Sunday, February 21, 2016

“Elementary, my dear Spier.” BSC Super Mystery #3: Babysitters’ Fright Night (1996)

Hooo, boy.
Abby, Kristy, Mallory, Mary Anne and Stacey go on an SMS-sponsored trip to Salem, Massachusetts. While they are there, a giant yellow diamond called the Witch’s Eye goes missing. There are many suspects, including an author who wanted to study the diamond’s curse, the diamond’s owner, and a man who wants to buy it. The diamond turns out to be hidden in a plastic pumpkin Abby bought at the gift shop and called her ‘pet’ pumpkin. The culprits are one of Mal’s favorite authors and her co-conspirator, the guy who had asked to buy the gem. Abby actually literally kicks both of them (though not in the ass, sadly) and the BSC is once again the victor.
Meanwhile, the Stoneybrook sitters help the kids put together a parade for Halloween, which is so snooze-worthy that I almost didn’t mention it.
Le Covere! (That’s ‘French’ for…the cover.) We have some universally bad fashion here. Stacey’s horrible perm and oversized letterman jacket/short skirt combo…Mal’s far-too-big-for-her-face glasses and Bill Cosby sweater…Mary Anne’s tie-dye and really big pants combo. Yuck, yuck and YUCK.

Ooh, the set up for this one is all Abby. I am fairly certain that’s the only time that ever happens. Interestingly, though, Abby says that the last trip she went on with the BSC was also scary, referring to super mystery #2. I guess she blacked out on Hawaii, huh?
Mallory tries to cast a chill-out spell on Kristy. She says she got the idea because Jordan found a book of spells and claims to be putting spells on the other two triplets. If that’s so effective, why isn’t he casting spells left and right, on everyone?
Mary Anne actually agrees to babysit during her Salem trip, during which she’s also supposed to be learning and doing homework. This is yet another sign that if she stops babysitting for too long, she’ll DIE!
Stacey is all about the economic history of Salem, spouting facts like it was the home to the first millionaire in the U.S. That doesn’t surprise me too much.
Stacey was not thrilled by the movie version of The Scarlet Letter. I think the Demi Moore version had just come out then, so I don’t blame her.
This is funny:
            Mallory: What is the curse on the Witch’s Eye?
            Stacey: I don’t remember. Something awful.
            Abby: Curses usually are. *rolls eyes*
Stacey’s actually being pretty funny in this one. Mal points out a guy who is reading a newspaper but never turning the page, instead looking at one of the other suspects, Martha Kempner. First Stacey says that he’s not ‘date material,’ and then suggests he’s not turning the page because too much MTV means that he’s a slow reader with no attention span. Finally, she critiques his outfit and says he’d be lousy as a spy.
Mary Anne and Stacey are in the museum when the Witch’s Eye turns up missing. Stacey finds a clue and memorizes it—it’s numbers and she has a savant brain for memorizing any number she sees. That’s really convenient that that fact never came up until now.

