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ETV Episode 12: A Winter's Tale

First there's the Emily Narrative about how the scariest of all the winter demons is the Snow Queen, and there's a hammy lady in a giant bird's nest hat as the Snow Queen, cackling away, and Emily freaks out because she can't tell the difference between imagination and reality, just like the writers.

Meanwhile, Laura reads a letter from her boring suitor, Ian McWhatshisfiancee ,and lingers over it for a moment before Elizabeth rushes in to scold her for burning the bread. “Is there something wrong with your nose?”

Unfortunately, she does not answer by saying, “It's my soul that's on fire!”

Come on, Laura. Scrape the black off the bread and stop daydreaming! There's something she's been trying to tell Elizabeth for weeks, but Elizabeth just asks if she's regular. Flaxseed oil will cure you right quick! Laura presses on but Elizabeth just acts all knowing and scornful and calls Mr. McWhatshisfiancee a “bounder,” which hurts Laura's feelings.

The stage is set for another Extremely Uncomfortable Confrontation. Luckily for Laura and Elizabeth, though not for the viewer, Emily and Ilse burst into the kitchen saying that something horrible has happened. Is it the opening credit sequence?



The terrible thing, I guess, was that a raccoon got the red hen. “Big ol' mean one, too,” says Perry. I guess Jimmy is off in Shrewsbury helping Aunt Ruth with her lumbago. Perry's attempt to blame the situation on Jimmy's absence is very class-inappropriate, like most of Perry's interactions with the Murrays. It's one of the blind spots of the writers that they can't quite wrap their heads around how Perry's social position and ambitions might shape the way he talks to his superiors and how he conducts himself in general.

A cleverer Perry would know to blame himself while making it clear that he did his best and the fault was Jimmy's, earning points on both counts. This Perry just haggles blame with Aunt Elizabeth like he was still hanging off a porch rail in Stovepipe Town.

Part of the problem is that TV!Perry looks so much older than Emily that it doesn't make sense for him not to be more aware of his rough edges and of the tone expected of him among Murrays. If he looked eleven or twelve, instead of sixteen, he could get away with more of this shouty ragamuffin act. But by sixteen he should be modulating his voice, working on his handshake, practicing facial expressions other than “gobknocked,” making himself indispensable. The writers seem to think they've done their job if they have him proclaim his intention to be Prime Minister every three episodes or so, and leave him to say things like “My feet're colder than a welldigger's arse in the Yukon” and sass back Elizabeth Murray the rest of the time. I still love you, though, Perry!

Now it's time to bury the chicken, and Perry doesn't have time to sing no hymns over a dead chicken, but Emily and Ilse convince him by being stubborn. Now Emily is a vegetarian, I guess? She won't eat Aunt Elizabeth's stew because there's chicken in it. “I'm never eating anything again that lives, breathes, or walks the earth.”

Perry thinks that's the dumbest thing he's ever heard.

Incidentally, the writers can't decide whether Perry eats with the Murray family or not. Writers. I will give you a hint. The answer is no.

Especially not talking like he just rolled off a Stovepipe Town fishbarrel with half a tail stuck behind his ear. Come on, Perry, social context! It is a thing Prime Ministers need to know! Learn about it!

“I've decided that it's cruel to eat anything with a face,” says Emily. Anachronism triple score! “A raccoon has a face!” she cries, when Aunt Elizabeth tells Perry to set the trap.

For serious, Emily, this is a working farm, not Gratitude Cafe East. You can eat all the turnips and carrots you want, but those barn mice are going to go right on dying like they always did. She runs out after Perry to convince him to use humane catch-and-release methods and Elizabeth barely has time to remark on the lost art of the quiet dinner before Laura starts in about Whatshisfiancee again.

Elizabeth isn't having it. She's said all she has to say.

Meanwhile, Emily and Laura have a discussion about vegetarianism, and Laura agrees to let Emily ask Dr. Burnley about it, and by the way, could she tell him that Laura is out of her sleep medicine?

