June 24, 2017

The X-Files 5.12, Bad Blood: “That Is…Essentially Exactly the Way It Happened”

Posted in TV tagged at 1:14 pm by Jenn

Don’t worry, Mulder, he’s not a threat. Well, not to your relationship with Scully, at least

Summary: A redheaded boy runs through the woods in Chaney, Texas, being chased by someone he says is going to kill him. He’s right, since his pursuer eventually catches up to him and stakes him through the heart. The pursuer happens to be Mulder, and when Scully joins him, he shows her the boy’s fangs. Mulder is horrified to see that the fangs are removable, and he just staked a human. When the agents return to D.C., Mulder struggles to write up a report, telling Scully not to talk about it and taking out his frustration on a trash can. The agents each wonder what the other will tell Skinner.

Mulder wants to know if Scully’s going to back up his story, since he’s the one who could go to prison. Scully points out that the family of the boy, Ronnie Strickland, wants to sue the FBI for $446 million, and she’ll most likely be Mulder’s codefendant. Mulder insists that he didn’t overreact – Ronnie was a vampire. He wants Scully to tell him her version of events.

Scully starts her story: The previous morning, Mulder told her they were going to Chaney, population 361, and was really excited to investigation “nocturnal exsanguinations.” Cows have been found in the area drained of their blood, with puncture wounds on their necks. Scully thinks this is the work of a cult, but Mulder suspects vampires. It’s only then that he mentions there was a human death.

The agents go to a funeral home in Texas so they can look into the death of Dwight Funt. They meet the sheriff, Lucius Hartwell, who seems to find Scully attractive. Mulder’s eager to get investigating and tells Scully to “get those little legs moving.” Funt has puncture wounds on his neck, just like the cows, and Scully thinks they’re looking for a killer who pretends to be a vampire. Hartwell agrees with her. He edges Mulder out to talk to Scully about medical stuff and call her Dana.

In the present, Mulder objects that Hartwell never knew Scully’s first name. Scully continues: Mulder notices that Funt’s shoes are untied, then asks Hartwell if there’s “an old cemetery in town, off the beaten path – the creepier, the better.” Mulder assigns Scully to stay behind and autopsy Funt while he and Hartwell go to the cemetery. Scully asks what she’s supposed to look for in the autopsy. Mulder admits that he doesn’t know. “He does that,” Scully tells Hartwell.

She starts the autopsy on Funt, “who is arguably having a worse time in Texas than I am, though not by much.” Everything looks normal, and she can see that Funt’s last meal before his death was pizza. She then checks into the Davey Crockett Motor Court, though Mulder corrects that it was the Sam Houston Motor Lodge. Scully puts some money in the vibrating bed and tries to relax, but a muddy, disheveled Mulder shows up to talk business. She tells him she found knock-out drops in Funt’s system, and she thinks the “vampire” doped his victim before extracting his blood.

Mulder announces that another person has died, so Scully needs to go do another autopsy. He’s happy to take over relaxing for her. She leaves just as the pizza she ordered arrives, delivered by Ronnie Strickland. Scully autopsies Paul Lombardo, a tourist from Florida, and discovers the same knock-out drops in his system. She gets a phone call but only hears breathing on the line. Lombardo’s stomach contents are the same as Funt’s, making her realize that the pizza delivery guy is the killer. That means Mulder could be in danger.

Scully rushes back to the motel, where she finds Ronnie next to Mulder’s unconscious body. She shoots at him but he runs off. Scully checks on Mulder, who sings a verse of the theme from “Shaft” as he comes to. In the present, Mulder objects to this part of the story. Scully continues that she shot out one of Ronnie’s tired, so he ran off on foot. She followed him into the woods but lost him, and when she found him, Mulder had already killed him. She plans to tell Skinner that Mulder was overexcited because of the drugs in his system.

Mulder says that’s not what happened at all – Scully’s just afraid to tell the truth. So she asks for his version of events. He tells her that she was grumpy when she got to work, and he was no more excited than usual. In Mulder’s version, he’s not nearly as insistent about this being the work of a vampire as Scully claimed. At the funeral home, Mulder notices that there are a lot of caskets for a town with so few people. The funeral director tells him it’s because of “repeat business,” then says he was joking.

Mulder thinks Scully didn’t hear this conversation because she was distracted by the attractive sheriff. Mulder remembers him as having huge buckteeth and an exaggerated southern accent. Scully doesn’t find that a significant observation, but Mulder says he’s trying to be thorough. The agents view the body, and Mulder talks about the history of vampires. Scully thinks the killer is a human who wishes he could be a vampire. Mulder notes that there are lots of different kinds of vampires; some are killed by sunlight, some have red hair, and some aren’t eternal.

He notices the untied shoes, and in the present, Scully wonders why that’s important. Mulder says he’ll get there. He continues his version, telling Scully about going to the cemetery with Hartwell. Mulder explains that cemeteries are a haven for vampires, so he wants to see signs that they’ve been there, like the lack of birdsong, broken tombstones, or the sound of a creature eating its death shroud in the tomb. Mulder needs a new hobby, guys. Ronnie passes by in his delivery car, and he and Hartwell greet each other. Mulder thinks if they wait long enough, the vampire will return to the cemetery.

Scully asks again about the significance of Funt’s untied shoes, but Mulder has more to tell first. He and Hartwell sit in the car, waiting for their killer. Hartwell questions why Mulder has sprinkled sunflower seeds on the ground. Mulder explains that vampires are compulsive about things like untying knots and counting seeds on the ground. He thinks that compulsion made the vampire untie Funt’s shoes. This leads to a conversation about Rain Man and counting cards.

Hartwell is alerted to a situation at an RV park, so he and Mulder drive over. They find a group of people (including Ronnie) watching an RV drive in circles in the parking lot. Mulder and the sheriff try to shoot out the RV’s tires, which proves harder than they thought. Plan B is Mulder grabbing on to the vehicle to try to slow it down manually. Eventually the RV stops, and the men find Lombardo’s body inside. No one at the scene saw anything.

Mulder goes to the motel, where Scully yells about having to do an autopsy. She’s especially annoyed because she’s hungry – all she’s had to eat all day is half a bagel with light cream cheese. After she leaves, Mulder takes a shower, then accepts Scully’s pizza delivery. He recognizes Ronnie but doesn’t find it suspicious that this guy keeps turning up. After dinner, Mulder notices that his shoes are untied and puts all the pieces together.

With the drugs in his system making it hard to function, Mulder rolls out of bed and calls Scully. He can’t quite talk, so all she hears is his breathing. Ronnie comes back to the room, baring his fangs. Mulder distracts him by throwing sunflower seeds on the ground, then tries to escape while Ronnie counts them, annoyed. But the drugs knock Mulder out, and he doesn’t wake up until Scully arrives.

Mulder thinks Scully’s bullets did hit Ronnie, but they didn’t affect him. He also says he saw Ronnie fly at Scully before running out. The chase begins, and Mulder stakes Ronnie. He thinks the boy’s autopsy will back up his story. But when the coroner removes the stake from Ronnie’s body, the boy revives. His eyes glow, and though his fangs are gone, that won’t stop him from biting the coroner.

Scully and Mulder wait together outside Skinner’s office (she tries to straighten his tie, because they’re married), still unsure of what each will say. Scully thinks Mulder needs to remind Skinner multiple times that he was drugged, which means he wasn’t thinking clearly. Mulder tells her to let it go, but when Skinner appears, Mulder immediately blurts out that he was drugged. Instead of interviewing the agents, Skinner tells them to go back to Texas: Ronnie’s not dead, and he chewed on the coroner’s neck.

The agents go back to the cemetery in Texas, since Mulder says a vampire has to sleep in “his native soil.” He thinks Scully was right about the killer being someone who’s watched a lot of vampire movies. It’s just that, in this case, he’s also a real vampire. Hartwell comes by to offer his help, so Mulder has him stay with Scully while he goes looking for Ronnie’s family. Since their mail comes general delivery, he thinks they live at the RV park.

Hartwell and Scully share some coffee and discuss vampires, which she’s heard are seductive and charming. Though, since there are so many different kinds, according to Mulder, she doesn’t know for sure. Hartwell apologizes on Ronnie’s behalf – “he makes us all look bad.” Now “we” pay taxes and make good neighbors. Ronnie just doesn’t know how to keep a low profile. As Scully realizes what Hartwell’s saying, the drugs in her coffee start to take effect, and Hartwell’s eyes start to glow.

At the RV park, Mulder finds a coffin in one of the vehicles and opens it to find Ronnie napping. He starts to read Ronnie his rights, sitting on top of the coffin to keep it closed. Other vampires approach as he handcuffs the coffin to keep it closed, then grabs two baguettes to use as a cross. The vampires aren’t repelled (maybe he should have tried garlic bread?), and they swarm and attack Mulder. The next morning, Scully finds him asleep in a car, his shoes untied. Scully just woke up in the cemetery and doesn’t know what happened. All the RVs in the park are gone – as Mulder says, “they pulled up stakes.”

Back in D.C., the agents tell Skinner their sides of the story, though they can’t confirm each other’s versions. “That is…essentially exactly the way it happened,” Mulder says. “Essentially,” Scully agrees. “Except for the part about the buckteeth,” Mulder allows.

Thoughts: Hartwell is played by Luke Wilson. Ronnie is played by Patrick Renna, who was in a bunch of stuff as a kid, including The Sandlot.

I feel like they only showed Scully weighing all of Funt and Lombardo’s organs to make Gillian Anderson touch gross-looking things.

I’ll admit, I laughed at “pulled up stakes” and “so we staked out the cemetery.”

