When Last We Left Our Story: Spike had gone to a secluded warehouse to again rescue the perennially abducted Valerie. Evading a rigged shotgun blast, Spike held his own against four of Abel’s hoods. In the process, however, a knocked-over lantern set the warehouse ablaze. By the time Spike freed Valerie, the two have been locked in as the flames mounted higher. Moreover, while seeking an exit, the two discovered the cellar was filled with dynamite. As the crooks watched from outside, the flames leapt ever higher into the sky. Suddenly, the warehouse explodes, auguring for our heroes a horrible, seemingly inescapable death…
Cliffhanger Resolution: Inside, in footage we didn’t see before, Spike tells Valerie “We have one chance!” He’s spotted a battered old pick-up truck parked in the corner of the warehouse. Hustling her inside, Spike jumps into the driver’s seat and hits the gas, smashing through the plank wall of the warehouse just as it explodes behind them.
Cheat Factor: Well, OK, it’s kind of convenient that the truck is there, but it’s not beyond belief that it was used in lieu of a forklift to haul consignments around. And the wall they drive through looks suspiciously flimsy, but maybe the fire had been working on it. Still, after the desultory nature of the previous cliffhanger, this one is pretty darn exciting, what with the fiercely burning warehouse and the explosion. So I’m giving it a low Cheat Factor of 2, and giving it a 9 overall as a resolution. The kiddies must have been well pleased.
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this.
The crooks watch all this, naturally assuming—AGAIN—that the heroes are dead. They are then chased off when Captain Thompson (the comic relief cop, as opposed to the saavy Inspector Ross) and a couple of uniform officers arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, Spike and Valerie find themselves stranded some ways down the road when their truck conks out. They hope to hitch a ride, but when a car pulls over, it’s predictably the fleeing crooks. Still, you can’t argue with the pacing. One minute after the death-defying escape from the warehouse, it’s time for another brawl.
Badly outnumbered, and distracted by trying to keep the crooks from nabbing Valerie again, things don’t look good for Spike. Although he accounts for himself well, he’s finally knocked dazed to the ground. Valerie is nearly grabbed up again when Thompson’s siren is heard. The crooks again flee empty handed, and Spike and Valerie are soon clambering into the squad car. They pursue the hoodlums, and Spike suggests they cut the siren, hoping they can trail the crooks unnoticed on the dark road.
However, the road is too dark, and the hoods make it unseen to the hidden hedge door and the secret platform that lowers them to the underground dungeon area of Garr Castle. Thompson and the others therefore end up back at Lady’s Manor, the house across the street from the Castle which is being rented by Valerie and her father, John Howett. Thompson uses the phone to call in an APB, not knowing the crooks have already reached safety.
Back at the Garr Castle Underground Conference Room, the gang is herded around Abel, sitting at his desk. He is miffed. After all, he’s destroyed a car, lost three men (although two of those he had killed himself) and blown up a warehouse in trying to bump off Spike, who’s still running around. And if you think he’s pissed now, wait until he learns he derailed an entire passenger train and killed an untold number of people just to kack his brother, who himself is still secretly hale and healthy. (Oops, Spoiler.)
“So tell me, Stumpy. Was your card…the Three of Spades?!”
Anyway, Abel is reading his gang the riot act, wondering why all his *cough* perfect plans keep going awry. Assuming that no merely mortal could match his own brilliance, Abel believes that Spike must be getting inside info on the gang’s activities. Meanwhile, he wants to neutralize the ‘real’ Green Archer until he can figure out how to use him himself, and orders his men to make sure the hidden passages around the castle are unusable for him. Abel warns he will “get rid of”* anyone who fails at this task, which inspires a lot of ‘peas and carrots’ grumbling from the men.[*Even this far into things I’m not sure if he means he’ll kill anyone who fails, or just kick them out of the gang.]
Meanwhile, back at Lady’s Manor, Spike has caught Thompson up on current events. Then Thompson gets a phone call revealing that the crooks they were chasing somehow eluded the APB posted on them. Thompson prepares to go, and offers to leave some officers behind to guard the place—which has already been subjected in two chapters to a pair of kidnappings, attempted murder on three people, and two deaths by arrow—but Spike persuades him it’s unnecessary.
After the cops leave, Valerie asks Spike why he didn’t reveal that he recognized the crooks as being Abel’s men. Spike reminds her that Abel has “Elaine, your sister,” (Oh, that Elaine!) a hostage. Should the police raid the castle, Abel might dispose of her. That’s a pretty thin reed on which to base keeping the police out, but they can’t wrap things up yet, there are 11 chapters yet to go.
Spike promises Valerie he’s working on a way to get back into the Castle, and sends her and John off to bed. Meanwhile, the Green Archer—apparently the ‘Fake’ one, as we’ll soon see—is lurking outside the window as Spikes sits in a chair. I’m pretty sure you know where this is going by now.
Sure enough, he fires an arrow which seems to only miss him because he was bending over to grab something. To be fair, actor Jory takes a convincingly awkward tumble onto the floor as the arrow hits. Meanwhile, if I’m counting right, this is the fifth chair hit by an arrow so far. (Although one chair has been hit three times in—coincidentally, I’m sure—the exact same spot.)
