“Happy Homecomings”

27 December 1997
[Doesn't the green room look small?] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Juan Jose Campanella.
MAIN Season Three Episodes: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7
8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17
[Rollie Pruitt][Betty Roberts][Scott Sherwood][Victor Comstock]

The WENN word of the week isn't in the script; it's cleverly hidden in the episode's title. "The use of words to express the opposite of what one really means." The word is "irony". These were about the most unhappy homecomings I've ever seen.

Ain't that Rupert a stinker. :)

We've been wondering what Doug Thompson's role in the season finale would be. Perhaps Victor would return and rather than be torn between Victor and Scott, Betty would walk out of the station at the end of the episode, arm-in-arm with Doug. Or perhaps Doug would turn out to be Victor's contact. Neither of these happened in this episode. It almost seems as if he was in the script just to throw us off the scent. Or...perhaps his presence is a set-up for next season's premiere?

For comic relief, perhaps, a lot of the cast is listening to Jonathan "Benedict" Arnold in the green room. Scott picks up on the change of voice. Betty enters the room as mutual agreement is reached that the previous voice is now the ex-Mr. Arnold. Betty, listening briefly, also agrees. As the cast begin discussing his fate, Scott opines that he ended up in front of an Axis or Allied firing squad. Betty, annoyed because of her concern about Victor, says, "You don't know the first thing about these things, Scott."

Scott scrunches his eyebrows, probably thinking something like, "I was in the middle of the Spanish Civil War while you were in grade school in the sticks! Well...whatever." Apparently they've become used to Betty's incredible charity regarding Jonathan Arnold.

Doug Thompson does seem to provide some function next, giving Betty the go-ahead to open the strongbox. I can't decide if Betty was just be overly concerned with propriety or being far-sighted in regards to legal repercussions.

In the station manager's office, it seems as if Miss Cosgrave does still have a job.

I'm not sure what Scott was up to with Pruitt here. Maybe some sort of set-up? Since Scott just seems to be annoying him, Rollie decides to string Scott along to annoy him in return. As the scene progresses, we're introduced to the names of Seldon Sentry and Sentry Savings. (Perhaps we're also set up for big winnings for Tom Eldridge next season?)

During "Hobo Bo", we get to hear Mr. Sentry's own voice, pre-recorded (and strangely uncredited), as he advertises his financial institution and demonstrates it's incredible accuracy with numbers (or his inability to round off.) He reports the amount of holdings: $35,627,402.05. However, he doesn't say "and five cents", he says "and zero five cents," reporting the place holding zero. While not wrong, it seems odd. Additionally, Seldon also reports the number of depositors, 923,431*, which would tell anyone listening to the ads regularly that he's losing accounts at an alarming rate. A distinctly uncommercial aspect to an advertisement. Scott's suspicions are aroused. After all, the government did suspect that coded messages were still being sent out through WENN. Maybe...just maybe...

(* giving an average holding for each depositor of thirty-eight dollars and five eight point one five five two nine eight zero one four cents--mathematically accurate Rodney.)

Back in the station manager's office, the picture on the wall next to the doorway is now crooked where it was straight two scenes previous. A continuity glitch? Or some clever subtext?

We finally get to see that the bottom drawer on the right side of the desk has a false bottom where the strongbox has been hid. But we're still some ways from reading the note because we've got our first homecoming; JEFF!

As I said in a posting before I went home for Christmas, I haven't known what to make of the Jeff-Pavla situation. I thought it likely that Jeff didn't even know about Pavla, but I didn't feel strongly about it. In this scene, we get about the only answer to any of our questions that shows up in this episode. When Betty asks, "How could you have abandoned her and married another woman?" he replies, "My explanation holds water." With that response it's obvious Jeff is well aware of the marriage to Pavla. Enjoy that nugget folks, because from here on we switch to generating questions, not answers.

Hilary is outraged that Jeff has returned to WENN. She says she thought everyone understood that Jeff and her could not both work at WENN. Considering how often Jeff's return to his characters once he came back has been mentioned, I must deduct some points from Hilary's estimated IQ which had been increasing steadily through most of the season. However, on her behalf, I must say she is in quite an emotional tumult.

Perhaps most surprising is her admission, "I love being here." Not "like," "love." A giant step from the time when Grace Cavendish's visit to the station revealed just how little regard Hilary had for her peers. Sadly, Hilary seems to be doing her best to leave the station. WENN has no cause to fire Jeff. The most they could do is ask him to quit.

Melinda Mullin's performance is gripping and riveting. 'Nuff said.

Good ole Tom Eldridge: "Jeff! Where the hell have you been?"

Meanwhile...Scott has broken Seldon's code. Scott proclaims that it's good news for him. What has Scott been most desirous of lately? Ok, second most desirous. Right! To get something on Pruitt. Now he's obviously found that Seldon Sentry is sending coded messages, most likely to Nazi agents. And Seldon Sentry is a good buddy of Rollie Pruitt.

