Okay, NBC. Relax. Now close your eyes and breathe, nice and slow. Good. Now repeat after me: “I do not need to cram so much into The Cape. I can take my time telling this story.” And breathe in… and out. You may open your eyes. Thanks so much, NBC; I’ll see you next week. Namaste.
Scales, our ol’ east-end friend with the skin condition, is waiting at the docks. A car pulls up, and a gentleman in an ARK uniform hops out, prattling to himself about how much he loves Brazil nuts. Scales isn’t fooled by this conviviality, and demands to know where Peter Fleming is. Fleming is getting a massage right now, oooh, and so sent Joe ARK to deal with the dockworkers. Looks like Scales and Fleming have gone into business together, as Joe is talking in a cheerfully threatening way about how ARK is expecting to be paid. Scales isn’t down with the payment plan, and Joe Ark says, I kid you not, “I think you have me confused with someone who gives a flying frag.” It’s nice to know the producers of this show are really going for that bad-movie-edited-for-television feel. Scales appears just as upset by this rejoinder as I am. He’s practically quivering with rage as he warns Joe ARK, “You just made a big mistake: You just made me remember you!”
One of Scales’ henchmen is double-crossing him! He and The Cape meet to exchange what looks like a thumb drive for cash. The hench is worried, because Scales is “a menace, bro,” ready to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. He won’t stop spying for The Cape, though, just notes that the “price is going up next time, bro.” I don’t think I got enough “bro”s in those seven seconds. Can I have a couple more?
Cut to Orwell and Vince in his hideout (which needs a name. Cape Cave? Fortress of Snappitude?). They’re listening to Vince’s new purchase: The conversation between Scales and Joe ARK at the docks, the one secretly recorded by our extra-crooked henchman. Vince is grumbling that Fleming “has lifted shamelessness to an art form,” mumbles around about the dangers of their upcoming mission, saying how badly he needs Scales to out Fleming on this train, then finally exclaims, “I need to knock the pieces off the board!” He doesn’t seem much more affectedly disgruntled than usual, but something must be up, as Orwell asks him what’s wrong. Turns out it’s Trip’s birthday. Orwell takes this in stride, saying “birthdays are overrated,” then tries to snap Vince out of his mope, asking, “Are we brooding or suiting up?” Oh, Orwell. Even sparkly vampires brood better than that; Vince is just having a hissy fit.
Vince enters Max’s trailer unannounced, looking for some backup. He gets more information than he wanted, though, as Max, Rollo, and Ruvi the hypnotist are all huddled around plans like a smaller, more diverse Ocean’s 11. Max tells Vince they won’t be able to help him, as they have “Carnival business.” Remember? They’re the not-at-all conspicuous Carnival of Crime.
The Cape wrangles Scales down to the docks, and the villain is obviously irritated at being called in to work. Why? Well, The Cape “interrupted lasagna night. And I like lasagna.” You can see the writers trying to think of something homey and relatable, something everyone likes. “Hey, Lasagna’s perfect, especially because he says the “s” different! We can emphasize that he’s foreign, yet relatable!” Then they give each other undeserved pats on the back.
The Cape has placed himself at the highest, most visible point, so as to give the greatest dramatic effect to what he’s about to say: “Are you a pawn or a king, Raoul?” Scales isn’t going to play. (I like him more already.) “I’m a dockworker, with low blood sugar.” Even though no one’s going along with his metaphor, The Cape refuses to let it drop. “Peter Fleming thinks you’re a pawn. Or should I say Chess… thinks you’re a pawn?” The Cape reveals that Chess and Fleming are one and the same, so in paying off both of them, Scales is paying the same dude twice. This is the art form of shamelessness Vince was bemoaning earlier. Yeah, this is just… just awful. How dare he?
