Author Topic: Tobacco Road -- Episodes 121 &122  (Read 1250 times)

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Offline Luciaphile

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Tobacco Road -- Episodes 121 &122
« on: March 14, 2006, 09:55:23 PM »
Fashion notes first . . .

Thayer David's makeup is way over the top. Way, way over the top.

Carolyn wears a double breasted dark suit. The length is nice (couple of inches above the knee), but the cut of the jacket makes her look fat and she's not.

Onto the show . . .

Same day. First episode is from Lela Swift and Malcolm Marmorstein. It is also a second take episode. Malcolm has a bad rap as a writer, and I'm not sure why. His stuff is crisp and sometimes very funny.

The evolution of David's character is interesting. When the show began, he had a marked resemblance to Rhoda Penmark with no scruples and no conscience. He's evolving. Still very much willing to take moral shortcuts, but there's evidence of moral growth.

Anyhow, when we last saw him, David was addressing the muffled voice behind the bookcase. Matthew comes in and once again freaks. I am not a big fan of Thayer David in this part. I loved his work in other roles, but his Matthew leaves me cold. He's a total ham in the part. Everything is BIG, BIG, BIG!!! with him. It's not that this is an invalid acting choice, but I question whether it's the most effective one.

David offers him the packet of cigarettes and it disarms Matthew. How sweet, the kid brought him cigarettes. Really, it's almost touching. Of course, David also has a one-track mind and wants to know the secret. He theorizes that the voice belonged to a ghost and Matthew relaxes.

My beloved Mrs. Johnson is shining in these episodes. Now Clarice Blackburn has the small town character down pat. She's absolutely fascinating to watch. She theorizes that Vicki is dead in a ditch somewhere with so much gloomy relish that you know there's a part of her that would be disappointed if Vicki just turned up completely unharmed. George has stopped by and she wants to chat. It's a wonderful little scene. He's not about to tip his hand (not that he has one to tip) so she proceeds to impugn the abilities of the police force.

Elizabeth comes to his rescue. They never really can make up their minds if Collinsport is a small town or a small city. From the sounds of it, George has a police force of dozens which seems out of step for either. Liz blames herself. Here I think there is some justification for self-condemnation. She is not, IMHO, responsible for Bill's death or Vicki's kidnapping, but the implication all along has been that after Paul's um, disappearance, she marched into the cannery and picked herself out a watchdog. She picked out someone who would keep his nose out of her business and most importantly someone whose loyalty to her would be paramount. And that someone was Matthew.

So David comes back (I love how he's allowed to go traipsing around an area that may or may not be harboring a fugitive from justice). Learning that the hapless Sheriff Patterson is there, he wants to know what's the scoop. Mrs. J scoffs at the notion of George being able to do anything saying, "When the cannery whistle blows at noon, he knows it's time for lunch and that's a clue." The big mystery she'd like to solve at the moment is her missing cigarettes. He sweetly inquires if she's supposed to be smoking while she's working. I love how the middle aged women on this show are totally onto him. She grabs his fingers looking for tobacco stains. I know the jury is still out on his paternity, but he's absorbed Roger's snobbery. He haughtily informs her that if he wanted cigarettes, he wouldn't steal them, he'd buy them!

When asked what it means when the cannery whistle blows at noon, George answers "lunch." Sheriff Patterson belongs in a special class of TV law enforcement. He might as well be Chief O'Hara's twin for all of his astuteness. Having established that Mrs. J was right about the sheriff's lack of abilities, David gets the 411 on the case. George is way off as far as location, but is on track with his guess that someone is hiding Matthew. He also lets David know that whoever this person is, they're likely to be facing criminal charges and possibly jail.

The new and slightly improved David faces something of a moral dilemma and he knows it. In particular, he's bothered by the idea that Matthew might hurt Vicki (it probably helps that Mrs. Johnson has shared her sense that Vicki's lying dead in a ditch somewhere). Elizabeth has an age appropriate filter when it comes to these things so she's not going there. He asks her about the Old House, but she's got her hands full and is less than communicative.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Johnson is not letting up on her search for her missing cigarettes. Not one bit.