The Archer flees. Spike pauses to leave a note, and then takes off himself. Meanwhile, Brad, the Fake Archer, is reporting success to Abel. In, of course, the front office of Abel’s house. Anyway, given the shortness of the shot, Brad doesn’t believe he could have missed. As well, he mistook Spike’s sprawl to the floor as the result of him being hit. Abel is pleased by the report, although presumably he’ll be sort of annoyed when he finds out Brad actually failed again.*[*Needless to say, when Brad is firing at a distance at a bad guy in a moving car, he puts the arrow square into the guy. Yet when he tries to shoot the hero from more or less pointblank range, he never manages it.]
Abel explains they’ll start searching for the “phantom” Green Archer the next day, and then gives Brad another assignment. He wants Brad to use the Green Archer getup to scare Elaine. Brad is hilariously excited by this, acting like a guy who’s finally gotten the lead in his local community theater play after years of failed auditions. Seriously, he jumps and spins around like he’s Jimmy Durante.
“NIAGARA FALLS!! Slooowly I turned, step by step…”
Meanwhile, the ‘real’ Green Archer is seen sneaking into one of the Castle’s secret passages. And here comes to fruition the inherent French Farce potential of having two Green Archers running around. I mean, I know it’s only the fourth episode, but it still seems like it’s been a long time coming.[By the way, how is it that both Archers ended up with exactly identical outfits? I mean, even if they were working off the same painting(s), there should be some deviation between them, wouldn’t you think?]
So just to set the scene, Brad and Abel are in Abel’s house, while Savini is in the front room of the Castle, preparing the gang’s last score of jewels to be fenced the next day. (You’d think trying to kill their previous fence would hinder this process a bit, but maybe not.) Meanwhile, the Archer has left the passageways and is now eavesdropping in the main hallway, outside the office where Savini is currently talking to Abel over the phone.
Look at that guy! He’s a master of stealth, a regular ninja, I tells ya.
However, the Archery Avenger is startled when the front door, opposite his position, begins to open. He attempts to flee, but doesn’t make it out of sight before he is spotted by one of the patrol groups of Abel’s men. Luckily, however, they assume the guy walking around in plain view is Brad and just call out a greeting as he continues on. Only when the men check in with Savini do they figure out it must have been the Archer they’ve been searching for all this time.
They then scramble back into the hallway to find him. The Archer tries to reach one of the secret passageways, but doesn’t have enough time. Knowing all the tricks of the Castle, however—hmm, why would that be?—he manages to trap one group of guys behind the previously established descending bars long enough to run off again.
Luck proves to be with him. Just after he runs past, an oblivious Brad emerges fully decked out and masked in his own Archer costume, on his way to fulfill his mission to frighten Elaine. Needless to say, he is spotted by the hoods and jumped. They knock him out, but are nonplussed when the remove his mask and see it’s Brad.
“You fools, you numbskulls!” an irate Savini cries. Tragically, he doesn’t execute a triple face slap to the men. I mean, that would have been awesome, especially if they foleyed in some bonking coconut sounds. Also, we sadly never get a scene where we watch everybody running from one side of the hall to the other and back again, popping in and out of various rooms as they chase each other around. This whole chapter is rife with missed opportunities.
While this occurs, we cut back to the main hallway, where the Archer enters the front room and absconds with the purloined jewels Savini rather stupidly left behind.* Abel is called and flips when he hears about this. It seems like the gang is going through a bit of a cash crunch right now, and they need those jewels. I guess they spent too much on those shovels they used to derailed that train.[*Kudos, by the way. The second chapter was entitled The Face In the Window, but there was no face in any window. The third chapter was called The Devil’s Dictaphone, and this device was but barely glimpsed. However this episode does actually feature some “Vanishing Jewels,” so good on them.]
So the men are sent out to search for the interloper. Things get even wackier, though, when some hoods open a secret passage to discover a very surprised Spike skulking right behind the door. So he ends up in a donnybrook, too. Boy, that guy’s going to be goofy from all the concussions he must be getting during the thing. Jim Rockford didn’t get knocked out this often.
So Abel arrives on the scene and stops one of his men from just shooting Spike in the head. Instead, he has him tossed into another chamber and locked in. Abel then opens a nearby secret panel to reveal an electric switch (presumably this whole thing was modernized at some point), which he throws. Spike looks up and sees the ceiling of his room, festooned with sharpened metal spikes (oh, the irony), descending towards him, promising Our Hero a horrible and seemingly inescapable death….
I’d like to point out that they entitled the chapter that features this scene, “Vanishing Jewels.” Way to step on your lead, dumbass.
Join us in two days for Chapter 5: The Fatal Spark.
Note: For the purposes of this checklist, only new elements will be counted, not stuff that occurred at the beginning of the chapter via repeated footage from the previous episode’s cliffhanger. For instance, two such minutes of repeated footage featured fights, gunplay, and a big explosion, but they were taken from episode 3.
Fights: Yes, Spike fights a number of guys on the road after the escape from the warehouse; Spike fights several guys in the Castle; the Archer fights several guys in the Castle; and even Brad throws a punch or two at his compatriots when they rush him.
Car Crashes: Sort of; a truck is used to crash through the warehouse wall.
Gunplay: A little.
Valerie Endangered: She’s nearly kidnapped for like the fourth time on the road.
Easy Opportunity to Just Shoot the Hero Ignored: Yes.
Big Explosions: No new ones. They’re actually pacing this serial correctly, perhaps partly for budgeting purposes, and it lacks a big set piece like the previous chapter.
Chair Murdered by Arrow: Yes.