During "In the WENN Small Hours..." Betty was constantly interrupted in her attempt to enter the station manager's office to speak to Victor. In a parallel, this episode she is constantly interrupted in her attempt to read the name of Victor's contact. In the former, she's interrupted 3 times: 1. Guests Mr. Medwick and Cutter Dunlap; 2. Scott; 3. Guest Mr. Medwick. This time she's interrupted five times: 1. Scott; 2. Guest Rollie Pruitt; 3. Jeff; 4. Hilary; 5. Scott. So this happens in the season opener and closer. The first list opens and closes with Mr. Medwick; the second list opens and closes with Scott (who was center in the first list AND surrounded on both sides by Mr. Medwick!) Also, Cutter had just returned from some time spent overseas and so had Jeff. The lists are composed of Scott and guest stars, EXCEPT for the second list where the extra characters are Jeff and Hilary, a sometimes married couple.

All this could mean nothing. (Rodney looks left and then right, then leans forward and whispers...) or it could mean everything!

FINALLY...Betty gets to read the note she found in the strongbox. She quietly exclaims, "No! No, it's impossible." Of all our suspects, I could only think of one where "impossible" would be a somewhat accurate description: Maple. She was the only one who we were to believe had never met Victor. However, the camera angle finally shifted and we saw revealed...Mr. Rollie Pruitt!

Mr. Holmes is an honest writer. It doesn't look like he'd be the one to have the hero, unarmed, surrounded by a thousand horribly weaponed alien monsters and then have the hero whip out a device we had never seen in the narrative and proceed to dispatch the bad guys. And so the important information that Scott had found something on Pruitt had already been delivered to us. And so, despite the fact that having Rollie turn out to be a good guy putting on a bad front would be an interesting turn, I rushed over to #wenn and typed: "I get the feeling Mr. Pruitt put his name in the box!"

In no time at all Betty's received a phone call that prompts her to clear the station out with a claim that the police have ordered it. She interrupts the on-air broadcast of what seems to be "The Glint Grab Bag", one of Victor's favorite creations. Rollie referred to someone coming who could answer Betty's questions better. This would obviously be Victor. So the need to clear the station seemed to be tied into Victor returning. But why? Victor could meet Betty somewhere else (within the framework of the fiction, of course. Within the framework of producing the show it would mean building another set, so we can't really expect to see Victor and Betty meeting down at the drugstore.)

Entering from the back room as he did before is Victor, disguised as a policeman. But he seems uncharacteristically inarticulate and foggy headed, "Well, I left Germany"...confused pause..."um"...searching..."last"...really confused pause..."I don't know"...completely befuddled..."week"...an almost childlike pleasure in finding a time frame..."sometime." At this point I'm contemplating that maybe the Nazi's have located an evil double somewhere.

Somewhere in the haze, Victor seems to realize he's not thinking clearly, "It's funny. I know that I know, it's just...", fading off again.

Inadvertently, as Betty names the contact only as "the Satanic Santa" (a meaningless phrase to Victor), she says the trigger phrase, "Buy barley futures." Victor pulls out his revolver and any doubts I had are erased. There is no crazy cousin Hector. There was only my next entry on #wenn, "They've brainwashed him!"

It was heartwrenching to watch the agony on Victor's face as he pointed the gun at Betty. How strong was the conditioning? Did his love for Betty overcome the imperative to shoot or was it the realization that he had to be in the green room?

We move to the green room where Rollie Pruitt is waiting, having been told to expect Victor. When Betty states that Rollie is Victor's contact, he corrects her, "This man isn't my contact, Betty." Since Hitler's people have managed to condition Victor, it seems a cinch that they could've tortured the name of his contact out of him. Even if they didn't, the next scene reveals that the name of the contact would have been passed on by Pruitt. So we're ending the season with the Nazis knowing his contact and we still don't! That hardly seems fair.

Interestingly, as Rollie tells how he "substituted his name for the one that was there" there's a picture on the wall (on the camera's right) that looks like Jeff's.

Mr. Pruitt hadn't been able to watch Victor as long as we have. Would he have noticed the strange behavior and put it together? He's pretty bright. He may even have questioned the so-called "password."

At any rate, it looks like Pruitt was led to believe that Victor would shoot Betty (and then, presumably, he or Victor himself would shoot Victor). Instead, Victor, his voice strained and his hand shaking, explains he was told that upon reaching the green room, he was "to shoot whomever says the password." Rollie: "But I was told to give you the password." Do'h!

That Rollie was still alive two seconds after saying the phrase indicates that Victor's doing a good job of fighting the conditioning. Pruitt tries to reason with Victor pointing out that such a killing is against Victor's moral center. Victor swallows and the shaking becomes more pronounced. In an effort to give Victor more reason not to pull the trigger Rollie whips out his handgun and threatens Betty. I don't know that it really helped his cause.

Meanwhile, Scott has been decoding the secret messages, even to figuring out what he believes is the Nazi gang's secret greeting. Sending Mackie (who has returned to the station with Scott to brave the odorless gas) to the writer's room, he enters the green room saying the "greeting" in a gee-it's-so-dumb-sheesh manner, "Buy barley futures."

