8 February 1997
[ Danger! ] Written by Rupert Holmes.
Directed by Richard Shepard.

One wonders how Rupert will end this season after the incredible "World of Tomorrow" finish of the first season. He appeared to kill off 2 characters at the end of that one. With 1 wounded and one killed, if he moves to kill anyone this episode they've only got a 50% chance of making it. The title "Magic" promises much, but does it deliver?

The show opens with a radio broadcast, as usual, where the Mayor-elect Humphries is confirming the placement of a blindfold on Hilary for their magic act, "Yes, you've really pulled the wool over her eyes." Portentous?

Jeff and Hilary are performing a mind-reading act (part of Magic Time) with Humphries, the "Reverend Montague Chanin" of the archdiocese of greater Pittsburgh ("I'm willing to swear *cough* there's no way she can see anything") and Mr. Kurt Holstrom of Holstrom Industries ("Your wife, Hilary Booth, can't see the forest for the trees. Or the trees themselves for that matter. I'd say she's completely in the dark").

Holstrom supplies an object, a metal Amazon Andy decoder shield, for Jeff to concentrate on while Hilary retrieves the information through telepathy. She successfully accomplishes this after which Jeff obtains another object from Mackie.

After also identifying Mackie's gum, Hilary seems to spontaneously sense "Someone here at this station tonight will pass through the doorway between life and death." Hilary disavows premeditation of the phrase, "I don't know what that was." Then she adds mischievously, "Maybe it was a real telepathic impression."

Betty is fascinated by their mind reading act. Jeff volunteers that Hilary "doesn't possess any special gifts."

Hilary fires back, "Yes, Jeffrey's a terrible shopper." But it's the friendliest of barbs punctuated by a girlish giggle.

Betty comes up with a flimsy rationale for being let in on their technique (that she needs to know since she writes the show...okay, not that flimsy, but it's obvious her curiosity is as strong as the curiosity Kurt Holstrom has about the magic act that he just indicated to Scott in the hallway). "Tell me what you can and can't do and how you do it."

"You know," Hilary replies, "I said those exact words to Jeffrey our first night in Mexico."

Jeff snickers as he moves the blindfold he had loosened on Hilary down to her mouth as if to gag her. Hilary very playfully snickers back, "Very funny."

The scene plays with adult themes as Remember WENN usually manages to successfully play them: as innuendo perfectly received by the adults but completely over the head of innocents. It hints at the private activity of their honeymoon with an even subtler wink at fun with scarves.

But the real beauty of the scene is finally seeing Jeff and Hilary so happy and relaxed with each other. When we met them at the beginning of season 1, Jeff appeared adulterous with Hilary trying to preserve some sanctity of their marriage by warding off further conquests. Then later we learned that Jeff wasn't adulterous at all since the marriage was a sham kept alive for the purpose of not alienating their fans. Hence, it would seem Hilary's actions were due to a desire to prevent Jeff from exposing their charade.

They could not have spent the years together posing as man and wife unless there was some level of comfort between them. They certainly seemed relaxed at the end of "Sight Unseen" after seeing Benny Goodman (but then, how could they not?). Hilary's tigressian warding off of lasses was more than simple protection of their secret. When she thought Jeff had been killed in the Blitz, she didn't look at it as an opportunity to move beyond the masquerade. Instead, with Jeff surviving, she, and Jeff, committed themselves to the end of the sham marriage by making it a legal marriage.

Being the same people, their ability to aggravate each other quickly reasserted. However, they weren't exactly the same people. The effects of the bombing gave them a tighter focus; their awareness of the fragility of life was heightened. Over this season, with fluctuations, they have become more and more the loving couple.

If there were no night, how could we distinguish the day? Were we not presented with the earlier Singers, how could we truly appreciate this moment of...magic. Wow, the episode has already earned it's name (beyond referring to Magic Time) and it's less than 8 minutes into the program.

However, in a burst of superstition, Mackie is contemplating Hilary's door of life and death in front of Mr. Foley's prop door in the darkened Studio A. Hilary made the pronouncement upon holding, and then dropping, Mackie's pack of Juicy Fruit. Maple chooses the moment of cowardly contemplation to play a traditional burst of spooky organ music. "Sorry, Mackie. I just snuck in. I thought you could use a little atmosphere."

Hmmm, not too long ago ("The First Mrs. Bloom"), Maple had told Betty that she could see herself going for the man of 1000 voices. Now she sneaks into a darkened studio to be alone with him. Perhaps she was making her move. At one point in their conversation, she suggests that being strong, vital and virile are family traits Mackie has. (She says this in an almost neutral manner with a touch of humor in her voice. It could have been a dig, which seems to be the way Mackie took it. But I think Mackie misunderstood; I think Maple was flirting with him.)