“If I want financial advice, I’ll ask my accountant. Not flower girls.” I listened to this scene half a dozen times, hoping I’d misheard, that Scales said, “Die Fledermaus,” or something that made some semblance of sense. Nothing. He calls Cape a flower girl. Is this supposed to bring to mind Eliza Doolittle, hawking violets in Covent Garden? Is this weird pseudo-insult just intended to remind us that Scales is British?
The Cape tells how Faraday the cop was framed, summing up his story by saying, “they made him look like Lincoln’s assassin.” Sure they did. Sic semper tyrannis. He then drops a big plot point about tonight’s Masquerade on a Train Fundraiser to Which Scales Was Not Invited But Due to A Pretty Obvious Inferiority Complex He’ll Be So Offended By The Snub He’ll Practically Beg to Crash the Party, then disappears into a puff of smoke.
Peter Fleming is surrounded by photographers, eager to capture the image of him in a snowy white cowboy costume that only serves to make his ears look big. Vince is watching from above in his Bum costume (ratty hoodie, beat up ball cap) at the guests assembling below. Looks like everyone shopped at that incredible costume shop only available in the magical land of movies and television, because everyone looks picture-perfect. Vince spies a man in a bobby costume holding his daughter (at least one hopes), and the cop-and-kid image strikes a chord deep within him, strong enough to set off a flashback.
We’re looking at Trip in the classroom, and hearing his teacher announce, “Today’s birthday guest is Trip Faraday’s father, Detective Vincent Faraday, of the Palm City Police Department.” Did this happen to anyone in school? Parents came for career day on your birthday? Maybe Edison Elementary was just weird, because we didn’t. Anyway, the kids ask Vince about his uniform, and his gun, and then Trip pipes up and asks if Vince’ll catch Chess. The kids all gasp and wiggle around in their chairs to look at the brazen birthday boy, and Vince assures him he will. He gives the kids some safety tips, like don’t open the door to strangers, because Chess’s established MO is to enter private homes and terrorize people on a personal level.
We flash back forward into Trip’s bedroom; he was remembering the same thing. He turns his eyes back to his textbook, flipping the page to see some dumb classmate has scrawled “RETURN TO MURDERURS KID.” Trip’s peers choose weird insults, and can’t spell worth a damn.
Dana Faraday, meanwhile, is stuck in traffic and wrapping Trip’s gift at the wheel in an outrageous example of distracted driving. She calls her friendly boss Travis to ask if he’s still up for going over some depositions at her place tonight — happy birthday, Trip — and he says he’s nearly at her place now. She warns him that she’s stuck in horrible traffic and that her son is “super conscientious” about letting strangers into the house, so she’ll call the birthday boy and smooth things over. Then her phone cuts out, so she can’t call Trip! And she’s still stuck in traffic! And I think that cake in the passenger seat is an ice cream cake! Disaster.
Travis arrives at the Faraday home, introduces himself through the door, and asks if Dana let the kid know he was coming over. A skeptical Trip says no, she didn’t, and no, he doesn’t remember Travis from the office. Travis tries wishing Trip a happy birthday, saying, “Your mom told me,” but Trip will not budge: “You could have Googled me.” Travis is stuck outside the locked door. Stranger danger averted!
Back at the Monte Carlo Express, Vince watched from a distance as Scales initiates a boisterous handshake with Peter Fleming, and grits through a smile, “I know you’re Chess. Keep shaking my hand, or in five minutes, they will, too.” Fleming weakly tries to protest that Chess is dead, but Scales isn’t buying it. He demands an introduction to the Mayor, and boards the train, making sure to snag another photo op with Fleming on the way.
Vince is still watching from his perch in a nearby building, and wonders if that very short conductor looks familiar. He pulls out a telescopic device to get a better look — yes, it’s Rollo! With a gun! I don’t want to be rude, but are there that many little people in Palm City that Rollo wasn’t recognizable from a distance? Are you really that surprised, Vince? Surprised or no, he’s peeved that his Make Scales Expose Chess plan is likely to get mucked up.
