Monday, July 13, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark: The Tale of Apartment 214

Kiki calls this story the Tale of Apartment 214 after some lame intro about how moving can be awesome. Also, Gary yells at Tucker for stealing the pouch of salt as a joke. You know, I love Gary but this sibling relationship really lacks of the finesse of the older Pete/younger Pete relationship.

Stacey and her mother have just moved into a new apartment because her parents are splitting up. As they move their belongings from the car, the manager, a guy with a thick Eastern European accent, tells them there's no parking. They argue with him and then he leaves. Damn, Stacey's mom has got it--no, no, I won't go there. But she is fine!

So, after move-in, Stacey, her mom, and their adorable schnauzer, Bugsy, adjust. Stacey finds it a little bizarre as she's always hearing weird noises from apartment 214. She meets a girl her age who lives in apartment 212 and asks if she wants to hang out.

Obnoxious girl is all, "Maybe." After all, she might have to go watch Blossom or something.

Finally one day, Stacey sees apartment 214 creak open and she goes inside. An old lady bustles into the living room with a tea set and says, "Well it's about time!" I shriek. Early onset dementia!

Turns out she's a painter named Madeleine Kegel who lives alone. Frank, her nephew, promised her she could live with him and his family but eventually his family got to be too big and she wasn't needed. Yeah, well, before you start feeling too sorry for the old bag, Stacey, what she's not telling you is that Frank was perfectly willing to take in Madeleine--but he drew the line at making all three of his kids share a room so she could have an extra two rooms to house her tea cosies from around the world and her collection of sofa doilies.

Madeleine tells Stacey that they have something in common. They're both passive aggressive shut ins? No, wait, Madeleine, that's just you. But she thinks they can be friends. A creepy old eccentric woman. A cute black girl? Friends? Well, worked for Liz and Jacko.

Stacey helps Madeleine with chores around the apartment. Oh, having a colored girl around to do the housework--it's like nothing's changed for Madeleine. The two of them enjoy taking tea together, too. Then one day, Madeleine asks for a favor. (How is this different from every other day you two spend together?)

Oh, dear god, either Stacey's mom pulled a Fraulein Maria and has started making her child's clothing out of the curtains or Madeleine's been giving her fashion advice. Madeleine asks Stacey if she'll drop by the next day. Stacey asks what's wrong and Madeleine says, "Nothing. It's just a day on which I'd prefer not to be alone." Oh, Maddy, did you take your Ambien and Ex-Lax at the same time and forget to replenish your supply of Oops I Crapped My Pants again?

Stacey agrees and Madeleine tells her tomorrow she'll have a surprise to give her. Stacey's thought bubble: If the surprise is ginger snaps, don't expect any looks of amazement because I do your shopping, Grandma Moses.

The next afternoon, the girl who lives in 212 shows up with some Battle of the Bands tickets, and invites Stacey to come along. Stacey looks reluctant. But her friend tells her this is a big deal, and Stacey decides to go hang out with an actual factual teenager for once. You know, Stacey, Madeleine probably goes to bed at 4:30. Just stop by, bring her some prunes, commiserate on the state of "Kids these days," ask after her bowel movements, and you're good to go. But Stacey heads out with her friend.

Up in the window, Grandma Moses stares down at Stacey and starts making plans to boil her schnauzer. Later, Stacey comes home after a fun time. She hears Madeleine sobbing and goes inside. You broke your promise!" she shrieks.

Congrats, Madeleine, you just made the woman in room 237 of the Overlook Hotel look warm and fuzzy by comparison. Stacey puts on the lights and the woman disappears. Oh shut up, Maddy, if she didn't get some time to herself, she'd snap, and you read about what happened to Brooke Astor. Old biddies need to realize that not everyone finds their collection of cat statues that look like Taft interesting. But seriously, Stacey, I'd go check on your dog.

The door slams shut locking Stacey in. Eastern European stereotype opens it, asking what's wrong, and she runs out. Stacey runs into her own apartment, screaming. She explains what happened but her mother says that it doesn't make sense that the woman just disappeared into thin air. They go ask the manager about the old lady and he tells them that no one has lived there for years.

Kiki narrates that it just doesn't make sense. No, Kiki, it only makes no sense for those viewers who have either never read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, never been to summer camp, or aren't allowed to watch cable TV. So for those pale, home-schooled, shut-ins, this episode's twist should pose a real treat. Kiki tells us that time passes and that Stacey will have to learn to live with the guilt. Wait, hold up. Guilt? Come on. It's not as if Stacey forgot to visit her. It was still light out when she came by to visit with Madeleine. Was there some rule she had to spend the whole day with the old bat? Madeleine really wields guilt like a weapon--she's like the Old Testament God and a Jewish Holocaust survivor mom all rolled into one scary little old lady.

