It’s ballet time Fletcherfans! The most excellent of times!
JB is off to the theatre in San Francisco, where a production of Danse Diabolique is about to be mounted. It’s only the third time in history, on account of the lead ballerina dying in the two previous attempts -the first, in Russia over a century earlier, and the second in Paris in the 1920s. The gathered press and JB watch the footage of the Paris performance – the story of two lovers bumped off by death but reunited in the afterlife – and JB correctly spots cause of death as a heart attack and everyone is rightly impressed.
Considering the body count this ballet has produced, one of the gathered journalists asks where they will find someone to dance the role. Producer Geoffrey Presser is delighted to introduce the prima ballerina who will perform the role, mostly because it’s his wife, Claudia Cameron. Another ballerina in the crowd openly laughs while everyone applauds.
The role of Claudia’s love interest will be played by a mullet on legs.
The person standing on the end of that photo, basking in the reflected majesty of Damien Bolo’s mullet, is Edward Hale who will dance Death. (He is also Duncan Macleod from Highlander, the tv series that I still can’t believe was ever a think and you should totally watch it on Youtube because the early 90s were a goldmine for ridiculous television and it’s good to remember how far we’ve come).
Introductions over, Geoffrey invites the gathered crowd to stay and watch the first rehearsal. JB plonks herself in the front row, while Claudia asks the laughing ballerina, Lily, what’s so funny – she tells her it’s hilarious to think of Claudia as a maiden. Calling it early, Lily is a bitch. Meanwhile, Edward is commanding stage manager Barry Carroll (aka the guy with the eyepatch from Days of Our Lives for those playing along at home) to move a flat, but Barry says the pulley system isn’t working. Geoffrey tells him to figure it out and goes to sit down with Jess, who helpfully brushes dust off his jacket because she takes care of the little people. About 30 seconds into the rehearsal Geoffrey notices a flat about to fall from the ceiling and yells “WATCH OUT” just before it comes crashing down. Helpfully, noone was hurt.
Later, back at the ballet company HQ, Barry approaches Lily looking for a dinner date to clearly rekindle something they had previously going on but Lily gives him the cold shoulder. He tells her when he thinks of her with Edward he can’t breathe but Lily just waits for him to release her hand and she sashays away. Over at JB’s hotel room it is revealed that JB is an old friend of Claudia’s, but there was a specific reason she was at the ballet launch – they want her to stick around and be a good luck charm to protect the production from the curse. Not that they believe in it of course, but theatre people are superstitious.
JB is technically in town for a book tour, but figures sure why not. She’ll be the resident cursebuster, no worries.
The next day Claudia confronts Lily about her behaviour and Lily promises not to act that way in front of the patrons again, but since there are no patrons there right now she thinks Claudia should retire gracefully and leave the roles to people young enough to do them justice. UGH LILY YOU ARE THE WORST.
Jess arrives at the theatre on her first day as official curse-buster and runs into Edward who offers his assistance. JB says he must be excited after being away for awhile and Edward thinks she’s being diplomatic – he’s been in rehab for a pill addiction but now he has a second chance so whatever he can do to help Jess she only has to say the word.
Barry Carroll shows Jess how the pulley system works, and what he thinks went wrong the day before – he’s surprised it hadn’t happened sooner, everything is old and falling apart. He tells Jess he used to be a dancer until a tumble off stage while dancing ended his career. Jess tells him the company is lucky to have him backstage and he is right chuffed.
Back in the dressing rooms Lily and Edward are going at it with their tongues. Lily is trying to convince Edward to talk to Geoffrey about replacing Claudia with another ballerina, say for example Lily, for the good of the company. Edward doesn’t think he can do it, but Lily tells him if he doesn’t, he knows what could happen. Edward nods and Lily beams. Oh piss off Lily you attention seeking cow.
That afternoon in rehearsals Claudia is struggling with the choreography and Edward is losing his mind. Damien is fine with changing the choreography but Edward calls and end to the rehearsal and asks Geoffrey for a word. Lily is delighted by everything. Later, when Claudia is leaving she hears familiar music and finds Lily rehearsing Claudia’s role. Except it isn’t Claudia’s role anymore, as Lily happily points out. This is confirmed by a sad Geoffrey and a solemn looking Edward. Claudia’s out, Lily is in. Claudia tells Lily she hopes there is a curse and that it comes true and Lily dies.
Fair call really.
The next day, Geoffrey finds Jessica backstage and tells her rehearsal is about to start. Jess tells him they need to talk. They adjourn to his office and Jess tells him she worked it out – it was impossible to reach the pulley that controlled the flat that fell without getting chalk dust on your clothes from the blackboard. And she remembers brushing chalk dust off his jacket the day of the accident. Geoffrey comes clean immediately – he knew it wouldn’t hurt anyone and it would generate some publicity. He hopes Jess can forgive him and that she will still come to preview night on Friday. Jess says she’ll think about it.
Honestly this episode is ticking so many of my boxes.
