Episode Recap #16: Tattoo
Original Airdate: March 12, 1988
John D. LeMay as Ryan Dallion
Louise Robey as Micki Foster
Chris Wiggins as Jack Marshak
Keye Luke as Lum Chen
Leonard Chow as Tommy Chen
Mung-Ling Tsui (Meung Ling) as Linda Chen
Denis Akiyama (Dennis Akiyama) as Hai Kwan
Harvey Chow as Frankie Wong
Von Flores as A.J.
Written by Dan DiStefano, Stephen Katz
Directed by Lyndon Chubbock
We open in the Chinatown part of the city, at a gambling facility where we see a young man named Tommy Chen, losing, again and again. As he leaves, he spots some men and runs. They pursue him and catch him. Seems Tommy owes the older man, Frankie, money and they are tired of waiting. Tommy promises to pay but the man demands his henchman cut off Tommy's thumb. Tommy begs for more time and Frankie relents, giving him 24 hours. Tommy flees.
As he makes his way through the back rooms of the building, he spies a woman tied up. A man is with her, drawing a tattoo on her leg. As Tommy listens in, the man tells the girl the tattoo needles he owns are magic. As he leaves, the tattoo of a scorpion comes to life and climbs up the helpless girl. Tommy watches. At the tables, the man is winning big. The scorpion bites the girl on her neck and she dies. Tommy can't believe what he has witnessed.
So creepy how she is all in white and then you see the white's of her eyes.
Upstairs, he finds the man at the tables and sees the pile of cash he has won. Later, as the man leaves, Tommy follows him. In an alley, the man stops for a smoke and Tommy jumps him and stabs him. When the man falls, Tommy searches his coat and finds the tattoo needles in their box. He takes them and runs.
Back at home, his grandfather, Lum Chen, scolds Tommy about where he has been and what he was doing. Tommy fights back, doesn't want to hear it. His grandfather tells him he has been acting shameful. Tommy tells him to wait and see, he will prove him wrong. Lum asks about the blood on his hand and Tommy lies. Tommy's sister, Linda, comes out and comforts her grandfather. He tells her Tommy has the same problem as his son, their father. He thinks the boy is headed for bad things.
Powerful set of needles.
Wonder if even the box is cursed?
In Tommy's room, the old man finds the tattoo needle box and examines it. He is disturbed by it, and turns it over in his hands. On the bottom is a sticker declaring the item came from Lewis Vendredi Antiques.
A "Vendredi" sticker!
Is the sticker cursed, too???
At Curious Goods, the group is doing inventory. Micki wants to stop, she's tired. The phone rings and Jack answers. Mr. Chen asks about Vendredi Antiques and mentions the tattoo needles. Micki and Ryan search the manifest. Jack says he will be happy to buy the needles back from him and takes down the man's address. Before he can ask more questions, the line goes dead.
Tommy has hung up the phone and tells his grandfather the needles are his. Lum tells the boy he must return them, they will only mean death. The two men struggle and Tommy strikes his grandfather, takes the needles and leaves. Linda comes to her grandfather's aid.
Always great seeing Keye Luke.
He was great in Gremlins!
I loved him in his stint on General Hospital, as well.
At an opium den, Tommy finds a woman barely conscious and proceeds to tattoo her leg.
Micki, Ryan and Jack arrive at Lum Chen's home. Linds tries to stop them, but Jack says Lum Chen invited them and enters. He asks the old man about the needles. Lum Chen lies and says a robber broke in and stole them. Linda tells them they must leave. Ryan says he sees no signs of a break in and wonders if Lum is protecting someone. They leave.
At the den, Tommy finishes a tattoo of a tarantula on the woman's leg and then leaves. At the gambling hall, he joins a game. The tarantula comes to life and climbs up the woman's chest. Tommy bets high and, as the spider attacks and kills the woman, he wins big. He hands bills out to the dealer and young woman. As he leaves, he comes across Frankie, who takes all the rest of Tommy's winnings. Tommy tells the man he hopes to work for him someday. The man gives Tommy back ten dollars and tells him that should be enough, if Tommy is as lucky as he says he is.
The next day, in Chinatown, Ryan buys a box of crabs to get information about Lum Chen and his grandson. He says Tommy owes everyone some money. Jack tells Micki that maybe she can get some info from Linda. Ryan hands her the box of crabs to put in the back of the car as she winces.
The car must have stunk after that purchase!
Lum is in bed and Tommy apologizes for his actions the previous night and shows the man the cash he has won. The old man ignores him and throws the money back at the boy. He says he wants a grandson to be proud of, not cash. Tommy doesn't understand and Lum tells him to leave.
That night, Ryan recognizes Tommy from a picture of him and Linda he saw. Ryan follows Tommy through Chinatown. Micki and Jack head back inside to Lum Chen's home. At the gambling hall, Tommy tells his friend that he can't lose. He offers to show his friend how the tattoo needles work. Ryan follows at a distance.
Tommy is tattooing a clawed serpent hand on his friend's chest. Tommy lies and tells the man he will win big, as well, he just has to wait in the basement. Tommy goes back upstairs and joins a game.
Okay, Tommy is just sadistic!
With Lum Chen and Linda, Micki and Jack try to get information about Tommy's whereabouts but Lum won't say anything and tells them good-night. As they leave, Linda asks Micki if Tommy is really in danger. When Micki says yes, Linda tells her where to find her brother.
Ryan finds the body of the young girl and jumps out. Tommy's friend thinks Ryan killed the girl and they fight. He raises a board to hit Ryan, but before he can, the tattooed hand comes to life and strangles him, killing him, as Ryan watches. Upstairs, Tommy is winning, again.