Startled (okay, scared silly), Mackie relates the story of his Uncle Leopold and the gypsy curse placed on him. His Uncle's story and Mackie's interpretation of it is a perfect example of how someone can look at a clear set of facts and choose to believe the exact opposite of what those facts indicate. It's also hilarious.

However, this may have spelled the end of Maple's amorous attraction to Mackie. He's interested in "mumbo jumbo"; she's interested in the mambo and the samba.

Back in the Green room, Jeff and Hilary are explaining the basics of their mind-reading act to Betty. This compliments the scene with Mackie and Maple as an exploration of sense versus nonsense. Had Jeff and Hilary been presenting their skills not as a "magic act" but as real telepathy, they would have had scores of people who would have believed and disparaged anyone suggesting it was not real. This reminds me of events where my own belief in extrasensory perception was short-circuited by a healthy dose of clear explanation. [By coincidence, I'm currently reading James Randi's Flim Flam.] I'd spend more time on this reminisce except that the show undercuts itself somewhat by Hilary's strange prophecy, which the music and camerawork indicates as being significant, perhaps even a real "psychic" experience.

But...the codes:

Key words, breathes and pauses are used
to convey the information to the "psychic."
Card suits:                        
  "Would you..." Diamonds
"Could you..." Clubs
"Can you..." Hearts
"Will you..." Spades
"Tell me..." Odds
"Tell us..." Evens
"Please..." 2 (3)
"Now..." 4 (5)
"If..." 6 (7)
"All..." 8 (9)
"Here..." 10 (Jack)
"First..." Queen (King)
"Can you tell us please...":
    2 of Hearts.
"Would you tell me all about this card?":
    9 of Diamonds
[Note: Numbers in parentheses inferred;
No idea for the Ace card.
2nd example not in episode.]
"Those" Solid
"These" Liquid
"That" Wood
"This" Metal
"As it so happens" Danger
A cough means spelling, i.e. the first letters
of the following words are the letters.
"Good, uh, Mackie.": gum
Indicators that code is coming up.
"Hilary dear..."
"Jeffrey love..."

Mackie, meanwhile, is still fretting over Hilary's prediction about life and death, seemingly triggered by his chewing gum. He manages to choke on a fishbone from the fish and chips dinner from the Buttery (probably triggered by his extreme nervousness). "It's like they say, y'know. Somewhere in the ocean there's a fish with your name on it."

Straight-faced: "You mean it was a mackerel?"

"It's just..." Then a great slow take focused on Mackie as he wonders if Tom Eldridge is pulling his leg. "It's just like Hilary predicted. My number's up. Tonight's the night. And...and I'm going to be it." (Which of course, she didn't. Mackie has managed to conjure up a specific prediction out of a very generic prophecy.)

"Mackie, even if that were true. You slipped by. The fishbone didn't do you in. Death has passed you over."

"No, no, no, no. You don't get away that easily. Death misses you once, it'll be back again to find you. There's nowhere on Earth so remote that Death won't track you down. It's like the novel says, 'The postman always rings twice'."

Then...the writer's room extension does a double ring. [I've heard phones do double rings instead of singular rings, but I've never noticed if the writer's room phone does this...or if we've heard it ring before.]

"If that's Death, tell him I moved to Nebraska."

Then the phone double rings again. The phone has rang twice with a double ring. Mr. Eldridge picks up the phone. He listens, then repeats what he heard back to Gertie to make sure he heard right, "They're waiting downstairs to take him away." Mackie almost goes apoplectic to hear his worst superstitions confirmed. "For Mr. Holstrom: his limousine driver."

Heh, heh, heh.

The Green room scene about codes also complemented the Amazon Andy code as represented by the decoder shield. But in the station manager's office, we're finding out that the Captain Amazon code has some problems. Some of the "secret messages" have been decoding as gibberish.

While Scott plays with the gibberish (while telling a sponsor that he doesn't "listen much to the radio"), Holstrom compliments Betty on the changes she's made to Amazon Andy over time. Apparently, Captain Amazon once came across as a do-gooder who solved things with superpowers or a speech about the League of Nations. Currently, Betty's writing him as "a loner, a soldier of fortune who doesn't go looking for trouble unless trouble goes looking for him." Or as Betty puts it, "I tried to make him more of a Clark Gable type."

Well, after seeing how much of the events around her she puts into her radio scripts ("Radio Silence"), it doesn't take an Amazon Andy shield to decode this. The earlier Captain Amazon was based on Victor, who, when his nation at peace requested him to do some broadcasting, stepped up the plate. Victor or Mr. Gianetti had even put these words in Andy's mouth: "The free world is counting on us."

But for the past half season, Betty has been become attracted to Scott. She's even begun to flirt with adopting his ethics (as Mackie pointed out once, "Shame on you, Betty") to the extent of going along with the use of embezzled funds to build a Victor memorial. Very inappropriate.