Rehearsal with Lily is not going well, as
the mullet Damien is pointing out above. Lily is just not as good as Claudia, and a terrible partner. Lily tells him if he’s not up to it they will find someone who is, and Damien says she sounds like she’s taken over the whole company. Lily flounces back to her dressing room saying she’ll be back when they decide to act like professionals. Edward calls a break and screams at them to be better when they come back. Damien asks Geoffrey how he could replace Claudia and he says he had to do it for the sake of the company, and that preview night is almost here, they just need to pull together. Damien says fine, but one more stunt like that and all bets are off.
Claudia goes to visit Jess at her hotel to beg forgiveness on behalf of Geoffrey – they are all under enormous pressure and doing things they don’t mean (like yelling at everyone a-la Edward). Jess tells her it must have been hard to be replaced like that and Claudia says it happens – ballet loves young people, she just doesn’t know what to do now that she’s too old for it. JB reminds her that she wasn’t exactly a teenager when she started writing, and that age and experience are advantages not disabilities (Life Lesson #64).
Thursday afternoon dress rehearsal rolls around and Lily is nowhere to be found. Edward sends Barry to find her, and finds her sans clothes in her dressing room with Geoffrey Presser DAMNIT GEOFFREY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. After a bit of a scene Geoffrey delivers his message and returns to the stage, not noticing Edward standing in the corridor.
Preview night arrives at long last, and the scene backstage is chaos. Roses arrive for Damien, while Barry confronts Lily about Edward and Geoffrey and she tells him she’s sorry he can’t dance any more but that’s nothing to do with her and leaves. At the last minute a rose is swapped on the prop table, then curtain goes up. Claudia rushes to her seat just after the performance begins.
Basically the whole ballet can be summed up as follows:
Of course as Death disappears off the stage, it it revealed that he was a little too good at his job and Lily is lying dead on the stage. The curtain comes down and JB and Claudia rush backstage, but it’s confirmed. Lily is dead.
The police are called…
…and the accusations start flying. JB heard Barry arguing with Lily, which Geoffrey says isn’t a surprise it was Lily that Barry was dancing with when he had his accident at which point Barry says “when did she tell you that Geoffrey? When you were fooling around in her dressing room?”
Geoffrey says she called him to discuss her costume, and she was like that when she got there, dressing rooms are like that etc etc. Claudia looks horrified. Jess suggests they move to a rehearsal space so that Lieutenant Martin Kinicki can continue his questioning. He starts with Claudia and Geoffrey – Geoffrey admits to tampering with the flat that time, but says he had no reason to kill Lily, certainly not for publicity. JB asks Claudia why she was late to her seat when her car was out front, and Claudia says she went to get asprin, she had a terrible headache.
Damien tells JB he didn’t notice the rose was real, what with being all psyched for the show and all. Jess notices a bouquet of roses in his dressing room and remarks how lovely they are, except it looks like one is missing. People usually order 12. Damien says he was lucky to get them at all – 11,12 what’s the difference?
Jess leaves the mullet to meditate, but hears crying coming from a darkened room. It’s Edward, crying over what might have been – he was in love with Lily, he wanted to marry her. Jess consoles him as best she can.
The next day though, it’s back to work – undercover at a florists trying to work out who sent Damien the roses. Using a quality Southern accent and some bombardment she learns that Damien ordered the flowers himself. DUN DUN.
Down at the police station Damien confesses to swapping the roses, as a payback for Lily being a bitch, but that he didn’t poison them. This is confirmed by a passing detective who delivers the results of the autopsy – Lily was poisoned but no trace of the poison was found on the clothes, the rose, the skull, nada.
HOW ASTONISHING, says JB.
Jess and Kinicki head back to the theatre to examine the costumes. Kinicki wonders what they are looking for, but JB will know it when she sees it. Or in this case smells it – machine oil. Next it’s back to the police station to watch the tape of the 1920s performance in Paris. Between 6 cups of coffee and men prancing in long underwear Kinicki is close to breaking point but JB says there’s something she can’t quite put her finger on…
Whatever Jess is pointing at on the television has solved the puzzle, in her mind at least. She tells Kinicki it’s time to go back to the theatre. “Aren’t you sick of that place?” Asks Kinicki.
“There are three things you can never get enough of Lieutenant,” says JB. “Chocolate, friends, and the theatre.”
At the theatre they take an electric lift ride up into the ceiling, until JB says “Say hello to our murderer.”
The next day, Geoffrey announces they will go on with the show, but a different show – Cinderella. The company aren’t pleased but Edward says the public love it. He’ll post assignments and they will begin rehearsal at 9:00am. Geoffrey says to make it 2pm – a maintenance crew are coming to fix the pulley system.
Trap set, Kinicki, and JB kick back and wait for the killer to come and retrieve the murderous skull. And he doesn’t disappoint.
Edward, permanently worried that Lily would reveal he was back on drugs, and seeing her with Geoffrey in the dressing rooms, correctly assumed that she would dump him the way she dumped Barry and took matters into his own hands.
So there you have it Fletcherfans! The show will go on and Claudia has decided to teach dance instead of perform dance. Case closed, I’m off to the beach.