SCORE: 2 out of 4 Tennis Balls
November 10, 1976
Mood Ring: Orange
On the Bionic Woman tonight Jaime was in a wild outfit and wore too much makeup. She had to go to a haunted mansion with Vincent Price and pretend she was a gypsy and find a hidden will before anyone else. I wasn’t scared though, because I already saw this on Scooby Doo.
THE BIONIC WOMAN 2x07
The magic just wasn’t there for me in this classic whodunnit. But where there’s a will, there’s always a party.
October 13, 2013
Dear Bionic Blondes,
Mood Ring: Orange
Miss Sommers in the Library With the Lead Pipe: Fair warning, this episode isn't a fave of mine, and despite hoping a Bionic Blonde re-screening might find more to love, I'm afraid it still plays out like a Scooby Doo cartoon for me. A basic whodunnit with a cast of characters gathered in a haunted mansion to solve a crime. And yes, nearly every TV drama has done their own tiresome version of this. Too bad Miss Marple can't cash in on the royalties.
In a way, it also marked a turning point in the series where Jaime started going to costume parties vs. working on more serious government missions. Clearly, I have difficulty adjusting to the heroic nature of Keeping Up With the Kardashians one week after the Bionic Woman saved the world from climate change. I don’t think I began to enjoy this episode until Jaime started delivering some much needed sarcasm at the end. (‘ats our girl!) Naturally my sarcasm will begin in five, four, three, two, one…
For tonights story you will DEFINITELY need a full pitcher of martinis. We have to drink every time the "Creature" appears in a scene to eavesdrop, steal, intimidate or kidnap other members of the cast. This monster grunts and dresses like a homeless man who just came out of a Salvation Army thrift store. What could be more terrifying?
Our other drinking game is to take a swig every time Jaime's cache of over-the-top bling bangles louder than her dialogue. She's like a walking Zales jewelry department store this evening. (Psst, can I interest you in a designer knock-off bracelet?) You just know the guy holding the boom mic on set was having to work it like a fishing pole to avoid having her sound like the shackled Ghost of Christmas Past.
To help get us in the pompously rich family mood, I think this calls for an alternative series opening title tonight... (Direct YouTube link)
Ready? Set, Death Bed! We open in a gothic mansion bedroom of some wealthy old man named Cyrus Carstairs (played by a make-up aged Vincent Price) who is about to go to the great beyond. His loyal butler by the name of Barlow (Abe Vigoda) is at his bedside, and listens to the grumpy old man complain about how much he hates and distrusts his family—heirs to his fortune. He tells the Butler he plans to leave him all of the "2 cents" that he was worth, and has pre-arranged it so that all of his money will go only to his "smartest" relative. Then after his younger brother Manfred (also played by Price) comes by to pay his last respects, the old man dies. Laughing.
This evening, the Bionic Woman was 6 minutes late for her show. However, sometimes during episodes like this, I feel lucky that she even decided to show up at all. Oscar is delighting us with a slide show and background information in order to bring us up to date on the self-centered Kardashian family… which also doubles as a way to prime Jaime on the famous repertory theatre cast they have signed this week to play the cunning Carstairs family.
Family Plot: Jaime's assignment is to impersonate the niece Tracy (with her blessings), and to find the old man's will and location of his secret formula for a high speed alloy used in our nation's jet fighters, before one of the family members greedily sells it to a foreign enemy. As I understand it, the feds offered Cyrus Carstairs $20 million for this formula, but the old geezer held out for more money, and now that he's dead, they've decided to send in the Bionic Woman to steal if for free. (Jaime, do you even realize what your real mission is here?)
Jaime—who incidentally is wearing a lovely white hat here— is assigned to travel to Carstairs Manor on Lafitte Island. She hears these shooting location names and jokes "Igor isn't going to meet me at the door, is he?" Haha. BTW unlike most fictional destinations on the series, there actually is a (Jean) Lafitte, Louisiana. It's a little fishing village surrounded by bayous in the Jefferson Parish. So you know what this means: Cajun Country! Bring awn the gumbo, beignets and trolly rides in the garden district— we're gawn to the Big Easy!
Well actually, only Oscar is. Jaime has to go to the swamp.
Bon Voyage: The Bionic Woman arrives at the island via a little motor boat taxi she's hired to cross the bayou. And once she disembarks at the Fantasy Island-style landing, the driver refuses to walk her the rest of the way to the mansion because he's afraid of the "Creature."