Sleep medicine?

That's not ominous. Not at all.

Perry's all “Y'know, missus, what you need is a holiday! Know what they say, change is as good as a rest.”

Then Emily argues with Dr. Burnley about vegetarianism. What this episode needs is some Theosophists. If Emily meets some Theosophist up at the hotel and they fill her up with Indian desserts, I will totally forgive the writers for letting Perry walk all over the Murray's good floor with his folksy slum wisdom.

Predictably enough, Dr. Burnley says it's a fallen world and she should stop worrying and eat her meat and potatoes. He puts a note in the bottle of laudanum or whatever it is and Emily tries to read it but Laura hides it. Poor Laura. No one ever even tries not to read her mail. I guess she has some kind of secret plan? “Why can't I know?” says Emily. But Laura isn't giving anything up. Laura, I hope it's not suicide!

Anyway, Elizabeth is sure that Whatshisfiancee is wrong for Laura. She's made inquiries. For her own good. He runs the Treasure House but he doesn't own it. His mother owns it and he's always going to be under another woman's thumb, hey, just like a certain downtrodden spinster we all know and love! Plus, there is the heathenish lifestyle involved in living in a hotel, with all the exotic food and the Americans with their fur wraps with the heads still on and staying up to three listening to Delius and who even knows what that man is on about? Plus he lied about his fiancee, or something. Whatever, Elizabeth, Laura knows you're just jealous of “a man of quality paying attention to me.” Ouch!

Susan Clark is beyond your human emotions. She just burns straight through Laura and the latter crumbles. She shouldn't have said that. She's sorry. Anyway, they-- mother and son, or suitor and fiancee? – invited her to come for a visit, and, well, she sent her regrets. Good. Sensible Laura.

“I-- invited them here instead.”

Cold rage, tremulous ground-standing; you know the drill. I guess Jimmy will have to break out the best teapot again. Laura really hopes Elizabeth won't wreck the one thing she has, but she is pretty sure she will. Well, wrecking people's lives is what Elizabeth Murray does. Would you want it any other way?

Laura's being examined by Dr. Burnley. Nothing's really wrong with Laura except her whole life. Emily and Ilse are watching from upstairs.

Ilse says she saw Mr. Kelly with his pants down. Emily asks, “Did you see his. . .”
“No great shakes,” says Ilse. “Seen one, you seen them all.”

Emily takes this in stride. I'm glad to see Old Kelly still gets a name-drop, I guess. I mean, this is kind of canon-appropriate, isn't it?

Then Emily wonders if Dr. Burnely has romantic feelings for Aunt Laura. Yes! They discuss the possibility, but Emily acknowledges with some regret that the boring suitor has dibs.

It IS laudanum! Second sight!

And he'd prefer she didn't take too much of it. But she's all physically dependent now, so I guess this is going to be a Drug Story as well as a Vegetarian Story and a Boring Suitor Story. Dr. Burnley explains that he doesn't want to pry, but what she's said worries him understands because he, too, suffered from sleeplessness for many years. Then they trade breathless pacing stories while smiling wistfully at each other!

Hey, maybe you two could figure out some way of helping each other sleep? I'm just saying.

Late at night, Laura unburdens her soul to Emily, which actually makes sense given what we know about her difficult relationship with everyone else in the world. Emily assures her that if it doesn't work out with the boring suitor, there's always Dr. Burnley! She also mispronounces “gossamer,” a small victory in the long hopeless battle against over-precociousness.

But what's this? As Emily sings a lullaby to Aunt Laura, the Ice Queen with her nest-hat shows up at the window, acting like she just walked off a drastically truncated high school production of Midsummer Night's Dream. I don't get it. Is she the Spirit of Insomnia?

