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20 January 2010 @ 03:54 am
WATCHERS review - Red Herring  
WATCHERS: Red Herring
S2, Ep 6


Story by DragonWriter17, CN Winters, Anne and CSR
Written by CN Winters (with additional writing by Anne)
Produced and Directed by CN Winters
Edited by Sharon Kierein and Angie Wilson
Sound by CSR
Art Direction by Chris Cook
Artists – Chris Cook, David Zahir, Chantal, Rob, Jin, Humaira, CN Winters




Scene 01: We open in the Slayer gym during a thunderstorm. Kennedy is working a punching bag with Faith. Kennedy kids around with Faith about her joining 'them'... i.e. the Watchers against the Slayers because she's going to Andrew's Halloween party instead of the Slayer's bash.



Faith tells her that Andrew works so hard all year and he asks for so little from her and Robin. Kenn responds by joking that she just thinks Robin wants her to go so he can check out her milkmaid costume....

Scene 02: In the kitchen at that time, Andrew is feeling bummed out that Tracey has a boyfriend - interrupting his intentions to ask her out. Everyone in the Council has been mentioning it over the gossip-line, so his assistant for the evening, little Marsha, is aware of his 'crash and burn'.

She takes the opporunity to shock Andrew but strongly hinting that she'd be interested in dating him, instead. Tracey arrives at that time and she is also aware that Andrew's behavior has changed toward her.

Commentary: Yeah, he wasn't the only one shocked.

She admits to having realized that he was going to ask her out, but gives him the dreaded "I still want to be friends" speech. He agrees. Jeff arrives to help out with Andrew's party food.

Scene 03: Jeff and Andrew commisserate on their both being interested in girls who are unattainable - Andrew with Tracey, Jeff with Dawn.

Scene 04: In the meanwhile, Marsha has gone down to the Coven room and is tossing something into a cauldron:

"This will show Andrew we've got something in common," she says.

As we all know, magic by amateurs is NEVER a good idea....

Scene 05: Giles and Willow are discussing a book the Brell has given to the Council to provide more, and needed, information on the Presidium (the big bad of S1 and it appears the big bad of S2 as well). The problem is that the book has been written in several human and demon languages, as if multiple people have added to the lore in their own native language and translating it is causing issues.

Giles is also expressing worry over Andrew's choice of costume for him. Apparently, his party involves a murder mystery and everyone has been assigned a 'role' in the drama. Giles is fearing a Captain Kirk outfit and threatens to Willow that the Council will be opening a one man Arctic Circle station if this turns out to be so.

Three guesses who will be manning the station, the first two don't count. Willow is expressing the (probably in vain) hope that this Halloween will pass without supernatural incident.

Commentary: I like this scene for its light humor, while at the same time not forgetting that the Presidium in the background isn't something to be ignored. I also like the mention of Dawn's gift for the Sumerian language that was mentioned in S7 of BTVS. Willow also mentions here that she's adept in Latin, as well, a language that Will struggles with herself (at least speaking it, which was also seen in a throwaway bit in S7 of BTVS, I believe).

Scene 06: Willow goes to the Slayer dorms to look for Marsha. She wants to remind her that she's not patrolling that night, instead being given radio duty. Kenn takes the opportunity to talk to her about Ro and Mia, who apparently have spent a lot of time together lately.

Kenn is insecure about her relationship with Mia (which we've seen clues about before) and wonders if she and Ro might not be hooking up on the sly. Willow puts the kibosh on that, without mentioning that her and Ro are sort of seeing one another.

Another bone of contention for Kenn is that Mia refuses to talk about the special training she's receiving.

Commentary: We get possibly our
first insight into the Black Ops mentality here when Willow mentions the sorts of things that Mia is learning. She makes it sound like the Special Operations group is learning some questionable tactics (we can imagine they'd be learning the sorts of tactics that the Rangers or Green Berets learn). This scene added to my initial uneasyness with the Black Ops/Special Forces concept when it was introduced. But, I'm always happy when Mia is included, even peripherally.

Scene 07: In their room, Faith and Robin gets ready for Andy's party, but she's displeased to find that she has a script now that she needs to follow. Andrew has assigned to her a stunning black dress, which she feels is "ridiculous".