Trust me, at this moment, nothing could be scarier than seeing what Jaime Sommers has chosen to wear for her mission this week. She's flamboyantly dressed like a carnival gypsy. Or more accurately, like an exhausting wardrobe cross between Rhoda Morgenstern and Stevie Nicks. There are Mardi Gras floats less ornate than this.
So kids, I guess the lesson here is don't EVER give makeup and wardrobe the week off in Kill Oscar 3. They will come back with a vengeance. Jaime has on screamingly WAY too much eyeliner and lipstick and I'm pretty sure when she steps off this boat dock, they can see her from the space station.
In the bayou jungle Jaime can bionic-hear some guy grunting in the bushes. (DRINK!) Oh no, it's the Creature, who appears to us in a quick glimpse to be some kind of angry old vagrant. Perhaps the grunts remind Jaime of Bigfoot, because she decides to chase him down and confront him, but he runs away and escapes into some kind of hidden hatch in the woods before she can catch up to him. Angry Bird Score: 0
The Carstairs Crib: When Jaime arrives at the mansion we get an even better look at what she's wearing. This time I'm blinded by the fashion accessories in the form of a bajillion pieces of jewelry… all worn at once.
Her pendant necklaces are made mostly of coins, which makes me question why Tracy Carstairs would even want the family fortune because it appears to already be hanging around her neck. While it kinda gets lost in the cascading bling, I did notice Jaime is also wearing her Enneagram necklace, no doubt hoping it would ward off evil spirits.
While she climbs the front steps, some unseen villain pushes a stone planter off the balcony above and nearly hits Jaime. Igor doesn't answer the door, so Jaime just lets herself in—then follows the sounds of some metal clanging upstairs and EEEEk this 70s green carpet and decorating on the second floor landing at the top of the stairs! Ow my eyes. At this moment I am reclassifying this episode as a graphic HGTV horror film. I would like to turn back HERE, please.
Let’s Open The Whine: Jaime catches Manfred (Vincent Price) trying to break open a wall safe with a sledge hammer to find the family will. He introduces himself and asks Jaime how she's doing. "Not very well, I'm afraid." Jaime proceeds to complain that a man scared her half to death at the landing and then somebody just tried to kill her on the front steps. (Plus they’re forcing me to wear this K-mart Halloween costume—could this day get any worse?!)
While little Tracy-downer—I mean Jaime— is busy hatin' on this plot, Manfred tells her that although it's been a few years since he's seen her, something about her has changed… because her eyes don't have that Carstairs look about them. (So like what, not ENOUGH eye liner for you?!)
I found it odd that later on in the episode, other members of the family would also try to scare us into thinking Jaime's cover was blown by remarking that she didn't have any family resemblance… despite the fact that none of them looked anything alike, either. Anyhoo, after Manfred makes a smarmy remark about not getting any ideas about inheriting the family fortune, he offers to escort Jaime to her "mother's old room." Which then makes me miss Helen and wish that she had been stunt-cast in this episode, too.
Black Cat: Meanwhile, our next guest is arriving at the bayou landing. Meet Aunt Claudette, a tall, lanky MAGNIFICENTLY DRESSED woman (well except for this dead fur wrapped around her neck don’t make me turn all PETA on you)… and henceforth, I will spend the rest of this episode wishing that Jaime got to wear Claudette's wardrobe instead.
Also with Claudette is the family lawyer, Andrew Warfield. They aren't spooked by the creature on the way to the mansion, but I'm going to drink anyway in anticipation of all the other designer wardrobe choices she surely must have packed in those 5 (freakishly light) suitcases that she's making the nerdy lawyer carry all by himself.
Heigh Ho, It's Off To Lurk I Go: Jaime's in her mansion bedroom digging through her suitcase/carry on, which is like an oversized oriental carpet bag purse. (*Groan* Her accessories continue to deteriorate.) While she looks for her mini-talkie to call Oscar (DRINK: loud jewelry jingles), I swear it looks like she also packed a green terrycloth towel in there (Jaime sweetie you’re supposed to STEAL these from the hotel, not leave them yours).
Jaime pages Oscar, "Come in Snow White, this is Dopey." Ahahaha! Oscar answers from what appears to be his mission hangout, somewhere on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (Perks with the job--you get to hear drunken tourists hurling outside your window.)