Mulder only tips Ronnie 2 cents for the pizza, so Ronnie’s almost justified in attacking him.

June 20, 2017

SVT #94, Don’t Talk to Brian: This Is Really Taking Victim-Blaming Too Far

Posted in books tagged , at 4:56 pm by Jenn

This looks nothing like how I pictured Brian. Also, I don’t think he’d eat anything pink

Summary: Brian Boyd is still causing trouble at SVMS, only things have gotten worse as he’s now disrupting classes and generally being a tiresome jerk. He comes to school with a black eye and says he got in a fight with some other kid, a story no one doubts because that’s exactly the sort of thing that would happen to him. Mr. Bowman tells the twins’ English class that they’ll be studying families, and everyone will need to write an essay about parenting. The person with the best essay gets to read it at a reception for everyone’s parents. Brian finds this assignment ridiculous and heckles everyone throughout the class. He lands in detention for his behavior.

When Brian gets home, we learn why his attitude is so bad: His mother is an alcoholic and his father is abusive. Elizabeth hears him crying after his father hits him – apparently the Wakefields’ and the Boyds’ houses share an alley – and Liz tries to show Brian some compassion. He brushes her off, so she decides he got in another fight and doesn’t deserve her sympathy.

Mr. Bowman picks Liz, Brian, and Maria to do some role-playing in class; Liz is Brian and Maria’s daughter, and she’s just been caught sneaking in after curfew. Brian laughs off the assignment, then gives Liz a harsh punishment. Mr. Bowman should probably just not call on Brian anymore. On the way home from school, Elizabeth sees police cars outside Brian’s house and guesses that he’s finally gotten in trouble for fighting. Later, she reads an article in the local paper about a 12-year-old boy being removed from his home by Child Protective Services while they investigate possible abuse. She realizes it’s Brian and accidentally alerts Jessica to what’s going on with him.

Jess, of course, can’t keep her mouth shut, and she tells Lila and Janet that Brian has had to move out of his house (though she doesn’t tell them about the abuse). By Monday morning, the news is all over SVMS. Everyone thinks Brian got kicked out for fighting, and Maria, among others, has no sympathy. (I can’t really blame her, considering how he treated her in It Can’t Happen Here.) Some kids, however, try to be nicer to Brian – Ken, Todd, and Aaron invite him to play video games with them. When Todd says that everyone knows what’s happening with Brian, Brian takes off, accidentally flipping over a table Real Housewives-style. This lands him on Principal Clark’s radar.

The news about Brian spreads to people’s parents, and Elizabeth overhears some of them complaining to Mr. Clark about their kids having to attend school with a bully. We learn that Brian’s family life was fine until just the past few years, when Mr. Boyd’s problems at work made him mean and violent. His mother dealt with it by drinking and didn’t bother trying to protect her son. Brian’s staying in a group home until a foster family is found, but he doesn’t think anyone will want him. He also thinks Mr. Bowman knew he was being abused and did nothing, which is a whole other issue that never gets addressed.)

Brian’s situation starts to really affect Liz, who has a nightmare about being the next target of abuse. She and Maria attend a PTA meeting as student representatives, and learn that a number of parents want Brian to leave Sweet Valley. Apparently a kid who comes from an unstable home is too much for their delicate angels to handle. They have no sympathy for Brian and want to see him punished when he’s done nothing wrong. Liz is shocked that Maria agrees – she hates Brian and wants him out of the school.

Mr. Clark tells everyone that Brian will be placed with a foster family in Big Mesa, but since he’s going through so much upheaval, they’d like to keep him at SVMS. He has a petition for parents to sign to allow Brian to stay. The parents are completely divided, and to Elizabeth’s surprise (and dismay), Ned and Alice want him to go. She wonders who will look out for Brian if so many adults are going to just turn their backs on him.

SVMS has a special assembly addressing child abuse and how the victim is never to blame. The students learn that Brian is being sent to Big Mesa Middle School, and Maria still doesn’t care. Mr. Bowman reads Brian’s family essay in class; it’s about how his life started out great and then slowly fell apart, and he didn’t know how to stop it. He started to lose hope that his life would ever get better. Jessica feels horrible because she’s spent the whole book complaining about her parents and how they won’t increase her allowance or let her go to a sleepover on a school night. She’d much rather have love and security than money and popularity.

Liz wants to fight to let Brian stay at SVMS, so she takes a page out of Mr. Clark’s book and writes a petition. She reads it at the family reception and asks the parents to help Brian instead of letting him be sent away for someone else to deal with his problems. She emphasizes the fact that Brian isn’t to blame for the abuse, so he shouldn’t be punished. The parents change their minds and help Brian find a foster family in Sweet Valley. Brian is grateful, and suddenly a much more pleasant person. Even Maria makes an effort to be friendly to him. Yay, all his problems are solved! Sweet Valley is such a magical place that he probably won’t suffer any psychological damage or have any problems in the future!

Thoughts: Brian’s family is supposed to be rich, but considering their house is next to an alley that’s also next to the Wakefields’ house, I don’t know.

Fun fact: In the Sweet Valley-verse, there’s a TV show called Snob Hill 90214.

I assume Brian has a 180-degree personality change after this, because if he’s ever mean again, someone can just say, “Remember when we didn’t get you kicked out of our school? We can undo that.”

June 17, 2017

The X-Files 5.11, Kill Switch: Going Viral

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:19 pm by Jenn

Right back at ya, episode

Summary: A man is working on a laptop at a diner, trying to hack something. In Logan Circle in D.C., a drug dealer named Jackson gets a call from a man who wants to offer him some help. Jackson’s former partner, Kenny, stole his money, and the man on the phone wants Jackson to know he can find him at the diner. As Jackson heads over with a gun, the man on the phone places more calls, sending all sorts of criminal types to the diner to get revenge on various people who have wronged them. Men start arriving at the diner as the hacker finally succeeds at his hack. As he puts a CD in the computer, U.S. Marshals burst in and a gunfight takes place.

Mulder and Scully come in to find out what happened to the Marshals. They got a tip telling them a fugitive cartel leader was at the diner, though Mulder thinks it was a lie. All the other criminals in the diner were local drug dealers, not the types who would be in the company of a major cartel boss. Mulder IDs the hacker as Donald Gelman, a Silicon Valley “folk hero” who practically invented the Internet. He disappeared years ago, before he could make a deal with Bill Gates. Mulder thinks the shootout was planned to kill Gelman.

He takes Gelman’s computer from the scene, putting the CD he was about to burn in the car’s CD player. It plays the Platters’ “Twilight Time.” The agents take the computer to the Lone Gunmen, who tell them more about Gelman – he was in on all of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and that other guy’s work, but he was also under investigation by the NSA. They’re not familiar with his computer, which Mulder thinks is the reason he was killed. While Scully reads one of the Lone Gunmen’s newsletters, the guys try to hack his system. Scully’s the one who suggests that they check his email.

Gelman has one message in his inbox, from someone named Invisigoth. It’s a warning that someone named David is missing, and “the hunted has become the hunter.” Mulder guesses that a string of digits in the message belongs to a shipping container, so he and Scully track it down. There, they find a woman who tazes Mulder and runs away. Scully tackles her and gets tazed as well, but she’s not incapacitated enough to keep her from firing a warning shot that makes the woman stop.

Mulder checks out the woman’s computer setup and guesses she’s Invisigoth. Invisigoth isn’t very helpful and won’t answer any questions. She gets distracted when her computer lets her know that they’re being targeted by a DOD satellite, and they need to get out of there. Scully finds this ridiculous, but Mulder listens and rushes her off. The three speed away just before a missile blows the shipping container to bits. To his credit, Mulder doesn’t say, “I told you so.”

Invisigoth is still hesitant to give the agents any identifying information, but she does confirm Mulder’s theory that Gelman wrote some sort of sentient AI program. She says that he created a sequence of viruses and released it on the Internet 15 years ago. She compares it to primordial ooze. Gelman found her while she was working in Tokyo and offered her a job. Scully is, as ever, skeptical, saying that Invisigoth could have rigged the container to explode. She doesn’t think the DOD has the kind of technology Invisigoth says they have, like an armed satellite that could be controlled by an evil AI program.

Invisigoth says they’re off the grid now, and her little hideout must have been targeted because someone used Gelman’s computer to try to contact her. Only Gelman and a guy named David Markham knew where she was. They were tending to the AI, which went rogue one day. They’ve been trying to find it, but it won’t reveal itself, so it’s “wildlife” now. When Mulder tells Invisigoth that Gelman is dead, she says the AI must have arranged a hit to kill off its creator and protect itself. Next, it’ll target her and David.

Gelman was working on more viruses to bind the AI; he called it the Kill Switch. Mulder says all they have is the CD, which Invisigoth says is exactly what they need. The agents take her to the Lone Gunmen’s lair, and they ID her as Esther Nairn, one of their tech heroes. Scully mocks her as she starts to employ the Kill Switch. They can’t use it over the Internet; they’ll have to find out where the AI’s hardware is and “feed it the poisoned apple.” David was looking for the hardware when he disappeared.

The Lone Gunmen have some suggestions to help, noting that they’ll need someone from the government to help them access what they need. Lucky for them, they have a couple buddies in the government. Mulder goes to Fairfax to trace a T3 connector while the Lone Gunmen take a nap together. Esther frees herself from Mulder’s handcuffs and kidnaps Scully at gunpoint. They’re on their way to find David. Scully’s so calm on the phone that Mulder doesn’t sense any danger, so he continues his search.