Mary Anne eavesdrops on a conversation, but stays in the bushes long after Agnes Moorehouse, the owner of the diamond, has left. Suddenly she realizes she’s skulking in the bushes and being extremely suspicious. She also finds a clue: a disguise in the form of a wig, custodian’s outfit, and sun glasses someone had stashed in the bush. Apparently, this is a crime straight out of a sitcom, where you can just steal a custodian’s uniform and it will magically fit you. (Although there is that episode of The Office where Jim is wearing a woman’s warehouse uniform…)
Abby is with Mary Anne when she finds the disguise, and she tries to smart off to the cops, stating she helped MA subdue the wig (which MA thought was a dead creature, causing her to scream). She also almost tells the officer that she’d never met MA before in her life, but the officers have no sense of humor, and she’s not that stupid.
Meanwhile, back in Stoneybrook…Jessi and Shannon are sitting for the Pikes, who are both Halloween-crazy and believing/pretending that Jordan actually knows how to cast spells. This was the best part:
            Jessi: Maybe Jordan put a spell on the whole family and made them invisible.
            Shannon: Shh! Don’t give them any ideas!
Oh, and Mal calls Jessi in a panic, because she NEEDS the mystery notebook now! Shannon suggests the Salem-bound sitters could just write down their notes and put them in the notebook later, when they’re back in Stoneybrook, but Mal won’t listen. It’s actually pretty hilarious. She’s waaaaaay too attached to that notebook. Shannon actually connects that fact to Jordan and his obsession with the spell book.
There’s a whole C-level plot about how both Alan and Cary are on the Salem trip. Alan keeps pulling childish pranks on Kristy, while Cary makes snarky comments. It comes up again later, so hang on here…
The title quote is what Kristy says when MA is disappointed that Kristy already knows about the theft. Abby: “Agatha Kristy strikes again.”
Abby calls the front desk and asks if anyone had checked in or checked out since the robbery. And the front desk actually tells her! Remind me never to stay there….
Suspects: the ‘newspaper spy’, who is probably actually some type of law enforcement; Mrs. Moorehouse, the diamond’s owner; and Harvey Hapgood, who offered to buy the diamond before it went missing.
There’s this sixth grader named Eileen who is Mal’s roommate during the trip. She’s one of those quiet social outcasts with bad fashion sense; every school had some of those. Cokie and Grace keep being cruel to her, and she just takes it. The BSC can’t take it, but other than Mal inviting Eileen to eat dinner with them the first night, they don’t do anything about it, either.
Abby starts wearing her ‘pet pumpkin’ on a clip on her belt, and she actually gets attacked by someone trying to get it off of her—only she doesn’t know that’s why at the time.
Claudia spelling: sugestions, corse, Salim. She also uses ware for wear. Oh, and it’s a joint notebook entry between Claudia and Logan, which I think is awesome, even though it’s really brief. They are sitting for the Brewer/Thomas crew and the Papadakises. It’s annoying because Karen’s being super-pesty and keeps trying to scare everyone by talking about ghosts. Claudia and Logan keep assuring Andrew that it’s not true, but Karen responds, ‘It could be.’
Stacey actually calls Claudia in order to discuss the wardrobes of the Salem-bound sitters so that Claud can help plan costumes. That sounds cute, except that they’re on the phone for an hour. That can’t be good for their hotel bill, or for Stacey’s ability to get her homework done.
This is even funnier than Mal’s unhealthy obsession with the mystery notebook. Jessi tracks down Mr. Wu, the husband of one of the teachers on the trip, in order to take the notebook to him. (He’s going to join his wife in Salem for the rest of the weekend.) When it arrives, Abby notes that Jessi stuck the notebook in an envelope, taped every possible opening shut, and wrote Personal and Confidential all over it. As Abby notes, that doesn’t looks suspicious or anything!
“We’re not here to talk the politics of shoes.” That’s Mary Anne’s attempt at smoothing over a disagreement between Stacey, who thinks that high heels make your legs look longer, and Abby, who points out how bad they are for your body.
Costume time. Don’t you love yet another BSC Halloween? Amazing how they have two in one year. Kristy is Sherlock Bones, with a magnifying glass, a necklace made of dog bones and biscuits, and a fake mustache. Mal is a pumpkin patch, covered in pumpkin-themed items. Mary Anne is a cat, and Stacey is mother time, with a clock painted on her face. Abby is—shocker here—a soccer player. Again. Alan is a vampire, and Cary is rat man, whatever the hell that is. Cokie and Grace are witches, which is appropriate. I mean, they can’t dress as bitches, so this is as close as they can get.
Alan actually leaves a ‘bite mark’ on Kristy’s neck. It’s red permanent marker, set to look like vampire fangs, but Abby worries for a moment that he actually bit her. That would be unfortunate, because then Kristy would need a rabies shot.
BRAHAHAHAHAHA! Abby wears a waist pack—what was once was known as a fanny pack. (My mother wore one for going on twenty years, but because she got her first one while we lived in England, she always called her a bum bag. ‘Fanny’ means something altogether else in England.) She actually has hers stolen because the thief—dressed as a ghost—is looking for her pet pumpkin. Unfortunately for the thief, the pumpkin is part of Mal’s pumpkin patch. Since the thief doesn’t know that, he/she uses the room key from her bag to ransack Abby and Stacey’s room.
After Cokie starts torturing Eileen again, Mal actually steps up and steers Eileen away from the two of them. Later, she invites Eileen to hang out and drink cocoa with the BSC. I know Mal is a lot of negative things, but I like the fact that she doesn’t put up with bullying. Although, I did have to roll my eyes when she equates Cokie’s treatment of Eileen with the Salem witch trials, suggesting that if someone had stood up against the madness, it might never have happened. I get the connection—the witches were just people who were different or weird, and that’s why they were called witches—but she’s making it sound like the BSC just changed history by standing up to Cokie.