Anyway, here's a cat. And the mother of the boring suitor is all imperious and city-stereotypish even though they are from what, like, Charlottetown? Yes, you are so urbane with your trilly mid-Atlantic accent, my goodness. She complains about farms and how mousy Laura is. She talks like a Roosevelt. If she turns out to be a Theosophist, I will forgive the writers everything, I promise! Now everyone is preparing for their arrival and PERRY, BRUSH YOUR HAIR. Why does Perry need to borrow Jimmy's jacket? He's the hired boy. Why is Perry even here? He should be visiting his Aunt Tom in Stovepipe Town instead of loping around underfoot.

But what's this? Laura can't face her guests! She panics and tries to take to her bed. But Elizabeth won't have it. Laura can have a panic attack in the parlor in front of Mrs. Roosevelt for all she cares.

Well, Laura seems to be breathing normally, and they're all sitting in the parlor. Aunt Elizabeth glares at Mrs. Roosevelt and Emily plops right down between mother and son like no one ever told her anything about how to behave.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Roosevelt is rude and makes unkind remarks about Laura's hands. I'm glad she calls out the Murrays on making a hired boy double-shift as butler; it really is ridiculous. Emily is incorrigible. It's all moderately entertaining, until Emily decides to recite some William Blake, whereupon it becomes awesome. Watching the faces of Susan Clark and Mrs. Roosevelt as Emily lays one apocalyptic couplet on another in the New Moon parlor is priceless.

Now Laura and her boring suitor are alone at last in the barn, the suitor in his giant fur coat as usual. Perry's supposed to be chaperoning, but he's actually just sitting awkwardly outside the closed barn door. Should I be worried?

Hm. They're dancing in the barn to imaginary music, and somehow Perry, outside the barn door, is dancing to the same music? I don't understand how there is music in this scene. It's not like the Boring Suitor could just pop an ipod in his jacket pocket and have Laura activate it with her bosom.

Wait. Elizabeth and Mrs. R. are both asleep? What the hell? Did Emily put laudanum in their tea, or are we supposed to believe that Blake is just that boring? What the hell, writers!

Emily runs out the door and the Spirit of Ice and Insomnia is there for some reason. Ems. That was not the right thing to do. Rachel Lynde is going to come with her scrap-basket and take you to Plucky Orphan Hell.

And here comes the raccoon Emily wouldn't let Perry set a trap for, no doubt to start some mischief. Laura and the suitor are spinning around like the prom scene in Carrie and that cat is going to get killed by a raccoon after all that trouble about not drowning it. Come on, writers, don't do this! Leave the cat alone! Teach Emily a heavy-handed lesson about the fallenness of the world some other way, please.

But no. Cat's got to die. Theater Club Titania's got to hiss hammily while it happens. I guess Emily didn't put laudanum in their drinks after all, because now Elizabeth and Roosevelt are wide awake and full of disapproval. So what was that all about? Emily cries with the cat in her arms, and Boring Suitor says they've got to put the cat down. “Kill Pandora?” Emily shrieks. Yes, actually, if she has the gaping gut wound the script claims she has, but there's no evidence of that onscreen.

Mrs. Roosevelt continues her hit parade of tactlessness by expressing her disgust that anyone should get so worked up over a filthy barn cat. Come on, Roosevelt, be less of a straw snob! The girl loves her cat. As a Snooty City Matron, you should be more sentimental about animals than the New Moon ladies. Try to keep up! Emily defends Pandora, and Roosevelt sniffs, “Hasn't anyone taught this child respect?”

“I have,” says Elizabeth. “And she gives it to those who've earned it.”

Stone. Cold. Susan Clark Diss. I cannot tell you. I popped the headphones right out of my computer jumping up to cheer, and I don't even believe this Snooty City Matron character exists. New Moon 1000000, Charlottetown 0.

But the cat won't be all right, no matter how much Emily yells-- at least, I'm pretty sure that's what we're meant to believe based on the dialogue. The cat we're shown just looks like it's stretched out for a nap. I'm torn between being really relieved that I don't have to see and hear a cat yowling in pain and being a little impatient with the director for not giving us anything to go on. Well, and a lot impatient with the writers for deciding the cat had to be sacrificed for the sake of Scrapping the Vegetarianism Supbplot 30 Minutes After It is Introduced. You know what would have been better? If the raccoon had attacked Laura's suitor. Then everyone could freak out, Mrs. Roosevelt would have infinite opportunities for rudeness, suffering could be convincingly portrayed by a human actor instead of inconveniencing a cat, and everyone would be happier.

