Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 1:11 “The Séance”

Airdate: 12/15/76

A rich, elderly woman named Grace Rodeheaver receives a mysterious phone call, and blankly proceeds to open her own safe, remove her own expensive-looking jewels and drop them off for easy retrieval by an equally mysterious-looking van. Dumbfouded, she calls on the Angels to help find whodunit; they’re pretty sure of an inside job, while Jill notices a person of interest in the form of Madam Dorian, the spiritual advisor helping Miss Rodeheaver contact her dead husband. Kelly goes undercover as an oil heiress trying to contact her dearly departed father; she “interviews” with Dorian’s assistant, Terence, who hypnotizes her so she’ll channel her inner little girl at a séance (where Jill thinks she’s just acting). 

But now Terence uses her hypnosis to find out about the real Kelly Garrett, whose cover is now blown, and whose memories of being traumatized by her orphanage matron, Beevish, are just what Terence needs to coordinate an Angel-on-Angel murder. In Kelly’s eyes, Beevish is now Jill, narrowly escaping a car crash death before she snaps her driver out of her trance. Sabrina catches Rodeheaver in her hypnosis, and before long the she-ro trio nabs Terence, who kept his nefarious dealings a secret from the well-meaning (and now dead) Dorian, and his dastardly days of dream-state devilry are all over.

A taut, engaging thriller that utilizes its topic – hypnosis – with eerie efficacy. It follows the Angels formula admirably but also transcends it – by having Kelly truly hypnotized we also learn more about her dark backstory (I always applaud when series’ characters are explored beyond surface level). Extra points for placing the Angels in actual peril, or at least what seems like peril – normally the climactic action comes off as slightly more endangering than a cocktail party conversation. And the villain, as played by one of my favorite character actors, Rene Auberjonois, is credibly ruthless, and his knowledge of hypnotherapy adds another layer of danger to his already lethal arsenal. It all adds up to the best Angels episode thus far. My only quibble: the standard opening prologue gives away too much; it’d be far more intriguing to learn later on that Rodenheaver had robbed herself under hypnosis.

Learning experiences: we now know the source of Kelly trauma at the of-mentioned orphanage where she was raised: a mean ol’ matron named Beevish, who apparently has a thing against Raggedy Ann dolls.

Jaclyn Smith’s best acting so far, and boy does she ever know how to sport a lace nightie!

Client: Grace Rodenheaver (and, ironically, the culprit as well)

Plot difficulty level: 3

Rating: ****

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