During their bantering, Robin alludes to her going as his Mrs. instead, and she (clumsily) balks a bit even though he's just joking around.

Scene 08: In a hallway, Ro is complaining about having to leave only to 're-arrive' according the their script. Will flirts, but Ro jokingly tells her that Mr. Peacock would not be pleased with her dallying Willow's Ms. Scarlet. They kiss, but Ro quickly jumps away from her abruptly when footsteps sound in the hallway, leaving Willow frustrated and a bit hurt.

Giles comes around the corner in tweed. Will and Giles joke about the 'blast from the past' look. Giles, or excuse me, Professor Plum, teases Ro about her feather hat.

Scene 09: In the Slayer rec room, a game of cards is briefly interrupted when Kenn makes a point of questioning Mia about her Slayer Ops training, but does it in an uncomfortable challenging way. With Jeff, Dawn and Skye getting up for unneeded popcorn, Mia continues to refuse to speak about her training.

She's able to tell, though, that Kenn is more worried about Ro than about Mia's training. She puts her mind at ease on that front.

Scene 10: Xander complains to Andy about having to stand outside in order to "arrive" at the dinner when it's raining heavily out. Andy whines that he has to stay in character. He plays the butler, Xan got the role of Col. Mustard.

Scene 11: Vi walks into the kitchen to note Marsha working over a cauldron. When questioned, Marsha answers that she's making the Watchers' event 'more fun'....

Scene 12: With the party now really beginning, each player in Andrew's 'clue' mystery receives their card describing why they may be the party to kill the guest of honor, one Mr. Boddy (who is played by a visiting Brell). In addition each receives a box with a weapon matching those of the Parker Brothers' game.



With the final pieces in place, Brell reads off of a card stating that Andrew, the Butler plans to expose their secrets and challenging them to kill him. 'Mr. Boddy' claims that their secrets are safe with him, and then turns off the light to plunge the room into darkness for the murder to kick off the mystery.

Scene 13: However, in the kitchen, Marsha is busy throwing her own jokey wrench into the mix....

Scene 14: When the lights go on, Andrew remains standing but Brell... er, Mr. Boddy lies dead. Everyone immediately turns on one another pointing out each other's motives for doing the deed. We also get a hint that maybe Marsha's spell is having some effect... Faith seems to be inhabiting her part a little more than I think might and this line, describing Xan lays a possible hint as well... 'sounding more like a solider than himself'. Are we being misled, or is there some sort of 'change people into their characters' going on?



Commentary: The 'Clue' scenes are really fun and I give props to the writers for making the dialog really humorous. Personally, I'm hoping they didn't go the 'inhabit a character' route since it's a little too close to the BTVS episode, Halloween, although it could be meant as a purposeful homage to that episode.

Scene 15: In the Slayer Rec Room, there are relieved sighs from Dawn, Skye and Jeff at Kenn and Mia kissing. There is a very small hint here that there may be trouble brewing for Skye/Dawn however, when Dawn slings her arm through Jeff's... Skye suddenly decides to go to the kitchen for 'more cheese' instead of returning the the table.

Scene 16: Back in the dining room, there is more delicious dialog as the suspects throw out biting comments at each other. A peel of thunder and flash of lightening puts the lights out. Everyone rushes to the pantry to look for candles, all afraid that one of them may be a murderer... and Andrew reveals he isn't sure where the pantry is located. He admits to not being a butler, but head of the kitchen... but it's obviously suspicious.

Scene 17: Act One ends on a sinister note as Skye, who isn't involved in Andy's party (as far as we know - remember than mysteries are about misdirection) spots someone suspicious in the kitchen. She asks what this person is doing there..., but the response is a sliced throat!

Blood runs through Skye's fingers as she looks shocked!



Commentary: Wow. Now that was a surprising turn of events. This looked to be a quirky 'fluff' episode... and the back of the person's head who is the mystery slicer looks like it could be little Marsha (who's supposed to be at the radio) or perhaps Bonnie (who isn't supposed to be able to commit a violent act within the Council's walls). Either, or even Becca for that matter (who's supposed to be volunteering at an orphanage) could be our real suspect and could be being affected by Marsha's attempted spell. The real question is... is Skye actually dead?

