Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday the 13th on Double Friday the 13th - Episode 12 - Faith Healer

It has been a couple of Friday's the 13th since we last delved into this series. I had hoped to do it in February, but Time bested me. Then I saw that March also had it's own Friday the 13th.

"Double Friday the 13th!!! What does it mean?!"

It means we finally get back into this show of shows. (Sure it's some days late. But Double Friday the 13th means the rules are out. BWAHAHAHAHA!)

"Faith Healer"

And as an episode to come back to, this is a good one. It's a strong first season episode.

In fact it was directed by David Cronenberg. You know, the guy who played Decker in Nightbreed. And he also did some other stuff. It is odd to imagine you have him directing an episode of Friday the 13th, until you realize that Brian De Palma directed Riptides, Guillermo del Toro directed Bagpuss, and Steven Spielberg loved directing episodes of Acapulco H.E.A.T.

People give him a lot of credit for the results of the episode. And he does deserve credit. But it is a solidly written story that is overall a taut tale of terror. It focuses on three forces at work to get their hands on the cursed item, and the resulting damage. No doubt Cronenberg helped elevate a good piece of writing.

The tale is focused around a single white glove. ...Yeah, just queue up the Michael Jackson jokes. ...I mean the ones about when he used to wear a single white glove...Do people even remember that anymore? Am I reviewing an 80's syndicated TV show? Why am I tasting cinnamon suddenly? Why am I asking you? (And why am I realizing now that Ryan is the one to quip about Jackson in the episode? Get out of my head!)

The glove is the Sforza glove. An ancient relic Jack discovered years before. It was said to be useful in healing. And it can definitely heal seemingly anything. But there is, as always, a cost. You can take away a terminal ailment. But it passes it to the wearer of the glove, unless they touch someone else. In either case the terminal disease strikes brutally, killing the person in moments.

Heal and kill. Curiously, Jack does point out how everything he discovered on his travels, and sold to Uncle Lewis, ended up cursed. So did the glove work at all originally? Did the cursing add a side effect? Should I not think too much about this?

"Now before you pick a card. We've never met before, sir?

The show open on a church/mission where a local celeb preacher is at work. Stewart Fishoff (played by Miguel Fernandes) is putting on a show as he readies to heal a blind man. He's our story's healer. He has a nice sized audience focused on the wonder he's about to do.

When a faith healer gets hecklers, you know they are bombing.

That's when the skeptic appears. Jerry Scott (played by Robert Silverman) comes in a starts his own show as he denounces Fishoff. He then reveals the fake cataract contacts that the young man, about to be healed, was wearing. And Fishoff is exposed.

Now I couldn't help but quickly notice that the name they have given this fake healer is Fishoff. It's rather close to Popoff. Peter Popoff. In the mid-80's Popoff was a famed televangelist. He would show off psychic powers and healing powers.

"I'm getting a message from beyond...the Steelers are ahead in overtime..."

Then James Randi, a noted skeptic investigator, helped to expose Popoff's tricks and lies (like having personal information fed to him via an ear piece). He even went on the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to show the tricks of the healing frauds.

So it's hard not to see how these events would be in the writer's head in the years that followed.

"Oh no! They've mechanized!"

Fishoff flees. But the sick who came for his help are angry. They are outside trying to find him. So he's scared. Granted, this should be a lot like when a person in a horror movie runs from shambling zombies. Not hard. But he gets caught, just after he's found the glove.

"I love the healing glove. It's so bad."

He sees the glove sitting in a back alley. And he pauses, drawn to it. I think the curse has found it's mark. He become quite pleased when he puts the glove on. But how did it even get there?

When a woman with a severe skin condition tries to get at Fishoff, he ends up touching her face with the glove. And her ailment is gone.

Let's get that awful makeup off your face. It's horrible."

But it all isn't good news.

Should have washed that glove before you put it on.

The ailment starts to hit him as he runs off. The show does some fun gory effects work this episode. When ever the glove takes on a disease, the glove starts to take on the look of the ailment. And it pulsates and oozes. It reminds why some people were so incensed about shows like this being on TV back in the late 80's. It's simple, but creepy, gore.

When a cop sees and checks on him, he touches the cop, and gives him the disease, Within moments the cop is dead.


"Why?! Why did I announce my retirement this morning?"

Now there is no question that Fishoff has an idea of what is happening. He can cure now. But then someone will die. This is a very heavy burden. What do you do? ...Obviously double down on the faith healing and get rich...

"Star Trek: The Next Generation? It'll never last." 

Why am I nostalgic for struggling to
get a channel to show up on a TV?
I HATED that as a kid.
Our terrific trio see Fishoff on TV. They are struggling to get a signal on their TV. Ah. Remember that? No? Screw you...people that are actually adults...Why good I am old...

"Healing services are for entertainment
purposed only."
They quickly realize there is something odd about the glove he's always wearing. Jack quickly knows that it is a famous glove he's once found in Italy and brought back. They know that they better get it back.

So it's time for a wacky adventure, with disguises and fake...No. Jack tries to sneak in and break into Fishoffs office, but gets caught. Seems Fishoff doesn't let people get close and has really good security at his church.