Unfortunately, this earns Scott a handgun in the face from the man he believed to have perished in a London bombing. "Victor Comstock...you're alive!" he says, astounded. It's their first on-air meeting (they met off air briefly in a pub and "Rendezvous in Rabat" was just a play about a fictional Victor and Scot by Gertie). Scott sees the face that's haunted him as he passed by Victor's picture on the wall dozens of times daily. The face that's acted as an insurmountable barrier between him and Betty. But mostly, he sees the steel barrel of a gun pointing right between his eyes.

We're treated to an overhead shot, establishing where each character is positioned...and amazing me-I thought the green room was much larger.

How much Scott took in we don't know. Rollie seems to be in plain sight to his left, but the gun pretty much blurs the edges. Is he thinking that Victor is really, really ticked about Scott misrepresenting himself as his friend, defrauding the sponsors and chasing after Betty? Or does he put together Pruitt's presence and the code he just busted. If so, does he leap to the conclusion that Victor's been brainwashed? Or does he stupidly believe as Scot did in "Rendezvous in Rabat" (when Victor wanted only one ticket to safely get Roberta out of Rabat) that Victor's only in anything for himself. Any thoughts towards piecing together the puzzle fade as the realization that he's finally in a jam that he won't get out of comes over him. In what he believes are his last moments, only one thought remains urgent. The thought that brought him back from depths of despair as his embezzling and the Comstock letter fraud were both uncovered in a matter of hours. The thought that has sustained him as he's rebuilt himself and continued in his pursuit of Betty's affection.

The thought--"Hey, Betty. I love you."

Betty stands transfixed, trying to reason a solution. She's not interested in seeing any of her friends killed in front of her eyes. While Scott may have crossed some lines in the past, he's proven himself a friend to her and all of WENN (even Hildy) since his downfall (even if she's had to keep him, and Doug Thompson, at bay). And to see Scott, who loves her and whom she's had feelings for, killed by the man she loves and who loves her, as a result of Nazi conditioning, may just be too much to take. We don't know what went through her head.

As she said the trigger phrase was she saying that she'd rather die than witness the described nightmare.

Or was she thinking Scott and her could keeping saying the phrase (Scott would be able to pick up on it pretty quick) and bouncing Victor between them, buying them some time.

Or maybe, knowing that even though Pruitt was just someone Victor just knew as his boss when he was at WENN, Victor was still able to fight the conditioning. Victor doesn't know who Scott Sherwood is and might not be able to fight the conditioning for the sake of a stranger. However, Victor's familiarity and love of Betty is a different matter and maybe Victor would be unable to fire at her.

Or, that if Victor did turn to face her, Scott could then jump Victor and wrestle the gun away from him.

At any rate, we next cut to the WENN hallway where the sound of a shot is heard.

Fade to black.

Okay, I've got more. I'd like to know who substituted for John Bedford Lloyd in the shots of the gun in Scott's face. In these shots, some short person is holding the gun which is pointing up at Scott. In the shot holding on JBL and the overhead shot, Victor is holding his arm and gun straight ahead at Scott.

Now, to the final seconds. It looks like one of the cliffhanger endings in old-time serials. Some serials cheated and changed shots (the endless cavern the heroine was going to fall into becomes a safe, peaceful lake in the next episode.) But some used the exact same shots to solve the cliffhanger...plus new shots showing what happened between the other shots. Example. We see the good guy in the radio-controlled-car heading for the brick wall; next shot the car smashes into the wall and blows up. Next episode a new shot appears in between the other two showing the hero leaping from the car.

Look at the overhead shot. Scott's opened the door and was stopped cold by the gun in Victor's hand. Stopped so cold he's still got the door held open in his right hand. He continues to hold the door in the following shots. When we cut to the hallway shot, the door has obviously been released by Scott SOME SECONDS AGO since it's swing has already reduced substantially. In fact, the door is seen swinging for a few fractions of a second before the shot is heard.

Hence, we've got space to insert new shots like in the old cliffhanger resolutions. This would certainly fit in with Victor turning towards Betty, Scott releasing the door and jumping Victor and then, several seconds later as the door has almost stopped swinging, the gun going off in the struggle.

But there's a wealth of possibilities here. Victor, torn between his programming and his love for Betty may have turned the gun on himself. Rollie, now that Victor wasn't holding the gun on him, decided to take out his assassin. Also, Mackie may be involved. He could have heard Scott exclaim, "Victor Comstock...you're alive!", and turned around and came back down the hallway. Since the shot in the hallway is several seconds after the preceding shot it would have been plenty of time for Mackie to have entered the room in an attempt to be a hero. Mackie could be the one shot.

I've no doubt we'll be able to figure out all the possibilities. The mystery will be which of the possibilities will it be.

As it is, "Remember WENN" could enter it's fourth season without Victor, Betty, Scott, Mackie, Jeff or Hilary. It's spookily too similar to the cliffhanging end of the first season of "Babylon 5". In that episode, nearly every major character was in a situation where they could easily be written out, except for the station commander, Sinclair. In the second season, all the endangered characters returned as regulars. But the "safe" Sinclair was only given about 40 seconds screen time about halfway through the season. So now I'm starting to worry for Foley, Gertie, Eugenia, Maple and Tom Eldridge!

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