“This mystery was growing more mysterious.” Thank you, Mal. You just made my ultimate dream come true, but connecting this series even more closely to Scooby Doo. (I am really trying to find the clip of when Fred says this in Scooby Doo Meets the Addams Family. He also says, “Hey look, gang, a door,” and points at a door. That has to be the most ludicrous line in the history of Scooby Doo, and that’s saying something.)
Stacey wants to turn the mystery into a mathematical equation so she could solve it right away. If that were possible, then mathematicians would = cops. Even without being a mathematician or a police officer, Stacey think she’s solved everything:
            Stacey: I have it! I have it!
            Abby: The flu? The meaning of life?
Actually, she just figured out that the numbers she memorized earlier in the story are a safe combination for somewhere in her hotel.
The BSC knows something is horribly wrong because Kristy missed an emergency BSC meeting! Of course, they don’t know that Kristy was jealous because she missed the ‘excitement’ earlier when the robbery happened, so when she found a ‘clue,’ she went off to the museum to explore for herself.
When I grow up, I totally want to be a newspaper spy. I don’t know what they do, other than they pretend to read newspapers in hotel lobbies, but that’s what the BSC keeps calling one of the suspects.
It is awfully convenient that a) all the suspects continually tell the front desk where they are going and b) the front desk has no problem sharing that information with random teenagers. This mystery would have been dead in its tracks a while ago without that bit of loveliness.
Oh, and it turns out that none of the suspects actually went where they said they were going, as a tiny bit of sleuthing figures out.
More costumes, these ones worn at the parade in Stoneybrook: Emily Michelle is a rabbit and Karen, a jack in the box. The Rodowsky boys are all monsters (yes, but what about their costumes?) Becca is a princess, while Squirt is King of the Kitchen (wearing a pot on his head. I guess that’s a thing now?) Jordan, who still believes in his magic spells, is Merlin. Only he winds up admitting his spell book is a poetry book, and Claire—who thought he was going to make her fly—throws a tantrum. Fun times….
Oh, this is lovely. When the electricity goes out…on Halloween night…in a ‘haunted’ inn…with a thief on the loose…and Kristy missing…one of the teachers goes around handing all the kids candles and match books. Um, what? I think a smarter way to avoid burning down the inn would be to insist that all the kids come to one central spot and then for the adults to light candles around them and not let them touch them.
Kristy references From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, only not really by name. She gets a little ways into the title and then decides that since she’s locked in a museum in the dark with someone following her, she should just use the information: she hides in a bed in the museum display, like Claudia and her brother do in that book.
The person who is following Kristy? Alan. Only he’s not actually following her. Cary set both of them up with fake clues. I don’t know why Kristy fell for this, because she knows Cary’s done that before. (Penguins, anyone?) Kristy and Alan team up to scare the living shit out of Cary for scaring them.
Also, Kristy realizes that Cary basically keeps surveillance on the BSC at all times. He knows every detail about them. Well, duh. How else is he so good at torturing and pestering them? It’s what makes him head and shoulders above Alan. (Kristy also realizes she and Alan used the same ruse to get away from the chaperons, making Kristy fear that her teachers trusted her and Alan about the same amount. Heh, heh, heh.)
This is interesting: Cary thinks Kristy is babysitting, and states that he would never bring the little girl to the museum in the dark, saying she’s far too responsible for that. It puts a slightly different spin on Cary. Originally I thought he liked to torture Kristy because she was an easy target; she’s very simple to rile up. But this makes me think that Cary sees Kristy as the only one who is his equal, with whatever implication that may have.
So our newspaper spy, whom I theorized was some kind of law enforcement, is actually an insurance investigator. Assuming he does what I think he does, he investigates cases of insurance fraud and potential insurance fraud. I work in that field, only on a smaller scale (investigating cases of employees stealing $.99 hideous Halloween decorations and raiding their coworkers’ purses.)
Abby muses the difference between deduction and induction. All I can tell you for certain is that I learned the difference at one point but cannot remember any further. I think I’ll look it up when I’m done here.
Abby gets attacked by the bad guys and knocks both to the ground by performing soccer fouls on them. Only Abby would think to play sports at a time like that. (Of course, I can’t knock it. It would probably be really effective.) Afterwards, she’s like, “That was excellent!” Mary Anne sternly disagrees.
This is the best part of the whole story. Against all logic, Kristy shows up just after the two suspects are apprehended by the newspaper spy and the police. The BSC were in a random other part of the hotel, which they didn’t even know existed until just then. Stacey asks how Kristy found them, which is a good and valid question (as is where she has been, which Mary Anne asks). Kristy shrugs the question off, probably because the ghost writer didn’t have a good answer. She’s too upset that they solved the mystery without her!
The diamond’s owner gives each of the girls a pumpkin charm—a new pet pumpkin—for their help in solving the case. Mal gets all embarrassed, but Abby embarrasses everyone more and says, “No problem. Happens all the time,” in a dismissive tone.
Eileen: oversized dingy black outfit; oversized purple dress, puffy orange windbreaker and clunky shoes, red hat with white snowflakes
Claudia: orange and black hand batiked shirt, one orange sock and one black sock, Doc Martens covered in Halloween stickers
Stacey: black jeans, black turtleneck, silver crop top, black boots (it actually says she wore black boots twice)
Kristy: corduroys, Oxford shirt, sweater vest
What’s next? #102. I have not read this one yet, so this should be interesting. I’m predicting a lot of horrid British accents and slang…

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