Once again, our all up-in-your-face-with-negativity-tonight, Miss Sommers, complains to Oscar that someone tried to kill her. He suggests they get her outta there, but Jaime says, "How? The water around this island is filled with SNAKES and alligators, and this house is filling up with Carstairs." I completely agree Jaime. They have rudely written you into a plot you can't get out of. And besides, the title Black Magic is a huge let down because by definition, there aren’t any evil spirits, witchcraft or devilry to delight us in this story. Did I miss the memo where the viewers were expected to provide their own voodoo dolls? *sticks pin in Malibu Barbie*
Suddenly there's a loud crash and Jaime peeks out the window to see that Claudette and Warfield also got bombed by a falling stone planter on the front steps. Jaime tells Oscar buh-bye, she has to go look for those top secret plans in the old man’s safe now.
Supercalifragilistic: Now it's Aunt Tess' turn to arrive at the boat landing. I actually kinda adore this woman (must be the original Mary Poppins housemaid I can't help identifying her with). She boasts that while her sister Claudette may be prettier, she is actually the smartest one (because all people with British accents sound intelligent-er), and is therefore destined to earn the family fortune. Tess unsuccessfully tries to cheat the boat cabbie out of her $100 fare, so when he drives off she calls him a "frog!" *giggle*
Drink! Because Tess encounters the Creature grunting from the bushes, which causes her to pull out a revolver and start haphazardly shooting at everything in sight until he flees. (Kids, this is why we need a background check and waiting period when purchasing firearms.)
Jaime's attempt to tiptoe over to open the family safe gets disrupted by Claudette, and then Manfred comes in the room followed by Tess, who brandishes her gun again and demands to know what's going on.
They exchange dialogue of paranoia and suspicion of one another, and then Claudette wins me over here by changing the subject to what really matters. Glaring at Jaime with a critical eye and stating, "My goodness, the circus certainly has an effect on your clothing. Still working in the side show?" For the record, Claudette said this in bold, not me.
Dwarf Switching: Back in her room, Jaime loudly reaches in her magic carpet bag again for her mini-talkie (DRINK!) and beckons Snow White to answer. But she's not Dopey anymore, this time she informs Oscar she's Grumpy because "these people are homicidal."
The reading of the will is tonight, so Jaime hangs up to go take a shower, and then we see the Creature's eyes (DRINK) through a hidden peep hole in the paneling. He sneaks into the room and steals Jaime's mini-talkie from her bag. Busted.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: For the formal family gathering, Jaime has now changed into her official Black Magic uniform, which is a black skirt and black blouse with a yellow head scarf. Now *this* I like much better.
The old man VHS tape-recorded his will, and informs his family there is a safe deposit box somewhere on the estate with all his stock certificates and Get Glue stickers. He's sending them on a scavenger hunt to find it, and the smartest heir to solve his riddle will inherit all his money. At which point he recites a poem:
The time has come the walrus said / To talk of many things / Of shoes and ships and sealing wax / And cabbages and kings / And why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings / And why the fun when time has run / And stopped its tired fling.
Naturally, Miss Sommers immediately recognizes it as a Lewis Carroll poem, but points out to her Carstairs students that last line about time running out was written by the old man. So then everybody paces the room while the poem echoes in their heads, trying to extract clues on where the safe deposit box is hidden. They all agree to sleep on it, and not to begin their search until 6 am tomorrow. Suuuuure.
Good Will Hunting: While everybody starts sneaking out of their rooms to start hunting for the fortune, Jaime discovers her mini-talkie has been stolen, and then she hears the lawyer lock her into her room, so she bionic jumps off the balcony and back into the house to the kitchen to track down a "boiling hot" clue.
Claudette goes looking for shoes, the lawyer looks for sealing wax, Manfried tears up the mattress from which the old man "took wings," (I thought that was pretty clever) and then Tess and Warfield fight over a little statue of a king they found in the library—causing them to break it. Seconds later when Jaime turns around, Warfield has disappeared.
Grumpy Cat: Jaime narrowly escapes getting kidnapped, too when she finds Claudette banging on a ship model in the dining room. OMG I love how Jaime slams the door when Claudette tells her to get out. This definitely earns an animated gif award. (Refresh browser.)
