Friday, January 4, 2013

F13:TS 25 - Vanity's Mirror


Episode Recap #15: Vanity's Mirror

Original Airdate: March 5, 1988

John D. LeMay as Ryan Dallion
Louise Robey as Micki Foster
Chris Wiggins as Jack Marshak

Guest cast:
Ingrid Veninger as Helen Mackie
David Orth as Scott Thomas
Gwendoline Pacey as Joanne Mackie
Zack Ward as Greg Mazzey
Gayle Cherian as Sylvia Ungar
James Loxley as Charles Meniger
Simon Reynolds as Russel Weigan

Written by Roy Sallows, Ira Levant
Directed by William Fruet


We start at night, with a not-so-attractive street flower vendor, Sylvia, selling a carnation to a businessman she likes. She gets too stalker-ish, so he tries to get away. But when Sylvia demands he look at her, he ends up gazing at the glaring reflection from the compact mirror she holds. Instantly, he sees her in a new light. She is beautiful and he falls for her. Sylvia leads him down an alley where he professes his love. She asks if he will love her til the day he dies and he says he will. Sylvia tells him to stand still then proceeds to pull the crank on a fire escape, sending the iron stairs into his head, killing him. She runs off and into the street, straight into the path of a truck. Sylvia is stuck and killed, as well. The crowd that gathers doesn't notice the teenage girl pick up and pocket the dead woman's compact.

Sylvia, you shouldn't be so careless after a cursed antique murder!

At Curious Goods, Micki is reading the manifest as Jack and Ryan come up from the vault. Jack says they have collected and locked up 23 cursed antiques so far. Micki says they aren't getting them back fast enough, since 23 is less than 10% of the items listed in the manifest. Ryan kids that they could hire more staff, but Jack warns that they cannot trust others with the items. Ryan then picks out a random antique from the manifest to be their next mission for recovery. His finger lands on the gold compact sold to Sylvia Unger.

Love this high framed shot of the store!

At the local high school, Helen, the girl who picked up the compact in the street, is snapping at her sister, Joanne, and her sister's boyfriend, Scott, for poking fun at her. Other kids then mock Helen, saying it is weird how Helen and Joanne can be sisters, since Joanne is so pretty and Helen is ... not. Scott then comes to Helen's defense to the group of guys, but only because Joanne doesn't like people being mean to her sister. They guys apologize, insincerely. Scott and Joanne make plans to meet that night as Helen watches, envious of her sister's happiness.

Russell, should you be making fun of Helen with that hairstyle?

Returning to the store, Ryan and Micki tell Jack about Sylvia's death. Jack studies the picture in the newspaper article about Sylvia's death and notices Helen in the background, picking something up off the street. From her jacket, they deduce she is a high school student.

How lucky that the photographer captured that precise moment!

Back at school, Helen is sitting outside, checking out the compact, when the boys again poke fun. One of them, Greg, comes over to her and asks if she is going to the prom. She says she has better things to do. Greg then asks her to the prom, jokingly. Helen tells him she would never go with him and he says the only way he would take her would be on a leash. Greg heads back to his friends as Helen opens the compact. Angry, she yells at Greg, who turns to look at her and ends up gazing into the glare of light reflecting off the compact. He is instantly smitten with Helen and wants to be with her, offering to carry her bags. Helen thinks this is another prank and tells him off, but Greg keeps trying to prove his devotion to her, saying he loves her. Helen is convinced and leads Greg off as his friends watch, stunned.

In school, Helen and Greg walk hand-in-hand, Greg wanting to spend every second with her. Helen likes the attention and the looks from other kids, but soon Greg's complete infatuation beings to annoy her. Helen tries to get Scott to notice her new boyfriend, but he barely acknowledges her. Outside, Helen has had almost enough of Greg when he says he will love her until the day he dies. This gives Helen an idea and she leads the boy to the trash compactor. She drops her handkerchief inside and he jumps in to retrieve it, eager to please her. She turns the machine on and Greg, unable to disappoint Helen due to the curse, stays inside until he is able to hand her the handkerchief. But by then it is too late and he is trapped. Helen happily walks away as Greg is crushed to death, still professing his love for her. Later, the students are all shocked by Greg's death, but his friends have a feeling Helen had something to do with it.