Micki and Jack leave Chen's and wonder why Lum is protecting Tommy if his injuries came from his grandson. They get in the car to head to the gambling hall.
At the hall, Ryan goes upstairs and sees Tommy winning. The owner of the establishment tells Tommy to leave, he believes the young man is cheating, as his streak of luck is too unusual. Tommy goes to leave and again encounters Frankie, who tells the boy he should be worried, if he can't get any more money. Tommy tells him he can't lose. Frankie leaves. Ryan follows Tommy, but loses him outside as Micki and Jack arrive. Ryan tells them about how the needles work. Jack says they need to find Tommy, he'll need money for his next game.
At home, Lum finds Tommy attempting to steal some Ming vases to sell for cash. They struggle and Tommy drops them, shattering them. He flees as his grandfather stares at the broken shards.
Later, Tommy is at a phone booth, begging the man on the other line to hook him up with some cash or a game. The man hangs up. Tommy calls Frankie and asks for more time, telling him he'll do anything. Frankie tells him to go home and wait for him, he'll be in touch. Frankie tells his henchman he has a player, so "the game" is on.
At home again, Tommy waits by the phone. Eventually, there is a knock at the door. Tommy answers and lets Frankie in. The man tells Tommy the game he has for him is the ultimate game of chance. Tommy takes the address, and Frankie tells him he must be precisely on time, not early or late. Frankie leaves and soon after, Tommy does. Linda sees the slip of paper with the address and grabs her coat to follow her brother.
Outside, Jack, Micki and Ryan attempt to follow Tommy, but they are stopped by Frankie and his goons, who won't let them follow the boy. He orders the three of them into his limo at gunpoint. Unseen by Frankie, Linda leaves, having found the address Tommy left behind.
Jack, Micki and Ryan are held by Frankie. When Jack protests and tells him this is kidnapping, he is stuck in the face. At home, Lum also spies the paper with the address written on it. When Lum calls to Tommy and Linda, he finds they are gone.
The group can't find a way out of the room Frankie locked them in. But Ryan does find a box of fireworks. They rig up the door and the fireworks blow it open. They flee as the rest of the fireworks go off. At Lum's, they ask where Tommy is. Lum tells them to mind their own business. Jack tells the old man Tommy is going to kill someone. Lum sighs.
They know how to make an escape!
At the gambling hall, Tommy attacks a waiter but Linda interrupts him and the man flees. She says she wants to help Tommy. He agrees, grabbing his sister and tying her hands and feet so she can't flee. He pulls out the tattoo needle.
Jack tells Lum that if Linda is with her brother, she could die. Lum gives Jack the slip of paper with the address and tells him there is a game there. he also gives Jack a needle that is from a monastery and it carries the mark of a healer. Jack thanks him and sends Micki to the address to watch for Tommy's arrival. Jack and Ryan head to the gambling hall to see if Tommy went there.
Tommy arrives at the address Frankie gave him and wonders what the game is. The man at the door says the game is life or death. Inside, Tommy is told to sit at a table across from another man. He is told the game is Russian Roulette.
Oh, Tommy. So confident and cocky.
At the gambling hall, Jack and Ryan find Linda tied up and a snake sliding over her body.
The gun is placed on a turntable and spun, to see who goes first. Tommy gets the first chance and picks up the gun. He cocks the weapon, places it to his forehead and fires. Nothing happens. He places it on the table and the other man takes a shot, which is also a dud.
Jack tells Ryan not to touch the snake, it is a coral snake and absolutely deadly.
At the game, both men take second shots that don't fire.
Jack loads the needle from Lum into a straw and takes aim at the snake.
Micki watches as Tommy raises the gun to his temple once more. He is confident he will survive, since he left his sister with the tattoo.
Jack blows into the straw and shoots the needle into the snake, killing it before it can kill Linda.
Micki watches as Tommy pulls the trigger and the gun goes off, killing him. As the people mill about, she slides up to Tommy and pulls the tattoo needles in their box from Tommy's jacket.
The next day, at Curious Goods, Jack tells them the needles are locked safely in the vault. Lum and Linda arrive and he offers thanks to them for saving Linda. He gives his grandfather's needle to them as a gift, and Jack says they are honored. Lum says he was mistaken, he thought the world has lost the tradition of honor and tradition. But he sees that those values are still present, in the three of them. Jack says the values haven't been lost, they were just misplaced for a time. Lum asks if Jack is a healer. Jack says no, but he has been interested in the art.
Lum points out that our little Curious Goods family is a good one.
Great, different episode with a very cool cursed item!
The needles offer such a variety of possibilities They bring luck to Tommy, but I would suppose they could offer a variety of things to whomever happened to be using them. And their tattoos themselves offer an endless array of ways for the victims to die. Creepy and unsettling, without a doubt.
I like how Lum is determined to stand by the honor of his grandson and family, constantly keeping mum to Jack about what is going on. Only until Linda is threatened does the old man finally back down.
Tommy is sad. You keep expecting him to show deep remorse, but his gambling addiction is so bad, he even uses his sister for a victim so he can win again. He is just too far gone.
Micki and Ryan are only slightly playful here, having small moments of humor. Things seem darker, more serious, and you can see it in the way the characters are. Slowly but surely losing their youthful innocence, thanks to Lewis and his damned curse.
The effects of the tattoos coming to life was nicely done, as well. Creepy, but effective.
Next week: "The Electrocutioner"