Then one night, Stacey's mom makes plans to go out, leaving Stacey alone.

Man, Stacey's mom has got it going on! Yeah, I said I wouldn't, but c'mon! The woman has the put togetherness of Mrs. Huxtable without the stick up her ass, the good looks of Nichelle Nicholls without the intimidating factor, and the grace of Diana Ross without the crazy. Stacey's mother tells her she's going to go meet with Stacey's dad/her ex at a restaraunt.

Stacey snuggles with her adorable dog while reading a book. There's a knock on the door. She sees Madeleine through the peephole and relieved to see her old friend, opens the door.

Relief? I've never been so frightened to see an old person since that Mrs. Wakefield episode of King of the Hill. (Or since the time I read The Witches as a child and screamed every time I saw an old lady with gloves. My dad really regretted taking me to the company cotillion that year.) But when Stacey opens the door, there's no old lady.

Stacey goes to apartment 214. The apartment's completely bare...except for a creepy paint by numbers painting of Stacey and Madeleine:
Oops, sorry:

She looks around and suddenly the apartment is furnished. Oh, don't look so surprised, I've seen more amazing things since I've started watching HGTV. Then Madeleine is standing before her. Stacey gasps. Madeleine: "You promised to visit me! I didn't want to be alone on that day and you didn't come!" Madeleine explains it was an anniversary. "On that day is the day I died!"

Stacey flees to her own apartment and the old lady slips a note under that says Why did you break your promise?

Ugh. Someone send that note to this blog, please. Stacey runs into the hall and the lights go off. The manager appears and she tries to explain about the old lady. The manager tells her no one lives there because every time he shows the apartment something weird happens and people get scared.

Then the cute little dog, Bugsy, runs down the hall. He enters apartment 214. Not wanting to wait for Madeleine to get all, "I will not be ignored, DanStacey," Stacey calls her dog back. She goes after him into Madeleine's House of Tchotchke where she finds the dog in a closet. "You broke your promise!" wails Madeleine. "Like my nephew!"

Wait just a second. You said your nephew wouldn't let you move in because he had a big family! If the reason you're living here is because you're actually dead, then, dude. Your nephew obviously doesn't think that Psycho and A Rose for Emily involve the proper way of dealing with dead family members.

"I wasn't trying to be mean--I just wanted to make a new friend," says Stacey. Friend? Oh, that Saved by the Bell reject. I wait for the old lady to respond with Oh, poor you! because something tells me she comes from the Livia Soprano school of passive aggression. Stacey, finally, stands up for herself, and mentions that she came over after the concert. "But it was too late." No, it wasn't! You two could still celebrate deathday and make cookies or whatever it is you were planning.

The old hag tells Stacey it's important to make friends. Then she says, "I won't bother you anymore." Yeah, you know, I'll just sit in my rocking chair, listening to the Andrews Sisters, drawing pictures of you. Stacey asks if she's really dead and shouldn't she have moved on? No, Madeleine's too old to move on. And that's why she won't let anyone into her home and no one can move in. Forget calling in Beetlejuice and Handbook for the Recently Deceased--the Maitlands should have gotten this lady in when they wanted the Deitzes out of their house.

Madeleine says that no one wants her. I wonder why. She cries and says she doesn't want to go and Stacey tells her she won't have to.

Turns out that Stacey got her mother to agree to move into 214 (it's a lot cheaper and bigger). Goddamnit, Stacey, you're sweet, but take a note from Haley Joel Osment when it comes to dealing with the other worldly--sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind. So now, all Stacey, her mother, and Madeleine all live together and presumably listen to Harry Belafonte every time Stacey aces a test. Well, living with old people has its benefits--rent controlled apartments!

Yeah, all well and good. Till Stacey's mother reunites with her ex-husband:

Gary tells the gang, and us, to stay tuned because next week, Betty Ann's friend, Sam, will come by to tell her story and hopefully be allowed into the group. And we all know where that leads! Gary's first crush.

I blame this episode for the reason why I wanted to stop doing community service at the local nursing home. My theory? It was probably written by an aging scriptwriter as a passive aggressive bid to get her kids to build her an add-on so she wouldn't have to move into a retirement community.