Esther is saddened to find David’s house obliterated like her shipping container. While she’s out of the car, Scully frees herself from the cuffs Esther used to chain her to the steering wheel. Esther’s upset about David’s apparent death, but not too upset to grab the gun before Scully can. However, Esther welcomes being killed. Mulder’s hunt for the hardware takes him to an RV that houses someone – or something – who’s very concerned about security.

Esther tells Scully that she stopped working for Gelman after he learned that she and David planned to inject memory and consciousness into the AI. They wanted to put their minds into the AI so they could live together forever. Gelman was worried that others would want to do the same, so he shut them down. Mulder breaks into the RV, which is full of computers, a robot, and David’s corpse, which is connected to the computers through virtual-reality-type goggles. Mulder is suddenly pulled into a piece of equipment and electrocuted.

Mulder’s taken to a hospital where a very old surgeon calls for him to be prepped even as he begs the staff to call Scully. The surgeon ignores him and starts up some sort of drill. Scully can’t call Mulder because, according to Esther, it recognized her voice when she spoke to Mulder. They decide to continue Mulder’s search and see if they can shut the AI down at the source. Mulder’s out of surgery, and a nurse named Nancy tells him they were “able to save the right one.” His left arm, however, is now gone. Nancytells “Fox” that “they’re evil” and want something from him. If he doesn’t tell them what they want, he’ll lose his other arm. He begs for help, but Nancy smothers him with a pillow.

Scully and Esther get stopped on a bridge, and Esther guesses that the AI has found them. This is the worst possible time, since there’s a tanker trunk nearby full of flammable materials. While Scully tries to get the driver to leave his truck, Esther tries to use Gelman’s computer, then decides Scully’s right and she needs to throw it off the bridge. Back in the hospital, three nurses do something under Mulder’s covers, which I don’t think is any kind of appropriate medical treatment. Nancy tells him again that he needs to tell the doctor what he knows, or next his legs will be gone – his right arm has already gone the way of his left.

Suddenly Scully arrives and beats up all the nurses. She tells Mulder that they want the Kill Switch virus – “do we have it?” He says they do, then kicks her across the room. The room starts to glitch, and we see that Mulder’s been using David’s virtual-reality goggles this whole time. The real Scully is still with Esther, just now arriving at the RV. Scully shoots out the security system, and the women can hear Mulder calling for help inside. Robot pinchers grab at him and he loses consciousness.

The robot heads toward Scully, who again uses bullets to solve her problems. She asks Esther what the AI is thinking, but she doesn’t know – it created the whole system they’re looking at. A CD drive opens, and Esther guesses that it wants the Kill Switch. She doesn’t want to hand it over, since the AI could figure out how to defeat it. When Esther hesitates, Scully inserts the CD, freeing Mulder. Esther starts typing something, telling the agents to leave without her. She’s ready to take Mulder’s place and join David’s consciousness forever in the AI.

Hooking herself into the system causes a fire, and the RV ends up in little bits like the shipping container and David’s house. When the agents return the next day, Mulder wonders if Esther was able to create artificial life that’s now evolving. The Lone Gunmen get a message that says “bite me,” so he’s probably right. In North Platte, Nebraska, two boys in a trailer park go around an RV to retrieve a football, not realizing that a security camera mounted on the vehicle is watching them.

Thoughts: This episode was written by sci-fi/cyberpunk novelists William Gibson and Tom Maddox.

Jackson is played by Peter Williams, brother of Steven Williams (Mr. X).

For a high-tech genius, Gelman’s email system is really outdated, even for 1998.

Of course all the Lone Gunmen are in love with Esther. OF COURSE.

June 13, 2017

SVT Super Edition #6, The Twins Take Paris: What’s French for “These Girls Are Idiots”?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , at 5:13 pm by Jenn

Ick

Summary: In what’s supposed to be their first trip to France (of many throughout all the Sweet Valley books), the twins have been chosen to spend their spring break in Paris. By the way, they speak, like, ten words of French. They’re annoyed that their phrasebooks don’t include anything helpful. Oh, come on, girls, you don’t think you’ll ever have the opportunity to say “hail to the never-dying ancestors of long ago” or “we are not dead yet”? I mean, I do nothing BUT wish I knew the French for that. Jessica thinks she should write her own phrasebook.

At the last minute, the twins’ host family has to back out, and they’re told they’ll be staying with an older women named Madame du Noir. The host family says a bunch of stuff in their explanatory letter about what Madame du Noir is like, but their English is pretty bad, and the girls aren’t sure what they’re trying to say. They both get an ominous feeling about the change in plans. But whatever, do you want to go to France or not? You do? Then you’re staying with the possibly weird lady.

On the plane, Jessica reads a magazine article about some American girls who went missing in Paris. Before one of them disappeared, she was seen with an older woman who was wearing a polka-dotted scarf. Both twins have dreams about an old woman (Liz’s inspired by the villain in a mystery novel). When they land in Paris and go to meet Madame du Noir, they recognize her black and white polka-dotted scarf. Their host is a murderer!

The girls make one of the dumbest decisions of their lives (and that’s saying a lot) – they get in a cab and flee. While Madame du Noir calls the Wakefields back in Sweet Valley to tell them their foolish daughters have run off alone in Paris, the twins eat pastries and wonder if their host is really a murderer. After all, she may have said threatening things about them in French, but she may not have – Elizabeth can’t be sure. They decide to go to her place to make sure, but they run into her and hear her saying something about cooking the girls for dinner and putting them under glass. They dodge her and run away again.

Ned and Alice book a flight to Paris to find their daughters, dragging Steven along instead of leaving him behind with a family friend or something. Steven couldn’t care less that his sisters are on their own in a strange city; he’d much rather try to sell a bunch of his college T-shirts, which he’s heard are really popular in France. How did he get 86 college shirts in the first place? Those things are expensive! Steven happens to run into a flight attendant from the twins’ flight, and she tells him that they may believe that Madame du Noir is behind the disappearance of all the American girls.

The twins come across a baker whose assistant just quit, leaving him with no help in preparing for a big wedding. The girls offer to help out in exchange for being allowed to sleep in the backroom. The baker soon learns that two 12-year-old girls aren’t the best people to rely on for help with a big project that requires attention to detail and meticulous measurements. While they’re working, the Wakefields meet up with Madame du Noir, who takes them to…the same bakery. Sure. The girls hear her say something about their mother, and they think she’s lying to the baker about being their mom. They run off without realizing that their family is with her.

The twins go to the Louvre, because a) what else do you do in Paris, b) it’s basically the law that you have to go to the Louvre when you’re there, and c) they probably don’t know where else to go. They try calling home but just get the answering machine. Steven goes off alone, thinking he sees the twins, and learns from a Parisian that college shirts aren’t popular anymore. Sacre bleu! A little later, when the Wakefields go looking for the twins at the Louvre, Steven almost gets arrested for saying “j’ai sorry” (“I have sorry” instead of “I am sorry”) to a guard, who thinks he stole a sari from an exhibit. Thanks for tagging along on this trip, Steven.

Apparently security at the Louvre is pretty lax, other than when a 14-year-old boy may have stolen a piece of clothing, so the twins are able to hide under a bed until everyone leaves. When they leave the next day, they encounter an older woman named Madame Renault who has a scarf similar to Madame du Noir’s, only hers is blue with pink dots. The woman invites the twins to her apartment for tea and cookies, telling them how lonely she is. Jess is like, “You have a mustache but I’m hungry, so let’s go.”

Ned and Alice get separated from Steven and Madame du Noir, who run into the baker again. He offers to drive them around and help look for the twins. They happen to pass Madame Renault’s apartment, and Steven happens to see the twins through the window, even though the book makes a big deal out of how fast the baker drives. The three head to the apartment, but again, the twins hear Madame du Noir’s voice and run away. Madame du Noir senses that something weird is going on and calls the police, who suspect that Madame Renault is the serial kidnapper/killer. But Madame Renault escapes and follows the twins to the Eiffel Tower.

While running from Madame du Noir and the cops, the twins realize that Madame Renault is wearing a wig and carrying a knife. Also, she’s not Madame Renault – she’s Monsieur Renault. I guess dressing up as a harmless little old lady was a good way to get young American girls to trust him. Or maybe this is a Norman Bates situation. Either way, the twins realize that they were wrong not to trust Madame du Noir. Plus, they only thought the killer had a black-and-white scarf because the picture they saw of her was in black and white. Okay, I buy Jessica making that mistake but not Elizabeth.

There’s a lot of running around in the tower, which Steven gets stuck on top of, but eventually everything gets worked out and Monsieur Renault is captured. Ned and Alice cancel the rest of the twins’ trip and will have to occupy themselves for the rest of spring break by working in the garden and clearing out the attic. The twins don’t seem to get how serious the situation was, but then again, it’s not like their parents bar them from ever traveling alone again, so maybe no one learned a lesson here.

Thoughts: “She tossed aside From Wimp to Hunk Quarterly, reminding herself to buy Steven a copy for his birthday.” Hee hee.

“They have electricity in France, don’t they?” How did Jessica make it to the sixth grade?

I hope no kids try to read this book to learn about France. All I learned is that it has a lot of traffic and pastries.

If I were Ned and Alice, I would abandon the kids in Paris and go home without them.

June 10, 2017

The X-Files 5.10, Chinga: You Do the Hokey Pokey and You Kill Some Innocent People. That’s What It’s All About!