Nobody expects the Evangelical Christian Inquisition!!!

So Jack decides to bring in a friend to help them. And now Micki and Ryan are sidelined for most the rest of the episode. Yup. This is a more Jack focused episode. Where the last couple of episodes focused on Micki and Ryan, this one pivots the other way. Instead we'll get some cutaway scenes with them that don't do much. But it helps focus this episode on three characters.

Fishoff. Jack. And, Jerry Scott. Our skeptic from earlier.

But Ryan and Micki aren't done yet. Fishoff does end up heading out, without security. Micki and Ryan try to follow him, but miss him surprise a woman walking her dog.

"I have got to get out of here! I know what happens to adorable animals in
these stories."

\And after she is touched by Fishoff, she makes this face.

Dat face.

"Come on, lady! Where's the will? I better be in it."

And the cursed it is confirmed.

Jack goes to meet with Jerry, who is an old friend of Jack's. We will see a number of them pass through the show, adding some to Jack history. Jerry lives on a nice sized boat at a dock. He is happy to see Jack, but has always doubted all things magic. In fact he's been targeting people who have been preying on the desperation of the sick and old.

"No! I tell you it's true. Oatmeal Crisp is not oatmeal. (Go to the 30 second mark.)

...Jack? Have you been skimping on your friends? How could he not show him something impressive over the years?

Still, Jerry is focused on exposing frauds and charlatans. And when he's told about Fishoff being back, he is a little interested. But he's old news.

Then Jack explains that he actually can do healings now. Jerry is doubtful. Then Jack shows him evidence. Jerry is a little more interested, particularly if he's actually healing.

Jack explains to him that they need to draw Fishoff out of his fortress of faith and get the glove away from him. Jack tries to lay out that while he can heal, it means someone must die.

So Jerry heads over to Fishoff. And Fishoff is eager for a rematch. So they agree to meet at Jerry's boat.

"Just say it! 'You have an awesome robe..'"

Jack is concerned about how they will catch Fishoff, but Jerry is distracted. He wants Fishoff to do his miracle first. Then take the glove.

In all of Jerry's scenes in the episode he's been a little slow and tired. Now the characterization comes into play.

Jack is shocked at Jerry's attitude. But Jerry shows him the lesions covering his chest. He is dying. And he's finally found a way to survive. And in desperation he's willing to damn someone else with his blight. So he pulls a gun and ties Jack up.

"Oh, by the way Jack...Ta da!"

When Fishoff comes he mocks Jerry for a bit, and fakes healing him, He acts like a dick, and is eager to rub Jerry's face in his new found power.

"I don't think you really were impressed by my robe."

Fishoff then tries to walk out to leave him to suffer. But Jerry pulls his guns and shoots him,

And this is part of Fishoff's problem. He is a lousy villain. Sure he uses people, and happily kills people. But he's focused so tightly on his own ego. It's all about showing off and being the alpha.

He doesn't see a bigger potential for his gifts, or the impact of his ego. So he's gotten himself shot.

"Heal this."

Fishoff gets to his car, but then jams it between cargo crates. Bleeding out, Fishoff heals himself. But he has nowhere to pass the wound. Jerry stands by and watches as the curse takes affect. The gunshot wound get magnified as if he were hit by a machine gun in an 80's movie.

"This never happen on the A-Team..."

After Fishoff is dead, Jerry takes the glove. He goes back to his boat. He heals himself, and then tries to pass his disease to Jack. But Jack gets away, and fights. He ends up getting Jerry to touch himself. And his illness consumes him.

One last gruesome death.

In the wake of his death, Jack is just pissed. He explored and discovered rare antiquities. He then shared them with his friend, who cursed them all. Now he's stuck chasing down all these items again, and seeing friends and innocents die for it all.

Micki is pissed back at him, as she thinks they've all sacrificed and suffered for this cause. They may have escalated, but luckily Ryan appears. And the two realize the thing they both share, a desire to torment Ryan.

"Death to Ryan then."

As I said this is a solid episode, tight and quick. It focused on a clear antagonist, a surprise antagonist, and a protagonist trying to do the right thing. Like with "A Cup Of Time" we have a cursed item that seems to have a good use. Restoring life. And a friend to Jack who succumbs to the curses promise. The difference this time is that the friend doesn't at the last minute resist the promise of a new life. Instead they have given in to their despair even if it means taking the life of an old friend.

This is also the first of Jack's "old friends" appearing. It won't be the last one Jack will see die. Welcome to the world of 80's/90's syndicated shows.

Along with complementing the writing and directing, I should also note the makeup effects. We get a good series of gruesome ends as people are transformed by a variety cursed maladies. It gave the makeup and effects people a chance to show off.

Also, at the end Micki comes up to Jack with interest about a cape in the manifest. If that at all peaks your interest...Good news! Micki and Ryan will be attempting to chase down that nasty old cape next time. The show actually set up it's next episode.

So watch out for next time...when a show will make Bram Stoker roll over in his grave! And Dracula may sue!

It'll also be a period piece filmed in black and white. This could be really good, or really bad.

If you don't want to dig out your own DVD's to look the episode up, have a look here:

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