Alas, poor Greg, he ended up with a broken, hell, crushed heart!

Jack finds a picture of the girl from the newspaper in a yearbook and identifies her as Helen Mackie. Ryan comments on how bad her photograph is. Micki finds an address in the phone book and comes up with a ruse to see if the girl has the compact and Jack tells Ryan to go to the high school and see what he can find there. Jack says he will stay behind to figure out how the curse on the compact works, mentioning he may contact his friend, Rashid.

At home, Helen is eating and watching television as Joanne and Scott mourn Greg's death. They are both aghast at Helen's cavalier attitude towards the boy's death, seeing as how he had recently become so devoted to her. She shrugs it off. A knock at the door and Helen meets Micki, who says she is looking for a gold compact to purchase. Helen says she never saw anything like that and slams the door in Micki's face. Inside, the girl avoids Joanne's questions runs up to her room. Once there, she pulls out the compact and wonders just what it is all about. Then she takes out a picture of Scott.

Micki and Jack meet up with Ryan at the high school and he fills them in on Greg's "accidental" death. Since Helen already saw Micki, Jack suggests Ryan go undercover at the school to get close to Helen and see what she really knows.

The next day, as the kids set up the gym for the prom, Greg's friend Russell has words with Helen, telling her he knows she did something to Greg and he will find out what it is. Helen quickly pulls the compact and gets Russell to stare at it. He is cursed and falls for her. She leads him out of the gym.

Helen becomes a pro at wielding the cursed compact in no time!

Ryan is wandering the school looking for Helen and he finds her leading Russell off into the basement, so he follows. Helen takes her newest admirer into the utility area, looking for a way to dispose of him. Russell is oblivious, only seeing her as the love of his life. Helen leads him to a workshop area and demands the boy say he'll love her until he dies. When he does, she pushes his head onto a table saw. Russell is killed instantly. Ryan hears the boy's screams but arrives too late. Helen pulls out the compact, hoping to use it to stop Ryan, but he evades its shiny reflection and tries to escape. Helen chases after him and keeps flashing the cursed antique. Ryan ends up tumbling over a landing and falling down to the floor below. Believing him dead, Helen takes off.

And this makes how many injuries for poor Ryan?

At home, Helen is attempting to do her own makeup when Joanne comes in. She is happy to think her sister is going to the dance, but Helen is still harsh with her. Joanne keeps being nice, asking who Helen is going to the prom with and offering her help getting ready. Helen turns down any help. Joanne admires the compact and Helen is nervous as her sister holds it, opening and closing it. But Joanne leaves, giving the compact back to her sister.

At the school, Ryan comes to, briefly, before passing out again.

Scott waits impatiently for Joanne to dress for the prom. She comes down and he admires how beautiful she looks.

Outside the school, Micki tells Jack she can't find Ryan or Helen anywhere. They go off together to search.

Helen comes down the stairs, in her dress, with her hair and makeup done in an almost comical way. She asks Scott if he thinks she is pretty. He tries to be diplomatic, but she asks if she is as pretty as Joanne. He says yes, but in a different way. Joanne offers to help Helen fix up her makeup, but Helen takes it as an insult and snaps at her sister. Scott tries to make peace between the sisters. Joanne wants to leave, but Helen begs them to wait for her date to arrive. Scott convinces Joanne a few minutes won't hurt.

Have to wonder: were one of these sisters adopted?

Micki and Jack continue to search the school, having no luck finding Ryan. In the basement, rats begin to crawl towards the unconscious man.

Joanne and Scott tell Helen they have to leave and offer to give her money for a cab. Helen again asks if she is prettier than Joanne and then flashes the compact at him. Scott is caught in the curse and leans in to kiss Helen. Joanne doesn't like this joke and pulls them apart, slapping her sister in the face. Scott grabs Joanne and throws her into the wall, stunning her. He is angry that she hurt Helen, who goads him into slapping her hard across the face. Helen then says they need to fix it so Joanne can't hurt her ever again. Later, Helen and Scott leave for the prom as a couple, having left Joanne tied up with a noose around her neck, and a wobbly stool beneath her feet.

At the prom, Helen and Scott arrive together, shocking everyone who seems them. Scott is oblivious, telling Helen how lovely she looks. Helen takes all the attention, not caring that it is how she gets it.