Posted in TV tagged at 1:10 pm by Jenn

Eh, I’ve seen scarier

Summary: A girl named Polly is annoyed to have to go grocery shopping with her mother. (I feel you, kid.) Everyone who sees Polly gives her strange looks, but that’s not the weirdest part of this shopping trip. Polly’s doll opens her eyes, and Polly’s mother, Melissa Turner, sees a ghostly figure on the door of a freezer case. Melissa cuts the trip short, begging Polly not to “do this.” People in the store start tearing at their eyes and hitting themselves. A butcher calls the police, then sees a reflection of Polly’s doll. He suddenly grabs a knife and tries to keep himself from stabbing his face.

Scully’s in a peaceful seaside town in Maine, pumping gas into her rented convertible, when Mulder calls her (“Scully, it’s me”). They’d both planned to take the weekend off, but Mulder has a case. He also wants to warn Scully not to talk and drive, and to be wary of decapitation while she’s driving a convertible. Scully hangs up on him. She then sees Melissa fleeing the grocery store with Polly, and notices a man leaving with scratches all over his face. Scully goes inside and finds everyone else in the same state.

A manager tells Scully that Dave may be dead, and she finds him with the knife in his face. She calls Mulder (“Mulder, it’s me”) to tell him that now she has a case. He’s supposed to be on vacation, too, but he’s in his office, watching The World’s Deadliest Swarms. Scully tells him about the weirdness in Maine, which he blames on sorcery or witchcraft. She hasn’t seen any evidence of that, and when he questions whether she would know what to look for, she rattles off a list. “Scully? Marry me,” Mulder says. He agrees that witchcraft probably isn’t at play here.

Scully watches a surveillance tape and sees Melissa leaving the store with Polly, unaffected by whatever caused everyone else to turn violent. The police captain, Bonsaint, tells her that something has always seemed off about Melissa. P.S. She and Dave the butcher were seeing each other. A deputy named Buddy calls Melissa to tell her he knows she was at the store. Polly, who’s blasting a record playing “The Hokey Pokey,” sternly orders Melissa to hang up the phone.

Melissa goes to another room as Buddy warns her to keep quiet. Then he tells her that Dave is dead, and Buddy wants to come over to comfort Melissa. The doll opens her eyes and says, “Let’s have fun.” Melissa tells Dave not to come over, though she can’t tell him why. She’s outside now, and the doll’s silhouette appears behind some laundry hung out to dry. Sometime later, Scully and Bonsaint come over but no one answers the door. They see the backdoor open and check the backyard, but Melissa’s no longer there.

Scully sees that a window was nailed shut. Bonsaint tells Scully that Melissa’s a local who married a fisherman who died last year. Polly is said to be autistic, and people started a rumor about Melissa being a witch after Polly seemingly knocked a teacher to the ground for slapping her. Scully asks about Dave and Melissa’s relationship, but Bonsaint clarifies that it was more like Dave had a crush on Melissa that she didn’t return. Scully wonders if Dave got violent, and Melissa nailed the window shut to keep him from coming by. Bonsaint doubts that, wondering if Melissa nailed the window to keep something – or someone inside instead of keeping someone from getting in.

Melissa and Polly are at an ice cream parlor with Buddy, who thinks mother and daughter should leave town. Buddy regrets not making a move on Melissa years ago; now she needs someone who can provide for her. As Melissa tells Buddy that had a premonition of Dave dead before he died (that would be the figure she saw on the door of the freezer case), Polly goes to the counter and demands more cherries. When an employee turns her down, the doll opens her eyes. “Let’s have fun!” she says, so I guess that’s the only thing she can say. Buddy gives Melissa a key to a cabin where she and Polly can hide out. Suddenly, the employee’s hair gets caught in a churner, nearly scalping her.

Bonsaint takes Scully to visit a woman named Jane who knows exactly why they’re there. She insists that Melissa is descended from Salem witches and passed her “cursed lineage” on to Polly. Jane tried to save Polly, but all it did was get her school shut down when she slapped Polly. She wishes they lived in the time when people knew what to do with witches – then Melissa would get what’s coming to her. Scully’s like, “Wow, the people in this town sure are nice!” She asks Bonsaint if there’s any truth to the talk about Melissa’s family tree. She thinks Bonsaint should talk to Melissa and find out what’s going on. But since Scully’s still on vacation, she’s not going to continue with the case.

Melissa and Polly head to Buddy’s cabin even as a ranger warns that the weather might leave them without electricity. Polly demands to go home, and her doll is ready to make that happen. Melissa sees a vision of Jane on the back window, begging for help. She speeds off. Back in town, Jane hears “The Hokey Pokey” in her house and realizes the record player is on. She hears the doll saying she wants to play. Jane breaks a record and raises a piece as a weapon, ready to fight the doll. Instead, she turns the weapon on herself.

The next morning, Scully tries to relax in a bubble bath, ignoring her phone. Once she’s out of the bath, she also tries to ignore the message light blinking on the phone. Bonsaint comes by and tells her that Jane is dead, so Scully puts her vacation on hold to go to the crime scene. Somehow, Mulder tracks her down to ask if Scully needs any help on the case – he was the person whose call she ignored. He’s now at home, bouncing a basketball to make it sound like there’s construction going on outside his window. (I don’t know. Mulder’s weird.) Now he thinks there’s a medical explanation for the violence at the grocery store.

Scully writes off Mulder’s idea that the people at the store were infected by “dancing sickness,” then hangs up so he can go back to drinking expired beverages from his nearly empty fridge. “The Hokey Pokey” starts playing on the record player, and Buddy turns it off. Scully tells Bonsaint that it might be time to start considering “extreme possibilities.” So the lesson here appears to be that when Mulder and Scully go on vacation, he starts acting like her and she starts acting like him.

“The Hokey Pokey” is playing at the Turners’ house, where Melissa tries to approach her sleeping daughter. The doll scares her off and the record restarts. She sees another vision in her window, this time of Buddy. Bonsaint chows down on a huge lobster at a restaurant while Scully asks about Melissa’s husband’s death. Bonsaint always found it strange that he was killed by a grappling hook. He points out the boat Mr. Turner died on, and Scully recognizes a fisherman on board as a man from the grocery store.

At the Turners’, Polly demands popcorn from her mother, then listens to “The Hokey Pokey” for the millionth time. Buddy arrives and accuses Melissa of killing Jane. He calls Polly a brat, so you know the doll is going to have something to say about that. Scully talks to the fisherman, who tells her that Mr. Turner caught the doll in a net, then gave it to Polly for her birthday. Three days later, Mr. Turner was dead, and the fisherman blames the doll. Mr. Turner heard the doll’s voice on the boat and went looking for it with a grappling hook – the same hook that killed him.

Mulder calls as Scully’s leaving and tries to tell her about a virus that might have caused the violence. She asks about cursed objects, like talking dolls. Mulder says that the lore claims the objects can pass their magic on to people, possessing them. Witches have been punished just for saying that the objects exist. Scully’s like, “This is totally just conjecture. I didn’t actually find a talking doll that’s connected to murders. This is all hypothetical.” Mulder suggests that she check the back of the hypothetical doll for a pull ring.

Scully and Bonsaint decide to go see Melissa again, but she’s a little busy frantically making popcorn just a few feet away from Buddy’s dead body. After Polly goes to bed, Melissa loads a shotgun and nails all the windows shut. Polly wakes up, as does the doll. Melissa’s next vision is of herself with a hammer in her forehead. When Scully and Bonsaint arrive, he recognizes Buddy’s car outside. They bang on the door as Melissa prepares to set the house on fire. The doll isn’t pleased and tells Melissa not to play with matches, then makes the match go out.

Melissa goes for some cutlery instead, but the doll tells her not to play with knives. Scully guesses that Melissa is about to kill herself, so she looks for another way into the house. “Let’s play with the hammer,” the doll suggests. Melissa grabs it just as Scully and Bonsaint make it inside. “I don’t like you anymore,” the doll says, making Melissa hit herself with the hammer. Scully tells Polly to give her the doll, which just repeats that she wants to play. As Melissa hits herself over and over, Scully takes the doll and microwaves it, breaking its hold on Melissa.

Scully returns to the office to find Mulder entertaining himself by sharpening a bunch of pencils. She asks about his “I want to believe” poster, which he says he got in a head shop downtown a few years ago. She says she wants to send one to Bonsaint. Amazingly, Mulder doesn’t interrogate her about who this guy is and why she wants to send him a present, and whether he’s handsome or rich or if they’re getting married. Instead, he asks about the case, but Scully says she didn’t follow up – she was on vacation.

Mulder tells her he accomplished a ton without having her questioning his every move. Well, he certainly accomplished throwing a bunch of pencils up into the ceiling tiles. “There’s got to be an explanation,” he says. “Oh, I don’t know,” Scully replies. “I think some things are better left unexplained.” Back in Maine, a fisherman makes a surprising catch: a burned doll that wants to play.

Thoughts: This is the episode that was co-written by Stephen King. The story is that he had a bunch of Mulder/Scully stuff in the original script that Chris Carter took out, because Chris Carter hates it when people are happy.

This idea of cursed, talking toys really gives Toy Story a whole new spin, doesn’t it?

Once again I have to ask: How does Mulder function without Scully? Does she normally buy him groceries?

June 6, 2017

SVT #93, The Incredible Madame Jessica: Uh-Oh, Jessica’s Cosplaying as Miss Cleo

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

Please close your mouths, everyone. She’s 12 years old. She’s not going to predict lottery numbers

Summary: Jessica has recently become interested in psychic phenomena again, and she tries out her supposed psychic powers on her family. She predicts that Steven will eat nine pancakes at breakfast, which is a lot even for him. This prediction turns out to be accurate, though Steven grabs a tenth pancake just to tick Jessica off. I don’t know, I’d still count it – she said nine, not nine and no more.