THE CAPE VS THE CARNIVAL OF CRIME
The train’s all decked out for the party, with gaming tables and chandeliers, which I hope makes up for how crowded that train must be. Good call for the Carnival, though: Not only is this the most ostentatiously dramatic event they could rob, but the gambling theme ensures a sizable take. Peter Fleming, strolling through the train, manages not to notice the awkward looks Orwell shoots him as he passes. Is this the same Orwell from the pilot? I could do better undercover work than this. Sheesh.
Vince drops onto the train from who knows where, all Caped out. He strides into the party and walks right to Orwell. Way to be inconspicuous, guys! The Cape tells her that the Carnival is going to hold up the train, and sets off to find Max. How he manages not to notice the Max-shaped Grim Reaper gliding past him I’ll never know. Our old friend Patrick Portman is recognizable, though, dressed like The Cape. He defends his costuming choice to the real deal; after all, the party’s theme is Heroes and Villains, right? (Right, sure.)
Portman is embarrassed, but The Cape’s just tickled to have a fan. Portman starts to say goodbye with a dismissive, “Have a good life,” when he stops to wonder why our hooded hero is here in the first place. The Cape opens a door to find an unconscious ARK guard: “I’m working.” Portman tags along to help.
Fleming, meanwhile, is holding up his end of the bargain, taking Scales to the Mayor to be introduced. Orwell slips in to observe the conversation. Scales offers the leader of our fair Palm City a great deal on copper pipe, imported woods, all tax free. He punctuates this with an awkward wink. The mayor is offended, saying “It is improper, what you’re suggesting.” Well said, Mr. Mayor; those are just the words I use turn down all my proposed crooked business dealings.
Scales is pretty upset, and the conversation gets heated. We get more of a look at his deep-seated inferiority complex. He consoles himself at the bar, demanding the bartender give him, “a drink.” I’d have ordered something particular if I were in that foul of a mood, but hey, I’m not Scales.
The Cape finds Rollo, and begs him not to heist the train. When Scales outs Fleming as Chess, his name will be cleared! Rollo refuses to either stand down or give up Max, and it looks like Ruvi tasers our hero. He doesn’t — he flashes him in the face with a light so bright that The Cape falls the hell over.
Portman rescues him, guiding him to a seat and fetching him a glass of water. Vince’s eyes are killing him, so he unmasks to rub them. Spoiler alert: There are no consequences to this action. He does flash back to Trip’s eighth birthday, though, when father and son went camping. Trip, frightened that his folks’ll divorce, wonders what would happen if “I had to walk somewhere really far, and no one was there to tell me which way to go,” because divorce and long walks so often go hand in hand. Vince assures his son that there’s no need for a compass — he’ll always have his Dad. (Oops!)
We exit the flashback on Trip’s side again, where he’s conversing with Travis through the apartment door. Travis explains the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” to the kid, and Trip opens the door for a moment to ensure that, legally, his dad is innocent. Travis agrees, and starts to get up, when Trip shuts the door again. He does, however, send a Fruit Roll-Up through the abnormally large peephole.
Back on the train, Fleming is being photographed and interviewed as he tries to make his way through the party, bragging about the plummeting crime rate and beautification of the city. Orwell interrupts his speech to argue that he’s nothing but a fascist, and Fleming brushes her off with, “Looks like someone has been reading the ‘Orwell is Watching blog.'” It’s so precise of him to call it by its full, drawn-out name. Orwell awkwardly flees the scene, prompting Fleming to joke, “She’s gone to report to her friend Orwell. Now that’s someone I’d like to meet.” You so totally just did!
A PROPER VILLAIN
Scales is still telling off the mayor, and Fleming joins the conversation. Here it comes! Scales is going to out Fleming as Chess! He does. The Cape looks on hopefully. Everyone laughs. The plan is a disaster.