So David (all the while in his little sports jacket) goes back to the Old House to catch Matthew up again. Matthew gets scarier with each passing scene, which is part of my problem with Thayer David's performance. He started out so over the top that as the character's mental state deteriorates, there's really nowhere else for him to go. At some point he finds out that David stole Sarah Johnson's cigarettes and he goes ballistic. Where did he think they came from? I know this was a different era, but would any store clerk sell tobacco products to a nine-year-old? The kid stole food for him. How is this different? David, who at this point has tried to murder his own father, imprisoned his governess, planted evidence, and lied more times than a rug, moves onto more important things: where does he stand with the law as far as aiding and abetting Matthew?

Second episode (Lela and Ron).

If I didn't know better I'd say Matthew is forcing Vicki to wash the Old House floors with her hair. Granted he's grabbed and attempted to strangle her several times now, but really she's spent her time pretty much sitting straight up in a chair. How is she getting this ragged looking?

David's experience as a sociopath comes in handy. Matthew is ranging between suspicion and smugness; he tells David that the noises are coming from the ghosts. David looks him square in the eyes and agrees. He looks like a cherub as he lies. And while his aunt and Mrs. Johnson would not be fooled, Matthew is.

Unfortunately, Vicki isn't nearly as a good a liar as her charge. After David's skedaddled, Matthew starts strangling Vicki again. I wonder if the predisposition Barnabas shows for this technique is something the writers took from Matthew. Both Ron Sproat and Malcolm Marmorstein were around when the character was created. Vicki tries to persuade him that David isn't trustworthy and really he should just take off and leave her in the room.

Up at Collinwood, Carolyn phones Burke. His first question is about Vicki. You have to love this. His interest and preference for Vicki are as transparent as glass and it irks Carolyn no end. Because apparently it's sunk through that the situation may be dire, she can't call him on it without making herself look callous. She tries to rat out Liz and Roger. He's not all that interested. His attention is elsewhere (on Vicki). He ends the call.
As a result, Carolyn's mood is not particularly chipper when David comes into the room.

This conscience thing is tricky. He asks for Elizabeth first (good and obvious choice) and then Roger (out of left field). Since they are both absent, he consults Carolyn. Carolyn is less graphic than Mrs. J in her opinions about Matthew, but she's not optimistic about him, his temper, or Vicki's chances (again, dead in a ditch somewhere). David brings up his favorite theory that Roger is guilty, which Carolyn shoots down.

The next set is Burke's hotel suite. He's leaving messages all over the place for James Blair. Out of nowhere pops up David. For soaps, this breach of the space/time continuum is not unusual, but I think this is the first time DS employs this. So the kid walked a couple of miles into town in like two seconds? No, I don't think so.

Again, David's looking for moral guidance. You have to love it. First time the kid tries to do the right thing and he can't find anyone to help him. Burke is clueless as to what exactly David is getting at. He's also exhausted and distracted. He neither corroborates or denies Roger's guilt. Blair calls back and Burke demands that he hire a team of private investigators to look for Vicki. Let's review. James Blair is some kind of a banker/broker and/or financial advisor. I am no millionaire, but would you honestly call your own personal Charles Schwab to hire a PI for you?

3 strikes and he's out so David hits the road.

An overly made-up Matthew gags Vicki (again) and hits the hay. He's just about to go to sleep when he starts hearing voices calling out "Matthew." I am not sure, but one of them sounds like Clarice Blackburn (didn't she play a wailing widow too?) It's actually a spooky effect. They got the echo right. The voices sound disembodied and the lighting is really very good. He wakes up in a panic. Vicki who is also exhausted wakes up. She's got no clue what he's babbling about. They flash to the drawing room set and Josette's portrait glows.

He heads out to investigate and the voices sound again. Very creepy voices. I really like this. It's eerie and makes up for all manner of flaws. At last the portrait glows and in response to his desperate question, one of the voices self-identifies herself as Josette. He runs back to the secret room where Vicki heard nothing.

Matthew unties her and drags her out of the secret room. She tries reason. She tries agreeing with him, but Matthew is having a meltdown of nuclear proportions. Finally, she suggests that maybe he was half-asleep and walking around in his sleep. He appears swayed, but we all know better. . .
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