We open in the midst of of Not-Canada’s Not-Mennonite community, where Sister Effie Stokes is shocked to discover that the recently widowed Elder Josiah has been betrothed to the noticeably younger Jane, all declaimed in mock-Shakespearian tones. That night, Effie takes a luxuriant quilt from out of it’s secret hiding place (there’s a big pentagram on it, in case you were worried that it wasn’t an evil, cursed quilt), and dreams that she and Josiah are in a decadent Georgian/Regency ballroom and kill Jane, causing the girl to die in reality. Back at Curious Goods, Sister Sarah of the Penitites has come in response to Micki’s mailer about antiques, and a quilt that she bought that was later stolen. In order to recover the quilt, sewn by Salem witches (of course it was), Ryan and Micki are sent undercover as Sarah’s relatives.
At the Penitite colony, Ryan is easily swayed by the simple appeal of the anarcho-communist lifestyle of the religious zealots, as well as Josiah’s daughter, Laura (the the annoyance of Laura’s not at all stalky and obsessive fiance Matthew). A night-time search of the grounds gets Ryan brought up on a trial for committing the sin of lust when he’s caught singing with Laura, for which they are both scolded severely, before we learn that there is tension in the colony because Josiah, as Reverend, is refusing to allow the other Elders to review the colony’s financial journals. That Josiah is still unmarried, despite his wife dying a full six months ago, is also a bone of contention. Effie, it becomes clear, is angling for Josiah mostly because she’ll be able to rule the colony through him, and punish all the other women for looking down on her, and is none too pleased when Josiah passes her over again for new bride. She uses the quilt again, and Ryan gets accidentally speared by a pitchfork while canoodling with Laura.
At the funeral the next day, Micki and Ryan start to piece together that the killings seem to be motivated by someone angling to marry Josiah, which somehow leads to Ryan and Matthew forced to engage in a trial by combat for the right to woo Laura (go with it). In the chaos of Ryan winning, Sarah searches Effie’s room and is caught before finding the quilt, leaving Effie to use it once more and burn Sarah to death in another dream. In the chaos following that, Micki finally nabs the quilt and prepares to leave, learning that Ryan has decided to stay and be with Laura. Back at the shop, Micki tells Jack about everything that’s happened, when the quilt accidentally rips, revealing that, since cursed antiques can’t be destroyed, the real quilt is still at the Penitite colony.
There are some interesting ideas here. The actual power of the quilt, letting people kill in dreams, is a bit pedestrian but leads to some interesting visuals. We also get further evidence that it’s the object/owner combo that matters most, as, when the quilt was in Sarah’s possession, she reported strange dreams, but no deaths. The setting is a nice nod to the alleged creation of the antique, but the story doesn’t mine that as much as it could, settling for cliche fake-Amish story beats. And then the story itself drags, because we’re setting up for a two parter in a story that doesn’t really have enough meat to justify it.
A Very Robey 80s
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
Shadowed Millions, 1976 ed., Maxwell Grant
It’s 1978 in a surprisingly fancy Not Canadian prison, and Eli Pittman is about to be executed in the electric chair, protesting his innocence. Two attempts to kill him fail, so Eli is bundled off and sent to the hospital, on the reasonable grounds that if you can’t execute a man twice, you certainly legally justify a third go around. Back in present day Not Canada, Jack gets a suspicious reply to a query letter about one of the antiques, from a Dr. Lindholm, a man who apparently does not exist, but managed to buy an electric chair from Lewis Vendredei.
Cut to, the Haverstock Reform School, where Eli Pittman, now calling himself Lindholm, is working as a dentist, using an electric chair for his exams, with the actual shocking apparatus turned into headphones, and dropping not at all subtle electricity puns with his young patients. News that the school will soon be closing shocks Pittman/Lindholm (haha), while back at the prison, the warden tell Jack and Ryan about the history of the electric chair, including the sobering fact that Pittman was in fact innocent and another man confessed to the crime he was accused of later. And back at the reform school, we learn how the chair works: Pittman electrocutes a patient in the chair, then he gets “charged” up by it, giving him electricity powers that he is using to kill the people involved in his own execution.