There’s a fair coming up at SVMS, taking place over three consecutive weekends, and the proceeds will be going to the school library. Despite the dorky cause, the Unicorns want to have a booth. Jessica wants to tell fortunes, but the other girls think that’s dumb. Instead, they’ll do a twist on a dunking booth, filling it with grape Jell-O instead of water. That’s actually pretty creative. Elizabeth will be running a table where people can turn in overdue library books without having to pay a fine. (More on that later.)

Jessica tries to shows off her abilities again at a party at Bruce’s house, but no one’s interested in hearing their futures. She finally convinces Patrick Morris to get his fortune told, but he’s disappointed when she predicts that he and Sophia Rizzo, his sort-of girlfriend, will fight and break up. Jessica also foresees Liz failing a test, which everyone finds ridiculous, since perfect Liz would never fail anything. But then Sophia and Patrick get in a fight because he forgot her birthday, and suddenly one of Jess’ predictions has come true. Then Elizabeth fails a history test because she didn’t see the final page of questions.

Now everyone thinks Jessica really is psychic, so they start asking her to tell them their futures. She uses this as publicity for her booth at the fair. She wants to charge $5 per customer, but the librarian, Ms. Luster, makes her charge 50 cents instead. Except there’s a huge line of customers waiting, and if they were willing to pay $5 each, why ask for less? This is why Ms. Luster is a librarian and not a businesswoman.

Among Jessica’s predictions:

  • Aaron will be suspended from the basketball team
  • Bruce will sprain his ankle
  • Sarah Thomas will get her braces tightened (that one’s kind of a gimme, though)
  • Anna Reynolds will lose her new jacket

On Monday morning, Bruce shows up to school on crutches, having torn ligaments in his ankle. Anna misplaces her jacket, fulfilling another of Jessica’s predictions. She thinks this could win her a Nobel Peace Prize. Sure thing, Jess. Aaron then gets suspended from the basketball team for poor grades, so Jess is 3 for 3. Unfortunately, since she’s only been predicting bad things, no one wants to have their fortunes told anymore – in fact, no one wants to talk to Jessica at all.

Jess decides to only tell good fortunes, predicting that Cammi Adams will win a prize and Randy Mason will get to leave class early. This backfires, as Randy leaves early because he has an asthma attack, and Cammi makes a fool of herself in gym class, prompting Belinda Layton to say that she should get a booby prize. Janet thinks that instead of telling fortunes, Jessica’s cursing people.

At the second fair weekend, Jessica has no customers. She’s inspired by a fortune cookie to start giving people vague advice, which doesn’t go over well. Meanwhile, the Unicorns, who got off to a rough start the first weekend, now have a very popular booth, as teachers are volunteering to get dunked. (The Jell-O never quite sets, so they’re getting dropping into purpleish water, but the dunkers don’t care.)

While all of this has been going on, Elizabeth has slowly been making herself more and more unlikable. She’s become obsessed with people turning in overdue library books, and making sure people know that keeping them past the due date is, like a mortal sin or something. Her booth at the fair offers a free pizza to the person who turns in a book that’s the most overdue, and it’s made her disgusted with people who keep books for years without realizing it. Aaron’s grandmother is the worst offender, returning a book she checked out in 1962.

In what’s known as an ironic twist, Elizabeth finds a copy of Black Beauty that fell behind her dresser four years ago. Doesn’t the library send out late notices? She tries to return the book to her own booth without anyone noticing, but Ms. Luster is always around, so Liz can’t sneak it in with the others.

The twins’ plotlines start coming together when Elizabeth thinks that she can help reverse one of Jessica’s “curses” by helping Sophia and Patrick get back together. Her sage advice is for Patrick to apologize to Sophia and give her something nice, like flowers. Wow, look at Ann Landers over here! Spoiler alert: It works.

Steven notices that the twins are cranky and casually suggests that they switch problems. Jessica decides that she’ll pose as Liz to turn in her overdue book while Liz poses as her, makes predictions that don’t come true (since she’s not really psychic), and pretends she’s lost her psychic powers. Elizabeth isn’t thrilled to have to be a phony psychic at the third fair weekend, but she’ll do it to get out of facing the shame of turning in an overdue book.

The twins switch, and Jess’ part of the deal is over quickly: Ms. Luster couldn’t care less that Elizabeth had an overdue book. While Liz gets ready to play the Incredible Madame Jessica, Janet hides in her booth, not wanting to take a turn in the Unicorns’ dunk tank. Mr. Clark, the principal, volunteered to be dunked, but he never shows up, so the Unicorns are forced to take turns. Janet is wearing a brand-new white blouse and is determined to keep it clean. “Jessica” predicts that she’ll get a stain on it.

The real Jess learns of her sister’s prediction and freaks out – if Janet’s shirt gets stained, people will still see her as cursing them. The twins stalk Janet, trying to keep her from getting dirty, and barely avoid a disaster with some paint. Janet’s shirt comes out spotless, and everyone decides that Jessica’s cursed predictions are done. Also, Anna found her jacket and Sophia and Patrick got back together, so two more predictions were reversed. (Except…Anna DID lose her jacket, and Sophia and Patrick DID break up, so those should still be accurate. Jess never said the jacket would stay lost forever or that Sophia and Patrick would never get back together. Eh, whatever.)

Janet can’t avoid getting dunked, so everyone gets some satisfaction out of watching that. The Unicorns’ dunking booth raises a ton of money, Jessica’s booth raises the second highest amount, and Aaron’s grandmother wins the pizza. Not shown: Mr. Fowler having an aneurysm after checking his credit card bill and seeing how much Jell-O the Unicorns bought.

Thoughts: Luster is a weird name.

“When you check out a library book, you have a moral obligation to return it on time. I think we need to think of ways to get people to live up to their responsibilities.” Elizabeth, you’re a child. Please chill out.

“I mean, who cares whether you’ve had a book since second grade? Nobody’s going to stop talking to you over it.” Maybe we should. Everyone, stop talking to Elizabeth right now.

June 3, 2017

The X-Files 5.9, Schizogeny: Acts of Nature

Posted in TV tagged at 1:23 pm by Jenn

He’s a hero and he never even gets a name. Sad

Summary: A teen boy is playing a video game in his room in Coats Grove, Michigan, when his father gets home from work. The father, Phil Rich, is annoyed to see a shovel in the yard and calls out for his son, Bobby. Bobby’s mother, Patti, tries to calm Phil, but he’s fed up with their son’s irresponsibility. He makes Bobby finish whatever he was supposed to do in the yard, even though it’s after 10:00 at night. Bobby lashes out and threatens his father with the shovel, then drops it and runs off.

Phil chases him into an orchard as it starts storming. Bobby pauses when he sees a man watching him, then takes off again. Phil trips on a root and falls in the mud. Bobby watches as Phil struggles, but when Patti finds them, Phil is sinking in the mud, as if it’s quicksand. Bobby is unable to pull his father to the surface.

Scully pulls more than 12 pounds of mud out of Phil’s stomach when she performs his autopsy. She’s surprised that he seems to have been murdered – held down in the mud until he suffocated – since he’s supposedly well-liked in town. Well, with the exception of Bobby, who’s actually his stepson, even though they have the same last name. Mulder says that they had to use a backhoe to excavate Phil’s body, which was found upright. Scully has logical explanations for how Bobby could have buried his father alive while he was vertical, even though Bobby is barely 110 pounds. Scully suspects an accomplice.

Mulder visits Bobby in his room, noticing a poster that says “ich bin ein auslander” – “I am an outsider.” Mulder shares the anecdote that when Kennedy said “ich bin ein berliner,” he was calling himself a cocktail sausage. “Who’s Kennedy?” Bobby asks. Mulder asks him what happened to Phil, but Bobby isn’t too concerned about being a murder suspect. Downstairs, Patti tells Scully that Bobby and Phil were close when Bobby was younger, but Bobby’s now a typical teenager who clashes with his parents. Plus, Phil’s been stressed out because of his nut trees, which are all diseased. Scully wonders if Phil instigated things.

Bobby tells Mulder that he kind of thought that Phil might pull him down into the mud. Phil shoved him around in the past, but Bobby wasn’t big enough to fight back. Mulder says people believe Bobby dug the hole to trap Phil and get the upper hand. Bobby admits that when he found Phil, he felt like his stepfather “had it coming.” Patti tells Scully that when she found the two, she thought Bobby was trying to help Phil. Scully warns that if Patti’s hiding anything about past abuse, Bobby could look really bad in front of a judge.

The agents check out the dying trees in Phil’s hazelnut orchard as they discuss whether or not Bobby’s a murderer. Scully thinks the disease affecting the trees created a huge sinkhole that trapped Phil. Mulder laughs off her excuses for how Phil then ingested all that mud. Scully mentions that Bobby doesn’t have friends and has been in therapy for his anger for years. She sees the man Bobby saw the night Phil died and tries to approach him. Mulder doesn’t see him since he’s held back when his foot gets caught on a root.

At school, Bobby tells a girl named Lisa that he finally stood up to Phil. A boy attacks Bobby, calling him a psycho, so Bobby says maybe he’ll kill the boy, too. The boy walks away, and Bobby tells Lisa that you just have to stand up to bullies. Meanwhile, the agents go see Bobby’s therapist, Karin Matthews, who relays stories Bobby told her of Phil’s abuse. Mulder notices some mud on her shoes. He thinks Karin is trying to paint Bobby as Phil’s killer, but Mulder thinks he’s innocent.