What do we know of Scott? Well, he seems to be an enterprising world traveler. His redecoration of the station manager's office supports stories of barnacles and other mementos from traveling to exotic locales. As "Scott Sherwood of the F. B. I.", he mentions his creed of moving on, never staying long enough to build relationships. He hinted early on of never finding a place he could call home. Sounds like a loner and soldier of fortune to me. Maybe even a touch of Clark Gable.

So I think Betty has altered Amazon Andy's character from her perception of Victor to her perception of Scott. So when she looks askance at Scott when he says he doesn't listen much to the radio, it may more than it not being a wise thing to say to a sponsor. It may be disappointment that Scott hasn't listened to the program and recognized himself in it.

However, Holstrom's take on the character is clearly more isolationist than Betty ever intended. He equates Hitler's annexing of neighboring countries as a spirit of destiny not unlike the American war of independence from England. For having no interest in waiting for Nazi Goosesteppers to arrive on their doorstep, he blasts Churchill and Roosevelt as warmongers. (Considering a war to separate as equivalent to a war of expansionist conquest certainly indicates sloppy thinking on Holstrom's part. Particularly since an American example did exist: the conquest of the nation. But perhaps he sensed the evocation of the more appropriate "Trail of Tears" would do nothing to further his argument.)

Of course, this brings up memories of the London Blitz. Apparently, Holstrom considers Churchill's "warmongering" as worse than Hitler's actual warring as the bombs were falling on England, not on Germany. Bombs which killed Victor Comstock. There's a nice shot of Scott being briefly distracted from his gibberish work to give a glance of concern and support in Betty's direction.

Then, describing the Amazon Andy code he's been looking at, Scott interjects, "You know what? This is a code!"

Well, that's what we knew all along. "Of course it is."

"I don't mean anything simple like for Amazon Andy. That's straight substitution code. But this...once you crack it using your trusted decoder...you've got a geometric cipher with a couple of random factors thrown in for good measure."

At first, it sounds like a tall tale being spun by Scott much like the ones he had spun for his Aunt Agatha. Scott was sentenced in Spain for allegedly fixing bullfights. He was given the choice of jail or fighting with the Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War against the Nationalists who were aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He joined the battle and learned how to crack encrypted codes. By the time he finishes, it's clear he's on the up and up. (And playing around with signal transmissions in the Spanish Civil War could explain the knowledge of frequency modulation he displayed when he first arrived at the station.) Betty looks proud of him.

So, it turns out there's yet another code beyond Jeff and Hilary's and the Amazon Andy code. The code used to decrypt the decrypted Amazon Andy code.

Holstrom is intrigued and decides to stay until his sponsored show, Amazon Andy is broadcast.

In the news, there's a report from "within the German Republic" that local munitions factory fires may be Nazi sabotage. Jonathan "Benedict" Arnold, radio personality for the German short-wave service, had broadcast this yesterday.

Gertie is fascinated by espionage intrigue and thinks Maple would make a good Mata Hari while flashing back to her own days with the doughboys of The Great War.

Later, rehearsing for the Amazon Andy broadcast, they try to come up with the way to signal a flash back within the episode. Maple tries some fancy finger work on the organ, but Betty is unsatisfied ("...it's too hokey"). C. J. suggests reverb. But Betty decides to follow Victor's credo of realism in sound (that Jack Webb would later do wonderful radio work with) and have it happen "just like that".


"Do you, Betty Roberts, promise to uphold the principles about which I have long become cynical?"

"I do."

Having Holstrom inadvertently remind her of Victor and his ideals inspires her to make her best effort on the scene with Andy and Kippy in a valley filled with monuments to people who have died so that democracy could be the ultimate victor. So much so that she flashes back herself to the above scene and to the their final moments together when she asked Victor in an ambiguous way about their relationship. We're shown Victor's sidestepping of her question which he clearly understood. (We're not shown a later scene where Victor tries to communicate some sense of his feelings to her on the air that an uncertain future keeps him from expressing fully.) Betty finally decides the flash back should be handled by having Mackie sound younger and more naive.

"Oh sure, that's what the world wants: a super-hero that's innocent and naive."

Scott has cracked the code! "Detonate McDougal Munitions. Civilian casualties acceptable if necessary." Someone has been altering the messages coming from Holstrom's office to send the instructions for the factory fires we heard about earlier. And the McDougal instructions are next.

A simple matter to call off the secret message....except Holstrom is the author (!) and has a gun which he threatens to use on Hilary if she, Scott or Betty alert anyone.

Scott bravely points out the weakness in his plan. "If you shoot Hilary, I'll be on you faster than you can re-aim."

"Oh, please," Hilary implores, "Tell me that isn't Plan A."