Yeah, we’re in “go with it” territory a bit.
Back at the shop, Jack has realized that Lindholm and Pittman are the same person, and that the people involved with the botched execution are being targeted, mostly because we’re already halfway through this episode. Pittman, meanwhile, is stepping up the speed with which he is getting rid of reform school kids so that he can complete his plan before the school closes. Micki and Ryan try to warn a potential victim but arrive too late, and have to hide inside a car while Pittman tries to electrocute them. Jack and Micki go to retrieve the chair, too late to stop Pittman from recharging, and Ryan goes to find the last few potential victims, with the entire gang realizing that the warden is the only person left unaccounted for. Jack and Ryan arrive in the nick of time, using jumper cables to ground Pittman and discharge the power into himself.
More or less a mediocre episode. The antique’s gimmick sort of makes sense, but it’s a highly specific usage, and the specific history of it suggests a more direct involvement in the creation of the antiques on the part of Lewis Vendredei than is generally suggested by the episodes. The villain is somewhat complicated, with the hint of a sympathetic motivation that’s not quite followed through on, what with the killing innocent kids thing and all. Mostly what drags the episode down is the padding, with lots of time devoted to flashbacks and dream sequences focusing on the execution. After the third one, you’re pretty much sure that the episode ran a little short in the edit.
A Very Robey 80s
Posted by Dorian in PBBC
Hands in the Dark, 1975 ed., Maxwell Grant
At the Not-Canada Institute of Questionable Human Studies (aka, the Natural History Museum), Dr. Robeson is discussing his intelligence studies with another doctor when he makes the mistake of disparaging the intelligence of Harry, his latest subject, while Harry is in the room, because ethics. Robeson is keeping the brain of a gorilla in a jar and has hooked it up to a computer to increase its intelligence, and is using Harry as, basically, his control subject. Robeson also shows off his newest collectible, an antique trepanator that transfers spinal fluid from one person to another to increase the recipient’s intelligence, so naturally Robeson ends up being put into it by Harry.
A month later, the gang at Curious Goods finally gets word on the current location of the trepanator, and when they get to the Museum, Jack runs into Viola, an old flame currently working there. They also meet Harry, who is now posing as “Dr. Pangborn”, the assistant to the late Dr. Robeson, who is continuing the gorilla brain research as a result of Robeson’s personality transferring to Harry/Pangborn, as well as his intelligence. Pangborn is also using the trepanator to take the intelligence of other scientists with skills useful to his gorilla brain studies. While Jack flirts with his ex, Micki and Ryan figure out that there is probably a link with the number of brain damaged scientists dying suddenly and the trepanator. Micki and Ryan break into the Museum and learn that not only is Viola working on the gorilla brain project, but that Pangborn is not a doctor but a test subject. Jack proposes to Viola that day, before Micki and Ryan can tell him what’s up, and so by the laws of narrative they arrive at the Museum too late to save Viola from Pangborn’s machine.
Jack and company break into the Museum with a brain-damaged Viola, with Jack planning to use the trepanator to reverse the process. Micki and Ryan are apprehended by security, but Jack confronts Pangborn, but is unable to overpower him, until Viola half-stumbles into the pair, setting off a chain of events that leads to Pangborn being placed in the machine and having his mind drained into the gorilla brain, killing it in the process as all the fluid drains out of the jar. And we end with everyone feeling bad.
One of the better episodes, all told. It’s briskly paced and hold together neatly, and gives Chris Wiggins a meaty subplot with his rekindled romance with Viola. The antique is interesting too. The gimmick is fairly straight-forward, but we also have another one where the inherent evil of the device is not recognized by the actual owner, again suggesting that it takes a special combination of antique and user for the curse to activate.
A Very Robey 80s