But seconds later Jaime bionic hears a muffled scream (Creature, DRINK!) so she reopens the door to find Claudette is now missing, too.
Jaime mentions these abductions with concern to the Butler, who denies noticing them gone, and then it's Aunt Tess's turn. Little Auntie Oakley pulls her gun on Jaime (again), but when Jaime is turned around with her hands in the air, Tess gets nabbed by the Creature, too. (DRINK!) Jeez Jaime, you really should have Dr. Wells check your bionic hearing. Or maybe it’s loud jewelry static interference?
Anyway, I love how the Bionic Woman—a trained OSI agent— kicks into super heroine action here to help rescue all these abducted people… by RUNNING AWAY. Seriously, Jaime just turns around and runs upstairs to her room. This is one of those moments where I have to check to make sure the dog didn’t step on the remote because what show is this again?
Back after these messages: For the fans out there that love this episode, I’m jealous. I realized when reviewing season 3 that scriptwriter Arthur T. Rowe (Fembots in Las Vegas, Rancho Outcast) just wasn't clicking for me. I'm sure he's a super nice guy and I do like some of his co-written episodes, and there were some great lines and funny moments in this one. But for me, Black Magic felt like it was trying too hard to be clever, and the Hollywood stunt casting was like pouring a bunch of sugar on a stale cracker.
Sure, I get that Jaime didn't like or trust members of the Carstairs family. But it was just never in her nature to let the bad guys suffer, either. (Exhibit A: Last week's rescue of Dr. Franklin) So ignoring her weekly acts of human compassion when it was obvious from having heard Claudette's muffled screams they were probable victims of kidnapping— just doesn't ring true for Jaime's character. It slightly makes me cranky me when they throw her integrity under the bus like this. (And putting her in an undercover disguise doesn’t excuse her this week.) So Black Magic is what it is, but is not an episode I find myself wanting to watch more than once.
Room and Bored: That evening, rather than spend some time searching the house for all these missing and/or murdered persons, Jaime clocked out and got her beauty rest, and the next morning we find her relaxing on a chair in her bedroom (still wearing yesterday's clothes) thinking about the poem some more. But then oops, the Creature (DRINK!) peeks through his secret peep hole again and Jaime catches him this time, and just as she's about to bionic her fist thru the paneling wall to chase him down, Manfred enters the room.
By process of elimination Jaime announces it must be Barlow the butler stalking them, because everybody else in the cast she cares nothing about is missing. Warily, she and Manfred decide to team up to solve the puzzle themselves—as long as he will agree to let Jaime have a special envelope in the safe deposit box. Not wanting to reveal she's an agent, she tells Manfred she's only interested in this letter as a philatelist. Then Miss Sommers has to go on to explain to Manfred philatelist means stamp collector. Yeah, so lick my as...
I’d Like To Buy A Vowel Please: Jaime and Manfred stand in the foyer and gaze upon the bizarre painting of Cyrus playing chess again. Then boom, the Bionic Woman solves the riddle as the smartest Carstairs in the cast! At 8 o'clock the king is tipped over on the chess board position "Queen 3" But all I can think about here was how fortuitous it was that Cyrus passed away precisely at this time of year in order for the seasonal morning sun to be at the correct angle at 8 am to create this shadow on the floor and mark the position the safe deposit box is buried in the basement below.
Tales From The Crypt: Carrying a burning candelabra because flashlights have not yet been invented in a house glowing with electricity—Jaime and Manfred amble down to the cob-webbed dungeon steps and JACKPOT!
They find the safe deposit box hidden under a sun dial. But then shock! In walks the Creature (DRINK!) waving a gun to reveal he's Manfred's REAL partner in all of this, as he rips off his mask. Snark alert.
Family Reunion: Yeah, so turns out Barlow the butler was sharing creature costume duties with Manfred to scare everybody off. But then Barlow grabs the treasure from Manfred and says he's greedy and wants it all for himself or something. Jaime and Manfred are ushered at gunpoint into these handy prison cells in the mansion dungeon where they get locked up alongside Claudette, Tess and Warfield. I was waiting for Jaime to say oh hey look so you guys aren’t dead or bleeding or suffering after all not that I have to care in this week’s script so like what page are we on now?