Oblivious Scott and Crazy Helen, the Prom King and Clown.

In the basement, Jack and Micki find Russell's body and at first think it is Ryan. Relieved, they continue to search for him, unaware how close by he actually is.

Scott and Helen mingle as everyone stares. At home, Joanne is barely able to keep her footing on the stool. At the school, Micki searches the basement and eventually comes across Ryan, tossing rats away and getting him to his feet. She leads him away to safety. Ryan remembers the prom and they head there to find Helen.
Jack arrives at the Mackie home, searching for Helen or the compact. He quietly heads upstairs and finds Joanne just as she is about to fall and be strangled. He holds her and cuts the rope, freeing her.

In the gym, Ryan and Micki confront Helen, Ryan screaming at her that she didn't expect to see him again. Helen is shocked and tells Scott they need to go. He punches Ryan before they take off. Micki gets Ryan to his feet again and they go after the teens.

At home, Jack comforts a crying and confused Joanne.

Helen leads Scott across the campus, Ryan and Micki in pursuit. Helen doesn't know what to do. Scott says he loves her and she gets an idea. She leads the boy to a place they can be alone. Soon enough, they are on the rooftop of the school. Scott again professes his love and they kiss. Helen gets up on the ledge, Scott following. They slowly dance, mere inches from the edge of the roof. She tells him how special he is to her and he repeats the sentiment. A crowd gathers below and Micki and Ryan spot the couple just as Jack and Joanne arrive. They all rush inside to get to the roof.

Helen says she doesn't want to kill Scott, she doesn't want to lose him. They embrace as the others rush up the staircase. Helen realizes the only way to keep Scott is in death. As the group arrives and pleads with her to stop, she tells Scott she loves him then pulls him with her off the roof. Joanne screams as the pair falls to their deaths. Jack picks up Helen's discarded purse but is disappointed to find the compact missing.

A sad lovers' leap.

Later, the police question the students and Joanne. Jack asks why getting this item back is so hard. He tells Ryan and Micki he didn't find the compact. They take Ryan away to get medical attention.

At Curious Goods, Micki tells Jack the compact is out there, somewhere. He agrees, but tells her that no one ever guaranteed them that each attempt to get an item back will be successful. She says all the deaths were for nothing, then. Jack reminds her that they have been very lucky in getting the items back, so far. He says they will get another chance, since the compact can't be destroyed. It will turn up again. Micki wonders about all the people who will die because they weren't able to get this one locked up in the vault. Jack has no answer.

A not-used-to-losing Micki needs some wise counsel from Jack.

Back at the high school, an unknown woman finds the compact under a bush and picks it up.

The compact lives to kill again!


My thoughts:

A classic episode of the show! The compact is a great cursed antique and the twist of having it be female-centric is interesting. Sort of like a female version of the Cupid statue.

Helen is playing up for near-comic effect with her looks and inability to fit in with others, especially when she makes herself up for the prom. She really thought she looked good? Oh man.

Love the mention at the beginning about how many cursed items they have retrieved to date. This is the 15th episode, but Jack says they have gotten 23 items into the vault. Like how there are other items and adventures we don't see. Would have made a great premise for a book series based on the show!

Also love how Micki is so frustrated at the end, not being used to losing a cursed item and it still being out there, somewhere. Jack has to remind her that this is no guarantee and that they should consider themselves lucky they aren't dead and that they do in fact have some things locked away. Great point of view, and one we see again in the show.

The ending is a twist, as well, with Helen happy to have gotten what she always wanted and, instead of fulfilling the curse, deciding to just end her own life with the man she loves, no matter how she got him. She is a selfish girl, but I always wonder how much influence the cursed items have over the people who use them. To me, it seems that the curse amplifies the negative qualities in those who use the items.

Great episode with a dark message. Our heroes can do everything in their power, even risking death as Ryan did, and still come up with nothing to show for it. Makes their mission even more dangerous and their willingness to keep at it even more courageous.

Also, we get our first (I think) mention of Jack's friend, Rashid! And it is fun seeing Zack Ward in a role here. You might remember him best as Scut Farkus from "A Christmas Story" or any of the other dozens of roles he has had as a prolific character actor.

Next week: "Tattoo"

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