you.
At the shop, Jack has tracked the history of the watch back to the original owner, the dapper man’s father, who was fired from his job at the subway station for showing up drunk. And so now the watch he pawned to Lewis has the power to freeze time for one hour only if you are in that particular subway station after killing someone. Which makes it possibly the most specific cursed antique yet and further proof that Lewis was just fucking with people. After explaining this to the kids, a plan is hatched to get the watch back by using Skye as bait, which works a little too well as Micki is too distracted by Reatha’s latest victim being discovered to stop Skye being grabbed. Luckily, Skye is clever enough to grab the watch and jump onto a departing train just before time. Everybody chases everybody with the end result that Eric and Rheatha end up in the station at one sans watch, causing them to be frozen in time while everyone else moves on normally. So a happy ending, and yet another completely unexplained public display of the existence of magic for the police to hush up.
All things considered, this is one of the more middling episodes. The gimmick is clever, despite the horribly punny name (and yes, Jack does barely try to justify it in episode), but continuity wise the extremely specific nature of the curse makes it appear that Lewis was crafting these things to order, when what always been shown before is that, when he has a specific user in mind, he crafts the curse to take advantage of their weaknesses. But that’s the only major problem, and otherwise it’s just a routine “curse of the week” story with no particular highs or lows.
A Very Robey 80s
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We’ll be back next week. In the meantime, here’s Robey with a gun.
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