Then the Butler retires upstairs with a glass of brandy and radios his bad guy contacts to invite them to come buy the secret formula. And OMG I love his 2-way radio, but I am concerned the props department has been dropping acid again. Is this a walkie talkie or a Sunbeam mixer? --->
Cell Block Tango: Jaime of course bionics open the old chain lock on her cell, and distrustingly agrees to let Manfred help her find Barlow. Upstairs, they sneak up on him sipping his brandy and Jaime takes possession of the secret formula envelope… plus his gun, which kinda becomes yet another eyesore wardrobe accessory because it's just so UNLIKE Jaime to wave around a weapon like this. But I do love the following scene when jaime locks Barlow in the jail cell and in a gotcha moment, mockingly blows the tip of this revolver.
So the bad guys land their puddle-jumper plane and show up at the house for the secret formula. When they offer to Manfred (posing as the butler they've never met) to "take care" of his prisoners for him, they are escorted to the dungeon and led down a side tunnel that allows Jaime to bionic-close them in with a stone door like a tomb. (Angry Bird Score: 50 points!)
Speaking of Being Stoned: Jaime has now reluctantly let the other Carstairs family members go, in a funny scene where she told them (mocking Tess' British accent) she thought they could be trusted only as far as she could throw them. And then she reeled that back to say, "No, I don't trust you that far!"
It truly comes as no surprise when Jaime turns around Manfred is gone—and so is the secret formula envelope she had stuffed in the belt of her dress for safe keeping. She takes off after him while he’s attempting to escape from the boat launch, grabs a rope and bionic pulls his dinghy back to shore. (Angry Vulture Score: 500 points woohoo!) I love this scene where she holds out her hand for Vincent to return the envelope—also worthy of an instant replay. (Refresh browser for animated gif)
That’s A Wrap: In the final scene, Oscar is sporting a seersucker suit like a true southern gentleman, having dinner with Jaime at some restaurant patio to epilogue this episode. She's changed into a nice black suit jacket and white neck scarf, but unfortunately she never stands up for us to see the rest of this outfit. Oscar explains that Tracy—who was the smartest Carstairs of all because she wouldn't go within a 1000 miles of that family— might inherit Uncle Cyrus' fortune after all.
Suddenly Manfred, Tess and Claudette—who are mysteriously still unaware that Jaime is an OSI agent and not their niece Tracy, are being seated at a nearby table causing Jaime to freak out.
Oscar breaks the news to Jaime they aren't in custody for their crimes because they refused to testify against one another, so he had to let them go. The waiter interrupts to say the Carstairs have asked if their party can join them for dinner. Jaime politely says, "No!" But seconds later, they will start to walk over to their table anyway when Manfred decides they owe Tracy an apology.
Tess remarks that the Bionic Woman is acting like a snob, and Claudette totally starts trashing on Jaime's wardrobe again. "Oh look at that outfit! Glad she's going back to the sideshow." Ahahaha! While I happen to LIKE what Jaime's wearing here, nothing pleases me more than to see an episode end with a wardrobe review.
Thank you, Claudette.
Jaime had 4 outfits in Black Magic. In the opening slideshow scene she wore a dark jacket with white pullover and a dress hat, and in the end scene it appeared to be the same black jacket, this time with a long white neck scarf. For her gypsy arrival costume, a puffy green blouse, long striped skirt, purple rose patterned shawl, red headscarf and black boots plus tons of gold pendant costume jewelry necklaces, rings and bracelets. When Jaime changed for dinner, it was into a black, puff sleeved (possibly silk?) top with some red and gold decorative embroidered trim in the style of a vest (gold stripes on the back, too), plus a long black skirt, black boots and yellow head scarf. I do prefer this gypsy fashion ensemble to the first one.
As noted earlier, her Enneagram necklace makes a return appearance—last seen in Road To Nashville.
I also had to add Claudia’s beautiful dresses here... Her 2-piece gray suit with white turban and (I’m pretending) faux fur wrap, plus her glamorous off-white, silver trimmed full length evening gown. Let’s hope this is the last time Jaime gets upstaged by her costars in the wardrobe department.
Footnote: It seems there are some Bionic Woman fans who passionately love this episode so much they want to marry it, and were upset I only gave it a rating of 2 tennis balls. What can I say, we all have different tastes. If you are among the Black Magic fans who consider this a favorite, please use the following alternative review instead. We aim to please!
–Bionic Blonde Management
“That’s a lot of balls.” –Paul K. Bisson
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