Bobby tracks down Lisa on her way home, annoyed that she won’t talk to him. She tells him he scared her when he got violent with his bully. Bobby encourages her to stand up to her father the way he stood up to Phil. After all, her problems could disappear forever like his did. Lisa’s father is angry when he sees his daughter talking to Bobby, then stunned into silence when Lisa screams at him to shut up, then runs off. Suddenly someone flies in through the window and attacks Lisa’s father, who ends up dead in the front yard.

Mulder and Scully check out the second crime scene, though Mr. Baiocchi’s body has already been removed. They rightfully assume that Lisa shoved her father out the window during a fight about Bobby. Karin comes over to counsel Lisa, but Mulder takes her out of the room so Scully can talk to the teen. Karin tells Mulder that Lisa’s been under her treatment for four years for an eating disorder. She’s not surprised that Lisa and her father may have fought about Bobby; he was disapproving of their friendship. Karin tells Mulder that she advises her patients to break the cycle of abuse by standing up to their abusers.

Scully tells Mulder that Bobby was outside the house just before Mr. Baiocchi died, so he could have committed another murder. But Mulder has figured out from the way the window was broken that Mr. Baiocchi was pulled, not pushed, out the window. Plus, there’s no way a scrawny kid like Bobby could have had the muscle to pull him out. Scully goes to the school to question Bobby while Mulder meets with the doctor who performed Mr. Baiocchi’s autopsy. He died of a broken neck, but Mulder finds a splinter on his body.

Scully doesn’t find any wounds on Bobby’s arms, indicating that he couldn’t have broken a window and pulled someone through it. Mulder brings Scully the splinter, which he finds significant. Lisa’s staying with Karin until her aunt can come get her, and as she’s trying to fall asleep, she relives arguments between herself and her father. Then she hears what sounds like her father’s voice in the hallway. When she takes a peek, she only sees Karin at the closed basement door.

Mulder takes Scully to the Baiocchis’ house and climbs the tree outside Lisa’s window to match the splinter to the wood of the tree. “Is this demonstration of boyish agility turning you on at all?” he asks his partner. (She doesn’t answer, but…probably.) Suddenly the man from the orchard shows up, telling Scully he takes care of the trees. She asks him to identify the splinter, which he says is from the tree Mulder’s currently in. The agents are confused, since the splinter is live wood, and the trees are all supposedly dying. The man chops the tree with his axe and shows what looks like blood running out. Mulder asks what could cause that. “A very bad man,” Mr. Orchard says.

At Karin’s, Lisa cautiously approaches the basement door, then goes downstairs. The floor is covered in dirt, and Lisa sees…something I can’t because the lighting in this scene is too dark. The light goes on and a voice calls Lisa a snoop, “just like you.” When the agents come by the next morning, they have questions for Karin, not Lisa. Her father died 20 years ago in an orchard. Mr. Orchard worked for Karin’s father, and he claims that Mr. Matthews’ death led to the death of all the trees. Karin dismisses this idea, then tells the agents that Lisa’s left town to live with her aunt. Lisa is actually trapped in the basement, and Karin tells her that she needs to be quiet or “he” will hurt her.

Mulder digs up Mr. Matthews’ grave, because of course. Instead of a body, there are only tree roots in the coffin. Back at Karin’s, Lisa’s aunt Linda arrives to get her niece, and Karin tells her that Lisa left town. Linda hears Lisa breaking a basement window and yelling for help. Before Linda can call the police, someone (or something – it’s this show, after all) attacks and kills her.

At the cemetery, Mulder tells Scully that he thinks they’re dealing with an “act of nature.” He believes that the livelihood of the people in the area are tied to the trees. Mr. Matthews, Phil, and Mr. Baiocchi all worked in the orchard. Phil tripped on a root, and Mr. Matthews’ body appears to have been pushed out of his grave by a root system. The men’s lives and deaths seem to be tied to the trees. Scully notes the more obvious connection: all the men were abusing their children. Is Mulder suggesting that nature stood up to the fathers on behalf of their children?

The agents return to Bobby’s house, offering him the chance to tell them what happened the night Phil died, no matter how weird it sounds. Mulder thinks Bobby really did try to save Phil; he didn’t want his stepfather to die. Bobby confides that he couldn’t stand up to Phil, but Karin made him. We see flashes of a session between Bobby and Karin, in which Bobby had to pretend to be Phil, and see himself as a victim. Karin told Bobby that he had the power to end things. Bobby cries as he says that he didn’t mean for Phil to die.

In the basement, Lisa hears her father’s voice yelling, but it’s Karin messing with her. When the agents arrive, they find the front door open and muddy footprints leading to the basement. Linda’s dead body is still right outside, and she’s not the only formerly living being there: There’s a skeleton in the room, surrounded by tree roots. “Talk about putting down roots,” Mulder quips. He guesses the skeleton was Mr. Matthews’, and the roots pulled him into the basement like Phil was pulled into the mud. He pegs Karin as both the killer and a victim.

The agents find Lisa, and Scully stays with her while Mulder engages in a car chase with Karin. A tree branch falls as he’s driving past, and he barely manages to duck out of the way before he’s impaled. Karin goes to Bobby’s house, insisting that he’s in danger, but Patti says he’s not there. Bobby flees into the orchard, where Karin appears to use her mind to make the mud pull him down. Mulder arrives and tries to pull Bobby out, telling Karin to stand up to the abusive father she seems to be channeling. Karin, however, says that Karin’s death. And then she really is, thanks to Mr. Orchard and his axe. He says it’s all done, then leaves as Karin’s body sinks into the mud.

Mulder voices over his case report, saying that authorities couldn’t figure out what caused the mud to pull people under, or how Mr. Matthews’ body ended up in her root cellar. “Rage unconfronted takes its own path,” he says. He believes Karin tried to help abused teens find the strength to stand up to their abusers since she wasn’t able to stand up to her father. What happened in the orchard was release. Well, thanks for waiting 20 years to figure it all out, Mr. Orchard!

Thoughts: Lisa is played by Katharine Isabelle, who later did Hannibal with Gillian Anderson. Her father was The X-Files‘ art director.

Karin has been telling her teen patients to stand up to abusers, and none of THEM has died? I mean…that doesn’t exactly sound like an effective technique. “Dad, stop hitting me! I mean it!” “Sorry, son. I didn’t realize you didn’t like that.”

Mulder’s one-liners are always dumb (“putting down roots” – feh), but I do kind of love that he keeps saying them even though Scully has never laughed at them and at this point just ignores them. It’s like he thinks that maybe some day, he’ll get her to crack.

May 30, 2017

SVT #92, Escape from Terror Island: Yeah, Yeah, We All Read “Lord of the Flies”

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 4:51 pm by Jenn

That’s Todd. He looks like a doofus, doesn’t he?

Summary: While Elizabeth was drowning at the end of the last book, the boat was somehow breaking up, so we’re in an official shipwreck situation. Somehow, everyone ends up on an island, alive and unharmed. The unpopular kids are all stranded on the same side of the island together, while the popular kids are on the other side; neither group knows the other group is there. Whenever they hear noises made by the other group, they think they’re sharing the island with cannibals or pirates.

Elizabeth almost drowns again, this time in a waterfall, but it leads to her discovering a cave. Mandy falls into a pit that also leads to the cave, and the two groups meet up there. (Also, Lila and Janet are all, “Mandy’s just trying to get attention,” which is really weird.) The twins are thrilled to see each other, but the others aren’t especially happy to be stuck with each other again. Bruce takes charge, and the unpopular kids are immediately sick of hearing him talk.

Bruce thinks their first priority is building a fire and hunting something to eat (other than the melons they’ve been finding all over the island.) Elizabeth and the unpopular kids think they should build a shelter and make an SOS in the sand. Bruce argues that they can just sleep in the cave they’ve already found. The popular kids all side with him, but Jessica takes some convincing. The two groups split up again.

In the morning, Liz and Maria discover the briefcase of money the hijackers stole from a bank before taking their boat. They decide to hide it in the cave. Bruce’s crew thinks they should build a raft so they can leave the island, but Liz thinks their chances of doing it well enough to get themselves to safety are pretty low. Bruce and his group disagree: He’s a Boy Scout, which I guess gives him a natural ability to build a seaworthy raft. But the kids all build one anyway, planning to head out on it the next day.

That night, Jessica dreams that two people are wandering around the kids’ camp. Anyone who’s ever read a book can figure out that the hijackers have also wound up on the island. In the morning, the kids get on the raft, which is somehow big enough to hold everyone. I’m not sure if all the kids who were on the boat are on the island, since I was under the impression that a lot more kids went on the field trip, but I guess the other kids get rescued, because this book doesn’t end with a mass funeral for a bunch of minor characters.

Anyway, the raft doesn’t stay together, and Elizabeth almost drowns AGAIN. How did she ever qualify as a lifeguard in the SVU books? And Janet and Lila are all, “Attention-seeking!” again. I don’t get them at all. Bruce accuses Liz of sabotaging the raft to show that he was inept. Because she would want to sabotage her one way off the island? Whatever, Bruce. Jessica brings up her dream and wonders if there really were two people at their camp who might have sabotaged the raft. While everyone’s fighting, they spot a plane flying over the island and realize that if they’d made an SOS, as Liz and Maria suggested, they could have been rescued.

More sabotages occur: The popular kids’ fruit stash disappears, and Bruce suspects Elizabeth stole it. He’s ready to vote her off the island. Sorry, Bruce, but Jeff Probst won’t approve of this. Jessica remembers all the supposedly horrible things her sister has done to her in the past and decides that Bruce is right. Over at the unpopular kids’ camp, they realize that all their shoes are gone and their shelter has been moved. They, of course, suspect the popular kids. Of course, the truth is that the hijackers are on the island and have been messing with both groups of kids. Once they’ve found their money, they plan to kill all the kids.

