“Sleepy Hollow” 10/13/2014: Pasty Piper Packed a Peck of Prickly Perils

Abbie Mills!

I’d normally add a silly caption to this pic of Abbie holding a bone flute, but I’m having trouble thinking of anything humerus.

Previously on Sleepy Hollow: Lt. Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane chased after a coin that turned townspeople to the Dark Side; we met Nick Hawley (Matt Barr), greedy magic-item hunter; Irving was moved to Tarrytown Psychiatric but learned his defense attorney is the Horseman War; and, speaking of which, Henry is Sleepy Hollow’s newest, evillest, busiest shyster — none more qualified to teach young deviants How to Get Away With Murder.

In tonight’s new episode, “Go Where I Send Thee…” Jenny Mills, Katrina Crane, the Horseman, and meddling Captain Reyes are benched for the week while Our Heroes meet a new foe — a whirling dervish with a familiar name, an ancient vendetta, supernatural swordsmanship, and an edgy tune for the kids.

For those who missed out, my attempt to streamline the basic events follows after this courtesy spoiler alert for the sake of time-shifted viewers…

…before the action starts, Crane has a secret to reveal to Abbie: he’s been taking driving lessons from her sister Jenny. He denies the accusation at first, but he’s betrayed by the odometer, a Benjamin Franklin invention. When Abbie takes him out to a parking lot for some innocent practice, she thinks she’s in for an afternoon of wacky technophobia, lurching stop-starts, stalling in first gear, and turn signals that stay on for miles. Once behind the wheel, Crane reminds her he’s intelligent and not a sitcom cliché as he runs her SUV through an all-out, pedal-to-the-metal, thrill-tastic stunt spectacular. He describes his approach to driving using the Japanese concept of Jinba ittai — i.e., the state of a rider and horse becoming close that they act and ride like a singular, unified force of one. In Crane’s case, the machine becomes an extension of the man. Well, once he’s got his license and not just a learner’s permit, anyway.

This fast-and-furious moment is put on pause when an Amber Alert on Crane’s smartphone draws them into their next case: that of a missing child. Sara Lancaster, age 10, spirited from her upper-class home and her respected family — Mom, Dad, and three adopted brothers. Their case gets top priority because mom Beth (Francie Swift from House of Cards) was a caseworker for the Mills sisters during that tragic time when they were kids and their mom was committed. So this time, it’s personal. Crane is no stranger to their family, either — their ancestor, Daniel Forbes Lancaster (1730-1789 but fictional, near as I can tell), who only renounced Torydom and joined the cause of the Revolution late in the game when America’s chances of winning were all but certain. Crane sneers at the begrudging contributions of this Fake Patriot Guy, but knows this frantic family needs their help. So this time, it’s history.

The trail leads them once again into those dark, pervasive Sleepy Hollow woods, where they find blood splatters and what Crane calls a Jiahu gudi — a Chinese bone flute. It’s made of human bone and, when Crane plays a few notes, it mesmerizes Abbie and impels her to walk zombie-like in the general direction of where, presumably, the flute’s owner would lay waiting. Well, if he hadn’t dropped his precious Jiahu gudi and compromised any future kidnapping plans, anyway. For safety’s sake, Crane records a thirty-second loop of flute jams on his phone, passes it to Abbie, has her listen to it on earbuds so no passersby will join in the march, and follows her as she’s lured further along. Before they get anywhere useful and solve the case too soon, first they stumble upon their new acquaintance Hawley, who’s lying in the same woods and covered in wounds from an altercation with the very perpetrator they’re seeking. The girl is meaningless to him, though — he wants that magic flute as his latest merchandise. So this time, it’s money.

It doesn’t take a 200-year-old professor to add two and two: their quarry is a Pied Piper! No, not the Pied Piper of Hamelin. One of the other fairy-tale TV shows probably called dibs on the original already, not to mention there’s a classic Flash villain with that name who’ll be gracing the small screen later this year. No, Crane remembers this Pied Piper quite well because he was around in the 18th century. Of course!

Together, Crane and Hawley piece the legend together for us: this Piper was an assassin who traded his soul to a demon in exchange for kung-fu swordfighting skills. Mr. D. F. Lancaster had hired him to take out a squad of Redcoats who’d gotten “too friendly” with his daughter (the show leaves their collective offense at that), but when Lancaster welshes on their deal, the Piper pronounces the Lancaster family line officially cursed: with each new generation, the Piper would come back, steal away with one of their children, and make himself a new flute. EWW.

A later review of online Sleepy Hollow computer records (after Abbie performs “the login ceremony” on her work PC at Crane’s request) confirms the Lancaster descendants have lost numerous children over the centuries, but apparently no law enforcement officials ever bothered to do anything about it, to connect the dots, to notice this seems to happen an awful lot to kids named Lancaster. Sleepy Hollow Police Academy must have strict policies against teaching their cadets how to have deductions or hunches or newspaper subscriptions.

Hawley also confirms the Piper isn’t just about luring: he “weaponizes sound” for multiple uses, all of them nefarious. They learn the effects firsthand when the trail leads to a hidden forest basement (formerly topped with a hermit’s shack, I suppose). Below ground they find li’l Sara shackled in one stonewalled room while a fresh bonfire burns in the other.

Pied Piper!

Meet your new foe, the DIED Piper.


