Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor

There's an incredibly lame intro to this story by David, Betty Ann, and Kristen who hold flashlights under their chins and talk about about how you think you know a person, but they might really be a stranger. (Hey, beats the alternative--Betty Ann talking about how her nice neighbor ended up molesting her when she was five. Lesson there--if someone tells you that you can be the next Dora the Explorer, DON'T LISTEN.)

Betty Ann calls this story:

Billy and Karin are siblings who live on the twelfth floor of their building. They go up to the empty thirteenth floor to play because no one lives there. Today, the elevator guy, Guys, lets them up, telling them that he doesn't like them to play up there because it makes him uneasy.

The kids play hockey. Karin whines about how she's terrible at sports, probably because she's adopted. She wonders about her birth family, and Billy tells her to stop blaming her bad playing on the fact that she was adopted.

They decide to head down. When the elevator comes, Gus isn't there.

It's a guy called Leonid. Jesus, is Vice Magazine doing their photo shoot in kids' shows now? Leonid tells Billy and Karin that Gus has been called away. They decide to take the stairs instead. (Which they should have been doing anyway--they live one floor down! Grumble, grumble, obesity epidemic.)

That night, Karin sleeps while the TV in her room comes on. She wakes up and sees a guy talking to her through the TV, telling her it's time for a little visit. She thinks she's dreaming. Next day she gets a letter saying that there's a toy factory on the thirteenth floor, asking her to come up and test some toys. She can come any time the next day. She's a little reluctant, but that night she has another dream with the same guy begging her to come.

So Karin and Billy go up to the toy factory. They go inside. And it's basically the Fireworks, Candy and Puppy dog store. The kids are impressed--this place is FAO Schwartz on steroids.

Aww, I want free samples from this place even more than I did during that school trip to the veal farm!

A woman with a layered red bob and lots of eye make up introduces herself as Olga.

But I always thought you could tell someone was an alien because of said heavy eye make up and slanty eyebrows, not painfully hip hairdos--you lied, Gene Rodenberry! And, uh, oops, I did it again, I gave away the ending. Okay, I'm resigned--I am The Spoilerer. I can live with that. These people aren't pedophiles--they're aliens, Bruce Willis and Nicole Kidman were dead all along, and Hell is other people.

Olga tells Karin that it was nice of her to bring her brother but he won't be needed, and tells Billy he can leave his young sister in the company of strangers. Billy, having more sense than god gave a mule (and, apparently, Samantha Geimar's mother) insists on staying with her.

Olga introduces the kids to Raymond, the technician, who looks at her and says that he thought there was only meant to be one kid.

Olga explains that they have to deal with both the kids. So Raymond shows them both a fun game with buttons and lights and tells them to play. They both sit down and at first, Billy starts beating the crap out of his sister. But this is the nineties and it's not PC for a boy to trounce a girl at anything--unless he's a black, bespectacled dwarf who sits in a wheelchair and talks via a Stephen Hawking computer. So I expect a thrilling upset victory from Karin.

Karin starts winning and Billy congratulates her on getting the hang of it. Raymond adjusts something at the computer (we later learn he's changing the atmosphere) and Billy says he feels tired as Karin continues to win. (Oh, it's the Billie Jean King/Bobby Rigg match all over again.)

Raymond tells Karin to come with him while Billy continues practicing. Raymond straps Karin into an amusement park type chair and shows her a small ball about ten feet away. He asks her to try moving it.

To her shock, she can! Telepathy lessons. Man, if they'd had that back when Carrie White was alive, Chamberlain, Maine would still be a vibrant, buzzing town, and Stephen King would have no career.

Beween this and Alex Mack, I was so disappointed when I never got powers of my own. And I had a few Miss Trunchbull esque teachers who needed to be taken down a peg or eight.

Then Raymond takes off his face mask and presses a button and she begins to ascend in her strapped in chair. She screams in horror. And above her, she sees grey aliens reaching out for her.

Understandably unnerved, Karin uses her telepathy to push a few buttons and come down. And whatever she pressed makes Raymond freeze up. Seems that despite his technological prowess, he's not the Scotty of the group, but rather the Data. "Whatever you did to me, thanks!" she says.

Billy's still slumped over and won't wake up, so Karin tells him she'll come back with help. She runs off.

Olga comes in and switches Raymond the (dangerously un)Paranoid Android on, telling him they need to get Karin to the ship by six which is their time of departure. Olga looks at Billy and says, "Such poor specimens, these earth children," which is pretty much what Angelina Jolie says in her head each time someone asks if she'll adopt an American kid this time instead.

The aliens chase Karin all around the Fireworks, Candy, and Grey Aliens factory. She finally gets out by finding a remote control that powers Raymond the Android. Raymond and Olga try to stop her, and she points the remote at Raymond telling him to "Hold Olga." With her arm around Billy, she manages to get him to the elevator.

But Lenoid stops her, telling her she should come with them to outer space, how great space is and how you can fly like a bird and go to other worlds. But Karin tells him she won't abandon her brother and she leaves. Surprisingly, Leonid doesn't force her to go.

Finally back in Karin's room, Olga appears on the TV screen telling Karin that this was supposed to be her rescue.

Olga and Leonid are Karin's parents. They left Karin on this planet by mistake ten years ago. when they were visiting. Despite the fact that they seem to be more highly evolved than earthlings, their ability to do a headcount is fairly compromised. (Though let's face it--I think we humans and aliens alike are equally bad at that, from E.T. and his ilk to Kevin McCallister's clan.) Olga says that now it's too late and they'll have to wait another ten years before they can return for her. Billy eye rolls, asking what she's talking about and then turns to Karin, only to see...

He shrieks and runs off.

This moment creeped me out so much. And not just me. Based on blog posts, TV Tropes, and talking to people, pretty much everyone my age who saw this episode as a kid is refusing to adopt when they get older. Between this episode and The Orphan, the number of cute white girls getting adopted is going to be decimated in about ten years.