Holstrom has the trio sit on the coach under his watchful eye while he sits in the chair with his gun, pointed straight at Hilary's heart, concealed in his jacket pocket.

Scott's had the last pages of the script with him as he was decoding the decoded code and took them with him to the Green room to show Holstrom. Mackie and Jeff need them to complete the broadcast and Jeff comes looking for them in the Green room. "There they are."

"Jeffrey, love. As it so happens..."

"Yes, Hilary dear."

"Would you mind...if the four of us...went out for a little drive...after the show? We might be a bit...uh-well...quite late."

"No, uh, not at all. I told you I had to study tomorrow's script, uh. Uh, don't forget, you, *cough*hmm, promised old Libby's Ingram's cook, Edna, *cough*cough*hmmm, that you'd show her your recipe for spaghetti and meatballs tomorrow. Yes?"

"Yes! I won't forget."

"Good. See you tomorrow morning, then."

"Yes. Have a good broadcast. And...I love you."

"I love you, too, Hilary, dear."

This strange conversation would appear to Holstrom as a way to keep Jeff out of harm's way. For making the way easier for him, he promises that if he decides to stay in the country (which would mean killing Scott, Betty and Hilary), that when he kills Hilary, he will "be swift about it, my enchanting, mind-reading madam."

Next follows one of my favorite lines of the series: "You've made me such a...happy medium." LOL.

On the pretext of moving a giant gong into the Green room temporarily, Mr. Foley manages to place the prop right in front of Holstrom and Scott is able to grab Holstrom's aiming gun hand and keep it pointed straight at the gong where if he fires, it'll ricochet "right back at'cha pumpkin!" It's a risk (at that close distance perhaps the bullet would have went through the gong) mitigated by Jeff's use of the prop gun to coerce Holstrom into surrendering his gun.

With Kurt Holstrom rendered ineffective and the police on the way, Mackie bursts into the Green room: "All right, Holstrom...looks like your number's up!" However the prop gun goes off and Mackie races from the room in terror.

Of course, it was Jeff and Hilary's code that outfoxed Holstrom.

Let's replay it again in slow motion.

"Code follows. Danger"


"Diamonds...6 or 7...?" [The pauses in the sentence were indicators but we don't know enough about the rest of their system to properly parse the sentence.]



"Code ends."

Obviously a code handy for more than just leaving boring cocktail parties early.

The police take Holstrom away along with most of the cast for statements. After some time of keeping the radio audience entertained by Maple playing Fats Waller tunes, Betty explains the situation on the air as best she's allowed. (National security, you know.)

Well, it was starting to look like Rupert was going to leave us on the hook with three possible deaths.

Instead, it looks like it'll wrap up nicely. Betty and C. J. had been doing the closing announcement, Maple had just finished the Waller tunes and Tom Eldridge had been...as he explained last week...keeping them company.

Maple suggests they go out for some beer, but Betty decides to hang around in case some of the others return from the police station. (They seem to have shut down early.) Maple leaves.

C. J. offers to walk Betty safely to the trolley (without the romantic overtones perceived when Victor did likewise in "Klondike 9366." But again, she feels she should probably hang around the station. (Probably figuring it would be nice, quiet time for getting ahead on her scripts.)

Tom Eldridge remains and they discuss how unreal the evening seems with the wild events. Not the first time dreams have been mentioned. Tom shows her a book of rhymes that she can recite to prove she's not dreaming (the rhymes are too perfect for the unconscious mind).

Tom leaves for the day, leaving Betty alone in the Green room, and thereby alone in the station.

Then the light goes on in the station manager's office. The station is so quiet we can hear the light switch. Betty leaves the Green room and enters the hall where she walks over one room to the office.

She opens the door to see the back of a tall man in a trench coat and hat viewing the wall decorations. He turns around and takes his hat off. "Hello, Betty." (Not "Hello, Miss Roberts.")

It's Victor Comstock!


"You're not dreaming."

But Betty opens the poetry book she still has in her hands and opens to an apt phrase: "Oh, but seeing is hardly believing."

Stunned by the appearance of Victor and probably by the rhyme she found, Betty takes two steps forward and then faints into Victor's arms.

The screen fades to black.

Rupert has done it once again! He's got us on the edge of our seat until the next season. Well, with all the strange goings-on with the government leading to his departure from the station, some sort of espionage does seem to be the most likely explanation. It seems apparent that Victor was injured in the bombing since we saw Jeff with Victor shortly before the bombs fell and Jeff had nightmares of looking for Victor's body in the rubble. However, a few episodes ago we suddenly found out that no body was ever found. The government had some need for Victor to keep his survival a secret?

But the key thing is that Victor's alive and at the station! As Betty had her characters say in "Radio Silence": "It's a miracle!"

Indeed, this episode was aptly title it's...MAGIC!

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