Our Heroes barely hold their own against the demonic Pied Piper (stuntman Ryan Gray), whose super-speed swordplay, bullet-dodging, Tasmanian Devil spinning, and Black Canary sonic scream would make him a great super-villain on one of those other comic-book hero shows. Too bad he wasn’t created in time to save Birds of Prey. Only a few well-chosen explosion diversions buy them the moments they need to send him offscreen, unchain Sara and escape the dungeon. Once they’re far away and everyone has forgotten the Piper’s super-speed talents, Hawley demands the flute as payment. He didn’t come to get the girl or kill the baddie: he just wants to get paid. Abbie agrees a deal’s a deal, but snaps the flute in half before passing it over. Truly she has made an unhappy rival this day.

Abbie and Crane reunite Beth and Sara in super-sensitive slow motion, but something’s off about the scene. Either Beth was born without tearful-reunion genes or she’s not happy to see her daughter returned.

That computer research I mentioned earlier? It also reveals one of the previous Lancaster victims was Beth’s sister, taken when Beth was 7. This revelation leads to a conclusion that dare not speak its name: Beth and her husband are both Lancasters. Follow it, though: Mom, Dad, Sara, and bros are referred to as the Lancaster family, which means Dad has to be named Lancaster; IMDb refers to the other three kids as the “Lancaster sons”; and no other last name is mentioned. So the curse took Mr. Lancaster’s sister-in-law years before he married Beth. The Pied Piper is just that negotiable and forward-thinking.

Our Heroes know their work isn’t done. They stop at Corbin HQ to pick up noise-canceling earbuds, but return to a shocking scene: the Lancaster sons are now being taken to the hospital with, I dunno, eighteenth-century Ebola or something. And Beth is dragging poor Sara back into the woods. Thus is another secret revealed: the Lancasters adopted those three kids because they wanted all the joys of parenthood and none of the hassles of family curses. Then came Sara the “happy accident”, as Mr. Lancaster calls her when he’s within earshot and not really caring about her self-esteem. Suddenly with Sara they had a future liability on their hands.

Beth leaps to an even more heartless conclusion: the boys’ sudden grave illness is a sign that the curse doesn’t have to rely on Jethro Tull flute solos as the murder weapon, so she reasons that if she gives up Sara to the Piper, he’ll be placated and let the boys live. Or maybe she’s using Sara as bait to trick the Piper into coming after then so Beth can fill him with bullets. She’s a little hysterical and not great at explaining her motive, which is alarming either way. After seeing the boys off in their ambulances, Crane steals the best sword in the Lancaster weapons collection (a “Fishkill Bailey” cutlass, which Crane promises is awesome) and Our Heroes go talk Beth out of her poorly conceived plan. It works, but that super-speed Piper finally arrives and interrupts so he and Crane can swordfight again. Abbie interrupts by filling him with bullets, which he doesn’t dodge. He also doesn’t fall down.

The Piper retreats to his basement, which wasn’t caved in by those earlier explosions. Crane follows with his stolen cutlass and his earbuds, and for a few glorious seconds we have dashing swordfight in silence…until one earbud gets knocked out and Piper’s banshee wail unnerves Crane to the point of helplessness. Crane recovers long enough to respond with a rock-smash to Piper’s foot, then a rock-smash to the face, followed by a quick severing of a hand. Abbies tags in to the bout and for a finishing move skewers Piper on his own sword. Our Heroes celebrate a monster well-killed by buying Crane his first tiny overpriced cappuccino. He calls the price “sadistic larceny” but his reaction to the taste and the yummy whipped cream imply he might be interested in buying another gallon to take home.

Meanwhile, Hawley successfully sells the bone flute to a lackey who doesn’t care that it’s broken. Hawley gets paid and it’s another happy ending! But then the flute is delivered to that baneful barrister Henry Parish, who uses a large mortar ‘n’ pestle to pulverize the rest into some kind of mixing powder for an evil recipe to be Instagrammed later.

Speaking of Henry: we also spend a few minutes with one of his prize clients, Captain Irving, who’s engaged in Revelations exegesis to understand more about what’s going on. For a few delirious seconds Irving sees a vision of a bleak, dystopian future in which he becomes Battle-Action Kung-Fu Irving with kickbutt swordfight moves and War’s fiery avatar riding at his side in approval. Irving decides that maybe it’s time to fire his evil lawyer, but Henry threatens to withdraw any and all support, including the massive financial assistance he was arranging to help out Irving’s wife and wheelchaired daughter. Henry points him to Ezekiel 18:4 as if this will answer all his questions.

Ezekiel 18:1-4 are a paragraph in which the Lord confirms that each individual will be punished only for their own sins and not for their fathers’ or anyone else’s sins. Henry, and by extension the show’s writers, take one clause out of context, tweak a couple of words, and repurpose it to frighten Irving into compliance.

As it was written in the Book of Ezekiel as Told to Henry: “YOUR SOUL IS MINE.” In the Book of Ezekiel as Told to Henry, The Message Version, he’s telling Irving, “Shut up and do what you’re told. Or Else.”

To be continued!

* * * * *

If you missed any previous episodes of Sleepy Hollow, you can see what’s available online at Fox’s official site, or check out MCC’s own ongoing recaps. Visit our season-one recap checklist, or this season’s recaps linked below for handy reference. Enjoy!

9/22/2014: “This is War
9/29/2014: “The Kindred
10/6/2014: “Root of All Evil

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