Scene 17/18/19: Dawn goes looking for Skye, leaving the Slayers telling ghost stories. She trips over her lifeless body, startling Andrew in the pantry with a blood curdling scream.

Scene 20: In the rec room, everyone hears Dawn's scream and rushes to see what the problem is.

Scene 21: Dawn is sobbing (Skye *was* killed?! Oh, crap.) and everyone is shocked to find Skye lying on the floor. Jeff and Vi escort Dawn back to the Rec Room, while Mia and Kenn proceed to the dining room....

Scene 22: ... and find it mysteriously empty, except for Brell who is playing his role a bit too well by not breathing!

Vi and Kenn quickly decide to get to the generators for the emergency lighting.

Commentary: I have three small problems with this, but it won't effect my scoring any: (1) I find it unlikely that the Council wouldn't have generators that automatically kick on during a power outage, considering their evil-fighting activities. A power outage during an organized assault seems like a likely event to have planned for. (2) I thought the gang at Andy's party were going to go together to the pantry (so as not to be sneakily 'murdered' off in the game) so why wasn't anyone with Andrew? (3) Where was Tracey during all of this? (Unless Tracey turns out to be the murderer - I'm only assuming the bleary shot of the back of a head is blond/blonde).

Scene 23: Back in the kitchen, the other mystery participants arrive (see my comment above - it still seems to have taken too long for the others to have gotten to there) and find Skye. Everyone accepts this 'casualty' as if she were part of the Clue game.

Commentary: While this doesn't prove anything either way (they refer to Skye as mansion staff which is how Andrew described the others who weren't part of the dining room parlor game... they could assume that Skye is playing a part), the fact that they don't seem especially disturbed that Skye doesn't appear to just be playing dead indicates that they are under a spell affecting their sense of reality.

Scene 24: In the Rec Room, Dawn's obvious grief has tipped off the younger Slayers that something is wrong. Vi hedges, telling them Skye 'got hurt' and instructs them to stay put and together. Then she does what you should never do when a murderer is running around (even if you are a Slayer) and leaves the gang to find the missing Marsha.

Scene 25: Outside in the storm, Kenn and Mia get the generators running (and the generators aren't fueled before a disaster strikes? Is this right?)

Scene 26: In the dining room, Kennedy discovers that everyone involved in Andy's game definitely thinks they're the characters they were assigned. Skye's death is dismissed by the assembled as someone they didn't know (plus she was 'just a staff member'). Robin broaches calling the police (as later Kenn does) but everyone shoots that plan down because of the scandal to their reputations and they're various reasons for wanting Mr. Boddy dead in the first place.

Scene 27: Vi is able to locate Marsha over another bubbling cauldron in Willow's magicks work room. She informs the young Slayer that at least two people in the Council are now lying dead for real.



Scene 28: Back in the dining room, Kennedy tries to deal with the Watchers, Robin and Faith thinking they're somebody else. Vi marches in Marsha who is immediately dressed down by Vi and Kenn for messing with magic. In the meantime the mystery participants scoff that there is anything to 'magic'.

In the heated exchange that happens, Xander notices Kennedy's muscles and wonders if she could be the murderer with her "soldier's build", but Willow suggests she could protect them. As she's giving Kenn's bicep a squeeze, Ro and Mia both become a bit jealous as Will's hold lingers a bit longer than necessary.

Faith catches Ro's look and confronts her, believe 'Mrs. White' and 'Ms. Scarlett' have met before this, which Ro denies, but Mia claims she's lying by the dilation of her eyes, adding to the general distrust pervading the room.

Scene 29: Marsha grabs the book, but suspiciously returns to the Rec Room instead of the dining room where the others are waiting.

Commentary: This is suspicious if you think about it a moment, because no one in the Rec Room has any idea that a spell is going on yet, and no reason to confront Marsha about reversing it.

When she tells Jeff and Dawn that Skye's body was moved to the dining room, the two quickly go there....

