Welcome to the Friday The 13th The Series rewatch. Each day throughout October, we’ll watch one episode of the seminal 1987 television series and tackle the highs, the lows and Micki’s hair (of course). Now step into Curious Goods and peruse our cursed antiques, won’t you?
S01E02: “The Poison Pen”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: After reading a news story, Micki (Louise Robey), Ryan (John D. LeMay) and Jack (Chris Wiggins) track an antique quill pen to a monastery famous for its “Oracle of Death”. In order to enter, all three have to disguise themselves as monks.
- Director: Timothy Bond, who would go on to direct several Alfred Hitchcock Presents… episodes and lots of Canadian TV series
- Writer: Durnford King, who also wrote for the Highlander TV series
- Famous Guest Star: Colin Fox as villainous Brother Le Croix, known for his voice work on Babar, Legend of Zelda and Beetlejuice
Cursed Antique of the Week: The titular Poison Pen (duh), a quilled silver pen with the feather of a Chilean condor (“the worst kind”, don’t you know?)
Setting: The Eternal Brotherhood monastery
Best Death: Tie!
- After taking over the role of Abbot, Arrupe (Gillie Fenwick) is smothered by his bed, which descends on him while he’s sleeping
- Brother Currie (Larry Reynolds) commits suicide by decapitation
Quirkiest Add-On: When Micki and Ryan first take a tour of the monastery, one Brother is randomly self-flagellating in the hall and it is not treated as odd in the slightest, despite the fact that this would be A VERY ODD THING
Character bits: Jack apparently knows a ton about both bird feathers and South American spiders
80s Fashion Closet: Not a ton of period-relevant clothes to mock, but we HAVE to talk about Micki’s undercover disguise. This shizz is not fooling ANYONE. She literally looks like a woman wearing a robe, but (of course!) this somehow manages to fool everyone at the monastery. It’s so dumb
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: After helping her to wrap her bust, Ryan tells Micki “You’re the cutest boy I’ve ever seen”. This is both creepy and just a touch gay
While the case of the week drags on for far too long (more on that below), I really appreciated that all three of our core cast got to get involved. In the pilot episode, Jack was effectively sidelined for long stretches, so his second act appearance at the monastery here is very welcome. There’s still a suggestion that the writers don’t entirely know what to do with everyone, but “The Poison Pen” is an improvement because all three characters get at least one solo moment to contribute to the case and shine.
As icky as the implied romantic relationship between the cousins is, this episode strikes a good comedic balance between Micki and Ryan. There’s some great banter between them when Micki learns about the single room assignment and the communal shower and their bickering while working the grounds is good for a chuckle or two. Micki’s vow of silence undercover work gives Robey a lot of opportunities to shine and she definitely rises to the occasion in this episode.
Finally, while there are no show stopping action sequences like Uncle Lewis’ basement chase scene, there are two incredibly memorable visuals from this episode:
- The opening scene when Abbot Capilano (Lewis Gordon) floats into the air off the roof before plummeting to his death. Between the creepy, dread-infused whispered reading of the perfect cursive writing and Capilano’s unexpected delight at what he perceives to be a religious miracle, it’s a great start to the episode
- The image of Arrupe being smothered by his bed, particularly when the sheet presses tight over his face like Freddy Krueger coming out of Nancy’s wall in the original Nightmare on Elm Street
What Doesn’t Work…
OHMYGOD the pacing! After the pilot episode pulls double duty to introduce the characters and set up the case of the week premise of the show, rely solely on the latter storyline for this second episode makes it feel like things are happening at a positively glacial pace. Part of the problem is that “The Poison Pen” sets up the villain of the piece as a mystery when it is painfully obvious that it is Le Croix from very early on, which makes Micki, Ryan and Jack look inept for not zeroing in on him earlier.
Another issue is that it is unclear exactly how the pen’s effects work. Clearly whatever horrible fate is written comes to pass (RIP real Matthew and Simon, who died from the poisonous spider bites instead of Micki and Ryan), but what is the time frame between writing and occurrence? At most points it seems immediate, but Le Croix mentions that Brother Currie left behind a number of predictions following his death. This is likely simply the villain covering his tracks, but it’s also not the best writing.
Finally, what is the role of Brother Drake (A.C. Peterson), Le Croix’s muscle, in all of this? Initially it appears that he’s working in cahoots with Le Croix to hide Brother Currie (Larry Reynolds) AKA the “Oracle of Death”, but when it is revealed that Le Croix is actually up to nefarious deeds, Drake seems shocked and turns on him. Again, it can be deduced that Drake was initially protecting the monastery and a fellow monk, but it’s not handled as well as it could be.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- The litany of conditions that prevent Micki and Ryan from seeing Brother Currie becomes hilariously long as the episode progresses: he’s in seclusion AND he’s taken a vow of silence AND he’s maybe a prisoner
- OF COURSE Ryan doesn’t know Nostradamus. It’s not it’s totally common knowledge or anything <face palm> Tarot cards, fortune tellers, fortune cookies
- Micki’s inability to remain silent, particularly as the episode progresses, is easily one of the highlights for me. She literally makes no effort at the end and her feminine voice is exceedingly distinctive!
- Also: at one point Micki complains LOUDLY about how she just wanted to get married and settle down. Can someone please teleport back to the late 80s to teach her about feminism?
- When Le Croix yells at Ryan following Arrupe’s death, all I could think of was how bad it would look to chastise clergy who are visiting the monastery. Jack joins them after Arrupe’s death
- The rationale for Le Croix’s actions are appallingly bland: he wants money for a book advance on the Oracle’s story and a payout for selling the monastery to a real estate developer
- Chekov’s Spider: You had to know that Micki’s fear of arachnids would come into play after she’s terrified of one out in the fields, but this is nicely upended when she and Ryan are saved from Le Croix’s effort to kill them because they aren’t who they say they are
- The scene of Drake spying on Micki is the shower is very Black Christmas voyeur, no?
- The resolution to the Le Croix threat is actually pretty clever: Jack tricks the greedy monk into writing his own death sentence on his original invoice for the pen. It’s a clever way to dispose of him
- Oof, the effect of the flying guillotine has not aged well
Come back tomorrow for a review of Friday The 13th The Series episode three: “Cupid’s Quiver”