The two groups meet up and fight, but they get distracted when they see a message written for them in the sand: “$ or you are dead.” They realize the hijackers are on the island with them, and they need to work together to protect themselves. They decide to keep the money hidden – they can’t trust that the hijackers will really let them live if they hand it over. Liz thinks they should tell the hijackers that only one of them knows where the money is, so the hijackers can’t kill any of them. The popular kids don’t like this idea, and there’s another fight and another separation of the two groups.

Jessica thinks the popular kids should hide on the beach, since it’ll be easier for them to see the hijackers coming. They hope the tide will wipe out their footprints so the hijackers can’t follow them. The unpopular kids find a dinghy, figuring it’s how the hijackers made it to the island. Instead of piling in and leaving the popular kids behind to fend for themselves, they head off to find the rest of the kids so they can all escape together.

But the hijackers find the popular kids first, tying them to each other with vines and marching them through the jungle or forest or whatever’s on this island. At first the kids pretend they haven’t seen the briefcase with all the money, but Lila’s an idiot and says they did. Jessica tries out Elizabeth’s plan, telling the hijackers that only one kid knows where the money is, so they can’t kill anyone yet. This backfires, and the hijackers decide to torture the information out of the kids by withholding food and water until someone cracks.

The unpopular kids arrive and are too dumb to listen when Jessica warns them to run away. Now everyone’s tied up together, and the hijackers are ready to get their money and get off the island. They announce that they’ll kill someone every hour until they find out where the money is. It’s not long before Bruce announces that he knows where it is and will take them to it. The other kids are horrified that he’s sacrificing them to save himself. Bruce pretends to be sorry, telling the others that the hijackers “exerted undue pressure on me.” As he heads off with them, he yells “Not!” back at the others.

Bruce is, amazingly, actually being heroic. He takes the hijackers (who are too dumb to split up and have one stay behind to keep an eye on their hostages) to the waterfall, then torches the money and runs away. Back in the forest/jungle/wherever, Elizabeth realizes that Bruce’s final words were instructions to undo the knots in the vines tying them all together. They do so and free themselves, then meet up with Bruce and head for the dinghy.

A fishing boat comes across the kids and rescues them. They learn that the captain and crew member who were set adrift in the lifeboat in the last book were also rescued and are fine. The kids are all proud of themselves for finally working together, and for saving themselves. Somehow, everyone makes it home in one piece. I assume the hijackers were later found by the proper authorities and taken to prison, or they burned in a forest/jungle/whatever fire, along with their precious money. In which case, Bruce is technically a murderer, which sounds about right.

Thoughts: I can’t believe there isn’t at least one kid crying the entire time they’re on the island. I’m sure it would have been Tamara, who cried her way through the last book, but she’s never mentioned in this one.

“‘I didn’t mean to sound bossy,’ she said, wondering if she had sounded that way.” Because when you’re stranded on an island with bank robbers and a bunch of preteen morons, your tone is what’s important. Get a backbone, Liz.

So if Bruce hadn’t said anything, the kids wouldn’t have thought to untie themselves? Like I said, they’re morons.

May 27, 2017

The X-Files 5.8, Kitsunegari: Quit Playing Games With My Heart

Posted in TV tagged at 1:18 pm by Jenn

I thought of so many “Arrested Development”/Blue Man Group jokes for this, I couldn’t choose one

Summary: A patient is working hard in physical therapy in a prison, under the watch of a therapist who doesn’t get how dangerous he is. As two orderlies return the patient to his room, they discuss his past crimes (he’s a “cop-killer”). One orderly warns the other not to let his guard down around the patient/con. This is good advice, as the patient is “Pusher” Modell. The orderly doesn’t take the advice, though, because that night, he enters Pusher’s cell alone. By the next morning, Modell has made his escape. “He had to go,” the naive orderly explains.

Mulder and Scully are summoned as Skinner addresses a group of agents before sending them out for a manhunt. They tell the group how dangerous Pusher is, and how he likes to play games and leave clues. They warn everyone not to talk to him, even if he’s not armed, and especially if they don’t have backup. Scully tells Mulder that Pusher’s weak because of his injuries from “Pusher” and the brain tumor he still has. She’s worried that Mulder’s putting himself at risk by being involved in the investigation, since Pusher targeted him last time.

Pusher makes his way to Occaquan, fooling a store clerk into thinking a baseball bat is a rattlesnake. He sees on TV that Mulder and Scully are on the taskforce looking for him. The physical therapist at the prison tells Mulder and Scully that Pusher had a visitor the day before from someone with the Little Sisters of Charity. She knows Pusher belongs in prison, but she never had any problems with him. (Of course, if she’s chatted with him, he could have done all sorts of stuff and then made her forget it.)

Pusher calls the prison, asking to talk to Mulder. Mulder orders him to come back to prison or Mulder will drag him back. The taskforce traces the call, and Scully makes Mulder hang up before Pusher can say anything dangerous. When the agents arrive at the store Pusher visited, they only find the wrapper of a carbo-boost bar he ate. They think they spot him down the street, but it’s the clerk wearing Pusher’s prison clothes. “He had to go,” he tells the agents.

The agents next track Pusher to a house with Japanese characters painted on the walls in Pusher’s favorite color, cerulean blue. They think Pusher had the homeowner paint the walls, then kill himself by drinking the rest of the paint. The victim is Nathan Bowman, the prosecutor who put Pusher in prison. An agent translates the Japanese characters as “kitsunegari,” or fox hunt. So that kind of answers Scully’s question about whether he wants to target Mulder again.

Mulder sees a picture of a woman and guesses that Pusher might go after Bowman’s wife, Linda. He calls her realty office and learns that she left for an appointment with a Mr. Fox Mulder. They send two local officers to the appointment location, an abandoned building in Falls Church. Pusher guides one toward him with his voice, surrendering when he’s found. But when the taskforce arrives, they find that the officer has detained his partner, thinking he’s Pusher.

Linda arrives for the meeting late, and the agents have to tell her that her husband has been killed. Apparently she doesn’t watch the news, since she also doesn’t know that Pusher escaped from prison. Skinner takes her into protective custody and tells Mulder and Scully to find Pusher, like, yeah, they’re trying. Mulder wonders why Pusher hasn’t killed anyone this time around. He borrows Scully’s radio as Pusher watches the movement at the scene from a nearby building, eating another carbo-boost bar.

Mulder finds the bar’s wrapper and searches the building for Pusher, who asks what took him so long. He calls Scully for backup as Pusher asks him to hold on. Mulder’s anger is no match for Pusher’s…pushing, and as backup arrives, Mulder exits the building alone. “He had to go,” he tells Scully.

Mulder’s embarrassed that he let Pusher go, even though Scully says it could have happened to anyone. Mulder knows that Pusher sought him out personally to deliver a message: “Don’t play the game.” He hasn’t killed anyone, and Mulder isn’t convinced that Pusher actually murdered Bowman. He knows Pusher’s involved, and somehow related to what’s going on, but he thinks something’s going on that they don’t know about. For starters, why is he pursuing Linda?

The agents visit Linda in a safehouse in Annandale, but she only knows what her husband told her about the case. Bowman thought it would have been better if Mulder had killed Pusher so the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pa9y for his trial. Bowman was proud of himself for convicting Pusher, as if this was his “brush with greatness.” Linda reveals that she and Bowman were only married for two months, after knowing each other just two days. She doesn’t want it to sound like Bowman was impulsive – she wouldn’t “paint him as that.” Mulder gets it, saying that Bowman was “true blue.”

As the agents leave, Mulder tells Scully his theory that Linda, not Pusher, killed Bowman. The game Mulder’s not supposed to play is Linda’s. She hasn’t shown any interest in the details of her husband’s death, and she’s not scared that a serial killer seems to be stalking her. Scully and Skinner think Mulder’s getting overinvolved. Mulder suggests that Linda might have the same abilities Pusher does. Skinner tells him he’s off the case and needs to hand over his gun, just to be on the safe side.

Mulder heads back to the prison to talk to the physical therapist again. She says one of the nuns from Little Sisters of Charity once referred to Pusher as a “conquered warrior.” This is the same nun who visited the day before Pusher escaped. Mulder shows the therapist a picture of Linda, but the therapist can’t see well enough and needs to get her glasses. But first, she needs to answer a phone call telling her to electrocute herself.

A Falls Church police car brings Pusher to the safehouse, where he tells a U.S. Marshal standing watch to go home. Mulder calls Scully (“Scully, it’s me”) from the prison to tell her about the physical therapist’s death. He thinks Linda made her kill herself – if she were innocent, the physical therapist would have identified her as Pusher’s visitor. He tells Scully to trace the call the therapist and make sure Linda can’t make any phone calls from the safehouse. He’s stunned to hear that Scully isn’t there, telling her that no one at the safehouse switchboard is answering the phone.

Skinner’s there and has the same concerns, since no one’s answering the ringing phone. He catches Pusher and Linda together and orders Pusher to get on the ground. Pusher says he has a gun and points it at Skinner. Skinner shoots him but realizes that Pusher’s unarmed. Mulder and Scully come to the scene, where Skinner insists that Pusher had a gun, though it hasn’t been found. Mulder thinks Pusher’s taking the fall for Linda, who’s now been let out of protective custody.