Scene 30: In the dining room, Rowena is being grilled by the assembled when Willow has to defend her by admitting that they knew each other prior to coming to Mr. Boddy's dinner party. In addition, she admits that she and "Ms. Scarlett" are intimately involved, Mr. Boddy knew about it and threatened to reveal them, and in addition to destroying Mrs. White's 'acting career', could also lead the police to realize she'd killed her previous husband to be with her.

And of course, this ficticious plot echoes the fact that Ro and Willow ARE secretly seeing one another....

But, that leaves Skye's murder unaddressed, until Willow admits she killed Skye as well. Claiming that Skye was the one who originally caught Mrs. White and Ms. Scarlett in a clinch and provided that information to Mr. Boddy. Both had to be eliminated to protect their lesbian tryst from becoming public knowledge.

Unfortunately, Dawn is present for this confession and launches herself at Willow in rage. She quickly grabs the murder weapon (a dagger) from Willow (who had hidden it in her cleavage!) and knifes Mrs. White to death!

Commentary: And, here is where I stop buying that we're not being tricked because we already know that Willow isn't going to be murdered by Dawn. Killing a tertiary character, sure, but a main one? Nah... not buying it.

Dawn is shocked by a magic blast that sends her across the room, crashing into a china cabinet and falling to the floor. Marsha stands in the doorway, tears in her eyes... but things aren't nearly over.

Willow gets up from the floor, ignoring her wounds, dark-eyed and veiny... she tells the assembled she's been waiting for two long years to make her comeback!

And, we get the following: "VO: Alright. Stop. Rewind. So it really didn't happen this way... how about this...."

Scene 31: We rejoin the group, now clearly not in reality as Willow and Ro are back to confessing their illicit affair.

Instead this time, Willow still cops to killing Mr. Boddy, but Giles is the culprit who kills Skye because they were having an affair as well. Skye became pregnant and in order to protect his upcoming nuptuals to Becca had to silence her forever....

Dawn admits she suspected Skye of cheating on her (and we know now that magic isn't happening, so there is no break in continuity with her not being present in the dinner party at the beginning). She whips out a pistol and shoots Plum dead.

Commentary: This got a smile from me... after Dawn shoots Giles, she states to the room: At least we know who killed Professor Plum. It was me, in the library, with a revolver.

Obviously echoing how you win a game of Clue - of course, she's in the dining room, not the library....


A VO tells us that this isn't exactly right either and offer another scenario....

Scene 32: The scene replays with the admission to an affair between Ro and Willow and Ro killing Mr. Boddy to protect Willow's 'acting career'....

This time as well, Willow pulls out the dagger and re-runs through the scenario where she killed Skye as well. Dawn attacks her and stabs her to death in vengeance, but this time when Kenn checks over Willow, the witch startles her with a 'GOTCHA'.

Everything was set up to fool Kennedy, Vi, Mia and the others with Dawn, Skye and Jeff in on it. In addition, because Brell can stop his blood flow for minutes at a time, he was the perfect initial victim for Kenn to check. Jeff took care of the special effects on Skye's neck and made sure he was the one to 'confirm' she had no pulse....

In the meantime, Marsha was running around with a Latin school book, not a spell book. Her use of Willow's cauldron was to make party punch using Andrew's recipe (the book in the kitchen) and when Vi caught her in the coven room, she was just returning it.

A laugh is had by all, except for Willow. When Faith jokingly says she wants to hear the details of Mrs. White and Ms. Scarlett behind the scenes, Ro tells her there isn't anything to tell and it was all just play acting, again disappointing Willow.

Scene 33: Having changed out of their costumes to join in on the Slayerfest party in the Rec Room, Will confronts Ro in the hallway about her not admitting, again, that they are involved. She tells her that they should cool things down until Ro can be open with their friends.

Ro salvages the situation by promising in one month's time they'll 'come out', but she needs more time to make this adjustment. She uses Kennedy as a reason for postponing, not willing yet to face her after she finds out.

Commentary: Ro may describe it as a reason, Willow would probably join me in calling it a 'flimsy excuse'. And it forces us to string along the Ro/Will angsty relationship a bit longer... *sigh*.


The Good: The pacing on this one was very good. It kept moving forward and the mystery was well handled with one caveat.

I liked the exposure we were given of Marsha, again.