An ARK guard comes to escort Scales off the train, but he knocks the guard out and takes his gun. He’s decided he’s going to heist the train, too — all the cool kids are doing it — when the lights go out. Scales and Fleming step outside the train car to see what all the fuss is about, and The Cape is there. He and Scales engage in a poorly choreographed and badly green-screened top o’ the train fight, and Scales knocks off our hero. He returns to Fleming, and the two wave their guns around and banter with threats so lame they don’t bear repeating. Suffice to say, at the end of the standoff, Scales proclaims, “Let the war begin” as his henchman, Noodle, detaches the train cars. Who names these characters?
The Cape returns from, “been hanging by [his] fingertips off the side of a train” to some worse news from Orwell to take his mind off it: We’re all on a runaway train! She gives reasons, like “the braking system failed, and the caboose decoupled,” but it’s luckily fixable. Someone just needs to cut the brake hose on the bottom of the running train. No biggie. The Cape reenters the train and announces the runaway aspect of the party. He asks for Fleming’s help in front of a room of witnesses, and Fleming is forced to lower his gun and cooperate.
On the detached bit of train, Scales stumbled onto the Carnival’s thieving operation and tries to thieve from the thieves. In busts Grim Reaper Max with a big ol’ gun and a big ol’ grudge: Scales nearly killed him the last time they met, remember? The Carnival puts Scales in the train’s built in cage, and now Scales is flashing back. He’s been locked in a cage before, beaten, mocked, and denied cake. The Carnival makes off with their loot; Scales begins methodically banging his head against the bars of his prison.
Back to the runaway half of the train, it’s up to The Cape and Peter Fleming to save the day. Fleming’s a mechanical engineer, so it makes sense to have him be the one to physically get under the moving vehicle and cut the brake line. The Cape is there to make sure he doesn’t fall. Once Fleming’s in place, though, the temptation becomes excruciating. This is the man who ruined his life, and all The Cape has to do is let go…
NO JOURNEY TOO FAR…
If he kills Fleming, though, his name will never be cleared, and he’ll never be able to return to his family. He’s clearly tormented by his warring desires here, which would be interesting if it weren’t so predictable. Fleming cuts the brakes, The Cape lets him live. Yawn. Fleming is slightly jazzed about their teamwork, laughing congratulating The Cape on his growing aptitude at this game between the two of them. The Cape is enraged, hissing, “This is not a game — I’m gonna end you. You’re not as smart as you think you are.” Fleming grins to himself, muttering, “God, I wish you were right,” which is odd. Wouldn’t you rather be just as smart as you thought you were, if not more?
Scales has head-butted his cage wide open, and finds an ARK security guard just waking up in the train car with him. It’s Joe ARK, from the first scene! As promised, Scales remembers him. Then probably beats the tar out of him, but we’ve cut to the Faraday home now, so we’ll never know for sure. Dana is finally home — how far away was she stuck in traffic? This is ridiculous — bearing a gift and a very melty cake.
Vince goes to Max’s trailer to confront his mentor, as the man counts a stack of ill-gotten money. Vince barrels in, saying “What I believe in, and what you believe in… sooner or later, it’s going to put it on opposite sides of a loaded gun.” Hey, obvious foreshadowing!
Vince retreats to the Cape Cave to join Orwell for a beer. He’s bummed that his grand Scales Outing Fleming As Chess plan backfired, but Orwell looks on the bright side: “The secretary of prisons wants to be your Tonto and you saved hundreds of lives.” She then continues on a more thoughtful note: “Everything we just went through and you’re wrapping a birthday gift for your son. Why do parents love their kids like that?” “They just do. Why, doesn’t your dad Peter Fleming AKA Chess love you any longer?” Evidently not, as Orwell’s next question is “Do you think anything ever makes that go away?”
Trip hops out of bed the next morning, which is a relief — I would have been disappointed if this episode didn’t follow the “always end with Trip on or near the fire escape” formula. He opens his gift, a compass, and reads the card aloud to himself: “No journey too far. Your friend. The Cape.”