Oh, hey, maybe Dr. Burnley can save the cat.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has the Boring Suitor alone for a moment, so she helpfully meddles in order to warn him not to meddle in Laura's life.

Blah blah, let's both talk about what Laura needs without consulting her. Elizabeth has a point here-- he doesn't know her at all. We've seen them exchange a couple of letters, and we've seen him buy dolls from her to sell at his hotel or gift shop or whatever it is. And dude, I know it's cold out, but that fur coat makes you look like a douche.

Aaaw, look at Alan Burnley and Laura tending to the cat together! Look how he keeps her nervousness at bay and reassures her! They clasp hands over the cat and. . .I wonder if this delicate moment will be broken in some wholly unexpected way! Who is going to walk in right now while they are smiling tenderly at each other as God intended?

OF COURSE.

Boring Suitor McWhatshisfiancee. Dude, don't you have a fiancee somewhere?

She's happy to see him, but he's all gawking at her hand and Dr. Burnley while sad violins play, and he turns around and walks out without saying a word. What a douchenozzle.

Emily, look what you did. Now Perry has to stalk the woods with a shotgun so that raccoon won't be a menace. Don't get mauled, Perry! We love your unsuccessful social climbing!

Now our douchey suitor is standing with hands on hips while Laura paces, being all stern and offended like he even knows a thing, while Emily and Elizabeth both eavesdrop outside the door and Emily is loud-talking without a filter as usual. Yes, Emily, it is so romantic that Captain Douchebucket is making a big douchey deal about nothing. I want Laura and Dr. Burnely to get together, and even I can see he's overreacting.

“What do you want from me?” Laura asks.

Our Douche doesn't want another man to touch her, ever again. He wants her for his own. Blah blah, Dean Priest, fiery soul in a pocketwatch case, grippy hand closetalking blah. TEAM BURNLEY FOREVER.

Then he kisses her all pressy-squeezy.

Meanwhile, Ilse is trying to keep the Good Ship Laurallan afloat, assuring her dad that “she likes you.” Dr. Burnley remarks that it doesn't matter. Dr. Burnley, I think it does matter whether she likes you or not.

I guess Our Suitor asked Laura to marry him, and she told him she needed time to think about it. Am I going to have to start calling him by his name now? It's Mr. Bowles. Then Emily finds out Perry is out shooting the raccoon. “He can't!” she shouts, and runs after him. NOT AGAIN.

Looks like our nest-headed Ham Queen of Discord is striding through the birches with her. Good God, that is a cheesy costume on her. It looks literally made of cellophane. What next? Is Emily going to get shot?

No, she's just going to shriek her head off because the raccoon is dead. Come on, Ems, pick your battles. You're going to have a voice like Tom Waits by the time you're sixteen if you keep this up.



We wrap up with yet another overly-precocious Message From Emily about the complex emotions we have witnessed in the preceding episode. The precociousness goes on with a trowel here and falls off in giant chunks and will never fully dry.

The thankless part of Mrs. Roosevelt (Bowles), Snooty City Stereotype #1, was played by Sheena Larkin, a TV actress with a long history of interesting small parts, including a brief appearance in the underrated The Worst Witch. IMDB tells me she's in six more episodes, indicating that Our Suitor will be with us for the long haul. Maybe he'll get better?

A Winter's Tale is a pretty ok episode, give or take the usual issues. What was the deal with that cellophane Titania? I don't know. Why didn't Ilse have enough lines? Is Emily going to be a vegetarian for the rest of the show? These things are beyond our ken.

In the final episode of Season One, Aunt Elizabeth finds Emily's letter bills! I can tell you already it's not going to end well.

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