I liked that they avoided repeating the BTVS: Halloween episode by making their 'lost identity' just a ploy for a joke on the Slayer contigent. And let's give a big hand that the 'supernaturally quiet Halloween', is actually 'supernaturally quiet'.

I like the way we were misled throughout, including with Skye's murder, which is certainly a possibility since her character isn't major. It was also great that when Willow is murdered by Dawn and we know that won't be real, we're immediately told so rather than trying to play it straight.

I like the whole tone of this one - it starts to get dire, but then everything turns back to a light, fun episode with the reveal.

I really like how the conspirators explain how they were able to fool Kennedy and there were certainly enough people involved to have things play out the way they did.


The Bad: The only thing that bothers me - and it seems minor, but it pulls the whole thing off kilter, is the inclusion of the VO and the repetition of the closing scene. Here's my issue - and I'm not sure I can explain this right but here goes:

We are seeing the episode as if it is occurring in 'real time' both before the reveal and during the final reveal/hallway scene with Ro and Willow. But the VO gives the clear impression that we're being told this tale as if it had already passed... as if someone is relating this tale of what happened with the party to someone who wasn't there. This would be fine and well if we knew who was relating the story, to whom they're relating it, and why they bothered to give two false tales before the actual reveal.

It feels like this may be Andrew breaking the fourth wall to tell the audience a story about his brilliant trick of Kennedy - which would have been great, but then it immediately goes to the hallway scene which Andrew could not possibly relate. The only ones who could are Rowena (who wouldn't) and Willow (who I can't see telling 'us' the tale of Andrew's exploits at the Halloween dinner).

See - it throws the when and where of the storyteller's perspective completely off. I wish instead of this VO, we had gotten a cut to Andrew addressing us (eliminating the first two false conclusions) expressing a sense of pride in his 'production' and perhaps a sentiment of really belonging that he'd been missing even in the Trio. That would have been a great realization for him to come to.

Alternately, it also would have worked if, say Giles, were relating the tale to Becca (also eliminating the false starts - or having Giles make Becca guess how it ended and have the first two false endings be her guesses at how things played out).

Separately, where in the world did Tracey go following her arrival and discussion with Andrew? She literally vanishes!


Other Thoughts: There are a few things that occurred to me during the review, some of which are in comments. I also have to ask... how could you take this scenario and NOT INCLUDE BONNIE? She is the perfect, ready-made 'Red Herring' for our tricksters to include both to fool the audience when we believe they are under a spell and for Kennedy, Vi and the rest to jump to as the likely cause of the problem (before Vi makes her arrival with 'guilty' Marsha).

This would have added 'running time' to the episode so we could avoid the VO problem... as well, someone should have pointed out Dawn's terrific act when she found Skye (since she was acting both to fool us and Kennedy - she was in an empty room during her blood curdling scream, after all). They also could have eliminated the Tracey issue completely this way and save her and Andrew's discussion for another time.


The Score: I really liked this one guys, until it fell apart there right at the end. It was fun and a great practical joke and as mentioned avoided the 'quiet Halloween' not being quiet at all. It was starting to seem Giles' claims in BTVS were just a myth. I was wrapped up in the fun Clue, had my doubts that Skye was actually killed - but willing to concede it could be real, and finally got caught up in the tense play with Kenn and Mia. I just wish that VO portion was either re-thought completely or at the very least restructured a little bit.

3.50 out of 5 stars.


 
 
 
Scottbook_worm5 on October 28th, 2010 06:41 am (UTC)
Hi. I realise this is years afterwards, but I'm just going through the episodes (and most of your commentaries) now, and I thought I'd comment on this point. The reason for the voice-over and rewind shtick at the end, which you thought was awkward, is because that's precisely what was done in the Clue movie from 1985. There were three different endings to it, too, and you're kind of invited to pick whichever you like, though the last is presented as the really true one. This episode was a homage to that movie, rather than simply the game itself.
harsens_robharsens_rob on October 28th, 2010 10:05 am (UTC)
Thanks for the response. In the forum, I think it was Zahir who explained that part to me. I hadn't seen the Clue movie, so I didn't get the reference.

It ended up not making me like the VO ending any more, but at least I understand the intent behind it, now.