Mulder heads to the hospital to make sure he’s the first person to get to talk to Pusher once he’s out of surgery. Scully thinks this is a bad idea, so Mulder tells her to call him when she thinks he’s come to his senses. He waits in Pusher’s room while he sleeps, only leaving when a nurse tells him to leave so she can change the patient’s bandages. Only it’s not a nurse – it’s Linda wearing a fake badge that says “nurse.”

Once Mulder’s gone, she wakes Pusher and asks him why he came to see her. “Don’t make a mistake,” he tells her. She insists that she won’t let “them” get away with this – she’s going to finish what he started. Pusher begs her to stop, but he’s weakening. She uses her abilities to convince him he’s not in any pain, then convinces his heart to stop beating.

Mulder finds Linda’s fake badge, which has the address of the abandoned warehouse written on the back. He goes back to the warehouse and finds Scully there with a gun. She tells him he was right about Linda, who’s making her turn on her partner. She begs Mulder to make her stop. Unwilling to kill her partner, she turns the gun to her own head and pulls the trigger.

Linda arrives and tries to convince Mulder that she’s Scully and Scully is Linda (or was, since she’s seemingly dead). Mulder tries to resist, even when Linda tells him things about his family to try to convince him she’s Scully. She reminds him that Pusher warned him not to play Linda’s game. Linda fires a shot over Mulder’s shoulder, and someone behind him falls to the floor. When he turns back to Linda, he sees that she’s really Scully, and she shot the real Linda. “You think you can hold me?” Linda asks.

The agents learn that she has a tumor just like Pusher’s…and they’re twins. She didn’t know she had a brother until a few weeks ago, and must have gone on her “fox hunt” as revenge for what the agents did to Pusher. Skinner’s proud that Mulder figured things out, but Mulder doesn’t feel too proud of himself, since he almost killed his partner. Skinner tells him he won the game. Mulder asks why he feels like he lost, then.

Thoughts: Falls Church is my hometown, and I remember hearing back when this episode was filming that someone from the show worked with the police department to make sure the squad cars and officers’ jackets were accurate.

I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries, and Pusher’s abilities remind me of how vampires can compel people to do whatever they want. They should have just given all the agents vervain to protect them.

Dear David Duchovny, please learn how to give fake chest compressions. The physical therapist never stood a chance with you working on her.

May 23, 2017

SVT #91, Deadly Voyage: It’s Like “Home Alone,” But on a Boat

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 5:11 pm by Jenn

This dude looks like a deranged monk with jaundice

Summary: The twins are about to head out on a day-long Saturday field trip with a bunch of other middle-schoolers. They’ll be exploring Santa Maria Island and observing wildlife for extra credit in science. Everyone’s excited to hang out on an island all day, and some of the students figure this will just be an easy extra-credit grab while they work on their tans. For once, Alice is getting involved in her kids’ lives, as she’s going along as a chaperone.

The kids are on a strict schedule, since a storm is coming that afternoon, and they need to be back before it hits. While the kids board the boat, the adults – teacher Mr. Siegel and chaperones Alice and Mr. Slater – stay on the dock, dealing with Kimberly, who doesn’t have a permission slip. Bruce gets all “I’m on boats all the time because my father has one, but it’s much better than this one.” He thinks he could run the boat, called the Island Dreamer, by himself. Nerd Donald Zwerdling disagrees, since the boat is old and probably doesn’t have the kind of technology Bruce is used to.

A man on the boat tells Aaron they’re ready to cast off, so Aaron undoes the rope tying the boat to the dock. After a couple minutes, the boat starts moving. The kids realize that the adults are all still on the dock (and Kimberly, but no one cares about her). Elizabeth and her smart friends (namely Amy, Maria, and Todd) panic about the lack of adult supervision, while the cool kids like the Unicorns think this means they get to hang out all day without doing schoolwork. They get annoyed when Liz says she’s going to tell the captain he needs to go back to the dock.

The captain isn’t as concerned as Elizabeth, telling her that the chaperones will join them on the island from another boat. He won’t open the door very wide or come out to talk to the kids, which Liz finds strange. The cool kids tell her to calm down. Janet even blasts her for always trying to run things, which is pretty rich coming from the bossy president of the Unicorns. Liz tries to relax and have fun with all the other kids, who are all enjoying themselves, except Donald. He brought a bunch of equipment with him for the island, and it’s telling him that they’re not going toward Santa Maria Island.

The kids foreshadow the next book by talking about getting shipwrecked on an island. The girls think it could be romantic. Bruce brings up Lord of the Flies, and suddenly the idea isn’t so appealing anymore. Then Jessica and Lila hear a banging noise from a supply closet and go to investigate. They’re shocked to find the real captain and a crewman tied up inside. They explain that the boat was hijacked, and two men knocked them out to use the boat as a getaway vehicle. The captain thinks they may be going to Mexico to get out of the country. This is a bigger problem than it seems: The trip to Mexico will take ten hours, so they won’t be able to dock before that big storm hits. The captain tells the kids to use a CB radio in his room to call for help.

Despite the fact that Janet was just mocking Elizabeth for always wanting to be in charge, this is the sort of situation where Liz shines. She quickly shifts into leader mode, assigning some kids to get the radio while the others pretend they don’t know anything’s up, in case the hijackers are watching them. Bruce tries to keep quiet about how he said before that he could handle the boat on his own.

While Liz, Amy, Maria, and Winston go find the CB, Jessica and Lila listen to a regular radio and hear that two men robbed a bank in Sweet Valley that morning. The police suspect that they’re on a boat. Good job, police! You’re so effective in this book! The other kids find the radio and Winston makes a mayday call, but the hijackers hear and get rid of the radio. They take the kids back to the rest of the group and tie everyone to the guardrail. Bruce and Jerry try to fight back with some karate moves, but they just embarrass themselves in front of everyone. This feels realistic – 13-year-old boys would probably think they can take on criminals, but would just end up looking ridiculous.

Back on shore, the chaperones have contacted authorities and are told that Winston made a mayday call. The adults start to realize that something really bad is going on. On the boat, the hijackers – who are dumb enough to use their real names, Jack and Gary – eat the kids’ lunches in front of them (just for funsies, I guess), then put the captain and crewman on a lifeboat and set them adrift in the water. Now the kids are completely on their own against the two hijackers.

Some of the kids start getting emotional, including Tamara Chase, one of the seldom-mentioned Unicorns. Janet’s like, “There’s no crying in Unicorns! Suck it up!” Ken thinks he sees dolphins, but they’re really sharks. So much for that sliver of happiness. Back on shore, the parents have all gathered and are told that the storm will make a rescue effort impossible. They’ll have to wait until it passes before they go looking for the kids.

As time passes on the boat, where everyone remains tied up, it soon becomes clear that the hijackers aren’t very bright. For one thing, they didn’t search the boat to make sure they’d secured all the hostages. Cammi Adams and Donald were able to hide during all the typing-up, and they use Winston’s pocketknife to start cutting kids free. Cammi proves her intelligence by deciding that they should only free a couple of people, to make it less likely that the hijackers will notice.

The freed kids, including Elizabeth, run off to hide. Lila and Bruce start fighting about which of their fathers will be first to offer up a reward for their return. Everyone is a little reassured that Elizabeth, Sweet Valley’s patron saint of good ideas, will come up with a plan to save everyone. Fortunately, they’re right. Liz uses Winston’s Walkman to make the hijackers think she’s found another CB. When they emerge to confront her, she scalds them with hot water and tries to flee through a porthole. She loses a shoe, but it’s a worthy sacrifice. The other kids then trap the men in a room, using brooms to keep the doors closed.

The good news is that now all the kids are untied. The bad news is that the storm is approaching. While the kids are trying to figure out how to get the boat to shore, the hijackers escape and recapture Elizabeth. Gary starts to push her overboard, but Jess channels her inner Liz and uses suntan oil to make Gary slip, then knocks him out with Bruce’s boogie board. One hijacker down, one to go. Elizabeth throws Gary’s gun overboard, wanting to decrease the odds of violence on the boat. I guess the ghostwriter didn’t want the book to end with one of the kids murdering someone.

Lila suddenly remembers that she has a cell phone with her (it’s 1995, so everyone calls it a cellular phone), so she starts to call her dad. Bruce is there to tell her she’s an idiot and call 911 instead. While they’re fighting with each other and trying to convince the 911 operator that they’re not pulling a prank, the phone goes flying into the water.

The kids move on to capturing Jack, which they pull off by having Winston drop a life preserver on him, then pulling it down to keep his arms immobilized. They knock him out with the boogie board and stash him with Gary. But before they can even celebrate the fact that they’ve now outsmarted two adults, they learn that Donald can’t figure out where they are, and the boat’s radio is broken. They’re lost at sea with a storm coming, and no way to call for help. Oh, and then the boat starts leaking.

Tamara loses it. This is seriously the only thing she contributes to the whole series – a meltdown. She goes out on deck, ranting about wanting to go home, and Liz has to go out in the middle of the storm to try to calm her down. It works, but a huge wave knocks Elizabeth overboard. The book ends with Liz just moments away from drowning. To be continued!

Thoughts: Re: Cammi: “She was a sixth-grader, and she looked it, Bruce thought dryly. Straight up and down.” Which I guess means he’s not going to try to rape her.

Jessica asks Elizabeth what she would pick if she could eat anything right now, and Liz chooses a salad. Girl, what’s wrong with you?

Lila, finding her cell phone: “I forgot that Daddy lent this to me this morning. He does that every now and then, you know. In case of an emergency.” Bruce: “Well, as soon as an emergency comes up, we’ll let you know! Then maybe you can use it!” Hee!

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